Category Archives: Suicide

Part ii: How do I know this therapist is right for me?

The first part of this series is “Do I need a therapist?”

Finding the right therapist is of immense importance, if you’ve decided to opt for therapy. You’ll find you don’t know who to go for, in the beginning. Should I see a psychiatrist or a psychologist or just a counsellor? This is an easy one actually. Personally, I prefer going to a psychologist first, mostly because I want to avoid medication as much as I can. Unfortunately, I have seen the difference between a non-medicated me and a medicated me and I have to say, it really helps to have my focus in order and my moods under control. So, while I struggle with medication, I also see why I need it. But I digress.

First to tell the different kind of professionals apart.

  1. A psychiatrist is a person who went to medical school and has a medical degree in psychiatry. This enables him to prevent, diagnose, treat and understand mental illness by prescribing medication and course of treatment or therapy. She will also monitor how you react to medication short term and long term, so expect blood work and the like to be part of your interaction with her.
  2. A psychologist is someone who has an academic or doctoral degree in psychology, not a medical one. This person can is qualified to do counselling and psychotherapy, perform psychological testing, and provide treatment for mental disorders. A psychologist cannot and must not prescribe medication to you, or perform medical procedures.
  3. A counsellor is someone who doesn’t have a PhD but a Masters in psychology. In order to practice, a counsellor must have trained at an organisation for a few years before obtaining a license. Unlike a psychologist, a counsellor may not be authorised to diagnose an illness but is effective in treating one with the aid of therapy.

Now that that’s out of the way, how can you tell if this therapist is working for you? Most people will tell you go with your gut. But I am going to say ignore that advice. Here’s why. Consider that you are at a therapist because you are not feeling your very best. Consider that when you aren’t at your best, it is very likely that your ability to listen to your gut, to distinguish the voice of your gut is highly impaired. What you mistake for gut reaction could be fear of vulnerability or of having revealed so much to a practical stranger. Consider that when you are emotionally or mentally disturbed, your gut might not be your best friend. Therefore, don’t go with your gut right in the beginning. Because if you do, you’re bound to come up short almost always. The first time you go to a therapist and your gut is always going to tell you to run and never come back.

These are the things I have found useful in understanding whether a certain therapist is right for me.

 

  1. Be prepared for never knowing that this is the right person for you in the first session. In my exp, it takes at least 3 visits to figure out if it’s your gut feeling, or if you’re second guessing yourself, or if you are just getting comfortable.
  2. Do they glance at phone/clock/out the window often enough to register on you and distract you?
  3. Do they display any emotion or judgement at anything you’ve said so far? If yes, and it makes you uncomfortable, stop seeing them. You should be seeing someone who makes you feel like you are working together; and not someone who hands you only instructions on what to do. There will be instructions in the course of your treatment but that will be with your willingness.
  4. Do they talk more than you do and make you feel like you  haven’t been heard? If yes, stop seeing them. Your sessions shouldn’t be a fight to be heard.
  5. Write down notes about what you liked and what you didn’t like about the session afterwards. When/if you switch therapists, the notes you take will show you what you need.
  6. If you have a diagnosis, ask clear questions about the treatment plan and what their stand on medication is. A treatment plan should include your consent and your ideas. Don’t go to someone who doesn’t include you.
  7. Understand what your own stand on medication is, should you need it.

In short, I suggest you give it two to four visits before you decide this is the wrong person for you. Of course, there are those who immediately know whether this person is working for them or not but in case you’re wondering how to determine whether a therapist is working, these above tips help.

Good luck!

 

 

Do you know what a person who wants to commit suicide looks like?

Ok, Mrs Hema Malini, first thing: Not everyone exists to be admired by the world. Some of us exist, even live, because we want to do fun things and experience life in the forms that we can. Some of us live because we have reasons to live; they may not be great ones but they give us enough motivation.
In this really dreary business of living our lives and being adult about it, some times we fall ill. Because honestly, no person wants to actively kill themselves unless their life becomes too much to bear. 
What, then, is too much to bear? Who decides what is too much? You survived a broken heart or a bad business decision or a crippling tragedy. But the person next door may not have the same skills as you to cope. How did you survive? So many answers: you are dead inside, you are cold, you were hugged a lot when you were a child, you had help from a professional, you had a family (or friends) to cushion your crash,  you acquired skills, along the way, to become mentally “tough”. So many explanations. Any of this could make you a “winner”.  What doesn’t make you a winner is calling someone else who possibly had different setbacks from yours, and who may not have had the same support system as yours, a loser. You didn’t win on your own, Hemaji. Just like Pratyusha Bannerjee didn’t lose on her own. 
Do you have friends whose parents committed suicide? Lovers? Siblings? I do. The vocabulary of the act of suicide is inherently violent and judgemental. It provides no relief to the ones who were left behind. But worse, it renders the person who died infinitely small, incapable of dignity, and with no compassionate memory of them. That must stop. Every time you use the words “succumbed” and “weak” to describe someone who killed themselves, you’re negating, insulting and condemning every single person who has already made that choice. And that person may have been someone you love. That person might be someone who someone you love loves. 
What does a person who is about to commit suicide look like, Hemaji? Don’t know? Or maybe you do. But let me tell you anyway. I should know, I’ve been that person. More than once. A person who is about to commit suicide is first and foremost deranged. Think about that word. To have moved from a certain place, to have lost balance or a semblance of it. It is a person in the deepest, darkest pit of despair. It is a person who thinks the world will get by without them. That her own parents, children, partner don’t need her and there is nothing to look forward to tomorrow. It is a person so angry with herself at “failing” that tomorrow is a terrifying black thing that pulls, sucks and leeches so all-encompassingly that she doesn’t want to wake up. 
A person about to commit suicide is like a person functioning with a brain that is quickly spinning out of control. A person who commits suicide has a brain that is constantly lying to her. It’s like looking at life upside down for a long time till you start believe that the world is wrong and your point of view is right. A person who commits suicide does not have the ability to distinguish between the truth (whatever that is) and the lies that her brain is telling her. A person who commits suicide is, more or less, ill. Either for a long time or for a while, temporarily. Ill because she believes all the lies her brain tells her. Her challenges seem so big to her that it seems someone is crushing her heart physically. Like she can’t breathe. To her the pain is unbearable. It’s not just a feeling. It is intense, deep, real pain, because her brain has spun out of control so long back that she can’t see that there might be help at hand. That someone just might be able to hold her for a bit till she gains equilibrium. That the truth is, at the end of everything, with love and help, we may not have to kill ourselves.
And this is the difference between a person who wants to commit suicide and a person who thinks it is about… what was it that you said? …  learning “to overcome all odds and emerge successful, not succumb under pressure and give up easily. The world admires a fighter not a loser.” 
What a thing to say about a woman who killed herself not too long ago. What a thing to say about a woman whose family cannot stop grieving. My experience of growing old has been that the more life throws at you, the better equipped you are to see that not everything is clear as day, not everyone has easy lives, and not everyone gives up easily. How dare you insinuate, Mrs Hema Malini, that Pratyusha gave up easily? How much do you know about her life or her struggles?
I know nothing of that girl’s life. I hadn’t heard of her before her death. But I know one thing: for a person who decides to give up their life and dismisses the fact that there might be people who care for them, there is nothing left. Absolutely nothing. And unless she had it in her to trust someone, to turn to someone, she died believing there was nothing left. That she meant nothing to anyone. And that place is an unbearably sad place. An unbearably lonely, sorrowful, depriving space that strips you of any sense of reality, any sense of self, any sense of purpose.
Am I saying suicide is okay? I am conflicted, honestly. If it ends your misery, then it should be your call to make. But there’s the paradox no? When you choose to commit suicide, almost always your mind isn’t well enough to make that decision. Then how is that a rational decision that I can stand by? How can I say that everyone who finds their misery unbearable should have the choice to end their lives?
Finally, suicide takes courage. It takes a person who can find it in themselves to hurt endlessly, permanently, their entire family and everyone who loves them. It takes making that insane, deranged decision to leave people you love fend for themselves emotionally, physically, and sometimes financially. Suicide isn’t for the cowardly, it isn’t for the faint of heart. And it isn’t for the sane. The next time you call someone who killed themselves weak, think about it. And if you still feel like calling them weak, wait till their bodies grow cold.