“So with the time we have left, tell me about your background, the key players in your life growing up.”
Fuck. Here we go.
It’s been 5 years since I stopped seeing an amazing therapist who I had seen for years. I wanted to start seeing someone again, someone new, someone who would concentrate on my here and now, the snapshot of my current life first and then perhaps go back to my childhood where the seeds are clearly planted for who we are. (Also, it was very clear when my old therapist had attended a conference that introduced new techniques and approaches to therapy, and I basically had to stop when she suggested my current me go back to talk to my younger me as if she were sitting next to me on the couch.)
I guess that I was deluded into thinking that I could somehow stave off my somewhat unusual upbringing for several sessions, kind of slipping it in after a few weeks or so—“Oh, and by the way, my mother died in a double-suicide.” I spent the first 30 minutes of my first session talking about my string of job losses and layoffs and how that made me feel like a failure that has lead to some pretty strong self-loathing. I talked about some really bad financial choices I’ve made along the way. I talked about my wonderful second marriage and how there was no way I could get through any of this without him. I talked about my very deliberate change in a career focus and how my work with female inmates and at-risk pre- and teenage girls has always brought out the best in me and how I can’t possibly do anything else at this point in my life, how any other administrative job in fundraising is just a set-up to fail and quite frankly something that I have no more zest for.
This woman is lovely, mid-60s I would guess, very gentle and astute. Her office is very comfortable and I was happy to see an abundance of pillows which I’ve always used to cover my stomach while I sit on the couch.
“Do you have siblings?” she asked, pen poised over pad.
I listed my two brothers and sister in birth order, giving a sentence or two about each of them, emphasizing as always my brother Mark who has been there for me throughout everything.
“What about your parents?”
I did the usual mother/father dog and pony show. When I got to my mother’s suicide, and threw in the “double” part, she put both hands over her heart and shook her head in sympathy. I’m not exactly sure what I said to lead her to ask a question a few minutes later that no one has asked before.
“Was she murdered?”
Whoa. I realized that maybe because we hear so much about someone killing someone and then killing themselves that this could have prompted the question. But, due to a lot of circumstances surrounding their deaths, it is entirely possible that the man she died with could have somehow forced her into something that she wasn’t intending to do. Is that murder? Would that make my “script” change? Double-suicides are dramatic enough. I don’t need to throw in the possibility of some sort of crime although there had been yellow police tape in an X across the door to our apartment. I’ve thought about going to the NYPD where a wild goose chase only about 2 years ago lead me to learn that that is where any police report would be kept, but I haven’t thought much about it since.
“I think it’s really interesting that you’ve chosen to work with teenage girls and women who are somehow suffering.” I thought about this for a second and realized that again, no one, including me had really made that connection.
“I’m not sure I ever really suffered,” I said pushing back a little bit.
“Well, at 13 you were left alone with a very sick woman while your father moved 3,000 miles away.” I didn’t really feel as if she were trying to convince me that I actually “suffered” but maybe, as almost everyone who knows my story, she was trying to give me credit for what I had been through.
We had to end at that point. I feel trapped, pigeonholed by my narrative. I’ve had a really happy life but I always seem to get pulled back to an unfathomable event that happened 26 years ago. In many ways this may seem hypocritical because I write a lot about this (and there is a lot more to come) but I want to believe that my present setbacks have nothing to do with my history, that they are somehow a character defect based on other things and not a rocky past.