‘Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common … . The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden’.
Bill came into my office wearing dark glasses and looked around furtively before he entered. When he sat down he was nervous and breathing heavily. “I hope no one I know saw me”. He then said “I’m a real loser, wuss. I crawl here like a baby, begging you to solve my problems.”
This is not unusual. In my work as a Toronto therapist I have seen many people berating themselves for having to be in therapy. They describe themselves as weak, scared. stupid, crazy etc. They see their need for a mental health counsellor is a character flaw. Quite a few say, ‘I fool people who think I have it together’.
Phyllis sits in the chair crying about how she was ‘torn to shreds’ when she decided to go to therapy for depression help. “My friends told me I didn’t need therapy for depression, I just needed more exercise and to work with ‘real’ disadvantaged people.”
When Fred first came into therapy with signs of depression he apologized profusely. “Oh God how can you stand me. I’m a cry baby and a needy suck”. Gradually though he began to accept his anxiety attacks, depression symptoms and need. He looked around and saw that, ‘practically everyone is scared and needy like me’. He also saw the value of facing his vulnerability. By doing this he was able to feel the depths of his pain. He realized how this led to his depression, anxiety and addiction. “All my life I thought I was just weak. I see that I was hurt and scared.”
We are not allowed to be emotionally vulnerable. We have to appear strong. They truth is that all of us, to some degree, are scared, lost and lonely. Life is difficult for all. If we admit it, we are considered weak. However, the opposite is true; admitting our vulnerability takes strength and courage. Like Fred I’ve seen many people rethink their ‘weakness’. They saw that it was a wound. And they saw that facing it transformed them.