3 weeks ago we went to visit my father-in-law as usual. When we got there he was drunk, abusive, and hyper-controlling. There was blood everywhere.
He ranted about people breaking into his place and drinking his vodka. There were strange serial-killer-type printed notes to the imaginary culprit on paper towels propped up in different places. He insisted throughout his rants that we both keep our eyes on him at all times.
I couldn’t help flashing back to a different drunken crazy old man with blood on his hands in my past. Since that time I’ve been weeping and anxious and unable to go to see him. I have mentally filed him in the same folder as my grandfather.
I’ve lost 34 pounds so far in the Weight Management Program and I’m starting to feel more like the skinny vulnerable girl I used to be. My weight loss doctor had asked me to send up a flair when issues from my past started to come up so we could involve the mental health specialists. That week I told her that it was time. I’ve been in therapy before but never talked about my grandfather.
For most of the traumatic times in my life I have a narrative. I know the story… what I was thinking and doing before and after. I remember when I fought with a man and a loaded gun. I remember when I jumped out of a moving car and ran to my car and drove away before the driver could park and run over to me. I remember running for the police and embarrassing both of us while trying to adequately explain what had happened in the park with the strange semi-naked man without being overly graphic. I remember running full tilt down the middle of the street at night with a gang of men chasing me.
Because of this blog I even have a narrative for the time I spent tied up on a stranger’s floor, but I have no narrative for being 9 years old, mashed face down into the bedspread. I have two endless moments burned into my brain. It is as if these moments are on a continuous loop. They are always happening, and I live inside these moments. I wanted to talk to a professional about this to get myself outside this event.
My doctor agreed and gave me a number to call. I spilled my guts to the sympathetic triage psych who congratulated me on deciding to deal with this in therapy. She made an appt for me in two weeks. I spent this time writing down notes and working through what I needed to say and how I would frame it. I didn’t want to sit there through the entire session gawping like a fish out of water, unable to begin.
On the day of the appt the first thing she said was ‘Wow, you sure have some sordid things in your past’. That was a little off-putting. I asked her what she meant, but she waved her hand dismissively and made some vague remark. As she went through the intake process I was surprised at the number of times that she did not respond with any follow up questions. Are you suicidal? Not right now… next question.
When she had completed her questionnaire, she asked me if anyone had ever shown me how to go to my happy place. I almost laughed. No…. She did a small guided meditation and mentioned that she had a class in mind for me to take. I was puzzled, since it felt like she didn’t want to know anything about me. In fact, she had done virtually all of the talking during our session. On the way out she dropped a perky… ‘So, when you go to see your father-in-law, you can just go to your happy place. See you next week!’ I thanked her automatically and she made a remark about not believing that the other therapists I have seen in my life had not taught me that technique.
As I walked out the door, I thought about what a strange and involved process Kaiser has at the beginning of therapy. Clearly she didn’t understand that I could in no way close my eyes and think happy thoughts while in the presence of a drunken angry man. She must not have understood the significance of my equating him with my pedophile grandfather. Surely, as time went on we would laugh at that facile solution. I burned a little at the slap at my previous therapists... of course they hadn't tried to teach me to go to my happy place, I usually wait until I am stage 4 suicidal before asking for help. There is no happy place at that time.
Later, I began to wonder if we were beginning therapy at all. Perhaps she didn’t believe that I warranted therapy. At my next session, I stopped her immediately and asked if her job consisted solely of doing intake, teaching people to go to their happy place and finding an appropriate class for them to take. She said ‘Yes. Kaiser does not believe in individual therapy’. I felt backhanded.
I took a deep breath and asked her what class she would be recommending. Safety and Stability Class. I said, well that sounds like a class to stop me from falling off my feet, which I could certainly use, but is not terribly pertinent at this time. What is the class about? She picked up the single sheet class list and read a 4 word sentence that basically reordered the words in the title. Apparently realizing that the description did not contain any new information, she continued… ‘I imagine, I am using my imagination here, but I imagine that…it helps you to create a safe and stable environment’.
She then went on to wonder at length if it was a closed or open class without explaining what open or closed in this context would mean to me. I didn’t even ask. This person’s sole job is to match people and classes and she can’t be bothered to get to know either the people or the classes! She went on to say that although I would be allowed to introduce myself to the class in the beginning, I would not be allowed to talk about anything personal.
I stopped her again and told her that this is not the kind of help I am looking for right now and I need to get to work . I can’t miss any more work on the first day of the month. She asked if I wanted to reschedule, and I’m sure I looked incredulous as I politely declined and exited.