Bleeding Purple

Several nights ago I had a dream in which one of my former professors from undergrad told me that she had started seeing my old therapist, L. When I interacted with this professor in real life several years ago, I could sense that she possessed unaddressed mental health issues. So when she told me in the dream about seeing my former therapist L, I felt happy for her, though a bit confused that we spoke about this topic while standing in one of the large, open bathrooms of my childhood home. The dream then shifted to me standing alone in an empty hallway with blue carpeting. A single showerhead jutted out of the wall, and I washed my blonde hair and saw it turn purple. As water continued to pour onto my scalp, purple hair dye ran through my fingers, the original black and the newer blonde strands nowhere in sight.

When I woke up, I knew right away that my former professor represented my mother. I remember growing up as a child and standing a few feet away from my mother, looking up at her her as she would either yell at me or my brother or as she would begin to clean our house obsessively. Sometimes I felt helpless, sometimes I felt curious. Around a decade and a half later, when I texted her about how seeking therapy may benefit her, she replied that only weak people pursue psychological help.

I am in the process of interviewing at different sites for the final year of my doctoral program, a year in which I will provide therapy full time. When interviewers ask me about what brought me into the field, I often reference my general desire to help others and my curiosity about people. I do not mention my mother, to avoid the stigma about mental health that pervades the field of psychology. On one hand, I totally get that some people enter the field thinking it will help them instead of actually addressing their own issues. Furthermore, just because someone has experienced mental health issues does not mean they would make an effective clinician. At the same time, I sense that the lack of openness about mental health within our profession does contribute to further stigmatization and reduced help-seeking and self-awareness.

Speaking of mental health stigma, I’ve been loving Kendrick Sampson’s portrayal of the character Nathan on Insecure! Nathan has bipolar disorder and the show addresses it so well. Nathan is also super cute. Though, my ultimate crush on the show is currently Taurean portrayed by Leonard Robinson. Maybe I’ll include a pic of him in my next post. Anyway, Molly and Issa’s friendship matters most, bye!

At this point I have received both interview invitations and rejections. I feel excited about my potential sites as well as some slight sadness about letting go of some cities where I had once envisioned myself. Letting this sadness in helps me reflect on other areas of my life where I have felt distraught, mostly about lacking control: my mother and her mental illness, white supremacy and the idealization of mediocre white men within the queer male community, and the prevalence of amatonormativity in society.

Though, I feel proud of what I accomplished with what options I did have. Like even though I went to a random semi-liberal arts college for undergrad for the sake of instate tuition, I met my two best friends there and have put in a lot of effort to maintain our joyous and radical friendships. Though I am powerless to change my attraction to men, I have actively disinvested from amatonormativity, the male gaze (e.g., I literally don’t care about what any man thinks of me), and the wedding industrial complex. Even with the stigma about mental health and therapy I do my best to write with honesty about my own experiences, my low points and my growth and healing.

Growing up with my unstable mother and my oftentimes absent father, lacking control sucked, because it entailed receiving abuse and neglect. Today, I still believe that we should try to resist certain forces that may feel out of our control, like white supremacy and patriarchy. At the same time, I perhaps feel a little more comfortable sitting in moments of ambiguity, disorganization, and chaos. Even if my hair does turn purple due to forces outside of my control, I would do my best to rock it anyway.

Have you faced mental health stigma in your own life, and if so how have you coped with it? Have you had any interesting dreams as of late and if so how have you interpreted those dreams? General reactions to this post? I have two interviews this upcoming week and will hear back from the remainder of the sites I applied to, wish me luck! Until next post.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Bleeding Purple

  1. priya

    “to avoid the stigma about mental health that pervades the field of psychology” this confuses me so much. i would think psychology would be one of the fields that are most accepting of mental illness and open to discussion of mental health. i do understand how academia and generally all fields of work stigmatise mental illness, as you’ve written about in a quite a few of posts. it just doesn’t make sense,,, ahh here’s to hoping psychology become a more accepting field with you giving therapy and inspiring other therapists.

    good luck for those two interviews!!!

    • Aw thanks for this comment priya, I appreciate your energy about this! Yeah, I think there are some programs that are more compassionate and understanding and actually encourage students to openly share about their experiences so they can create a culture of self-awareness and help-seeking. Other programs (and people within these other programs) are more rigid and care more about professionalism (which is grounded in white supremacy) and presenting a very research-focused, productivity-oriented front. It’s a mess though I’m glad I’ve found some empathetic folks. Sending you a lot of warmth this holiday season!

  2. Very best of luck with the remaining interview applications and the upcoming interviews. Do you have to travel to them or are they via Zoom, etc.?

    Re mental health stigma, I will tell people individually that I live with depression and anxiety, and have disclosed that more publicly to running club as I’m one of the two Mental Heath Champions for it. I hardly tell anyone I’m on the autism spectrum (not formally diagnosed but confirmed by therapist) as it comes down to neglect in my case and that feeds back to the awful narrative of refrigerator mothers that was so damaging to normal parents. Again, i will disclose that as and when needed. Just did to a friend whose daughters have been diagnosed.

    Some peculiar dreams lately, I’ve been worrying about a few people and arrangements, etc. One thing I HAVE had is deep kindness from people. I had a FB alert of the birthday of my friend who died back in the summer, and had to go to volunteer at parkrun having cried uncontrollably for too long before I set off. Told one person there as I was keen to just do marshalling and not take on a technical role and she was so quietly kind. We need to cling on to that stuff.

    • Thank you so much for the well wishes re: the interviews! They are all on zoom which I am so so fortunate for because it saves me so much money and time. Pre-COVID a lot of them would have been in person which I would’ve just been like, no thank you lol.

      Appreciate you sharing about your disclosure practices! I like how you are so intentional about when/who/where/etc. to disclose and how you have specific reasons for disclosures. I feel like that is both generous of you while also still being protective of you at the same time.

      Love that you’ve had deep kindness from people lately, especially given that you yourself are so kind to those around you. That incident you shared sounds wonderful in a quiet and sensitive way, like someone being able to honor where you’re at. Hope you are well Liz. (:

  3. I wish I knew more about mental health when I was younger. I remember my first panic attack when I realized I was failed the courses for my major and had to switch to a different field. At work, there wasn’t a lot of training we had for mental health. The most common thing we attribute it to was stress. But I started having anxiety attacks when my exec was always on my case and second guessed everything I did. I had no one to turn to. Even though our company retained a firm that provided counseling, I wasn’t sure if they would somehow tell my company that I was using their services. There was also the stigma of being in mgmt and seeking counselling. If you were in a leadership role, you couldn’t be seen as weak.

    But that’s the past and I’m more educated about this now. I appreciate your blog and I have tremendous amount of admiration for what you’ve done. I know you’ll do well in your interviews. Do you have a preferred city where you want to work?

    • Awww thanks for sharing that history Matt, that’s so unfortunate though! Like the lack of compassion and the toxic capitalism/masculinity of seeking help being perceived negatively. Ugh. I’m glad to hear that you’re more educated about it now. And as always I appreciate your warm words re: my blog! In terms of interviews, hmmm I only applied to places where I’d be at least overall content to live. Trying to not get too attached because the outcome of this process can be so out of my control so doing enough to be prepared though not too much so I’m not super hurt if I don’t match at one of my top sites. Hope you are well!

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