Today I’m going to write about one of the aspects of mental illness that happens to most of us with mental illness diagnosis at least once in the course of our lives. This is the subject of changing therapists. For me, it was a bit daunting to change from a therapist that had developed a trusted relationship with me. Trust is a big, big issue for mental health patients. I don’t trust anyone right away under any circumstances. My default mode has been, traditionally, not to trust someone I just met until I can figure them out well enough to tell if they are trustworthy. The trust of a mentally ill person does not come as fast or easy as it would with a chronically normal person. But that trust, once broken for any reason, will never be regained. It rarely matters how small or insignificant such breeches may seem to a normal. Once a mentally ill person has any reason to doubt your sincerity, that friendship/relationship/etc. is as good as dead.
I write all of this to simply state that we who have mental health problems have problems with trusting people right away. This is perhaps due to some of us being more sensitive to verbal cues from others. Some, like me, may not easily trust because we have been betrayed too many times as young people because we had difficulty reading who can and cannot be trusted. Others, also like myself, may have never learned, or were born knowing, the proper rules of social etiquette. Either you normals were born knowing social cues or that subject was covered during one of the dozen or so days of school I missed between kindergarten and 12th grade. I really don’t know how to socialize properly. I really don’t know what is the appropriate time and proof needed before I can properly show trust. Many of us mentally ill simply do not know these unspoken rules of social etiquette.
After two sessions with this new therapist, I still don’t know if the trust can be made. Yes, he seems to be competent. He seems to care about me, at least in a professional sense. But, trust is a big deal. Not only is it a problem to know if I can trust someone, it is also a problem for me to know I have someone’s support, appreciation, friendship, etc. Even after two hours with this new therapist, I still don’t know if this is someone I can trust.
I have had too many instances when I thought I had someone’s trust (again with people I should have never opened up to at all, like coworkers and bosses), that I found out that my trust was violated. I have had too many instances when a coworker, boss, former friend, etc. told me we were on good terms at first, then go silent for a long time. Then, I’d get that call into private conference where I’d be ambushed with a laundry list of things I was doing wrong and people I was irritating. It is my experience that no one, and I mean absolutely no one, in any kind of authority wants to see me unless I am already in serious trouble. Many mentally ill people are like this as well. I have been told I have problems with authority and no respect for rules. My problem is I don’t believe in superficially trusting someone who could stab me in the back at any moment for crimes I had no idea I was committing. I also cannot understand why rules that make no sense or are obsolete should be followed. I have never been able to hold that level of cognitive dissonance between my actions and my thoughts. Most mentally ill people are like me in this regard.
I have trust issues. I don’t trust people I just meet. It’s not because I am an arrogant and aloof jerk. It is simply because I cannot read the social and nonverbal cues that say whether or not I can trust an individual.