Trying a New Couch


"You've done this before", he says, as I make it a priority to hand over the $150 check, first thing. "Yes, I know how this works", I say, as I slip my flip-flops off and plop onto the couch, knowing how to make myself comfortable. He's handsome; mid-forties, jeans, Navy Blue sweater, nice band. Here we go, I think to myself. He situates himself in his leather office chair and looks at me, ready to catch my first sentence on his clipboard. I feel the tears coming, I bury my face in my hands and struggle to get the words out:

I mutter, "I'm the angriest Yoga Teacher I know."  And with the click of his pen, he begins to take notes...

I've been "couch surfing" since I was seven years-old. In the last twenty-one years, I've seen fifteen female therapists. With the exception of the therapist I saw just after my dad passed away,--who saved my life and in many ways, set me up for adulthood--none of them could really see me or really know me. Therefore, none of them could really love me and deep down, I preferred it that way. Oh, and just a little tip: A therapist's advice can only be as current as their outfit. So, outdated wardrobe=outdated advice. Trust me. You're welcome.

Anyway, it has never occurred to me to see a male therapist, probably because I've never had healthy relationships with men, my dad included, even though we were very close. I'm very tense and anxious around men. I was molested when I was thirteen, fourteen and fifteen and I've had physical and emotional affairs with several married men, for which I have never forgiven myself. Because of this, I'm extremely uneasy around husbands, specifically. It was not my looks or even sex appeal, if I have any, that landed me in those situations, it was my loneliness, my vulnerability, and probably my wit. Chronologically, I was very young when these relationships affairs took place, and I subsequently learned in those moments that all men cheat, I am not to be trusted with them and I am not worthy of a good one. I also learned that men really just want one thing from me...although technically, I learned that in high school.

On the other side, when I am around husbands that clearly love their wives --my friends' husbands, especially-- I'm always reminded that THAT love is reserved for everyone else, except me. A shame washes over me each time I witness that love; a kiss on her head, a passing joke between the two of them. I'm both grateful and sad those husbands would never choose me. When I think of the wives whose husbands I had relations with, all I've ever wanted to say is, I'm good now, I promise. I was young and broken and I'm sorry. And I wish you knew. I wish you would have stopped it. And how did you not know? Would I know?

I feel my cheeks heat up and my head starts to spin, as I so desperately want to empty the contents of it onto the floor, only retrieving the thoughts, experiences and wisdom that can make my pain go away. "Are you sure you're angry?" he asks. I peer over my tear-soaked fingertips and squint my bloodshot eyes, confused. Is he seriously challenging my feelings right now? "I've known you for three minutes, Erica", he continued, "and what I'm really getting a sense of is not anger...but sadness." I register the word; Sad. My limbs loosen and my skin feels thin. I close my eyes and nod, fully embodying the saddest Yoga Teacher I know. "Yes", I whisper, my voice breaking. "I'm sad. I'm so deeply sad."...

I've always picked boys over men, when it comes to dating. They're easier, they're safe. I was in a relationship with a boy for two years; my first and only real relationship. And although he was "safe" in the way I needed him to be, I never felt whole or right. If there's one thing I've learned about myself, it is that I will except that which is easy and safe for a while, sometimes too long. But eventually, I'll trade it in for that which is difficult, scary and very necessary, because secretly, I want to be with a man; a true King, who's criteria it is to be with a Queen and understands that distinction. I yearn for a man who challenges me to be the most sovereign, the most strong, the most sexy, the most embodied woman I'm meant to be, because he deserves that and deep down, so do I. Boys don't require this of women, but men do, and that terrifies me. So, naturally, off I now skip to the nearest handsome, preferably married, confronting male therapist, in the hopes of figuring it all out.

He's writing a lot down, I'm giving him a lot of information. I know how to make myself understood. "Erica, how do you think I can help you?" "What do you need from me?" I know he knows the answer but he wants me to say the words myself. (They do this all the time.) I stare for a long moment at the carved wooden folding blinds behind him and take a breath. "I don't know. I don't know. Well, I know I need to try something new," I say. "I know I need a male therapist to help me understand my relationship TO and WITH men. I've been told by many therapists that I'm 'too good at therapy' and others have said I should be a Therapist. I don't need to be stroked. I don't want to be validated. I don't want to feel like I'm outsmarting my shrink. Also, you're wearing a wedding band and that makes me nervous and I don't want it to, anymore."

Before I know it, fifty minutes have passed. "Erica, this is a great place to start", he assures me. I breathe a sigh of relief, as I'm afraid he'd reject me. We decide Fridays at 12:30 will be my slot. I thank him and yes, I hug him. As I head for the door, a tiny smile, unrecognizable to anyone but me, swims across my mouth, and a small glimmer of hope fills my chest as I send a silent prayer to my future husband: This is all for us. And I'll be ready for you, soon. 

Because I'm a counselor, a writer, a teacher and a truth-teller, by vocation, it is literally my calling AND my job to heal and speak my truth so I can help others heal and speak their truth. I think of the Tony Robbins and the Brene Browns of our world, whose job it is to do their part in their life; to explore the dark and hidden truth of themselves and fully embrace who they are. It's their job to keep growing and overcome what keeps them awake at night, because if they don't, the world suffers. So I realize I can't not do this. I can't not take action and responsibility for myself. Life hurts for me right now and some days I really just want to throw in the towel, pull up the covers and not participate. But I have no choice but to do the work like it's my job, because, frankly, it is. And I'm not quitting any time soon.