Wednesday, 20 February 2013
Drinking Kills Brain Cells...And Your Count is Already Low.
I’ll never forget it: A little over a year ago, my new shrink stared me in the face. There was a solid two feet between us, so her fresh, fake-smiling face wasn’t all too overwhelming. That first session, I did what I thought all good patients should do, and poured my heart out. I told her about my fears, and my hopes and all that in-between, what-do-I-about stuff. My eyes fluttered around the room, all the while hoping that my simultaneous verbal diarrhea would strike a chord with her.By the third session she told me that I don’t have to process all my feelings and treat them as fully formed thoughts, “You’re an over-thinker.” she said, as if she had discovered something new. Was that an official diagnosis? Her triumphant smile pointed to yes. The fifth session is where the punch-line happened,
“You need to cut back significantly on your drinking.” she said bluntly.
I blushed. She was broaching a real topic.
Then, within a span of 10 seconds, my cheeks drained:
“Someone as high functioning as you, considering your brain injury, should cherish the brain cells they have.”
All at once, different explanations of why this was offensive flooded my brain. High functioning? What does that mean? I asked her, probing for an answer that would unfold itself so I didn’t have to.
“You’re sharp” she said, furthering my fears about her prejudice against those with Cerebral Palsy. “You’re aware of your situation and hyper-aware of your presentation to those around you.” I don’t know if you’ve ever received a compliment inside of a stereotypical insult, but it creates a clusterfuck of feelings.
I remember wondering if it was worth it to explain where her assumption went wrong, deciding I owed it to myself to do so. “Sometimes Cerebral Palsy has no intellectual impairments,” I tried.
Her supervisor, an older woman, who had been sitting in the corner monitoring our session with her hands folded in deep contemplation spoke,
“I’ve worked with two others with what you have.” she says nodding, in what I guessed was approval. What I have? It has no name. Which makes me wonder if she was only viewing my symptoms, which can be similar to many other disabilities. How much did this person truly know?
In that moment, I felt I was sitting behind a panel of ignorant strangers. Words swelled in my throat, but I realized no amount of explanation could take down preconceived notions of those with Cerebral Palsy, and their intelligence. In this case, the two therapists’ ignorance would take a lot of un-learning, which couldn't be done within the frame of my therapy hour.
Later, when I was alone with my therapist, I tried to voice my concerns with her. I said something about the danger of generalizations regarding any disability, to which I was greeted with a condescendingly sweet reassurance that they “meant well” and “were just looking out for my well being”.
It made me think. It made me sad. It made me realize that people are absolutely content to simmer in their stereotypical wrong thinking, without even a thought of budging or accepting new, constant truths.
It upsets me to think that every person who has Cerebral Palsy, is at some point, bound to encounter this weird form of novelty brought on by those who profess to be knowledgeable.
Needless to say, I never went back to that shrink. I figured I did not need to see myself through the same cracked lens which society already tends to see many disabled people.
And who knows, maybe someone with an untainted opinion will convince me to drink less one day.