Sunday, May 20, 2018

Therapists are better than TV. Except no M.A.S.H.

Before we get to today's Strangerville, I have something of a follow-up sponsored post. After I wrote to you about Peggy the Therapist a few weeks ago, I got messages and emails from many of you, talking about how therapy has helped you, and how our Stranger community has functioned as a sort of therapy for you as well. Which is unfortunate, because I don't take your insurance so you all owe me like $600,000 and I'm sending you to collections.

I really loved hearing from you on this topic because it's a topic that I've grown to really care about in the last couple of years. My heart breaks for the countless people who have needed help and didn't know where to find it or were afraid to ask for it. And since I wrote that last post, I've been thinking a lot about why that barrier exists at all.

I had been seeing Peggy the Therapist for a while when I finally decided that I didn't really need to anymore. BECAUSE I WAS CURED AND PERFECT.

Ok, not really. But I had gotten to a point where weekly meetings with my hippie friend were feeling a little redundant and not as helpful as they had felt a year or so before.

On a side note, relationships with therapists are confusing. I would start feeling like Peggy and I were pretty good friends and then I would remember that she was getting paid to be my friend and only for one hour a week and the rest of the week she had nothing to do with me. Also, our friendship was completely one-sided. Basically it was the same relationship I have with TV. Except Peggy asked me how I felt about things and she didn't show any reruns of M.A.S.H.

In any event, after a while my confusing relationship with Peggy came to a close. But only temporarily.

A few months went by when suddenly I found myself spiraling into a nervous breakdown.

For a few weeks, I hardly slept. Work demands were nearly suffocating me, and I was doing a terrible job of setting boundaries with my job.

I was trying to hold it all together, and doing that poorly, when a very well-meaning friend suggested that maybe I should give Peggy a call. He said it like this: "I think you need to call Peggy. Like, yesterday."

And something really weird happened when he said it.

My gut instinct was to feel a little offended.

"Oh, you think I need mental help? You think I'm a crazy person? You think TV isn't enough of a friend for me?!"

I probably didn't think that last part. But I felt the first. And I felt it in an indignant way.

It occurred to me later how strange it is that anyone ever has that kind of response to a person's suggestion that maybe therapy could help.

It's strange that "you need therapy" can ever be used as an insult when "you need an oncologist" never could.

It's strange that mental illness, in whatever form, isn't viewed like any other ailment, and that we are ever tempted to think people who don't "need" therapy are somehow better than those who do.

(*By the way, the older I get, the more I think everyone needs therapy. Different kinds of therapy, depending on the person, but therapy nonetheless.)

And it made me sad that I, a perfect being of enlightenment and magnanimity, could ever implicitly hear an insult in a kind suggestion that I get help for a real challenge. A problem that said nothing about my character or worth as a person.

To make a long story short, I did reach out to Peggy again. And we met several times. And she was phenomenally helpful to me as I navigated through that rough period. So was food, of course. And Duncan, who I adopted right in the middle of it.

The point is that nervous breakdowns are the best time to decide to get pets and have children.

Because of that time, and because I made the effort seek some meaningful help, I am a stronger person today. I'm more empathetic than I was. I'm better at boundaries. I'm dealing with stress much more effectively.

And I'm super proud of that.

So please, let this post be one more advertisement from this nut-job to not be afraid to find the right help for you. (Also, check out this article for some information about the difference between therapists and psychologists.)

And while you ponder that, please enjoy this week's Strangerville, which includes a recent It Just Gets Stranger story from your favorite perfect being of enlightenment and magnanimity.

This time in Strangerville, Meg is sick of kindergarten and Eli shares an It Just Gets Stranger Story about Ukraine.
This Is Strange, by Eli McCann

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. Just curious: Meg, is your 150,000 year old contractor's name Glen, perchance? You just explained my father-in-law, who is a contractor in SLC and calls to talk about nothing and everything.

  2. I have been blessed in many ways; home, physical health and enough to live comfortably but I have been dealing with serious depression since the age of seventeen. I had a sibling who was severely disabled, and while I never resented her, my childhood ended at the age of five when she was born. My parents forgot they had another child and my years growing up were very lonely. Since then, every important person in my life has been exceedingly emotionally abusive. I can’t figure why; I’m a kind person who has never intentionally hurt anyone. You can’t imagine how many times I have been to ‘just snap out of it’. As if anyone would choose to live like this.

  3. A) I completely agree with you - everyone needs therapy. I certainly do even though I'm not getting it.

    B) I just had a similar discussion this weekend about my son. On Thursday he forgot to take his ADHD and Anxiety meds before school. He's 11 and in 6th grade. Middle school is hell and even worse when you can't focus and your anxiety is spiraling out of control. I got a call from his second hour teacher because he was having a rough day. He got on the phone with me and was in tears and my first question was "did you take your meds" to which he replied "I don't think so". I keep a dose at work so I grabbed them and immediately drove them to the school and sat with him for a bit while they took effect to help him calm down. When he called me after school he said the rest of the day was great.

    I know parents who won't take their kids the meds if they miss them. They says it's their kids responsibility to remember them. I can't even fathom this. ADHD and Clinical Anxiety are medical conditions. If your kid was having an asthma attack and needed their inhaler, would you not take it to them? Would you not take them their insulin if they were diabetic? Yes - it's my kid's responsibility to take his medication in the morning. But I'm not going to subject him or his teachers to a day without them if I can help it. Making him live through the rest of the day without them isn't going to teach him to take them in the future - it's just going to make everyone miserable.

    1. I so want to hug you and your son right now Nicole. I have type 2 Bipolar, PTSD from a shittacular marriage, and anxiety. Meds, a stable routine, exercise, therapy, and good people in my life who are willing to confront me when I'm being erratic are my lifeline to having a "normal" life...and even then there are some days where it feels like it is touch and go.

      I hate, Hate, HATE that I will be on meds for the rest of my life (because believe it or not taking meds for mental illness is NOT fun and there are days that it makes you feel worse), but it is better than the alternative. I can function, I can get out of bed in the morning, I can hold down a job, I can live alone (although let's face it, I probably shouldn't), and for the most part I avoid doing amazingly dumb/hurtful to others/self destructive things (for the most part...)

      Mental illness is far more common than most people think. A friend of mine recently recounted a conversation she's had with her neighbor who told her "I would never have dinner with someone who has a mental illness". My response to my friends was "your neighbor already has, he just doesn't know it". We don't all run around with tin foil hats on, drooling, and raving about the end of the world. A lot of us are quite nice people who would really rather have our body and our brain work together instead of against each other and we work really hard to make sure we don't end up wearing the tin foil hat. And to that end meds and therapy become part of our normal life. But you don't have to have a mental illness to benefit from therapy...because life sucks and sometimes you need a guide to get through it.

      Also, I made this after a conversation with my therapist a couple weeks ago.

    2. Thank you for sharing that. I've learned so much about mental illness and learning disabilities in the last 5 years since he was diagnosed and I still feel like I'm drowning in an ocean of unknown. I can't imagine how he feels every single day.

    3. Nicole you're a good mom and he's lucky to have you. I have a nephew with pretty severe ADHD. I watch my baby sister and her husband help him maintain a schedule with his meds, function at school and at home, and help him maintain some sort of social life (which is heart-breakingly difficult for him) and I am in awe. It's one of the toughest jobs anyone can have. I'm just glad that we live in the information age, help is only a click, text, call away. Even if the help we need is just someone seeing and recognizing your struggle and letting you know that it is going to be OK without trying to "fix" you.

    4. Strangerville therapy helps too :)

      Thanks for the encouragement Suzzzzz :)

  4. This is so timely. My husband just this morning asked if we could do marriage counseling. Although, I don’t know that there will ever be a way for that to not be a little hurtful.

  5. Hugs from a Stranger far away.

    I can understand that feeling hurtful.

    But I’m also impressed that you married a man willing to fight for you and try. I’ve had so many friends’ marriages end in part due to one spouse being unwilling to talk, unwilling to try.

    And I’m nervous about commenting because I literally know no details of your marriage, but a man who wants to improve regardless of whether the existing status quo is already pretty great or has some troubles sounds like one who wouldn’t want to hurt you.

    1. Thank you for this comment, Michelle. You are so sweet. I think therapy will be helpful, too. Hopeful!

  6. Hamilton's new financial plan is nothing short of government controool...
    I've been fighting for the South alone

    ^this may be my favorite song. Well, one of my favorite songs. Okay, they're all my favorite songs.

  7. Oh crap, that comment was supposed to go on your Mississippi post. The South and all, you know. It can go here too.

  8. Who played the guitar for the background music of your story, Eli? It was supremely fantastic and I need to purchase every song they’ve ever played since the beginning of their career and binge listen to it all. Seriously though, it was phenomenal and I really do want to listen to more of their work.

    1. I wish I could say it was mine, but I purchased it somewhere on the Internets. I'll try to track down where I got it and see if the artist was listed.