I was asked to a dance by a boy in my class in sixth grade. Over the intercom at lunch after we finished saying the “Our Father” and the “Hail Mary”, my principal listed off general announcements. One of the announcements was that, “No one is allowed to ask anybody to go to the dance with them. Parents of their own child have to take them to the dance and pick them up afterwards. We will check the cars.” The boy asked me after “Will you not go to the dance with me?” and I said “yes”.
Ah, therapy: the cool puffy leather couch, the incense, the box of tissues near by in case a “break through”, and most importantly the clock. I’ve been to a handful of different therapists in my day. Most of whom I did not stick with for long probably because of my own fickleness. My experiences talking with therapists were not all bad, but I do recall after my sessions ended feeling a little more broken down, like all of these feelings were brought to the surface, but I didn’t know how to process them. I felt raw leaving my therapists office, like a band-aid had been peeled off and now the wound was exposed, but the question remained how do I heal? This is totally nothing against therapy in the general sense. I’m writing this because I want to see a therapist again…or no, a gynecologist. That’s what I mean.
I first went to therapy over a computer game. I was seven years old. In computer class, we’d play a game called “Zip Zap Map” (fun title!) The game was matching state names with their place on an unlabeled map of the United States. Now, I was no geography specialist when I was seven, so my scores were always pretty poor. My anxiety kicked in when the kids in my class looked over each other’s shoulders and started comparing their scores with one another. I remember the heat my body would produce inside me while trying to hide my scores from other students. I didn’t want to be stupid and I certainly didn’t want to get made fun of.
On the same day, that we had computer class (Wednesday- I still remember because I played hooky probably 30 times) the Hot Lunch special was “Zippy Pizza”, which was a disgusting square piece of “pizza” that tasted as though it had been regurgitated. Zippy Pizza and Zip Zap Map? You could see how this would be confusing to my parents. “Why is she afraid of Zippy Pizza?” my dad would say baffled. “No, Zip Zap Map!” my mom would reply. “What?!”
Finally, instead of joining my class when it was time to play “Zip Zap Map” I went to the school counselor. But I was ashamed of this so I told my best friend, Xani, who was really the only one who noticed I was gone, that I was chosen to test out new video games for kids and I could only do it during computer class. I guess that’s a pretty fun, strange lie to make up. I was never into video games, but I guess I thought it sounded cool and impressive.
The counselor was a blonde lady who had a framed picture of her golden retriever on her desk. We spent much of the time talking about her dog, well, she talked, and I sat there and stared. During one of our last sessions, she held up a sketch she had done of a mountain. “Draw yourself on the mountain”, she said. The purpose of this exercise was to see how much progress I think I’ve made toward overcoming my anxiety. I drew myself on top of the mountain, but not because I felt like I had overcome anything. I drew myself there because it seemed like a vulnerable place, the peak of my fear, overwhelming dread, my seven year old lonesomeness. I remember thinking it looked lonely. My stick figure on top of a mountain for no reason, it seemed perfectly symbolic, the more I looked at it. Why was I putting myself in this position? This sense that I couldn’t join with the rest of the world, that I needed to hide, couldn’t make mistakes, so I had remain unmoved, untouched on top of this mountain. “You’re on top of the mountain! That’s great!” my counselor said. Obviously having interpreted it differently than I had intended. That was our last session.