I fired my therapist. I have been informed that because I am a Capricorn, I describe my life as a series of business transactions. I did not cancel my next appointment. I fired her. I dismissed her from her post.
The reason for the firing is as follows: I had just finished telling her a wild story. It wasn’t a heartbreaking story, or a story that would make you concerned for my wellbeing. It was the kind of story you might divulge to someone in a hushed voice as you lean over your drinks conspiratorially, a can you believe this shit?? kind of story. When I finished, she paused, as she often would, and then asked, “have you considered killing yourself?” Before I could splutter much more than a hearty “NO?” she pulled out her day planner and did the sigh-and-resettle-in-her-seat which invariably means: session over. See you in two weeks.
I never expected this therapist to be great. I had opted for a sliding-scale plan that paired me with someone with a fresh PhD and unpolished skills. Her neutral expression was like gazing into the blank eyes of a sheep. She often hit me with long, police interrogator pauses to get me to volunteer more information, even though I’m a forthcoming patient (I have a blog; I’m not exactly the reticent type). None of this was ideal, but I wanted a therapist more as a sounding board than an analyst so I was willing to let it slide. But this question about suicidality felt like she might as well have hit me with her car. Not only was it completely tone-deaf, it also hinted at a dangerous precedent.
What do we do with the millennial who doesn’t have a death wish?
The timing of her question was telling. Suicidality didn’t come up significantly in my intake interview (in fact, I’m sure I must have said that I don’t experience suicidal thoughts), nor did it come up in any of my previous sessions, which had spanned several months. No, instead it came up when I talked about something larger than life, something full of baffling but salacious details. The message, then, was “situations that you do not understand – situations that seem bigger than you and that are functioning on precepts that you have not internalized – should make you want to die.” That message in that moment might be a trigger. If I was someone more impressionable I might then wonder, is something wrong with me that this doesn’t make me want to die? Should I learn to want to die?
I don’t have any big inspirational thoughts about not wanting to die. I’m just not the type. I’m plenty sad, but I’m also hardheaded, and I live with a chronic health condition that gives my self-preservation instinct a solid boost. My father and his siblings are like this too, so much so that I’ve joked about how Too Stubborn To Die should be the family crest. One of my primary motivations might be spite.
But look, I get it! Millennials are depressed. That’s the joke! We make the shitposts! We have student loan debt! We’ve bankrupted ourselves on avocados and Juul pods and it’s all a very tired routine. If you’re looking at memes alone, of course it’s going to look like we’re all in the midst of some mass psychogenic dysphoria. But clearly, my ex-therapist wasn’t looking at memes alone. She was speaking to millennials all day, as the clientele at this office were overwhelmingly young and queer. I’m sure a significant number of her other patients do deal with suicidal ideation. But for the ones that don’t, I believe that she was leaning so hard into the Millennial As Archetype that those of us who didn’t fit her pattern of young-gay-wants-to-die were seen as aberrant. I suspect that if I continued those sessions, she would have no idea how to treat me. Clearly, her burning need to ask that question in that moment signaled that, despite many sessions, she still had no working metric for my average emotional state, and never would.
The hold music at this office was the Mii channel music, which I suppose is telling. Appeal to your clientele. Speak their language. Fit their mold. I didn’t book a session with another therapist there for lack of motivation, but I have idly wondered if they are running some kind of millennial suicidality industrial complex back there. Welcome to therapy! Want to die! No? We can fix that! Please come up with a list of reasons you’d like to die by your next session, and we’ll get to work… Jokes aside, even if it’s not the entire staff, even if it’s just one therapist seeing a handful of clients, the damage is done. It’s not analysis. It’s just wholesale stereotyping and it’s doing the entire field a disservice.