Warning: This work has been rated 18+.
Dr. Linda Thomas was the first. The beginning of a series of relationships and appointments that shaped my treatment for years. In a way, she set the tone for what was to come.
The first appointment is something of a blur. My anxiety over the event started days before it occurred, and after the agonising car trip with my Mother and 10 minutes in a waiting room the appointment was overshadowed by an hour long panic attack. Despite the anxiety I do remember these things; the receptionist smelt strongly of perfume. There was hand sanitiser on the desk. The walls were pink, and I was very ill on the stomach, which added fuel to the circular fear of humiliation.
Dr Linda Thomas was an eating disorders specialist. Although I’m suspicious that her expertise may have come, as it often does, from experience. Her hair was grey- blonde and she wore a pink shawl draped over the skeletal body. I was unimpressed with her age, but enamoured with the mahogany wood and general appearance of her office. It fit perfectly the images I had created for myself of what this experience should be. It fitted the romantic idea of a man in a grey sweater with a pipe who would perform Freudian analysis, and then fix me. Of course that would never have been possible.
In the first appointment I barely touched on my reasons for seeing her. I expressed my thoughts on food, although they were largely exaggerated. At this time, most things were. I was in such a state of confusion and general teenage melancholy that explaining my thoughts or emotions required me to first figure out what I thought. Or more importantly, what the problem actually was. That was a stage I didn’t reach for years, and that I still struggle with today.
In the coming appointments I learnt only a few things. Firstly, psychologists are human beings. They have opinions. They have families. They fuck up. This was a revelation that I found neither positive nor negative, although perhaps a little annoying. I didn’t want to think about other people when I seemingly required so much of my own attention. What Dr. Thomas thought of me and my behaviours was made clear to me. She had little time for teenage dramatics, little time to investigate the things I was clearly keeping from her. She was happy to allow me to guide the appointments along whichever pointless road I wished, for the outcome was not her concern. At the end of the session, a new client enters. She moves on. She doesn’t continue to be in my life until I see her again. She sees clients all day. She has her own problems. My life is, for all intents and purposes, the least of them.
The second thing I learnt from sessions with Linda is that lying is an addiction. It began as an attempt to get this new adult figure in my life to recognise how special I felt. How hard I felt my life to be, how different I was and how much she had to invest in me, to care for me. I didn’t care what I said, so long as she listened, and so long as it sounded serious. My thoughts about foods became actions that were in reality alien to me. My relationships with my family sounded poignant, like a movie script. My feelings about my shortcomings were modest and expressed with a solemnity I didn’t feel. Now that I look back on these times I feel that she may have known this to be true. She knew that I was talking so that someone had to listen. She knew that I had been planning these soliloquies all week, practicing how I would sound and how she would react. This pattern of lies and faked sincerity mattered very little to her, but was very detrimental to me. The guilt of the lies, and the disappointment at not being able to express what I actually felt (whatever that was) would stick with me between appointments. I would write journal entries on this weight of feeling like I manipulated everyone around me. How I lied, how the attention seeking had taken it too far. If I could go back to that time I would assure myself that those behaviours on their own were proof that something was going wrong, but at the time I saw only the objective of getting someone to validate me, until the aftermath of shame and self hatred.
The third, and perhaps most relevant thing I learnt from Linda Thomas was that the endless talking was not going to get me anywhere. I had to start to listen.