Having been a mental health “consumer” for several years, I think I’m decently qualified to talk a bit about what it’s like to be in the chair opposite you. I’ve had several different therapists over some 17 years, all of whom have been helpful. Some have been better than others but I can’t fully say that there has been one experience or relationship that far exceeded the other. Basically because the bulk of the work fell and always does fall on me. As it should.
The work of going through therapy from the patient side is often one involving ego or some other word that may be better but which I can only think of “ego” to point to. See, there were times in therapy where I would come in and just be moody, angry and unresponsive. Really I just wanted someone to know how I was feeling, someone to care, even if it was someone paid to care, imprisoned if you will by that 50 minute session. I wasn’t in a mood to work on my problems but rather in a mood to remind myself and the therapist that I had them and they mattered. Or I mattered.
That’s a chief point for us patients. We want to matter. Oftentimes we don’t feel like we do. We feel diminished by one thing or another or several, and we want something or someone to give us power, give us a stake in things, give us a choice, or the capability of choice. Being petulant is part of the process sometimes.
I know for example that I had mom issues. That’s a bit of a simple way to put it but we’re on a deadline here. One of those issues was the safety I felt or needed to feel by being under her influence, letting her decisions dominate mine, which she did because that was our dynamic. Breaking free of that meant I sometimes needed that figure to be petulant or childish to, who would not dismiss me out of hand, who felt responsible for my predicament but would not suggest solutions that I didn’t want to hear. In loco parentis you might say but without the actual parenting part. The trick of course is in therapy as in your life you have to do the work as opposed to your mom doing it for you. As a patient you know that’s true, but you still know you need to be that child for awhile. You just do.
Look, we patients like you guys. We do. And the work you do matters even when we don’t show it or seem to be making progress. In fact, especially when we don’t seem to be making progress because that’s when the work is hardest for us, when we see no change, no improvement, nothing that justifies our faith in the work, but where we realize that the work is part of the process of simply being in control of our lives and accepting that life is ours to control. It’s scary. It’s always scary because oftentimes we’re coming from worlds where the people in control were not very good or comfortable at it. It’s square one for us and you make it even possible to be square two and on up.
Just wanted to say thanks you all for the work you do. It matters. It’s appreciated.
Have a Happy New Year.