Monday, November 19, 2007

what jacqueline said that made it better

Recently, someone who ought to know better, a professional to whom I had turned for tools to deal with fear and anxiety, said to me, "People who spend their lives saying that everything is a 'pain in the neck' often find that that is where they get cancer."

My eyes widened. My tone sharpened. I asked, "Are you telling me that I got breast cancer because I had negative feelings about my body?"

"Well, I am not talking about blame here. But many people who grow up hearing negative things or thinking negatively about a particular body part, end up, years later, getting cancer in exactly that part of their body."

Excuse me? What young woman doesn't grow up thinking at least somewhat negatively about her body, especially one who goes through puberty as young as I did? And yeah, I did hear lots of negative comments about my body when I was young. And yes, I have hated both my breasts and my belly at times.

But I repeat, what woman doesn't feel at least some ambivalence about her body?

He kept saying that he got this idea from Bernie Siegel, in Love Medicine and Miracles. I haven't read that book but I did read another by him (Peace, Love and Healing) and I suspect that his words were distorted by this so-called therapist.

The whole session with this man was appalling. He rambled, said a number of inappropriate and irrelevant things (about himself and other clients) and seemed to have little inclination to listen to what I was saying (and I ended up saying very little).

And he was extremely irritated when I ended the session early (I stayed for an hour but really, I was ready to bolt after the first five minutes).

I left feeling more than a little shaken and relieved that I had not gone to see this fraud when I was actually feeling vulnerable (like say, right after I had learned of the metastasis and not right after getting good news, when I feel healthy and strong).

The next day, I came upon this poem by Jacqueline over at Rebel 1 in 8 (I am reproducing it here because I really need you all to read it but please do go to her blog and also, here to buy here beautiful jewelry and check out her clothing designs):

what it's not. and the gratitude of my flesh.

it's not
a victim
of your shame
or mine

it's not
a symbol
of your fear
or mine

it's not
a reflection
of your arrogance
or mine

it's not
an armor
for your struggles
or mine

it's not
a billboard
for your truths
or mine.

it's not fabric to be stitched
clay to be formed
marble to be carved
a book to be read
a song to be sung
a cheer to be shouted
a code to be broken
a mystery to be solved
a key for a lock
or a

it is simply flesh.

MY flesh.

and it is grateful.

for the things

One of the beautiful things about poetry is that interpretation can always be left up to the reader.

But what Jacqueline wrote spoke directly to me.

I realized that everything that therapist said was really about him, not me. His own fears, his own insecurities. And his own ego.

And I have taken Jacqueline's words to heart. I will continue to strive to be as comfortable as I can in this skin of mine. I will think of myself as healthy, strong and beautiful.

And I will forgive myself when I don't.


Anonymous said...

Wow, you are so disciplined to have stayed a whole hour. And you are very right; the guy was full of poo.

I freakin' loved my right leg, and I'd been complimented on my legs my whole life. So there goes that crap theory.

Asshole. (Him, not you.)

(Please pardon my less than poetic language.)

laurie said...

I only stayed for an hour because I was ALONE with him in the building and I really didn't want a confrontation with him.

I just got off the phone with my spouse, who said that I had left out some of the worst parts of that session. It truly was appalling and he was full of shit.

Thanks so much for commenting, Sara.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like this person is not a very good therapist.

Anonymous said...


In the interest of avoiding this person - as my vulnerability is at an all time high - please advise in a seperate email to me who he is. I want to strike him from my list of possible people to reach out for help.


Anonymous said...

Okay so you don't say what sorts of anti-fear tools this guy supplied you with and so I'm going to assume this guy supplied you with recreational chemistry and has been sampling a tad too much product of late.

Or maybe this is the register clerk at the LCBO.

Either way there's lots of other people that can offer that sort of support without offering unqualified and almost random opinion.

The nerve. It would be like me offering my neighbour advice on how to fix his motorbike.

What a jackass.

W-w-w-ait. He isn't really a therapist, is he? Still?

Sherry said...

Foolish man. He read something that sounded good to him so this is what he preaches?? Can he back this up scientifically? Probably not!!!

I think you are on the right track...that was about him, not about you. There are a bucketful of reasons you (and I and many others) developed cancer...and thinking negatively about our bodies, while not healthy, is not one of them!

Anonymous said...

Awwwww what an a**.
Primitive idiot. I hope you did not have to pay $$ for the session. I totally get that you stayed an hour. I would have wondered for a while if I was missing something, if the right therapist was about to walk in through the door gently asking his less lucky brother to run out and play in the yard, or simply been a bit afraid of insulting/upsetting the guy (It is so hard not to act canandian). You walk into a therapists office prepared to open up a bit more than is usually comfortable in order to receive help and support. This makes us all vulnerable to CRAP.
I never hated my spine. I never thought much about it until it stopped working to my advantage. Nobody asks for it!! Ever!!
I'm not sure I would not have been frozen and broken after such a trap though. Here's a big hug HUG. I'm proud you walked when you did. LR

joy said...

YUCK. When folks are mean to you, I always kind of want to track them down and beat them with some kind of blunt object. DON'T they know who you ARE?

Babz Rawls Ivy said...

Hey Sister-Friend,
I am just glad that you recognized crazy when you saw it. That in and of itself is big big big! Yousee A Warrior Queen knows how to spot bullshit. You make me go and find what you need in a real therapist!

Babz Rawls Ivy said...

Oh and the poem was FABULOUS! You are right poets have a way of getting to you where you live. Oh and I might be in the mood for a bauble or two.

Anonymous said...

Incredible. Incredibly insulting, and annoying, and asshole'ish. Yikes. Would you want to report his practices to some sort of board?

It is true when people do things like that, it's about them, not you. The poem is lovely.

Anonymous said...

I'm another lurker who has a similar journey and oddly a similar experience with a therapist. Mine kept checking his computer screen which beeped everytime he got an email. This while I sobbed and begged for some help to manage the overwhelming fear I was experiencing (I was diagnosed stage 4 with liver mets at presentation).
Much of Bernie Siegal's claims and research have been shown to be wrong - we just live in a world that likes to blame its victims for their trouble. On top of that there's a line-up of people who want to sell us hope at exorbitant prices. Our fault we got cancer, our fault we can't cure ourselves, our fault we hurt and grieve. Many of them even believe the nonsense they spiel and sell. Its sad. I am sorry though he wasted your time - you (as do we all) deserved better.
There are really good people out there to -

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

Thanks for sharing -- that's beautiful.

This reminds me of how people blame me (indirectly) for my son's autism by saying vaccines caused it. It's hard for me not to get angry about it (I usually do), but at the same time I see that it is the attempt of others to control the scary and the unknown.

They don't want to admit that anyone could end up with cancer -- that their child could end up with autism -- no matter what they do. They want to think that if they do everything right, they won't end up where we are. It's too frightening to admit that there are many things we simply have no control over -- that we don't understand -- that we can't explain...

laurie said...

Thank you all. My commenters are so smart.

Anonymous said...

Aaaaaaaaah! I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get caught up on your posts! Testing & work have conspired against me.

I have to say that I'm amazed that you stayed in the room with that asshat.

It's great to know that there are such irresponsible clowns out there, dishing out advice without a clue about actually helping people.

I'm glad you got the hell out of there, because that guy has no business counseling others. People like him are dangerous.


laurie said...

Thanks everyone. And Allie, if you feel like it, you can email me at laurie dot kingston at gmail dot com.
Thank you for coming out of lurkdom.

Anonymous said...

i've heard that garbage before. it's infuriating. good for you for leaving early. is it vindictive of me to be glad you caused him some discomfort after he did the same to you?

love the poem you posted. thank you.


Sakurako Kitsa said...

What a bizarre, unenlightened view that man had.

I'm always amazed by people who assign some sort of cosmic consequence to cancer. It just doesn't work that way. I was born with it; was I an exceptionally naughty fetus?

I've run into many of those professionals also, who are supposed to "help" but mainly end up sputtering nonsense or chatting about themselves.

He was an idiot, and I'm glad you didn't buy into it.

Mom2Amara said...

Laurie, it's been said but all I can say is what an ass. Seriously.

I'm glad you found (and shared) that beautiful poem. It speaks volumes.

Anonymous said...

It seems silly to comment some more when all these wise women who read your blog have already commented but I have to tell you this kind of misogynist crap drives me nuts. As a midwife, I hear stuff like this all the know, women are in labour for two days because they hate their mother or they can't push their baby out because they are afraid of parenting. After 17 years of watching the unbelievably varied ways that biology affects us all I think it's all balderdash.

On the other hand, if you subscribe to that theory... why wasn't that guy commending you for your intense love of life and incredible strength of spirit that healed your liver?

Another one out of lurkdom. Love, K