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Therapist Bullshit

 “It’s nice to meet you,” he said. I should have known right then and there that we were both doomed. How nice it is to have met someone is something you can only know in retrospect. It’s an unintended lie at least 50% of the time. In this case it was profoundly and obviously not nice to meet me.

He introduced himself. I didn’t reciprocate because he already knew my name, he’d had it in his day timer since last week when the receptionist had set up the appointment. I hadn’t known whether I wanted drugs or counselling, so she signed me up for both. I gave him a brief glance comprised of curiosity and skepticism. He sat down and availed himself of a pad of yellow paper and a pen, keen to begin writing down observations. The patient appears incapable of sustaining eye contact, or something. The patient makes no attempt to reciprocate pleasantries. The patient feels that she is about to co-create a dark comedy sketch that makes heavyhanded use of the “mismatched protagonists” theme.

“You seem distressed,” he informed me.

I nodded.

“Would you like to tell me why?”

So much filler. If this was a manuscript, the editor would have sent it back with UNREALISTIC DIALOGUE written beside it and all but the last word crossed out. He was putting on a show. I was supposed to be in it. I didn’t know my lines. I didn’t know how to humour him back or how it would help if I did. I hyperventilated as unobtrusively as possible while staring out his window. His office offered a beautiful panoramic view of Lake Union. I longed to turn my chair ninety degrees counterclockwise so I could see the water straight on instead of sideways.

“Everything’s wrong,” I heard myself saying.

“Can you describe to me what that feels like?”

It feels how it looks, asshole. “I barely even exist.”

“Well, that’s not what it looks like to me. You certainly exist. You’re here, you’re on time. You’re dressed appropriately. You’re having a conversation. You’re not screaming or throwing things or pissing your pants.”

I was amazed and appalled that, two months into a fully funded doctoral degree, this was the kind of thing I was getting credit for.

“You look to me like you’re functioning just fine,” he concluded.

Did I really?

Later: “I think you have some beliefs that you’re using to do violence to yourself.”

That’s therapist bullshit. “That’s—” No, don’t say that. “I don’t understand what you mean.” Better. “My beliefs aren’t the problem. I’m losing my mind.”

“What does that feel like?”

“It feels like my life is falling apart because I can’t concentrate on anything other than killing myself for more than four seconds and that means I can’t get any work done and I don’t really socialize with anyone unless I’m drunk and I’m depressed and freaked out all the time. I need it to stop.”

He leaned back in his chair and cocked his head. A perfect caricature of himself. “Do you think you’re going to kill yourself?”

“That’s… You can’t just…” I shook my head. “It’s not a fair question. I mean the answer is yes but that’s not the full story.”

He wrote something down and said, “Maybe you need to take a break from your school work.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Is that really true?”

Although the silly emphasis filled me with rage, I spent a solid ten seconds giving the question the most honest thought I could manage.

“Yes,” I concluded.

“What would happen if you didn’t do your assignments?”

Jesus god. “I would fail in my first quarter here, then the department would take my funding away and the Canadian government would take the $80,000 scholarship that I got by working my ass off for eight years and I’d have no money and then I’d get kicked out of my apartment and have to leave the country and my career would be ruined.”

“How do you know all that?”

Is this what therapy is?

“It’s just one thing logically following from the next—” I was descending into condescension, couldn’t help it—“based on how life works.”

“It sounds like you have a lot of concepts that you cling to even though they’re hurting you.”

“Having to work to make money and pay rent isn’t a ‘concept,’ it’s a real thing, it’s what I have to do. It’s what everyone has to do.”

“Is that really true?”


“How would you feel if it weren’t?”

“I don’t know.”

“Try to imagine.”

I looked out the window and tried to imagine drowning myself in Lake Union. I probably couldn’t pull it off. Drowning takes a lot of will power, right to the end. It’s impractical. Suicide in general is a logistical nightmare. Choosing the right day, writing the note… “Do you think you’d feel happier? More relaxed?” I’d taken too long to respond so he was feeding me the answer, trying to get me to regurgitate it.

“If actions didn’t have consequences? Actually no, I’d probably freak out more.”

At the end of the session he asked if I wanted to come back next week. I reluctantly agreed. Maybe it would be better next time. Maybe I just had to get used to it. Anyway, I was scared to say no to him. I was scared to say anything to him. He seemed unbalanced. I wondered if he should be seeing someone himself. Maybe he was. I began to imagine a short story or novel in which each of the psychologists in a mental health clinic was getting therapy from one of the others, unbeknownst to his/her colleagues. The narrative would become increasingly convoluted and the point of the story would be how pointlessly self-perpetuating it all was.

He leaned forward into the outer fringes of my personal space. “I’m going to blow your mind.”

I very much doubted it.

Our relationship lasted six weeks.

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