I'm My Own Mechanic
I know very little about vehicle maintenance. Sure, I can check fluids and tire pressure, change sparkplugs and windshield wipers, switch out an air filter and tires, and even follow basic online instructions for minor repairs to my car.
Still, I never learned how to change the oil, replace a transmission, or rebuild an engine. When it comes to the finer points of maintenance, I’m ignorant—lacking knowledge, information, or awareness.
Though there appears to be some level of shame in society related to ignorance of men who can’t service their own vehicles, I’m unmoved by stigmas of this sort. I simply don’t know what I don’t know.
Therefore, when my car requires maintenance, I consult with a mechanic or repair shop. I suppose if I cared enough to do so, I could learn the ins and outs of vehicle maintenance. However, I’m truly disinterested in doing so and I appreciate that there are people available to repair and maintain my vehicle.
Though I began life coaching in the ‘90s, I knew very little about the field of mental, emotional, and behavioral health—collectively, “mental health”—at that time. All I understood was that people confided in me with their problems and seemed to have benefitted from my counsel.
In childhood, trauma was present in relation to both of my biological parents. In seventh grade, I left the care of my parents and was placed into a children’s home.
A family from the church congregation of which I was a member took me into their home in my sophomore year of high school. During my senior year, I returned to the children’s home.
By the time I graduated, I experienced the influence of just under a dozen adults who assumed parental and caregiving roles. In their own unique ways, I think it’s charitable to say that each of those individuals attempted to help me deal with the complexity of life.
Perhaps due to nature, nurture, and other unknown factors (e.g., gut microbiota), the adults in my life couldn’t fully repair what I grew up believing was fundamentally broken. Psychologically speaking, others and I were well aware that I wasn’t like the majority of my peers.
For many years, I was able to mask these dissimilar elements of my mental health. However, not everyone was easily fooled. As an example, when in the Marine Corps, one psychologist removed me from a diplomatic security program due to “psychological unsuitability.”
Ultimately, I was kicked out of the Corps. Not long after, I sought a diagnosis from another psychologist so that I could receive special accommodation when attending school.
I always suspected that I wasn’t like many of my peers, though I finally had diagnostic proof of my suspicion. After receiving diagnoses from several other psychologists in subsequent years, I finally understood why I had struggled with mental health symptoms throughout my life.
I’ve been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, recurrent, chronic; posttraumatic stress disorder, chronic; attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, combined type; and a physiatrist diagnosed me with traumatic brain injury. Just as I have no shame about ignorance, I’m not ashamed of my diagnoses.
What I think is important to understand is that a diagnosis is essentially an identification of the nature of an illness or other problem by examination of the symptoms. As such, my diagnoses are the starting point of mental health treatment and not a be-all, end-all conclusion.
Imagine you’re driving down the road and you notice a faint vibration in your steering wheel. You pay it little mind and reason that you’re probably driving on an uneven surface.
As weeks pass, the vibration becomes more prominent and you realize that your vehicle is beginning to slightly shake and wobble. Again, you rationalize the matter by concluding that something other than the operation of your car is to blame.
Eventually, the issue worsens and you (wisely) decide to have it evaluated by a professional. You’re relieved to discover that the matter relates to a common issue of wheel imbalance and nothing more serious.
What do you do after receiving the diagnosis? Perhaps you accept that life is often inconvenient to your lengthy list of desires and you pay for the repair work.
Maybe you high-five the mechanic and say, “Thanks, I’ll take my chances,” as you exit the repair shop. The important takeaway is that diagnostic evaluation is the beginning point of repair work, not closure to the matter.
Becoming my own mechanic
After receiving diagnoses, I tried the psychopharmacological route (medication) for a while and opted to forego psychotherapy—the use of psychological methods, particularly when based on regular personal interaction, to help a person change behavior and overcome problems.
While receiving education for a Master of Arts in Counseling degree (2011), I learned of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). This direct and efficient problem-solving method was promoted as a way of helping people to get better, not simply feel better.
Among the things I appreciated most about this psychotherapeutic modality were:
· It’s originator, Albert Ellis, seemed like a no-nonsense type of person whose use of humor and profanity gave me the impression that his authentic personality—and not some well-manicured, pretentious puffery I’ve observed from other clinicians—was likely correlated with a pragmatic approach to mental health problem-solving.
· This form of therapy is evidence-based—that which is predicated upon scientific research which suggests improvement regarding a variety of mental health conditions and overall well-being.
· Perhaps most applicable to the current blogpost, as one source states, “REBT teaches you to be your own therapist.”
After learning about REBT, I began implementing its techniques in my personal and professional life. While working towards a Master of Science in Social Work degree (2014), I received more education from a professor who was reportedly taught by Ellis.
In 2021, I received official primary and advanced training in REBT from the Albert Ellis Institute. At that time, I devoted myself to full-time practice of the psychotherapeutic modality.
It wasn’t enough for me to have merely received mental health diagnoses. All that clinical information provided was the existence of mental and neurological impairment.
Likewise, and I’m speaking strictly for myself, medication in the absence of psychotherapy wasn’t entirely beneficial. Noteworthy, during my education process, I heard some instructors and professors denounce clinicians who’d never undergone psychotherapy before.
I bear as much shame for not having received counseling as I do for my ignorance about a great number of topics (none). Rather than blindly accepting the prescriptions of educators and others who declare what should, must, or ought to be done, I chose a different option.
When my metaphorical car began vibrating, shaking, and wobbling, I initially ignored it. My decision was unwise and the consequences of my inaction resulted in many failures throughout my lifetime.
I could’ve taken my vehicle to a repair shop over and over again, accepting the inconvenience regarding a loss of money and time with each visit. After all, there’s no shame in doing so.
Still, I wanted to learn how to work on my own vehicle so that I could not only repair it when things went awry, I could also use preventative maintenance to keep my car functioning in an optimal manner. Therefore, I learned of and have since practiced REBT.
Now, I’m my own mechanic. Would you also like to know more about how to manage your symptoms so that you can work on your own vehicle?
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
AEI. (n.d.). About Albert Ellis, Ph.D. The Albert Ellis Institute. Retrieved from https://albertellis.org/about-albert-ellis-phd/
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Standret. (n.d.). Mechanic hand checking and fixing a broken car in car service garage [Image]. Freepik. Retrieved from https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/mechanic-hand-checking-fixing-broken-car-car-service-garage_10521910.htm#query=mechanic&position=2&from_view=search&track=sph