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An Excerpt From It’s Not Me, It’s You

Figured since my gorgeous pal Becky from Mommy Wants Vodka was kind enough to talk about my book today on her blog, I’d share a chapter with you – a sampling, if you will. And now I’m off to buy Carnation Instant Breakfast to see if Sadie has any interest.
This is a little long so get yourself a Starbucks and settle in. Thanks for reading!
Have I mentioned lately how much I love my bloggy community?

HITTING THE BEE

I broke my therapy cherry at the tender age of seventeen. My first therapist’s name was Irma and she was maybe sixty? I wasn’t an excellent judge of age at this point despite the fact that Botox was years away –but besides the wrinkles I had a few hints; the woman was wearing bifocals and the most useless clothing item ever invented -a shawl – so that was a good tip off that she was probably eligible for the senior citizen discount. I worried that a woman in her sixties wouldn’t be able to relate much to a teenager’s problems but I tried to keep an open mind.

I was having “food issues” as well as “I hate my stepfather issues” not to mention that I could not go on more than two dates with a guy without feeling suffocated and things were not going well at home. I was a simmering stew of teen angst, anxiety and anger. My mother, who was a mental health professional felt strongly that counseling could cure everything from multiple personalities to third degree burns. Maybe I should have known better than to consider her advice as gospel, considering my less than functional upbringing, but, hindsight is 20/20 and given the time I’ve spent in therapy, hindsight would have saved me enough cash over the years to be driving a Bentley Continental home to my own Neverland Ranch -but minus the llama. So my mother made the decision that I needed help –in fact, she made it a condition of my staying at home that I go talk to someone about why I couldn’t get along with my stepfather.
Besides being about five generations away from me and reminding me not so slightly of a cafeteria lunch lady, Irma’s bifocals magnified her eyes to such a cartoonish size that when she looked at me quizzically over the near sighted top half, it made me think of one of those creepy big eyed kid lithographs. It was disconcerting, to say the least. But the real deal breaker was that Irma was more than pleasantly plump and, unlike me, didn’t seem to be agonizing over it in the least. She’d long ago given in to the allure of polyester pants suits and who could blame her? The woman was probably not packing up after a long day of doling out compassionate nods and hitting the nightclub circuit, she was more likely going home to rearrange her Hummel figurines and knit a tea cozy. How was I possibly going to tell her that eating two cookies made me feel like I may as well get in the car and drive through every fast food joint within a five mile radius because fuck it I’ll always have a huge ass and no self control! without having to add, “Not that there’s anything wrong with it!”

My appointments were every Saturday morning and they usually followed a Friday night keg party which brought with it a mean hangover so most sessions I spent running back and forth to the bathroom or begging for Tylenol. Luckily, most of the time I saw her was during flu season so she didn’t think too much of it. But I didn’t start getting along with my stepfather any better either.

Once I turned eighteen I left the house and set out on my own thinking I’d feel relief starting fresh. But instead of feeling a whole lot better like I expected, my anxieties intensified and with them my incessant ice cream eating and I could barely tolerate dating at all. It seemed maybe I should give therapy another go. Seeing as I had no health insurance and my options were limited, I found myself a therapist straight out of grad school who agreed to see me on a sliding scale –like at the bottom of the scale. I don’t know if it was Ginger’s newness to the field or just a personality disorder, but, she was so friendly and eager she could’ve moonlighted as a Cocker Spaniel. I found myself spilling my guts to her right away –telling her all about my highly dysfunctional upbringing sparing no ugly details. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered she was way too huggy. Any sad story I shared caused her to pop up from her chair like a Jack in the Box and race around the coffee table that held her herbal tea and a tissue box to wrap me up in what she must’ve thought was a “safe feeling” hug. It was utterly horrifying and did nothing to help with my fear of intimacy let alone my food issues.

In order to distract myself from her aggressive boundary crossing I would flip through my mental rolodex of Ben & Jerry ice cream flavors and concentrate on which one I would be buying the second my session wrapped up. I forced myself to see Huggybear for another few weeks even though the more she teared up hearing about my past, the more shutdown I became until I realized I was deliberately keeping things light because I didn’t want to make Huggybear sad. I hated to admit defeat but it was time to move on before I pushed Ginger to the edge.
I went through a quick succession of metal health “experts”: one who made elaborate designs out of straws while eyeing a candy dish that sat on a table next to my couch as if the candy were in therapy and not me. Every so often she’d stand up without warning, reach across the table, make a grab for a piece of candy, sit back down, battle furiously with the wrapper until finally setting it free, she popped it into her mouth all the while saying, “Go on, go on. I’m listening.” It probably shouldn’t have come as a complete shock to me when she had to cancel a session because she’d somehow managed to scratch her cornea with a potato chip.
An honorable mention for weirdness has to go to Cowl Neck Sweater Queen who for some unknown reason, in every session wore an enormous cowl neck sweater. I diagnosed her with either OCD, terrible fashion sense or constant unsightly hickeys. Finally, I had a one-session-stand with a woman who listened to me intently for about then minutes, and then without saying a word, walked to her closet and came out with a stuffed bumble bee and a whiffle ball bat. It wasn’t clear whether these were items she just had lying around the house or if it was a kit she’d specifically picked up at Anger Issues R Us but I didn’t like where she seemed to be heading.
“I want you to take this bat and hit the bee with it.”
“No. That’s not really my thing. I thought maybe we could just…you know, talk.”

“Stefanie. You have anger issues. The bee is here to help release your rage in a safe way.” I was definitely having rage at that point; rage that she had the nerve to charge my insurance $125 dollars an hour for this. “Come on, pick up the bat and smack that bee!”
“Maybe I could just talk with the bee rationally?”
“Hit it!” And with that, she gave me a demonstration and whacked that bee so hard, so many times, I wondered if it would take out a restraining order. “Your turn!” I barely made out her saying to me as I was letting myself out into the lobby.

For a while it seemed that maybe I could survive on self help books alone. I bought them up by the shelf-ful and tried to heal myself from my bouts of anxiety and depression. I read Feeling Good: the New Mood Therapy, Women Who Love Too Much, Struggle for Intimacy and Women Who Don’t Love Football But Are Unfortunate Enough to Love Men Who Love Women Who Love Football so They Have to Pretend. Some of the books did bring up some good points but $12.95 rarely bought the real change I was looking for –which eventually left me back with my old friend therapy. Sitting on a couch and talking about myself for an fifty minutes still sounded great in theory and I didn’t want to let a handful of bad experiences cause me to shelve the whole project but it seemed so far my luck with therapists was not good. I did have friends in therapy and, sure, I could have asked a few of them for referrals but a lot of my friends in therapy at the time seemed just as crazy as when they started.

My last head shrinker was named Thelma, another recent grad from a school that judging from her blatant disregard for professionalism was probably an online university. I smelled trouble from our very first session. She launched into a story about a case she was working on –tearing up along the way. I made a feeble attempt to comfort her while glancing at my watch seeing my session ticking away.

Usually in a therapist’s office, there’s a clock positioned conveniently behind the client’s head so the therapist can feel free to clock watch while trying to seem that they’re making eye contact, sort of like a newscaster reading a teleprompter. This way even if you’ve just worked up the courage to talk about the pivotal moment when your trusted high school drama coach asked if you’d care to witness his private performance of Puppetry of the Penis, when the clock hits the fifty minute mark, the therapist will say, “I’m sorry. We’re out of time today. How’s next Tuesday at four?”
I knew this wouldn’t be a problem with Thelma. She had a worse sense of time than a rock. An hour and a half crawled by before we both finally ran out of issues and I got to leave.
In my second session with Thelma, after the first twenty minutes discussing her problems, we finally got around to talking about me and she made a diagnosis: Turned out, according to her, I was hilarious and the only trouble was that I needed to find the right guy. And she just happened to know one right at the hospital where she worked.
“He’s in his forties, just got divorced and he has two kids. He’s a super nice guy.” No matter that he was twice my age, had kids, and, oh yeah, was her colleague. There are only like a hundred shades of wrong about that but maybe she was having Internet issues the day that class was taught.

“I don’t think I’m ready for kids yet” I said.
“Well, we can work on that.”
Thelma was obviously crazy as a crab cake but it was clear she needed me at this point more than I needed her. Maybe to prove to myself that I didn’t have commitment issues, I still stuck around for a couple more sessions.
On Valentine’s Day, I broke down in the middle of my session –possibly from the dismal feeling of being in therapy on Valentine’s Day, and not ringing in the holiday by pouring chocolate fondue over some lover’s private parts before soaking in the oversized Jacuzzi in our five star hotel room in Paris. In the midst of my crying jag I noticed a shadowy figure crouching outside the French doors of Thelma’s office. It was easy to see since the doors were only covered with a flimsy non-soundproofed set of gauzy white curtains.
“Someone’s lurking outside your office!” I said, trying to stop a possible murderer or worse eavesdropper. Thelma went to the door, opened it and then crouched down to retrieve something.

“Oh my goodness! What a sweetie pie!” she said walking back in with a huge bouquet of roses. “It was my husband. He dropped by and left me these flowers for Valentine’s Day. Anyhoo, you were saying how hard it is to find love and how sad Valentine’s Day makes you feel…”
“Bad?”
“Yeah. Hmm.” Placing her massive display of flowers on her desk, Thelma began straightening and arranging them. “You know, my husband and I don’t actually live together. I really think that’s the secret to making a marriage work. Separate apartments. Are you surprised?” I couldn’t have been less surprised considering I found her difficult to be around for ten minutes. What did surprise me, however, was that I was now pulling out my checkbook to pay her! Except that while I was writing out the check, I had a realization –a breakthrough if you will. It occurred to me that in a long series of fifty-minute increments I had found out plenty about myself. I was simply not nearly as dysfunctional as I thought. I mean, just compared to Thelma I was way ahead of the game. I felt such relief at this realization that tears welled up in my eyes.
Suddenly, Thelma pulled out one long stem red rose and handed it to me. “Here, Stefanie. I really want you to have this. You deserve it.”
“Thanks Thelma. But I’m afraid our time’s up” I said as gently as I could. I hoped she could find herself a good therapist. I knew how hard it was.

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on August 13, 2009 8:04 pmUncategorized45 comments  

45 Comments

  1. daisybv2 said,

    Just bought the book, waiting for it to arrive at my house.

    Thanks for the preview, can't wait to read it

    | August 13, 2009 @ 9:03 pm

  2. Rockzee said,

    I love this. From someone who just started therapy. Again.

    Off to buy your book now…

    | August 13, 2009 @ 9:35 pm

  3. Marinka said,

    I loved your book and this was one of my favorite pieces. Great to read it again.

    | August 13, 2009 @ 9:37 pm

  4. Rebecca said,

    Loved your new book! Loved your first two books too! Usually when writers go from one subject to a new subject something is almost always lost. At least it is for me anyway. But with your new book which doesn't really talk about children or parenting, it's a wonderful sensation that entertained me from start to finish. Just like Sippy Cups and Naptime!

    | August 13, 2009 @ 9:43 pm

  5. Aunt Becky said,

    You're fucking hot.

    | August 13, 2009 @ 9:58 pm

  6. Aunt Becky said,

    You're fucking hot.

    | August 13, 2009 @ 9:58 pm

  7. summer said,

    I'm hooked….heading to borders tomorrow.

    | August 13, 2009 @ 10:15 pm

  8. azureavian said,

    You are awesome and this excerpt is the best. Makes me not so troubled that I've never had therapy (couldn't have ever afforded it anyway).

    | August 13, 2009 @ 10:42 pm

  9. martini addict said,

    Thanks for sharing this. Mine has shipped and I cannot wait to devour it.

    | August 13, 2009 @ 11:13 pm

  10. My Bottle's Up! said,

    aw, my love…. i think of you constantly… with each feed i give jackson, i think of you… with each feed i give him that's not a tube feed, i think of you.

    and then i go to bed at night, reading your book and laughing my ass off.

    you are one funny mothafucka. and i adore you.

    | August 14, 2009 @ 12:39 am

  11. Jennifer said,

    Thanks for the little teaser! Unfortunately I have to wait yet another payday before I can order your book. Darn military pay! LOL!

    ~ Jennifer

    | August 14, 2009 @ 12:58 am

  12. Kelly said,

    Stefanie, we love you down here. Please come to New Zealand for a book signing.

    | August 14, 2009 @ 1:29 am

  13. Mommy, Esq. said,

    Hysterical – I wish I read your post before I just sent my Amazon order through. Don't worry lots of shopping days until my kids turn 1. By the way, I have my own food issues (which, trying to explain to my mom how her drinking diet coke and eating milano cookies for breakfast relate two why all 3 of us are carboholics is an uphill battle) – do you think Sadie and Penny are our penalty for that? Do you worry like I do that my daughter will end up with her own issues since we keep encouraging her to eat?

    | August 14, 2009 @ 2:34 am

  14. CateinBC said,

    OMG, this had me with my head on the table. So, so good.

    (buying books now)

    | August 14, 2009 @ 2:39 am

  15. Rachel said,

    Loved the preview. I will order the book immediately!
    P.S. My daughter has been addicted to instant breakfast for the last year and a half. I'll cross my fingers that yours finds it just as irresistable.

    | August 14, 2009 @ 2:46 am

  16. Lolly said,

    NOM NOM NOM I love 'Sippy Cups…' which I read when I was pregnant and made me feel relieved that I wasn't a freak about methods. Common sense parenting! Who knew! I loved the preview & will be ordering it tomorrow (when hubby gets paid). It will be the first book I will attempt to read since having Peanut.

    | August 14, 2009 @ 4:59 am

  17. The Mother Tongue said,

    Oh, this was such a great chapter! Finding a good therapist really is hard–so much so that I never really have found one. Also: the Penis Puppetry bit had me in stitches. *snort*

    | August 14, 2009 @ 5:35 am

  18. Strange Mamma said,

    OMGosh. How awful and funny and horrible at the same time. I am so glad I never went through that. I went the psychoanalysis route and had an absolutely amazing psychiatrist. I swear he didn't say anything more than, "And what are you thinking, now?" for the first year and a half. I saw him for 4 years. And I feel much better :)!

    | August 14, 2009 @ 7:38 am

  19. Badass Geek said,

    Awesomely good stuff.

    | August 14, 2009 @ 1:11 pm

  20. Carolyn...Online said,

    I love your book. I would like to say that the accidental crack pipe is my favorite. But I think the ones about your family/father are so heart wrenching that they are my favorites.

    | August 14, 2009 @ 1:47 pm

  21. Kendra said,

    Ah, good memories of my first therapist! I've had others since who were lovely, but nothing like family therapy at 17 that begins with a long stare at you and the statement, "So… you're the problem."

    Looking forward to the rest of the book!

    | August 14, 2009 @ 4:05 pm

  22. Maya said,

    I will now run to buy this book- that was awesome! (from someone who has been going to therapy since the age of 19)

    | August 14, 2009 @ 4:16 pm

  23. kate said,

    Can't wait to read this book; I adore your writing!

    | August 14, 2009 @ 4:48 pm

  24. Shannon said,

    Steph…
    Waiting patiently for my book!!! Is it here yet? I'm like a little kid who's momma just ordered a DVD off the internet. Run to the mailbox every 5 mimutes checkng for it! So exciting. I wish I had the pleasure of meeting you in person. Ever consider coming to PA for a book signing. I will be your agent!!!! :)

    | August 14, 2009 @ 5:27 pm

  25. Single & Married said,

    Well, I have the others so I need this for the set! Good idea to entice me to get off the couch & go to the store!

    | August 14, 2009 @ 5:51 pm

  26. TheKitchenWitch said,

    Pretty scary when you have more marbles than your therapist!

    Hilarious! I love the Bee Whacking scene.

    | August 14, 2009 @ 7:25 pm

  27. info said,

    It wasn't until I read the NY Times article that I realized I needed to go further back in your posts. Congratulations on your decision. I wish you all the best.

    | August 15, 2009 @ 1:02 pm

  28. Melissa Ives said,

    Thanks, now I have another book to buy at Barnes and Noble today…along with the one on teaching newborn twins to sleep. My husband is going to kill me…maybe I'll skip the sleeping book.

    My book club is reading "Sippy Cups" this month because 6 out of 9 of us became mothers in 2009. LOVE IT!!!! Your book was my therapy (I've had experiences similar to yours). I prefer going to my hairdresser for some good talk sessions…at least she has style.

    | August 15, 2009 @ 1:53 pm

  29. Lydee said,

    hilarious. and poignant.

    | August 15, 2009 @ 4:29 pm

  30. Molly C said,

    awesome times article! ok, it's official. I gotta buy the new book. Good thing I just got a gift card to barnes and nobel!

    | August 15, 2009 @ 8:58 pm

  31. Wishing 4 One said,

    Man, i so want your book! Its funny yet personal a must read. I LOVED the article on you in the NY Times too. (just posted to my blog) You are a trooper man…

    | August 15, 2009 @ 9:46 pm

  32. Candace said,

    so excited to see you in the nytimes today! go girl. you just go. what lucky little girls you have. such a role model to them and to all of us out here in the webosphere………:)

    | August 16, 2009 @ 9:20 pm

  33. Jeremi said,

    Hey, been enjoying your blog and books for quite a while . . . . my first time leaving a comment though.

    I also have twin girls (3 years old now) and have dealt with eating issues with one of them, though not to the extent of your stuff. We have used carnation 3x a day since they started drinking milk and I know my one would be smaller if we didn't (she's just 25 pounds now at 3 years 4 months). ANYTHING that goes in her mouth is a celebration (well, almost anything).

    So, just wondering if Sadie liked it — and hoping she did.

    All three of your girls are adorable, and your writing makes me laugh, hard.

    In all your spare time, check out our blog. It's pretty much pics and more entertaining for family — I'm still too tired to write much and try to be funny.

    Jeremi
    http://www.ellaandzoe.blogspot.com

    | August 16, 2009 @ 10:53 pm

  34. Anonymous said,

    I apologize about this "misplaced" comment, but I read the piece in the NYT today and so identified with your journey, from struggling to be the perfect mother to moving my "wine time from 7pm to 6pm to 5pm and then getting ever more creative about what time was okay. Three years ago I was struggling to put together 30 days…then I would put together 30 days but couldn't make it to 60…Soon I'll have three years of sobriety. Every day may not be perfect, but every day I know how lucky I am. (And I'm so grateful that my daughter doesn't know how lucky she is.) I got sober for her — I didn't listen to people who told me I had to do it for myself. I did it for her. And we all win. I know your sharing your story will help other mothers start looking for ways to find the courage to get sober. I know it would have helped me when I was at my bottom and thinking I was the only one out there like me.

    | August 17, 2009 @ 1:55 am

  35. shamama said,

    This excerpt was awesome – it reminded me of the time my husband and I went to see a marriage counselor and mid-session, the therapist fell asleep. We figured our problems couldn't be that bad, and left!

    | August 17, 2009 @ 6:39 pm

  36. brooklyn altar boy said,

    just read the n.y.times story and loved it, read the excerpt and decided to visit, will be visiting amazon, thanks for the memories of
    growing up and knowing i survived

    | August 17, 2009 @ 11:44 pm

  37. Brenda Wilhelmson said,

    Just read about you getting sober in the "New York Times." I got sober six years ago and wrote a book, "Diary of an Alcoholic Housewife," which chronicles the first year I got sober. I finished blogging the first half of it in July (wilhelmson.wordpress.com), now I'm shopping for a publisher. I won't lie, the first year is a bitch. Sometimes I still want to drink. But my life got a lot better after I quit drinking, and I hope I never pick up another vodka. Good luck to you. Sending good vibes your way.

    | August 18, 2009 @ 12:12 am

  38. LuLu and Moxley's Mom said,

    Just saw NY Times article. Thinking of you and how you are inspiring others with your story.

    | August 18, 2009 @ 3:13 am

  39. Rich Stadler said,

    You take liberties with grammar and punctuation that seem sloppy to me.

    I guess if it's worked for you so far, then I'm the odd man out.

    – Rich

    | August 18, 2009 @ 5:46 am

  40. Nina said,

    I love that book. I read it at a dark time in my life (in a filthy AmTrak station as a defence against the evangelistic and the hardcore alchoholic, on a very long train journey) and it was brilliant.

    It was lovely to meet you at Blogher, and I regret only two things:

    1)I have no idea what I said to you, but nervousness and prior experience suggest I sounded like an idiot.

    2) Not having enough money and luggage space to take all the books on that table and then binge-read until my eyes fell out.

    | August 18, 2009 @ 11:34 am

  41. Rebecca said,

    Okay, seriously now, I'm going through Stefanie Withdraw Syndrome (SWD). Please post something new. I have a twitchy eye, and can't sleep at night from the effects of withdraw. It's been almost a whole week.

    | August 18, 2009 @ 5:52 pm

  42. Arkie Mama said,

    I'm sitting here at my desk, cackling! Too, too funny. After encountering my own bumps along the therapy highway, I so, so appreciate these tales.

    My worst therapy moment was when Dennis (the shrink) announced that my husband suffers from auditory sensitivity.

    "I do too," Dennis told us."So whenever we have the grandkids over, I just order my wife to keep them in the kitchen with her so I can hear the TV."

    During our hasty exit, my husband nearly laughed himself into a coma.

    "You're the one who found the guy," Hubs reminded me.

    For years.

    | August 18, 2009 @ 7:09 pm

  43. MommaKiss said,

    What a great read. Can't wait for the rest of the story!

    | August 20, 2009 @ 3:54 am

  44. EmilyC said,

    wow. as a very recent graduate of a master in social work degree, i find this both hilarious and truly terrifying. is it possible for me to apologize on behalf of the "helping" community??

    | October 9, 2009 @ 8:55 pm

  45. Joy! said,

    Heehee! This brings back various therapy misadventures I've experienced. Also: I am jealous of your writing! I love how you tell stories.

    | December 5, 2009 @ 6:05 am

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