In the spring of 1996, I buckled my two and four-year old boys into my Ford Aerostar and headed to Nashville from Atlanta. My grandmother was visiting her sick brother who was being cared for by his daughter, my beloved cousin, Christine. It was a great chance for my boys and I to visit with my Gram and be with family.
I know three families that moved from Boston: My father’s brother, who raised his family in Arizona, my grandmother’s brother, a doctor who moved south to further his medical career and my husband and I who took a chance and left home for the land of milk and honey: Atlanta. Leaving Boston is almost unheard of. Many live on the same street as their parents, if not the same house or building. Why would you leave the entangled web of dysfunction for freedom and Sundays without meatballs?
My cousin Christine was raised in South Carolina and moved to Nashville. Her age falls mid way between me and my dad. She is a tough cookie, a country girl with the intellect of a Harvard (Haaavaad) grad. When we pulled up to her home on Dallas Ave., my four-year old broke free of the restraints and scaled the outer walls of her hundred year old Victorian home. I couldn’t get him to stop, listen or settle. Chris gave me this look like she was saying, “girl, get a grip!” Her advice was this, “you need help. And, when you get your life together, the weight will come off.” Knowing how right she was, when I got home, I found my first shrink.
Money was tight, so I had to go with whomever insurance would pay. I found this lady in the center of the town where we lived at the time (a.k.a. nowheresville). She was a cross between Wednesday and Pugsly Addams and Rosie O’Donnell. I complained to her that my husband didn’t help me with the kids, like I was the first mom with this issue. Her advice was to stop taking care of everything and let the house fall apart until he kicks in. Are you f*#@ing kidding me? You want an Italian mother to not cook dinner for her family? After a few sessions in her dark Addam’s office, I waved bye to her and her beheaded doll.
Two years later, still miserable and one more kid on the hip, I wobbled into my next shrink’s practice. This one I loved. He was Italian and he got me. Unbeknownst to me, he saw right through me. He could see the deep, dark brokenness I bore, even though I could not. It was in my fav guinea shrink’s office that I discovered I had a small hand, a physical disability. I had buried it so deep, I didn’t know. I had concealed the pain, shame and self loathing. When I erupted, it was the Mt. St. Helen’s of emotion. I said to him, “HOW LONG IS THIS GOING TO TAKE?!!” I could not stand the physical hurting and the mental torture.
A year later, I had spent a small fortune rebuilding myself. Money was tight and to my husband, I looked crazier than before I started therapy. Ironically, I thought I was cured. So I bid farewell to my paisan and continued on with my faux happy existence.
Eight years passed before the event that catapulted me back onto the couch. My closest relationships were causing me extreme anxiety and anger. I was in the pit of misery. I knew it was my own fault. No one can make me feel anything. I allowed it. I was taking everyone’s behavior personally. After researching via my church newspaper and cross checking my insurance, I found my next shrink-victim.
This one was hard work for me. I needed to get past the granny Clampet persona to hear the message. I dreaded every appointment, not because I was dealing with my dysfunction, but because she drove me nuts, no pun intended. It was here I uncovered my fear of public humiliation. After this major break through, she sat across from me in her undersized rocker that I feared was going to collapse every time she sat in it, and shed tears. My therapist was so moved at how hard I had toiled to gain emotional health, that she actually was crying.
By October 2011, I was feeling much better. I walked into her office and she handed me a pile of papers from my insurance company. She told me I would have to pay full pop if my insurance company continued to give her a hard time. I got my agent involved. He informed me that my therapist could not do this as she was under contract. If she didn’t honor the contract, I was owed free therapy. My insurance company was going to contact her and let her know. At my next appointment, she dumped me, stating I wasn’t making progress. Hmmm!
Fast forward to January 2013 and I burned through another therapist who was nice and served his purpose in a time of crisis, but I didn’t have the ethnic connection. Through professional references I happened upon my current sounding board. He’s a little Jewish New Yawkaah who likes to rattle off a mix of Italian and Hebrew at me. He gets me, my situation and has no problem putting me in my place. I think I found my shrink-mate. I hope he doesn’t dump me, because I now know I am in this for the long haul.
Lastly, I have one other shrink in my life. One of my besties is an addictions therapist who I bribe with great food, girlie talk and movie nights in exchange for free advice. The best part of this relationship is I get to give advice back and the cost is a girls’ night out.