Sometimes my patients tell me they feel hopeless. They know they repeat self-destructive behaviors. They know they should break away from unhealthy relationships. They are aware of their critical self-talk and the ways they keep themselves small.
When my patients lose hope, I hold it for them. Although change takes work, my conviction that the brain and mind heal is unwavering. Everyone knows that the body heals itself. You fall and scrape your knee. Then, if you take care of your wound (clean it, put a bandage on it, etc.) your body heals. Just like your body heals, so do your brain and mind heal with good care.
Hope and healing are two of the themes of my current favorite television show: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I love how Rachel Bloom, the show’s creator, addresses mental health issues through a light-hearted musical comedy love story. Humor makes the many psychological themes addressed in the show accessible. For example: What is psychotherapy? How does childhood trauma affect our current mental state? What makes people sabotage themselves? What does a diagnosis say about someone? These are just some of the topics addressed on this show. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is utterly self-aware. For example, it knows using the word "crazy" in the title is offensive to some people with mental illness. She does it to raise awareness.
Being a huge fan of Rachel Bloom, I bought tickets to see her in conversation at the 92Y in New York City where I live. The event began with a screening of the last episode. I had seen it but found it enjoyable for the second time. Then Rachel and a journalist sat and talked for the next 45 minutes. Audience members were given the opportunity to write down questions on a 3 x 5 index card. A few would be selected for Rachel to answer at the end of the talk.
Being the avid question-asker I am, I excitedly wrote down my question on the card trying to add in some humor of my own. I gave it to the usher who was collecting everyone's cards. Here is what I wrote:
"Rachel, I love your show! What is the #1 message you hope your audience will take away from the show from a mental health perspective?
Signed, Hilary Jacobs Hendel, S.H.R.I.N.K."
Finally, they started reading the audience questions. They didn’t read mine. Then Rachel said they had time for one more. She skimmed through a pile of cards, smiled, and pulled one out. Next thing I knew, she read my card verbatim! She even laughed at my joke of signing it, SHRINK.
But, what I wanted to share in this post was Rachel Bloom’s answer to my question. What was the #1 message she wanted to convey from a mental health perspective?
That there is always hope for healing.
Yes!!! I thought. Rachel is right!
Here are 3 reasons why there is always hope for healing:
Neuroplasticity means it is never too late for the brain to change and therefore heal.
Safe, loving, and affirming relationships create an environment for healing.
Experiencing emotions is a catalyst for healing.
My book on emotions comes out in two weeks. And if there is one all-encompassing message I want my readers to take away, it would be the same: that there is always hope for healing.