Therapy is not for wimps. True, but…

I recently read an interesting article, “Therapy Is Not For Wimps”. 

In it, author Gerti Schoen makes a few excellent points.  In the modern era there’s a general assumption that anyone who seeks therapy is “weak”.  They’re not strong enough to stand on their own, they have to ask for help.

Be honest.  Have you ever needed help?  Do you know anyone who has never needed it?  The assumption that therapy = weakness is a social bully tactic.  It actually takes a great deal of strength to seek out therapy given the stigma against it.

Very good point, Ms. Schoen!

However…

Like all good things, it’s very important not only to know when to seek out therapy, but when to say “enough is enough”.

First, what’s “therapy”?  It’s a more difficult question than you may think.  Though the stated goal of all therapy is to help the patient better understand themselves, there are hundreds of ways to go about this.  I’ll describe the top three.

  1. sigmund_freud_portraitPsychoanalysis.  When they say “old school”, this is what they’re talking about.  This style of therapy was developed by Sigmund Freud and operates under the assumption that all problems are rooted in the subconscious, usually implanted in your “formative years”.  Usually the libido is involved.  Through the analysis of actions, mistakes, dreams and symbols it’s possible to better understand the root (subconscious) cause of psychological illness and therefore achieve an appropriate treatment.  If you see a character in a movie laying on a couch talking to a therapist about his mother, that’s Psychoanalysis.
  1. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT).  This is (arguably) the most popular form of therapy in modern times.  In a nutshell, this type of therapist believes awareness can change behavior.  Rather than delving into the past to focus on the root of a dilemma, CBT isolates a specific problem, caused by an irrational thought process or incorrect perception.  By becoming aware of the incorrect perception through a progression of mindfulness exercises, the patient can overcome, or at least constructively manage, their disorder.
  1. carl_jung-glassesAnalytical Psychology.  There are so many contenders for 3rd place, I’ll just pick my favorite.  Carl Jung was a contemporary of Sigmund Freud.  The two of them met several times, each influenced the other.  The big difference between Freud and Jung is that while Freud placed special emphasis on the influence of the libido in psychological disorders, Jung went in another direction. His approach is famous for it’s focus on dreams and through them, archetypes.  His idea of the “collective unconscious” assumes that people develop through life experience rather than incidents rooted in the formative years.  While the psyche is self-regulating, it can become ill, driving a person to become psychotic.  There must be a balance between the conscious and the unconscious functions of the brain by moving beyond ego, achieving a higher awareness.

Each of these schools of thought has value, and can benefit the patient.  Who can deny that specific events in childhood had a lingering effect in their adult years?  And certainly, becoming aware of the impact of a skewed perception can be extremely helpful.  A greater awareness of the world in which we live, and our place in it, is always valuable.  Therapy has helped me become much more self aware of my behaviors, and to occasionally modify some of them.

Dolores_UmbrigeA medical doctor looks at a tumor and can see immediately that this is wrong.  It should not be located in the body.  It may be painful, but it must be removed so that the body can heal.  The problem I have with therapy is in the application of this philosophy to the human mind.  It is very possible to see a behavior as beneficial or harmful.  But almost all therapists I’ve met moved beyond “this seems to help, this seems to hurt you” and into the language of judgment: simply, “I’m right, you’re wrong.  That’s why you, the patient, are here.  Not only that, but you know you’re wrong, but you may not want to admit it.  Let’s start there.”

Yikes.  It reminds me of Harry Potter talking to Delores Umbridge.

So while it takes strength to seek out therapy, a patient needs to be strong and self-aware while dealing with their therapist.  If they see a benefit from the therapy – wonderful!  But if not, it’s not the patient’s fault.  They need to move into a more constructive situation.  Unfortunately, by the very nature of their condition, most patients are in no position to self-advocate in the presence of a therapist.

Interesting times

I’ve had what you might call a moment of clarity. And it’s really annoying, because I’d still love to hang this guy from the highest yardarm. BUT…

One of my worst memories of my initial diagnosis was when all the side effects of the psych drugs started to manifest. The drugs didn’t seem to do much except put me in a coma that I was supposed to be very gracious about. When I told good old doc that I now needed adult diapers that I was suddenly far too large to wear, he told me “I don’t think they make a pill for that”. No. Seriously.

But the one thing he told me that I never forgot, and certainly never forgave, was this. I was trying to make him understand why I kept flushing my meds, about how horrible the side effects were. And he told me that if I was alive in a year to bitch about it, I’d be considered a success.

It’s taken me nine years to get perspective on that comment. And don’t get me wrong, I still think it was probably the most inappropriate thing to say possible. But the comment itself, now considered… hum.

Back then I had no reason to live. I didn’t care from one day to the next. It didn’t matter. Nothing, in fact, mattered. And I couldn’t imagine a time when anything would.

But now? Hum. If one were to look at that comment now, one might suggest the doctor was pro choice. And it took an entirely different story to give me this idea. I was watching about the mother and the 13 year old son who were going to Mexico rather than endire chemo. Kid will die without it. Kid will live with it. It’s that simple. There’s a court order for him to go through it if he’s ever found. And here’s me saying – yes. It’s the right thing to do. Even if he hates it (and who doesn’t hate chemo?) Give him the option to kill himself later, if he so chooses. But right now do the chemo and get him to the point where it’s his choice to live or die. Don’t let the cancer make the decision for him.

And I thought… fuck. I’m a total hypocrite.

Isn’t that what yahoo doc did? Again, he didn’t have to say that to me. Because words are weapons to the mentally ill, and that hurt. And also lets be clear – he didn’t treat my illness. I actually have something he doesn’t believe exists. Aren’t menfolk just wonderful that way? But… by keeping the symptoms at bay 9 years, he (and my support network – never forget them)allowed me to get to the point where I could make an informed decision. To be, or not to be. Let the choice be MINE, not the Beast’s.

No. He shouldn’t have said it. But I understand. I hope.

And now it’s kind of cool. The world is cheerfully ripping itself to shreads. Certainly this is a facinating time for anyone to live through. I really feel like we’re all witnessing the fall of Rome all over again. Tonight I saw a commercial for “Buy local produce! It’s better for the environment than importing it!” And I think the economy will enforce this happily green statement.

I mean, let’s face it. This warped concept of imports, exports and “Most favored nation” is falling about our ears. But I remember eating exotic fruits from far away places and imagining what it must be like to pick them off the trees there. I LIKE exotic fruits from far away places! It’s a good memory. Future generations may not have such memories – I’m hoping we’ll be both wise and lucky enough to revert back to a self sustaining village type concept by the time it’s all over.

One way or the other, it’s a really facinating time to be alive. As the movie says, the only crime these days is to be bored. Doc and my support network gave me a 9 year reprieve so that I could awake in a land that is anything but boring. And I’m incredibly lucky. Insanity is an absolute killer, and it certainly should have killed me. So it seems Doc was pro choice, and along with my family fought to put the choices back in my hand.

He was still a bastard for saying that. But I understand.