I’ve recently been getting urged to see a therapist. I avoided it because the implications of a therapist are actually pretty terrible. I would officially be labeled as “having problems”. Awesome.
But then, someone mentioned that therapists go to school and are paid a lot of money to listen to things that most people do not want to hear. And at first I laughed at it. It’s a sad but awkwardly funny truth about therapists; more often than not, they get paid to listen. They go to college and get paid to learn how to listen. Seriously, how is that NOT funny?
But in about thirty seconds, the reality of that “joke” sunk in. Therapists get paid… to listen. Of course they learn skills and techniques to help others cope, but in general, they… listen. It’s funny to a normal person.
But for me I thought… isn’t that what a friend is supposed to do?
Two weeks ago, for the first time in my life, I went to see a therapist. For the first time, in the 17 years that I have been struggling, I just talked. For one hour, I talked about how I felt, why I was there, what was going through my head. I talked about how depression made me feel, what it meant to me to be depressed, what I saw. I talked about how I fantasized about driving into a wall, jumping off a building or falling asleep and never waking up. I talked about how I didn’t really want to die and that death itself had nothing to do with how I felt. I talked about how I just wanted to stop feeling this way because I knew it was bad and awful and hurtful. I talked about how alone I felt, how I had driven people away because I acted different and because I thought differently.
And for one hour, he listened. No comments, no falsely optimistic thoughts. No impossible tasks, no looks of panic. No preconceived notions.
I went home and I thought about it. There was no way that what I had said was not alarming to the therapist. How many people would go, “Oh you want to die? That’s cool.” But he never said a word, And I thought… wasn’t this how I’m supposed to talk to my closest friends? Shouldn’t I be allowed to talk about my darkest thoughts without receiving comments on everything I say? Even if they are worried inside, shouldn’t I still be allowed to talk qithout being judged? Why in the world did I have to go to a therapist to talk about all this? Where were my friends in all of this? Why did I have to find a complete stranger?
I left that hour-long session feeling more clear-headed than I had felt in a while. Not much had actually happened. I just talked and he just listened. Amazing.
I realized that, although they mean well, if friends could just listen without making any judgments or comments, therapists would become more or less unnecessary. Maybe we could use them for those coping techniques. But people like me would no longer need to seek outside ears to hear us out.
But friends can’t do that because… I don’t know, I guess it scares them too much. Most of them don’t know what to say, even though they don’t need to say anything all. Most don’t realize that they just need to be there for us, maybe even offer a hug. They don’t realize less is more.
So until then… I’ll keep those therapists around.