Scene 1 - Therapist’s Office
Working on a college campus exposed me to all kinds of strange and changing fads expressed by the children who were finally rebelling for the first time in their lives - or who had never stopped. Shock still permeated my therapist’s shell with the patient sitting across from me today.
To say she was “Goth” was an understatement. I didn’t even want to start counting how many body piercings she had. The one on her lower lip looked especially painful - until I saw the one in the center of her tongue.
My rational mind sorted through all the textbook answers as to why someone would do this to themselves - they wanted to be noticed, they wanted to be different, it was a cry for help. Perhaps this made her feel good, perhaps it was her true self. After all, societies throughout the world used body adornments as an expression of their cultural beliefs.
I still struggled to get past the tongue piercing.
Laura was here because her parents insisted - they wanted to meet with me as well, but I put them off, uncomfortable with how demanding they were - especially the mother. My hunch was that they were still trying to control her life and that’s why she dressed the way she did. I had to find out from her just what was going on before meeting with her parents. Of course, Laura was the patient and since she was 20 years old her parents weren’t entitled to any information. Laura agreed to see me because her parents had threatened to cut her off financially if she didn’t.
We did our preliminary discussion - as I did with all my new patients, gathering just enough background information to start asking the kind of questions I needed to ask to make our sessions meaningful. It was as much for the patient’s benefit to learn to trust me as it was for me to understand them and how I could help.
It hit me hard just how important it was to have functionally healthy parents - even if they weren’t living together.
I made a note to call Dana’s father and reopen that door that I helped shut so long ago.
Scene 2 - Therapist’s Home
Dana was still at school and I had left work early so I had the house to myself. I noticed how much the clutter had grown and decided that this wasn’t how I wanted to live. I had been boxing myself in for years, seeking protection from the pain I hadn’t yet faced. I had erected barriers in my own home trying to keep out that pain and the rage that was dumped on me as a child and later as a wife.
Life was certainly ironic. Here I was a therapist, seeing other people’s issues and challenges so clearly and ignoring my own even when they were staring me in the face. I walked from room to room assessing the damage and coming up with a plan on how to deal with bringing down the walls of my self-imposed prison.
As I tossed, recycled and designated items for charity I felt liberated. For the first time in my life, I felt truly free to be the person I was meant to be.
I was hauling boxes for charity to the garage when Dana arrived in an unfamiliar car.
Out of view she didn’t notice me watching. She leaned over and kissed the boy in the driver's seat and for the first time I got a glimpse of the young man who had come into my daughter’s life for all the wrong reasons.
Dana finally got out of the car and I went into the living room and sat and waited for her to come through the door. Our eyes met briefly and she knew I had seen her in the car.
The phone rang before either of us could or wanted to speak. Dana rushed to answer it thinking it was one of her friends. I knew it was her father making the call I had arranged.
Scene 3 - Therapist’s Office
Looking out the window, I leaned against the wall seeking comfort from the familiarity of its strong support. I needed that right now.
Regina didn’t say a word - she normally didn’t, letting me speak when I was ready.
“Dana spoke with her father last night.” I didn’t offer it up as anything other than what it was - a statement of fact. I heard Regina smile and her say, without saying, “finally.”
I pulled myself reluctantly away from the support of the wall and the serenity of the garden view outside Regina’s window. I could stay here for the rest of my life feeling supported, comforted and serene, but I suspect Regina’s patients would object to me as a fixture in the room while they bared their souls and worked through their issues.
As I sat in the all-too familiar and oh so comfortable chair, I scratched having a career as a live statue off my list.
“So, what next?” Regina’s voice broke through my thoughts. I studied my shoes against the pattern of the new rug on her office floor.
“I don’t know.” I raised my head and looked her straight in the eyes. “I just don’t know.”