The Memoirist
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The Memoirist

Hiding on Ash Wednesday

I lied to my new therapist because I was ashamed

Image by Grzegorz Krupa from Pixabay

Ash Wednesday was the day I began seeing my new therapist. It’s supposed to be a day where Christians acknowledge and meditate on their mortality, and it’s also a day of repentance.

The day holds much significance for me. It’s the beginning of the penitential season of Lent. So it figures that I would start it out with a lie, that I would hide in shame like Adam and Eve did in the garden.

Later in the day, when a priest adorned my forehead with a black cross made of blessed olive oil and last years palm fronds leftover from Palm Sunday, and said:

“you are but dust, and to dust you will return,”

I hoped that one little lie to a new therapist would be okay. I didn’t know her, and I was scared and ashamed.

I had sat in the lobby for thirty minutes filling out the intake forms. I live in chronic pain, neuropathy from the first time I got shingles when I was far too young for the shingles, and also with what I assume is probably arthritis in my fingers, so writing by hand is incredibly painful.

Sometimes painful things are necessary, both filling out forms by hand, and being honest with my therapist.

I had taken my time while she looked over the forms, to glance around her office to make sure I didn’t see any red flags. What I consider red flags in a mental health providers office are things like more than one book in a small library or three in a large written by a fundamentalist Christian.

Think James Dobson of Focus on the Family, anything talking about how being gay is a sin, resources from places such as Liberty University, Bob Jones University, or any other such monstrosity disguising itself as a reputable place of academia.

That will nope me right on out of there.

I also didn’t see any shitty-ass Thomas Kinkade paintings from the Southern Baptist bookstore, or stupid “inspirational” quotations complete with their own generic stock photo in a four dollar poster frame from the local Walmart.

You know the kind:
Your attitude determines your direction.
If it doesn’t challenge you it won’t change you.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

This trite bullshit that reduces hard things down to a stupid slogan often comes in a pack of six, randomly chosen, no multiples. Does anyone except the creator of these like them? The ones responsible for this idea must have zero experience with real life.

That wouldn’t have been a deal breaker but the room is much more comfortable without that mess. She passed the fundamentalist bullshit detector test.

Yes, I absolutely judge my mental health providers by the appearance of their offices, it tells me a whole hell of a lot. I want to see what kinds of books and art influence their practice.

The therapist seemed legit, and I connected with her immediately, which wasn’t my usual experience. It wasn’t fake, either, I knew she was the right one for me.

“I notice you left the addiction question blank,” my therapist said, kindly.

“Oh. I must have accidentally missed it.” I said to her. She gave me a look that made it clear that she knew better than that. She wasn’t born yesterday.

“Rarely does a person who has been through the awful things you have been through not end up addicted.” She said.

I fiddled with the pen in my hands, looked down, and took a deep breath.

“I’ve been told it’s not a real addiction.” I said.

“People can be addicted to anything, it’s easier if you can just tell me so that we can work on it together.” She said.

“Porn.” I said. “Violent porn. Violent lesbian born. Bondage. BDSM. Shit like that.” The tears began flowing down my face like someone had opened the spillway of a dam. “I’ve been told over and over again is just a man’s addiction and I couldn’t possibly be addicted to porn because I’m a woman.”

“Porn being your vice makes so much sense in context of your intake forms,” she said.

“People get so obnoxious about it that I just hide away.”

“You know hiding doesn’t help you recover” she reminded me.

“It’s not even about the sex,” I said.

“Is it possible that the assumptions of other people aren’t the truth?” She asked me.

“I guess that’s possible,” I said.

I was relieved that she had called me out on my bullshit in discussing addiction, although bullshit from an addict is standard.

It resulted in my leaving her office feeling seen and heard.

She didn’t think I was a sex offender, she didn’t think that only men could be addicted to porn, she didn’t think I was gross, she even thought that it made sense for me.

While I was ashamed, she had seen me.

Adam and Eve weren’t able to restore any of their relationship with God until they were called out of hiding and told the truth, and so it works that way with addiction also. Hiding in my shame hinders sobriety.

I’ve a list of mental health diagnoses as long as a fucking Walgreens receipt, and I’ve been through a whole hell of a lot, things most people don’t even know anything about.

My insurance only pays for visits once or twice a month for a six to twelve months period.

She has the magic touch, because my insurance pays for me.

I’m a once a week client of hers.

Check out another memoir piece of mine, such as the day my daughter came out as transgender:

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MaryClare StFrancis, M.A.

MaryClare StFrancis, M.A.

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She/her. I write memoirs, feature articles, essays, poetry, and more.