Therapy is not my thing.
Twice I have tried it with two different people. The first one seemed more like a faith healer than a trained professional. The second one felt like she had a barrier around her. As hard as I tried, I could not connect with her.
After that I gave up, I chose the path of excising my demons on my own. That didn’t work too well either. Six months into DIY mental health I had lost 10 kgs, I wasn’t eating, I was sleeping no more than two hours a night and I could not even imagine being in a relationship with a man.
And then the anxiety attacks started. At first I could not even identify the feeling. I had never felt anything like it before. It felt like my larynx was being crushed while something heavy settled on my chest. I would curl up in a ball and clutch at myself. That was the only thing that helped me feel better.
A week into the anxiety attacks, I knew it was time to get help.
So I did.
He was suggested to me by my gynaecologist. Strange place to get a recommendation, maybe, but by this point in my life I had alienated everyone I didn’t have to pay to keep around.
I made an appointment and then I made myself go.
The first thing that struck me when I saw him was how young he looked. Based on the plaid sofas, the 90-year old secretary and old-school filing system I thought I was going to be seen by a 60-year old man.
But Moran Letcher wasn’t 60, at most he was 40. He was lean, and dressed in jeans and a white shirt. And loafers.
He smiled as I walked into his office. The smile lit up his entire wrinkle-free face; except his eyes.
I’d imagine it’s not easy to soulfully smile at hordes of patients on a daily basis.
His office was set-up like a living room. The couches were green and the carpets were brown. For some reason those colours went together. There was no desk, just a few shelves full of books.
“Sit down,” he said as I entered and returned his smile, “I’m Moran Letcher.”
“Hi, Mr.Letcher,” I responded, “I’m Emily Low.”
“Please, call me Moran, Emily,” he said leaning in.
We introduced ourselves and almost immediately I started talking. I told him about the anxiety and the sudden onset of depression. He asked why I hadn’t gotten help earlier and I told him about the other therapists.
We talked about everything I was feeling (and not feeling) without the question of a root-cause coming up.
Talking to him was easy, even about the gnawing discomfort of loneliness. He even seemed to understand when I told him that I didn’t feel at home in my body.
For fifty minutes I talked without realizing it had been so long. Right before he reminded me that it was time to go he said, “Whatever happened eight months ago, you have it in you to get past it.” It sounded like he genuinely had faith in me.
That alone encouraged me to book the next appointment. I could tell he knew where I was coming from. What I was coming from.
I saw him again three days later. He noticed I had made a little more effort into getting dressed than I had the last time.
“You look pretty,” he said.
That time we talked about growing up and my childhood. I told him about the town I had grown up in. My working-class father whom I’d always felt great discomfort around. My perfect mother who always did what people needed without considering her own desires. My elder sister with whom the rivalry had taken over the bonding many years ago. My younger brother who had lost both his legs in a drunken accident.
Even though any issues I had ever had with my family stood resolved, it was cathartic to talk to him about these things.
We didn’t talk about what he had hinted at last time, I suspected he wanted me to bring it up myself when I was ready.
We went a few more sessions without it coming up. Even though all we had done was talk, as far as I was concerned no therapy had been applied to me, I had started to feel better. Looking back perhaps it was a result of me feeling like I had taken the responsibility to get myself help.
I had been seeing him a month when I finally felt comfortable enough to bring it up.
It was because of the nightmares.
I told him they had been intensifying for a week. Finally, he asked about the content of the nightmares.
It was always the same.
The dark street I was walking in after work. The van that swept past. The abject panic of being pulled in. The putrid, septic smell of a chemistry lab inside. The rough hands on my body. The screaming. The blood filling my mouth. The numbness.
By the time I had finished telling the story, I was in tears. He said only one thing, “It wasn’t just a nightmare, was it?”
“No.” I said, still sobbing.
The next time he saw me he was forceful.
He insisted that I had to talk about the things I had for long refused to mention.
He asked for details of the attack. Details I had never even discussed with myself. He wasn’t concerned with the fear or the panic, he asked about the sensations.
Not how it had made me feel, how it had felt. He made me remember; the words I had said to dissuade my attackers. He asked me to remove my emotional reactions to the act and focus on the physical reactions to it.
“Are you trying to ask me if I enjoyed it?” I asked suddenly realizing the angle he was taking.
“Did you?” he asked looking straight at my face.
“No,” I said vehemently, “I was raped, how can you ask if I enjoyed it?”
Over the next few days I thought about it a lot. I don’t know why. I started to do what I hadn’t been able to do in his office; I started to think of the physical acts involved in the attack.
I thought about the force.
I thought about being choked out.
I thought about the repeated blows to my face.
I thought about being penetrated by the dirty, diseased dicks of nameless monsters.
I thought about it so long, the sun would begin to set before I realized where the day had gone.
I remember a lot of guilty gulping.
I was scared to touch myself even though I knew just how wet I was because I did not want to confirm it.
I could not believe this could be true.
The guilt must have been apparent in me when I saw him again. He picked up on it seconds after I sat down.
“So you thought about it, huh?” he asked.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” I said refusing to look at him.
“Sweetheart,” he said suddenly standing before me and lifting my chin with his finger, “Who do you think you’re kidding? Me or you?”
I felt angry. For a brief moment, I wanted to attack him. Instead, I shouted. I accused him of putting the idea in my head. He sat silently and listened to me lash out at him. When I was done screaming he told me to go home and listen to my body if I didn’t want to listen to him.
So, I went home. I ignored the rest of his suggestion and did some baking instead. I baked cookies of distraction; tweaking the recipe for each fresh batch as if identifying the moments when thoughts of dirty men and forced penetration started to appear. The faster the thoughts continued to appear, the more cookies I baked.
I felt the anger coming back as I beat nutmeg into the batter for my tenth batch. I threw the bowl on the kitchen floor.
It wasn’t enough.
I threw all the cookies, I threw the knives, I threw the bowls, I threw everything I could reach off the counters and onto the walls.
It wasn’t enough.
So I hit myself. I pulled my hair and flung myself against the floor. I beat my hands and fists into the ground. I screamed.
Somehow I ended up in tears, with my hand inside my panties and thoughts of violation on my mind as I came violently on the kitchen floor, over and over again.
The morning after that I was ready to acknowledge I had a problem. I called Letcher and let him know I needed to schedule an urgent session. He told me I could come in at lunch.
“You don’t look good,” he said when he saw me that afternoon.
“I know,” I told him.
We sat in silence for a few minutes and then almost irritably, I started talking.
“You were right,” I told him, “For some reason my body seems to appreciate all that my heart loathes.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Last night,” I started in what I think is a matter-of-fact tone, “I destroyed my kitchen and masturbated to rape.”
“Good,” he said coming over and holding my hand, “Now the healing can begin.”
He prescribed a mild sedative and an antidepressant and told me to go straight home after filling the prescription and get some sleep.
I was glad for the opportunity to have someone else do my thinking for me, so I did exactly as I was told to do.
That night was the first time in a long time I got to REM. I wasn’t shaken out of it by a nightmare or hallucinations.
No, it was a completely different thing that lulled me out this time.
I awoke startled and looked at my watch.
Objectively it wasn’t very late but it was certainly past time anyone would visit me. I put on my robe and ran to the door fearing an emergency. More sleep in my steps than mindfulness.
I unthinkingly flung the door open and was horrified to see him standing there.
“What are you doing here?” I asked wondering if it was possible he had cared enough to feel the need to check up on me.
He didn’t say anything.
He just punched me straight in the jaw. I screamed before I fell to the floor.
He closed the door behind him before dragging me by the hair to the living room. I waited for the panic that never came.
He held me by the throat against the floor and began to rip off my clothes. I kept telling myself to fight him, and I kept telling myself the medication was keeping me from doing it, but really fighting him wasn’t what my body wanted to do.
Still in what I now believe was false modesty, I kept my legs firmly closed as he pushed against them with his knees.
“What are you doing?” I asked in a hopeless whisper directed more at myself than anyone else.
“Healing you,” he said before plunging deep inside me with one inconsiderate thrust.
He didn’t leave immediately after. By the time he was done i had drifted into unconsciousness. I woke up naked and aching on the couch to see him staring at me.
“Water,” I said staring at his smile. This time his eyes were smiling too.
He brought me water and sat right next to me on the couch.
He ran his fingers gently through my hair and kissed my forehead.
“You really do love rape, don’t you?” he asked.
I looked at him at least as hard as I looked inside myself before I said, “I do.”