Therapy is mostly for everyday average people. Yes, therapy is for people who have long term, serious mental health problems, but most people don’t. Most people who come to therapy come because life has come to a peak of some type of miserableness. They come to therapy, deal with whatever that miserableness is, and then go back to life. The following are some examples of people who have come to see me. They are not exact examples, some are a mixture of people, and details have been changed to hide their identity.
Cathy is 25 year old woman in her last year of college. She has struggled with anxiety throughout the years. Anxiety has forced breaks for a semester or two, smaller class loads, and sometimes withdrawing from classes prematurely. She applied for medical school, but had a huge anxiety attack before taking the MCAT. She ultimately did not get the score she hoped for and did not get into her first 3 choices of schools. She is faced with increasing anxiety and self-loathing.
“I was so afraid for the MCAT. As it got closer and closer I got more and more afraid. I knew I was going to blow it. I completely freaked out the morning of the test. I was hyperventilating, the muscles in my arms contracted and bent my hands. I couldn’t even move my hands. For some reason, I kind of chilled out enough to get there and go through the test, but I was so scared the whole time. Now, here it is, none of the schools I wanted accepted me. I got accepted to some school in the Caribbean where they probably take anyone. I don’t know if I should even go, and if I do can I even make it. I barely made it through undergrad. What happens in medical school if I drop a class? I can’t go part time. Should I even be a doctor now? How can I be a doctor when stuff like this happens?”
Karen is a 32 year old married woman. She is a home maker and mother. She is generally very active in school volunteering and holding a teaching position in her church. She has recently been diagnosed with bipolar II. Karen is accompanied by her husband today. They both sit in front of me on the couch. It is her husband who begins talking as I am distracted by her black eye. He begins to tell me how sad she is and how much he wants her to get help. He is here today to for some assurance that she gets help. Karen gave herself the black eye.
Karen begins to cry before she even starts talking, and through tears she tells me, “I sat on my bed and just hit myself, then I did it again, and again. I just feel so awful. I’m so sick of feeling this way and nothing I do makes it go away. I can’t do anything. I can’t be there for my kids. I can’t live like this.”
Mike is a 30 year old man who has never been married and had one serious girlfriend over 5 years ago. Mike feels isolated and lonely.
“I have a few buddies I go out with every once in a while. I could hang out more, but I don’t. I want to, though, because the times when I don’t go I just sit at home by myself hating myself because I didn’t go. Sometimes, when I want to go I can’t make myself. I get this feeling in my stomach like I’m going to throw up. I start to feel dread and like if I was to go no one would want me there anyway and they would secretly be wishing I wasn’t there. This has been happening more lately and one of my buddies noticed I haven’t been around and he asked, but I can’t tell him. I can’t tell him I’m crazy.”
“I also think I’ll never get a girlfriend if I keep doing this. All my buddies have someone. I’m the last one single. I haven’t even asked a girl out in a long time. I just think no one would like me – if they really got to know me.”
Sarah is like Mike in that she wants an intimate relationship. She wants to be committed and have a family. Sarah, however isn’t short on going out with people. She just can’t seem to choose someone who wants the same thing.
“I always pick the guy who is unavailable, for whatever reason. They may tell me upfront that they aren’t interested in marriage or commitment or long term or being monogamous, but I always tell myself that’s okay with me. Maybe I think somewhere that they will change their mind. But, they don’t, and once I’ve committed way too much time I find myself in crappy relationship and a realization that I did it again. I know I have trust issues. I don’t trust anyone. My dad was an asshole to my mom; he cheated on her. My brothers are assholes to the girls they date, and so is my sister. She goes through men weekly. I just want to find a good guy, I can trust.”
James is a 35 year old man. He works full time and is in a leadership position in his church. He loves working in his landscaped yard and gardening.
“I was just in the house with my family when all of a sudden I heard yelling outside. I ran to the door and saw my neighbor on my front lawn, on top of a woman, strangling her. I had a tire lever on my front porch and grabbed it as I ran towards them. I shoved him off her, and he ran. Thankfully someone must have called the cops before and they showed up and caught him. But, now I’m scared every day. My neighbor went to jail only to get out the next day. He lives right next door. I don’t want to leave the house, and I don’t want my family to leave. We haven’t been going outside unless we have to. I mow the lawn but am nervous the whole time, because it’s loud and I couldn’t hear someone if they came up. I look over my shoulder the whole time. I can’t do any other yard work. I can’t sleep at night. Every little noise wakes me and then I go check every window and door to make sure they are locked. I can’t keep up like this.”
All of these people were average people with seemingly average lives that for differing reasons needed someone else to help change the direction. This is a small list of examples of people who seek help. Maybe one or more resonated with you. Psychology Today wrote also has an article with a good general list on the top 10 reasons to go to therapy. Check it here.