Finding Peace — Manuscript Post #20
I had to borrow the money for my last quarter from my future in-laws. It was humiliating. I couldn’t explain to them why my own parents would do this. I couldn’t explain what I had done to cause this. My own parents chose to fuck me over, and there was nothing I could do about it.
I have several siblings ranging from fifteen years older to five years younger than myself. In my family, I was neither the oldest nor the youngest sibling. My siblings would come up from time to time during my therapy sessions. While I was in therapy, my mother died. Clearly this was a significant event that was discussed in detail with Elsie. The events leading up to my mother’s death, her funeral and the aftermath all involved dealing with my siblings. How my siblings behaved and how I reacted to their behaviors was important to my therapy. To best describe to you what I experienced with my siblings I have created three personas that represent the roles that were played within my family. I refer to these three personas as Snap, Crackle and Pop. The order of the names of these personas is from youngest to oldest.
My siblings had several things in common. They all had issues with school ranging from apathy to being in real trouble. They all had dramatic work issues. They all moved far away from where we were raised, to places where there were significantly fewer job opportunities. They all had financial issues.
Pop finished college late in life. I helped him buy a house. He paid me back. Crackle finished college but didn’t care much about it. Snap had to have private school because public school wasn’t acceptable. He finished college after many years. He did not have a job for many years. There was lots of drama around what a ‘job’ means. He claimed working for a day or a week was a ‘job’.
At one point, after asking me for advice, and my telling him he needed to get a job that was full-time for years at a time, Snap threatened me. He threatened me with physical violence, in writing. I had given him money, a PC and other resources to help him find work. I had to go to the police and file a report. I had to explain to the police why my family was so messed up.
Snap lived with my mother until she died. After many years of unemployment, he claimed he couldn’t get a job because he didn’t have a car and because he couldn’t get away from my mother. I decided to make one last attempt to help him. I gave him my used car. I drove it seven-hundred miles to deliver it to him and I flew home. I paid for his auto insurance and gave him $1000 to get out on his own. He had dramatic financial problems and went through a bankruptcy.
You will be wondering what Snap did with the car I gave him. It was driven until it literally wore out. He didn’t get a job. He claims my mother became enraged about the money I had given him and forced him to give the money to her. He did not get out on his own.
I described the nightmare I used to have, back when I lived with my mother.
I always had a place to live, I wasn’t hungry. I wasn’t beaten or molested. I completed my college education. I didn’t live in poverty. I had more comforts than some. I didn’t suffer the abuse that many have, but my family history affected me greatly. I was highly functional for fifty years in spite of my family experiences. Going to therapy allowed me to finally deal with what I experienced growing up.
While I was discussing my family, Elsie said “Is your wife sane?” First, I answered “Yes, very much so”. Second, I think it was an amusing way to phrase the question. I doubt she really meant to ask it that way. I think Elsie was asking if my wife had any emotional issues that might need to be addressed as part of my treatment. I also quote Elsie’s question here because I want you to know that therapists are human. They aren’t robots that simply ask the same questions and tell you what to do. Talking to a therapist is more like talking to a friend. You don’t have to worry that it will be super formal or rigid.
During this session I asked Elsie about the cause of my symptoms. She didn’t really offer a specific cause. I asked if she thought it could be that my son leaving for college triggered all this. She agrees that this could be the cause. She then asks a question — “What would it do to your sons if you left now?” I wasn’t sure how to answer. I thought about this question a lot after this session. Why this question is relevant will become clear later. I would think about this a lot.
My therapist, Elsie, note how she has gone from ‘the therapist’ to ‘my therapist’, suggested a book I should read — ‘It Will Never Happen to Me’ by Claudia Black. You may recall that I didn’t think just reading a book would help me much. And you may also wonder why, after being referred to someone to help you, that someone hands you a book to read.
I had seen this when I went to marriage counseling and it helped. It helped because it allowed us to make progress sooner. We could learn about things in between sessions. This reduced the time needed to get the help we needed. There are a lot of emotional conditions that are well known, have been studied for a long time, and are highly treatable. By giving the patient a book, the relevant material can be communicated more quickly. The therapy sessions can be focused on the specific issues of each patient while the book provides the information needed by all patients with the same condition.
I saw my mother go to therapy and it didn’t help. I have known people who went to therapy multiple times per week for years and they didn’t get any better. My perception was that therapy doesn’t really focus on resolving specific issues in a reasonable amount of time. Now that I have been to therapy myself, both as a couple and now on my own, and both times books were part of the process, I see that the use of books really improves the efficiency of the process. When Elsie suggested a book I took the assignment very seriously.
I read the entire book during the week between this session and the next. I wanted to get everything I could from this book as soon as possible. Almost everything in the book applied to my childhood and current experiences with my mother and other family members. I had only been in therapy for a few weeks and I was already learning a lot.