Nov 09

Group Therapy Saved Christie Tate’s Life

People who knew Tate probably didn’t see her as the sort who hoped that “someone would shoot me in the head.” Kirkus Reviews, regarding Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life

What’s it like to be in group therapy? Christie Tate tells readers about the importance of her own experience in her new memoir, Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life. “Tate sets a positive example by destigmatizing and demystifying group therapy, but she is careful never to present herself as an expert” (NPR).

How did she make the decision to try group therapy? At the time a high achieving law school student, Tate had hit a depressive low. A therapist recommended she enter one of his therapy groups: “Christie is skeptical, insisting that that she is defective, beyond cure. But Dr. Rosen issues a nine-word prescription that will change everything: ‘You don’t need a cure, you need a witness’.”

An excerpt from Chapter One describes her mental state before making her decision:

In my journal, I used vague words of discomfort and distress: I feel afraid and anxious about myself. I feel afraid that I’m not OK, will never be OK & I’m doomed. It’s very uncomfortable to me. What’s wrong with me? I didn’t know then that a word existed to perfectly define my malady: lonely….

I was already in a 12-step program….Twelve-step recovery had arrested the worst of my disordered eating, and I credited it with saving my life. Why was I now wishing that life away? I confessed to my sponsor who lived in Texas that I’d been having dark thoughts.

‘I wish for death every day.’ She told me to double up on my meetings.

I tripled them, and felt more alone than ever.

From Publishers Weekly:

Tate delivers a no-holds-barred account of her five-plus years in group therapy in this dazzling debut memoir….[She] ended up in group therapy with Jonathan Rosen, a quirky but wise Harvard-educated therapist who insisted that his clients keep no secrets—neither from him nor the group (‘keeping secrets from other people is more toxic than other people knowing your business,’ he reasoned). Tate then unveils the intimate details of her romantic life….Through therapy, Tate found a sense of self-worth, and eventually a lawyer named John at work (‘I felt something I’d never felt with a man before: calm, quiet, happy, and excited’). Readers will be irresistibly drawn into Tate’s earnest and witty search for authentic and lasting love.

Selected Reviews of Group

Kirkus Reviews: “Tate documents her alternately loving and confrontational encounters with fellow group members, but most of the book focuses on her many attempts to find the perfect man.”

Lori Gottlieb, author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone (see previous posts, “Therapist in Therapy” and “What Is Therapy?“) : “It takes courage to bare your soul in front of a therapist, but when you add six strangers to the mix, it becomes an act of faith. In Group, Christie Tate takes us on a journey that’s heartbreaking and hilarious, surprising and redemptive—and, ultimately, a testament to the power of connection. Perhaps the greatest act of bravery is that Tate shared her story with us, and how lucky we are that she did.”

Ada Calhoun, author of Why We Can’t Sleep (see previous post here): “In this therapeutic page-turner, a boon especially to women struggling with loss, loneliness, or imposter syndrome, Christie Tate tells the story of how she overcame trauma and found love. Her hard-won strategy is as simple to say as it is tough to do: keep showing up.”

Jan 23

Storm Large: Whether to Become “Crazy Enough”

First, a musical based on her life—and a CD to include its songs—and now, her written memoir. The title of all three? Crazy Enough. The performer/singer/author? Storm Large.

I saw Storm Large front the fantastic musical group Pink Martini last summer when their regular lead singer, China Forbes, was sidelined for a spell. One reviewer who’d seen a similar show on their tour aptly stated that Large exhibits an “over-the-top-yet-remarkably-on-point style.”

The book, which was released on January 10th, is described on her website:

Storm spent most of her childhood visiting her mother in mental institutions and psych wards. Suzi’s diagnosis changed with almost every doctor visit, ranging from schizophrenia to bipolar disorder to multiple personality disorder to depression. As hard as it was not having her at home, Storm and her brothers knew that it was a lot safer to have their beautiful but unreliable mom in a facility somewhere. Then one day, nine-year-old Storm jokingly asked one of her mother’s doctors, ‘I’m not going to be crazy like that, right?’ To which he replied, ‘Well, yes. It’s hereditary. You absolutely will end up like your mother. But not until your twenties.’

OOMPH.

Maybe you can already imagine what happened next. Besides not actually becoming her mother, that is…

“Knowing” that she would be “crazy” herself someday, she lived on the edge from an early age, growing right into her real birth name of “Storm.” (She also grew into her given surname of “Large,” developing to six feet tall in her early teens.) She did in fact develop a heroin addiction and an eating disorder; she did in fact develop other kinds of “craziness” and issues.

What eventually saved her in her 20’s? Music.

As told by her book publisher, Simon and Schuster:

…with nothing to live for and a growing heroin addiction, Storm accepted a chance invitation to sing with a friend’s band. That night she reconnected with her long-term love of music, and it dragged her back from the edge. She has been singing and slinging inappropriate banter at audiences worldwide ever since…With tremendous honesty and tremendous dirty language, Crazy Enough is about an artist’s journey of realizing that the mistakes that make, break, and remake us are worth far more than our flailing attempts to live a life we think is ‘normal.’ It is a love song to the twisted, flawed parts in all of us and a nod to the grace we find when things fall apart.

Publisher’s Weekly: “…her memoir boils down to the tension inherent in her relationship with her mother, who used her sickness as emotional manipulation. In her gutsy, shrill way, Large exhibits an engaging insouciance in delving into very real, scary, emotionally weighty issues.”

Kirkus Reviews: “The author’s prose is casual and vernacular, rife with descriptions that are not for the faint of heart. Though not necessarily likable, she comes across as authentic and unapologetic.”

It looks like the most popular YouTube video of Storm Large, by far, involves the song “8 Miles Wide,” which was part of her one-woman show. It’s basically a tribute to her vagina, which her lyrics indicate is only “…a metaphor for [my] super vigantastically mystical feminine goddess core.”

Update, 2022: My selection below, on the other hand, has her performing on America’s Got Talent, in what is one of the best examples of her least out-there-ness: