I bring him with me, stuffed up and home from school, instead of cancelling, because the last time I had to call last minute, I was charged $150.00 (turns out I had signed some sort of contract about that. Darn that fine 14 pt. New Romans print)
I take off his shoes, knowing he will climb on top of the couch, which is situated against the window, a perfect view of cars and the occasional bus, which in no time motivates him to press his face against the glass and squeal in delight.
I see her flinch, my therapist, at the sound of his high pitched joy. I ignore the microscopic mixture of self-consciousness and annoyance that has suddenly planted itself in my head.
We begin our weekly 45 minute session, something I both look forward to and sometimes want to avoid, depending on the topic we unearth on a particular day.
My voice sounds strange today as I describe the challenges and rewards of watching my dream of becoming a professional writer unfold before me, worried that I may not be able to keep up with the vigorous dedication it takes to truly make it, terrified of facing my fears and stepping out of my comfort zone, even if it’s one tiny shuffle at a time.
Something excites Andrew, and he squeals again.
I see my therapist shift in her chair, her facial expression morphing from one of genuine interest to one of disdain.
“Is there any way you can get him to stop doing that?” she asks me.
“Nope. It’s a stim. He just does it." I reply tersely.
I feel her watching me for a moment, unable to meet her gaze.
“Tell me what’s going on. What are you feeling?
The familiar sting hits the corner of my eyes. I swallow back tears, big, giant, crocodile tears, and before I can stop myself, say what I’m thinking out loud.
“I’m offended. That you asked me to stop him. That it’s bothering you. That you’re annoyed with my son. I’m shocked that you responded that way, as my therapist. And I’m thinking I don’t want to come back and see you anymore.”
She is quiet for a moment. “I am not annoyed by your son. I am not bothered. I am also not usually in the presence of a child with stims, and so my question was in response to my wanting to know what you can and cannot control. But your reaction tells me that this is a very sensitive subject for you. That you must be faced with the fear of what others think of your child on a constant basis.”
I think about what she has just said. I want to smack her because she has hurt me, because she has brought attention to something I rarely allow myself to think about, and because she couldn’t be more right.
I no longer care whether I appear composed, and I let the pain and disgust and anger and self-consciousness out of their cage, until I am sobbing, drooling, my vision blurred, and within seconds I have emptied the bright orange tissue box propped up against my left thigh.
She has uprooted me. When I try to tell her that I am defensive only because I am protecting my son, she forces me to admit that I am also protecting myself. From prodding eyes, from silent questions, from potentially being rejected.
Somewhere in the middle of this very awkward, very unplanned conversation, I find myself sitting up a little bit taller, my shoulders far less tense than I can recall in a long time. My tears have dried, and though my eyes are red and puffy, they are able to meet the eyes of my therapist, who suddenly seems much less irritating and so very……….smart.
We finish our session while Andrew continues to randomly squeal in an undiscovered octave, his brief but powerful interruptions a sort of exposure therapy for the both of us, as she becomes more accustomed to the shrillness of his voice, and I become less focused on worrying what she thinks of us. When it is finally time to stop, I stand up feeling lighter not only from what transpired here today, but also from the prospect of what may transpire here in the future.
And that’s why I’ll be back, with a bigger box of tissues, same time next week
(and why she makes the big bucks).