Anxiety and depression – the longest journey ever

A lot of people who consider therapy worry about what is it that they might discover about themselves. What is there hidden in our unconscious. Some are anxious about the process in general as they very limited knowledge about it and have never experienced it before. They may have some ideas from the accounts of their family members, friends or worse, television.

These are, of course, valid concerns, as most of us find it challenging to engage with the unknown.

What I find encouraging is the fact with despite the fears, concerns and anxiety, there is something in us which still makes us seek help and support. Call it the life wish, if you like.

Some people will consider therapy because their main difficulty is the anxiety itself. However, when coupled with the anxiety associated with therapy, this can be overwhelming indeed. This needs to be recognised.

The thing about therapy is that we often fear what we might unearth which is now deeply buried because we chose to forget it or the repression processes took charge when our world was too dangerous and when this very process was initiated to protect us. In therapy, and in life in general, we do think about the past, whether we like it or not. We also think about the now and the future. Our thinking can be very shifting and we can recognise various themes which overlap and often it is difficult to consciously stop ourselves to stay only in the present (although mindfulness exercises can be quite helpful with that).

Therapy can help make sense of various events, thoughts, feelings. It can help us make links between what is forgotten but still very much present in the form of our feelings, emotions and often behaviours or the way we are in general. The anxiety, depression, deep sadness or anger can be understood thanks to therapy. And as with anything else in life, the bigger picture we have about something, the less anxiety provoking it becomes. The more we know and understand the better decisions we can take.

But you can say, well, I already know a lot about myself, my past, my parents, their parents and the context of my life. And yet it means very little in terms of my well-being. I still feel very anxious or depressed or angry. It almost seems irrational.

The somewhat metaphorical answer to that is this:

When you buy a packet of cigarettes nowadays you see a very bold message ‘smoking kills’. It is written very clearly, black on white. It doesn’t offer any probability (maybe, perhaps), the message is decisive and authoritarian – smoking kills -. And yet a lot of people continue smoking having the full knowledge about negative effects of smoking. Why? A lot of people might have full knowledge about their condition (e.g. depression, anxiety, addiction) but continue to feel ill. Why?

At the same time we have heard a lot about people who have stopped smoking after many years of active using. We have also heard about people whose mental health has improved through therapy or otherwise.

It is my belief, that therapy can help us make this transition. In therapy you can not only gain the intellectual knowledge through some psycho-education. What is more important is the fact that in the safe space offered by a therapist you can explore your full understanding of the difficulty, not only from an intellectual perspective, but also from the feelings and emotions perspective. It is when the knowledge stored in our heads and brains travels the longest journey a human being can make (about 50 cm!), which is to our hearts, it can then be integrated, fully understood and made a part of our human make up. It is then when we are able to make a fully informed decision to stop smoking and it is then when the anxiety or depression can be lifted as well (perhaps the ‘need’ for it to protects our vulnerable selves, won’t be there anymore).

Therapy can be one place when such journey takes place and when it does, a great feeling of liberation will come.