I curled up in the chair, burying myself in the corner like a pound puppy.
Arms swathed around my body.
Legs crossed and drawn tight.
The cracking door to my left hurled a light against my personal cloud of darkness, and I blinked in the glow as if it were Michael the Archangel descending. I sensed the man who entered was immediately evaluating me. His brow fell directly upon his eyelids scowling in an appraising way while his mouth curled gently upward. With his palm extended, he waited for a handshake as I unraveled my arm from its crusted home and met his hand meekly like a beggar for a dime. Finally, he found his seat on a swivel stool, and spun it toward me, his eyes kindly hunting for mine.
And so began my first doctor’s visit for my mental health.
The Doom Of Anticipation
Initially meeting a professional for depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts has never been comfortable. About a year prior, I had animorphed to a pound puppy in the waiting room of a licensed counselor. It was a resource that proved to be an incredible help as I finally started to recognize poor mental habits and productively challenge them in the company of a caring professional. The concepts discussed continue to benefit me in a myriad of ways, but there is a single truth that most often comes to mind. “The anticipation of an event is almost always worse than the actual event.” With this as my flagship, I’ve forced myself into situations I might not otherwise go. That’s how I landed, a year later, curled up in the office of a family doctor.
Time and time again, I have learned that the anticipation of an event is, indeed, worse than the actual event. Faithfully, my mind writes frenzied narratives of futuristic predictions and taunts me with “what-ifs” that so easily morph into certainty that the sky is falling. It seems the only times I learn to distrust the woes of anticipation is in the aftermath of the event when I think, Well, that wasn’t so bad after all.
The dread of what a professional might say, do, or conjure up from the deepest parts of me kept me away from seeking the help I needed for a long time. My wife and close friends had advised me to get appropriate help for months before I at last took the plunge. The thing that convinced me to go was the realization that it wasn’t that people didn’t love me; it was that I couldn’t believe that people loved me. I recognized that my reality, the reality of being unappreciated, worthless, and uncared for, was not true reality.
Reality vs. True Reality
The movies that make up most of my collection are the psychological thrillers–the films that twist and turn like a thematic roller coaster forcing you to question what’s real and what’s not. And by the time the closing credits roll around, you’re left gnawing on a pill too big to swallow in one gulp.
One of my favorites is A Beautiful Mind. [Spoiler Alert] Based on a remarkable true story, John Nash, played by Russel Crowe, is a mathematical genius. The film wonderfully portrays his relationship with his best friend, Charles, and his entanglement with a communist conspiracy. Nash was knee-deep in top-secret operations and deeply invested in a valued friendship when he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Neither his friend nor his classified mission actually existed. He arrived at the point of realization that his reality was not true reality. He had been living in falsehoods for the better part of his life.
That’s a tough pill to swallow.
Why We Avoid Professionals
I wonder if this explains a major challenge for people, especially men, with untreated mental illness. There is the reality that is true–for me, that people loved me and cared for me–and the reality that is false but familiar. It is the narrative my mind has chosen, that people hate me and grow easily tired of me. Perhaps this is what keeps so many men away from professional care: they haven’t yet separated true reality from falsehood so they can’t address the actual issue.
Or maybe people know the falsehoods in their thinking but are just afraid to delve into understanding truth. Because true reality is unknown territory, they dare not venture through it. It is a source of consolation to confide in what’s always been–falsehood.
To carve out the deeply-set personal illusion and prove it as falsehood is traumatic, overwhelming, and daunting, but we need to open our eyes to seek true reality despite what our minds are telling us. We need to release our pride and admit that we are weak, confused, ill so that we can get appropriate help and live our lives.
It’s Okay To Be A Pound Puppy
It is the realization that my reality was false that finally led me to seek a counselor and eventually a doctor. The resources they provide help to see ourselves and the world around us more clearly; they help us see reality better. Like John Nash, we need an awakening, an understanding that we cannot trust everything our minds tell us. Let’s recognize the falsehoods and get to know the truth. It is frightening and uncomfortable, but that is what a mental health professional can help you do; you only need to get through the door. And, to do that, just remember that the anticipation of an event is almost always worse than the actual event.
What finally convinced you to see a mental health professional? Or what is stopping you?Start a conversation! Comment below or catch up with me on social media.
NOTE: On the top of the DD homepage is a link to easily find a therapist. Take the plunge today!