“I don’t need help! I can handle everything myself!” I screamed at an octave high and loud enough to shatter glass. My mom was attempting to coax me out of the car. Defeated, she slammed the door in my face and walked alone up the cracked concrete stairs to the bland gray trio of office buildings where I was expected – 15 minutes ago.
Someone like me does not belong somewhere like this. The June heat soon became oppressive. My stubbornness wavering, I decided the time was right to enter the building. An overly enthusiastic woman met me at the door, and soon I sat uncomfortably in a stiff paisley print chair in an office that reeked of potpourri and old women. After a half an hour of awkward small talk and failed efforts to pry into my mind, my mom and I walked silently back to the car. On the way home I delivered my ultimatum: “If I am going to ever set foot in another office to meet with a psychologist, she better be nothing like that. I want someone who isn’t old.”
Weeks passed as trips to bizarrely decorated offices and even more peculiar sites became a weekly event that I dreaded. From spider web–filled waiting rooms to dull old men, the search for what I considered “the one” seemed a nearly impossible feat. After all, someone like me should not be somewhere like this, and the futile pursuit of a psychologist who fit my ever-changing criteria simply reaffirmed my ignorant belief.
The journey led my mom and me to a beautiful yellow Victorian in downtown New Haven. The waiting room was filled with the traffic noises of rush hour. Pictures of strange watercolor clowns hung high on the walls, making eye contact from every angle. As the clock struck 5:30, a middle-aged African American woman entered and introduced herself as Mary. Before another word was spoken, I knew I had been defeated. She was “the one.”
Within moments I felt as if I had known Mary forever. I began making weekly visits to her office; little did I know that she would do more than act as my psychologist.
Now, two and a half years later, Mary has become my closest ally in this grim and problematic time of my life. From Mary I have learned vital tactics to deal with the challenges of life, but most importantly I have learned to keep an open mind.
I never saw myself as someone who would go to a psychologist because of the stigma of mental health and the embarrassment I felt. However, weekly visits to Mary are the times I can be myself and feel no shame about my state of mind. She has taught me to accept new people and situations, and to forgive those who have left.
Possessing an open mind has enabled me to embrace change, a task that at one time was grueling for me. Mary has inspired my love for helping people like me. One day I hope to be the Mary – “the one” – in someone else’s life.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.