I don’t like to go to healthcare providers of any kind. My biggest concern, when I go in to the doctor for a simple checkup or to get a prescription for a known difficulty, is that they will tell me that I am sick. I worry that, feeling relatively healthy, or feeling a bit of sniffles, the doctor will say something like “you have two months to live” or “you have heart disease” or worst of all “no more chocolate for you.” I guess I’d prefer to be blissfully unaware of any medical difficulties I have. Of course, I always feel better leaving the doctor’s office having NOT heard these things. I feel like a weight has lifted. I guess some part of my mind always thinks that I am probably about to die, and I’d really rather not know.
I suppose it that a similar fear kept me out of a therapist’s office for years. I’d always had this sneaking suspicion that I was nuts. Certainly I didn’t feel nuts, but what greater evidence could one have? Honestly, I had other evidence as well. I’d had a home study when I’d hoped to adopt and the social worker had not approved us because I had experienced trauma that she felt I had not dealt with. My wife likes to read books about various psychological difficulties and has pointed out on a number of instances situations where I meet some of the criteria for some mental disorder or something. And, once in a while, I do something or think something that in retrospect I can see as crazy.
It was one of these instances that finally got me into a therapists’ office. I had an outburst of anger back in March that was so powerful that it scared me. I decided, I might really be crazy. I got so angry during a situation that I completely lost my cool. I decided I’d better go in. I fully expected that I would go in to the appointment and be sent away in a white coat to an institution where they would feed me powerful sedatives and hook me up to machines that would keep me in a state of constant electroshock. I figured I’d be told that I am a danger to myself and others and that I should probably be locked up, permanently. I figured they’d at the very least tell me that I couldn’t have guns anymore, which made me sad, because I like guns. They make loud noises and gunpowder is one of my top five favorite smells.
Well, just like every single time I’ve ever been to a doctor, nothing terrible like that happened. In fact, there’s nothing wrong with me. I am not crazy at all. I do not have any type of mental disorder whatsoever, not even a mild one. The trauma the social worker believed I’d not dealt with is something that is there, and it does affect me, but it is not debilitating. I am sane: perfectly and entirely without mental defect.
And going to therapy for the last month has been really wonderful for me. I understand so much better what is going on in different aspects of my life. I recognize that my stress levels come from one specific source, the fact that I have never really learned to set boundaries. I have never really learned to say “no” when people ask me to do things. The reason is that I always do legitimately WANT to do everything people ask me to. Unfortunately, I can’t. I have limits. So, I am learning. I am learning that except in extreme circumstances, no one actually has the right to make any demands on me. People can make requests, and I can look at my priorities and I can say “no.”
This is really is hard because people get upset when others tell them “no.” The first response most people feel when told “no” is anger. I need to learn that just because someone is angry does not mean I should give in to them. When I’ve reached a point where I’ve done all I feel I can do, I need to say “no.” At this point this is still really hard for me because I hate having people mad at me. So, that is the next step. Learning to live with other people’s disappointment, and even my own, that I can’t do everything that’s asked of me.