Since the tender age of eleven I have spent more hours than I can count and more of my, my parents, and maybe more regrettably, the state's, money on every type of counseling, therapy, psychology and psychiatry. I have been treated with everything from daily self affirmation to antideprssants (a whole other node, coming soon to an E2 near you). What I have learned is this:

Therapy is not paying 60+ dollars an hour to a "professional" to decipher why the asshole at work or your self righteous stepfather make you very angry.

Therapy is not simply placing the care of your psyche in the hands of the cash cow that the mental health field has become.

Therapy is whatever cultivates in you a sense of self respect and appreciation for your beautifully idiosynchcratic being. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, what does that mean? It means that you take that demeaning little voice inside you head, contrary to popular belief it is not an original part of your essence, and you demean that little voice until you can confidantly say, "He doesn't live here anymore."

Therapy is however you spend an afternoon doing something you enjoy and makes you feel like you have accomplished something that you are proud of. Cooking, writing, programming, dancing, exercise, learning and a million other things.

Therapy is an act. It is anything that makes you a better person than you were before you committed it.

The next time you feel the need to set aside an hour of your life to being seen by a "professional" whose own idiosynchratic being cannot possibly understand yours as well as you can, stop and take two hours to go and do something you want to do. Read a book in the park, go see that movie that no one else wanted to see, stare at the stars in the sky, feed the ducks, and do it alone without the company or competition of your friends or their egos. Without that demeaning little voice.

The most important part of therapy is what comes when you know that you deserve better than the life that you have settled for. This is called the Healing Process.

Healing is when you don't feel raw and exposed in the presence of the thoughts that at one time, ate you up inside.

Healing is knowing that you will be okay, when you can go out into the world and see the beauty that is lifts up to you everyday in the seasons and the myriad opportunities just waiting for you to actualize them. Healing is seeing light and prospect and hope in mankind. When you are healed, please, make an effort to be a part of someone else's healing. I promise you, they will never forget it.

**I would like to note that in the case of suicidal urges or one of the more serious mental afflictions where reality is truly altered (i.e., schizophrenia, mpd, severe and uncontrollable manic/bipolar disorders (and not the "manic depression" that is so flagrantly mis-diagnosed) degenerative mental diseases and many others) I am not suggesting these tactics as a replacement for proper medical attention.


Should I drive? No, Mom can drive this time. I don’t feel like driving. But I do need to get more driving practice in so I can get my license sometime before I leave for college. That way I can go over to Josh’s house without inconveniencing anyone else. And I can return my library books or go pick up whatever I want from the store. That’ll be nice. But I’m glad my mom is driving because I don’t feel like driving. I am too nervous. I’d rather not try to drive when I’m this preoccupied. I should have gone to the bathroom before we left home. That’s alright though. It’s not a long drive, and they probably have bathrooms there. I mean, they must. I wonder what the receptionist will look like. Not that it matters. She’ll probably mispronounce my name; everyone always does. I hope there’s no one else in the waiting room. I wouldn’t know whether to make eye contact or not. I’m sure they’re not drooling crazies (am I a drooling crazy?) but it seems like a breach of privacy to make casual eye contact when dealing with potential drooling crazies, even if you are quite possibly a crazy yourself. Even if you don’t drool.

            There’s Hollywood Ave. We’re about halfway there, then, right? I guess we are. I wonder if they named the street after the Hollywood Hollywood, or whether they just ended up with the same name. Holly. Wood. It must cause some minor confusion. “Wait a minute, you live in Hollywood?” I wouldn’t want to live in this Hollywood. Or the other one, for that matter. Too many people. Actually, that’s a lie. I like people, as scenery. I love New York City. But I hate glamour and ritz and fakeness. The radio needs to be louder. I don’t feel like talking. What am I doing? Wait, stupid question, I’m riding in the car. But what am I doing? I don’t need this. I’m not traumatized, I don’t hear voices, I’ve never actually tried to kill myself. I wonder if he’s going to ask how I would, if I did. “Oh, don’t worry Doctor. It’s only September. I can’t freeze to death on purpose until November at least.” I wonder if I actually could kill myself. Hypothermia would be such an easy way to die. Sometimes, living in this ridiculously horrible climate can have its perks, right? I could perish by my method of choice any time I wanted between Halloween and Easter.

            Alright, I’m here. Mom was right, this stretch of land does look familiar. Josh lives right on the other side of that line of trees. Well, somewhere back there. I could probably walk. Would I ever walk through the city alone? It’s comforting to know that he’s so close. I’m glad he isn’t actually here, though. That would be awkward. He’d be all worried. I hate when people worry about me because then they’re so much easier to upset. Also I don’t like admitting that I need support, because that’s admitting that this is important which maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. I’ve been thinking of coming here for probably a year. But I don’t actually have any real problems. I’m just sad all the time. Except for like, the last three days, which sort of messes up my statistics. If he just tells me to go home and whine somewhere else… I don’t know what I’ll do. Give up, probably. Even if I don’t have some hormonal quirk that makes my brain misbehave, I don’t think I can do this on my own. Which sucks because no matter how many people express concern or tell me how awesome I am, I always feel alone anyways. Everyone’s always alone. Can you really touch another human being? I don’t think you can. You can’t fully experience their emotions because you aren’t inside their head. You can touch their skin, but you can only understand what they reveal. I feel cold and twisted up inside myself a lot. Maybe that’s what the big deal about sex is. I don’t know, I’ve never tried it. Is that how you really connect with someone else? Technically, you’re inside them, I suppose. And depending on your preferences, you can technically be inside their head. (Oh, that’s a gross mental picture. I meant oral sex, I promise.) I don’t think it’s the same though.

            Oh my God, the waiting room is ugly. I pictured it as clean and bright, but I think the attempts to make the space look NOT clinical went a little too far. The chairs are made for hunchbacks, the wallpaper is some sort of dirty pastel pattern, and I bet the carpet was last replaced in 1972. My mom turned thirteen that year. That’s too old for carpet.

            Are we in the right place? We must be. The paper with the directions scrawled on it is still crinkled in my pocket, and I know we followed every line on it. I know where we are. We’re right near Josh. And it says the doctor’s name, in white letters on a brown plaque, on one of the doors. Damn, these chairs are uncomfortable. Why is it so dim in here? I think this waiting room is causing me clinical depression. Ha. Ha ha ha. Clinical.

            I really shouldn’t be here. I know plenty of people who should be here but aren’t, who could only be dragged here over their own dead bodies, but I am the one who is here. I am just weak, and whiny, and sensitive. I don’t have uncontrollable mood swings or throw up all my food or climb into bathtubs with plugged-in toasters. I have cut myself once out of a scientific curiosity, and I almost passed out seeing the few drops of blood that I elicited. I should just get up and walk to Josh’s house and pretend I was never here. I could have someone hit me in the head with a metaphorical (or literal) hammer until I learned to just GET OVER IT. I could move to Alaska or some obscure small town in England and live as a hermit. Actually, it would probably be easier to live as a hermit in New York City because no one knows anyone else there. I don’t have a drug problem. No one in my family has died. I mean, no one I knew. People die all the time, and probably some I'm related to, but no one close to me. I have really (maybe overly) healthy self confidence. I am plenty happy! I was happy this past week, except for those times that I almost burst into tears in class for no reason. PMS probably. And I’m only unhappy at school because I hate everyone there. And at work because it’s boring. And at home because I share a room with my irritating little brother. But I’m not unhappy with Josh. And not with Joe, who has sat in this waiting room many times before. Maybe I just need to hang out with happier people. That's a lie. I hate happy people. I hate almost anyone who ever opens their mouth around me. There’s three exceptions to that rule, three people in the entire world I would miss if they were gone. Maybe five, if I’m being generous. The extra two are the only ones who can make me laugh. But mostly just the three. Do I have a problem? I must have a problem or I wouldn’t contemplate coming here for so long. I am just rationalizing now, but it’s perfectly normal for normal teenagers to need to talk to someone (“talk to someone” is how my mom always phrases it) because growing up is so confusing. It’s the age-old problem of identity, that’s all. I have every right to be here.

            Some old guy who looked like my sixth-grade history teacher just wandered in. He took one look at us and asked me “Are you Jaclyn?” I said yes, and he said he’d be with us in just a moment, and turned around and left again. Was that the doctor? It must have been. He looks as shabby as his stupid waiting room. I suppose it’s too late to leave now. Who steps out of their office at three o’clock in the afternoon? Especially someone without a receptionist to say, “The doctor will be in in just a moment. Thank you for waiting patiently.” Ha ha ha. Patient. There aren’t even any crappy magazines for me to pretend to laugh at, and then surreptitiously flip to the articles on sex. Good thing I brought a couple of magnets to play with. After this I am going straight to Josh’s house and we can talk all about it. Or not talk about it. What if the doctor decides I don’t need to come back? I will feel embarrassed and ashamed. See, there I go already. Quantifying and classifying my feelings. I can’t decide if I’m too emotional or too emotionless; too guilty or not guilty enough. What do I deserve?

I’m not going down this road again, not right now. I focus on the click of the magnets and making snarky observations about the waiting room. Mom laughs along. I need someone to talk to. In the way that my mom means when she says it. All my friends listen and ask and understand, but they don’t help anymore. I’m like an ice sculpture: if I melt at a warm touch, I stop existing. What the hell am I talking about? I click my magnets together again, and then turn one over so they repel each other. I juggle them with one hand and try not to drop them onto the floor. Maybe I should get different magnets to play with. Different shapes and strengths. The great thing about playing with magnets is that if you lose one you can find it again easily. Opposites attract.

I wish my mother didn’t have to sit in on this. I can’t say much to her, because she always wants to talk about things I don’t want to talk about. She’ll ask over and over again even if I say “Mom, please leave me alone. It’s not something I want to discuss.” A weird rush of elation passes through me. I am getting help. I don’t know what is going to happen for this next hour, what beans I will have to spill, or what realizations I will come to, but it’s a step. Maybe being miserable and irritable and alone isn’t just a personality trait. It’s weird to admit to myself, but I’m not sure how well-adjusted I want to be. Depression is comforting. It’s home, it’s the ground. You can’t sink any lower. Happiness is just anxiety that hasn’t become negative yet. Happiness is nervousness about the prospect of maybe things getting worse again. And that’s not healthy, is it?

The doctor walks in again and invites us into his office. My mom picks up her purse, I shove my hand in my back jeans pocket, and we oblige him. He disappears into a different door. I guess he’s back for good now.

There’s a couch! Why is there always a fucking couch? And a loveseat, too. The decorating scheme in here is the same as the waiting room. I wouldn’t notice the decorating schemes of places if it wasn’t all my mother ever talked about. She wants to be an interior designer, but not enough to actually pursue it. Maybe she’s the crazy one. I want to lie down on the couch, because lying down is comfortable, but I don’t. That’s too stereotypical. Of course, it isn’t a leather couch so maybe it’s okay. I sit instead, and the cushion collapses underneath me. I think my butt is brushing the floor. Maybe the couch is thirty-seven years old too, just like the carpet. Or people regularly jump up and down on them. Or drool on them. I’m not crazy! My mom sits down next to me, and the couch sinks underneath her too, so we both kind of tilt towards the middle. We are not touching. She asks me if I want a pillow, and I decline. A couple seconds later, I change my mind and ask her to please pass me one. A Freud action figure stands almost forgotten on the cabinet against the wall, which looks like the set of drawers in Mom’s bedroom. It’s covered with stacks of papers and two or three mismatched lamps. On the table in front of me, between the couch and the doctor’s imposing swivel chair, there sits a Zen rock garden. The kind with the sand and the polished stones and the wooden rake. Someone has created wavy furrows in the sand that are vaguely parallel. Maybe the doctor did it himself because no one else ever touched it. There is a poster hanging on the wall of some painting that is pastel and icky like the wallpaper, and underneath in big letters it says IMPRESSIONISM. At least it’s a scholarly way to decorate, if not an aesthetically pleasing one. I pick up the rake from the Zen garden and the handle snaps in half. I quickly set it back down, and my mother laughs at my antics. I think she’s relieved I’m doing something other than playing with my magnets. I laugh too, because it’s funny that something very obviously intended to relieve stress just caused me a blip of stress by breaking in my hands. How very Western. Lao Tzu would be ashamed.

The doctor enters, and greets us. He looks less distracted now, and of course has a pad of yellow paper and a dark blue pen. He pushes the door into motion and it slowly begins to close. The chair sags under his weight, just like everything else in the office. He uncaps his pen, and begins speaking. He’s got a nice voice. The door slams shut. I am fighting back the tears already, and he hasn't even asked me why I'm here. A confusing mash of emotions plummeted into my stomach: anxiety, hope, and a tinge of embarrassment all swirled over top the usual beige sadness and exhaustion. Maybe today would be different.

Ther"a*py (?), n. [Gr. .]



© Webster 1913.

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