"May I tell you what I've noticed about you?" Dr. Counselor said, leaning back in his chair and frowning darkly when it squeaked. "I share this office with a very short man." He offered, distracted over his seat, "and he keeps adjusting the height! It's too old for all that so it squeaks all the time."
"You need some WD-40." I offered dryly. He was bugging me again. Offering advice and interruptions when I wanted to whine and complain. I was upset about Dawn. It was, as I expected, difficult to walk in the office to an empty desk in the corner. The clock was gone from the wall, the pictures in their frames missing from her desk. All the books and papers and general clutter had been wiped away as if they never existed. And I didn't like it.
"I'm bothered." I had said. "I don't want to do anything to make Boss uncomfortable and though I want to help, I know Dawn can take care of herself."
Dr. Counselor looked up from the examination of his chair and blinked at me. "If I may be a mirror?" Then he drew a rectangle in the air with his hands as gave him an exasperated look. I know what a mirror is - I don't need visual aids. "When you look at life," he continued, "you're always dealing with some irritant. Some gnat or smudge in the corner of the overall picture. And you dwell on it - turn all your focus to this problem and allow it to ruin any tranquility or happiness you might feel."
He looked at me expectantly. I sighed and shrugged.
"There's always something with you." He clarified, still waiting for a response. Was I supposed to be shocked and enlightened? I'm aware that there's usually something wrong. That I can be overly critical and negative. Did he really expect me to be impressed with his insight? I continued to stare at him, wanting to leave.
"I've noticed that about you." He tried again. "As we've met together over time. That you're usually bothered over something."
"OK." I finally said. Forgive me, but if I was happy all the time, why would I go to therapy? If I was stable and strong and peaceful, there would be no need to see him at all. So, yes, given that I go to his office to talk every other week, there is still stuff going wrong. And I was bothered. Now he was on the list of crap that was marring my tranquil existence.
We stared at each other, and I looked at the clock again. I had work I could be doing if we were just going to state the obvious then sit in silence.
"I know it's always something with me." I finally said, a bit snippy. "It always has been."
We talked a bit more and I continued to wrinkle my nose, refused to participate in his role playing games and sighed impatiently as his ideas.
"This is the worst I've seen you." He finally said. "You've confrontational and..."
"It's not you." I said, not wanting to hurt his feelings. "I'm just in a mood."
"In a mood." He repeated. "So I can't say anything that's going to help. Should we just be done?"
"Today or forever?" I asked.
"Forever, I think." He said, and I blinked in surprise. Had I been so bad that I wouldn't be allowed in therapy anymore? But... I liked seeing Dr. Counselor. He's sincere and non-threatening. A bit goofy, certainly, and often annoying. But I thought he liked me and wanted me to be well. After a single session of moodiness, I was being dismissed?
"Oh." I said softly.
"I'd like to see you once more - I don't want to end on a sour note." He said softly as I started to dab at my eyes. He offered me a tissue and sat back to consider me kindly.
"I do think I'm done here." I said, voice quivering. "I've been thinking for a while now that I need to either accept that I'm staying at this level of emotional health for the foreseeable future or get ready to do some serious work on how I think." He nodded, opened his mouth to speak, then stopped.
"I guess..." I started, then stopped to swallow. I don't like change and Dr. Counselor stepping out of my life was startlingly painful. I just can't hang on to people in my current location, I mourned silently. I don't know why the keep leaving me, but they all do. It's just a matter of time until the next one goes. And despite trying to remain contained and closed off to avoid the pain of being left alone, I'm still hurt when people disappear, leaving blank walls and empty desks where a bright, dynamic, funny person used to be.
"This is a good job." I finally said. "Boss, the projects, the money. I don't think I could have found a better place to work right out of grad school. I'm blessed - I know that. But I'm so unhappy sometimes, Dr. Counselor. So very miserable."
"I know you are." He said. "You're very sensitive and that's good. You're so easily hurt that you try not to hurt others. You care about people and animals and work and life and...everything. You just think so hard all the time and you keep finding these little problems that hurt you."
I nodded, and sniffled.
"You need to figure out how to put on gloves when you deal with roses." He offered. "Roses are beautiful, you know. They look and smell wonderful. But if you're not careful, you get stuck by thorns. My skin is thin - I'm getting old. Yours is probably much more resilient. But if we speak in metaphors, you need to find a way to wear some gloves. To enjoy the roses and avoid the sharp sting of the thorns."
I'll miss the metaphors, I thought sadly. Dr. Counselor has been good for me.
"You did what you were meant to do." I told him. "I'm coming to work, being productive, getting things done. I'm so much better than I was."
"We've done good work together." He agreed. "But you think it's time to see someone else? A woman, perhaps? Someone who's older than you but has also struggled with relationships and balance and worldview?"
"I don't know that I'm ready." I said. "But, yes, I think I should get some names and think about going somewhere else."
"I'll put a list together." He said. "Then when we meet again, we can talk about who best can help you. Do you want the whole list or can I pick people I think would work best?"
"I trust you." I said. "You can give me whatever you like."
He moved to stand and I waved him back in his chair. "I need a second." I explained, dabbing at my eyes again and taking deep breaths. He waited until I nodded, then gave me a brief hug before I walked from the room.
Despite the pain of losing yet another person in my life, I do think this is best. I feel like going to a place away from campus - one where I'm more comfortable falling apart if that's what I need, knowing that I don't have to immediately walk back to the office and pretend to be OK - would be helpful. Perhaps a woman would be better - I'm not sure it matters, but I'm willing to accept that it might. I think I need to start over - consider the problems, get to know someone new, embrace working toward something better instead of striving for mere productivity so I don't get in trouble at work.
"I think I'm relieved." I told Friend over lunch. "I haven't enjoyed going to see him lately. Our progress had stalled a bit. I think we were both thinking we should stop seeing each other. It's time."
"Will you see someone else?" She asked.
"I should." I offered.
"I was looking for more than an acknowledgment of your needs." She replied, but smiled.
"I think that's all you get for today." I decided. "I'm not sure what I want, if I'm ready, what I'll do. But I do know I have work to do - I don't like being unhappy and I do think I'm capable of more than this. But I don't know yet."
I do think very highly of the quirky man who helped pull me out of a deep hole. He provided a very safe place for me to go. Listened and talked and cared deeply about how I was doing and ways to help me do better. There were weeks when I relied on that 10AM appointment on Mondays for motivation to drag myself to campus. There were weeks I waited eagerly to see him so I could share progress or discuss problems. I carefully transcribed those meetings to put on my blog in the event that Dr. Counselor's blend of silliness and wisdom might provide a spark of help to someone else. He really is a very dear man.
But in two weeks, I shall go for the last time. To say good-bye, to get referrals and to, I'm sure, discuss what I've learned with him. I think the biggest thing is that therapy - the very thought of which used to terrify me, causing me to cringe away dramatically - isn't nearly as scary as I thought. Given the right person and appropriate methods, it really did help me considerably.
Given the right motivation and a willingness to seriously consider and work on myself, I do think it could help some more. But I'll let you know what I decide.