Getting help is hard

Sunset-streaked clouds above silhouetted tree-tops, with three trees on a hill, on the right side. ©careerusinterruptus.com

About a month ago, someone said something that made me so mad, my head exploded, firing itself halfway to Jupiter before – using a combination of rage-writing, conversations with sensible, trusted friends, and judicious muttering – I managed to decelerate and re-attach.

And do you know who made me so mad?

A psychologist.

Now, I’ll admit, I have a THING about psychologists and psychology. Partly philosophical. (Free tip – don’t raise this topic if I’ve had any alcohol.) Partly from my years doing admin in a university psych department; you see people’s worst when you work for them, and people whose expertise is relationships and communication, are no exception.

I guess some of that resonated, because when this guy blurted out, “Something’s gone wrong here”, all I could think was, “REALLY? All that training, all those years of experience, a PhD, even, for ‘something’s gone WRONG’, in a tone like that repair guy who found a dead toad in the dryer’s exhaust vent, no less?!” It took two weeks to calm down enough to say, I felt judged and shamed.

Annoyingly, he wasn’t completely wrong. However … well, the best analogy I’ve got is this:

photorealistic image of dinosaurs observing an incoming meteor. T Rex’s speech bubble says, “Oh shit! The economy!!” (source)

It’s a valid point, it’s just not the whole point. It wasn’t even close to $200 worth of point – especially since I’d already spent three sessions describing the meteorite and the consequences of its impact. So along with judged and shamed, I felt that I hadn’t been heard, and I felt <head-desk>.

And I had liked this guy. We’d chatted outside the therapy room and got along well. But as a therapist? Like tinfoil and a filling. So along with judged, shamed, unheard, and <head-desk>, I was hugely disappointed.

Because here I am again, without the help I need and – this is the important bit – have been trying, for years, to get.

And that is the reason for my rage: Getting help is hard. It is so. Freaking. Hard.

It’s hard, admitting you’re struggling. It’s hard, admitting you can’t do it yourself. (Cheers, capitalism, and your ‘bootstraps’ BS.) It’s hard, explaining your struggles to whichever authority, insurer or doctor or both, you need to sanction help. It can be hard convincing them, dammit! It’s hard researching who can help. It’s hard finding time/money/energy/childcare, to go see them. It’s hard exposing your struggle to a stranger.

Maybe they’re a good fit.

Or, maybe, they say something like, “Reward chart!”

Or, “If only we still committed these children to hospital for a few weeks like we did back when I was training, that sorted them right out.”

Or, “I cannot talk to your child until they have [novel alternate therapy] which is explained in this book, which I co-wrote with [city’s only novel alternate therapy practitioner] and is only $25.”

Friends, I wish I was making those up.

I am not.

Maybe you see them several times before working out it’s not a good fit, like this psychologist. In which case, you’re down hundreds of dollars – as well as judged, shamed, unheard, <head-desk>, and disappointed. (Quiet, gut, I know you warned me.)

Look. I know, as a certified smarty-pants, I’m often impatient with people not seeing what I do. When they’re smart and/or educated, though, I worry: Am I over-complicating things? Am I expecting too much?

I also know that I can be, let’s say…touchy. Knowing how far I fail my own expectations is painful; feeling judged kicks that into hyperdrive. And more worrying: Am I being too sensitive?

And – given I liked him, he’s smart, and had a semi-valid point – am I being too defensive?

That’s where the sensible, trusted friends come in. It is complicated, I’m not too sensitive, I’m not overly defensive, I’m right to expect respectful tone and language. Phew.

(Finding trusted, sensible friends, can be hard, too.)

Go through all that a few times, with a range of ‘helpers’, it can be very, very hard to pick yourself up and ask again. It can be hard to feel you’ll ever find someone who sees the whole picture, respects your understanding, shares your values, and who can support changes, kindly and gently enough that you don’t feel judged. It can be REALLY hard, or even impossible, to throw more money at it.

And yet, when your kid is struggling – or when you’re struggling together – it’s what you do, right? Whether the issue is physical, wiring, emotional, or a complicated mix of all three, you just keep getting up off the mat, parking yourself in front of a search engine or a community, and asking for help. It’s out there. It’s just hard, finding it. So bloody hard.

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