The mental health system often does more damage than good. As I reflect on my own journey, I realise I was actually better before I started seeing therapists. My experience has been a little like losing a beloved parent over and over. This is because my clinicians become attachment figures. As Julie Wetherell writes in her article “Complicated grief therapy as a new treatment approach”, “Attachment figures are people with whom proximity is sought and separation resisted; they provide a “safe haven” of support and reassurance under stress and a “secure base” of support for autonomy and competence that facilitates exploration of the world.” But it is the wrong place to look for closeness because these relationships are fragile. The service is not long-term, the clinician moves jobs, the clinician retires, we can no longer afford therapy… there are plenty of things that can sever the relationship and send us into a very deep, primitive kind of grief. Really these people can only be a tiny part of our lives and relying on them for such large things like safety and security is only going to disappoint us. I am now a shell of the person I once was. The day I started counselling was the day my world started to shrink. I went from being a full time student to part time and finally not studying at all (and not because I had found a job). I was once dux and now I am on social security and in and out of psych hospitals. I used to be an activist and involved in a lot of groups on campus. I now barely see anyone apart from my mum and dad. I’ve lost touch with most of my old friends because I suck at maintaining relationships. Everything that has happened to me is consistent with what happens when we lose an attachment figure. “In acute grief following the loss of an attachment figure, the attachment system is disrupted, often leading to a sense of disbelief, painful emotions, intrusive thoughts of the deceased individual, and inhibition of the exploratory system,” continues Julie.
It is very hard to switch the “exploratory system” back on again and come out of my shell. It’s especially hard when I continue to experience more and more losses. I thought I had found security with the nurse I wrote about in my previous post. Suddenly I had all the motivation in the world. I had a whole list of things I wanted to do, such as dance lessons. But the light I saw was only the headlamp of an oncoming train. Recently my case worker told me that his service is not long term either. I spent the rest of the afternoon on the floor of his office crying and I did not want to live my life any longer. The other night I dreamt that he was holding me and guiding me and it was the most beautiful feeling in the world. Every part of me feels safe with him and it would be a huge loss if they closed my case. But I am determined that it will be the last loss. I will survive, as I always have, and I will claw my way out of this hole to become part of the world once again.