Since no one asked me any questions in my recent blog survey, I thought I would just make up some questions and answer them, because I like to pretend I’m being interviewed. Who knows? Maybe I will be interviewed one day.
Q: Do you ever worry that your clients are going to read your blog and decide that you’re too crazy to be their therapist?
A: Yes. All the time.
In fact, I recently found out that a parent of one of my clients read my blog on perfectionism, and for a moment it made me reconsider this whole blogging thing. But she didn’t tell her daughter to transfer, so that was encouraging. I’ve had clients transfer to other therapists before, so if they decided to transfer after reading my blog, I guess I can live with that. You can’t be all things to all people. Although I do still try to be.
Q: Are the posts where you write about different parts of yourself based on any particular theory?
A: The idea of conceptualizing our problems into separate parts of ourselves actually comes from two of my favorite theories: narrative therapy and internal family systems therapy. In narrative therapy, a mental disorder is conceptualized as an entity separate from the client. This helps the client and family stay focused on treating the problem rather than blaming the client for not getting better. “Life without Ed,” by Jenni Schaefer, is one of the most well-known books that illustrates how this therapy works with eating disorders.
Internal Family Systems therapy is the other form of treatment that focuses on parts of the client. The main premise is that these parts have become extreme in their efforts to help the person. So for example, the inner critic tries to motivate you to do your best, but in an eating disorder this may mean starving yourself to be thin enough. So in working with this part, you acknowledge that it has good intentions and try to come up with other ways that it can be helpful. Ordinarily, we just feel overwhelmed by self-loathing, so this is a much better alternative.
I think the idea of parts can be useful for anyone as a way to have self-compassion and self-acceptance of the aspects of ourselves that we don’t like. Usually these parts have a sort of archetypal feel to them, which is why people have the experience of thinking exactly like I do. The reality is, this is how everyone thinks. It’s just that no one wants to admit it because they’re afraid that it means they’re crazy.
Q: Have you ever suffered from a mental illness?
A: Yes. I struggle with anxiety all the time. In fact, I have been so consistently anxious all my life that I didn’t realize that it was severe enough to be a disorder until after I got my Ph.D.
I am also prone to depression and had a fairly severe episode at the same time my dad did about 4 years ago. The other severe bout of depression that I had was when I was 18, and that was the last time my dad was depressed, too. I’ve had a lot of less intense episodes of depression, as well. I probably had dysthymia (a more chronic, lower grade depression) from the age of 13 until I started meds for the first time, which was when I was about 30.
I have to do a lot to make sure that I don’t trigger anxiety and depressive episodes, which is why I obsess so much about sleep, eating, exercise, meds, relaxation, etc. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what I do, because sometimes life is just stressful and overwhelming. But it is scary when I start feeling like I’m going back to that dark place. Particularly with depression. When I’m feeling anxious I can take an Ativan and that’s often enough. When I’m depressed, there’s sometimes nothing I can do in the moment to feel better. I can see why people self-medicate with alcohol and other drugs. It is very painful to be depressed.
Q: You mention that you want to turn your blog into a book. What would the book be about?
A: My plan is to blog until I have 100 posts. Then I’ll pick the most popular posts and turn them into longer anecdotes. That way, even if someone has read my entire blog, they would still have a reason to buy the book. A book would allow me to reach even more people, because then I’d get to make public appearances and have more visibility.
Although I am surprised at how much these posts are helping people already. And if it turns out that I never get my book published, I will reach more people through this blog than I could ever reach through individual therapy alone. Plus blogging is a gift to myself, so I will continue to blog no matter what happens.
But I will get my book published, even if I have to do it myself.