I found this picture on Facebook and it exactly sums up how I feel about North American’s society’s obsession with quickly jumping to psychiatric drugs while at the same time having a war on others. It comes down to legal versus illegal but from my experience legality doesn’t mean safe or effective (alcohol and tobacco are another example).
I may not be a fan of psychiatric drugs but I do like therapy (so long as it’s a good therapist). Here is a list of 7 things people assume about therapy that are irritating to those of us who have experience with it.
1. “Therapists just agree with everything you say to make you feel better about your life.”
I have had counsellors call me out on distorted thinking or when I am closing myself off. I don’t want them to agree with me all the time! That won’t get me anywhere and that means they’re not doing their job.
2. “Your therapist must think I’m a horrible person because of all the things you say about me.”
My counsellors have actually pointed out to me that something I had said might have triggered an undesirable response in someone. They’re not against anyone. I am their client though so their number one concern is me.
3. “Isn’t therapy just talking about how terrible your childhood was and blaming your parents for everything wrong with your life?”
My parents never did anything wrong and I have enough issues in the present that I don’t need to go back into the past!
4. “Do you lay on a long couch and cry?”
I have never lay on a couch. I cry sitting in a chair or I don’t cry at all.
5. “Why not talk to your friends and family instead of a stranger?”
Friends and family are biased. Friends and family don’t always have the resources and tools you need.
6. “But the fact that you’re paying her means she has to pretend to care about you.”
I have never paid for a counsellor.
7. “Is therapy really worth it?”
That is entirely up to you. For me it has been.
What are some questions you’ve heard about therapy?
“One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
That’s how long the wait list is at the Brief Psychotherapy Centre for Women in Toronto. 18 months. I was not expecting that. Ouch. I guess that’s another option out.
When we need help we need it now. It might not be a crisis but why would any of us want to live with certain problems that much longer?
Oh the Ontario mental health system.
Project Heal is a great organization that helps individuals who experience eating disorders and spreads awareness on eating disorder. Project Heal is opening chapters across the USA and Toronto, where I live, even has one. I frequently post their pictures and share their articles but this week I have been struggling with Project Heal.
Now, where I am finding the problem with this campaign is in the people Project Heal have chosen to use to promote the message of ending fat talk; a large majority (if not all from what I can see) are by medical definition, and most likely by societies definition, are physically skinny. While I do not believe this was done on purpose or with malicious intent (Project Heal is not about that) the images in their advertising does need to be more inclusive and representative.
Eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia specifically) are already heavily stereotyped as being something that skinny girls/women do. There are in fact many individuals who experience eating disorders who are by medical definition overweight. These individuals are usually not taken seriously because they do not “look” how we imagine someone with an eating disorder should look. Also, there is a difference between fat talk when you are skinny and fat talk when you are actually “fat”.
I recognize that in many ways I cannot speak fully on this topic. I have never experienced an eating disorder and I am a skinny person. I do experience fat talk in my mind but I can push it aside. I do not want to speak for anyone, I just want to point out what I noticed and share what I do know. The face of mental illness and struggle is extremely specific. It tends to be white, middle to upper class and with a society accepted look (even I fit this description). We seem to be a society that empathize with skinny and condemns fat. I believe that in order to #EndFatTalk we need to end #FatShaming.
“When looking for a theme, I opted for intersectionality for being something that I acknowledge as a personal issue. It always bothered me the world’s constant attempts to control women’s bodies, behaviors and identities. This control is such a deep part of our culture that we hardly ever realize how cruel it is and how it restricts our personal choices. However, I don’t believe it’s enough to discuss exclusively the issues that affect a specific group of women. We also need to talk about racism, homophobia, transphobia, classicism, xenophobia and ableism. The fight for equality and respect is very wide and should be inclusive.” -Carol Rossetti, website
For more images and information on Carol Rossetti please check out her website!
“Once upon a time, powerful wizard, who wanted to destroy an entire kingdom, placed a magic potion in the well from which the inhabitants drank. Whoever drank that water would go mad.
The following morning, the whole population drank from the well and they all went mad, apart from the king and his family, who had a well set aside for them alone, which the magician had not managed to poison. The king was worried and tried to control the population by issuing a series of edicts governing security and public health. The policemen and the inspectors, however, had also drunk the poisoned water, and they thought the king’s decisions were absurd and resolved to take notice of them.
When the inhabitants of the kingdom heard these decrees, they became convinced that the king had gone mad and was now giving nonsensical orders. The marched on the castle and called for his abdication.
In despair the king prepared to step down from the throne, but the queen stopped him, saying: ‘Let us go and drink from the communal well. Then we will be the same as them.’
And that was what they did: The king and queen drank the water of madness and immediately began talking nonsense. Their subjects repented at once; now that the king was displaying such ‘wisdom’, why not allow him to rule the country?
The country continued to live in peace, although its inhabitants behaved very differently from those of its neighbors. And the king was able to govern until the end of his days.”
From, Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho
Who is really Mad? Is Madness always bad? What is normal? Things to ponder and apply to our own lives.
An op’ed posted in the Montreal Gazette by Melissa Pickles (what a wicked last name! I would love to see Dr. Pickles!) about how she remains silent about her experience with depression as a resident in psychiatry. She opens up her story about a doctor of oncology that she studied under who was a cancer survivor and everyone knew. Pickles writes,
“This had a powerful effect on his patient interactions: they clearly valued his disclosure. There was a sense that he was more trustworthy, more empathetic, more wise, for having undergone the same life-changing experience.”
Throughout my social work education and work I have seen the power and value of lived experience. Generally, certain services prefer and stress employing individuals with lived experience. Women’s shelters hire women, LGBT organizations hire LGBT individuals, HIV/AIDS groups hire individuals living with HIV/AIDS etc. But our mental health system seems to be the one place where having lived experience doesn’t work for you but against you. Yes, organizations hire individuals with lived experience for peer support and community engagement but what about for higher positions of authority such as social workers, nurses, psychiatrists or even upper management? I get the feeling that lived experience does not exist as much the higher up the chain of command you go (or at least lived experience that they’re willing to talk about).
The view of individuals living with mental health issues is not a good one. Not only is society taught to doubt us, we are taught to doubt ourselves. Our own symptoms are used against us and we are constantly discredited. I would argue that it is the only social sector that does not see lived experience as a valuable quality for a professional to have.
Pickles expresses it perfectly,
“In spite of the fact that I feel my history of mental illness has enriched my clinical abilities, I still worry that it will make others doubt my competence, or respect me less.”
This is not fair. It is unfortunate to think that there are many professionals out there (my friends/colleagues among them) who are discriminated against by their employers because they disclose lived experience. This becomes especially difficult when an individual with lived experience has a mental health record which employers can request access to during a vulnerable sector screening (this may be Canadian specific). While it is illegal to not hire or fire someone due to a mental health issue, employers are set up with a variety of excuses to do so because of the discrimination within our society. A personal crisis where the police were called in as a safe mode of transportation can suddenly turn into “You may hurt the children,” despite having no history of violence towards others and a wealth of history working successfully with children (it’s the police involvement that give someone the mental health record). Most often, individuals with lived experience chose to pursue a career in mental health because of their lived experience (I know I did). It’s disappointing that discrimination and not actual evidence of poor work ethic can be the cause of so many dashed dreams.
I’ll end with a final quote from Pickles that illustrates the downfall of psychiatry for not welcoming lived experience,
“I’ve often worried that my own silence has helped to reinforce certain assumptions about mental illness — that recovery is impossible, or that mental illness should be kept secret. I think of the oncologist, who was able to use his experience with cancer to enrich patient care, and I wonder why this shouldn’t be the same for mental illness.
Many psychiatric organizations are taking on the challenge of stigma. But I wonder if we really can stay in our respective closets while still advocating for a society that is more open about mental illness.”
A few people have suggested that I write a book. I have tried in the past, wrote down my ideas, gathered the historical information of my life and then just lost all enthusiasm for it. My main idea was publishing my journals in the hopes of shedding light on being a teenager with depression but it’s to strange of a feeling to read about my teen years and sometimes I was boring and looked like a fool so why would I want to share that in it’s entirety? Clearly a “Go Ask Alice” type of book is not for me at this point in time.
I recently bought Lena Dunham’s first book, “Not That Kind of Girl” and it has inspired me to approach this book writing thing a little differently. I don’t need to create something chronological to get my message across. I can bounce around with the topics, the timelines, the styles of writing and I can be as blunt as I want to be. What I really enjoy about Dunham’s writing is that she is funny about topics people might not want to be funny or she just writes it in such a way that you’re not uncomfortable (if you’re liberal and open to that stuff, that is). I want to write like that.
What would the book be about you may be thinking? Various topics and events that have happened to me. Some ideas I have are:
- What a Borderline thinks of her diagnosis
- Self harm
- How I can turn everything into a failure
- How much I love food and everyone hates that
They’re going to be little essays, short stories, lists, whatever.
So, what exactly is my plan? I was hoping some of you could help me! I know some of you have written books or are in the various stages of writing/publishing so I would like to know what helped you get everything out keeping in mind I’m poor and need as many free resources as possible.