One show I came across earlier this year had a surprisingly profound impact on the way I considered terminal and chronic illnesses. It may seem strange for me to say this, but I really had quite a typical, somewhat unhealthy, response to other peoples illnesses.
Yes, I have a chronic illness, I have lived with it for years. It has given me the best insight in the world. BUT only to MY particular case of MY illness. I am not even close to an expert on the general particulars of the illness I suffer from.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. It’s rubbish. No two diagnoses are the same. Not in symptoms, treatments, progresion.
This is actually not the case for many other illnesses though. I cannot say all. I am not a doctor or health professional of any sort. What I know is some illnesses follow some more traditional processes and have a more clear progression. What I also know, both as a person who has lived it and from the multitudes of research I have undertaken on the topic is that psychologically many people when diagnosed with a chronic, ongoing or terminal illness have quite similar reactions. A person who has not experienced this can not understand, until it is them in the patients seat, what this feels like. No one can guess how they will respond then either. We all die and there is a chance you will go through these emotions yourself, but if it is later in your life you may be better prepared to cope with this.
Paul Weston (the talented Gabriel Byrne) is a therapist. In the course of a series you see Paul attend to a handful of patients out of his private home practice. Each episode is a session, each patient has 8-10 sessions. The incredible genius of this show is the single focus of each episode.
This is not a fast paced show and is not for people who like/need to have their ideas challenged or need to see a lot of action, scene changes and fast paced conversation.
This is a show for people who are interested in the process of therapy, either for their misgivings on the topic, to understand what the process is, or to see the intricacies of how different personalities handle situations.
I loved this show in general because of the insight into what conflicts and issues an individual is handling mentally and emotionally. There is nothing special about these people to indicate they have a need for therapy. There is nothing about their issues that screams the need for therapy or professional assistance. This is actually what psychology and psychotherapy is like and this is why I loved the show. You also see the issues Paul Weston is dealing with, which goes to show everyone needs help sometimes.
-Enter SEASON TWO
Now you are familiar with Paul and his life and how he operates the program takes on some stronger characters and conflicts. Paul has serious issues himself.
April is a young architecture student who has been diagnosed with Lymphoma. She is hiding her illness from everyone in her life. As a viewer you see a young independent and isolated woman attempting to ignore, suppress and rationalise her feelings and illness. Every stage April passes through is a stage I could appreciate and reflect on. I’ve known what her fears did to her. I’ve thrown that kind of anger around. I have pushed people away just as she does and asked all the same kinds of questions as her. I don’t have a terminal cancer or a condition as strong as hers but I have lived for times in a state where the reality of a shorter existence in this world was real.
What this season and April did for me was to show me that no matter how similar the phases are, and how much I can appreciate what she is going through, April isn’t me. My illness and experience with illness is not the same as anyone elses. I have always tried to allow myself to be open with others about what I go through, as I believe that my sharing may inspire other people to take courage and strength to handle their own struggles or appreciate what others are going through. You can’t take away anothers pain, or change they way they feel. You can’t help a person that doesn’t want to, or isn’t yet emotionally and mentally ready, to help themselves.
There is this misconception about psychotherapy and psychology that when you are ‘In Treatment’ that there is something profoundly wrong, that you need fixing or help coping, or that a psychologist will immediately resolve issues and provide answers. The truth is you are the one that needs to help yourself. The treatment and help that you receive in this kind of therapy is the ability to consider the way in which you think, react and respond to your environment and the events and people in it. A psychologist is an educated health professional that is trained to stimulate your mind to enable you to develop and restructure your way of thinking to help you better cope with your environment. They won’t tell you what is right or wrong, but they will help you to see where there are disconnects and disparities and how to resolve them. In Treatment is the perfect example of how this happens and how effective this can be. I believe psychology can help everyone and I hope there comes a time when most people attend therapy at least semi-regularly in their lives.
For help on finding someone to talk to…