So, I’ve just finished my weekly therapy session. It’s been a very, very long term relationship this time. The first time I entered therapy was the day the Challenger blew up. You’d have thought that I would’ve known better than to start a therapeutic relationship on the day that we all watched a hopeful take-off turn into a catastrophe. There is one good thing about it though. I’ll always remember the day that I was fully awakened to having been abused. That story deserves it’s own post, so I’ll stop here and save that for “The Awakening”.
So I am now in therapy. My first foray into the world of telling your business for a fee was with a man named John Carnevale. He was an onsite psychologist at Syracuse University’s free health center. And by ‘free’ I mean you paid for it with your student fee to the tune of hundreds of dollars a semester, whether you used the services or not. Anyway, I walk into the health center and head down the stairs to where they hid the crazies. Yes, psyche services was in the basement of the center. I’m sure they thought they were just providing us with a ‘safe’ place to reveal our mania, but it felt rather like we were hidden. The untouchables. The crazies. Well, it all fit the state of mind I was in. I sat down in a chair across from this strange male who I had never before seen with tears racing down my cheeks as if my face was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Streaming so quickly that they were not individual tears, but a flowing river of sadness. Yeah, I was kinda crying. I sit down and John asks me what’s wrong. I just shrug my shoulders and explain to him that I didn’t know. That I had no idea, but had been walking campus for the previous week feeling overwhelmingly melancholic for no apparent reason and that the melancholy has morphed into extreme depression and sadness which led me to his office. So what does John do? He asks – Have you ever been molested? Touched against your will?… What the…??!! Just like that John? Just like that you’re going to reveal all of my pain in one freaking sentence–and you DON’T EVEN KNOW ME???!! How the heck did he know????
I’ve thought about that moment many, many times over the years. At first I was mystified. I thought he’s got to be a psychic and not psychologist. I mean, really, how did he know? Well, of course now it’s not such a mystery. Young adult woman, depressed, sad, dealing with the unknown, crying for seemingly no reason… Yup, I’m not the only one. It seems there are several of us who go from not ‘knowing’ one minute to a full blown revelation the next. That was me. So I started seeing John weekly for the balance of the semester and then the summer came and I returned to the scene of the crime.
One of the first things I’d done when I sat with John after that initial embarrassment, was to tell him what my timetable was. He had approximately 8-10 weeks to “take care of this issue”. I was NOT going to be dealing with this for weeks on end. Say what you need to Mr. Carnevale cause the clock is a-ticking. LOLOL. I can’t imagine how funny he must have found that to be. Weeks? Ummmmm yeah, we are gonna undo YEARS of damage, of hurt, of heartache, of pain, of shame, of blame, of misery… Yup 10 weeks is just enough time. Well, I finished up that semester of therapy and decided that I didn’t need to go back when I returned to Syracuse. Fast forward two years and I’m right back in that same place of depression and misery and melancholy. Hmmmm, maybe, just maybe I should go back into therapy. Maybe I need a booster dose? Yup, that’s it. Maybe 5-6 weeks? Okay, let’s find John.
John no longer worked at SU, but he was still in the area and I found him in another practice. So back to John I went. This time I found myself looking at John like a MAN. Like an attractive and caring man. I could barely focus on what he was saying and I certainly couldn’t say too much myself. Most of my brain energy was focused on how to take this ‘relationship’ to the next level. I mean, c’mon, John UNDERSTOOD ME. So you can imagine that didn’t work too well. So off I go again — untreated. Truthfully, I wasn’t being treated anymore anyway because I made up things to tell John that didn’t make me look like the monster that I still thought I was. I mean who does ‘repeated’ abuse happen to? Must be someone who ‘asks’ for it, right? So, goodnight Johnboy, I gotta move on.
I went YEARS without therapy after that experience and one day realized that I still had some work to do so I sought a FEMALE therapist this time. I went to her twice. The first time all I can remember is how many times she looked at her watch. What the…??!! Seriously? Am I keeping you from something? But I thought maybe I was exaggerating and I went back a second time. Halfway through I discovered, nope. She has a watch fetish and NOTHING was going to come between her and her Timex, so I was outta there!
It would be more than a decade later that I was back to total depression. This time I had a female doctor who I eventually told that I was faking at life. I was nowhere near the happy go lucky person that I longed and pretended to be. I broke down in her office. God is amazing because this family doctor that I had was also an MSW. AND a survivor! Bingo! She got it right away and recommended a therapist for me. She was great. Her nurse was not. I told her all of this in absolute confidence and she informed her nurse who had to make me a referral. What she wasn’t aware of was how her nurse came into the room, bringing a copy of The Courage to Heal and openly started a conversation about sexual abuse. Ummmmmmmmm. NO. I was irate, but continued to play nice (as abused persons are wont to do) and I left. I called the therapist right away and was given an appointment.
Harmony. The practice is called Harmony Healing. The therapist I was given is Cindy Ostuni and she is clearly one of the better things to have happened to me in my life. At the time, however, I didn’t know that and the first thing I was to let her know is that I KNOW therapy and did SHE know that ‘therapist’ when separated says the-rapist?? Yeah, that’s my intro. As the pro she is, she admitted not knowing that and proceeded with her deep dive into my psyche. Guess I gotta find another way to throw her off. I quickly learned that Cindy has a steel trap mind that surely would put any elephant to shame, so the story creation that I was considering and had tried a bit to do with her, that was not going to be feasible. Unlike Cindy, I can’t remember my middle initial. So I started something new – I told the truth. Oh. MY. Goodness. Who knew?! I guess everyone else did because ‘the truth shall set you free’ is not a new saying, but I certainly hadn’t practiced that in my therapeutic existence (or in my life, really). So here I am telling my truth – over and over again. We tried other methodologies – EMDR – which, yeah, YUCK!!! But I kept going back. I started going every 3 weeks, which later became 2 and eventually I went weekly. I STILL see her weekly and it’s been 7 years since I first walked in her door. I sometimes think HOW can you STILL be in therapy? 7- S E V E N YEARS? REALLY? Okay, so I didn’t go weekly until 6 years ago, so it’s really just 6 years, right? And then if you REALLY REALLY look at it, it’s only ONE hour a week for an average of 48 weeks, cuz, vacation, life… and that’s technically just TWO DAYS!!! Two days for 6 years is less than two weeks. So, yeah, I’ve been in therapy for just under two weeks… and I’m STILL going. And I’ll KEEP going until such time that I feel done. I’ve also done a few groups – short term groups (10 weeks or so) and I just signed up for another group. The group dynamic makes things a bit different and it’s not just focused on ME. I get to sit with similar and familiar pain and help find solutions for others, when I couldn’t find solutions for myself. It’s classic, but “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else (Booker T Washington). It works.
I believe in therapy. I KNOW how it’s helped me. I also believe in a variety of therapeutic methods. My weekend with Iyanla Van Zant at her Wonder Woman Weekend series also proved to be life altering– even my therapist said she could see huge changes when I returned.
So there’s no hurry for me to leave. I spent over 15 years being abused. I certainly can spend that amount of time and more being healed!