Do you ever have days when it feels like you’re carrying an invisible anvil around with you? Probably. Most people do.
I’ve been going to a therapist for the last few weeks to try to sort out why I’ve been having irrational downswings. Everything in life is going splendidly, and yet I can sink into a weird funk for weeks at a time where my life’s work seems trivial, and pointless, and it’s only my deeply ingrained habits that keep me exercising and producing things. It’s normal to have a couple of days, or even a week, to recover after finishing a major project like a book, but when the urge to get doing again doesn’t reappear after several weeks, well, that’s not ok. I get grumpy with my wife and kids, and just can’t see the point of it all.
It’s probably related to the whole boarding school thing, and with being at the classic time of life where men get stupid, buy sports cars and shag their secretaries. The closest thing I have to a secretary is my virtual assistant, and she lives in Georgia (USA), so there no risk of that particular symptom, but still, this is not a healthy place to be. Though for the record, I’ve never been bothered at all by getting older, at least not consciously.
This is my first time going to therapy, paying a professional to listen to me blather. Probably because I have very very good friends, who listen to me blather for free! But even talking to them has not solved the problem of these downswings, so I thought I’d give this a try. The first insight from the first session was that I love a crisis; I can rise to it, and get shit done. If everything goes wrong, I’m actually happy. But when everything is going fine, that’s when the trouble starts. One solution to this is to manufacture crises, which is not a good response in the long term. Another is to bury myself in projects, which is again not great, as it pulls me away from my family.
But I’m not here to bang on about the specifics of my issues. The reason I’m writing this is really simple. There is a very silly belief in the wider world that there is something shameful, weak, or incompetent about getting help for a mind problem. As if your brain wasn’t an organ like your liver or your lungs. If my liver was not behaving as it should and I couldn’t fix it myself, I’d get a professional to take a look. Same thing with my mind.
I should also point out that I made my first appointment while I was feeling fine. You don’t have to be in the middle of an episode to take action. And I’m still fine; right now, I can see how lucky I am, and how well everything is going, and life is not only good, I can see that it is good. And if all goes well, today’s session will help keep things that way. So don’t wait for the storm to hit before you prepare for it.
I mentioned that I was going to therapy in my writing group, and one chap exclaimed “but Guy, you’re the sanest person I know!”. Leaving aside what that says about his social circle being madder than a box of frogs, the underlying assumption was that therapy is just for the the insane. It’s a common mistake, and is equivalent to thinking that you should only go to the doctor if the disease is acute and fatal.
So this post is for anyone out there who may find that the example of Jedi Master Guy the Living Sword God (as I am widely known) needing some help with his head and going and getting it makes it a bit easier for themselves to take the plunge. Seriously, chaps, you don’t have to suffer in silence. You can call a friend. You can call the Samaritans (phone 116 123 in the UK; 1 (800) 273-TALK in the USA, or google “samaritans”); readers please add contact details for similar services that work in your area in the comments below.
I’ll close by reminding you that I’m not a doctor, and even if I was, I’m not your doctor, so don’t get your mental health advice from a swordsman. Get it from a qualified practitioner. I hope this post was completely useless to you, because you’re fine through and through. But if not, then I hope it makes going and talking to someone that little bit easier.