Bootstraps Baby

What happens when your therapist takes the side of people who traumatized you?

Therapy sessions can be a blur of words and reactions. Many times, I’ll be conscious of the clock and try to fit in everything I want to discuss within the 50 minutes allotted.

With my mind and memory being somewhat faulty, I can miss things said in the moment that only sink in later.

This is one of those times and now I have lost any desire to see this therapist anymore.

Without being too specific (because my trust issues got ratcheted up to ‘11’ by this incident), I was outlining the patronizing treatment I get at work due to being regarded as the ‘office mental case.’

Because I had been previously honest with my therapist, I had told her of my history of run-ins at my workplace, also explaining the toxic work culture of my workplace and noting that a chain of events that started with employees waiting for me to say something that they could take as ‘suicidal ideation’ nearly got me killed.

And then my therapist dropped the bomb.

“Now look, I need to say this: don’t you think that they have a point?”

Excuse me? I’ve been an exemplary employee the last full year and I’ve explained the situation thoroughly and my own efforts to calm the waters for the sake of earning a living.

But I didn’t say that. Cringingly, I agreed with her at that moment.

I agree because I can’t always disagree. There is an unequal power dynamic at play here and it’s easy (here and elsewhere) to agree and hate myself later.

Besides, she seemed pretty firm about this so there was no chance of changing her mind.

But this wasn’t over.

A little later on in the session, she accused me of thinking “like a victim” and had I ever tried not thinking like a victim?

“But like it or not,” I retorted, “I have been a victim of things that were done to me.”

“See! That’s what I mean,” she said. “This is your mentality.”

Finally, I got upset enough to remind her of the abuse that took place in my childhood, coupled with the abuse that happened in the workplace, how I had done my best to continue to work on my reactions to triggers and I had developed inner strength from continuing to work in an environment where I had been traumatized. I pointed out it’s hard to fight so much conditioning that I’ve been hard-wired to react a certain way when I get triggered.

These arguments were to no avail.

If I had lain down and died, figuratively, I would concede her point. But I have fought my issues, even when I didn’t know what they were called, every step of the way for 40 years.

But in the end, I might have just as well bought a copy of ‘The Secret.’ Apparently, I attracted all of this somehow and everything that follows is on me. I am not a product of, or my behavior in reaction to, my environment. I must conform to my abuse and learn to accept it, let it float by like a meditative cloud, and then let it go. If not, it’s on me.

This is why there is a Mad Pride movement.

So, I should feel shame because I allowed this to go on for 40 year without ‘snapping out of it.’ I didn’t need a therapist to tell me that – my father used to say as much, except that (1) he meant it to humiliate me and (2) he was yelling which he always did.

It’s easier for by-the-book therapist to simply conclude the ‘here we have another Borderline who, like all the others, is resistant to proven treatment methods.’

Every nightmare, every flush of fear, every outburst of anger has nothing to do with decades of conditioning. I am merely playing the ‘victim.’ I would like to know what tangible benefit I’ve been receiving from ‘playing the victim?’ Believe me, I do not expect pity. Neither our culture nor mainstream psychiatry in general are very big on empathy. In fact, they mirror each other in their desire to apply some kind of ‘pick yourself up by your bootstraps’ theory to every situation.

What does she think I’ve been trying to do for the last 40 years? Despite my issues, I have worked since I was 16 with only seven total months of unemployment in that time. I have never been ‘work-shy.’ When I was suspended from my job for 76 days in the winter of 2016, not only was I fighting to return to work, I was also applying for other positions at my agency feeling a change of venue would do me and the agency good. Every time I have been knocked down I have picked myself up off the floor and jumped back into the fray.

What more does modern psychiatry want from me?

I blame myself for this though: I knew talk therapy was not and would not work for me at least a decade ago. But being the compliant person that I am, I kept pounding my head against the therapeutic wall. Perhaps, like the person in the old joke, it will feel so much better when I stop.

After just having completed a week at ‘Alternatives 2018,’ this therapy session drove home the lesson I learned from fellow ‘Mads’ there: we are on our own and providing each other support is the best therapy of all.

Now I face a delicate situation – how do I extricate myself from therapy that my psychiatrist, who controls my medications, insists I continue? Can I convince her it does me no good? And if not, can I adjust my sessions to ‘vanilla’ where we forever spend the rest of our time talking about benign bullshit? Or do I do like so many others in my situation: play the game ‘Hey, I’m Cured!’

But once I do manage to end my time with this therapist, I swear on the grave of Judi Chamberlin, I will never speak to a therapist again.

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