“You can never win or lose if you don’t run the race” – Psychedelic Furs
Blake is curled up in a ball in the therapist’s office. His knees are pulled up against his chest and his face is buried in his legs. I’m like a fly on the wall as I lean closer to the hubby and witness the scene between my son and his psychologist. It’s almost like we aren’t there, and I try to remain as unobtrusive as possible.
“This is really uncomfortable for you,” the therapist says.
“I’m always uncomfortable,” Blake answers, his voice muffled and pained from between his legs.
The therapist is working to get Blake to agree to adding some structure to his day, to begin to move back into life. Blake frequently spends his days sleeping, or playing video games. He feels like “a failure,” but he doesn’t act to reverse that. He sinks deeper and deeper into depression.
The therapist moves in close. He is mere inches from Blake. “It gets difficult for you when it’s time to take action.”
“I don’t feel like doing anything will help. I don’t feel like doing anything.”
The therapist pushes on, softly, but not backing down. “You have depression, Blake. And you have OCD, and those two frequently come together. Part of your depression is biological – and the natural course of that is for it to get worse. It will tell you to keep doing nothing and you will feel worse.”
“But I don’t feel better when I do something,” Blake replies.
“Here’s the thing,” the therapist says. “Feelings lie. And there’s a lot of hard work ahead of you. The truth is, the first time you do something, you won’t feel better. Feelings are the last thing to change. You have to change your behavior first.”
On the couch, out of Blake’s view, quiet tears roll down my cheeks. I am touched by the tender interaction between my son and our therapist. The therapist has just shared with Blake the deeply personal story of two family members – one who chose life and one who said they would choose, but ultimately left the world prematurely, a result of never having done so.
The therapist rolls his chair side-by-side with Blake’s. He gestures with a flourish at two pieces of artwork on the wall, one by each of the aforementioned family members. Both pieces of artwork are striking in their own right, yet we know the direction each artist’s life went.
“Which will you choose?” he asks Blake, as they both gaze in the direction of the artwork. “Not choosing is a choice not to act.”
“I should choose this one,” Blake answers.
“There’s this thing about ‘shoulds’,” says the therapist. “They make it sound like someone is shouting at you. ‘You should do this!’ Things sound better when we remove the ‘should.’ ”
“I’ll choose this one,” says Blake.
It remains to be seen whether Blake will choose the tough road of living life. It will mean taking on new tasks each week, following through, refining his approach, and feeling a whole lot of discomfort before his feelings of depression may begin to fade just a bit. For this week, he’s agreed to take on a task. He must schedule in an agreed upon amount of time each day for a task he and the therapist have identified as important to him.
I’m doing my best to back off and allow him to follow through. I want to see him leave our home in a year to pursue his career of interest. I’m terribly afraid he won’t. My mom instincts make me want to check up on him, to nudge, to hold him accountable. But, honestly, those are my feelings, and feelings can lie to us. I must also take the difficult road – the uncomfortable one – and let him try this out on his own and be accountable for what he does or does not do. I must continue to find my new way.