I have been in therapy on and off for 25 years. My poor self-image, lack of confidence with girls, and insecurity led me to finally call a therapist at age 20. I didn’t know where to begin so I figured browsing through the Yellow Pages would be my best bet.
I picked the closest therapist and made an appointment. She told me she worked out of her house. When I arrived, I was greeted by a heavy set middle-aged woman. She introduced herself and led me down to her basement office. She knew I was nervous and told me to sit on the floor and relax.
She brought out some huge fluffy pillows and encouraged me to get comfortable. Sitting on the floor and lying on oversized pillows seemed unusual to me, but what do I know. I told her my story and she made some helpful suggestions. She pointed out that my parents had mistreated me and I was clearly a victim.
Later, I found out that the patient is always told they’re the victim. It’s only your fault if somebody else is paying. (You learn that the first day of therapy school.)
Then the fun started. She asked me to pick up the fluffy pillow and hit her with it. She would then hit me back she explained. We then whacked each other for a good 5 minutes. I was just starting to enjoy it when she ordered me to stop. She then suggested that we hug for the last 5 minutes of the session. She said she was trying to show me that there was time for anger and time for kindness and I needed to learn the difference.
I awkwardly grabbed her and hugged away. I remember thinking how ironic this was. Here I am paying big money hugging this 60 year-old therapist and the real reason I’m here was that I couldn’t get a 20 year old girl to hug me. When she let go she asked me to make another appointment. I politely told her that she was not quite right for me. But when I bent down to tie my shoe as I was about to leave, she took the opportunity to smack me in the ass with that pillow. And they say I’m crazy…
My search for the right fit continued. This time I got a personal referral from my cousin. He raved about this psychiatrist. He said he was compassionate and smart as a whip. I gave his office a call. Feeling safe, I set up our first meeting.
My psychiatrist was a tall, distinguished man about 55. His office was very professional. Leather chairs, a mahogany desk, and hundreds of impressive psychology books in plain sight. This was the real thing I thought. My words poured out effortlessly. He encouraged me to bare my soul.
He seemed genuinely interested and concerned about my problems. But then the incessant twitching started. This man had every tick in the book. He shrugged his shoulders, he wiggled his nose, he scratched his ear, and his right foot never stopped tapping.
As you might imagine, this was a bit distracting. Here I am looking for answers to my problems and this guy is looking at the wax he just pulled out of his ears. He made a Turrets sufferer look like they were in a coma. Then it hit me. Maybe this was a test. Maybe he was conducting some kind of experiment. Maybe he wanted to see how I would cope with an uncomfortable situation. That has to be it I thought. No one could take this guy seriously if he really had that many nervous and annoying habits.
So, I decided to play along. Instead of getting turned off by his actions, I would show him my adaptability and patience by mimicking him. The next few minutes were reminiscent of a good Three Stooges episode.
He wiggled his ears and so did I. He smelled his fingers and so did I. He kept sticking out his tongue and so did I. As the session ended I thanked him and was determined to see him again. He informed me that this was our first and last meeting. Further more he chastised me for mocking his afflictions. I tried to explain but to no avail. I could not convince this insecure doctor that I was not mimicking him in a cruel way. As I left he charged me $200. Trying to stay in the spirit of our session I charged him $200 right back. You should have seen him twitch then. And they say I’m crazy…
After years of trial and error, I finally found the right psychiatrist in Dr. Harvey. He was my age and we had a lot in common. We shared the same culture and grew up in the same city. He helped me work through a lot of confusing feelings. I realized that by understanding my past behavior I could react differently when the situation came up again. This was a real breakthrough.
I looked forward to our sessions with one exception. I was always afraid of seeing someone I knew in his office. Then it happened. As I walked out into the lobby, there he was — Teddy Cohen. Teddy was a high school buddy of mine. I hadn’t seen him in 20 years. After the initial panic past I tried to be rational. After all Teddy was here to.. A sense of relief came over me. “It’s been 20 years how you doing?” Teddy said. “How do you think I’m doing Teddy? I’m coming out of a psychiatrist office,” I said with confidence.
“Steve, I’m Dr. Harvey’s CPA,” Teddy exclaimed. “I’m here to do his taxes.”
I learned a valuable lesson that day.
From then on, every time I visited Dr. Harvey’s office I protected myself by going dressed as a mailman. That way if somebody recognized me I could tell them the letter I was delivering was certifiable, not me. And they say I’m crazy…