Dec 13

“Your Voice in My Head”: Emma Forrest’s Memoir About Therapist Loss

Your Voice in My Head is every drink that’s ever started out sweet then turned strong enough to sneak up on you and kick your ass to the floor, or bed, or hell, or heaven. Dan Kennedy

In large part about the death and loss of her therapist “Dr. R.,” Your Voice in My Head (2011) by author/screenwriter Emma Forrest is described as follows by the publisher:

Emma Forrest, a British journalist, was just twenty-two and living the fast life in New York City when she realized that her quirks had gone beyond eccentricity. In a cycle of loneliness, damaging relationships, and destructive behavior, she found herself in the chair of a slim, balding, and effortlessly optimistic psychiatrist—a man whose wisdom and humanity would wrench her from the dangerous tide after she tried to end her life. She was on the brink of drowning, but she was still working, still exploring, still writing, and she had also fallen deeply in love. One day, when Emma called to make an appointment with her psychiatrist, she found no one there. He had died, shockingly, at the age of fifty-three, leaving behind a young family. Reeling from the premature death of a man who had become her anchor after she turned up on his doorstep, she was adrift. And when her all-consuming romantic relationship also fell apart, Emma was forced to cling to the page for survival and regain her footing on her own terms.

That romance, by the way, was with actor Colin Farrell. (She doesn’t name him in the book.)

Forrest’s Perception of Dr. R.

Emily Gould, New York Times: “She renders Dr. R.’s gentle elicitations with affecting subtlety; at one point, as her story of a near-rape intertwines with her story of a session, we understand both Dr. R.’s compassion and the tenderness and trust that characterized Forrest’s relationship with him.”

Adds Kirkus Reviews, “Forrest says much about Dr. R., but concludes, ‘I liked how he saw me. It’s that simple.'”

In addition to being let in on Forrest’s personal experience, readers also get to read some letters from other patients of Dr. R.

More Reviews

Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story“Emma Forrest is as hilarious as she is wise. And did I mention generous? Unlike most memoirs this is not merely a song of oneself, but a debt of gratitude repaid to an incredible man—her psychiatrist. Your Voice In My Head is touching, funny, and very real.”

Joanna Smith Rakoff, author of A Fortunate Age“I read Your Voice in My Head in one sitting, by turns laughing out loud, gasping with recognition, and fighting to hold back tears—and wondering, of course, who is Emma Forrest and how is she able to write with such enormous wit and bravery about subjects most folks can’t muster the courage to bring up in conversation: suicide, self-loathing, loneliness, depression, mania, and, most of all, love inexplicably lost.”

May 17

Lee Whitman-Raymond, Therapist and Poet: “De Profundis”

I’ve asked my friend and colleague Dr. Lee Whitman-Raymond to allow me to post her poem “De Profundis” as well as to provide an explication.

From Lee Whitman-Raymond:

I wrote this poem after my analyst died. De Profundis means “out of the deep” and is from a psalm 130: “Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord, Hear my voice.”

A fundamental task of a psychodynamic therapy is for the client and therapist to learn about the client’s pain, its sources and meanings, and for the dyad to hold that pain together. In the beginning, the therapist may hold more, but hopefully as the client understands herself better she becomes more able to hold her own disavowed feelings and unbearable pain within herself and with trusted loved ones. Because this is such an intimate and collaborative enterprise, the therapist’s death can be experienced not just as a loss, but as a traumatic loss, as the client is left alone to contain not only the pain she came to the therapist to help her with, but also the loss of an important caregiver, sometimes the very first reliable one in a person’s life.

The Poem

De Profundis

the lost
drifts into the deep
where have you gone

you promised I would be
in your thoughts
now your thoughts are
not

Into the deep I pour these tears
what is abyss
a bissell
a big shell

a hollow wallow
with no skin
a falling into
falling

like on the stairs
because of not
holding on

crayons in each chubby fist
yellow crimson black
like the arm at the foot of the stairs
broken and reset

because it was not believed
that I fell
laid so still
on my white coverlet

broken in pieces
only breaking
to hold onto

you  and now not you
I said I could remember it all
I said I wouldn’t forget

yet every day I forgot
one more sentence
another smile

this skull, little tomb
a falling inside

yes a falling sickness
and yet

we do not forget
the stretch of green

bluing into night
against your window
I see you still
dark space at the window

the silence of entwining
the spirit of falling
the sudden ground

(in memory of  Andrew Morrison, MD 1937-2010)

More from Lee Whitman-Raymond:

In this poem I am falling, but also recalling the way my analyst and I talked together: a bissell is Yiddish for “a little” and reminds me of the connection I also had with my grandparents.

Falling and the fear of falling—out of control, without boundaries to contain the vast feelings are central themes to this poem. But in the resolution I discover that I did/do remember, and as I do, I feel the ground under me again, I am contained and held by the earth and by my memories of him, as he would surely want.