Sunday, March 25, 2007

"The Eyes Are the Gateway to the Soul"

Good news, I passed whatever "Psychological" testing there was. Although I might I have failed it depending on your perspective, as I found myself sitting in TGD's office for the third visit.

Today would be "Family History Day." HA! Maybe I should just bring in Tad Browning's 1932 circus movie, "Freaks," and we could watch the DVD together. The cast of characters there should just about sum it up. This was going to be a walk down memory lane like no other.

As I walked in TGD's office and took my appointed seat, all attempts at humor disappeared again. Once again I tried to keep the humor in my head to keep the sobbing at bay. What was it about this f%$king office that provoked tears and sadness even before one single word was spoken? What was it about TGD that provoked the feeling of my soul turning inside out whenever I sat across from her? Fear? Oh yeh. Mistrust? Not exactly, but turning myself inside out to someone you've met three times for only 45 minutes at a pop, left me with complex feelings of sadness and an overwhelming sense of not wanting to leave there.

I had been in therapy before and knew what the drill was, but this was different. Was it the process? Was it the room? Was is too much attention focused on me? WHY? Was it TGD?
But then I realized it was her eyes. Her eyes held you. Piercing softly through my soul as if she already knew everything about me. That was it! You knew TGD was listening, and listening hard. You could see that in her eyes. But at times all I could do was to focus on her shoes. Her shoes! Why her shoes? True, they are very stylish and I started thinking how much the dogs would love chewing on them and how much I would have to pay for that very expensive chew toy.

But my thoughts didn't stay on her shoes for long. TGD's gentle voice with the explosive questions snapped me back to my own bizarre reality. "If you don't mind, could you please tell me what you remember from the earliest memories of your childhood"?

As I started to spiel off a fairly rehearsed rendition of what my childhood was like, I sat there fairly pleased with myself for being somewhat coherent enough to give her the history. As I finished the synopsis, TGD looked at me and said, " Yes, those are the facts from your childhood which seem quite clear, but I would like you to please tell me what you remember feeling as that little child and please start with the earliest memories of your feelings. I would like you to describe if you were feeling pain, sadness, confusion or whatever you were experiencing."

WTF??? My feelings as a child? I looked at her and said, "you mean if I was happy or sad or scared, right"? "Yes, please," said TGD. I stopped dead in my tracks. I know how I felt as a child, but describing it and putting it to words was different. I could tell stories about my childhood, but to have to actually go back and think how I felt as that child and go inside "that child's" mind was overwhelming. Never been down this road before. Nor had anyone ever asked. A "child's feelings" were somewhat of an oxymoron.

I'd have a lot of sessions learning about her shoes at this pace.

Monday, March 19, 2007

"The Psychological Testing Appointment"

As I left the Consultation appointment, TGD explained that the next session was going to be comprised of an "Evaluation." This was gonna be interesting. What I heard TGD say was I was going to be tested to see just how crazy I was. That's fine. I was probably in good hands. What TGD actually said was that there were certain questions she needed to ask. Basically she was taking down my history so we could "assess" my problems and make "treatment" recommendations.

Too bad treatment recommendations weren't available for the cast of characters in my family who were crazier than I was. Why weren't they here, worrying about their mental health? Well, most of them were dead and the rest lived as though they were had died. Seeing nothing, feeling nothing, and doing nothing was my family's MO, at least where I was concerned.

Was she ready for the truth? Or better yet, was I ready for the truth?

The first questions were no brainers. What medication was I on and what was the dosage? Any physical problems? Who were my primary care physicians? Normal questions any health care professionals would ask.
Results from this go-round produced the fact I was "under medicated" for my depression. After discussing some viable alternatives for medication, TGD wrote a prescription that would help and take me out of this fugue I seemed to be experiencing and would help in the on going sessions. The good news was that something was available to help while in therapy, and the bad news was that it would take a few weeks to enter my system. I could deal with that.

The second tier of questions got a little closer to home.
Excessive fear of people or events? Whack a mole on that one.
Sense of hopelessness, depression or despair? Only every day.
Sexual problems? Not a one, since I didn't have a sex life.
Insomnia or other sleep disorders? Only at night.
Of course I answered politely with no sarcasm. I wasn't going to give her any ammunition she could use against me.

On and on it continued. As I answered she took notes.

A couple of questions stopped me in my tracks- Do you hear voices?
I wanted to ask if she meant inside or outside voices and if the dog's voices counted. But you don't fool around with someone who can actually put you away.

But secretly, I really wanted to be put away. To be put someplace safe, and taken care of, where decisions were made for me, and where I wasn't floundering about like a fish just caught and thrown on the deck of a boat.
Out of my element. That's what it was. But where was my element?

The next test threw me. She asked me to count backwards from 100 using the number 7.
Couldn't she have picked 10?? 7??? WTF?? Great, this is where TGD not only finds out I'm crazy, but that I have the IQ of a lemon. I wanted to ask for pen and paper but I knew that wouldn't work, so I did my best. I think I got to 61 or 62 whatever.

Then the killer question- In general, what was my upbringing like?

Wow. How do I summarize my crazy life where I was the only one who didn't fit in? Ever. Anywhere. The other family members seemed to go on about their bizarre business with no self assessment and at times, no conscience. Wearing blinders seemed to help them through life. You know the kind- the type horses wear so they only have straight on vision with no peripheral vision to sidetrack them or spook them. Where were my pair of blinders? Why could I see everything, and everyone and feel everything around me, but no one could see or hear me?

Another killer question-Was I sexually abused?

Sure, I had been sexually abused, but that was different. I had that part all figured out. That was a separate issue.

Who has the problem here? Me or my family who supposedly really knew me. It wasn't even a case of marching to a different drummer.
I never heard the drums.
How do I tell TGD that I always felt as if I was always be walking a tight rope high above a crowd without a net, perched precariously and always ready to fall. How would that go over with TGD?

Why was being here with TGD for only the second time such a painful raw experience?

As I started to formulate some sort of response, the tears started and they couldn't stop.

Through the sobbing I heard TGD softy say, "WE, together, can unravel these pieces of your life, put them back together, and then put them on a shelf where they belong, where you can look at them when you choose, and where they can't hurt you any longer."

She had me.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

"The Consultation"

Consultation my ass! How about the f&#$king Spanish Inquisition????? As I sat in The Good Doctor's private office, all my powers of observation came to a grinding halt. No time to look around and decide if TGD had that Feng Shui thing going. Not that I'm known for my sense of design anyway, but I actually don't remember what the office decor actually looked like on that first visit. My attention was completely drawn to TGD, or rather, what she was saying. I couldn't even describe her after that first visit. Maybe my friends were right, that I was totally self absorbed and never thought of anyone else. Hmmm... better watch that attribute or I really will turn into Mary Martino Jr.
But I tried so hard NOT to be like her. If I didn't think of me and what was good for me, who would? There was no one else looking out for me.

TGD was pleasant and led me into her office. Pleasant but not patronizing and got right to the point, what brought me here.

How about a lifetime of being a freak, not just in a circus, but in every day life?
How about feeling that you don't belong to any gender, group, or any other entity on the planet? How about always feeling you're walking on a tight rope and having no net below you? No, I couldn't say that out loud, but I was thinking it. In time, if she was good, she could guess I felt this way, or so I hoped.

Instead I rattled off what I had been practicing since last week when I made the appointment.

" Well, Dr. as I mentioned on the phone, I found I recently that a member of my family molested a teenager and ultimately caused her to take her own life. This in turn made me think back to my childhood and the sexual abuse I had endured. I mentioned this for the first time ever at a friend's house and she thought it would be a good idea if I talked about this with someone." That was my spiel. That should be clear enough.

TGD surprised me by stating that many adults do not talk about their sexual abuse and it is not uncommon to keep it to one's self. Also, that some therapists were not properly educated or prepared to handle the larger issues at hand re: sexual abuse and it's life long debilitating effects on the adult. The repercussions of sexual abuse were enormous and the shame followed the abused throughout their lives when in reality, they never owned the shame. The perpetrator did. Perpetrator.

Perpetrator. That was a word used for criminals. That was also a word that opened up the floodgates. That was a word that changed my life forever, that day, in that office with TGD.

One word and the walls start to come down, like dominoes. One word. And I would never be able to look at anything the same way again. God damn Doctor. In the course of one 45 minute consultation my life had changed forever and the saddest and scariest part was that I didn't know what would actually happen next. I felt like a cartoon character falling off a cliff and waiting for something to save you. A branch or rock you could grab onto. Something, anything that would break your fall. Why was I feeling this way all of a sudden?

Then the questions. What makes you so upset about this? What does it make you think about? Who does it make you think about? What are you thinking right now? Who hurt you?

Who hurt you? No one ever asked me that and meant it. Now there was a loaded question. Too many questions from TGD with oh so many answers that I didn't think anyone would believe, much less listen to.

But I was wrong.

Monday, March 12, 2007

"The Good Doctor"

They said she was an expert in her field. What the hell did that mean? Why was I even here? I had dealt with this bullshit years ago.

Following instructions that were posted on the inside front door, I pressed the intercom and waited for a reply. “May I help you”? “Yes, I’m Suzy Pafka and I have an appointment with the “Good Doctor” at 2:30. “I’ll tell the Good Doctor you’re here. Please have a seat, she’ll be right with you,” the nondescript voice responded.

Not only was I here, but I was sitting in a renovated brick Firehouse. My fucking brother spent over 20 years of his life in a firehouse, under the guise of “saving lives.” How ironic- no one knew of the lives he destroyed.

The original brick walls of the firehouse had been sandblasted and preserved to maintain the original look of the firehouse. Unique original art lined the walls, with every piece carefully placed and professionally framed. Nothing here was thrown together. Newly carpeted stairs sat off to the left which led to other floors.
The furniture complimented the art, which complimented the structure and design. Form and function at it’s best.

An enormous window looked out into the street, which at one time housed the garage that held the screaming red fire trucks facing forwards in order to respond immediately to any alarm the firehouse received.

Overstuffed wicker furniture outlined the room with enough seating for 10-12 people.
How many Doctors were in this place? Better still, how many patients?

Patients/people wandered in, went methodically to the intercom, announced themselves and took a seat. I refused to make eye contact with anyone. I wasn’t like them and I refused too be linked in any way.

Two glass doors in the back of the first floor, which were locked seemed like entry ways to other offices.

The huge sign above the door on the outside of the building, as you walked in read, “Firehouse 19 – Post Traumatic Stress Center.”

Post Traumatic Stress Center??? I wasn’t a soldier, or veteran. I wasn’t in any war.
I wasn’t in any battle. I had no scars or flashbacks to horrific events.
Was this catch all phrase- Post Traumatic Stress being taken just a tad bit too far?

True, I had a crappy childhood, but that was over 50 years ago. I had resolved all that. There wasn’t anything anyone could do about it anyway. What’s done is done. Period. What was the Good Doctor going to do about it now-almost 60 years later? Or was the Good Doctor going to be perform some sort of magic act pulled from the circus of my childhood, which hardly could be called magical, and make it all the nonsense disappear as if it never happened? Not unless the Good Doctor was some sort of magician.

Well, I would certainly tell The Good Doctor what I thought.

I had agreed to see her for 1 consultation after I blurted out at a best friend’s family’s dinner party that I had been sexually abused by family and others. In my 30 years of knowing my friends, I had never told anyone, nor had I ever mentioned it in therapy. But that was years ago. I kept it to myself and dealt with it.

My friend convinced me that I should at least see The Good Doctor, even if it was once or twice.

There was no real crisis at this point. Yeh, the news of a family member being responsible for someone’s death was very upsetting, but I had that in perspective too.

I had been on my own for many years and resolved things on my own. Things weren’t perfect, God knows, but so much better than I could have ever imagined. True, the weight was/is an issue. That came and went. The older I got the more I pulled away from people and tended to stay home, but could be explained by the mere fact that I worked at a university and had enough social contact all day long. I needed my privacy and my downtime.

I wasn’t in a love relationship, but that was my choice. I felt safer living alone.
This was my life and things were okay. I had my dogs and life was good.

At the exact scheduled time, 2:30PM, a woman emerged from one of the glass doors.

She politely asked if I was Suzy Pafka and I said yes. She introduced herself as the Good Doctor and asked me to step into her office.

Yeh, this wasn’t going to last a long time. One or two appointments at best.

To be continued.....

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Side Show Freaks

He had no teeth, a bald head and could barely read. But holding hands, walking anywhere with this rotund father figure gave me a taste of safety I was always starving for. I loved this man. I was proud when he bragged to people that I was his daughter. Big Frank was my step father.

He did his best to protect me from the wrath of my mother, but he was also a target of her insanity. We were silent but knowing cohorts in our struggle to avoid Mary’s wrath and contempt, for who knows what would set her off. Mary was a walking time bomb, all the while paving land mines in front of your steps. One false move or look would bring about a physical and verbal explosion on whatever target she aimed for. Her aim was perfect. The target was usually me.

Big Frank and I never did the “normal” things fathers and daughters did. We were different. I don’t really know what other fathers and daughters did, but I knew it wasn’t the same. Big Frank taught me to parallel park when I was 10. He worked in a parking lot and showed me the tricks of the trade. To this day I can parallel park with the best of them.

He taught me how to play poker at the age of 7. He tried to teach me the art of “bluffing” but would just laugh out loud when I giggled as I tried to bluff at every hand I got.

Because he had no teeth, he would show me how his tongue could touch the top of his nose and call it magic. I loved sitting on his lap and watching him perform this trick.

Having only gone to 4th grade, his reading skills were almost non existent. So I would read him comic books and the newspaper funnies. A lot of time was spent laughing with Big Frank.

Big Frank was the first person to introduce me to the outdoor traveling circus, complete with the ever mesmerizing freak show. Big Frank knew all the secret spots around New Haven where these side shows were held. The headed 2 woman, whose second head really was a mannequin head with make up, lipstick and a face painted on to look like a real lady. They could have used my mother. She certainly seemed 2 headed all the time-one nice head for my brother Frankie and one mean head for me.

The bearded woman really had a beard, but then again so did Big Frank’s older sister Margaret, or at least hairs coming out of her chin.

The midgets in the circus were nothing new to me. They would stand on the stage parading about with their normal size husband or wife, and normal size children extolling the amazing differences in their physical appearance, yet still being able to produce“normal kids.” Nothing new to me. My friend at the White Tower Restaurant, King Kong was always with tall good looking women.

The tattooed woman was no surprise. My friend Martha on Henry Street had tattoos all over and she was a wrestler to boot.

Betty-Billy was an interesting act. Betty-Billy claimed to be half woman, half man. Once again, the half woman part had a beard and HUGE muscles and the half man part had HUGE breasts, or so it seemed. My friend Timmy the Drag Queen and Helen the Lesbian could have worked this show, along with Johnny who wore his mother’s dresses and stuck oranges down his dress for breasts.

None of these acts scared or confused me. I found safety and solace in the fact that I wasn’t the only one who lived in a circus environment.

Sad thing is that these “freaks” as they were labeled seemed happier than I was.

What was wrong with “my circus”?

Monday, March 05, 2007

Send In the Clowns (please)

At the age of sixteen I was about to enter one of the freak side shows you see at the circus.

When I turned 16, Big Frank, my stepfather bought a “newish” car, a pink and white 1961 Nash Rambler American Classic. I had a feeling this was Big Frank’s way of sidestepping my mother’s indifferent attitude and lack of affection towards me. My mother’s interest lie with grooming her son Frankie, to be the next Mickey Mantle.

This decision, let alone the purchase didn’t sit too well with Mary. Arguing night after night with Big Frank, her constant complaint was that “girls need to stay home” and if “she” (Mary hated using my name) had to go anywhere, Frankie would take her.

Finally Big Frank won out and I was allowed to drive “our car.” Mary and Frankie had their own.

My Rambler was fantastic. It had the push button automatic transmission buttons mounted on the left side on the dashboard- R-N-P-D. The interior was gray plaid with a dial radio, gray dashboard and bench seats in the front and back.

In the ‘60’s 2 toned cars were a big deal. The outside was pink with white detailing, with small winged tail fins in white. Driving it gave me the sense of freedom and independence I had longed for in escaping the boredom and horridness of home.

But this new found freedom would be short lived. Mary, the Human Oddity of this family circus had a plan. Her plan came under the guise of wanting me to “learn how to be independent and see what it felt like to live on my own.”
I thought I had been doing that all my 16 years.

Her plan was masterful. She had filled out an application for me at the White Tower Restaurant, where she worked. My hours would be after school at 4 until 8 pm at night. I would have Monday nights off and work all day on weekends. That way she would know where I was at all times.

Brilliant! No time for friends, (not that I had any) schoolwork, or much of anything else.

Had I known I would be donning the same Military White Tower Uniform of my mother’s, running away from home to join the real circus could have been an option.

So there I was on my first day at work. Dressed in the horrendous perfectly cleaned and pressed red polka dot uniforms and apron with a hairnet, topped off with a combination comb/Barrett for my hair and polished white shoes. I felt like Mary was one of those “pod people” that screamed to herself inside her head, “We'll Make Her One of Us!"

It was a busy Saturday at noon. My brother was sitting at the counter already making fun of the way the hair net plastered against my hair and made me look like some sort of street person whose hair had been plastered down from not being shampooed.
And oh yes, the stockings. White Tower had a rule where you could only where panty hose with garters. Being overweight and trying to keep the garters from rolling past my knees down to my ankles became a nervous twitch after a while.
Needless to say, I was mortified.

I had on white shoes that looked like I could walk on the moon with them. I’m not sure where Mary purchased them, but I have a funny feeling some astronaut is walking around without his shoes.

Although I had known the drill of customers coming and going with their orders, it’s one thing to watch, it’s another to be on the other side of the counter waiting on them.

My very first order almost was my last. As I was taking an order from someone, my mother, who was also working the counter, bellowed to me that an English muffin was stuck in the toaster and it was burning and to get something to pry it out with.

I did.

I grabbed a serrated knife from the dishwasher, stuck it into the toaster to pry the English muffin loose and ZAAAAPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!!!

The next thing I knew, I was flat on the floor about 5 feet away. I had stuck a wet knife into the toaster which was still on and gotten a shock.

I remember everyone laughing, but sadly enough I remember my mother’s words as she yelled, “How stupid can you be?”

Yep, this was only the beginning.