Monday, August 29, 2005

Killing Me with "Kindness"

Dear Internet Diary,

When I was 19 and in college, I was attacked in the night by a drunken rapist who had broken into my apartment.

To make a long story short, I successfully fought him off, called the police, moved into the dorms, and so on.

That summer, I was told that I should have counseling, "because the affects of a trauma don't always show up right away," and "besides, it's free in Washington State." They were very knowing, and very wise, and I reluctantly accepted and dutifully went to my appointments with a psychiatrist.

My first appointment I found myself broken down, confessing my problems with my Dad, and wondering what else she might find "deep down in there." It was very painful.

After a couple more appointments, I realized that she wanted to go in directions that had nothing to do with my coping with the attack. She was very interested in my sexual curiosity and my artistic choice of clothes (hey, it was the 80's. I liked The Cure), and, as I feared, she was looking for repressed memories.

Luckily, sometime after the fourth visit, I got a summer job working as a camp counselor. I couldn't make the appointments, and boy, was I relieved. The job was just the ticket. I no longer lived in fear, and handled "the bear incident" really well. I got to be away from the city all summer. I went back to school that year with enthusiasm.

Looking back, I realized that, barring the actuial event, no trauma was anywhere near as bad as trying to go through "the cure." Everyone insisted that I wasn't strong enough to handle it, and I'm not required to be. I'm glad I stayed away from the counseling community that was my home town. Soon after it sank into one of the worst repressed memory/sexual abuse /witch hunt scandals that the country has ever known. Some of the innocent are still in prison.

This memory was inspired by an article in Reason Magazine I read today, about trauma counseling, and "the cure is worse than the diisease." I feel so validated!

The Mental Health Crisis That Wasn’t
How the trauma industry exploited 9/11

On September 14, 2001, three days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a group of psychologists sent an open letter to the American Psychological Association. The 19 signatories, all established experts in trauma research and treatment, were concerned that thousands of people in New York City and elsewhere would receive dubious, even damaging, counseling. “In times like these,” the letter said, “it is imperative that we refrain from the urge to intervene in ways that—however well-intentioned—have the potential to make matters worse.…Unfortunately, this has not prevented certain therapists from descending on disaster scenes with well-intentioned but misguided efforts. Psychologists can be of most help by supporting the community structures that people naturally call upon in times of grief and suffering. Let us do whatever we can, while being careful not to get in the way.”

The letter voiced a second powerful warning: not to mistake normal reactions—intense sadness or sleeplessness, jumpiness, and so on—for mental abnormality. The letter was posted online and picked up by a New York Times science reporter who fast-tracked the controversy into Sunday’s paper, five days after the attacks. As Gerald Rosen, a Seattle psychologist and one of the letter’s authors told the reporter, “The public should be very concerned about medicalizing what are human reactions.”

Thanks for listening, diary.

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