Recently there has been a lot of discussion in our community surrounding a quote by Dr. Phil McGraw.
I have never been a very big fan of Mr. McGraw but I will admit that I was a little surprised to hear that he said something even remotely close because his show airs during the middle of the day when often the only ones who are at home, unwinding with a television show are those who are unwell in some capacity (whether that is because they are chronically ill, recovering from an illness, recovering from a surgery, mentally ill or otherwise) or have the economical means (the wealthy or the retired)… And by saying something like that, he is alienating a large portion of his viewing audience.
That’s not to say that he wouldn’t say it. God knows it’s not the first time he has made a bad choice. But I was reading about it on the internet and I know better than to trust everything I read on the internet so I decided to look into things on my own.
While looking into these allegations, I found a couple of really interesting things.
The first being that while Mr. McGraw has a doctorate in psychology, he does not have his license to practice as a therapist of any kind… Yet he does that every single day on his television show. How does he get by without getting into any real trouble? He doesn’t diagnose or treat anyone, he simply offers his thoughts and advice.
Thoughts and advice that people take to heart because they assume that he is licensed.
In order to maintain a license in the medical community (whether it be as a medical doctor, a dentist, or a therapist) one must complete so much continuing education hours every year. This helps medical professionals keep up with knew information (diagnoses, treatments, techniques, etc.) in their profession.
Mr. McGraw kept up with these requirements for 15 years while he practiced in Texas but allowed his Texas license to retire 13 years ago in 2006 and never transferred his license to California.
While you are all trying to finish wrapping your heads around the fact that 2006 was 13 years ago… Let me through another curveball at you… The Dr. Phil show is scripted!
You read that correctly.
They have script writers that decide what is going to happen on each show before the show is ever filmed.
More or less, the writers screen and review the submissions sent in by viewers requesting help from the show. They then contact the viewers letting them know that they have been chosen to be on the show but that there are some parts of their story that they will need to be comfortable making their story… “juicier” for entertainment purposes. They sign a nondisclosure form, work through the changes to their story and come to an agreement, before setting a date and making travel arrangements.
Once the agreements have been made, the writers get to work and script a majority of the show.
Which brings me to my next point:
Mr. McGraw actually stated “you can be his lover or you can be his caregiver, but you can’t be both… It won’t work, 100 out of 100 times this won’t work.” while referring to the caregiver and girlfriend of a disabled man. And while what he actually said and what he was quoted to have said is definitely no better… are we any better than the professional we hold to such high standards if we misquote them for our convenience?
As many in the chronic illness community have already said, there are many successful relationships involving a disabled person and a caregiver. Relationships that have gone on for years and years. And perhaps Mr. McGraw would know more about these things if he had kept up with his continuing education.
Mr. McGraw’s shock at the thought that an able bodied lover could also take the role of a caregiver to a disabled lover is what makes those of us who are disabled feel like we are unworthy of love.
Traditional marriage vows typically contain a verse that is something along the lines of “in sickness and in health” and yet Mr. McGraw feels that it is too much to ask that these vows be taken seriously should something unspeakable happen.
According to Mr. McGraw, if two healthy people enter into marriage and one of them is injured in an accident or becomes ill or has a stroke and their spouse chooses and even prefers to be the caregiver, their relationship (in Mr. McGraw’s opinion) is doomed to fail. No matter how long they were together before.
Are relationships a lot of work? Of course, but I don’t know that relationships where one of the parties is sick or injured and requires care giving is necessarily more work than a relationship where both parties are healthy.
In late 2010, my uncle was in a horrific accident. A distracted driver ran a red light and t-boned the passenger side of my uncles car… totaling the car and leaving my uncle with serious injuries. Because of the broken vertebrae and jaw in his neck he was confined to a halo, and his jaw wired shut among many other injuries, but considering how horrific the accident was, we were thankful he was alive.
While he was in the hospital, his wife stayed 3 hours from their home and their children (on the other side of the state) with him to be close to him in the hospital in case he needed her. When he was able to come home she drove him to and from doctors appointments, encourage him through physical therapies, and helped care for him because the halo made it impossible to move.
Just 4 years later, my aunt had a stroke 14 days before Christmas in 2014. It caused significant damaged to 40-50% of the right side of her brain causing her to lose complete function of the left side of her body. After many months of rehab she has regained the ability to walk with the assistance of a cane but tires easily. She has not yet, unfortunately, regain any movement in the left arm or hand. We certainly don’t see her as any less of a person because of her stroke. And either does her husband who has taken the role of her caregiver for the last 4 and a half years.
Following the stroke while my aunt worked to regain use of the left side of her body, her husband was there at her side to help encourage her through physical therapy sessions, help her with home physical therapy, cook, clean, drive her to and from appointments, pay bills, etc. All the things that had originally been taken care of by my aunt. It was a major shift. I won’t deny that it was definitely a major adjustment for the two of them, but they didn’t just give up on their relationship because she was no longer able to keep up with her portion of the responsibilities.
Because she has not regained use of her left arm, there are still a lot of things that she requires assistance with that she used to be able to do on her own, but she has regained the ability to use her leg which means that she can walk and drive.
Unfortunately, 9 years after his accident, my uncle still experiences daily pain in his neck and my aunt, despite not having the use of her left arm will sit and massage his neck with her right to try to relieve the stiffness and ease the pain. They care for each other.
What I am trying to say is that love shows up.
And Mr. McGraw’s viewers trust him to be educated on the things that he offers advice about but he has not kept up to date on his education. More than that, as someone who has no experience living as the caregiver of his spouse or a marriage counselor to those who do, he is definitely not an expert on this specific subject. He is an entertainer. An entertainer who tried to tell the entire world that disabled people are too much work and only the rich (who can afford good insurance and/or a caregiver who isn’t a family member) have a chance at love and personally, I think that’s a bunch of bullshit. And I don’t know about you but it is certainly not a world I want to live in.