Note: This diary may elicit strong feelings. My apologies for not including this earlier. We will return to a light hearted diary tomorrow but lightheartedness can also be found in our comment threads tonight.
She was thirteen years old and had learned that she could not trust herself, her parents or anyone, really. She had been hospitalized because she called 911 when her father was abusing her. Yes, she called 911. But when the police arrived, she was out of control and could not be contained in any safe way. Her father didn't believe she was hearing voices telling her to kill him and the rest of her family. She was hospitalized for two weeks and returned home to her parents with new medication and a diagnosis the family did not understand.
I was her fourth therapist. It was hoped that I would earn her trust. I listened to her, I validated her; I commiserated with her. I enjoyed what the file called "atypical behavior," viewing her depression not only as a result of her brain's inaccurate firing off the right chemicals in the right amount, but as a reaction to powerlessness in what she experienced as a male dominated world where men are abusive and frightening. She relived the abuse over and over without the capacity to tell anyone about it while at the same time some part of her mind had failed her by telling her to kill her family and herself.
This was before my cancer diagnosis, at a time when I experienced more patience and a deeper belief in my skills. Over time she came to trust me.
Then cancer came into the forefront. At the same time I noticed the young girl laughing more, smiling more, talking more, engaging more. The voices had cleared away and what remained was the core child freeing herself from pain. The blooming of this child had become a beacon to me; her healing a metaphor of what I was capable of providing as a therapist and for myself. Her treatment had become moments strung together without the weight of cancer or cancer treatment.
She was celebrating her fourteenth birthday when her father, without giving it any thought, grabbed her arm.
Day in and day out, the radiation accumulated making my body uninhabitable for anyone but me.
The young girl’s vulnerability had grown into hostility. When I failed to carry out her unreasonable demands and wishes, her hostility turned toward me.
The idea that I was a ‘healer’ began to dissipate.
Still, there were moments when she, the blooming child, returned. But more and more there was pervasive hostility toward me.
Time is double edged. How long had it been since I laid down staring up at the tops of the trees with the sun glowing and warming and the radiation beams coming in from odd angles: arms over head, arms hanging down, voices heard but not noticed; ink dots filling up the sky?
In a way, the during cancer treatment was a safe time because I had the excuse that I was a cancer patient. In truth though, I never really thought of myself as one.
I believed her treatment was effective. I thought the girl’s hostility would abate, but my judgment was off. The circumstances were right for her to hear the echo of paranoia and voice the hatred of what I had come to represent to her.
Just as cancer passed through me... so did her trust.
Kitchen Table Kibitzing is a community series for those who wish to share part of the evening around a virtual kitchen table with kossacks who are caring and supportive of one another. So bring your stories, jokes, photos, funny pics, music, and interesting videos, as well as links—including quotations—to diaries, news stories, and books that you think this community would appreciate.
Finally, readers may notice that most who post diaries and comments in this series already know one another to some degree, but newcomers should not feel excluded. We welcome guests at our kitchen table, and hope to make some new friends as well.