Saturday, this great day in 2008, marked the one year anniversary of the launch of ShrinkTalk.Net, brought to you by the good people at Rudius Media. Let’s review:
When I started writing this site, I had a number of specific goals in mind:
1) Debunk the myth that professional help-seeking is only for “crazies”
2) Demonstrate psychological principles in an entertaining, non-textbook format
3) Show that therapy doesn’t need to be such a secretive, taboo and shameful experience
4) Illustrate the complete human element of shrinks, including the neuroses and quirks that we all experience as part of the human condition
These goals came from an immediate realization upon entering the field that many people do not understand what mental health is really all about. As someone with a degree and some rudimentary life experience (i.e., street cred), I believed I had an obligation to put some sort of dent into these myths. One year and 90-something posts later I think things are off to a good start. Aside from some random idiots who send me moronic and mean-spirited comments about people with psychological or psychiatric conditions, most readers have given me reason to believe the mission is going well:
“Dr. Rob, your blog is great. I’ve applied some things that you’ve written to my own life with success.”
“Rob, thank you for showing us the lighter side of psychology. I didn’t know how interesting your field of work is.”
“Rob, your mother is hilarious! No wonder you’re so neurotic!”
“Dr. Rob, thanks for writing! Knowing you’re kind of a fuck up in both the office and your real life makes me see my own shrink in a new light.”
“Dr. Rob, I’m a high-profile stripper that charges 10K per night. However, your writing is worth so much more than that to me. Could I come over and spend an evening catering to your every whim? I have my own pole.”
These are all fantastic and a pleasure to read (although I don’t know if I’d call myself a “fuck up” in the office. Outside of it, absolutely). I print out each one to show the family I’ll never have and I attempt to contact every reader (with or without a pole) who has reached out. If I’ve failed at any point, please contact me again. I’m also a compliment junkie so feel free to write simply for the ego stroke.
Some reader mail, though, truly cuts to the core of what ShrinkTalk.Net is all about:
“Dr. Rob, thank you your writings. Because of my pride I’ve been very disdainful towards individuals who might help me (i.e., family, friends, psychiatrists). But, after reading ShrinkTalk.Net, where therapy is not just for the ‘weak’ or ‘crazy,’ I decided to contact a mental health professional and start some weekly therapy. My quality of life has improved because of therapy. You inspired me to try it.”
“Rob, your site has helped me learn that being in the care giving field of mental health is so much more, so in depth, and so beyond my means of understanding, that I think you are doing the literary world a major service providing the extent of care you give. That way we can all understand how serious your work really is for your patients and all your colleagues’ patients.”
This one is my favorite, possibly because it was the first serious email I received:
Tomorrow morning I have an appointment with a psychiatrist in ______________. I am terrified, and embarrassed, and I honestly don’t want to go (despite the fact that I know it will help). However, reading your columns for the past few weeks has really helped me to see the human side of the therapist, and made me feel comfortable enough to make the very necessary appointment. For that, I sincerely thank you.
I don’t think a shrink doubling as a writer can ask for more than that.
This second career didn’t develop the way I had originally planned. I didn’t begin as a writer on the web. I wrote a book first, thinking that my doctorate and somewhat neurotic take on mental health would make me an instant success. Even though the book was pretty good conceptually, it wasn’t all that well-written, had no real voice behind it and was ultimately passed on by every publisher it was shopped to by my literary agent. Being a nobody didn’t help my case very much either. The disappointment was colossal. I was ready to call it quits on writing, then decided – one Saturday night at 2 AM after a few glasses of pinot noir and a thorough review of all of my rejection letters – to submit some chapters from the book to Rudius Media. Their site talked about helping writers who had been rejected from the mainstream entertainment industry, to help them find their voice and build an audience. Being a reject without a solid voice and no audience made me think I might be a decent fit. Sure enough, they saw some potential in me and my material, gave me a killer editor and together we’ve put together a product I can be proud of. What was the book about? Hopefully I’ll be making an announcement about it sometime down the line and you’ll know all about it.
I feel a strange pressure when it comes to writing ShrinkTalk. I knew very little about the internet world upon starting. Thus I didn’t know who, if anyone, would read my material. A few entries went up in the first two weeks. People started commenting and emailing about the material. Most liked it. Readers started to add my site to their RSS feeds and soon there were hundreds of people who were curious about what I was going to write the next week. My usually high self-esteem was dumbfounded. Who cares what I have to say? This mental commotion was further fueled by an increase in business as new clients called seeking appointments. “I regularly read your blog. You seem down to earth and human. Other therapists are so stuffy. When can I come in?” When I told my own therapist about my surprise and confusion at having any sort of fan base she told me that I was devaluing myself and what I have to offer the world. That’s something I need to work on because I still have a small voice in my head that says “really?” when readers add positive comments or send emails saying how much they like my material.
A few added bonuses from this year:
Working with the always controversial Dick Masterson of MenAreBetterThanWomen.com and the self-loathing, celebrity stalking Drunken Stepfather.Com. While you and I may not agree with everything they say or believe let me tell you that these are men who are true to their word. I’m finding that this is pretty rare in the internet world. Just because there are people out there who write more benign sites about good-looking women hanging out with meatheads or about the tastes of Caucasian people don’t assume that these are people of integrity. They’re not and don’t follow through with what they agree to.
Having Shrinks Get it Wrong Sometimes published in Norton’s “The Best in Creative Non-Fiction, Volume 2“. There’s something bizarrely fascinating about holding a published book in your hands, reading your own words that you typed into Microsoft Word ten months before. Even if no one else reads it, it’s quite the rush. That being said, I think the researchers over at Norton must have had a few beers in them when they selected my work because the stories in this collection are far, far superior to mine. Check it out if you have a chance. And no, I don’t get any royalties from the book sales. I specifically asked the publisher because my mother is mentioned in that piece and she wanted a cut.
Very few good things in life come without consequences, however. Life on ShrinkTalk.Net isn’t all strippers and fan mail you know. Stay tuned for some of the less appealing results of this site, including some of my colleagues’ reactions, hateful comments and an unfortunate job change.