Monday, December 03, 2012

So My Therapist Says, Vol. 4, Very Special "Thank You" Edition

As you might know from the last post, a young woman that I met last year in hospital killed herself the Saturday before last. When I talked to my therapist the day after I wrote the post, we talked a good deal about suicide and about how other people, often people who have never had mental health issues much less ever felt suicidal, feel obligated to offer their opinions about suicide. (And, oh man, did that problem with people's opinions about suicide not get better after the events of this weekend.) We talked about how I feel that it's not my place to say that someone must suffer for the sake of others, even if that suffering is psychological. Yes, I am pro-choice, even to the point of being pro-abortion if that is the woman's choice. I am pro-euthanasia, pro-assisted suicide. I'm thankful for the time that I got with grandfather and with my uncle, but I would like to think that I would have abided by their wishes if they wanted less medical intervention or decided to end their life rather than suffer, especially once they knew they were going to die. On the other hand, as I said in the last post, I am eternally grateful my attempts were not successful. My therapist offered some of her opinions as well, including that she understands that some people might be suffering so much that they feel that is their only choice. As a therapist, she feels it's her duty to never say that a person is beyond treatment. In fact, many of us BPD people have been told that we are beyond treatment before we find DBT. She talked about having the conversation with suicidal people or self-harming people where they push back against her assertions that they shouldn't do it, that they assert that it's their life and they have a right to do what they want with it, even if it's a negative thing. She said that she can't say that they don't have that right, just that everyone's life is worth trying to make it worth living in as skillful of a way as possible.

As for everyone expressing their opinions, particularly those who say things like "How could s/he do this to his/her family/friends/loved ones?" or that suicide is cowardly or whatever other bullshit people say, she gave me a great comeback,"You just say to them,'I'm glad that you are fortunate enough to have never felt like that, but we can't know how this person was feeling. Let's just mourn for the loss and the loss of the family." Then she shared something extremely personal experience with suicide and dealing with those kinds of opinions. She told me that very few people there knew about this. But obviously she felt both that I could benefit from what she shared and that she could trust me enough to tell me.

And I wanted to write this post to express how grateful I am that she told me. Overall, I'm always thankful just to have a caring therapist who is always available, but I'm thankful that I have her as my therapist as well. This, however, was such a special experience. Many mental health professionals don't share anything about their own personal lives. Some don't even have pictures of their loved ones on their desk or any personal touches in their office. I really like that the people at the place where I receive therapy feel that sharing some personal info and experiences creates more of a connection with their clients as well as allows them to use their own lives to draw examples from. Even so, my therapist didn't have to do what she did. She didn't have to show an open-mindedness about how suicidal and self-injuring people feel. She didn't have to trust that I would not twist it. And she definitely didn't have to tell me the specifics of her own experiences. She didn't have to trust me with her personal knowledge. But I am so grateful that she did.

I realize that it must be a really hard job to do. There are so many fine lines to walk, especially when it comes to discussing suicide with someone you know has had multiple suicide attempts in their past. For example, on the one hand, you don't want to discourage our bodily autonomy, a feeling that this body we live in is ours. Many people getting treatment where I do, at the level that I am, have felt like we were forced into taking medications or forced into a "voluntary" hospitalization. We have hostility towards medical professionals who tell us that we have to do, or not do, something, so you're not going to help our therapeutic relationship by telling us that we can't do what we want with our body. I think this probably goes doubly for those of us with BPD. Another thing that BPD people deal with more often than the general population is trauma and abuse. When you've experienced a traumatic event or lived in an abusive situation, you start to internalize that your body is not your own, that it exists to serve others' prerogatives. Many of us disassociate from our bodies, our feelings, or both so we don't have to deal with this problem. The last thing we need is another person, specifically the person who is supposed to be helping us heal, telling us that our body is for someone else.

On the other hand, you're not going to tell us that self-harm or suicide is ok. You're the person trying to find the best way to get us to stop doing that shit. Even if I'm in a place where I'm not self-harming, haven't thought of self-harming or suicide for quite a while, you don't want to leave me with an idea that I might later use to rationalize self-harm or suicide. You do want us to leave continuing to feel that those are not positive, helpful coping mechanisms. You want us to feel like our bodies and our selves should not be hurt, that we have value and worth.

So I wanted to give a very public "thank you" to my amazing therapist. I'm so grateful for all your help and for this specifically.
Where I'm The Doctor & you're Amy, get it?

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