Monday, July 16, 2012

Therapist Auditions

"Have you ever thought of killing yourself?"

"Hahah, well, hasn't everyone?" I ask, deflecting the question.

I've been holding therapist auditions. At my last intake session, I opened with a joke about it.

"I'm holding auditions," I say, "It's kind of like The Voice or America's Got Talent, it's like:" I imitate a television announcer, "The Therapist. And the tagline would be 'Where I ask the therapists all the questions.'"

The gentleman across from me laughs, and whether he actually finds it funny I don't really care, because I am happy just to talk to someone knowing his only job is to listen and that my only job is to talk.

I go on because I feel awkward, "While I was waiting I was Tweeting about things you find in a counseling center."

The room -- like a lot of sliding scale centers -- is cobbled together from donated furniture. I'm learning that in San Francisco, since the buildings are older than they are in Los Angeles, they must be re-appropriated for business activity. The corner room barely seats the two of us and overlooks the street, which is noisy and distracting.

"What sort of things do you find?"

"Boxes of tissues on every available surface, those noise canceling things, pastel colors." I go in for my punchline. "Saaad faces."

"You don't seem very sad. You seem very bubbly."

I look away, no longer able to restrain the tears that have threatened me since I arrived.

"I'm very sad," I say, "I've been holding back this whole time." And then I start crying.

When I am alone, I weep. I heave and gasp and cry out into my pillow, saying things like, "Why why why?" or "Please please please." In therapy I never do that, even though it's present just beneath the surface. I maintain my composure, and when I cry, it is only one or two tears that escape me, and I imagine them elegantly running down along my face.

Amusingly, the box of tissues in the room is unopened, and there is an awkward exchange where we both grab for the box, and he tries to rip it open in time, tearing a bunch of tissues in the process and dropping the box as he fumbles to hand it to me. I laugh because it is a charming and human gesture, and it makes us both vulnerable. There's no way I can continue crying. It is a temporary dose of human ecstasy, one of the beautiful follies and blunders that plague us despite our best efforts otherwise, a gentle reminder that we are only perfect because we are so imperfect.

I am wary about seeing a male therapist, but I like him. If I am comically petite, he is comically tall, curled up like a bird in a cheap IKEA chair. He furrows his brows as if pantomiming concern when really, the man knows nothing about me at all.

I inevitably talk about my break up, about the cheating, about the betrayal, about the sense of loss and confusion. I am always quick to mime quotation marks with my fingers around the word "cheating" because, as I tell him, "I'm sort of unconventional, all I needed was for him to be honest."

"I can tell that you're very unconventional," he says. I wonder what the tactic is behind the comment -- to flatter my ego and loose the trusting words from my mouth? Or does he really believe that in a city of queers and punks and hippies my pink hair is "unconventional?" It works -- I am a little flattered even though my hair is in desperate need of a fresh dye job. Very unconventional -- sure, that's me.

But I am so very conventional. Thinking that I'm just so darn special is part of what got me into this mess -- right? That's what they tell me. They tell me that my parents hovered over me and my sense of humility atrophied and now I feel burdened with the expectation to do something great that the fear of never fulfilling paralyzes me, or cuts me off from myself and those fine, exquisite moments of happiness I crave. That's why they say I am so sad. I am not sure who they are, but I can hear them now, telling me I am lazy, I am not good enough, I am a failure.

You see? I deflected it again. I wanted to talk to you candidly about how exhausted I feel right now, how scared I am for the future, how overwhelmed and broken I feel, and about how I am not quite sure I can keep going. I wanted to be open and vulnerable with you. And I suppose it's still vulnerable of me to admit that I decided to write something funny instead of something sad, because when you laugh loudly enough, it drowns out the quiet sobbing underneath.  

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