Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Change: 19

The Photograph
(This is an ongoing story. If you want to start at the beginning, click here.)

Most of my friends have been in therapy and they seem to have all “graduated.” “You’re done,” their therapist will say to them after a few years, or sometimes months, or, in my mother’s case, after six sessions (which, in my humble opinion, seemed impossibly wrong).  (Sorry, Mom.) Yet, from the outside, they don’t seem different to me at all.

I’ve been with 5 different therapists in my adult life (six if you count the woman who only wore purple, which I don’t) and not one of them ever set me loose voluntarily. 

I started going to Therapist Number 2 (I’ll call her Dr. K) when I was in my twenties because I wanted to stop smoking and quit my job. It was with Dr. K that I became indoctrinated to the idea that our grown up problems nearly always originate from our pasts. I’m not sure how I got through a previous therapist and two and a half decades of life before this dawned on me, but once it did, I started looking at everyone and everything through that lens.

Similarly, AE acts like a private investigator, asking questions about my past, about relationships, about accidents, about illnesses, trying to piece together a story that might explain my collapsed foot.  I’m not sure why it took me six months to remember that, as a child (seven or eight years old) I fell down a flight of stairs and landed with my right foot crunched under me. Three toes were broken and I was in a cast up to my knee for weeks.

AE says that maybe the bones weren’t set correctly, or they just didn’t heal right, but that the break could definitely explain the sorry state my foot slowly ended up in.  Just to be sure, she asked if I had a picture of myself from my childhood where she could see my bare feet. She wanted to see if she could somehow detect whether my problem was from that break, or genetic. 

So, one day I sat on the floor surrounded by boxes of photographs, dumping out all the envelopes marked “Old Stuff” and sifting through them. I have very few pictures of myself from that time in my life and even fewer that include my feet. Yet, eventually, I found the exact right picture of myself. It was actually a picture of my childhood dog  – an Irish Setter – and I was standing next to her, barefoot, in my pajamas. You can’t even see the top of me – it’s a picture of me from the knees down. And it has a date on the border; I was 11 years old.

As it turned out, AE couldn’t make a definitive judgment call from the picture, but that did not disappoint me. I was so delighted just to have found the type of picture she was looking for, I didn’t even care that my feet were too small to assess. This, too, reminded me of therapy – the way we can turn ourselves inside out trying to find long ago explanations for current upheaval, and in the end, it doesn’t really matter what the cause is, it’s just needs to be fixed.


  1. jessica, i've never been voluntarily released either. I have a good friend who was promoted to Once A Month. Another friend and I were in awe of this; we had never known anyone who had graduated, only people who ran out of time/money/patience. I do know I couldn't ever see someone who wore only purple; I once saw a woman in elf shoes and I could barely make it through an hour. I love your stories of AE. Do you think you could see her more often? I've gotten so used to watching entire seasons of tv shows on Netflix that I really can't wait a week until the next episode.

  2. Wow. What color were the elf shoes?