“What is your project about?” is the question that often comes up in the non-fiction writing Mastermind I signed up for last month which goes from early January to late June. Good question, I say. I’m hoping to write about my brother’s suicide and how it changed the course of my life, how I turned to alcohol, how life went on and how it turned out to be actually OK. Tears usually well up in my eyes when I start talking about my brother Jeff as I get choked up explaining what he meant to me, how I feel it’s important to talk about suicide, out in the open. Let’s talk about all the crap. But I don’t want it to be a downer of a book either for there is so much hope in surviving and coming through to the other side. The others nod, understanding what I mean about hope. It’s really a story of resilience, overcoming the shit life throws at you, surviving and even thriving.
But how to stop the tears from welling up whenever I speak of it is my goal when I decide to reach out to a new therapist. Finding a new therapist in pandemic times is somewhat interesting as I’m finding many of them prefer to do it over Zoom or FaceTime rather than face to face. This makes sense since in-person our faces are covered in masks and it’s hard to get a read on someone if they are all masked up. So I confronted my telephone phobia (there wasn’t an email option for the first point of contact!) and dialed up a woman who sounded like someone I could work with. She had a nice, kind looking face which is important. She CALLED ME BACK that same day. And then I had to face my phone phobia once again and answer a call from an unknown number.
It was her. We talked for a few minutes. I explained my goal for therapy and how I wanted to write a book but thought I needed someone to talk to about it so I could get a handle on my emotions. She didn’t know if it was something insurance would cover because it wasn’t about an issue that came up in the last six months and there wasn’t a clear diagnosis to work with. Yes, we are dealing with a now thirty four year old issue and it almost bowls me over that it might not be covered because of a long lapse of time. We could set up a session for the following week, she said. Oh, that soon!? I was hoping to put it off for a couple more weeks (at least). Maybe I haven’t mentioned how averse I am to thereapy and how very bad at it I’ve been over the past thirty four years.
My first foray into therapy was unsolicited. After Jeff died, my mother made an appointment with a counselor who worked out of our small town hospital, packed me in the car and drove me there without any warning. We arrived at her door, knocked and my mother ushered me into the room and went to take a seat in the lobby. Jeff’s unexpected death the previous week had been emotionally exausting and I just wanted to be left alone. I sat in the counselor’s office and nodded or answered yes or no to her unending questions. One hand held a wad of used tissues and the other I used to wipe a non-stop flow of tears away. Somehow this got us through an hour and I retrieved my mother from the lobby, said I was good and that we could go home.
There have been other tries at therapy between then and now but I never got comfortable with the idea of exposing my innner thoughts and feelings to a stranger, especially ones so dark and menacing. Seems like this was no longer an option as I followed the new therapist’s instructions to initiate a Zoom call. Hello pandemic tele-therapy. Finally we connected, face to face and got through some initial questions, softballs to get me comfortable. And then came the moment to tell about Jeff, about the death I had been witness to at the age of nineteen and how it had sat in my heart, a heavy black knot of memories that I’d never untangled with anyone. Tears flowed as I told her every detail that I could remember as if it had happened last week. It was graphic and harsh and a mess. She took it all from me, a 10-ton weight I’d been carrying for so many years.
Do you know how light I felt when we said goodbye at the end of our session? It was amazing. I felt free at last of the burden I thought I’d carry alone to my grave through the rest of my years. While there is more to be said, it is a good start. A great start. Who knew therapy could be this good for you?