Friday, 28 August 2009

Girl Interrupted Friday

The big question. Possibly too big for a Friday but I think Friday can handle it.

Therapy? To shrink or not to shrink?

According to a BBC website, one in four of us will suffer from a form of mental illness at some point in our lives. Well, seeing as I decided to stop eating at age 11 I think I got that milestone licked quite early, so onwards and upwards from there!

It makes sense though, because the brain is an organ just like the eyes or the liver, and if you don't look after your organs they can still function at below optimum, but they will be damaged over time until they reach a critical point at which they just break down.

The problem is that the brain is so frigging mysterious and nobody really knows how it all works. It is pretty straightforward to look after your liver or your eyes well, but there is so much misconception, myth and prejudice about brain illnesses that very few people actually know how to take care of their brains properly.

I figure our brains suffer from a mixture of attacks from nature and nurture. If you think about it, all parents will make mistakes, right, no matter how much they love you. They are only human. And our tiny selves develop coping mechanisms and possibly slightly faulty thought patterns from their mistakes.

Some of us will form faulty thought patterns from misinterpreting parental actions even if they don't make mistakes. It is not their fault, but it happens. Different people cope in different ways, and sometimes people's coping mechanisms are not constructive.

And sometimes you just have a physiology that is more susceptible to types of mental illness.

I reckon most people could benefit from having an outsider point out their faulty thought processes. For some people it might take only a few sessions to sort things out, but it is still beneficial, like eating carrots for your eyes. Obviously some people need years and years of intensive therapy to heal their brains enough to get by.

I have never been to a therapist in my life. My family is of the old school keep it in variety, and I followed suit. I did spend years analysing myself and trying to understand the crazy things I did, and years hating the parents for ruining my life.

Then I spent years feeling horrified at how much I had ruined their lives - I was a little monster. For some reason I had to challenge everything, but EVERYTHING. It was like I was pissed off to find out that they were only human and determined to point out their every inconsistency.

Now I am totally at peace with it all. They made many mistakes, I made many mistakes, but we love each other and that is all that is important. But I do think I have some issues that are definitely holding me back in life, and I want a therapist to wave his magic wand and make them go away.

Ok, I want a therapist to peruse through my deepest fears and angers and rip them out of me and put them under a microscope and show me their squirming wretchedness and tell me what it wrong and what I need to do to make it right. Cos I am not able to see it all on my own. Nobody can.

Like, how do I escape a legacy of generation upon generation of negative thinking? How do I convince myself that I am not totally useless at everything I do? How do I take over the world? Pinky??

Back in school I wrote an essay about craving freedom from people's expectations and wanting happiness. What I wrote was:

"I cannot tell what my future will be like but I know that I would like to be happy no matter how it turns out, and that I would like to be as free and as independent as possible."

Now my teacher went and ripped this apart, saying there is no such thing as freedom or happily ever after, and we can only learn to live intensely in the present. She wrote "there is really no future".

Um. While I understand her philosophical position and even agree with it, I still find each morning that I have lived another day and am now in a future. I think it might be constructive to try and change if the present if it is not so good, to improve a possible future. No?

Sigh. Talk about teenagers being misunderstood. If she had known me she would have known that at age 17 I was already far too cynical to believe in happily ever after. And the only way I know how to live is in the present.

What I was trying and clearly failing to say, was that I want my life to have more good days than bad. I am not saying I want happiness all the time, I just want more contentedness than misery. Is that not what we all want? I think that is something worth working towards. Like I realised last year, happiness is essentially a choice.

I know that I am not living as intensely as I could because I have these stupid issues holding me back, and as I approach 30 I may just find the guts for the first time in my life to try and face them and take them on, no matter how terrifying and painful that may be. EEEEEEEEEEEK! This is much more intimidating than driving!

Has anyone out there been to therapy, either for something really serious, or just to sort out some shit? Was it useful, damaging, scary, awful, wonderful? What did they do to you? Prod you with spikes? Sing to you? Make you relive playschool?

If you don't want to write it on my blog you could mail me at

I am asking because I am considering it for real, but knowing my track record it may just be too scary for me to actually do.

Ciaobye, and I promise to not be so intense next week

xxx Girl no longer Interrupted


LadyFi said...

Good honest post!

I personally have not been to therapy, but know many people who have, and who have benefited enormously from this. The possibility of talking freely to someone who doesn't judge and who is there to help can be enormously helpful and freeing.

Try it!

Ches said...

Po, i think shrinks are only valauble if you suffer some kind of major trauma...but then everyone handles emotion in different ways.

Having someone to talk to outside of the family/friends circle is sometimes refreshing.

I studied phycology and find therapy is good through so many different ways. Swimming with dolphins, swearing at some douchebag...change!

Anonymous said...

Hi Po!

I read up until the picture because I honestly am SO tired and really just holding out till school ends and we go drinking after school in the park, so my comment is neither relevant nor truly up to par- I'll make it up to you sometime:

But from what I heard talking to a therapist helps anyway; just for the outside voice plus people in your life you will not believe truly understand what you are going through....

Great picture!

Have a wonderful weekend!


Tamara said...

I have been to therapists. Lots of them. Is there a collective noun for therapists?

There should be.

A "fix" of therapists?
A "mess" of therapists?
A "prod" of therapists?


I have been to some therapists who did more damage than healing (one even drove me to a more serious eating disorder than before), some who did absolutely nothing at all, and two that did wonders (one was a psychologist who helped me understand my depression and the other a nutrional therapist who didn't like the word dietician and helped me to build a healthier relationship with food).

I actually sometimes miss therapy. There is something freeing about being able to say whatever you like and be as navel-gazing as you want to without fear of judgment because the person who is listening to you is a) paid to do so (takes away the guilt element) and b) has in all probability seen far worse than anything you could come up with. also, I found it took the strain of my intensity off of my family and TSC, who couldn't really help me objectively anyway.

So I am all for therapy. But only with the right therapist.

I say give it a go. And feel free to shrink-hop until you find someone you connect with.

Then do therapy as long as you need to / want to. And then use your blog to continue (that's what I do).

But that's just my opinion.

sorry for the essay.

po said...

Ladyfi: may do may do, if I can sort out whether to try NHS or private, due to complications of living in Leamington and working in Oxford.

Ches: ja, well, I have suffered past traumas and chose to not o for therapy, and I am thinking that may not have been wise.

Paula: I think having an outsider opinion is useful.

Tamara: thank you! I was thinking of you when I wrote this post cos I know you have had experience. I can't believe some of your therapists were so bad that you felt worse. That is scary. That is what I am worried about. There are certain illnesses out there that most therapists do not have good knowledge of. Which is not encouraging. You need to feel trust, right, I think that is the most important thing.

Thank you!

expateek said...

What I want to say is, what kind of CRETIN of a teacher tells an impressionable young kid that "there is no future?" What a big crummy bag of nothin'! There was nothing wrong with your sentiments -- wanting to be free and happy and so forth -- and to tear that down is just so wrong. I'm appalled by that teacher's insensitivity. Just goes to show you some people shouldn't be allowed contact with young people. Gah!

I say, try out therapy. You might have to cast about a bit before you find someone who works for you. The main thing is, you need to feel comfortable, so that you can be completely honest with him/her and yourself.

It is really worth doing. You're worth it. I saw someone for quite a while after my robbery experience in Jo'burg and while I didn't always think it was helping at that moment, it was invaluable really. Having another person to bounce ideas off is soooooo helpful, even if you don't always think you agree with what they propose. It's a dialogue.

Good luck. {{hugs}} x

momcat said...

If you decided to do a trained shrink, let us know if he/she is more helpful than all of us armchair psychologists! Kidding. Basically, I am a firm believer in the power of positive thought and that the brain must be trained to think positively. Being a somewhat contrary and not very popular person in my youth, I learned to live in my head quite a bit and I eventually came to the realisation that I am a worthwhile person. Have you heard about being able to think yourself better. Maybe not to cure cancer but to put yourself in a positive frame of mind to allow the medicine to do its job. That ability is within each one of us if we just allow it to work. Instead of thinking of negative things, give yourself a mental kick up the backside everytime you catch yourself being negative and reprimand yourself, reminding yourself of all the good you have accomplished. Believe me the agonising about wrongdoing was a big part of my life and its painful because you cant change the outcome of something that is in the past. Eventually I forgave myself acknowledging that I was human and made mistakes and I forced myself to move on. If you cant forgive yourself, you prevent yourself from doing good to yourself and to others. Best wishes with your quest in living a more positive and productive life. ps it might also help to read some positivity books to get some tips on how to practically accomplish this.

po said...

Expateek: I know I found her comments quite disheartening that time, mostly cos usually she loved my writing. But it's ok, she had troubles too that lady, and she was a good teacher most of the time.

My aunt saw a counsellor after being held up at her work, and her confidence and recovery amazed me. I think if it had happened to me I would have had real trouble living alone like she does and working in the same office where it happened.

momcat: ah I think I am a bit like you, I have always turned inside to figure things out in myself. Unfortunately I REALLY struggle with positivity.

Amazingly, since I have started blogging I have been exposed to the thoughts and ramblings of so many positive people that it has started to rub off on me! The year that I have been blogging has seen a real shift in my way of thinking.

So I guess I should say a huge thankyyou to all the bloggers out there who taught me to be positive.

Helen said...

I'm so impressed that you are able to admit that you might want to talk to someone. It's a hard thing to realise and accept for a lot of us (i.e. me). Personally I think it's a good idea, I've been to a few and some of them haven't been great, but then you can actually decide to stop seeing them, it's not like buying a membership! Of course it can be really hard to tell the difference between wanting to avoid a person because their counselling sucks and wanting to avoid them because they're making you deal with locked-away issues.

I think the best part is that we're trained to be all independent and tough and not 'burden' those around us with our troubles. Going to see a counsellor means that you're PAYiNG someone to listen to you whine. It's all about you. You can go on and on about anything you want. Sure there's all the therapy and the changing your life stuff and that, but having somewhere where it's OK to sit and rant and it's all confidential - what's not to love!

Although having a good therapist is amazing, I went to one when i was 18 (after going to a few others and playing mind-games until they told me i didn't need therapy, but rather wanted to tell me their problems) and she literally made me make a picture thing and pointed out my problem in about 5 seconds flat. And once I fixed it things started going right!

It was creepy but accurate and it has always stayed with me! Not that things are often that simple, but I guess I'm easily pleased :)

Good luck and i hope you feel much better soon! for what it's worth I think you're an incredible person and I'm so glad that I've got to 'know' you in the last few months.

momcat said...

Po Amazingly it was fighting various battles and organising the lives of my kids that taught me that I can do things and gave me that self confidence I needed.

Prixie said...

I honestly feel everyone could do with a shrink (read my profile). We all have had circumstances in our lives that feel bigger than us and our loved ones have a biased perspective simply because they know us.

A shrink helps to offer a objective, professional third party help.

Go for it, I say!

po said...

Helen: a picture thing? That sounds amazing. A picture thing can solve everything? Is that like a Rorsarch or whatever it is test with inkblots and stuff. I want to do the picture thing!

Thank you so much, I love reading your blog, I mean, with a name like "bonding with lizards" what is not to love!

It is a bit confusing here about the paying thing cos if I use the NHS I won't pay but I think I then will have to prove I have a serious problem... Not sure I can afford private shrinks here though.

momcat:that is really cool. I really admire that. I feel so glad that people can learn and develop all the way through life you know?

Prixie: indeed, I think of that line on your profile often, good advice!

SonnyVsDan said...

from the exeriences with my dad (sorry, I have none myself) I would say go for a psychologist over a psychiatrist, at least at first. It seems - also from my experience in the health industry) that psychiatrists are not interested in how you deal with problems, but just with what drugs they can prescribe to make you gho away.

Definitely I think the solution can be in talking with an objective outsider while also tackling it from a whole of body - ie fitness and wellbeing perspective.

Good luck po!

SA Expats said...

As long as therapy doesn't influence your "crazy" writing, go for it. :)

PureSlab said...

I have not read the comments above but I think that counseling should be in the water. Having someone look at your though patterns without prejudice is awesome.
I have very similar issues as you about seeing a psychologist. Another issue for me is finding a good one who is smart enough not to just regurg text books at me.
So I will if you do.

SheBee said...

As a former counsellor, I say shrink it baby!

Even if you only go for an objective outsider's point of view when it comes to self reflection, I know it helped me a metric fuckton.


po said...

sonnyvs dan: yeah psychiatrists are medical doctors and they are more focussed on drugs but I think some of them cross over, but I don't think I have any medical diagnosis they could make anyway. Although you never know!

saexpats: that could never happen! Unless they can change water into wine :)

pureslab: well theoretically I am not well schooled in the texbooks, but I am well schooled in myself so I am expecting they will tell me nothing new. But if they do though, then that is really useful.

I will. I just need to be able to afford it first. ~Am thinking after driving lessons but that may be just an avoidance technique...

Sheebee: a metric fucktion?! Whatever that is it sounds like a reaaaallly big deal! I know it and I will in my time.

SonnyVsDan said...

metric fuckton: the universal measurement for a lot.

EEbEE said...

you want happiness and seek therapy.

try out laugh therapy. it's pretty big in india. i'm sure you have seen the images of random groups of people standing in fields laughing hysterically. i would totally do that!

My personal all time fav therapy is T&J therapy or Tom & Jerry therapy. NOTHING clears my head and makes me think clearly like watching an episode or two of T&J. I'm serious. It works... try it.