In any case, I was so upset by all the people being fired, and feeling myself as if I were one of them and not rehired, as was in fact the case, led me to perceive that my grasp of reality was off a bit. I had of course known that for a very long time, given my seven years in the hole, and the results of the MMPP saying I was a danger to myself and others, and getting out of the draft because I was nuts. But with my new self-terminating one year contract, I would be making something like 18,000 dollars in the upcoming year (this was 1981 maybe) so I could afford to seek the assistance of a professional.
So not only was I the first person in my family to get a PhD, I was also the first to seek the help of a psychotherapist. The two things are not unrelated. Working class people do not seek the assistance of psychotherapists, though they will take meds if they have a doctor who prescribes them, but a shrink—that’s a different matter. As one working class friend put it, he could never go to a shrink because doing so was just too self-involved and self-indulgent. That’s how I felt about it too.
And going to a shrink seemed as if you were sort of officially declaring that you were a nut. If you didn’t go to a shrink, you could think that, while you were nuts, you were not really nuts, just sort of psychologically off your feed, or maybe a bit moody, you know, or perhaps given to the “blues.” Hell, lots of people feel like crap till the day they die. That doesn’t mean they are nuts.
But this shrink thing didn’t make any sense unless you accepted, at least provisionally, that you were nuts. Why else would you go to see a shrink and pay that shrink money to talk with you unless you were nuts. I took the whole thing too seriously I guess. I hadn’t been raised middle class, and didn’t know that for some middle class people going to a shrink was more of a lifestyle choice like buying a BMW or something. I didn’t know that some people—way up there on the social and financial scale—were not ashamed or embarrassed to go to a shrink but actually competed with each other as to who had the most famous or expensive shrink.
So not only was going to a shrink a lifestyle choice—to help you over life bumps or to help you maximize your potential and become self-actualized—it was a status symbol. But these people most went to righteous Freudian guys where you went like three or four times a week and paid an arm and a leg to do it. For me getting a shrink was not a lifestyle choice. I was not concerned about self-actualizing my potentials but about falling off the face of the earth. Also I couldn’t afford a status symbol shrink. I needed a bargain basement Wal-Mart sort of shrink.
Being around more middle class people I had heard a few of them—fellow graduate students or visiting lecturers—mention having gone to a shrink for this or that. They didn’t seem embarrassed by it but then they always went for something pretty specific—like, my mother just died, or I was having a lifestyle transition. Me though I knew I looking for a bargain basement shrink because I was nuts.