You Should Have Your Head Examined!

I first went to a psychiatrist right about the time I turned 18. I had returned home after experiencing what I’d classify as a mini breakdown at Syracuse University and deciding to drop out.

My father would drive me to the doctor, once a week after dinner, and wait in the car for me. When my mother hosted her mahjong group, my dad and I would try to leave unnoticed or else my mother would be bombarded with questions. Lord knows, in those days, psychiatry was for “crazies.”

Although my days of therapy with that doc were short lived (he told my father, after a few months, that I didn’t need to see him anymore), I returned to therapy in my 30s because I never stopped needing it, despite the original psychiatrist’s assessment. By that time, we weren’t hiding our visits. It was actually kind of cool to have a therapist because it showed you were introspective. Smart people were considered introspective.

I saw Dr. Melvyn Schoenfeld on and off for years and he (with the assistance of Zoloft) helped me change my life. He’s a marvelous man and I am grateful I found him.

Today I read a feature article in The New York Times about people in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and even 90s, who are seeing therapists for the first time ever, in an effort to come to terms with their aging and changing lives. They’re facing issues, including new living arrangements, financial hardship, the death of loved ones and chronic health problems. Some of these older patients are clinically depressed “and are recognizing that their golden years might be easier if they alleviate the problems they have been carrying around for decades,” the article noted.

One FOF, 69-year-old Judith Grosz, was so depressed she couldn’t get out of bed, according to the story. Fortunately, she decided to see a therapist, who prescribed medication and guided her on ways to adjust her thinking. Judith eventually discovered that she had an artistic side and started making and selling jewelry.

Marvin Tolkin, now 86, told the Times: “When I hit my 80s, I thought, ‘The hell with this.’ I don’t know how long I’m going to live. I want to make it easier. Everybody needs help, and everybody makes mistakes. I needed to reach outside my own capabilities.”

My mother, who died a little over four years ago, at 86, wasn’t a shred like Marvin. I don’t believe I saw her get depressed, even for a fraction of a day. Freud couldn’t have budged her to become introspective. My father, on the other hand, wasn’t a happy-go-lucky kind of guy. If he was still alive today (he died in 1988, at 69), I think he may have followed Marvin into a therapist’s office.

“The unexamined life is not worth living,” Socrates said.  I, for one, agree.

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