My tentative steps at therapy started in college when I dared go outside the family for help, and again after marriage when we lived in the Adirondacks, though just briefly for both. I didn’t try again until after Shane was born when we moved back into the area where I grew up. Fear almost kept me from trying. I needed to divulge secrets that rotted my core, yet would I be able to? Caring for Shane brought satisfaction, but I needed help for the blackness of recurring depression. Eventually pain overcame my paralyzing fear.
The mental health clinic employed an acquaintance of Chet’s. I worried relentlessly. How could I talk about what I needed to if his friend had access to the files, which I assumed he did, because he worked there as an intern in a career path for counseling? The secrets I carried were taboo, and I felt so guilty for the abuse, as if I were the abuser not the victim. What if he read what I talked about, what would he think of me? Certainly he wouldn’t think less of my brothers, just me. I sat in the waiting room, apprehensively imagining him poring through my records with disgust. I had taken on my family’s sins. The weight was killing me.
The therapist I worked with, Mary, wore two hats; she was also a nurse. I wondered if my problems made her nervous or were more serious than others, or maybe more interesting, because leaning towards me intently, she smoked as I talked. I smoked too. After a while I touched on what my brothers had done, but just barely. Then I stopped going, afraid at what I’d divulged. But eventually I went back.
When I returned the next time she had gone. I was now assigned to the director, Jack. I felt fortunate because of his prominent position, even though he was a man. Jack mentioned that he took my case specifically. I didn’t know what to make of that. Was it that sexual abuse case histories intrigued him? Challenged him? Were titillating? Or could only be handled by him because he was so great at his job?
He had no problem commenting bluntly on my weight and my lack of makeup, jewelry, or nice clothes. I responded by shopping for all three, enjoying the reward of his compliments. He encouraged me to pursue further education, so I enrolled in a nearby community college. He also encouraged me to take parenting classes offered on the premises. They became invaluable over the years raising our sons.
I sat across from his desk where he always remained seated, more like a businessman than a therapist. The expanse between us didn’t seem odd at the time; the space protected me from a larger person. I liked that.
But one day he leaned over and asked, “Are you attracted to me?”
Warning bells clanged in my head. I looked at him. Not unattractive, but far from handsome. “No,” I said without much pause.
He continued, “One woman began taking her clothes off in my office.”
His response jolted me and made me uncomfortable, but I censored that thought immediately, weighing his importance against mine.
He won. I continued to see him.
One day I confided my mother’s plan about the operation, and with barely a breath, he responded, “Go ahead, if you want to butcher yourself that way.”
His words hit like a slap, but didn’t deter my pursuit of what I thought would bring happiness. I went after Mom’s idea of a surgical solution to my problems like nothing I’d gone after before. I was going to have it no matter what.
When I put my mind to something I can be persistent. I gathered the courage to whisper softly to Jack about brothers and hint at what they had done. “Oh, so you were a precocious child,” he replied instantly. Not a question, a statement.
I remained still, as if iced to the seat. But I kept the maelstrom of emotions completely hidden behind an unblinking stare as if he had said something as mundane as, “It’s hot outside.” I didn’t know how to do anything else but act as if whatever anyone did or said was okay with me. But that final straw gave me the impetus to stop seeing him. I did pursue the butchering though, as any good girl would, to please her mother. I fell for it too, the idea of it, a magic cure. Jack won the prize for worst therapist, but his words struck the gold of truth. I volunteered for butchering, a lifelong regret, one I would permanently lament
16 thoughts on “Chapter 11: JACK”
It’s incredible how indomitable and beautiful your spirit is despite all the toxic people that have crossed your path. Your courage never fails to inspire me! What a poor excuse for a counsellor he was! And I am sorry that your lived to regret the operation.One sentence in particular resonated very strongly. I feel like you are describing the me that WAS- ‘I didn’t know how to do anything else but act as if whatever anyone did or said was ok with me.”
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It is so scary to me as I too have had a few real butt heads for “therapists” or even Doctors. I had one doctor that is I had followed her advice, I would be dead now. Part of my job is to oversee incidents including sentinel events… it is one reason why I always do my own research before adding or changing a medical treatment for myself. And I will wait to comment on bariatric surgery, but your butchering is a apt description. Someday, people will look back and shake their head and ask why we would do that to people.
Butt heads. Ha!
I wish there was some….I don’t know…safe guard against awful therapists! He makes me so mad! When people finally decide to talk, the last thing they should ever be shown is cruelness, or disbelief, or a therapist acting like it didn’t matter! I’m so sorry….ugh!
You deserved so much better than that.
Oh thank you! It did light a fire under me. I sought out further therapy along with a group to go along with individual therapy with one of its leaders. And it all was dedicated to Survivors of Sexual Abuse.
It was stunning that a supposed Hot Shot like Jack knew nothing about it. Precocious? Just stunning…
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I am just so glad he didn’t break your spirit, and that you did find a good therapy experience. And that you are here, telling your story. It’s good for so many people, to not be alone. I’m so glad you had that strength to break the silence. 🙂 Xx
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I’ve learned that doctors/therapists are just like the rest of us..there are good and bad, and good luck weeding them all out. I also have noticed that many enter the psychiatric profession to “heal themselves”. Some in my family did, bringing all their own issues to the table while trying to sort out yours. It’s a challenge to get real help, but worth the effort when you connect. I’m hoping that somewhere, that happened for you. Continue to be impressed by your courage and candor. Thank you for sharing your story. It will help so many.
I have experienced those who are supposed to be hired to provide therapy or other supportive psychiatric care but are in more need of it than the client. One nurse I worked with instigated trouble rather than calmed patients within an in-patient setting.
And yes, I connected with a wise, gentle doctor, Raymond. Odd I kept seeing men as therapists. I must have needed a father badly. Men are still scary to me.
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Thanks for the sharing. He certainly had his issues. I felt like I freed myself up when I stopped earing jewelry and makeup. I also let go of all my professional clothes for sweat suits and casual clothes. I choose to live simply and I love it. He had a nerve to judge that as not appropriate.
Sorry you have the lifelong regret of surgery or butchering.
Thank you. It’s always a helpful comfort when another shares a bit of themselves. I happen to adore sweats. To get dressy I wear one without household cooking stains… maybe even a necklace or scarf. For Christmas I have one with blinking lights!
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What a horrible Therapist!! And I agree with this comment “It’s incredible how indomitable and beautiful your spirit is despite all the toxic people that have crossed your path. “
Thank you Mia.
I’m so sorry you were attacked that way. And I understand how being attacked makes one feel to blame and because of that, don’t tell. But he is the criminal whether you froze or not. If you fought it could have been much worse. I’m just sorry you went through that.