WRITING SHORT: 29/50

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[Come summer heat, much of my blogging momentum melts away. Hence an experiment until Labor Day: fifty minimalist posts about whatever.]

I belong to the talk therapy generation – when you could disgorge a Portnoy-length complaint about you you you to a willing, patient, selfless listener for as many fifty-minute segments as needed. I’m not just talking Freudian psychotherapy here. Whatever the therapist’s orientation, he was always there for you – on time, attentive, with no needs of his own, except to be paid.

Yes, it was expensive. You had to work for it. (If only your parents wrote the checks, it might go on forever.) But many therapists had a sliding scale. And if you found the right one, opening up about your troubles to such a knowledgeable, caring listener could change your life, and sometimes actually save it.

After two false starts, I talked my way through twenty-four non-consecutive years of trouble – eight years for three “hours” a week with one man, who may have kept me from going crazy, and later once a week for sixteen more years with another. They were both older and wiser than I was. I paid for all of it with my own earned money and used to say, jokingly, that I couldn’t leave a husband till I had a shrink, and couldn’t leave a shrink till I had a husband. It wasn’t entirely a joke.

Now that insurance companies demand quicker (cheaper) results, psychiatrists mostly medicate; psychologists and social workers, who’ve taken over the talking trade, tend towards the quick fix and goodbye. There may still be some few psychiatrists who believe in talking it out, but it’s highly unlikely they take insurance or Medicare, which has made real talk therapy, if you can find it, a luxury.

I do wish I could ensure Bill and I live on and on together, but the prospect of one of us dying before the other is hard to disregard, and I sometimes ask myself: To whom will I then turn? Have I outlived all the talk therapists still in practice? If not, how long can I afford to keep talking? Being a crotchety aging person, I don’t  much trust the guidance of younger “professionals” reimbursed for rapid turnover as I enter the uncharted emotional wilderness of old old age. That must be the ultimate hard place, where you must stand all alone till the end.

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12 thoughts on “WRITING SHORT: 29/50

    • I suspected someone would mention blogging as self-therapy, Gerard, although not necessarily that it would be you. Many bloggers claim as much in their own blogs. I do believe blogging brings some psychological relief — whether (1) in knowing one is not alone in a particular problem (i.e., fighting fat or alcoholism; living with chronic disease; the difficulties of raising children); or (2) in being able to cry out to the world that one is here and despite appearances important; or (3) in building a group of virtual “friends” around a virtual coffee-station with whom to exchange “lol”s and emoticons every day (something I’ve always lacked the gene for, even in real life); or (4) in having something regular and challenging to do after retirement from paid work.

      For me, it has been some of (2) but mainly (4), so I try to do it as well as I can. But although I know your comment is entirely well and kindly meant, I would never confuse blogging with turning oneself inside out to someone you can trust to guide you through a self-defeating morass of poorly understood feelings. Whatever this blog of current “snippets” and at other times much longer pieces may mean to its relatively few regular (and mostly aging) readers — and if you think it’s helpful to them, I do truly thank you — it is really a writer’s construct. I have never put on line anything about the real present aches in my heart, the real present worries in my mind, or even the real current handicaps with which my body limits me — the matters I would unload on the now probably mythical talk therapist of my dreams. So, as you suggest, TGOB will likely not be of much help to me if it is I who am the survivor of coupledom with Bill.

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  1. I did “talk” therapy once after a particularly painful divorce. I think I went 6 times and quit. He kept falling asleep in my sessions. I figured if I wasn’t troubled enough to keep him awake, I could manage on my own.

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  2. Rita Stewart

    Being a retired talk therapist myself, I have seen the slow demise of this discipline, the rise of “quick” fixes and the use of meds. Insurance companies prefer the quicky meds which have many side effects, particularly with kids, which was whom I worked with. Of course I join you in the sad prospect of dealing with the end of things and the separation of loved ones–I’ve tried doing talk therapy on myself on this issue, but alas I have as much trouble with this as anyone else in therapy.

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  3. Interesting about the husband/shrink dynamic. I remember reading some research belong to that period comparing different forms of talking therapy, each one appeared to be as good or bad as the individual therapist… it’s not the method, but the practitioner that matters. Good luck whatever the outcomes.

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