Sometimes there are things in life, that come in threes, that you can pull together and make meaning out of. Separately, they are merely anecdotal. Together, they can be painful, educational, and funny (at least on my blog).
Here are three of my experiences. Reasons for counseling that a person with CFS might have, an actual counseling session I’ve had, ending with something funny and related to smooth out the pain.
THING NUMBER ONE: DEPRESSION
I have seen my fair share of counselors. Having chronic fatigue syndrome means many different things to medical professionals and counselors. Often, if not always, people with CFS/ME are depressed by default, often making it necessary to seek out the help of a professional. Here are some reasons I have sought help in the past:
- Never being able to date because you are swiftly recognized by your significant other as a person “who cannot do enough stuff and gets tired all the time.”
- Happening often, your sense of self becomes attached to what you can do and not to who you are
- You start living a life of isolation to shield yourself from the pain
- Not being recognized as a person with an invisible disability who can barely stand up after a workday and desperately needs a seat on a long bus ride home
- Having been sick since the age of 16 and watching what should have been the best years of your life circle the drain and die
- Watching people your age (40s) with weddings, babies, houses (made into homes), cars, vacations, security, and at the very least a legacy
- Clinging desperately to a semblance of normalcy by refusing to surrender your independence, even though it is causing you a great deal of pain, both psychologically and physically
- Watching the people you depend on for support tower over you with financial and emotional abuse
- Wanting to lie down on the railway tracks, drunk as hell, and wait for the train
- Wanting to kill yourself but knowing from past experience that if you try, and don’t say “oops” in the emergency department, you will be hauled up to Psychiatry with a law enforcement officer and will be treated like a criminal the entire time
- Any mention of CFS/ME in a psychiatric situation or counseling situation will be completely disregarded
- Coming to the conclusion that you will be depressed and ALIVE for the rest of your life, likely dubbed the cranky crazy cat lady of the neighborhood
THING NUMBER TWO: MY EXPERIENCE
*Please note that some details have been changed so that I don’t get sued for slander or libel or whatever the legalities are. The meat and potatoes remain.
I went for “counseling” recently because I was experiencing severe depression. Little did I know that the person that I had been referred to was actually grossly under-qualified to handle my situation and my feelings. I consider this entire situation to be my fault, as I always check the credentials of the person with whom I am about to engage. This little rat wasn’t even educated at the bachelor’s level.
Within THREE minutes of the session, I shut down completely. I started out with the usual: that I have CFS/ME and that I was experiencing feelings of depression and I was feeling unsafe with certain people. He immediately picked up what looked like a children’s drawing of three circles that he had casually scribbled onto the back of a yellow lined legal pad. Clearly, he had used these analogies on others.
He was an arrogant little prick. He interrupted me, continually normalized and minimized my experience. At this point, I completely shut down, as he talked over me the entire time. He was not interested in my past, present, or future. He simply told me what my situation was. Then, he proceeded to ask me if I had ever read anything by Corrie Ten Boom. I politely said “no.” He said, with a straight face, “If someone like her can get through the holocaust, then you can endure your situation.”
I wasn’t given an hour. I arrived early to the session, walking 30 minutes in minus 20-degree celsius weather with a wind chill. He was 10 minutes late. I was given 40 minutes.
At the very end, he said, “so what have you learned today?” And I said with a cold laugh,”suck it up right?” He stammered and said “no, no…” I said with an even frostier tone: “that’s exactly what you taught me today.”
I turned around and walked out. I could hear him saying “If you want to make another appointment… ” Fat chance, motherfucker.
At least he didn’t fall asleep in the middle of the session. That’s another story.
Into the dark, into the cold, alone. A 30- minute walk home. I sucked it up, that’s for sure. I pressed my feelings down so deep with cold, frosty air that day that I don’t even feel them, even today. I slept on the entrance floor just inside my apartment before I was able to undress or do anything else.
THING NUMBER THREE: STOP IT!
The following video comes dangerously close to a simulation of my above mentioned “counseling” experience.
Very little effort on the part of the counselor. Don’t delve into the past, get rid of your patient as soon as possible, everyone gets to go home early. Everyone wins, right? Right?