A question that ultimately arises when I mention the name of my practice is – “why Room23”?
When I was in High School, I had a friend by the name of Patrick. We were both avid sports fans and played a lot of basketball together. We would end up at either his place or my place playing endless hours of basketball on make shift courts on our respective driveways. We also ended up playing as teammates on school basketball teams. Such plain and innocent fun, I always remember Patrick as a good basketballer.
One day I went to Patricks place for a shoot around and he bought out his ghetto blaster (ahh the 80’s) complete with some NWA, Public Enemy, or Run DMC, whatever we were listening to at the time. Looking at the radio, I noticed he had a sliver plastic strip sign blue tacked to the top of it that said ‘Room 23’. Evidently Patrick had ‘found’ it at school and decided to bring it home. The sign strongly resembled the signs indicating the classroom numbers at school!
For those who may not realise, the number 23 was worn by Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls, likely the greatest athlete to have ever lived. In his prime, and in a tradition that continues, the Chicago Bulls No. 23 was a jersey that everyone wanted to own and Jordan was the basketballer everyone wanted to be like. I was one of those kids who was awestruck by this tremendous athlete, and in a stroke of luck, it just so happened that 23 was my favourite number due to my birthday falling on the 23rd of the month.
I was a little envious of Patrick having this sign as I thought it would look great on my bedroom door and I told him so. I was a straight laced kid and wouldn’t dream of ‘finding’ such things. At that moment, Patrick offered the sign to me. I tried very hard to say no but thank you, however Patrick insisted. I eventually accepted the sign graciously. I took the sign home and stuck it to my bedroom door where it remained a prized possession for the next 15 years.
After high school we went our separate ways, just as I did with many of my school friends for no other reason than our lives heading in different directions. Patrick was a pretty smart guy and I heard that he went on to complete an engineering degree and gain employment in that field.
I did however remain friends with a mutual friend of Patrick and mine after school. One day I receive a call from our friend who had bad news. Patrick had taken his own life when a long-term relationship had come to an end. I couldn’t believe it.
Our friend also informed me that something we didn’t know was that Patrick had lived for many years with a heroin addiction. This brings into stark focus the stereotype that many people have of drug addiction that is often perpetuated in movies and television shows depicting people living in squaller and stealing to support their habit. However, there is another side of drug addiction and dependence where people seemingly go about their daily business like most other people, but also have a drug addiction. These people are often referred to as “high functioning” addicts. Patrick appears to have been one of these high functioning heroin users.
A normal reaction to learning that someone close to us has been dealing with substance abuse, or other mental health issues, is to think we should have known, that we should have seen the signs, or there must have been something we could have done. Although an understandable and quite normal thought process, this sense of guilt is often suffered needlessly. People have a choice to let us know they need help, and if they choose not to, there is little we can do. It is also likely they have gone to great lengths to ensure we did not know. We have no control over the actions, thoughts, and feelings of other people, no matter how much we think, or wish, we did. All we can do is ask and be there if needed.
This raises the issue of why people don’t ask for help when needed. This reluctance to reach out is often due to the shame the person experiences because of their addiction or issue. This shame is perpetuated by the litany of stereotypical responses to such issues that continue to exist in society today. Issues such as drug use, sexuality, mental illness, and seeing a mental health professional, all continue to carry with them a social stigma that is as harmful as the issue it’s self. Although we cannot control the actions, thoughts, or feelings of another, we can ensure that we are not one of those people who perpetuate harmful stereotypes. We can also ensure we remain open to people and no matter the issue, let them know we are always available to help out should they need it.
So in memory of Patrick and the many other friends lost along the way, I have named my practice Room23 Psychology. Above the ancient Greek library at Thebes was inscribed “The healing place of the soul”. In the footsteps of this axiom, it is my intention to establish Room23 as a safe and caring place for people to come to and work through life’s issues.
It is with delight that I welcome you to Room23 Psychology.