I talk a lot about my own issues here. That is because, well, it’s my blog, and that’s why I started it. My issues are what I am trying to work through, and while I realize they will never go away, I am trying to learn how to manage them so that I control them, rather than the other way around. I think one of the ways in which I am learning how to deal with my issues is, though, helping others to deal with theirs.
Group psychotherapy was my favorite group at both Menninger and the step-down. Largely, it was because it was a group run by the patients, where we could talk about our problems in a safe place with people we trusted and see if anybody had anything to contribute, whether help or sympathy. By helping others try to work through their problems, we helped work through our own. It’s always easier to see the solutions to the problems of others than it is to see the solutions to our own problems; that’s why one of the DBT (or was it CBT?) skills was looking at our problems, at how we were handling them, and ask if we would recommend the same course for a friend going through the same thing.
One of the things I seem to have started doing is becoming kind of a peer counselor to a number of my friends. This is partially on purpose, because I want to try and help my friends when I can. Often there’s not much I can do except listen to a friend, and talk to them, hear what they are saying and maybe offer up some suggestion if I can. Active listening (I mentioned it a fair while back) is something I have gotten a lot of practice with. I’m good at listening, and my friends know that I tend to have something worth listening to when I do talk.
I try not to judge, especially with the people I care about. In general, I’m a pretty non-threatening guy, and I keep the important things others tell me secret. I help out my friends when I can, and I try to be honest. I definitely don’t have all the answers – if I did, I wouldn’t be in treatment myself. But I’ve been through a lot of the same things, mentally, that a lot of people here have, and in some cases for a lot longer. 13 years with depression is a long time. I empathize pretty well, which is something that a lot of people I know apparently find comforting.
So yes, I get the chance a lot to talk through issues with my friends. Sometimes talking through issues with people is what helps make them my friends. I’m not counseling them, unless you mean in the sense of offering advice and my own thoughts. I don’t have any education in the area except the education of personal experience and what I learned in treatment. We help each other, and in the process we help ourselves. So I’m glad that my friends feel comfortable coming to me to talk, because it means that we will hopefully be able to get control of our issues that much sooner.