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My Therapist Had a Big Heart
P. Carr
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By P. Carr

I've been in therapy since I was about 5 years old. "Why that long?" you ask. Well, I have a mental disability called schizoaffective disorder, and from what I'm told I've had it all my life. Basically what it means is that from a young age I've suffered from depression. Sometimes I also hear voices and see things that other people don't see.

Although I saw quite a few therapists from the age of 5 on, it took me nine years to find one who I felt really gave a damn about me, and six years more to find one who had nerve enough to tell me, "Stop the bullsh-t. Lets talk about you."

More Than Just Talk

The first was a counselor at a youth center. Her name was Lisa. I saw some other counselors too, but Lisa was the one I loved most.

I considered Lisa a friend more than I considered her a counselor. I could tell her anything. If it was something that I wanted to keep just between us, I'd ask her not to write it down and she wouldn't. I never asked her to keep to herself something she couldn't, like if I was depressed enough to want to hurt myself. When she told one of her supervisors, I knew she had to and I trusted her to do the right thing by me.

I went into the hospital several times from the time I met Lisa till it was time for us to part. Every time I went, she came to visit when she could. She'd bring me things to eat, coloring books. Once she brought me a pair of socks with Winnie the Pooh. She'd even bring me cigarettes although she didn't smoke and didn't like for me to smoke. She did it because she knew that I wanted them and had no way of getting them myself.

That's what put Lisa above the rest. She stuck by me and really cared if I got better and was OK. With everybody else, it just felt like talk.

Sometimes, though, Lisa was too soft, too sweet. Once in a while I needed for her to crack so I could see that she was real. She never did. It wasn't because she was weak. Lisa had a temper. I could sometimes see it in her eyes when I talked about some of the things I'd gone through in my life. And it wasn't that she didn't care that kept me from really seeing her anger. It was the fact that she was a professional and still young enough to believe in the textbook teachings they give to counselors.

image by Rosa Perin

'I Want to Hear About You'

Six years after I met Lisa, I found a therapist who was just as nice but with balls enough to confront me. By the time I ran into Andrea I needed someone to confront me because I'd lost trust again in therapists, so I talked to them about everyone else but me.

Now Andrea let me go on for a while, talking about my mother and my friends and anyone else who crossed my mind that day, but I guess one day she just got tired of it.

I came into her office one morning just like every other time and sat down for our hour session. Before I could speak, she did. "Good morning, Princess," she said. "We're going to try something new today. You're going to stop the bullsh-t and today I want to hear about you."

Thank You

I laughed, because I knew that she was dead serious and because I knew it was time for me to start to speak. Andrea pushed me. She'd ask me tough questions and would not back down until I answered them. Andrea could curse like a sailor, which kept me laughing, and when she could relate, she did. It helped that she wasn't hiding herself from me like therapists are often trained to do. Sometimes she made me mad on purpose just so I'd have to confront myself. She very rarely let me hide, and that's what I had been doing for far too long.

Twice a week I saw her and sometimes twice a week was the only time I didn't feel alone. I left her because her boss said I had to join in on some of the other groups they had and I had no desire to. Sometimes I miss her but before I stopped seeing her, she taught me how to depend on myself a little bit more.

Sometimes when you go into therapy you think that whatever problem you entered with you'll leave without, but that's not true. Therapy hasn't and probably won't ever solve my problems, but every time I went and found someone I could trust, I got just a little bit stronger. I didn't trust every therapist I went to see, not at all, but the couple I did trust made a difference. Maybe one day I'll bump into Lisa or Andrea on the street and I can let them know that I'm still struggling, but I'm also doing better, and I'm glad they had a part in that.

Are you a caring adult looking for more stories to help your youth? Go to HeretoListen.org, a resource for the front-line staff in schools and community based programs to help teens who are struggling with difficult emotions.

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(FCYU-2001-03-08)

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