I started therapy in 1998. I was deeply unhappy, single, lonely, working at a very stressful job that had really gotten even more stressful. I was a temp staffer, I recruited and placed workers in temporary jobs. It was very labor intensive, a lot of phone work, dealing with a lot of “challenging” personalities, and just a lot of work. I had an especially difficult week, a lot of things had fallen through but I had made some calls late Friday night and got everything settled…
…or so I thought. By Saturday, several people had suddenly backed out of assignments they had recently accepted. So I had to work again that Saturday, making calls, arranging things, trying to get in touch with people. Plus, I had to let someone go from an assignment as she was not working out. She took it badly. She was baffled, totally upset, and she started sobbing on the phone. It was awful. The next day I had to work again as I had yet another person back out of an assignment. I realized I had worked all weekend and had to face another week of work with no break in sight.
Something inside of me collapsed. I couldn’t go in to work the next day, I called out sick. I called the EAP service I had at work. It was very difficult for me. I realize now that I was depressed and it makes it difficult to take action. But the person there was helpful and set me up with a therapist. I remember his name was Terry and he was friendly and sympathetic. He gave me several names to call for further help. I set up an appointment with one.
Her name was (and still is) Rose. She is a baby boomer, grew up in the 60 s and 70 s and has been through a lot. She is Irish and catholic and like myself, doesn’t have a lot of respect for the catholic church or religion in general. She has a cool but friendly demeanor and doesn’t feel sorry for me or let me be down on myself. I remember early on I shared with her how I felt my face was long and how I felt that my teeth were crooked. She looked at me with a mixture of bafflement, amusement, and pity and told me “I don’t think your face looks long and you’re teeth aren’t crooked.” It seemed to be the truth and made me feel better.
I remember I used to sit on the floor in her office. After a while I started sitting on her couch. I guess because I started to feel better about myself.
Once I finally allowed myself to start therapy, I dove in headfirst. I spent a lot of time in the self-help section of Borders. I read tons of books recommended to me by Rose. I remember one in particular called “I don’t want to talk about it”. The gentleman who wrote it grew up in my area and his main point was that for men, manliness is a status that must be earned and can easily be taken away. Men are not men based on their genitals, but rather their status ascribed by others. I found this to be particularly true when reflecting on my upbringing where I was constantly hit with messages to “man up”, “cut the apron strings”, “grow up”, “stop being a baby”, “take a lap”, “rub some dirt on it”. The list goes on and on.
Initially, I went to therapy several times a week. There was a lot to talk about. My main focus was to find a girlfriend. I had never really been in a true relationship up to this point. I practiced what is called “cognitive-behavior” therapy. Colloquially known as “fake it till you make it”. I would change my behavior and my thoughts about myself would follow. It worked. I found that therapy improved all my relationships as I was now much more comfortable with my feelings. I became closer to my family and particularly my sister at the time. I became more open and confident. And eventually, I found a girlfriend.
I went to group therapy for a time. It was a mixture of men and women and was similar in nature to what is seen on TV and the movies. We would take turns talking about whatever was going on in our lives and offering support, advice and encouragement to each other. I enjoyed it for a while, but as I got more seriously involved with my girlfriend at the time, group therapy became more of a burden than a release. I remember I quit the group after I was very disappointed in several of the members attitude toward the pop artist “Eminem”. At the time, he had released several songs that were highly homophobic, and offensive if that type of thing bothers you. I was disappointed that several members of the group were incensed by this and felt he should be censored. I felt, and still feel that this was just another in a long line of petty and pointless outrages that we as a society feel compelled to get worked up about. I was especially disappointed with one of the members, who was a father. He pulled the old “Won’t someone think of the children??” argument, basically saying that while HE has no problem with Eminem, he couldn’t help but be worried about the effect of his lyrics on children and in particular, his daughter. I said, and still say that this is bullshit, that in reality, HE was bothered by Eminem’s lyrics but was using the innocence of children to legitimize and justify his feelings. I was especially disappointed when no one else in the group, including Rose, backed me up on this assertion. I was hurt and let down. I felt that perhaps these people weren’t who I thought they were. So I thought about it, and after a while I left the group. I actually didn’t go to therapy for a while, I was just getting involved with my now wife, and that consumed me for quite some time.
I still continue to see Rose. She has been a regular part of my life for the past 16 years. I have gone to her by myself, and with my girlfriends, and now wife. I have moved several times, changed careers, changed jobs, changed girlfriends, but Rose has remained a constant in my life. Sometimes the sessions are dull, and sometimes they are highly emotional and charged. It just depends. I like that I have made this a regular routine in my life. Much like exercise and eating healthy, I see the positive results of therapy after I have pushed myself to go through it all. I am not a perfect person by any means, but I now like myself, know who I am, and am not afraid of being myself. I am not afraid to go against the grain, or disagree with everyone, or be by myself, or stand alone. In fact, that is a point of pride for me now. I like that I am different from most people. I am glad to be the person I am. It took a long time to get here, and I know this would not have been possible without therapy or Rose. I am glad she has been in my life, and continues to be in it. I like that therapy is a journey and I am happy to continue on with it.
Thanks for reading…