Other people’s words about … therapy
My scores and answers [on the psychology questionnaires] indicated, among other things, [the therapist] had said, a lack of excitement about the future. Sleeping a great deal or sleeping very little. An ongoing melancholy.
My laughter burbled up again, helpless, irrepressible. It was the first time I had been this disrespectful to a grown-up.
If you ‘cured me’ of all of these, I told her, I don’t even know who I would be. It would be like getting lobotomised. I would not recognise myself.
Setting the clipboard down, I thanked her, still chuckling lightly. Walked out.
What the questionnaires had not asked that might have been useful to me:
Do you wake up each day for yourself or for someone else?
Do you believe your life to be your own?
from ‘All This Could Be Different‘
by Sarah Thankam Mathews
I’ve written before about how, many years ago now, I quit therapy. I’d been seeing a therapist for many years, but I’d come to the conclusion I couldn’t see him anymore. That therapist — I still remember him with great respect and affection, and I still remember my last session with him with great rage. I think my rage had been growing for some time, and I think, if I am honest with myself, that it was as much about what I felt my life might look like post-therapy than it was about the therapist himself, or about any failure I accused him of that day. Nonetheless, I did accuse him.
I told my therapist that day that I left each session with him feeling sadder than I did when I arrived. I told him that I was tired of the words ‘recovery’ and ‘cure’ when they were used in reference to my sadness. I told him, repeatedly, that this language we used in our sessions, which was the language of illness, made no sense in the context of my sadness. I told him that I didn’t want to speak this language anymore. And I left.
In my time I have filled out many questionnaires like the ones that the therapist in All This Could Be Different asks the narrator, Sneha, to fill out. And like Sneha, I’ve been given labels to use about myself as a result of the findings from those questionnaires. Ultimately, though, it’s the stuff I feel that isn’t diagnosable that is the hardest to sort through. To live with.
What would therapy be like if the first questions our therapists asked us — the questions our therapists repeated to us at every session — were Sneha’s two questions? What would life be like if those were the two questions we asked the people we love when we were worried about them? I don’t know. Sometimes I feel as though I’ve been trying to have that kind of therapy, that kind of conversation, all my life.
Tell me, do you wake up each day for yourself or for someone else? Do you believe your life to be your own? And what does it mean if your answer to both of those questions was ‘no’?
Lately I’ve been reading …
- In part two of Little Women, Jo observes that there is a ‘strange, transparent look about [Beth’s face], as if the mortal was being slowly refined away, and the immortal shining through the frail flesh with an indescribably pathetic beauty’: Like many girls, I read Little Women and mourned Beth’s death and thought of her as the perfect woman. In this article, Carmen Maria Machado explores Lizzie Alcott, the real Alcott on whom Louisa May Alcott based the character Beth — and mourns the loss of her to moralising Victorian fiction.
- Capitalism has taught us that we can seemingly have whatever we want and so we use plants like paint, as a cheap and easy splash of decoration, while ignoring their actual needs and growing them in places they aren’t suited: Alys Fowler on the recent drought in the northern hemisphere, and on how to garden to protect our trees.
- I thought I’d blown it. I thought I’d done something wrong, that I was wrong, in some permanent and irreparable way: Michael Bourne on failing as a writer — again and again — and why that’s just a part of the process. Bourne’s words don’t just apply to writing, though. They apply to life.
- Today, pygmy seahorses still aren’t as well known as their larger seahorse cousins: Richard Smith on the fascinating lives of pygmy seahorses, who range in size from 1 to just over 2 cm.