Scene 1 - Therapist’s Office
The young woman who sat across from me reminded me of someone. I knew who but I couldn’t let myself explore that right now. She needed a therapist not a gazer.
Her pain was real, raw. She had been raped. The violation bled through her skin.
Tears streamed down her face as she tried to hold it all together. I reached for the box of tissues and held it out to her. She took one and curled her legs beneath her in the oversized chair that sat catty-cornered from mine. I always felt that sitting directly across from a patient was more like an interrogation. I placed the box on the table between us just in case.
"Have you told your parents yet?"
Her eyes grew large. "I can’t"
"What are you afraid of?" This wasn’t new ground for us. The rape had happened a month ago and she struggled over telling her parents. It was still raw but she needed all the support she could get right now.
"They’ll be angry." She choked out the words.
"Why do you feel they’ll be angry?"
"They told me to be careful. They told me not to do anything I’d regret."
"What do you regret?" I kept my voice neutral. I felt what she meant, but this was about her - not me.
"That I went to that party. That I trusted someone I shouldn’t." Her tears flowed even harder. "How could I have been so stupid."
"Lizzie, going to a party doesn’t give someone else the right to rape you."
"But I shouldn’t have gone. I shouldn’t have gone." Her voice trailed off into a deep sea of sadness.
It always sounds so trite but I kept telling her she couldn’t blame herself, it wasn’t her fault. That was the focus of the rest of our session.
I see many rape victims in my practice - too many, but this girl was different. She reminded me of someone and that someone was me.
Scene 2 - Therapist’s Home
When I arrived home my fifteen-going-on-thirty year-old daughter had the phone fused to her right ear.
"So, what are you going to wear tonight?" She turned to see that I was in the room and her expression turned guarded.
Clothes were her favorite topic of conversation. It was difficult to convince her there were other aspects of life besides clothes.
I signaled that I needed to talk with her.
"Stacy - gotta go - my mom just got home." Her tone was hurried, even secretive.
I know I’m a therapist but it still smarts when your own child acts like spending time with you is a burden. Academic echoes of it’s normal - children need to go through a healthy separation from their parents - didn’t help ease the pain of being rejected. I tried to stay in my head.
"Is dinner ready?" It was one of her few chores.
"Yes, mom - do you always have to ask me that!" Her voice held an all-too-familiar huffiness and anger as she disappeared into her room.
In the kitchen the table was set with only one plate. My heart sank, taking an all too familiar plunge. A small pot with macaroni and cheese and a side dish of frozen peas and carrots, now simmering, sat on the stove. I sank into the chair at the kitchen table and struggled to find balance. I lectured myself in my head as if I were my own patient. It felt appropriately schizophrenic.
I heard Dana’s footsteps coming down the hall towards the kitchen and I turned towards my daughter, who was increasingly becoming a stranger to me, and asked if she would be joining me for dinner, something that I had always insisted on.
"I already ate. Stacy and I are going to the mall."
Her outfit alarmed me. I quickly sorted through my feelings trying not to project my emotions from the intensity of my last session today onto my daughter who was just trying to find herself.
"Not dressed like that you aren’t!" Okay, I didn’t find balance.
"This is how everybody dresses!" She stomped her foot emphasizing her adolescent rebellion.
"Just because everyone else does it, doesn’t mean –"
"I have to do it too!" she cut me off finishing a fairly standard lecture lately. "Well, maybe I want to. Maybe I want to be like everyone else and not some kind of freak."
"What makes you think you’re a freak?" I infused my tone with love and compassion, fighting off my fear and anger that threatened to push Dana even further away from me.
"Oh you wouldn’t understand." Her words were flung up into the air as she spun away from me in a fit of rage and rebellion. Her bedroom door slammed a few minutes later sending a small shockwave through the house.
My gut ached as I watched my child, my once fun-loving and adoring child, slip away from me. I felt so helpless, so alone as tears streamed down my face. The image of Lizzie sitting in the over-stuff chair in my office flashed in mind and I reached out to her in spirit as a kindred soul.
Scene 3 - Therapist’s Office
I stared out the window through the gaps in the venetian blinds, trying to let myself be distracted. It was difficult for me to sit as a patient while I talked, but that’s what I was - a patient. The therapist had a therapist!
"Georgia, you know how this works. We talk through our pain and issues so we can go forward, but if you want to pay me to just stand looking out my window, that’s okay too."
Regina’s voice broke through my struggle. She was more than my therapist, she was my mentor, as well as a dear friend and the strongest woman I’ve ever known. I felt pathetic at my helplessness after everything that she’d been through in her own life and survived. My problems seemed simple compared to the boulders that were thrown her way. My pain fought against logic and I slumped down into the chair and started to cry.
"Why didn’t they love me! Why didn’t they protect me!"
I took a tissue from the box she extended just as I had done with Lizzie.
"Perhaps they didn’t know how." Regina was in therapist mode but her voice was laced with concern for me as a friend. She was good at setting healthy boundaries.
"Bullshit!" The word sprung from my gut. Perhaps it was true but it didn’t feel like it right now.
Regina sat silent, letting me deal with the anger-infused air around me. I felt as if someone had sprayed me with a toxic chemical and I struggled to breath. I always felt a toxic wave come over me when the subject of my parents came up. After all they were the ones I needed protection from.