Friday, May 10, 2013

"Sucks, Doesn't it?" A Memoir, Entry 23

Chapter 23 

Silver Spring, MD

B and I are zipping off to the second therapy session. I’m lying down in the back seat holding on for dear life. My senses are overloaded again, so I can’t look out the window, or listen to the radio. Every little decibel of sound is magnified to a painful degree. I can tune into only one station right now, and it's currently located inside my head.
As I walk into the outer office, I park B inside the waiting room. I’m going it alone. Taking a seat next to Pen's desk, I'm pleasantly surprised to learn that, not only are my senses back to normal, I'm riding the confidence train. Confident with a capital C, as in no anxiety, and therefore no panic. In fact, you could say, I’m almost cocky.
 I take a quick time out to study the newest version of Pen more closely. She hasn’t changed much. Still rather dowdy looking and quiet, but her aura screams competency. I look closely at her credentials displayed on the wall; something I hadn’t done before. She's a pastoral counselor? What the heck is that? Suddenly, I have this picture of me and Pen decked out in puffy blouses, embroidered skirts, white silk aprons, and straw hats with ribbon hanging from the brim, t'walking, (pronounced tawalking, [therapy + walking]) about the Swiss Alps, trailed by nanny goats, bluebirds, and Julie Andrews singing, "The hills are alive with the sound of music!"
        Pen asks me what I did during the break. I relax a bit and bring out my journal to show her the family circle I’d done.
She peruses it over very quickly, and asks me point blank to tell her about my childhood. I opt for the short version.
“I was born in Virginia, moved to Texas at two, in foster care by five, out of foster care by twelve, out of the mater house by eighteen, back in the mater house by twenty something, work and college for seven years, married by twenty-eight, three children by thirty-six. I’m forty now and living in Baltimore, Maryland. Boring, Pen.”
“How many siblings do you have, Liz?”
“What number are you?”
“Tell me what it was like growing up.”
I shrug. “Not much to tell. Apart from what I already said.”
“How was the relationship with your mother.”
“What I can remember, seemed fine. Had the normal spats, of course.”
“Tell me about your father.”
“I don’t remember him at all. My parents split when I was real young.”
“So the relationship between your mother and father was—”
“Rocky, obviously. But I never had any feelings of resentment toward either parent for the divorce. And I never wasted time fantasizing about having a father when I was a child, like so many people do. Which is probably why it seems to be a common trope in writing and movies. Bor  . . .  ing. Not to mention what a colossal waste of time to dwell on stuff like that.”
Pen nods and shifts position. “Is there any history of psychiatric illness in your family that you know of?”
“No. Mater has mentioned in passing that our family line on both sides was healthy, mentally and physically. Goes back many generations, too. We’re from strong stock.”
“And did you know your grandparents?”
“No. Both sets long dead. I do remember that my maternal grandmother used to send me five dollars every birthday and holiday. And I think I even remember meeting Grandmother once when I was eight or so. But that’s sketchy. Now my cousin, who is my age, had the honor, or the bad luck depending on your viewpoint, of Grandmother moving in with them for about a year when she was four. Said Grandmother scared her so much, she went mute. Eventually, my cousin recovered, but it took a year or so.”
Did your cousin ever explain why your Grandmother scared her so much?" 
"Basically said that Grandmother didn’t like her being so shy. Sounds like Grandmother used the wrong kind of psychology to bring my cousin out of her shell. She was from an era where mental illness was not only a stigma, but horribly misunderstood. Mantra back then was “buck up,” and “mind over matter.”
I stand up abruptly, tired, and cranky. Without any farewell fanfare, I make another appointment and leave. And breathe a sigh of relief. 
“And whistlin’ a happy tune. Don’t forget about little ol’ me, Lizzie.”