In the fall of 1995, I was a sophomore in college and I felt like I had a lump in my throat. ALL THE TIME. I swore there was something wrong, returning to the old fuddy-duddy doctors at the college health center over and over again. Tension was building with my college benefactors (my great aunt and uncle), my best friend had left after attempting suicide and I was heading down an ugly path of one night stands. I was turning into a woman I clearly did not recognize.
I guess one of the crotchety doctors got tired of my throat complaints after making me eat another tongue depressor for what seemed liked minutes on end. AAAhhhhh…..eeeeehhhhh…..Really Dude (in my best California accent) don’t you see that cancer growing in the back of my throat? I am dying here!! He stops, sighs BIG, looks straight at me and says, “I think we need to send you upstairs.” WHAT! Upstairs!! That is where the crazy people go. I am not crazy, I just got this thing- growing in my throat! The third floor of the Student Health Center was the Counseling Center and I did NOT want to go. I rolled my eyes at him, snatched the referral slip and slid off the scaly lizard green exam table pushing past him.
Days, maybe weeks passed and I stayed mad at that crotchety ass hole trying to tell me I needed a therapist, not a tonsillectomy or an MRI– Something!! Finally, after another tawdry night of God knows what with whom will remain nameless and possibly faceless, I made the call.
This particular counseling system required a consultation to find the best fit. I met with a woman who had the wildest long black hair. I occasionally tilted my head like my neurotic cat does wondering if she actually designed it to look that way. But really, I was about to lay some shit down that she could not handle- or at least that is what I told myself. I spewed onto her my complicated and difficult family history, the sexual abuse and how, although I had many difficulties in my relationship with my own mother, I did NOT want to see a boy therapist.
She actually had the audacity to ask me, “WHY?” I remember thinking, ‘Whatdaya Mean, Why?’ The idea of being behind closed doors with a MAN I knew nothing about and then having to share my darkest secrets with made me more nauseated than I was already feeling. In the end it didn’t matter who it was, I was certain no one could really handle me or what I had been through. I was going to bitch slap this therapist around with every tactic I had and wear her out until she cried mercy.
I don’t think I have ever been so armored up in my whole life. I remember the consultation room felt so tiny and all there was was me, a wild, black hairy nest of hair and her white, white paper with the scribbles of my life. Sitting with a difficult decision is like having a sweaty, hairy stomach slide, –slide, –slide down your face…over AND over again. I left wet and sticky and all I could do was take a nap. Me and the wet hairy stomach rubbing its smelly self on me.
Watch this for an Excellent Visual:
Her name was….Well, I really don’t remember….But let’s call her Kathy or Karen or one of those normal names. I remember her as being all kind of orange and red with short frosted hair. She smiled a lot and watched her digital clock. I used to caress the edge of the arm of the textured couch. Other times I dragged my nails through it just to hear something else make noise besides myself.
Our first session was like standing in knee deep mud. I gave her my best devilish stare and like a howler monkey- made screeching noise to the tune of chaos that was my life. I had planned to torture her with every word until she put her hands over her ears and begged for me to make it stop.
But instead, she breathed in and out, in and out…… and just looked at me with deep set puppy eyes. What THE FUCK was the matter with her? She was not freaking out like I had been ALL MY LIFE!! She listened. She heard me. She seemed to act like she understood. She did not judge or shame me.
Over the next year, so many things unfolded. But one thing that has stayed with me was that she suggested that I seek out and find my two half brothers whom I had only met one once when I was eleven. Before leaving from my work with her, I had not followed through with this; I am sure for many different reasons. If I knew where she was today (hopefully enjoying peaceful retirement not being emotionally pummeled by college students) I would want to tell her that when I was ready, I finally did and although it is not the kind of relationship I wish for, it does exist. I suppose in a way, I hope that she is proud of me. These thoughts are really about wanting her to know that I am grateful that for the very first time in my life someone knew how to hold space for with the hot mess I had become.
You wanna know what is really HI-LAR-IOUS? That lump in my throat? That choking cancer I swore was killing me? They turned out to be tonsil stones- a real problem that is often just as stinky and ugly as the one I fought upstairs in the Counseling Center. But, both the doctor and I were right. I did have a cancer. Shame was metastasizing in my mind and he could not help. I needed a higher power- or at least the one on the third floor.