Categories > Original > Drama14 Reviews
therapy session ...
We had a couple weeks off in the middle of touring, so on my first day back, I booked an appointment with a new therapist - on a recommendation I got from the band's lawyer.
The two weeks were almost up and this was my third appointment. I had been to a therapist before but I was still nervous as I sat in the front waiting room. I had shown up a little early just to attempt to get more comfortable before going in. I saw the receptionist look over at me a few times as I fidgeted around in the chair, randomly paging through magazines I had no business reading ... like 'Good Housekeeping' ... and wringing my hands. She'd probably seen that type of shit before though. I mean, I was sitting in a fucking shrink's office.
I knew I was a little fucked up in the head, but I didn't want to go back on any sort of medication. I had told her that I just wanted to make sure I didn't slip back into a deep depression, and that's why I was there - not to get a prescription for Xanax or anything. In just two sessions, she really helped me realize that even regular feelings of depression were okay because that was a very natural thing to feel ... and that's how I thought about it now.
I mean, everybody gets depressed, it's totally normal. At the time I didn't realize that, I thought I was really sick and I was self-medicating and then the medicine stopped working and I really thought - I really did think I was going to die. I think it's something that everybody goes through and that's not to belittle the fact that some people have it worse than others and some people can't get out of bed ... I think that exists and I think it's very serious but I notice a lot of people think they can solve their problems with anti-depressants and that I've noticed being a bigger issue. Like it really strips people of who they are ... like, all your quirks and all your problems - even your depressions and your failures - that's what makes you, you and there's a lot of drugs out there that'll take that away from you. I won't even ... I won't take anything. I barely take NyQuil when I'm sick. So the therapist was very cool about the no drugs thing and how I felt about it - especially after I explained to her in that first session that I had recently gotten clean.
My mind drifted back to the pages of 'Good Housekeeping'. The thing was full of prescription drug ads. So many people out there thought there was a magic pill for whatever their problem was. It made me sad in a way. I put the magazine back and watched the second hand drift around the dial of the clock on the wall of the waiting room. I still had about ten minutes until my appointment. I just sat there staring at the carpet. After awhile, I heard the door open.
"Gerard ... you can come on back now."
I got up and walked into the office. She shut the door and asked me to have a seat. She had a big desk in the room, but she didn't sit behind it - she sat down in the soft leather chair that was kinda facing the identical one I sat in, but angled a little bit away. Her office was all bright and cheery. She had a bunch of flowers on her desk and Monet prints on the walls. I kinda felt like a dark little storm cloud hovering over a sunshiny meadow sitting in there.
She didn't start out with the 'hi, how are you' type of question ... because that was too open-ended and left too much room for me to just say, 'fine' and then clam up. I appreciated that actually. I came here for help, and she seemed to actually be giving me that.
"So, you must be getting ready to go back out on tour, right?"
"Um, yeah, in four days."
I kinda was excited, but at the same time, I knew touring put me in situations that were uncomfortable now.
"Well, yeah, I love playing live. It's one of the most amazing feelings you can get ... and I know that now more than ever since I'm not wasted when I'm up on stage ..."
I knew in order to make this work I had to let go of my apprehension ... and talk about what I was really feeling ... and she was obviously coaxing me to do that.
"Well, I'm not gonna lie and say that the last couple months have been easy. Every day I was around tons of booze and plenty of people doing drugs. I feel like I've been successful and committed so far, but I know it's something I'm going to have to deal with every day. I'm really scared there will be a day when the wall I've been building just crumbles and I give in to having a drink."
She sat there for a a little bit, obviously digesting what I just said and thinking of what to respond with.
"I haven't known you very long now, but I can tell you are very committed to the decision you made two months ago. Many alcoholics do have a relapse, especially right after they first quit, but it's important to know that you're not a failure if you do have one. And there is help. I can even arrange some AA meetings for you if you'd like."
I had thought about AA, but even without being famous, I'm the sort of guy who stands out in a crowd, so I was nervous about going. But the way she talked about alcoholics having relapses scared me even more. I think she could tell.
"Gerard, I'm not saying you're going to have a relapse. Going to therapy sessions or going to AA meetings are just extra 'padding' so to speak. They are other tools you can utilize to help you get through this. I'd like to go back for a second - you mentioned that you've been building a wall and that you were afraid of it crumbling. Why a wall?"
I had to think about that one. Why did I say a wall?
"Well, um, I dunno exactly. I mean, you always hear about people 'building walls' around themselves. I guess I just used that analogy because I feel like I need extra protection or something?"
"Do you personally feel it's healthy to put a wall up?"
She has a point there. I didn't want to have to hide behind something my whole life. That was actually kind of more weak in a way ... like if I got really used to the wall and then didn't have it all of a sudden, then what would happen?
"Um, I see your point. The wall is kind of a crutch, yeah?"
"Definitely. You just said yourself you were afraid of that wall crumbling. You don't need an imaginary wall, Gerard. You don't have to spend your energy building the wall - instead you can build confidence."
"Yeah. Yeah, that totally makes sense. I guess I've been using crutches all along. My girlfriend once told me I used alcohol as a crutch."
"Hmm, smart lady you have there!"
"Yeah, she's smart. We've been through a lot together."
"Do you have anyone else in your life that you can talk to when you feel you need to?"
I had a whole support network of people, really, but sometimes I just didn't feel like talking.
"Yeah, um ... the guys in my band are like my brothers ... well, really my actual brother is in the band ... but the rest of the guys are like family too. I know I could always talk to any of them, but sometimes I just clam up and don't want to talk about things that are bothering me."
She could probably see that part about me clamming up coming a mile away.
"It is hard to talk about some things, but sometimes just letting another person know what you are feeling can be all you need to lift some of the weight off your shoulders. For example, I think you've come a long way in just the couple hours we've talked so far."
She was right about that. I felt like there was a progression ... that I felt better this week than I did last week.
"Oh yeah, you're right. Um, I'd be willing to try the AA meetings too, but as you know I'm going out again, so I'm not sure how that would work?"
"Actually I can do a little research and I can find meetings that happen in the different cities you'll be in. All the meetings are completely open, so you could just show up and introduce yourself."
"Okay, that sounds good."
That did sound good. I wouldn't be forced into it or wouldn't have to go if I wasn't feeling it.
"Great, if you can stop by the office tomorrow around lunch time you can tell me where you'll be and I'll put together a list and all the information about the meetings for you."
"I'd like to talk a little bit more about your general depression. Would that be okay with you?"
"Um, yeah, sure."
"In our first session, you had mentioned that you had struggled with depression for a long time. Can you recall the first time in your life that you felt really depressed?"
I had actually struggled with depression practically my whole life. I did too much heavy thinking when I was a kid. I never even usually talked to other kids ... well, besides my brother and the couple friends I had. I could carry on really intelligent conversations with the adults I was around. I was a fucking smart kid.
"Well, I think the first time I felt depressed was when I was about eight years old. What depressed me was death. There was a kid at my elementary school ... that I didn't even know ... and he died. He died in an accident where he got hit on his bike. I remember going to school one morning and the principal got on the intercom and did an announcement about it. I remember looking around at some of the other kids in the class. They were just going on about their lives ... picking on one another or talking or just generally not paying attention. Here some kid was dead, one of our classmates, and they just didn't seem to get it. When the announcement ended, our teacher had mentioned that if anyone wanted to talk about what had happened, she would be there after classes that day. I did want to talk about it, but I didn't wait around after class. I really realized that day that at any moment my life could end. I could be walking home and be hit by a car and that would be that. You didn't have to be old to die."
Again, she remained quite for a moment after listening to me.
"That's really a traumatic occurrence for a child. Not every child handles the death of another person the same way. You mentioned the other kids in your class didn't even seem to realize what the reality of the event meant, but you did. You were probably a pretty intelligent little boy. Did you end up talking about the incident to anyone?"
"I remember talking about it with my grandma. My grandma was really special to me. She taught me a lot of stuff. But still, even after I talked to her, I was fixated on death for about 3 years after that incident."
"That's a perfectly natural reaction. Death is a hard topic, not just because it falls into the 'unknown' category, but as I said, everyone has a different reaction to it. Does death still depress you?"
I'd come to terms with death a while ago actually. I wasn't afraid of it like I was when I was a kid. And I'd really like to think that there's something else after death, I feel that there kind of has to be. It would really be one of the only explanations for everything is that there is something beyond death. What that is I don't know.
"Not really. I mean, I still have nightmares where I die, or people that I love die ... it's like, death is not a happy thing, but I don't think anymore that death should be looked at as totally bad and depressing either. I'd really like to think there's something else after death ... like, we're all made of the same energy, and you can't kill energy, it goes on, maybe it changes shape or something. Death can be a beautiful thing as well as an ugly thing, that's what I think, so no, death doesn't really depress me like it once did."
She took her usual pause, but her expression seemed to be lost in thought. It took her a little longer to respond than before.
"That's really a very healthy outlook, and it shows what a deep and thoughtful person you are, Gerard. And that's excellent that the thing that you remember first made you depressed no longer really does. That shows you've been able to evolve past it and that means that you can do the same with other things that make you depressed. Would you like to talk about something more recent that made you depressed?"
There were a lot of long pauses in our sessions. I had to search my head for answers sometimes because they weren't always easy to get to. I tried to think of the last thing that depressed me. Being away from my girlfriend and not seeing my family and friends back home when I was gone on tour wasn't really depression ... that was more straight loneliness.
"Honestly, the last thing that really depressed me had to do more with me being wasted - feeling like there was no point in going on because I felt so fucking bad all the time ..."
I realized I just said, 'fucking' and I felt kinda bad about swearing in the session.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to swear."
She kind of chuckled after I apologized.
"Oh don't worry about it, it doesn't bother me. You should hear me on the turnpike in rush hour traffic!"
She was a cool therapist ... I had to admit that. I laughed.
"Okay, but anyway I think now that I'm sober, that part of my depression has really dissipated. I think the only things that make me depressed at the moment are more superficial things. Like I was sitting out in the waiting room flipping through a magazine and there were tons of prescription ads in there and that made me a little depressed because there's so many people out there that see those and begin to think there's a magic pill to solve all their problems ..."
I looked over at her and she was obviously just going to let me go on with that thought. I noticed she watched my hands ... 'cause I talk a lot with my hands when I get going.
"Um, I sometimes get depressed when I'm away from home and I see couples. Like you know, people holding hands and kissing and stuff. Because that makes me miss my girlfriend that much more, but I'm pretty sure that's normal."
"Yeah, that's definitely normal."
I tried to think of anything else that had made me depressed in the last month.
"I can't think of anything else off the top of my head that actually made me feel depressed like I had been. I guess, after I first went 'cold turkey' I had more ups and downs, but that might have just been chemicals leaving my system. There were definitely days where I felt like I didn't have the strength to pull this off ... and wallowing in a pit of despair seemed almost comforting - and way too familiar."
"Are you still having any of those days?"
"Well, not in the last few weeks ... I've been good. But it's still only been 2 months since I quit everything. At least if I have a day like that now, I think I have something good to compare it to, you know?"
I did too. I just physically felt better, which was a huge help. Then I also was doing art again. But all in all, having a clear head made it a lot easier to get through any bad days.
"That's excellent. It sounds like at least you are capable of handling minor depressions much better simply through sobriety. So we've talked a little bit about what makes you depressed, how about the opposite of that - what makes you happy?"
The happy stuff seemed a lot easier to come up with quickly ... that was good thing.
"Oh my music for sure. Just being able to play and write songs and stuff. Oh, and my art. That was my first love and I've been getting more and more back into that. There's lots of little things that make me happy. Our fans make me happy. There's movies that make me happy ... comic books ... video games."
I tried to think of more stuff.
"You were able to come up with the happy stuff quicker than you were the things that made you depressed."
"Yeah I guess so. That's a good thing, right?"
"Oh yes, very good. Sometimes people really cannot think of anything that makes them happy. I'm sure you've been at points like that."
"Oh yeah, you could say that. The times where I was suicidal I definitely felt there was nothing in this world that would have made me happy ... that my only option was offing myself and then everything would be okay. There have been other times too ... just where everything seemed so dark ... and I just kinda ran away with those feelings."
I had told her about those in our last session. She had been very understanding about it. I'm sure she sees a lot of people talking about killing themselves ... or that have actually attempted it.
"You said a little while ago that wallowing in despair felt comfortable to you."
"Yeah, I did. It was something I was very used to."
"Was? Do you feel like you're over that now?"
She was really making me think ... even just about the words I used.
"Well, I'm not sure about that. I have a really dark personality sometimes. I kind of gravitate to 'the dark side'. So I can't say that I won't ever again. I've gotten to be okay with that though. I mean, I don't think there's anything wrong with me because I like dark shit, ya know? But I do think I'm handling just life in general better now ... I mean, for the last 3 years, I thought alcohol was my ticket to feeling happy, but really it was only dragging me down more. Even after the meds I was taking stopped working, and I was still drinking and feeling worse and worse, I didn't really realize what I was doing ... that's why it seemed so comfortable I guess, because it was going on a long time."
I didn't know exactly how long we'd been sitting there because there wasn't a clock on the wall in her office, but I knew our time was just about up.
"That's an important realization and a big step that you made. It's also important to realize that just as life has its ups and downs, your road to recovery might as well. If you find yourself at a low point, don't hesitate to utilize one of the tools available to you now, or talk to someone you trust. You have my card as well, so you can call me any time day or night if you need to. We're just about out of time, but I'd like to see you again when you get back home from this tour and see how you're doing."
"Oh for sure, yeah, I'll definitely set up an appointment on the way out or when I stop by tomorrow to pick up those papers. And thanks, really ... I feel like just talking some of this stuff out with you is really helping me."
"You're very welcome, Gerard. Have a great time on your tour, and like I said, call me if you need to."
I thanked her again and walked out of the office. When I got outside I lit a cigarette before getting back in the car. I did feel a lot better, and I really did hope I would have a good time on this next tour and not have any relapses.