An HE-plus essay posted on 11.26, and offered today as a taste. I’ve been reviewing my HE-plus stuff over the last six months, and a lot of it is pretty good:
Throughout my 20s I had a fairly low opinion of shrinks (i.e., psychologists, psychiatrists). And for good reason, I felt. It had to do with my assessment of a certain suburban therapist, a chilly, officious guy in his 40s whom I was forced to see when I was 17.
I had a weekly appointment with this asshole on Tuesday or Wednesday evenings at 7 pm, and as it happened one of my meetings came right after suffering a brutal beating from my dad. Our fight had erupted in the kitchen during dinner and had resulted in a gash on the side of my head and a good amount of blood soaking my shirt.
My parents had arranged me to see this guy because I was regarded at the time as incorrigible and unreachable.
I was a problem teen for the usual reasons. I hated almost everything about my gulag life. I despised my parents equally, I thought, but harbored the strongest loathings for my alcoholic dad. I had no flirtations going with any girls, and I secretly hated half of my “friends.” I felt only negative things about school, had experienced almost nothing in the way of adventure, and little joy except for the movies I slipped into and TV shows I enjoyed. My only high-school escape valve came from getting bombed with my friends on beer.
I’d been into drawing since I was 10 or so, and had done fairly well with essay writing in grade school. But all of that went south when I entered junior high and puberty, and the misery index shot up. The feelings of lethargy and depression were unceasing.
But then a switch flipped in my junior year. I began typing up and passing around a kind of satirical gossip sheet about my friends and the stupid social bullshit that went on between us. It was a primitive version of Hollywood Elsewhere, come to think, except it wasn’t very good. Clumsy syntax, sloppy sentence structure, crude this and that, an over-reliance on sexual humor.
A copy of my clumsy gossip rag was snatched by the head disciplinarian of my high school, and within a day or two my father and I were sitting in his office as he howled and harangued about the pornographic content. Wiser authority figures would have said, “You’re being a creative entrepeneur with this thing…you just have to get better at it.” All I heard, of course, was that I was a social undesirable heading for a life of shame.
Anyway one summer evening I made some kind of smart-ass remark to my father during dinner, and with his drinking (he always poured himself a stiff one when he got home from work) and repressed anger issues he exploded. I was bloodied when he threw me across the kitchen and I hit my head on a cabinet or kitchen counter. An hour later my father was driving me to my shrink appointment. He tried explaining why he’d become so angry at me, etc. I didn’t hear a word.
Anyway, I told the shrink what had happened, and he basically did nothing but admonish and finger-wag. I felt that the blood on my shirt indicated that (a) I’d already been strongly admonished and that (b) a gentler form of dialogue was in order. I decided then and there that I would make my way through life without the benefit of psychological counselling.
I changed my mind in my late 20s when I came to see counselling as a luxurious indulgence, which of course it is.