Compassionate Love:Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2014 Nancy Virden
It was exasperating at the time, yes. Now I have opportunity to show countless people how to avoid pitfalls while searching for professional help.
My pastor in 2005 was kind and extremely vigilant over my well-being. He was young, and had limited experience with anyone who was suicidal. He would see me, but insisted I visit a professional therapist as well.
He knew when to say “I cannot help,” and was humble enough to admit it. Contrary to what seems a popular opinion, therapy is not about having a person tell you what to do, or offer advice from the Bible. It is a patient occupation, or should be, and guides the client toward discovering answers for themselves. Specifically trained professionals are generally better-equipped to do this.
Obviously, I’ve not met every therapist in the world. Nevertheless, the self-called Bible-based counselor I found this time remains the worst I’ve met in my world. “Bible-based” does not automatically mean wise. Proud and controlling people call themselves whatever they like.
At the beginning of our first session, immediately Connie* said I make all my decisions based on emotions, and she would fix that. She told me I am not attractive (hence my marriage troubles). Once I offered her a carefully written letter in hopes of discussing it. She pitched it onto her desk without looking at it, and turned back to face me. When I said I wanted her to read it, she indicated it was unimportant.
Once again, as previously described in these stories, I ignored my instincts. Ok, I thought. Give it time.
Connie illegally gossiped. Through her (if she told the truth) I found out someone I know had an affair. On two occasions she pointed out specific clients I had seen in the waiting room, and complained about their issues.
She tried to follow up with, “So, what’s your problem today?”
Did this woman honestly expect me to open up to her after that? “It’s the same stuff. Nothing new,” I said week after week. I was only there to meet my pastor’s requirement. As ill as I was, stupidity was not a problem.
When he announced he was moving away, I did share that painful disappointment with Connie. She knew what date he would be saying goodbye. The week he left, Connie said she didn’t need to see me for another three weeks because in her opinion, I was all better. She bragged, “Thanks to the work I’ve been doing with you.”
It was ridiculous. Free from any agreement, I canceled all future appointments and never looked back.
By the end of 2005, 18 months after reaching out (story 1), there had been little mental health care. I was alone again in my fight against despair. Medication continued, and after my experience with Connie, my psychiatrist agreed to see me more than 1/2 hour every few weeks. She was a gift.
Kind and talented mental health care providers who could be a great fit for you are out there. There are many more good ones than bad. Most are trying to the right thing by their clients. Here are some crucial points to consider before you trust someone with your fragile emotions.
- Does she have a good reputation?
- Is his chosen therapeutic approach highly rated?
- Is she licensed?
- What experience does he have?
- Is she a specialist in your area of diagnosis or need?
Ask questions pertinent to you. Do you work better with people who tend to offer advice or who mostly listen? Are you tolerant of disorganized offices? Are you one who needs lots of verbal encouragement, or is once in a while enough to keep you energized for weeks? Is the therapist prejudiced against race, gender, sexuality, age, religion, or size? It’s ok to ask this ahead of time. (“Are you able to work without judgement with…”) Ask yourself too, if you prefer to work with a particular gender, age, etc.
Five years later, I desperately reached out once again for help. This time, results were very different.
There is MORE to this story. Stay tuned.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.
– picture from qualitystockphotos
*Names are changed