What better time to start a new journal than when starting on a new psychotherapeutic
ordeal regime adventure. Being an exhibitionist, naturally I want to publish the journal online; being a lazy cheapskate, I’m not about to get my own domain name; being a neo-Luddite, I want to steer clear of Tumblr, Medium, et al. So yesterday I checked to see if any desirable, relevant, and (most important) free WordPress URLs were available. The short answer: no.
The long answer: I found many decent names that weren’t currently in use. Some had been obtained impulsively and then abandoned almost immediately by their negligent owners; others had been deleted for reasons mysterious or not. Once you’ve set up a WordPress blog, even if you delete the contents, no one else can ever, ever use it again. Never, ever—unless, that is, you transfer the blog to someone else. So I tried to contact the owner of one long-dormant blog to ask if he would transfer it to me, but got no response. I was going to contact some other folks, but then I thought, “Life is too damn short to scrounge and beg for blog names.”
And then I found, to my utter amazement, that the name “Too Damn Short” was available. What a perfect way to express not just how little time we all have but also how little, literally, some of us are (thanks a lot, Dad-genes).
One thing that life is too damn short for is spending endless hours in self-examination. That’s why I was very excited a couple of years ago to learn about a treatment called intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy. The name led me to expect a short series of frequent, grueling sessions, but it turns out that the usual course of therapy consists of 90-minute sessions every week or two for up to a year. Only the first session, which is called the “trial therapy,” lasts longer; it can be anywhere from 2 to 6 hours.
For more than a year, off and on, I tried to find an ISTDP practitioner who would take my insurance. Funny thing: Most competent psychotherapists don’t accept the laughably low insurance reimbursement rates, because they don’t have to. (Some of them claim, on their websites, to shun insurance out of concern for patient privacy or fear of bureaucratic interference, but I think their main concern is less lofty.) A few weeks ago I finally bit the (magic?) bullet and made appointments with two out-of-network providers. One of them charges 25 percent more than the other, plus she said that our first session would be limited to 80 minutes (instead of the recommended 120), because she needed to move her car every two hours. I ended up canceling that appointment.
I’ve now had two sessions with K, my chosen therapist, for a total of 3.5 hours. I don’t claim to understand how this newfangled therapy is supposed to work, and far be it from me to tell a professional how to do her work, but my initial impressions have not been favorable. K seems inordinately concerned with my body—where I’m feeling anxiety or why I’m sitting in a a particular posture. While I’ve found it somewhat helpful to notice when I’m getting tense in certain regions, most of this bodily stuff seems irrelevant to the goal of getting my head on straight. Also, K seems to have reduced what ails me to a pretty trite condition of having internalized my mother’s judgmental voice. The thing is that I don’t remember my mother being all that judgmental; more often she just wasn’t paying attention. I do admit to having an incessant inner critic, but I didn’t need a credentialed professional to point it out to me.
K also has given me some mixed signals, first accusing me of unwillingness to do things that are hard and a few minutes later chastising me for saying that something that’s easy isn’t worth doing. Oh well, maybe things will get clarified as we continue. Eventually I suppose I will tell her that I think she’s ineffectual and annoying, and she’ll turn that into a reflection of how I relate to other people, and I’ll argue with her, and she’ll say, “See? You’re doing it again.” And maybe then I’ll decide that life is too damn short even for this last-ditch, short-term effort at becoming a person.
K is the seventh therapist I’ve seen in the last five years. (The fourth one was actually pretty good, but she refused to honor her agreement with my insurer.) During that time I’ve had plenty of grief, stress, and garden-variety neurosis, but the one thing I haven’t had is a career, or even a paying job. Steady work is no guarantee that one won’t need psychotherapy, but at least it reduces the amount of time available for rumination. If only our leaders could see the connection between unemployment and poor mental health, maybe they would make more serious efforts to get people back to work.