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A KID Psychiatrist on Sarah Silverman’s ‘The Bedwetter’

As a kid psychiatrist, it had been this type of pleasure to visit a play in regards to a child who suffers psychologically and finds a method to heal that will not require an epic quest, a magical ability, learning to be a princess, as well as fixing the issue itself.

Sarah Silverman’s delightfully witty, dirty, and wordy musical, “The Bedwetter,” which ends its run today, includes a spunky and irreverent 10-year-old girl with typical tween issues. A family’s messy divorce necessitates a proceed to an ill-fitting, conservative town, triggering a cascade of social and emotional challenges for Sarah, who also happens to have problems with lifelong primary enuresis, or bed-wetting.

Enuresis is really a universal problem child psychiatrists see inside our offices. Most children grow from it, but also for when it persists, there are plenty of treatments, the mainstay which are behavioral (bell and pad) and pharmaceutical (desmopressin). Like many childhood problems, it could be eliminated quicker now than several decades ago, but only with great motivation and effort, rather than constantly.

In “The Bedwetter,” Sarah is taken up to visit a hilarious group of specialists — a hypnotist in their own midlife crisis does not engage her in a meditation, and endearingly pleads to the audience, “She just must mature!” A suicidal psychopharmacologist maniacally dances around with human-sized Xanax capsules. As hopelessness grows, Sarah’s depression takes hold.

In child psychiatry, often examining one problem uncovers a lot more. What appears like a straightforward treatment is normally not. Healing occurs, much like a skin wound, in layers. This play does a refreshing job of illustrating that process, layer by layer.

First, Sarah’s mother takes the critical step of accepting Sarah’s problems without looking to get her to improve. Changing the focus from “fixing” to patient curiosity helps Sarah feel looked after and understood. Her father then requires a deep breath and invites Sarah to “just tell me what’s in your thoughts.” She eagerly discusses the divorce, her sense of loss and confusion, the social difficulties at school, her failed coping strategies. In doing this, she actually is visibly relieved, even though her problems aren’t “solved.” This is actually the most fundamental action of most psychotherapies — having the ability to download what’s in your thoughts.

Still, Sarah’s shame about her symptom persists. Shame lies in the bottom of several psychiatric problems, and in ways, what it really is to become a kid would be to feel near to the chance for shame all the time. When you’re a youngster, you have hardly any perspective on your own problem and frequently feel alone with it. You’re also a lot more influenced by what adults and peers think about you, as well as your peers, more often than not, are brittle, fickle, and insecure. Further, kids prefer to shame other kids and use special words to evoke maximum shame (one special gift this musical offers is really a song about being “corroded”). Shame can be among the hardest feelings to speak about, due to … well, the shame.

Once the zany character of “Miss New Hampshire,” Sarah’s idol, reveals that she, too, was a bedwetter, Sarah’s shame finds some relief. It generally does not go on it all away but does give Sarah the courage to go toward the ultimate stage of the musical’s plot and of her recovery: to inform the unvarnished truth concerning the bed-wetting in her debut stand-up comedy show to her middle school classmates. That is classic “exposure therapy” — going for a fear and confronting it directly.

Another layer: how do Sarah heal from her parents’ messy divorce?

Even yet in a divorce that’s still raw with grief and rage, Sarah’s parents fill the youngster with love. She, subsequently, can love both parents fully, even for the things that lead them to hate one another. For instance, Sarah’s mother patiently keeps her company in her sadness because she too is bedridden from the depression that her father bitterly critiques as laziness.

Similarly, Sarah perfects the sparkling humor which makes her a star — in her family, her school, and on the planet — due to her father’s off-color behavior (including a parade of infidelities) and his famous “grownup jokes”: “Therefore the Wolf thought to Little Red Riding Hood I’ll eat you, and Little Red Riding Hood thought to the Wolf: ‘eat, eat … doesn’t anybody fanymore?'”

Sarah’s grownups struck me because so many heroic if they offered pointed, generous comments to Sarah about each other, all of which glows such as a golden orb inside her: the salty paternal grandmother, on her behalf death bed, says to Sarah: “You need to be glad to end up like your mom — she’s classy.” So when Sarah’s sister asks their mother, “Is dad an ahole?” She says, “Yes … well, no, he’s an individual,” and “We’ve very little in keeping nowadays except our love for you personally.”

I was sad to see “The Bedwetter’s” mixed reviews. It had been criticized because of its meandering plot, its “feeble and non-noncommittal” scenery, and (albeit wittily) to be “a leaky mess.” To the extent that it didn’t pack a normal punch, it reflected life honestly, which explains why additionally it is unsurprising that rather than likely to Broadway, the show is closing today. That is clearly a shame; it reflects the limited fascination with our culture of the true emotional lives of children.

But I’m mostly writing this because I must say i liked the play. It made me feel great about kids, and the bounty of the duration of time, the nonlinear procedure for problems improving, and the experience of coping with them while they do. It made me feel great about what I really do, the town where I work, enough time we reside in, plus some of individuals, like Sarah Silverman and her colleagues, that are the celebrities of our era. It just made me feel, only a small amount Sarah says on her behalf first day of fifth grade, “really really fing glad to be here.”

Suzanne Garfinkle, MD, is really a child psychiatrist.

This post appeared on KevinMD.

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