Fridays are therapy days for me, which means it’s supervised navel-gazing. I like my therapist. I trust her. If you need therapy or even just want it, don’t settle for less than that. And reach beyond what you think you want. I wouldn’t have chosen her at first glance. I mean, I knew there was no way I’d trust a male therapist, but this kid looks like I probably babysat her once upon a time. But she’s good for me. She was good at not making any sudden moves, she was good at settling my fears. She’s good at laughing at my jokes, and giving me space to cry.
Mostly she’s good about letting me tell her she’s full of shit, then chatting with me until I figure out she’s not full of shit, and never saying “I told you so.” So there’s that.
I’ve had other therapists. I’ve been aware for a long time that I’m fuckball nuts, that I have trust issues and that I tend far too much toward solitude. They weren’t all good therapists. There’s the one who, when I was a teenager, told my parents that I had sought out a therapist thus turning the drama in my life up to 11 when what I needed was just someone to vent to and with. She wasn’t licensed, by the way. She was a well-meaning “volunteer” at a teen crisis center, and she sucked ass. There was the therapist my parents took me to, the one I didn’t get a say in choosing. I have no idea if she was any good or not. I resented everything about the process (except doing inkblots, that part was cool… up until the shrink told my parents about it all and I realized I couldn’t trust her either). There were brief meetings, attempts at finding someone, but I never found anyone I could stomach. Eventually I gave up.
After my suicide attempt, they took me to the hospital in an ambulance. I honestly don’t remember much of that ride, mostly because I was still gorked out on pills I guess. I remember the moments of dark hilarity, like when they brought me lunch in the hospital. They had posted a guard to watch me, one that had a gun and everything. I remember thinking, what’s he gonna do if I try to kill myself? Shoot me? They took my clothes, took my shoes, took the drawstring out of the scrub pants they gave me… and then gave me a fork with my lunch. I couldn’t explain why I was laughing, though I was still crying at the time. The guard just chalked it up to me being fruitier than a nutcake, I guess, but I laughed my ass off. A fucking fork.
Anyway, therapists. There was a suicide counselor. Talk about professions named completely what they aren’t. She wasn’t there to advise me about suicide. She was an anti-suicide counselor. Why did you do it, how do you feel now. She was there to see if I was still a danger to myself or others. She was the one who got to decide if I got a 72-hour psych hold or not. Sometimes I wonder if I coulda lied my ass off and gotten out of there, but I don’t think so. I mean, I’m a good liar. I’m a really, really good liar.
But as it happened, I wasn’t in the mindset to lie. I was… To embrace the melodrama of a post-suicide hospital watch, I was In Despair. I didn’t want to be alive, I wasn’t happy to be alive. I wasn’t glad I’d been stopped. I was so angry that I had failed to kill myself, that I had fucked it up. I felt like I had blown my chance and now it would be just that much harder to do it right. I told the woman, calmly as I could while still crying, that she and I both knew that no one could stop me. The second they gave me an opportunity, I was going to try again and I’d get it right. I argued with her about why they stopped me, why they felt they could lock me up.
To what purpose, I wanted to know. What were they saving me for? It was my life to use or discard as I wanted. I hadn’t done anything massively destructive, I hadn’t even charged a police station with a gun to make someone else kill me. I had considered my options and chosen this path. It wasn’t up to anyone else to choose a different one for me. Naturally, she disagreed. Or rather, she said it was her job to keep me alive, not to debate the philosophy behind it, or even the morality of it. It didn’t matter if she agreed or not.
Yeah, so that’s how I ended up in the nut house. Enter my next set of therapists, the people at Snowden. I got lucky, y’know. I coulda ended up someplace worse. Here’s the thing about this facility: they weren’t there to make me better. They were there to give me a few days to come to my senses. If I didn’t get my feet under me, they would have transferred me to a more long-term facility. In line with that purpose, the therapy sessions weren’t real therapy. They were group therapy.
Group therapy in a psychiatric hospital, for those of you who don’t know, is the most pointless exercise in emotive bullshit one can experience, excepting group therapy out of a psychiatric hospital. We sat in a circle every morning. They’d go around and ask one by one how we felt, what our goals were for the day, and was there anything we wanted to say. Then we got to do nothing until afternoon group activity, which was as awkward as it sounds, and then we had evening therapy where we got the same routine as morning except they asked us if we felt we’d accomplished our goals.
Here’s the thing, though. Once I stopped fighting it, it kinda worked. Kinda. In 72 hours, I learned how to give up control and let someone else help me. This, right here, is major for me. My entire life revolves around maintaining control and what I think will happen if I don’t. What happens if I let someone help. If I let people in. If I am not always strong, self-reliant, and super-capable. Or better stated, what happens if I let people see or even think that I’m not strong, self-reliant, and super-capable.
The first breakthrough happened because of a nurse there. I don’t know her name. I couldn’t sleep and we technically weren’t allowed out of our rooms after lights-out, but they let us as long as we were quiet. My psychiatrist hadn’t prescribed any sleep aids for me (dur), and I was unable to let go and sleep. A nurse came out to talk to me. She had a Jamaican accent. She soothed me like I was a friend, not a child. She made me a cup of chamomile tea. And she talked to me with that lovely voice. She helped me. I let her. I slept.
She’s one of the many reasons I’m alive. She should’ve been my first therapist.