Therapy Commences

by Lisa Barroilhet

It's probably a miracle that I had made it this far, given my history.

My mother is a not-so-recovered alcoholic, I come from a broken home, and I had been a victim of my own emotional instability for most of my adult life. Somehow, besides a three-visit stint to the incompetent school psychologist in eighth grade, I had avoided therapy completely.

Until today, of course, or is that too predictable? Because it felt predictable that the cross-town bus was nowhere to be seen as I ran a considerable risk of being late to my first-ever therapy appointment. I was so frustrated and angry that I felt paralyzed, incapacitated by the possibility that I would miss my one opportunity to improve my mental fitness due to the caprices of public transportation. Too tired to walk, too cheap to pay for a cab, I arrived for my 5:30 p.m. appointment several minutes shy of six o'clock.

I rang the buzzer and crept into a well lit but deserted hallway. "DR. ABIGAIL FORESTER" the gold-plated template announced. No M.D., this clinical psychologist ran her own show, and was clearly doing well for herself if the decor of her waiting room was any indication.

"Who's there?" a snippy voice virtually snarled from one of the rooms adjacent to the plush entrance area.

"My name is Lisa, I'm afraid I'm a little..."

"We had an appointment at 5:30."

"Yes, I realize, I was waiting for a bus and then..."

"Would you like to come in and introduce yourself before my 6:15 arrives?"

Her voice was cold and although she remained hidden from view, I imagined her staring at her watch and/or appointment book, cursing me for disrupting the structure of her orderly professional career.

I quickly hung up my coat and entered her office, which was softly lit and decorated strictly in warm, inviting hues. The calm linearity of her Agnes Martin prints bore no resemblance to my mental state. Dr. Forester completely unnerved me with her greeting gaze of detached disdain. Before I could muster one coping mechanism into action I had dissolved into tears.

"Oh!" Dr. Forester sounded surprised, as though emotion were rare in her psychotherapy chaise. "Oh! You really do need to talk to someone. Sit down, dear. Tell me a little bit about yourself."

Her condescending awareness of my mental irregularities did not make me feel particularly warm towards her, but she was right. I needed to talk to someone. In fact, I had been waiting for months to talk to someone, months that were filled with insomnia, anxiety, inexplicable fits of anger, suicidal ideations and just plain bad days. I wanted to talk to someone, and if it had to be her, sandwiched between her two appointments, then I wasn't going to run away and search for some other schmuck who would take my insurance plan.

I talked. For fifteen glorious minutes, Dr. Forester was my rapt and attentive audience. I barely gleaned the iceberg, but it only took a moment for me to recognize why therapy could be as addictive as massages. And this therapist wasn't even particularly nice! I pictured my next therapy session (admittedly in a different setting) and grew excited at the thought. I would talk and talk and talk, relieving myself of my primal insecurities and debilitating tendencies to speak honestly, without remorse or self-censorship. I could admit that I hated my inner thighs as much as my innermost soul and not feel shallow.

Therapy was for me. Dr. Forester, unfortunately, was not.

She might as well have been holding a stopwatch based on the precision to which she silenced me at the end of fifteen minutes. We set up a follow-up appointment (that I had no intention of keeping) and I felt better, knowing there was a future for me on the receiving end of psychotherapy. As I walked out of her oak-stained doorway with a strangely assured gait, Dr. Forester gratuitously called behind me, "Don't worry! I won't even mention this visit to your insurance company!"

Atta girl.


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