You know how in the movie Good Will Hunting Matt Damon (looking particularly hot) commits a crime and is forced to go to therapy but he hates therapy so he sabotages every appointment but when he tries to sabotage his appointment with Robin Williams it appears he has met his match and he eventually starts talking and they work through his issues and Robin tells Matt it’s not his fault and they hug and then Matt Damon goes to see about a girl? Of course you do. Well, my own experience with therapy is kind of the same except I’m neither a criminal nor a mathematical genius, and Ben Affleck isn’t my BFF. How do you like them apples?
In his book Dry, memoirist Augusten Burroughs wrote: “Think of your head as an unsafe neighbourhood: don’t go there alone.” The much lauded American writer was referring to his own treatment in overcoming alcohol addiction, but also preaching the benefits of therapy for all.
I agree with him wholeheartedly. That is, I am a fervent advocate of therapy. I love therapy. I am therapy’s bitch. I believe every person should at least once in his or her life engage the services of a therapist, and that the world would be a better place for it. Therapy is the wind beneath my wings. Nothing compares to therapy. If I could paint I’d paint a picture of therapy. F--- yeah therapy! And so forth.
But it wasn’t always so.
I was raised with a fairly sizeable scepticism towards therapy. My late parents were of a generation and a culture that preached privacy and internalisation in dealing with one’s problems. My mother's one visit to a psychologist was allegedly so traumatic it left her with a deep distrust of all mental health professionals. Furthermore my grandmother, a Holocaust survivor and bipolar sufferer, had undergone electro-shock treatment in the 1960s following one of several breakdowns. The words “electro-shock treatment” and “1960s” in the same sentence should provide you with a good indication of how that turned out. Suffice to say, therapy – along with pig-meat products and German cars - was not highly regarded in my family for most of my life.
But then when I was about 19 something happened and everything changed. Or rather something stopped happening and everything changed. I stopped getting out of bed. I stopped getting out of bed entirely. I also stopped dressing, eating and leaving the house. All I wanted to do was sleep and cry and watch reruns of Roseanne, and the idea of engaging in any kind of social interaction terrified me to the core.
Understandably my friends and family became increasingly worried and eventually conspired to address the situation. I was forced to begrudgingly leave the house to see my doctor, who ordered me to see a psychologist post-haste. So later that week I begrudgingly left the house once again to begrudgingly start therapy. And what lo, it actually helped! It helped so much in fact that over the years each and every member of my therapy-hating family has visited a therapist too. And they say miracles never happen. Well, I say “they” are idiots!
I have now been reclining on the proverbial couch on and off for well over a decade. Shortly after that first begrudging visit to a psychologist I was diagnosed with clinical depression and thus regular therapy is a large part of my ongoing treatment and determination to get out of bed every morning.
I am a devotee of good old-fashioned psychology, but I ‘ve also tried a lot of other disciplines including kinesiology, grief counselling, and sexual psychoanalysis in my quest to find peace and solve my (often times very First World) problems. And I will no doubt try a whole lot more in good time. Because finding the right therapy/therapist combination is a bit like dating – you have to lie down on a lot of couches before you find the right one for you. But at least in therapy you don’t have to feel ashamed about paying for it. Bonus!
Now don’t get me wrong: I don’t spend my entire life paying people to listen to me talk about my problems. But as someone who often wakes up feeling like I’ve been punched in the feelings, therapy is and probably always will be a big part of my life.
However, I want to stress here that you don’t have to suffer from bona fide depression to benefit from a few visits to a mental health professional. I really think everybody should try it, like skydiving and putting Tabasco sauce on your popcorn.
Life is hard sometimes and even if your problems are little more than trivial in nature, sometimes talking them through with an impartial observer is the best way to deal with them. Whether you’ve gone through something traumatic like the breakup of a long-term relationship or the death of a loved one; or you’re feeling anxious about a big life decision; or even if you just need to have an epic kvetch about someone/something without fear of sounding like a whiny bitch – therapy can help. Just don’t go looking for a quick fix – it doesn’t exist.
Thanks for listening.