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Talk It Out
N.B.
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In the past four years, I’ve had four different therapists. Each time I went to one I was hoping to find someone who cared enough to tell me the things I did wrong and help me go about changing them. But until I found my fourth therapist, I was lost inside my own world.

I went to my first therapist at age 12. At the time, my life was filled with chaos, and I didn’t know who to talk to or how to handle it.

My dad was in jail, my mother and I weren’t talking, and in a little more than a year, several family members had died. All the feelings I had began to build up inside, and I felt like I was drowning in my emotions.

Sometimes I would cry like a baby over all the death in my family. Other times I’d feel angry and confused. I didn’t trust anyone, especially my family, and I thought people were saying negative things about me. I started to disrespect my elders, steal, stay out late, and fail in school.

Things got so bad that I was sent to two different group homes. At the homes I pretended to feel better about myself, but being there made me feel like more of a failure and like I didn’t deserve to live. I really needed someone to talk to. I needed someone to show me that there was still hope for me and to help me realize that everything that was going on wasn’t all my fault.

I went to one therapist after another. But my therapists didn’t ask how I was really feeling, which was what I wanted. Instead they just skimmed the surface of the problems and offered me useless advice like, “Watch your temper,” or “Try to fit in.”

But my fourth therapist, Dr. Kaputer, was different. She didn’t talk to me like I was a toddler. And she hardly ever talked about herself. She didn’t act like I had to take her advice just because she went to school for it. And if I ever forgot to come for an appointment, she’d call to remind me. That alone made me feel like she really cared. Slowly I began to open up and tell her more about myself.

I remember one time I was hit in the face by another resident of my group home, and it left a mark under my eye. From that day until the mark went away, I was picked on. It was like I was garbage in a dumpster, and the residents were the seagulls—just picking and picking at me until there was practically nothing there.

I pretended that what they said didn’t hurt, but it did. They would say things like “Norm’s a punk,” or “Check out big Norm with the black eye.” Even though it was a joke to them, it wasn’t to me.

At first I didn’t want to talk to Dr. K about the fight. I didn’t care how it started, or the consequences I had to suffer. It was the reactions I got from people that bothered me, and that was what I wanted to talk about.

She asked me how I felt about all the attention I was getting. Of course I said I was angry and didn’t like it. But then she repeated the question, explaining that she wanted to know how I really felt about people making fun of me.

Again I tried to work my way around the question, but I didn’t get far because she asked again. Finally, I told her, “It hurts so bad until I can’t describe it,” which is what she wanted to hear—and what I needed to say. How I really felt. After that session, it became easier for me to express my true feelings.

Another time someone spread a rumor saying that I had sex with one of the residents. That whole thing went around the entire campus infecting people’s brains like crack. And it lasted for weeks.

Some of the residents would say, “Your roommate said you had sex with another resident,” or “Yo, I heard you was gay, is that true?”

image by Joseph Perez

To me, that was hurtful and embarrassing. I felt like I wanted to die, but I never let anyone know how I was really feeling. I just made myself go completely numb to the hurt, only feeling anger. But it didn’t work because all my other feelings continued to build up, colliding and swarming around like the winds of an unpredictable storm.

I was rude to the other residents for the littlest things. Like when one asked if he could have some of my cereal, I responded, “No, what the hell do I look like giving you something of mine, anyway?” He just rolled his eyes and walked away.

Another resident asked if I had a bar of soap he could borrow. I said, “Do I look like your freakin’ mother to you?” He just started mumbling and walked away, too.

My anger was a reflection of how much I was hurting inside. Because I was hurting so badly and didn’t want anyone to know, I became more and more angry, and that’s when Dr. K really got down to business.

She told me she thought I was trying to get at people’s most sensitive, vulnerable sides, so I could make them feel the way I felt. Then she began to dig deeper.

Instead of just telling me not to act out anymore, she asked me why I did it. How did it make me feel to insult someone? Did I think it was a positive thing to do?

At first I didn’t know what to say to her questions because they were so direct. I explained to her that the things they said about me really hurt. And it wasn’t just the fact that they weren’t true. It was the fact that some of the same people saying these things claimed to be my friends.

But I also liked that she was willing to be so direct with me. With questions like that, I knew we were getting somewhere and that I was dealing with someone who cared. Which is what I wanted all along—someone who was going to be there whenever I needed her. Someone who understood both sides of the story.

Working with Dr. K, I learned not to get so angry at so many little things. She helped me uncover a side of myself I never knew I had and showed me how to look at myself from the outside in. With her help, I realized that the ways I was acting were just a cover for my true feelings.

I still have to work on expressing my feelings more and not always thinking someone is talking badly about me. I still have to work on watching the things I say or at least how I say them. Which may take a while.

But Dr. K also helped me see that the things that went on at my group home weren’t all my fault, and what was my fault I’d have to admit to. And Dr. K helped me realize that I actually did have a reason to live.

Dr. K helped me beyond words. She was the only person I trusted. So it really hurt me the day I found out she was leaving. I just felt like shutting out everything around me.

It’s going to be hard to start with another therapist because I don’t feel like going back and talking about my past after doing it with four other therapists. I just want to move forward.

I just need someone I feel I can trust, with whom I can really talk about myself and my life. Sometimes, I just need to talk about me. Just me.

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(FCYU-1998-03-22)

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