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A Toothache-Like Distraction

Posted Aug 21 2010 1:51pm

I fired my therapist on Wednesday. We were going along splendidly with me cringing only a couple of times over his broad generalizations of “mental illness”. His philosophy seemed to have been, “Whatever works for you, I will help you get there.”.

I walked into his office nearly nine months ago bound and determined to regain my life after a particularly difficult fall of care-taking my daughter. In hindsight, I now know that my daughter was shedding the worst of the psych meds and the withdrawal was stripping away her stability.

She endured and began rebuilding her life. I, on the other hand, had a breakdown and needed space. And, a therapist to help oversee the rebuilding of my life.

My therapist and I had a amiable relationship. He even revealed to me that his mother had Borderline Personality Disorder. He had chosen not to see her after a certain point in his adult life when he decided that a relationship with her felt abusive.

Unfortunately, I think he wanted me to follow suit with my daughter. His guidance leaned towards me keeping the distance from my daughter that I had established not long after I started seeing him and me not reassuming the care-taking duties that I had done in the past.

Day to day care-taking mostly consists of paying her bills and making sure that there is money for food in her account. Other than the financial responsibilities, I am also the one with the safety net. She calls me when she needs it. Other than that, I have learned to foster her independence. (SO THERE, to everyone who said that she couldn’t do it.)

After I read Robert Whitaker’s book, Anatomy of an Epidemic , our weekly meetings got more interesting. My therapist told me that he was very much in the camp where I was heading. He supported my budding advocacy for change in the mental healthcare system. He also admitted that he did know that there is no evidence to support the idea that “mental illness” is caused by an imbalance of brain chemistry.

I took this as a personal offense.

He read my book. He read how we were told repeatedly by the psychiatric community that the immense amounts of psych drugs they forced on my daughter were for her own good to “correct the chemical imbalance” in her brain.


This was the first significant chink in his professional armor; he withheld information. Why was he letting me carry on with this earth-shattering misconception at the helm of our lives?

We had been committed to the medical model that dictated drugs, restraints and long-term psychiatric care. At the same time I was desperately worried as my daughter had been off of all psych meds (other than benzos) for almost a year at that point and I thought that she was being irresponsible. I wanted therapy and drugs and a secure, safe environment for her. I had cried long and hard when the verdict was handed down by psychiatrist after psychiatrist. She would never live alone or off of a heavy regimen of psych drugs.

And, my therapist let me believe that was the final decree.

My daughter saved herself and although I knew that something was broken, I just didn’t yet know what it was. Something in the system, but where? Little did I know, until after I read Whitaker’s book and started networking on Facebook and blogs, that the ENTIRE psychiatric model was built on this erroneous bit of information.

My therapist and I began to have language difficulties. He used the lingo provided by the DSM-IV. The symptoms and labels and prognoses were part of his daily life. Okay, I reasoned, I had other issues that I was tackling other than my daughter. I figured that I could use his guidance in a constructive way, even if I took offense at some of his language.

That was up until two weeks ago when he told me to stop “trying to arrange the chairs on the Titanic”. Huh? He explained that he didn’t think that my daughter would ever get better and that all this searching for alternative treatments and support was like, again, “lining up the chairs on the Titanic”. I was dumbfounded. He said it twice. I couldn’t misread his meaning.

Then he asked if she had ever had electroshock therapy.

I gave him a look that shut him up and I soon left his office.

This past Wednesday, I sat down and immediately told him that this would be my last session. To say he was surprised would be to put it mildly. I felt mildly sad, a little weepy but relived when I drove away.

It dawned on me while I was talking to him that I had used him as the sounding board for only the bad things going on. I rarely told him about he good. Or, if I did, it was in passing to get the the complicated stuff – “She made it back from the photo shoot in Australia but now….”

My plan is to do the same thing on my blog that I maybe should have done with my therapist. I am going to talk about the good, too. (But, really, isn’t it his job to sort out the cruddy stuff. I can deal with the good stuff quite well on my own.)

I want to convey that my daughter is healing. The surgery has been very hard, both physically and mentally. But, each day she is getting better – on both fronts.

My daughter is funny and cute. She is ridiculously smart and wonderful with children. She is well-read and an astute reader of people and their intentions. She is absolutely unique in every way possible and even though her problems are a toothache-like distraction for me sometimes, I am in awe of her. She broke free on her own. She has done what everyone for years said wouldn’t be possible – she is making plans for the future.

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