Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Therapy, Romance Novels, and Recession-themed

When I was 15, I was sent to a psychologist because the semester before, the 2nd semester of my freshmen year at Overcrowded Queens High School, my English teacher had told my father that I obviously followed what was going on in class (duh, we read Romeo and Juliet that semester--not exactly the hardest text to understand), but I never said anything.

Well, duh. I never raised my hand in class--on through to grad school, in fact--so what made that class so fucking special that I should've raised my hand?

This will come as no surprise to anyone who went to school with me. I've not much of a talker or pontificator and I only like my own voice when it's written as opposed to spoken (I hate hearing my own voice, especially over answering machines).

But, truth be told, I was miserable in Miserable Junior High School and even more miserable when I was among my fellow Big Fish In Little Pond Honors Children. I distinctly remember feeling sad on a continual basis when I was about 13.

So, 15 rolls around (Just imagine Taylor Swift wailing "When you're...fifteen"), another teacher--several of them--tell my parents "She doesn't participate in class" (the single most overused comment on my every report card; I showed up, I did homework, I passed tests. Isn't that enough for you people?) At which, my parents are at their wits' end. This is well after they stopped bribing me by paying me a quarter every time I raised my hand (that was about 4th grade).

Thus, therapist.

Of course, on top of not speaking in class, I was severely uncomfortable in unfamiliar situations, with unfamiliar people, I worried a lot, and hated school. I thought of this as shyness--and I am cripplingly shy, though many who know me don't believe it, it's true--but it was more extreme.

Anxiety disorder, anyone?

I liked my therapist. I was able to expound during the sessions about school and friends and whatever else. I became aware that I felt incredibly nervous a lot of the time and by noticing, I was able to control it, though it took a great many years. I also realized that being a total bitch was not going to make me feel better about being oversensitive and I would have to toughen myself up in another way--I haven't entirely figured that out yet, but I'm getting there.

Sometimes therapy was uncomfortable; I think facing your own problems and making yourself accountable for something (such as trying to talk in class), particularly on an intimate level, is fucking scary. It's easier to go through life without examining much, isn't it? Especially yourself. There were things I didn't want to talk about, stuff I didn't want to think about, people I didn't want to stand up to...

And yes, the patented therapy look can be annoying, as is the standard "How do you feel?" question. But you know what, if a person didn't have problems figuring out how he or she felt about something or needed clear aid in sorting out a major life issue, then she wouldn't be there. So don't mock it or bait the therapist because that's a defense mechanism and it's blocking her from actually getting anywhere.

I stopped talk therapy once I was taken to the psychiatrist, where I was given Anti-Depressant That Causes Suicidal Thoughts in Teenagers. Perhaps that's where the dark thoughts during sophomore year came on, along with 9/11. Maybe that's why I rather overdramatically tried to smother myself with a pillow while my parents were packing up the house I'd grown up in.

I remember being taken to LIJ once, to their Children's division, where a psychologist questioned me for possible inclusion in a support group for socialphobics--a rare occurrence, obviously. I declined it, but now I think it might've helped and moved the process along a little faster.

I stopped the psychiatrist visits in early 2002--I'd stopped taking the pills, actually, and I'd failed three classes in the first marking period of the first semester of 10th grade and continued to spectacularly fail Chemistry until the very last minute.

If this seems like a miserable post, it's not meant to be. I'm merely saying that we all have work to do on ourselves--some more than others--and sometimes with help of those actually qualified to help. One of my favorite songs of the moment is The Script's "We Cry," because as the band has said themselves, the message is "A problem shared is a problem halved."

I'm not a huge believer in repressing emotions. I did it through my adolescence, I feel, and only after therapy was I comfortable enough--and secure enough in myself--to express my problems and emotions. I'm sorry to those of you I may have overshared with in high school--I was testing out my comfort levels on that score.

Anyway, something vaguely writing-related: I'm writing outlines for those three romance novel things I was writing last summer--it was about a family in 1814 England, with mixed daughters, lots of money, a kidnapping, a lord or two, and Napoleon.

I wrote one, got an encouraging response from a writing contest, and got preoccupied with Last Request. Now that's a little out-of-sight, out-of-mind, and I had time to read books again, I read Georgette Heyer's An Infamous Army, about Waterloo. Her Waterloo sections were used at the Royal Academy at Sandhurst to teach their cadets about the battle because it was so well-researched.

So I'm outlining each of those three planned stories, bullet point by bullet point, plotting this thing to the point where I will know exactly what's going to happen when (I swear, I swore I'd never do this). Then maybe I'll actually write the three books. Or may be not, but at least I'll have the outlines.

On another note, I started toying with an idea for a short story, to enter into a Writer's Digest contest due in November or something, based on this song. Yes, it's my current favorite band. But I relate to this song--it's recession themed--and different circumstances always show you different sides to people you've known for years.

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