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I’ve been in therapy, on and off, since the Cold War era.
I don’t know how many therapists I’ve seen. I would guess close to fifteen. That sounds slutty. But that’s the way it was. Each time, there was a good reason. I was with a few therapists for quite a long time. The longest, in New York City, was with a woman, for around nine years. She was expensive. They all are, aren’t they, but in New York, particularly so. They almost have to be to maintain their collective reputation.
I used to joke about the woman I saw for so long. I would say that one day, when I was walking by the Hudson River, I saw her pass by in a huge sailboat. The boat was named, Thank You, Rich.
I can hear her now. “How does that makes you feel?”
The first therapist I saw rescued me. I know you’ve heard this before. You may have even said it before. But fact is, he did. I was in college, down, down, down. Possessed by demons. (I’ve thought, from time to time, that an exorcism might not be a bad idea.) A friend recommended this man. I was terribly nervous. He was a classic Freudian. Lie down on the couch, facing away. What? Why? But I told him things that had been securely locked up inside, labeled, “Warning! Lethal, Disgusting, Only Me, Shameful, Do Not Repeat.” And lo — he didn’t call the police. He made me feel — human.
The therapists I’ve seen through the years haven’t all been of the same quality. But you could say that of car mechanics, plumbers or dentists, couldn’t you? Some have been a lifeline, when I was desperate. Some I’ve seen briefly, to give me a new set of crampons to help climb a particularly slippery slope. Then I’m off. Some have been humorless. Always a bad sign. Some have been brilliant. Some have been less than professional. One cancelled appointments on a regular basis, not that good for the self-esteem. Onward.
As the wise poet, Molly Peacock, said to me once about seeing a therapist, “I need backup!” Indeed. Molly wrote a tender and loving book of poems about her therapist, The Analyst. I haven’t written a book about my therapists, so I guess this post will have to do.
I’m seeing a therapist now. He’s my backup. And a good one. He laughs at my jokes. What’s better than that? After a lifetime of therapy, I’ve come to understand that I can’t heal some of the wounds I had hoped to heal. They are too profound. But I can become more aware, can hurt less, can try to do a bit better as a human.
All together now, group hug.