Before I ever went to therapy, I rarely cried. I’d say this was pretty much the way most of us were. We reserved only a few moments in our lives for tears. This was a pause in our lives, a sacred “time out” that we didn’t share with anyone except those whom we held dear.
I could speak about cultural norms, but I think that’s a topic we’ve all read about or witnessed ourselves. Therapy, though, puts us into a mini world of its own where we are taught new standards of behavior outside of cultural norms. Once we have adopted these standards, living in the outside world is far more challenging. This is one of the main reasons so many “mental patients” end up on disability. The transformation from human to “patient” is slow and subtle, but once solidified, we find it is sealed so deeply into our souls that we cannot leave.
When I was a kid, I thought that therapists “broke” problem teens by challenging them to the point of collapse. That, I assumed, made them “better,” and they would improve their behavior, permanently.
So I was wondering, when I entered the office of my first therapist, if somehow she’d do the same. I never realized what all this would lead to. Tears are seen differently in this world of MH. I remember crying during my first therapy session. It jolted my system. It was like a release of stuff that had been pent up for so long.
I told her that I had this odd problem with my eating. This was the first time I ever described it in detail. I’d been struggling with this for a year and told no one. Now, suddenly, there was this person I could talk to that I assumed had all the answers. It was a relief letting out the Big Secret. She asked me questions about it. I’d say I felt better when I left, thinking a month or two of therapy was all I needed over the summer, then I could return and finish college.
Wow, was I ever wrong.
Wouldn’t it be nice if ED could REALLY be solved so easily? I have heard about people who have, indeed, solved ED and bypassed the worst of it, the part where it gets life-threatening, all within a few months. Just about all these people didn’t solve it with individual therapy, but by attending a support group.
Think about it. Which makes more sense: playing the role of financial commodity by paying someone with book learning only to “fix” you, or sharing with another person or group of people who are empowering themselves to solve a common problem? Do I need to even ask this question, or is it a no-brainer?
So my new very nice therapist told me, “It’s okay to cry.” Fine. She encouraged me to break down in her office as often as I needed to. Slowly, I became a different person, allowing myself to become increasingly vulnerable and open to suggestion at each session. At the end of the summer, I was much worse off that when I had started therapy, so I took a semester off of school, completely convinced I’d return.
You can see where logic was starting to break down. Or I can. I did have contact with my classmates over the summer, but only a few, who certainly witnessed this transformation. The therapist, though well-intentioned, taught me new standards of behavior that didn’t quite work for me among my classmates. They were bewildered by this, wondering what the hell had gone wrong. Some assumed I’d been assaulted. I know now that they were absolutely correct. In the Movement, we use the term, “psychiatric assault.” For me, therapy eroded my character and molded me into something quite different.
I was not yet on “meds.” That would come later. I didn’t even know such drugs existed, unless you counted anesthesia to knock a person out for surgery. I’d heard of sleeping pills, but I never thought of them as anything you’d take for some weird psychiatric “illness” with a sophisticated-sounding name. The idea of using drugs to “cure” a person that way seemed illogical. I learned in high school biology class that drugs were bad for you, including cigarettes, alcohol, LSD, weed, cocaine, and anything called “speed.” I learned that some of these were socially acceptable and legal, but should be used sensibly, and that I was way too young to partake in any of these drugs, even the legal ones. Doesn’t that sound logical? I thought so. I felt sorry for kids I knew who got involved in all that. Many were resorting to petty crimes, meeting in the woods to do deals and smoke together. To me, that was a fascinating world, but not mine. Like most kids, I didn’t want to get in trouble. At the time, this was what many college kids felt. If we ever smoked marijuana or drank, we did so at parties and during leisure time. Drugs weren’t something that helped a person get through the day.
In Day Treatment, I learned of the existence of “meds.” This terminology is a component of the brainwashing. I was curious to see if anything would help my eating disorder. I was afraid to ask, actually. I also saw a lot of rather disabling TD, but I was told I wouldn’t have to ever worry about such a thing.
That, too, would turn out to be wrong.
They loved to break us in Day Treatment. Opening up was praised. These confessionals, which usually ended in tears and a “group hug,” are a crucial part of the brainwashing. I resisted, naturally, but was curious as to what it would feel like to get that loving hug and somehow, be healed. What ended up happening was that it brought me further and further into dependency.
I learned the delineation between “staff” and “client.” Before, I saw these “staff” as just employees of the place, much as I viewed my former boss’s employees. He had a secretary and a few people who did home construction. He paid them for using their skills to help him with his home and business. I became friendly with his secretary. When painters came to the house, I’d offer them some tea and get to know what made them tick. What was the difference between me and them? The painters and various construction people were more skilled at using tools than was either my employer or I. The secretary was a skilled typist and was expert at keeping the office organized. To me, there wasn’t this vast difference.
In therapy, we were told that therapists were the authority. They rose to godlike status in our eyes. They became iconic. We sometimes spoke of them with total blind admiration during lunch breaks. I recall when one therapist left the program, the entire roomful of “clients” freely bawled, men included, requiring plenty of tissues and more hugs.
I ended up spending nine full months in that program. I was totally different by the time I returned to Vermont, and far worse off.
It took me over three decades before I realized it was all a lie. I am still working on erasing the myths I was taught by those people. Even those with the best of intentions were tragically off the mark. I know most people never get to this point, and they die not even knowing it could have been otherwise.
I love you all.