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.