Friday, November 20, 2009

House Rules

I watched a television show tonight, for the first time since starting seminary. It's Friday night, I'm home alone with the kids, and they're in bed after having a wonderful night watching 101 Dalmations (the original, I might add) and eating fish sticks in front of the tv. I found myself upstairs and in bed long before my normal bedtime, quite awake. Frankly, I didn't really want to be alone with my thoughts, so I flipped open my "free tv online" site and found the first episode of the 6th season of House.

Whew. Let me post this now: SPOILER ALERT. If you haven't seen it, please don't yell at me when I talk about plot points. I've given fair warning. There.

First, I didn't realize it was a long episode, so that took me by surprise. Second, I wasn't sure where they were going to go with it. The last season ended with House walking mostly voluntarily into a mental hospital, looking for help. This season started there, but I was afraid it was just going to be, "Oh, he stayed, and got off drugs, and now he's fine." It wasn't.

Is it sad that I can find so much of myself in what House is going through? I recognized so many of my own stages in his time in the mental ward. He went in to deal with the physical symptoms: hallucinations and drug addiction. He met up with a good doctor who refused to let him go until he dealt with the real problem.

House threatens to mess up the ward, "turn it upside down" as he says. The docs don't really seem to be impressed - they just point out that he isn't the first unruly patient they've dealt with, and invite him to spend some time thinking quietly in a padded room. I've been there, in the "mess it up" stage. I don't want your help, and I want to make everyone suffer because I am suffering. I hated it, inside, but it had its momentary satisfaction. After all, as the saying goes, misery loves company. If I'm going to feel crappy, I may as well take along as many others as I can.

His second ploy is to go around to each of the other patients and use his powers of observation and inventive insults to deeply hurt each of them. He freaks out the claustrophobic guy by crowding him. He tells the suicide chick that she's worthless. He tells the anorexic guy that yes indeed, his pants DO make him look fat. That kind of thing. I've done that, too. Watching it on television was almost too painful, even knowing that was what was coming. I've purposefully hurt people like that, like a knife wound through their soul. I've also realized that I spent so many years doing it purposefully that now, without meaning, I still do it sometimes. I watched House come to that realization, too.

Then he decides to play it straight, starts talking in group, is nice to everyone, and apparently is compliant with his meds. Of course, he's just doing it to get out, and isn't actually taking his meds at all. Turns out his doctors know it, and mess with him in a lot of ways to make sure they have it right. They let him travel along his path of lies for a long time before they finally call him on it, and then prove that they knew it all along. Here, too, I realized I've done it. "Look at me, even off meds I'm fine!"

Then the big talk with himself (though he actually talks to another character, the "talk" is really to himself) wondering if there's any difference between pretending to comply, and complying. Wilson helps him by not helping him, and he accidentally causes some major harm to one of the patients at the mental ward. It's a wake-up call for him. Been there, too. Coming to be with my poly family was that wake-up for me. Having to put the family first, instead of myself, was one of the most difficult lessons for me.

So much of the episode resonated. I was listening to my own words and inner monologue come out of House's mouth. He talks with his shrink, asking how you become happy. What does he have to do to get out? How can me make it happen? He pushes people away, thinking that's the right thing to do, not realizing that he should be learning from them instead of shoving at them.

Eventually, he opens himself up. He opens himself to a woman, and while there is a sexual encounter, it's really not the important part. She hurts him, and badly. Instead of running off, or doing something self-destructive, or lashing out to hurt someone else and drag them into his own miasma, he turns to his psyche, and talks. I remember several moments like that with my therapists over the past five years... moments when the feelings and emotions came pouring out of me, floods of self-recrimination, fear, loathing, anger, frustration, egomaniacal self-delusion... I remember how good it felt to admit I didn't understand any of those things, and that I knew I really needed help.

So I sat down to watch the show House, and ended up spending almost as much time thinking afterward as if I'd just started with the thinking. Maybe I needed that thinking time, and that pointed message. I have no idea what called to me to watch House tonight. I have a novel I'm writing for NaNoWriMo that is far behind in word count which I had intended to make my priority, but House won. Why? Does it matter? Not really.
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