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Step one, you listen. Step two, nod your head. Step three is to tell the client that everyone feels that way at one point or another. Other times you want to laugh because some people are lunatics, and other times you have to refrain from hugging the ones that don’t have much time. Trust me, being a therapist isn’t just listening to someone blab on- that would be easy.
Walking into the office I admire the plastic flowers next to the ragged couch that has been here ten years. The routine seems to be engraved into my arm, too familiar at times. Today is a Tuesday, three sessions before my lunch. Sitting at the desk, I’m ecstatic for John to arrive. His testimony today is about his cat that is possessed by demons, why he will only leave his bedroom to attend meetings with me. His room, filled with old milk cartons, is the only thing protecting him. John is interesting because he is not a paranoid schizhophrenic nor a hoarder but a complete nutcase. I continue to nod my head and glance at the clock.
After practically forcing John out the door, I encounter my next challenge, Mrs. Dwight. A lovely woman at first glance, but on the inside she's nothing but water. If I could go back to grad school, I would have asked what to do in a situation like this. How do you understand a person when they are hysterical…the whole hour? By hysterical, I mean using each and every one of my tissues, more than the practice provides. Yesterday, Mrs. Dwight either lost her husband or her keys, either one, I’m not so sure. At this point I’m just happy to get paid and hoping that I can plug her up before she heads out of the office.
Finally, my favorite client arrives obnoxiously on his hands and knees. Lovely. No, not an animal but an older man in worn-out camouflage. Still set in the 1960s, Donald is under the impression that he is still on the front lines of the war in Vietnam. At this point, I turn all sounds off in the room to ensure I don’t repeat when the Vietcong found him. Post-traumatic stress disorder is hard to treat because of Don’s hesitation to get help. All I want to do at this point, having been his therapist for two years, is to knock him on the head and let him know that we are in 2010; that the war is over and he can stop whispering. Instead, I acknowledge his distress and recommend that he takes his medication regularly. I think he is starting to trust that it isn’t laced with Agent Orange; a good start.
Heading home, I call my daughter and hope that she is in a better mood. Amanda grew up way too fast. It was just yesterday when she wore tutus, and now all she wears is much more revealing outfits. She answers, mad at me for taking away seconds of her valuable time. Shame on me.
“Mom, I’m busy,” she answers sarcastically.
“Amanda, I’m sorry that I care.”
“Why do you care? Don’t treat me like one of your retard clients. I’m going to Dad’s.”
“How was your day?” I attempt to ask.
Before I even get the chance to finish, I hear her slam the receiver down. Although I know she’s not listening, I tell her I love her and that I’ll see her on Monday. At this point, an answer of her phone will do. At least it is some kind of acknowledgment. After the divorce, Dad has become her new best friend. And of course with a new best friend comes a new enemy, her mother. I can hardly sleep at night, trying to remember what my daughter’s hug felt like. I want to be her hero, but to her I’m the big bad guy. What has he told Amanda to make it this way? Entering my driveway, I’m ready to drink a glass of wine. I need someone to tell me that everything will be okay.
Does anyone really have it all together? I suppose the ideal life isn’t factual, and the factual life isn’t ideal. Therapy isn’t the path for me, I suppose. I pear down at the clock in my car and realize that it’s an hour behind.