On Therapy, the Psycho Kind

The first couple of years off opiates were so unbearably bad. I kept trying therapy, and I kept flunking out. With my disease, I look so healthy that psychotherapists could never understand how sick I have been, a major stumbling block when you have spent your life horrifyingly disabled, so traumatized by your illness that you need to talk about it in therapy. They seemed to think I was catastrophizing about my silly genetic disorder thing, whatever that was, that I was obviously making way too big a deal about...

Another obstacle: psychotherapists could not wrap their heads around the fact that I was prescribed opiates for a very real, physical, painful disease, that I took them as instructed, that I had not become an addict and... had gotten off. To them, drugs = addict. Never mind the details, never mind that I was off of them. That level of thinking was too complex for them. I was met only with Fear! Horror! Suspicion!

Addiction has specific criteria which apparently psychotherapists do not know. I never met it. Still, I would not have minded the Fear! Horror! Suspicion!, if they had something helpful to say about my suffering after years of drugs. Nope.

I seriously feel sorry for addicts. How do they get any help? AA has infected the mental health world. I suspect that had to do with the idiocy I was running into. AA is repackaged old-time religion, based on nothing scientific, is rather culty and has never been updated as it is against their rules to incorporate research. In AA, addiction is an incurable disease AND a moral defect. Um, how could it be both? That insults my opiate-fried brain. PS I was never an addict. MDs take my drug history and say, “Congratulations on getting off,” and we talk about something relevant. 

My years as a Professional Patient rendered me very bad at therapy. I am used to something totally different. I am in the business of paying for an appointment, during which I get honest opinions and we come up with a plan. I show up on time, dressed nicely, ask questions, respect the answers, do what I am told, follow-up, and pay my bills. We bond as professionals.

Therapy was so nebulous and free form. I could not figure out what we were doing. Are we like working on anything? I would wonder. I don’t need to come and say how my week went. I need to talk about the hell I have been through. Nobody wanted to hear it. They preferred to chat about my week. Did Cigna know that is what they were reimbursing? I would wonder. That is not medical care. I talked to some nice therapists and had a few helpful conversations, but other than that, therapy made me feel crazy. I could be home painting my nails and reading a fashion magazine, something actually therapeutic, I would think.  

Therapists would ask me why I never talked about Mr. Pennington. Because we get along. This statement also was met with Fear! Horror! Suspicion! I was being honest, as this chapter of my story happened before our relationship crashed

I got the impression that in Los Angeles, people come to therapy to complain about their spouse. And also to moan about how difficult it is to be rich and successful while living in such nice weather. They were very confused by my real problems. I needed more than someone to sleep with their eyes open and moan an occasional uh-huh. I needed more than a CBT attitude adjustment. I needed help.  

I could tell that therapists also did not like that I tend to punctuate every tragic horror story with a joke. But really, what the point is of ending up a shivering, weeping blob on the floor? Plus, it is not my fault if something is truly funny.

It makes my brain happy to laugh, you moron, I did not say.

Does one take any real science classes on the way to becoming a psychotherapist? I did not say. 

God, please never take from me the serenity that comes from making jokes no one appreciates about the horrifying things I cannot change, I would think.

I had a problem with the therapists who told me that meditation would fix me. Oh for sure! 

And the ones who wanted to solve me with diaphragmatic breathing. That one is extra super funny because the lungs are in the rear of the chest, protected in the ribcage, not the belly. Hyperventilate and squish my intestines around? Why would I do that? 

If you want to take a deep breath, breathe into your back where your lungs are. This will gently pump spinal fluid and relax the spine. That feels nice and soothes the nervous system.

And then there is the stumbling block of the concept of transference

Transference is a natural projective behavior and to be expected in the counselling relationship. “Transference” refers to certain unconsciously redirected feelings, fears, or emotions from a client towards the counsellor that actually stems from past feelings and interactions with others and is transferred into the current counselling relationship. 
- from somewhere on the Internet

Dear Therapist, I am paying you to help me and I will never transfer my feelings onto you because I am not delusional or a child. How about we bond as professionals and you give me some help to relieve my emotional pain? Maybe for me to reveal my vulernabilty, my feelings, my inner most secrets, I need you to inspire me to do it, by seeming trustworthy, kind, skilled. That is not really transference, is it? That would be being a professional.

At home, I have a collection of stuffed animals. You probably have a plush menagerie, too, if you are chronically ill. I talk about them and to them like they are alive, since I do not want a real pet disturbing my precious sleep. I consult them on important decisions. They have distinct personalities. Some even have Twitter accounts. That is all the transference I have time for.

During that miserable time, the first couple of years off the opiates, I read one of the greatest books I ever read in my life. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It made me cry laughing. I am giggling sitting here just thinking about the profound wisdom tucked in these pages.

I must go read it again, right now.

I like reading the chapter F*ck Serenity while I cuddle my stuffed animals.

This is Striped Dawg. We rescued him from Restoration Hardware, which must be running a puppy mill because they had so many dogs just like him, sitting neglected on the shelf in the nursery section. 

Striped Dawg is very wise. He gives me great advice.

Striped Dawg

Striped Dawg

“Feelings? Serenity? Meh,” he says, “Just be well-dressed like I am.”