There is a strange stigma surrounding discussion of mental health. Admitting to going to therapy is treated like an admission of weakness, which is silly because every person who’s ever tickled themselves over not going to therapy most certainly has something to talk with a therapist about if they’re getting that much joy out of their delusion of emotional grandeur.
I think about mental health a lot because mine sometimes comes a little too close to matching my physical health, which is bad, like, panting up the escalator bad. Yesterday, I went back to a therapist I accidentally hadn’t seen in 10 months. It wasn’t an accident that I hadn’t seen her, but it was an accident that it took as long as the time between seasons of Game of Thrones for me to make another appointment.
I want to do what my therapist can’t. I want to talk about what we discussed while I sat on a very comfortable green chair and was distracted by birds fluttering outside the window. I want to say that therapy is just the shit.
They started me off with a survey because it’s a university therapist and I think they’re trying to assess how many students and employees sometimes think of dying. I wasn’t one of those, but the survey did ask for a preferred name and pronouns, and I’m all about that shit. Yeah, Dr. School, I’ll tell you what I want to be called, and whether or not it’s the name my parents gave me when I was naked and screaming and freshly alive or not is up to me because this is how you simulate autonomy in a culture that actively tries to steal it.
You know how many times I can talk to someone about my shitty childhood and have them not go in for the awkward “You probably need some affectionate human contact” hug? None. Or, maybe more than none if I’m talking to someone who is also as emotionally hesitant as I am. I can think of almost no other people who will sit down with me, listen to me make awful jokes about what the proper ratio of trauma to optimism should be to have a child end up really funny, and then that person will talk about healthy coping habits because humor is clearly a way of deflecting my real feelings. That’s good shit, Dr. School. Tell me what to do.
And sweet damn do I love the time limit. On tv I learned that anytime someone goes to therapy, they will talk without realizing the passage of time, then a buzzer will ring, and the appointment will come to an abrupt halt. There’s no buzzer, and no obvious timer, but the appointment does only last an hour before the conversation is over. You know what else works like that? School. The classes I teach run for an hour, and I’m so used to university-sponsored interactions happening within that hour-long window that I’m satisfied and ready to go once the hour is done. You know who else is conditioned to end formal interactions after roughly an hour? Virtually everyone who has ever been processed by the American school system, which is so gung-ho about getting classes as exactingly scheduled as possible so as not to waste the tax dollar that goes to funding our schools.
And then it’s time to go, and there’s no awkward goodbye period because there’s no chance we’re going to the same place. I have to go to a little desk and pay for this emotional carnival, and Dr. School started out in her office, and that’s where she stayed. Sometimes I see a friend in the grocery store, we talk, and then say goodbye, and then I run back into them by the Greek Yogurt, and there’s this awkward look of betrayal as if they’re saying “I thought you were leaving.” No, I was not leaving, and I will not leave without my low-fat yogurt, you overly attached social wart. Leave me and my goopy fruit bucket to reunite in peace.
The social stigma around discussions of mental health and admissions of going to therapy is silly because therapy is just the best time. It’s a no-stakes interaction that ends with you having a sticky note full of ideas for how to cope with your weird life, and then you get to go away until you decide to go back. Why isn’t everyone doing this?