Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Relative Geyser of Hope

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Not That I Admitted It, or Necessarily Recognized It at the Time

She was good-looking; attractive face; nice haircut; older than I; not short, but small -- super-slim; I felt big next to her; her handshake was not firm, but was warm; a wedding ring made of side-by-side diamonds; a super-fancy watch, the brand of which I didn't recognize, other than that it was more than I could afford; a purposeful walk, but not quite a lesbian gait; tan corduroy vest; construction-paper pumpkin on her office-door; fancy office with brick walls and three little windows above my eyes' reach to see outside...and vice versa -- reminded me of windows in a TV jail-cell; a book on the desk that looked like a novel, but couldn't quite read the title without being obvious; she pulled a chair up and put up her feet, which were clad in dark-brown, glossy-leather, flat ankle-boots; she leaned her notepad on her knees and began taking notes, which made me feel important; I couldn't help noticing the hip and leg closest to me as she began writing, but shooed away my distraction.

"I'm going to take some notes, too," I said. "I've never done that in therapy, but I think I want to now." (Either it made her uncomfortable, or she didn't care.)

"I just think that when two people are in a room and one is the focus of attention, good things can happen," said this new therapist when, if I remember correctly, I asked her why I should believe in therapy.

"I just come in and I tell stories. That's all I've ever done with a therapist. They're entertained -- not to flatter myself -- but what did I get?"

"Telling stories is good. Constructing a narrative is an integrative experience."

"What does 'integrative' mean in this case?"

"You talk about things that are disparate and it might not be an 'Aha moment,' but you might feel better or click at a deeper level."

(Now, *that* would be a relief -- to see connections I hadn't thought of...but I didn't tell the therapist that.)

Earlier in the session:

"How does your fear manifest itself?"

"...whenever I can't yawn, I know I'm in trouble. I used to run on a treadmill for 30 minutes -- not fast, but still, I hardly breathed while doing it. That's why swimming's so good. I *have* to breathe. I forget to breathe." (She's nodding like she actually understands me! That's comforting.)

More: "I'm afraid I'll lose my house. I'm afraid my mother will die, and then my partner, and then I'll be alone. I'm afraid there won't be another great act in me. I hate imagining 10 years into the future, but I can't stop doing so."

"It sounds like it's extremely hard to be you. What do you do to self-soothe?"

"...Not a lot....I have Pat, who's very funny -- but God knows what it has cost her to be so supportive....I have two cats who help a lot....I have my mother and sisters....I actually like focusing on writing papers for school....My one drug is TV; I totally tranquilize myself with it...and Facebook. I have 700+ friends on Facebook [-- I look over and see her eyebrows rise; she seems to be marveling, rather than judgmental, but I can't be sure]. I don't really keep up with world news; I prefer to look at Facebook friends' news and it's a lot to keep up with....I read the odd book, but mostly, they're school-books...."

"Do you have friends?"

"I do, but I don't really spend time with them." Then I said that I "don't cultivate" them, but what I meant was that I don't maintain my friendships like I should, i.e., I don't tend to them.

After mentioning, parenthetically, that my dad died when I was in high school:

"Did your mother re-marry?"


"What happened to your father?"

"He died of bile-duct cancer, within six months, when he was 56."

Still later:

"Am I addicted to suffering?"

She was doubtful about the concept of a suffering addiction and added, "One of the ways you take care of yourself is to beat up on yourself....It's a habit."

"Can you help me?"

"I don't know, but you're hopeful in that you're looking for help."

"I'm not hopeful. I'm desperate."

"You don't need to be hopeful to get help."

"When I was looking randomly at the list of local therapists in my insurance network, I noticed that one of them called out her specialty in helping gay and lesbian people, but I'm actually at a point where the lesbian part of my identity is less important than my professional identity.

I used to need help primarily about feeling good as a lesbian, and now, I need help feeling good in my life's purpose....Um, I can't fathom that you're homophobic, but I guess I'd like to know if so, so I can leave now if that's the case."

"It used to be that homosexuality was considered a perversion --"

(Oy! Where's she going with this?)

And then she continued without ever answering my question directly, "When you were talking earlier about going to a lesbian therapist who had helped get homosexuality removed from the DSM list [of mental disorders], I was reminded of a book I'm reading, *Boyhoods,* by Ken Corbett -- the partner of Michael Cunningham, who wrote *The Hours,* and how Corbett feels that everything is really part of a continuum -- how a boy who wears a tutu provokes people, who wonder: Is he going to be gay? Will he be an artist? A sensitive guy? Transgender? And how it doesn't really matter; he writes with feminism and queer theory in mind --"

(She just passed a test unwittingly by saying, "transgender," rather than "transgendered." People who have a clue/who have read about GLBT/LGBT issues, know that transpeople are "transgender," not "transgendered." Phew!)

"...I'm kind of old-school....Just as I am a very identified Jew, I'm a very identified lesbian. Even as I know that categories aren't all there are, I'm more comfortable with them."

The therapist said fine by her shrug, rather than by her words.

And you didn't answer my question directly, and I'd expect you to have *some* homophobia --"

She nodded.

"But as long as you're not [actively] homophobic...."

She nodded again.

At the End of the Session:

"So how did I do?"

"You did well," I said quietly without looking up. We arranged a time for next week and then:

"How about me? How did I do?"

"Can I be frank?"

(Oh, God, what devastating thing will she say?) "Of course!" I looked over at the book on her desk then.

"I think you're going to have a problem sticking with it, since you've had bad experiences in the past."

"I don't think your prediction will be true."

"If you could see me in my private practice, I'd recommend twice a week."

(Oh, God, I must be super-sick!) "Why?"

"Because I think that 45 minutes once a week lets you reconstitute yourself [too much in between sessions]. Despite all that you've told me about how you feel, you're a very high-functioning person; you're sophisticated and I think you'll [become defended by going so long between sessions]."

(God, twice a week sounds *great*!) "Well, I probably can't afford it, and besides, I'm compulsively busy, so I don't know how I'd fit in two sessions, but...."


"Well, thank you; see you next time," I said, and felt an awkwardness and a sacredness at once.

The book was *The Elegance of the Hedgehog.* When I got home, I googled it and felt a surge of hope, that maybe a new set of ears -- trained ones, attached to a person with apparently good taste in fiction -- could do me good.


HB III said...

Hi Sarah -

I just finished catching up with you via your blog. I think I had last read it sometime in October. While in the past I may have wanted to be sure to read it before I would see you, this time I am glad I heard a little about where you have been and are (going) from you first. It allowed me to really listen/appreciate your writing.

Congrats in talking about you, depression, and fear on your blog. I have a lot of things I could say, but respectfully resist. I don't blog for feedback - except maybe acknowledgement and an occassional appreciation. In fact, if I got much, I would probably stop. (Have no fear - your ubber respectful in space.) So, know that I heard you... I admire your courage, honesty *and* your writing.


(a *friend* who looks forward to further cultivation)

Sarah Siegel said...

How lovely you are to comment here. I've tended to friendships 200% more this weekend than in weeks and weeks...and have completed no studying for school yet, so it's a hard thing to manage --friendships and school; sometimes, I think, my grades and professors have become my friends, and then the occasional classmate, too. Just a lingering question: I think you have a typo; what did you mean by, "...your ubber respectful in space?"