It’s been exciting to really get this blog up and running. I wish I was more chipper, but it’s been a tiring week thanks to work. I keep pulling extra shifts, which are nice financially but still a bit draining.
This week I had my first session with a new therapist. I moved to a new city in the spring, so I’ve had to find somebody new and get acquainted all over again. Once we get settled in, I think it’ll help to have someone to work through all the upheavals in my family with.
People tend to act surprised that therapists see other therapists as clients. I think part of it is still because there’s a stigma against mental illness still built into the profession–there are Them, who are mentally ill and lack insight; and then there is Us, who are the sane healthy fixer people who have all the answers. There’s this idea that if you just had all the answers, if you just knew all the right things, you wouldn’t need therapy, because you’d just figure it all out on your own. Or more generously, the mechanisms for fixing it all would already be built into your life. This is a myth and not based in reality, but it’s a tempting myth, especially among the shrinks that are trying to live it. Find all the answers, and never more experience pain, confusion, and loss!
And there certainly is pressure on mental health practitioners to keep their mouths shut about their own personal experiences. Francine Shapiro was open about EMDR’s genesis in her own personal thought processes, and I’ve never been able to convince myself that the skepticism that met one of the most revolutionary and effective treatments for PTSD to date was entirely separate from that fact. Other practitioners and researchers have tended to wait until they’re established in the field before speaking out, like Kay Redfield Jamison and Marsha Linehan, even though it’s pretty obvious to me that their intuitive leaps and profound understanding are due in large part to personal introspection. (A thought for later days: the field of psychology has a great unpaid debt to mentally ill women, and will one day have to pay for its emphasis on detached objectivity)
So anyway. The bitch of psychotherapy is that it works even if you know how it works. It’s not actually about having all the answers; it’s about the experience of telling someone what you’re thinking and hearing what they have to say. Unwinding far enough to hear yourself say the words out loud, or letting the tears uncork. A lot of the time the only thing your therapist can do is sit there, but they can do that very well. I’m not convinced we will always need psychotherapists, but as a Catholic I’ve been to Confession enough to realize that cultures keep finding a way to nurture unique, socially-sanctioned, emotionally intimate healing relationships. Some still have huge issues with doing it particularily well (like I said, I’ve been to enough Confession to know) but all of them find a way.
So some people try to duck out on therapy when they really need it because of mental health stigma, which is not my deal, and some because they want to go it alone, which I’ll argue with at least some merit isn’t me either. I, meanwhile, try to squirm my way out of going to see a therapist because it is screamingly uncomfortable for me when someone else knows more about me than I do. SADLY, a willingness to let go of my control over how people view me is also an essential requirement for intimacy with other people, so I make myself do it rather in the same way I make myself eat vegetables. I like holding all the cards and knowing all the answers, but doing it all the time isn’t good for me. (There is also, not that I like to remember it when I’m being grumpy, something absolutely delightful in being known, recognized, and understood far beyond what you ever anticipated; but in my bad moods I try to forget that wholesale.)
Being mentally ill is tedious in a way I can’t quite describe. I know how to be healthy; I know what it’s like when I’m healthy; but damned if I can just make myself do it sometimes.