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Sunday, October 03, 2004

Maybe this time it will work

This is the third time that I have been in therapy. It is the first time I have recognized it to be my issue, and that the therapy is focused on me. Actually, it started this time as a marriage counseling, which progressed to be one that concentrated solely on me. The first time I was in therapy occurred soon after my wife and I were married. I wasn't really in therapy that time. My wife was complaining about her struggle with PMS and depression. She sought counseling and through the process, her counselor requested that I joined her. I wasn't ready. I was an upstart, young man whose wife had problems. Why call me to therapy? I am not the one with the PMS. Needless to say, I didn't go after a couple of sessions. My wife didn't complete hers either. Instead she went out seeking cures for her problems through other means. Hypnotherapy. Acupuncture. Vitamin therapy. Even just plain old taking long afternoon naps. Everything helped a little.

Years later, when we were both struggling to cope with the abuse of our child, we went for post-trauma counseling as a couple. The counselor was perceptive enough to realize that our real needs were couples' or marital counseling. So she switched the focus to our relationship. This time, it simply got too painful for me to continue. I refused to go after a few sessions. My wife stopped going as well.

That is now many years ago. We have both gone through quite a lot of beating in life. Don't know why my wife would still hang in there. But she did. Our relationship has improved tremendously. We both now decided that we needed counseling to deal with a host of problems. Dealing with our kids and communication problems. Communicating with one another and with the kids. So we started our counseling. Through the sessions, my eyes were opened to how broken we both are, but mostly, how broken I am. After about six months, we decided that the counselor should just work with me for the time being. So I am now in therapy by myself.

Never thought that as a Christian I would need therapy. In the first church were I grew up, the view had been that in Christ we have all we need. If you have problems, you only need to take it to Jesus and He will solve all your issues. If you still had problems, then it is either lack of faith or bad teaching that is the reason. Going to therapy is seeking a man-made solution to a problem that only God can solve. Psychology is a human creation, and to seek help through counseling is admitting that God is not sufficient for you. Another reason that I never thought I would need counseling is that I thought I was a wholesome fellow. Well adjusted, good rational thinker, and joyful for the most part. Of course these are just plain incorrect assumptions.

Through the past six months of counseling I have come to terms with what I have been going through. Eventually I came to realize that I am depressed. Clinically depressed. I was quite shocked to come to this realization. As many who know me would attest that I am a highly motivated person. As a leader, people have called me inspirational, encouraging, and creative. I am the ideas person, and I exude calm and I see the big picture. To me I have always thought that depressed people are defeated people who have a negative outlook in life. On the contrary, I am highly positive and a "never say die" attitude. It is true though that I have mood swings. I used to think that this is only because I am a passionate person. But, I only thought the mood swings were just that - mood swings, and had nothing to do with a clinical depressed state.

My counselor had been patient in showing me from my family of origin history, my childhood experiences and the internalizations that I have absorbed throughout my life have made me into the person I am. The dark moments that I have, especially when alone, are not normal. I have always thought those are normal for everyone to have, and if people don't have them, or don't think they have them, they are only in denial. Yet I have now come to realize that I have never known any better. I have had this undercurrent of sadness that has plagued me throughout life even though my outward persona had not shown it, only because as my psychiatrist said, I have been a "good actor". He thinks that I am very good at wearing my masks and acting as if I am well-adjusted and "normal". If they dish out Oscar awards for day to day acting, I would have a string of them by now. I acted so well that I even tricked myself into believing that I am not depressed. My counselor has told me that my life story is one of the worst she has heard. I was quite taken aback to hear her say that. Part of me wants to believe that she is only telling me that so I will continue to be a client of hers (if there is anything I hate, I absolutely abhor being sold to - I am a salesman's worst enemy). Yet another part of me realizes that what she says is true - I have undergone all kinds of abuse as a child and younger person: emotional, physical, sexual, spiritual. And, I have already acted out many times. I know that. I haven't even told my counselor all of my stories. So now I accept how desperately depressed I am and how much I need to be healed.

I am grateful that my wife has stood by me all these years. I am not sure if I suffer from bipolar depression. When we were both going through the process of diagnosis and analysis of our own depression, we have come to realize that both my wife and I have symptoms of bipolar depression. The psychiatrist have told me that he thinks I am "borderline" Type A bipolar. Whatever that means.

Although my wife also suffers from depression, including possibly bipolar, we are trying to make do with just concentrating on my healing at the moment. The journey of healing that my counselor is taking me through right now has to do with healing of my memories, to go back to my inner child and to give that child what he did not receive earlier. I have heard from some speakers that this is not necessary. The values that we have internalized are now part of our "wiring" - our makeup and the way we act, behave and response to the world around us. What we need to do to heal is to deal with this "wiring" as adults by processing and by re-wiring. Re-wiring our mind set has to do with recognition of where we have been and what our pains and hurts are and to communicate that to the people around us, the people who rub against us so that not only would there be self-awareness but also community awareness. So as a community we recognize those places of hurts and we adjust our relational community life to accept, recognize and work through those pains together. My counselor subscribes to the theory that you can do this more effectively by going to the moment when those internalizations took place and reverse the negative wiring and give the inner child the positive wiring that it needs. Whatever the steps it seems that both methods does some positive re-wiring of the inner self. Already, through these sessions, I have been able to process quite a lot of my past, my present wirings - my dispositions - and am able to reflect on how I am responding to the stimuli from my environment. So, I am willing to participate in this healing process. Perhaps, when I am well on the road to recovery, my wife can resume her healing journey. Actually, as I am healing, I am also able to pass this process in a small way to my wife, and we are finding it a therapeutic process as I share with her my weekly experiences, and especially what is going on inside of me. It is just a shame that she is not able to participate structurally right now. That is the price we have to pay at the moment, because unfortunately, the process of healing is costly, speaking strictly in financial terms.

If only the church community can do more for us right now. Isn't that one of the purposes of the church community? Didn't James say that if there is any sick among you, let the elders come to pray and anoint with oil? And, if my
theology of prayer has any currency, this would mean that the prayer is not only about asking God to do something about the sickness, but to enter into communion with God, and since this is intercessory prayer, then it means to enter into community, to share with one another, to help one another process the pains and suffering and to facilitate in the healing process. That is the ideal faith community, I suppose, but we are not there quite yet. Or, perhaps it's just that I haven't quite found one yet.