Trigger warning for suicide
For those of you that have seen the film Good Will Hunting, you may remember the scene where Robin Williams tells Matt Damon over and over, “it’s not your fault.” The scene culminates in a meaningful embrace and what can only be considered as a therapeutic breakthrough. In graduate school, my professor showed us this scene to demonstrate a point about empathy and understanding in the therapeutic relationship. And while most therapy doesn’t really work like that, this scene remains one of the most poignant scenes that I have seen in regards to the portrayal of therapy.
I’ve watched this scene several times since the tragic suicide of Robin Williams. And it sums up everything I want to say and get through to not only my clients, but everyone suffering from suicidal ideation, depressive symptoms, mental illness, and those who have ever felt a sense of hopelessness and despair.
It’s not your fault.
Trigger warning for violence and abuse. This first post will focus primarily on the “mental illness” portion, while the next will focus on the #yesallwomen portion.
Some of you may remember that a while back, when I was first interviewing for (and soon after landed) my first “real” job, I had a stage system in which denial was the first stage of attempting to find employment after graduation. I don’t have a theory for how it works once you land that job (once the stages have all been successfully resolved, I’ll keep you informed), but what I do know is that there’s a serious case of denial going on, and it might be with every new person who has entered a demanding, somewhat thankless field that thinks they can handle the pressure.
Some self-disclosure: I’ve never been on the other side of the couch.
Okay, that’s not entirely true. I went to a child psychologist when I was three or four – my parents regale me with tales of my “weirdness” as a child (apparently speaking entirely in quotes from Winnie the Pooh is “abnormal”…but really, what do they know?), but I only have a few vivid memories from my childhood (someone can analyze me on that one). There was the time in 10th grade, when I got sent to the guidance counselor after my grandfather died. And there was my one-therapy-stand in college to deal with re-adjusting after studying abroad, where my therapist’s coldness and judgmental attitude only strengthened my desire to enter this field.
But since then, I’ve only been the therapist, rather than the client. And as I begin to establish a career in the mental health world, I’m realizing how problematic that is.
May 6th, 2012, 10:30 AM. I didn’t think it was possible to simultaneously dry heave, smile, and cry, but it happened when I crossed the finish line of the 2012 Broad Street Run. In that moment, I had conquered 10 miles, considered myself a runner and never looked back. In the 11 months that followed, running became much more than my recreational sport of choice. It became my most adaptive coping skill. Pissed off? Sprints. Elated? Tempo run. Too much on my mind? The long slow distance run gave me time to get it together. The saying held true for me: running is cheaper than therapy, and there was nothing that couldn’t be solved with a solid run.
And then April 15th, 2013 happened.