Saturday 14 August 2021

My Sh*t Therapist


Picked this up in an Audible sale:

A shocking, heart-rending and blisteringly funny account of what it's like to live with mental illness, by a powerful new comic voice.

When Michelle Thomas suffered her first major depressive episode six years ago, she read and watched and listened to everything about mental health she could get her hands on in an effort to fix herself. God, it was tedious. And, quite frankly, depressing.

Which is the last thing she needed.

What she did need was a therapist who would listen and offer a wellness strategy catered to her specific needs. What she got was advice to watch a few YouTube videos and a cheerful reminder that 'it could be worse'.

An honest, hilarious and heart-rending account of living with mental illness, My Sh*t Therapist will help you navigate the world, care for your mind and get through sh*t diagnoses, jobs, medications, boyfriends, habits, homes and therapists.

You'll find no scented candles or matcha tea 'cures' for mental illness here. Instead, learn how a modern woman and her friends and followers navigate life with their brilliant but unpredictably sh*t brains.

Having a crappy mental health day? I've got you. Want to chat antidepressants and breakdowns? Pull up a pew and let's get into it.

The blurb reminded me a bit of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking.

It's a nice one. Good balance of humour and straightforward advice for people facing mental health crises. Quite insightful. What I found particularly interesting was that the author described very intense emotional and physical squiffyness without having undergone a specific trauma. Of course I know that depression and anxiety can happen to anyone, at any age, without a specific, identifiable trauma, but I still find it fascinating that the symptoms of people with and without trauma are often the same, and as much distress appears to come from not being able to identify the cause as from being able to identify it.

Something I became really aware of a year or so ago when working with genocide survivor organisations, was the research into transgenerational trauma. It's been noted in Rwanda, but also with the children and grandchildren of holocaust survivors. From what I understand, transgenerational trauma can manifest both in the home environment, behaviourally, but also on a genetic level, altering your DNA or epigenetics. Theoretically meaning that trauma doesn't have to have happened to the individual, it may have happened a generation or more back. A biological case for inherited trauma, if not shared memories. 

Heading off on a tangent, you also have cases such as James Leininger, which, if you believe in reincarnation - and a significant portion of the world's population does - adds an extra layer of mystery to the mental health arena. 

But, even on the accepted medical plain, there's so much potential for the wiring of our brains to go wrong. Even the slightest tweak, such as a cup of coffee, a cigarette or a glass of wine, can have a dramatic effect on our mood. Plus, the massive increase in the stress of living, with fewer people being able to afford a decent quality of life, whilst billionaires blast rockets into space... 

It's a wonder any of us are sane, to be honest.

But it did get me thinking about the obvious, and not so obvious, causes of mental health problems.

Thomas covers all the topics: My Sh*t Job (how work dissatisfaction affected her), My Sh*t House (how housing uncertainty contributes), My Sh*t Relationship (relationship troubles), My Sh*t Meds (her experience of meds), and, of course, the titular, My Sh*t Therapist. All interspersed with a wide variety of stories from people who had written to her about their own mental health struggles.

It was all very relatable, though I think people who have suffered identifiable trauma or who don't have a strong support network to call on (which is what she credits as pulling her through) might feel slightly adrift in parts. But, as she says at the beginning of the book - this is her experience, not everybody's. And it is a very inclusive book that undoubtedly speaks to many people.

I like it. Not too intense, not too wishy-washy. Some good, practical tips.

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