I see that it is a lot like my last post. Obviously, that's the way that I feel, so I will post this here, now:
This Tuesday will be the last day that I meet with patients in my role as a psychotherapist. I have been slowly working my way to the end after doing this for over forty years. I have been closing the practice in slow steps so this ending does not come as a shock or a disappointment. It is more of a “finally, it’s over.”
I have spent over thirty of those years running my own practice in a mill city in Massachusetts, less than an hour from Boston. It is a fascinating city with a long history. It is a city with a constantly changing population of immigrants, who move through a very stable core of long time families. The city is surrounded by suburban towns which range from working class bedroom communities to towns filled with very wealth families and some large estates.
During my years here I have seen everybody. I have seen some of everything. It has been a fascinating time. In many ways I feel that this was what I was meant to do. From the feedback I received over the years I was reassured that I was good at it, and that the work I did was successful and appreciate. It has been gratifying that since I have announced that I was not beginning with any new patients I have received many calls from patients I had seen who told me how much I helped them get through difficult times in their lives. I will certainly miss that. Of course, there have been many people who I have not heard from.
Another thing I learned through the leaving process was how exhausting and stressful the job was. I never really felt that when I was in the middle of it. I remember that for years I would see thirty-five to forty clinical hours a week, and at the end of the week I would be happy to take a break. But I always felt stimulated by the work. I always had things to think about, interventions to try, strategies to plan, and puzzles to solve. I didn’t realize until I had reduced my workload drastically, how totally absorbing and tiring it was.
Some of that of course, is due to my getting older. But more I think is due to seeing that once I was able to really put the weight of it down, it seemed so much heavier to pick up again. When I was in stride, and carrying it with me and thinking all the time, it seemed to just flow.
There is still down-side that I feel more acutely now that I am finishing, and that is the frustration of how difficult the whole process is, and in many ways, how little gets accomplished. Yes, I was helpful, and many people, over time, were able to change aspects of their lives to either learn to cope better, change some of their circumstances, or learn many new skills about how to run their lives and make decisions. But, and it’s a big But, there were so many aspects of a person’ life that I could not touch, change or influence in any way. So much of mental health difficulties are intertwined with other factors, A person’s genetics, poverty, loss, some kind of victimization, racism, some kind of illness, crazy families, economic pressures, bad jobs, bad bosses, or just some random occurrence in life: luck. Often it was two three or four of those things happening at once.
And now, I spend more time with friends and family. I try to spend more time just doing more of the things that are interesting and fun.Still, I find I can’t get way from that feeling of frustration. I feel that those underlying causes of psychological and emotional distress still surround me. It’s not just the craziness and tragedies that I see in the news, I see it in my friends who are anxious, in their kids who are struggling, in the city schools that we visit, in the neighborhoods of the city where I worked for so many years, and in almost every city around here. And what makes it more striking, is that Massachusetts is one of the most prosperous, healthiest, best educated and well governed places on earth. I know how bad it is everywhere else.
We keep pushing the rock up the mountain, and it keeps rolling back down.
Seeing all this still bothers me, especially with the current craziness going on politically. In my youth, in the sixties, I felt we were really taking the right path and making a difference. I do feel that things have moved in the right direction, and that there are a lot of good people who try and who care. Yet, change always comes with a backlash. And now change is constant, and change is always hard to accept. It affects everyone differently. Often, the resistance is powerful.
It’s a shame. The rock is still there, fifty years later. The mountain is still there. I had hoped, especially with all of our new technology and new knowledge, that more of us could agree on some longer lasting solutions. I had expected that by now we would have broken down the rock and leveled off much of that mountain.
Sad. I don’t know, Maybe soon. Not holding my breathe. But still trying.