The Square-Jawed NP has been, virtually since the beginning, a surprisingly large part of this blog (and my life) despite my only seeing him, on average, once every three weeks for less than an hour each time. He’s an interesting study in contradictions. He maintains strict boundaries and ethics, but that complicates things when he wants to express his feelings about something. I have always successfully read his every expression in order to know what he’s thinking and where he’s going with something.
But after this day, he would be the one reading me, and I would become the unenlightened bug under glass.
A week after the previous Interrogation, I knew our third session would require me to confess my biggest secret. I knew it would happen as certainly as I know I am writing this line. There was no escape unless I was willing to lie about it, which I definitely did not want to do.
I felt trapped — and that’s a bad place for me to be.
The epic distress made the cutting worse. I started cutting my arm, not just my wrist. And, because the cutting wasn’t stopping, and I was afraid to tell NP, I decided to talk to Therapist Barbie instead. The drive to cut was becoming stronger, urging me to cut deeper, longer, and create more of them. I needed to ask for help.
On arrival with TB, I loosely explained that the stress of everyday life (and therapy) was getting to me. TB was appropriately concerned and handed me a big rubber band to put on my wrist and instructed to snap it instead of cutting. She tried to convince me that cutting could lead to infections and scarring, but it was clear that Therapist Barbie didn’t really grasp the fullness of the underlying disordered thinking that really lead me to cut in the first place. The psychic stress, the self-punishment, the fear, the guilt, the rage. But I happily took the rubber band and said I’d try it. I was also instructed to use a suicide hotline if the urge to cut became too strong. I scoffed and nodded, but knew I wouldn’t use it. How silly — suicide hotline for cutting? Pshaw!
She asked if I was planning to tell The Square-Jawed NP about my cutting, and I laughed, childishly squealing, “No way! He’ll be mad! But if you want to tell him, be my guest!”
I left feeling somewhat confident that NP would never know.
I was wrong.
A week later, I returned to their office for the appointment with the NP, I sat down and he scowled at me. He asked how I was doing, so I began complaining about work and my Aunt and Uncle Crazypants, and he stopped me cold. He was clearly cross. “I don’t want to talk about any of that. It’s a waste of time. So are you going to tell me, or do I have to be the one to bring it up?”
For a moment, I wasn’t sure what he meant. Then I confessed that I’d been cutting. He asked to see it. (I showed him.) He asked why. He asked if I’d stopped. He asked if I planned to do it again. At that I hesitated. He asked me agree to a verbal no-self-mutilation contract. If I refused (or couldn’t), then we could not continue. I agreed reluctantly and suspiciously. What was up with that? What was the big deal? And what was I supposed to do if I wanted to cut? Oh! How I wanted to ask him if I could call him (like me! tell me I’m good!), but quickly decided I didn’t want to be one of those patients, calling all the time seeking comfort and reassurance when I should be learning to comfort myself.
After our agreement, the interrogation that had begun in the previous session resumed.
I let him lead, but it was quickly evident where he was going with it. He asked me to tell him about my first time having sex.
I stopped and gathered my courage. It was time. THE THING.
This was the deepest, darkest, most horrible THING I knew about myself, but here it was. THE THING I lied to literally everybody about in order to fit in. THE THING I’d prepared myself for two weeks to tell him. THE THING I sliced my wrists up over.
I had to accept it was time to tell someone THE THING.
I raised my head, stuck out my chin, looked him right in the eye, and told him about THE THING. I did not shiver or shake. I did not choke up. I did not cry. I had already done all that in private while cutting myself. The scourging hardened me to deliver the news with courage.
But the Square-Jawed NP just stared at me.
I waited for him to say something, but it seemed clear he wasn’t quite sure how to respond.
Not that what I revealed was grisly so much as tragic. I am not deformed, I did not kill (or try to kill) anyone or anything, nor did I molest anyone or anything. It was simply and awful situation gone off the rails. And it made me feel mortified to admit and unduly condemned to carry. A life sentence. That is why it remained a deep dark secret. I think NP was trying his best to figure out how to appropriately respond.
“That’s it.” I said, trying to give him a cue to say something. “Not bad in my delivery, huh?” I chuckled. “I steeled myself to be able to do it.”
“You steeled yourself?” he asked quizzically.
“Well, yes. How else was I going to tell you that? I knew it was going to come out, so I wanted to make sure I could when I had to.”
He asked a few questions, which led to other questions, all of which I answered with equal matter-of-factness. There were reasons for THE THING, and he clearly understood them. I was impressed that he handled it with sensitivity and, moreover, I was actually incredibly impressed at myself for remaining calm and able to present such tragic information so coolly.
We talked loosely about relationships that I’d had in my adult life. He insisted that surely there must have been many. I said he should define many. He wanted to know what my current status was, and I crabbed. I told him that at this point in my life, there’s no way I could be in a relationship no matter how much I might want one. “Oh, please! Look at me. Who would have me in my current state and condition? What worth do I have? I’m unattractive, have no money, no car, some crummy apartment. And I see a shrink! I’ve got nothing to offer. Nothing anybody wants anyway.”
NP tried arguing the point with me, but I was having none of it. To me, this isn’t so much a problem as an unfortunate state-of-being. If I lost weight, then maybe, but I’d have saggy skin, I’d still be older (not 21 anymore) and my body, even thin, was always imperfect. I’d still be an ex-addict. I’d (probably) still be poor and car-less, etc. To me, it’s just the way things are. Quite matter-of-fact. I was worthless. Period.
To him, my attitude of nonchalance was unacceptable.
“But Maggie,” NP began, “you’re not worthless.” He seemed pained by the degree that I have internalized every ounce of self-criticism. “Aside from your weight which you claim is unacceptable” as he gestured with his hand toward my body, “You have to know you’re very attractive.”
“Pfffft.” I puffed and rolled my eyes. Ah, the usual line of bullshit, I thought. They always lie about that first.
He went on to list several positive aspects of my personality (none of which I remember) which he did only after I refused to acknowledge anything other than my intelligence, and ended by saying, “…and you forgot that you’re kind.”
I scoffed and told him that I believed the only reason he was saying nice things is that he had to — ” it’s your job to be nice… and you’re getting paid — maybe not by me — but somebody’s paying you to do that.”
NP once again became cross with me. “I was wondering when this would come up, so now’s as good a time as any to discuss it. I schedule you at the end of the day because that way I can spend more time with you. All they pay me is the first 15 minutes. Then I’m supposed to go home. But from there, it’s all on my time. This is free.”
I knew this, but it was embarrassing to hear him acknowledge it out loud. “I know.” I said apologetically and softly. “I’m sorry, and I do appreciate it.”
“Thank you. And technically I’m only here to do medication management. Do you know how many patients I’ve agreed to do therapy with?”
I said, honestly what I thought, “At least a few. Maybe three or four?” He didn’t answer. “Five?”
“One. (Pause.) You.”
I was surprised — and confused. That couldn’t be true. Could it? I desperately wanted to ask why (as in, ‘what are you, nuts???’) but he responded before my thought was uttered by saying, “See? You are special.”
I desperately wanted it to be true. I wanted to believe every word of his whole spiel. (Please love me! Care about me! Tell me I’m good!) But the past told me a different truth which was all I knew I could trust.
I also wanted to crack a joke about it, but I sat with my knotted “Whaaaa?” brow and instead, said, “Thank you”.
“Why do you look confused?” He asked.
“I’m trying to figure out what your angle is. It feels… disingenuous… somehow.” I replied.
“Do you think I’m being disingenuous?” he queried.
I looked at him. I examined his expression and body language. No signs of lying. And yet…. I couldn’t believe him. “Not really. That’s why I’m confused.” I was convinced more was going on than I was being shown.
NP said a few more kind words, but I don’t remember any of them. The bad stuff is always easier to recall.
I left that day suspicious and confused, but at least NP finally knew about THE THING, so the worst was over.
For the time being.
Proceeding from this point on has become a game of unknown consequences. I’ve never been in a relationship where the participant knew virtually everything about me. What would be the ramifications? And what would the Square Jawed NP do with the information that I had armed him with?
I would soon know.