In the beginning this was how it played out. My first husband came home one day and told me he’d gone to a nearby mental health center and scheduled an appointment for me. He wanted me to agree to go.

I didn’t want to. I was horrified. My kind of people didn’t go to that kind of place. Where you sat in a chair and talked about yourself. Where you spilled all your secrets.

Nevertheless I went.

I remember one doctor was from someplace like Vietnam. He spoke such limited English we could barely understand one another.

And then after a time you were hired. Young, not long out of medical school. I didn’t want to see you either.

But I did.

The first year I was pretty timid. Then I began to let my anger loose in the room. I sat in the chair facing you and flung that anger around like confetti. And you just sat there and listened.

It was awkward. I thought I was mad at you for sitting there and my husband for making me go to this place. And then, pulling back the delicate layers, I was angry with everyone throughout my childhood who had made me feel less than.

When I could feel that I was about to cry and could not reign it in, I would run. Just jump up and tear out of your office and head to my car in the parking lot.

But I went back for the next appointment and the one after that. And it wasn’t mentioned.

Then one day I could tell I was about to cry, that the tears were imminent. I tore out of there like I was on fire, threw open the door to the outside and gulped the fresh air.

I ran to my car and suddenly realized I’d left my keys behind. There was no way in hell that I was going back to get them because the tears were falling in earnest by then.

So I stood there kicking myself, not having any idea what to do next.

Then I saw the door open and you walked out. You had my keys in your hand and you held them out to me. You saw me cry. There was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

But I kept going back.

Two more years passed. You peeled back those layers one by one. You told me those people way back when were wrong. That I wasn’t less than. You said I was smart and talented and special.

At first I didn’t believe you. Why did I feel so worthless if I was special?

But then with time I began to grow into the idea of perhaps being someone special. I wore it like a prized necklace and it lit me up from the inside out.

It was as if I’d been under a dark blanket all my life and suddenly I saw and felt the warmth of the sun.

The medication you gave me began to change how I looked at life, at myself and the world around me. I swear the sky seemed bluer and the sun seemed brighter.

I grew like a flower that came wriggling up through a crack in the cement.

It took me 25 years to feel like that. Because I’d never felt special. I’d never felt wanted. I was just a grim reminder of a mother I didn’t even know.

Then one day, three years in, you looked me in the eye. It was something that had taken me a long time to master, being able to occasionally meet someone’s eyes.

And you said: “Do you find me attractive?”

I don’t remember how I answered your question. But I recall that my world tilted a bit on its seemingly brand new axis.

And in the flicker of a quickly dying light, suddenly I didn’t feel special anymore. 

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64 Comments

  1. Brenda, thank you for sharing this. I know it was difficult. It bothers me that people we think we should respect and listen to due to their position, take advantage of us using that position. Just know, that you are special and you have touched so many people’s lives in wonderful ways! Love and hugs!

  2. Special. That word. Its the perfect word to use to manipulate a sensitive, insecure, emotionally vulnerable individual into the predators web. You are a lovely, caring woman and he learned just what he needed to do to have his way with you.
    Did he tell all of the other women they were “special” too? You suffered the worst type of betrayal by this man. Yes, he was a predator. I simply cannot put my words together to express myself as I wish. I am THAT enraged.

  3. Brenda,please put this to rest now. I am willing to bet that every one of your followers who have commented today have scars from the past as well. You are in a different time now, living a different life, doing what you please with your life and answering to no one. Enjoy!

  4. I am stunned … and sad … and angry … and — I don’t know what. I cannot imagine how you must have felt at the time. You are an amazing woman to have borne so much in your life and have come to the place where you are now. God bless you as you continue on your journey and as you help and inspire the rest of us.

  5. Brenda, I just wanted to add one thing to my post. I want to thank you for your willingness to be vulnerable and open in sharing your story with us. I hold what you have allowed us to know about you as sacred. I’m glad you feel that you can trust us to receive it with love and compassion.

    1. I actually wrote this one Sunday night a few weeks ago. I debated publishing it. I didn’t want to speak ill of the dead, as they say. It was just something I was processing. But yesterday I finally decided to go ahead and publish it.

  6. Brenda, I’m so sorry you were, through no fault of your own, “taken in” by that man. And don’t ever, ever call yourself an idiot for falling for his line. He set you up and took advantage of your relationship for his own purposes. He was in a professional relationship with you and surely knew that leading you into an intimate relationship was unethical. You were young, inexperienced and very vulnerable and he knew that. His intentions were based on self-interest when he should have had your best interests at the forefront of his mind. You did NOTHING wrong. He was the person in power and he took advantage of your trust in him as a therapist.

    But, the upside is that you have survived and taken control of your own life and become a strong, compassionate woman with so much to share with others. You may have scars from the wounds he inflicted, but who of us survives this world without scars of some type or another? You are smart, funny, a talented writer and photographer and a wonderful gardener. Best of all, you share yourself and your talents with all of us who read your beautiful blog.

    Give yourself lots and lots of credit for overcoming all the pain and suffering of that relationship and for getting yourself out of it and building a life that gives you joy and satisfaction. Just think how amazing and wonderful that you did.

    Hugs to you and pats for the four-leggeds.

  7. Yours is the only blog I read consistently…every post. You writing is special and so are you, never doubt that!

  8. I also want to leave a note…what a powerful piece of writing and of life! I don’t want to say the ‘wrong’ thing but want to honor your courage and vulnerability. Grief and loss take us on a circuitous journey and en route we have to process the memories and the scars. Here’s to the strength and perseverance you may need as you more forward with YOUR life!

    1. I thank you for being so sensitive. But I can take whatever you wish to say. I think of us all as friends and comrades in this world where the powerful always find the powerless. It’s like a shark smelling blood in the water.

  9. Brenda, I am so sorry that you were betrayed by this man who was supposed to act professionally but did not. Your story is another example of why we women are always vulnerable to exploitation. If you can’t trust your therapist who can you trust? You are a strong and wise woman and a powerful writer when writing about these issues.

    1. If it was simple attraction, I could almost understand that. But I became his obsession for many years. I took that obsession to be love. I did not know the difference because I really had never known love.

  10. I saw a psychologist for depression after I lost a child. the guy labeled me a paranoid schizophrenic, which I am not, and then said “the only reason you are depressed is you haven’t had really good sex like I could show you”. I played dumb and avoided that. This was back in the 70s and there was no metoo movement. It was here in Texas and he probably is dead or retired now. But I imagine others are doing it now.

    1. This was much more subtle a situation. I think even I could see through that one! I don’t trust men because I can’t “read” them. Nathan is different because he is more like a son, has Asperger’s, and we understand one another. But men in general, no thanks.

  11. That therapist was way off base and very unprofessional. That is too bad that it happened to you–it only takes one misstep to undo years of hard work and steps forward. xo Diana

    1. Unfortunate. But I tell myself you learn from every situation. Seems that I find it hard to tell what a person’s real intentions are. Possibly an Aspergian trait? Or just the way I am.

  12. Brenda . . . thank you for sharing your painful experience. On the “positive side,” I DO think you reacted in a very healthy manner, realizing that the therapist MAY have had ulterior motives and also realizing that the comment “devalued” every positive thing that came from the therapist. I must admit that I was SO NEGLECTED and USED as a child that when this happened to me (and it did several times over my lifetime, with supervisors or others who had “power” over me), I didn’t have as healthy of a reaction as you did. I knew and understood what the personal and intimate statements MEANT, I was so needy, I simply “played along”. By playing along, I mean I NEVER had intimate relations with the person, but I worked terribly hard to not offend the person (in power) and “pay the price” of saying “NO”. My last experience with this situation caused me to walk away from a marvelous career. I determined that I would never be healthy enough to figure out how to “defuse” these situations, so I began my own business where I simply could “move away” from a predator without losing my income. HONESTLY, Brenda, I believe there are STILL millions of women (and men) who lose careers because of sexual harassment (even in this supposed “enlightened” day and age). Although I had extensive therapy to help the anger, I STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT A PERSON IS SUPPOSE TO DO WITH A PREDATOR WHO HAS POWER OVER THEM. Sadly, if you can’t prove it (and what predator does this in front of witnesses????), I suspect the only thing to do is WALK AWAY AND ABANDON whatever gives them their power over you (the job, the therapist, the course you need in college, the church a predatory minister owns, etc., etc.). I still don’t have the answer. Please be comforted that you had the ABSOLUTE CORRECT REACTION, Brenda.

    1. No, actually I didn’t. I went on to have an affair with him because I didn’t know how to defuse the situation, as you put it. I was afraid to anger him, certainly. But it devalued everything that came before. And after that, there was no more therapy for sure. Just his needs and no longer mine. To his credit, he told me I should see another therapist but after three years I didn’t want to start over. I didn’t want to start with the whole life story again.

      1. Oh, and before him, when I was a teenager, there was a so-called “minister and his wife” who took me in when I had nowhere to go. I think that’s why I stay away from religion to this day.

  13. The last part of your post took my breath away! What a monster!!
    You are special to me, and I think to most of your readers. Look at strong you are now ~ I have seen you both heal yourself, and help others to heal themselves. That is a wonderful gift!
    “And never-the-less,, she persisted.”
    Hugs ~

  14. It certainly was a kick in the stomach. Turns out all along it was about him and not you. He was a preditor from the start. Unfortunately, I know a case where the therapist was female and stalked her female client. She used drugs and enabling to keep her where she wanted her. It went on for several years. Finally the parents stepped in. Which was difficult when the client is an adult and lives out of state, I’ve often thought the therapist need more help than the clients. Of course not all but enough to be cautious. You see this in all circles of professions. The person in charge is thought to be an expert and trusted and are undeserving. I too never believed myself to be special but for some reason I’ve had the natural ability to see through scammers. My father called it Street smarts. I honest think growing up in an urban environment and an observer educated me unknowingly about people with ill intentions.

  15. I thought you were speaking of your ex husband, and found in the comments this was true. You know… it’s quite possible, Brenda… that he did come to be attracted to the intelligent and sensitive and caring person that you are, not in a malicious way. Professionals are all human, and though it was a line he was not supposed to cross, perhaps he couldn’t help that he did fall in love with you, was attracted to you, – and after three years, wanted to be honest about it. I know in the end it was not a happy marriage for you and that you suffered –

    1. I think that was true. I don’t think he was an actual predator. Not then anyway. I think over time it just happened. I guess there was no good way to let me know how he felt. I’m conflicted over things. Because he was accused by several more women down the line.

  16. Thank you for sharing your painful story . I am a catholic (not Roman Catholic anymore) and my church is in such turmoil because of similar stories such as yours. People, many adults, who reached out for help and were abused instead and of course so many vulnerable children. I applaud all those who have come forward to tell their stories, Just today I heard on the news of a female officer who was abused by a superior officer while in the service, but speaking up now to perhaps make a difference, a hope that change will come. I hope and pray for healing of all those who are still hurting especially those who cannot, or feel they cannot speak out.

    1. I have made peace with it. I made a lot of mistakes. Horrible ridiculous mistakes. I just kept falling under his spell, over and over again.

      1. Brenda, it’s over now. Stay in the moment. He’s gone. You’ve created a life you love; you’re taking care of yourself physically and financially. YOU LOVE YOUR ‘NOW’. The past has no effect if your attention is where it belongs on NOW. It’s a shadow of what was-like a wake from a boat moving forward, it does not determine where you are headed. There is only NOW. That’s all that’s real- all else is memory of the past, or imaginings of the future. Ask Charlie and Ivy, your birds in the garden, “What time is it?” They will look at you oddly. It’s NOW, of course.

  17. Brenda, I was so happy reading the first of your post. The last portion just seized my stomach! I’m so sorry that happened to you, and I admire you for the way you have pushed through that and all the other challenges you have encountered. May God richly bless you.

    1. It seized my stomach when it happened. But I thought he’d done a lot for me and I owed him. Just like I thought I owed the minister foster father when I was a teen. Girls like me paid up because we didn’t feel worthy.

  18. This is so sad Brenda that this happened. Here this special person that was there to help you and brought you through so much to then cause that kind of betrayal is beyond horrible. This is a good example to share with others in therapy. At least you were at a better place to see this was wrong and he was betraying you and it had nothing to do with you. Your gut was telling you he was wrong and this was not right. Therapy is such a great place for people to go and deal with the deep seated pain and anger that covers that pain. Trust it the biggest part of the therapeutic relationship and this therapist should have never crossed that line. Just makes me so sad that there are therapists out there that should not be in the profession. Thank you for sharing your story it may help others that are going through therapy to be aware this is wrong and they should run from anyone that does this. I am sorry you not at a place you could get in therapy with another person and report him.
    Hugs,
    Kris

    1. I didn’t run. I wish I had. Well, I did for awhile. But he was for some reason obsessed with me. I was so confused. There he was treating me like a queen and yet. And yet. I did not say no. I thought of the medication that made me want to live life and not die, and I just wouldn’t take the risk of losing it.

  19. Dear (((BRENDA))), I’m so sorry you had this experience! I, too, had a similar situation with an inappropriate therapist that was male.

  20. How awful, Brenda!! I see the current therapist USING my granddaughter for what gain, I cannot tell…but when my daughter gave information recently on something, the therapist in turn told my daughter what she said was “passive, aggressive”…oh really? Truth is, no doubt daughter’s X managed to smooth talk her too. Now who on earth will actually protect or help my little granddaughter? Wouldn’t you hope a woman MIGHT have some idea of her plight? Trouble is, in order to get a different therapist it could cost my daughter all the money she has left to go to court…and it still might turn out to be of no use. I so wish that grooming was against the law. It so apparently is not.

  21. I’m so sorry you went through such hard times, my friend. And that was completely and totally unprofessional, obviously he stepped way over the line. And just like that, everything changed….

  22. Thank you for sharing this story; what a terrible way for a therapist to behave. This was so inappropriate and no wonder you did not feel special any more. I’m just glad that this did not hold you back for long!

    Take care and have a great day being special! Because you know that you are most definitely special to all of your readers, to your furry family, to your daughter and grandson, to Nathan, and countless others!

    1. This led to where I am today. I thought I loved him. I thought I hated him. And then eventually I married him. Because he found me after 10 years of our being apart and made me feel special again. I don’t wish to speak ill of the dead. He was just human, after all. I guess I’m just processing things after his death.

  23. Brenda, therapy is a great help to so many people and unfortunately you were “sucker punched” by a person that helped you come out of your shell and feel great. YOU are a wonderful person, never forget that, to have come thru your childhood and other traumatic events and to take care of yourself and raise yourself alone from the age of 13 is an amazing accomplishment add to that 2 daughters and it is a success story, then take into account the abuse that you suffered at the hands of the man you were married to, lesser mortals would have crumbled and died. You didn’t! You are like the little flower you describe above, you came out of your crack and you have thrived and bloomed into a beautiful flower! You created this beautiful blog, a haven of learning, and comfort for many women and a blessed to have a wonderful relationship with your daughter and grandson and now you are able to help Nathan as well. Your kindness and words have touched many even though you may not know it.

    1. I like to help others. I guess because I so needed someone to help me when I was too young to be on my own, but was anyway. And no one stepped forward.

  24. You are special!
    You have connected with people like me, that love to receive your emails.
    Bless you.

    1. When you grow up no one’s child, you don’t feel special to anyone. But I suppose it goes both ways. Maybe you’re someone’s child, but they don’t make you feel at all special. Same consequence.

  25. I’m sorry this happened to you. You have come thru a lot in your life. I know my word might bring back bad memories, but, you are special to me and all your blog followers and friends. I don’t know how happy it makes people to check your blog everyday and see you posted something. It certainly makes me smile to see something from you. You make each one of us feel special that you would share this with us. Please do something kind for yourself today, you deserve it!

  26. I felt the same as you Brenda, that is, going to therapy and the help it provided, in the beginning.
    I am 53, and only now, after a year and a half with a wonderful therapist, that encouraged me to see myself as the sensitive, loving and caring person that I am.
    Take from that experience, the good you received from therapy, in the way you view yourself/life in general.
    Ignore the last bit that made you change your view on what was accomplished.
    The failure was on the therapist’s part.

  27. WOW…. I did not see that coming….. So sorry Brenda…. Prayers for you …. and may I say… I admire your courage….. and your tenacity

    1. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, as they say. That began a long, many decades long, complicated and convoluted relationship that tore me every which way. Love and hate is sometimes a fine line. And I accept responsibility for being an idiot and wanted to feel special myself.

  28. I, too, felt as if I’d been punched in the stomach by the alleged “therapist’s” comments. That should NEVER have happened!!!!!!!!

    I am deeply grieved that it did, and am grieving with you and for you. Praying.

  29. This is a very revealing, sensitive post and I want to approach it with respect. Did you feel betrayed when that question was asked? Did you feel that there had been an ulterior motive during all that time.

    I apologize if I got it wrong. That’s how I read it and the final paragraph was a punch in the stomach to me and I can’t imagine how you felt.

    1. I guess I did feel betrayed. To me it was also a punch in the stomach. I wanted to feel special just for being me. I was naive to think that way. I guess you don’t get something for nothing.

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