This is the first two pages of "Six Day a Week," the story of my therapeutic journey.
Thank You, Doctor Jill
My therapeutic “journey” took only a total of five hours and fifty minutes, stretched out over seven weeks. There was no luggage and there was no send-off party. I resolved my lifelong conflict with anxiety issues stemming from panic disorder, after completing seven visits to a competent therapist at the local health center.
Most people have some personal contact with the process of therapy. I know a person for whom therapy is a way of life, because he has grown to rely on the ongoing advice and guidance from his therapist. What I have not encountered is a person who suffered from what amounts to a lifelong disability, and who had tried therapy in the past with no success. Then, along comes that mythical (mystical?) person, who deftly inserts the key, unlocking the door to a solution for resolving the conflict in that person's life.
For me that mythical person turned out to be a resident psychologist at the local community health center. Unknown to me, Dr. Jill had been at this clinic for the past thirteen years. Yet I had been going down to Ukiah to see a counselor, who told me on my first visit that she could help me with immediate concerns, but was unlikely to resolve my anxiety issues. So you can imagine my surprise to find out that within a half-hour of my rural residence, I could get help to rid myself of a lifetime disorder and its long range effects.
Furthermore, within the first five minutes of my initial session, Doctor Jill assured me that there was a cure for my problem, she could effect that cure and all that was left was for me to do the work. Was that possible? I envisioned some sort of disease coursing through my veins that Dr. Jill was going to eradicate with a deft inoculation of penicillin, and I would walk out the door with a new lease on life, but I knew it didn't work like that. Yet this beaming, diminutive, effervescent person sat in front of me and declared confidently that my problem was very common, and there was a solution. It was up to me to be an active participant. I told her I was ready for action, ready for danger.
Exactly, what was my lifelong affliction? From the time I was ten until the time I approached my fifty-eighth birthday, I suffered from panic attacks. I didn't know they were panic attacks, I didn't seek medical attention, and the only person I ever told was my mother, who was very supportive, but unable to provide any definitive answers. When triggered, this overwhelming physical sensation surges up into my brain, takes control, and sends me into a tailspin that results in loss of consciousness if I don't get out of wherever I am trapped, sit down in the fresh air, and drape my head between my knees, not a very dignified posture.
The first time it happened, I was in St. Martha's church for the eight o'clock mass, mindlessly standing there, going through the ritualistic motions of the service, when a girl not much older than me in the pew in front of us, keeled over like an ancient oak, and when she hit the floor, it sounded like a sonic boom. She was standing where the pew met the aisle leading up to the altar, and she toppled out into this center aisle. How could a person make so much noise hitting a tile-encased, concrete floor?
The absolute shock of this event seared into my mind as though someone had surgically opened the top of my head and poured in some sort of toxic acid that drained the blood from my brain and caused me to heat up instantly. Spontaneous combustion was a distinct possibility. My vision was clouded, my face was white, my breathing was rapid and shallow, I was sweaty and dizzy and I knew I would be next to go down if I didn't get out of there. I stumbled out the side door just as a man I did not know was approaching; he took one look at me and told me I had better sit right down on the curb of the church driveway and get my head between my knees. He told me I looked like a ghost, and that I should take deep breaths until I felt the nausea pass.
I’m fifty-nine now, and the nausea has passed. Thank-you, Dr. Jill.