Invisible Illness
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Invisible Illness

I Finally Met With A Psychologist

His Advice — Get Better Sleep

Photo by Quin Stevenson on Unsplash

The wait finally ended. After two months of being on a waiting list, I was finally able to meet with a psychologist. I want to start by saying that the long line was worth it.

It’s always worth it.

I’ve never had therapy before so I didn’t know what I was expecting. I knew one 50 minute session wasn’t going to solve my health issues, but that conversation did provide a sense of peace — and when you’re in the midst of depression, that’s all you can ask for.

Hail Mary solutions are rare. It often takes a methodical approach to heal mental illness, and in my case, I think that’s accurate. My depression isn’t going to be solved with one visit to a psychologist, but I know that it’s the first step to recovery.

Immediately I noticed my psychologist was calm. His voice was cool, slow, and collected. He was slow to speak and fast to listen. He is definitely in the right career field. Going into the meeting I was nervous that I wouldn’t feel comfortable to divulge my true feelings — that I would need to fabricate my emotions.

He erased that fear.

His easy-going presence made it clear that I had only myself to overcome. I swallowed my pride and spoke my truth. It felt powerful. I felt free. It is indescribable how you feel pouring out your soul to a stranger for the first time. He created a safe space, and I spilled my guts. I talked about my struggles, my fears, and my hopes.

I’m sure he has heard this same sob story countless times, but he made me feel like it was the first time he’d encountered these individual thoughts. I told him about my fear of wasting time in my early 20s, or how I felt like adulthood failed to meet my childhood expectations, or how I am stuck in a stage of life that seems like an endless black pit.

My struggles aren’t special. I know that. But they are debilitating, and he made me feel heard. For the first 30 minutes, he just asked why I was seeking therapy and what I hoped to gain from the experience.

Here’s why I started therapy: I need help sorting through my emotions and understanding what will recharge my soul on a daily basis.

Here’s what I hope to gain from therapy: I want to walk away with the ability to set realistic expectations for life, and have coping methods for when life seems to fall short of the goalpost.

I laid out my simple struggles in a convoluted message, but it was the best I could do. It was my first emotional dump in the arms of a professional. It’ll get better with time, but looking back now, I struggled to be an articulate voice. Have you ever heard of word vomiting? Yeah… That’s more what it was like.

He asked me a question that I wasn’t expecting.

“What is something that you would immediately notice is helping your day-to-day health?”

I was shocked. Isn’t the goal my long-term health? Getting rid of my depression? Being happy for years to come? Surely I’m not going to be happy tomorrow. It’s hardly ever that simple. So I took a second and thought.

My answer came. Sleep.

I haven’t slept well in months. Probably longer. Sleep seems easy until it isn’t. The last time I regularly slept well was probably 2019, but I just haven’t said it aloud. He brought that out of me. I’m not a doctor, but I am educated well enough to know that proper sleep patterns are essential to our general wellbeing.

It clicked with me. Maybe if I could sleep better on a nightly basis, then other parts of my depression would become less troublesome. If my day-to-day seems healthier, my long-term health will get on the right track.

For the final 20 minutes of my appointment, we discussed ways to sleep better. My ability to sleep starts and ends with me. I hold the keys to this car. I just need to turn the ignition in the right direction.

I’m cutting out blue light two hours before bedtime. I’m drinking less alcohol. I’m working on breathing exercises. I’m documenting and diagraming the thoughts that spin in my head. The techniques are simple, but maybe that’s what I need.

My psychologist said if I can’t fall asleep in the first 10 to 15 minutes then I need to get up and walk away from the bed. Tossing and turning on my pillow isn’t going to make sleep come any faster.

Interesting, right?

Sometimes common sense isn’t common until you hear it from someone else.

So after my first meeting with my psychologist, I’m working on my sleep schedule. Not what I expected my “homework” to be. But you know what, it seems to be helping. It’s only been three days, a premature sample size, but so far, I feel moderately better.

So if better sleep is the start of my healing, I’m all for it. Obviously I haven’t been able to do this on my own, my depression has been lingering around for several months. But now, it feels like there’s an action plan in place that has the opportunity to work. This week it is sleep, and I’m thankful for that.

I trust that my psychologist knows what he’s talking about. Who would have thought that a few more ZZZZ’s might be the starting line to a happier me?

So if you meet with a psychologist, or a therapist, or whatever mental health professional, hear them out. The smallest change might need to be the first domino to fall.

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We don't talk enough about mental health.

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Zach Shaw

Zach Shaw

A bit of a writer. I like to think I’m somewhat funny. Lover of fried chicken (baked chicken can go die). I get caught up in thoughts. Twitter: @ZachSShaw

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