For Emma Forrest, that dark place included deep depression, self-mutilation and an attempt at suicide. Here, the author of Your Voice in My Head explains how therapy helped her find the light.
Q: Can you tell me about your lowest point? What was daily life like for you?
A: The year 2000 in New York. Manic, I thought I was indestructible. I was never into drink or drugs because I didn’t need it – I was stoned on mania. I’d walk in front of cars to make them stop. I was that idiot dancing on tables in the middle of a nice dinner party. Depressed, I’d just stay in bed for the day. It’d take to much effort to move, even to get up and go pee. I just couldn’t stay awake and didn’t want to. I’d cut myself to try and find my way back into my body.
Q: What was the first move you made in turning things around?
A: Well, I was forced into it after the cutting escalated and I tried to kill myself. It took me a long time to fall out of love with the idea that it was my identity, madness. I couldn’t accept, for the first year or two, that cutting was really not okay.
Q: How did therapy help you? Was it more the process or your individual therapist?
A: I did get very lucky, Dr.R was an unusually gifted psychopharmacologist. So he was very good at the meds side of it and got me on the correct one, when so many people never find the right combination, or even deteriorate on it. But for me, the medication, combined with Dr.R’s sessions, his complete faith that I would leave this period of my life behind and be okay – that’s what got me to the next stage. Another patient says in my book “I rode the coat tails of his faith” and that was true for me. He believed I’d be happy one day until I believed it too.
Q: Your therapist died suddenly; how did that loss affect your recovery?
A: I was fully recovered by the time he died. In fact, to my shame, in our last phone session I cut things off early because I really didn’t have anything I needed to talk through. But his widow told me not to feel guilty: that’s what a good shrink wants. They want you to leave their care one day.
Q: Have you been able to get back to a functional, relatively happy place?
A: Yes, he’s left me with the tools to cope with life. I still don’t think life is easy and I still get sad, but I have internalized his voice in my head. He believed that life is vast, and good and worth living, and that’s the gift he’s bequeathed me.