Stress, Therapy, and Figuring Out Who You Are

Nikolaus Maack
8 min readNov 10, 2020

“It’s just stress,” the doctor said to me. And that was the end of the consultation. This was less than helpful.

The words, “it’s just stress,” were said to me throughout my childhood and well into my twenties and thirties. They were said when I went to a doctor with stomach pains, with dizzy spells, with migraine headaches, with jaw pain, with sinus pain.

The answer I got, over and over: “It’s just stress.”

The words were always said like this was the solution to my problems.

“Well, we looked into it, and it turns out there’s no medical condition causing your symptoms. What’s causing it is stress. So, that should clear that up. Off you go. Come back when you have a real problem, like one of your limbs has been torn off by a bear.”

The diagnosis did not help. All my symptoms remained. So what was I supposed to do? I had no idea. And this went on for years.

Eventually, during one of these doctor visits, I was on my way out the door, frustrated as always. Something was wrong, damn it, and these doctors were not helping me.

A nurse casually said, “Maybe you should see a therapist.”

She said this in passing, like she was half kidding. But the truth of her words hit me hard. That’s what finally put me on the right path.

Why then? Why her? I’d studied psychology at university, as many damaged people do. I’d read books about therapy and the therapeutic process. I don’t know why that one nurse was what finally pushed me to take action. But she was the one. I guess I was just ready.

My workplace had an Employee Assistance Program. I reached out to them and had a few sessions. After the maximum allotted visits, they suggested I get my own therapist to explore matters further, and gave me a list of therapists to check out. I picked the therapist who was conveniently located close to my workplace. It was a lucky choice, because the two of us clicked.

I was fortunate enough to be in a situation where I could afford therapy. I met with her multiple times a week for a decade. (To be clear: not all problems require ten years of fixing, but I went in planning to do as much work on me as possible.) We did…

Nikolaus Maack

I am a terrible person. I am on twitter as @lordjuiblex because he is the god of slime, sickness, and stupidity. Why don't you follow me? I am terrible.