I’ve had many therapists over my lifetime. I remember something about them all, though not always a name.
Clothes, an insight, a physical gesture repeated over many sessions.
I was given gifts by them all; gifts I carry with me when I meet the world every day.
I’m fortunate to have this grab bag; each gift is as unique as the person who bestowed it.
My first. I was 4 or 5. She was heavy and always wore tent shaped floral dresses. Her breathing was labored every time she walked down a long corridor to bring me to her office. I loved her.
I was 6. He had a beard! We played catch with one of those balls you used to be able to buy at the supermarket. Also Chutes and Ladders. All those reversals of fortune and redemptive climbs!
I was 17 and she had red hair and glasses. Her office looked like almost every other therapist’s office: ethnic art to indicate what? Cultural Competency? She was the first doctor to tell me I needed medication. I believed her.
Still 17. A family therapist. My 8 year old brother played on the floor with toys during each session. My dad did most of the talking.
I was 19. He was a pharmacologist. He told me I could be in Pharmaceutical Sales. He thought that would be a good career for me. I was handed medication samples in volume.
I was just shy of 25. He seemed not much older than me. First doctor to achieve blank slate status in my eyes. Looking back, I see all my impressions were colored by transference.
I was 34. He was a social worker. His office was near NYU and I hated that. Though he always wore a tie, he skipped the shoes—often he put his feet up on the chair. He rocked back and forth and frequently pulled on his tie while talking.
I was 35. He was a Priest. His office was on a very high floor in the financial district and I felt dizzy looking out his window at all of lower Manhattan. He was from Texas and made me comfortable enough to weep.
I was 37. He gave me a book of his own poetry in the first session.
I was still 37. And I came back to the blank slate who was no longer blank. And for this one, there are more recollections than I could ever list.
And it’s not the end; that’s not the nature of therapy. It’s a book written jointly by people who care about one another enough to work for however long it takes.
To each and every one of you, I haven’t forgotten the love you poured into me.
It means nothing less than the world.