I’ve already written on here about contacting Walt, my old doctor, about the book because I wanted him to know about it. I’ve contacted nearly everyone whom I want to know about the book’s existence, and if I haven’t, it’s because there’s something holding me back.
I think I’ve made the decision not to contact one person who is actually a pretty important figure in the book, my high school therapist, Ben.
It’s tough to articulate here how important Ben was when I was a teenager and young adult. I first saw him when I was almost 16, and he was my first real therapist. His office was in the second story of a house in New Haven that had a podiatrist’s office or something on the first floor. It wasn’t fancy, but it was comfortable.
Ben is a neuropsychologist, and the majority of his patients were not depressed and angry high school kids. His main work focused on epilepsy and brain injuries.
Ben is really tall and would be an imposing man if he weren’t so nice. He is a very nice, genuine, and funny guy. It was easy to like him as a kid, and since he was so easygoing, I didn’t have trouble lashing out at him.
My moods were all over the place as a teenager, and in retrospect it’s clear that the symptoms were precursors to bipolar disorder. But things were different in the 80s than they are now. Doctors and therapists weren’t quick to diagnose teenagers with bipolar disorder, and my diagnoses from Ben were depression, adjustment disorder, and substance abuse.
It’s like I saved up my anger all week to spew at Ben for the first part of our sessions. Luckily my sessions lasted 90 minutes, so I had the time to get that out of the way before we talked. I wasn’t angry with Ben, but I cursed at him, I snarled and balled my hands into fists, and sometimes I jumped up and paced around. It was terrible. I couldn’t control myself. But he sat there and let me get it all out of my system, patient and kind while I unleashed my fury.
I saw Ben for about almost a year and a half before my insurance stopped paying him. During that time, I’d become very attached to him, and I know that he cared about me as well. We stayed in contact by phone and once in a while he’d see me in the evening for free, just to talk. By that time I was 18, and getting ready to go to Arizona State.
Ben and I spoke a few times during my first couple weeks at ASU, when I missed home and wondered if I could succeed. Plus, I was having panic attacks that were misdiagnosed as heart damage, and we were both worried about my health.
I’ll never forget going to his office to give him a copy of my first book after it came out. I hadn’t seen him in nearly a year, and when he held No Guarantees in his hands, the beaming look of pride on his face nearly made me cry. The book blew his mind. It was a beautiful moment.
It was also the day we talked about my diagnosis of bipolar disorder a few months prior. He was sad about it, but there was no denying it at that point. We both thought that everything would be fine. I could rise above it. It seemed hard to deny I would be okay sitting there with my published book on the table between us.
But success was denied. I began the downward spiral that would define the next several years of my life. I spoke to Ben less frequently, but he was always there. Taking my calls and talking about everything. Especially once I moved to Las Vegas.
In Las Vegas I was so very lonely. My post about making a friend in LV details that issue, so I don’t need to repeat the story. I talked to Ben about medications, side effects, auditory hallucinations, delusions, and he was there for it, but he was sad. It was so clear that my decline into severe mental illness was upsetting for him.
Then I ended up hospitalized three times before a trip to Connecticut. During the trip I had an appointment scheduled with him. I was discharged from the hospital the night before I left, and Walt didn’t want me to go. But I needed to see Ben, I wanted to kill myself, and I couldn’t do it without seeing him again.
When I showed up in his new office at Norwalk Hospital, I’d inadvertently missed my appointment. I went at the wrong time, two hours too late. And he couldn’t see me. The receptionist was very clear that I should go, I wasn’t even going to be able to say hello.
I broke down. Fell apart. My life seemed so pathetic. I’d just been approved for Social Security Disability for mental illness. I’d been in the hospital 4 times in a year and a half. I took as many pills every day as my grandmother.
And now I couldn’t see Ben? Not for a minute? I lost it and told her to say goodbye to him for me, because I was gonna die. I was a wreck, sobbing, and started to try and figure out how I was going to die that day. A nurse stopped me right outside the door and I bawled with her. I told her the story. This story. She had me come back inside, and I sat, sobbing in the waiting room packed with patients.
Up to this point, the memory of what happened is incredibly clear. But once Ben called me back to his office, things get fuzzy. What I remember well is the disgusted look on his face and the anger in his voice. Things I’d never experienced from him. He was angry that I’d missed the appointment and angry that I’d threatened to kill myself.
I remember being in shock, and being hurt to think that he didn’t believe I was going to kill myself. He knew I’d made serious attempts just a year and a half ago. I was impulsive and a little dangerous.
That was it. He was done with me. Ben, who had been with me through everything, couldn’t – or wouldn’t – deal with me anymore. I don’t remember if he hugged me on the way out, as he had done every time I’d seen him for the past 7 years. I don’t think he did.
It was like a million daggers in my heart. It hurt me physically on the drive back to Milford. Tears so thick I couldn’t see and sobs so deep they choked me.
That was in October 1996. Fourteen years ago, and Ben and I have not spoken since that day. I’ve sent him letters over the years, to his home, but he has never contacted me by voice, mail, or email. In high school he said he’d be at my wedding, so when I married Jason in 2003, I invited Ben. In high school he told me he’d come to my college graduation, so in 2005 (10 years after my original graduation date) I sent him an invitation. I never heard from him.
I sent him an announcement when Jack was born, and a photo. I sent him the announcement when I got my master of social work degree.
I wanted him to know I was doing well. I had made it, despite the horrors of the mid-90s and that awful day in Norwalk.
Now I’ve published another book, a better book, and one that attempts to pull everything together from my life and make sense of it.
I haven’t contacted Ben in any way at all. I don’t know if I want to. He’s a wonderful man, and I’d love for him to see what I wrote about him in the book.
But should I contact him? I don’t know. I really don’t know. My therapist, Mark, doesn’t think I should do it. Why invite more rejection from Ben?
Indeed. Why invite rejection? Is it worth it? Do I want him to know there’s a book and have him not reach out to me and call?
Walt never called. I sent him a book, but I don’t think he’s going to call. And it hurts.
Too many questions. No good answers. More emotion that I’d thought there was at this point. This has been hard to write, and I don’t know what to do. That is all.