Climbing the mountain

I was feeling frustrated and annoyed and anxious yesterday, going to a counselling appointment I had to wait a full month and a half to get.  Jesus, I had to wait two weeks for the intake appointment for where they worked out where the hell they were going to put me and what sort of program they were going to funnel me into.  Having been going to this temporary, casual sort of counselling, the sort  of counselling which has been pretty typical in my experience, I was wondering what the hell the point of going to this guy too was going to be.

It turned out to have been worth the wait.

I suspected, based on some admittedly paranoid dissection of the questions they asked me during my intake, that they were sending me to someone versed in anxiety issues.  This turns out to have been true.

But this was not like any counselling appointment I have had before.

I was very anxious going in.  New counsellors make me anxious.  When I climbed the stairs and looked down the hallway towards reception, I realised abruptly that I had been in this building before, years before, when my mother had wrangled things to get me on Plan G.  Plan G is a provincial drug plan providing psychiatric drugs to patients who need them and cannot afford them.  At the time, it was for some antidepressants that were having a debateable amount of effect, possibly not much.  But this?  This was where we’d got the forms.  I hadn’t had any clear memory of what the building had been but this had been it.

I suffered a sharp spike of anxiety and loitered for a moment at the top of the stairs, aware that I could see other people in the waiting room, and that made it worse, but I took a deep breath and soldiered on, feeling progressively worse.

I was a bit early, and the recptionist was still on lunch.  Again, anxiety.  What was I supposed to do?  I picked up a magazine on anxiety and depression, and managed to read part of an interesting article on medication before the receptionist returned.  She gave me a form to fill out.  Again, another spike of anxiety.  I recognised it right off as what it was, actually.  It was the Beck Depression Inventory on one side and the Beck Anxiety Inventory on the other.  I have filled out many of these lately, many in my life, this is nothing new although having to do the anxiety test is a particularly new shade of thing.

But I hate these tests.  I am conscious constantly of self-editing and trying to see if I’m answering “right.”  Obviously there’s no right answer, but I worry constantly about my ability to judge this accurately, and my sense of what the various gradings on the scale mean, and it’s always in the back of my mind that if I do it wrong, they’ll send me away as not really needing help.  On the other hand, if I err on the other side, what will it mean if they think my situation is far more severe than it is?  And how severe am I?  I can’t judge myself against other people, I can’t say how much of the mess in my head is “normal” and how much is not.

And then I had to wait again, and the magazine I had been reading had vanished (and I didn’t see anyone else in the waiting room with it, either, so I couldn’t even blame anyone) so I fidgeted until my counsellor showed up, by which point I was in a state of high anxiety and building towards a panic attack, and had to be walked around the building until I calmed down.

And this was, as I said, not like any counselling appointment I’ve had.

He is versed in anxiety problems.  In fact, he suffers from them himself.

He says he doesn’t believe in “fixing” people.

He says he doesn’t approach this as “dealing with anxiety” or “coping with anxiety” but instead as “accepting anxiety.”  His view is that anxiety, or depression, or anger, or other sources of “negative energy” come from the emotional mind, and that the rational, thinking mind is trying to fix them.  And of course, they cannot be fixed, they cannot be suppressed, they cannot be ignored or diverted without suffering backlash and problems and generally just making things worse, which is something I am becoming aware of.

His process, he says, is to allow the rational mind and the emotional mind learn to work together, to accept what the emotional mind is doing, to allow oneself to experience anxiety or depression or anger without it taking over and without trying to “fix” it, and to then be able to tap into the wise mind.

This is a different approach than I’m used to, and the idea that by learning not to fight myself — because fight myself I certainly am doing — I can be better… well, it’s very appealing.  What counselling I’ve done in the past has been, when it touched on anxiety at all, was focused on learning to calm oneself down, which is impossible to do in a crisis, and does not prevent the anxiety from being an issue in the first place.  This is new.  This sounds promising.  Possibly I’m grasping at things, but it sound promising.

As he puts it, I’m scaling a mountain, and he’s climbing the same one, and he can offer me advice on which tool to use or which handhold to take, but he’s there with me when he knows  how difficult it is.

Of course, it takes time.  At any rate, I’ve come away with a Plan G form, so that I can afford the Cipralex in the meantime.  Assuming it helps.  I hope it does.