As I’m sitting down after, listening to Deepika Padukone’s interview on NDTV, about her personal experience of depression, I’m moved to the point where tears are rolling down my eyes and I feel an immense sense of respect, admiration for her.
I look back at my life as a Psychologist, where clients chose to trust me with their deepest vulnerable selves, I realize how most of them have moved on to a better space, where they are more in charge, have dealt with past baggage and chosen to turn their vulnerabilities into their strength. The interview was a reminder of how some clients have said exactly the same words that Deepika narrated.
Sometimes depression or anxiety leads a silent life, within us. We choose not to acknowledge it, as we believe it as a phase that would pass. As the Psychologist Guy Winch says — We cannot just shake off the depression, it needs to be handled and managed. Most clients show immense resilience and inherent strength that comes to life as we begin to deal with the layers of depression in therapy. A client whom I worked with, a few years back, told me how depression was a blessing in disguise. It reminded her how there were ways to fight it and choose a life where one is more in touch with oneself.
I’m often asked how I can distance myself from all the pain and sadness that clients bring in to therapy. The answer is quite simple actually — my clients also bring a deeper sense of hope, resilience and an ability to fight back, which makes me admire the human spirit even in moments when they are fragile.
We all feel vulnerable, and awareness of this vulnerability is our strength. Our strength to heal, to find meaning in moments of despair, and most importantly, as Deepika did, bare one’s personal journey so as to heal many others.
Sometimes I feel there are so many stories of pain, struggle, hope and resilience buried deep within me.These are tales, that clients have trusted me with and they are sacred.I’m sure clients wonder,what do I do with them.They continue to live a silent life within me and no one has access to them.I remember,when I was in college,a friend of me would tell me how I love listening to stories.Somehow in psychotherapy, I do that.When people ask me, what do I do,I say, I listen.I create a facilitative environment where people can share and be themselves. It’s a privelege to be trusted.Sometimes,when clients walk in the room, with their pain,all I can see is the strong will power to recover and hope.I see courage that each client brings in,every time, they choose to share their deepest buried secret.I owe gratitude to them and that’s why I let the story lie deep within the recesses of my mind and soul.
There are moments,when I feel lost and what comes to my rescue is an idea,lines from a book and then the strength to move on.Some of us turn inward when faced with a crisis,or a depressing moment and then there are others who turn outwards to people,engaging with the community.Sometimes it is important to remember that Kafka,Rilke,Camus and Yalom have all the answers.I remember as child I used to be immersed in books and continued to seek solace in their company.Strangely,these books have moved in to my therapy sessions and some clients need an idea,that cognitively resonates with them and then emotionally liberates them.For some of us, a writer is more magical than a therapist,it transports us to the hidden terrains within our own self,that sometimes are layered with so much conditioning.
Therapy can work best in environments where we choose to look at people beyond the labels of mental illness.
Books have always come into my life in strange ways, giving me answers I deeply seek.
I still remember there was a rare book, which I just found in an exhibition and no one knew who it belonged to. I waited for two days, finally took it home and the book changed me.
This book, “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” gave me answers to some of my existential anxiety that came in with the thought of becoming a therapist. Over the years I have learnt that when a client walks into the room, you never know the way forward.
As a therapist I begin with faith and most clients beautifully create their own rose garden, equally accepting the thorns that come with it.
Therapy is constantly a story of human will and strength.
P.S. In case you were interested, the book is now easily available online
This one time, a few relatives came over to visit. After the greetings and formalities, the dreaded question arose – “So what are you doing these days?” It can often get difficult communicating what I really do as a therapist, and why does the world need more of our kind (read narcissism).
As I begin my long and oft-repeated job description, my uncle interrupts – “The girl is in to ‘Therapy Sherapy’”, to which everyone looked at me and while nodding approvingly. “Oh, good work, good work”, one said.
I look at my husband and say “Therapy Sherapy?!?” The term almost has a lightness attached to it and a desi-ness that intrigues me.
A profession that’s all about complexity of human mind, human potential and layered with intricate emotions becomes Therapy Sherapy.
I call this – Indianization of my professional avatar.
Sonali Gupta, a Therapist Sherapist.