Tuesday, July 9, 2013
I’d seen Billy before, during his senior year of high school. His plan was to go to school in central Florida, about three hours from his home, a plan he carried through despite considerable anxiety. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to major in or what career he wanted to pursue, pretty typical feelings for many adolescents. Still, his anxiety seemed excessive, related to a fear of separation and much ambivalence about growing up.
Billy is now seeing me again after moving back home having graduated from college with a degree in English. Not surprisingly he has been unable to find a job.
“I haven’t really looked all that hard,” Billy says sheepishly, his sandy blonde hair hanging over his eyes. “I mean, I know it’s rough out there – the unemployment, especially for kids my age. I don’t have anything special to offer. I’m not sure I could stand the constant rejection.”
“How’s it feel being home?” I ask.
He shrugs. “OK, I guess. It’s like always.”
Billy is the second of six children, all spaced closely together. His parents have a marketing business they run from home. The house is usually pretty chaotic. Not much time put aside specifically for the family or for quality one-on-one time with each other.
“Are all your siblings home?” I ask, trying to gauge the degree of chaos.
“All except Christine. She’s working in Boston. And Melody will be going back to college, but other than that they’re.”
“What led you want to come back to see me?”
“I’m feeling kind of down. I’m like stuck, not doing anything. Mostly I stay in my room and busy myself on the computer. Just passing time.”
“You’re not seeing your friends?”
“Most of them aren’t here anymore. Or they’re working. I haven’t really called around much.”
“You do sound pretty depressed.”
“Yeah, I know. I was thinking I should go back and see the psychiatrist. I hate going back on that stuff, but I feel lousy.”
“Well, calling me and planning to call the psychiatrist is certainly taking action.”
“I guess. But that’s not going solve my problems for the rest of my life.”
“What do you think your problems are, Billy?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know what I want to do.”
“Is that the problem, or is the problem that you’re not sure – or at least a part of you isn’t sure - that you want to do anything.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I wonder if part of you feels comfortable living at home, having your parents take care of you.”
“That’s kind of true, but it also doesn’t make sense to me. It’s crazy at home. It’s like a zoo. And it’s like no one even knows I’m there!”
“I think you just said something very important, Billy. Maybe it’s that you want to stay home until someone does know you’re there. Maybe what you’re feeling is that you never got to be seen, to be appreciated and that until you get that – until you get what you never got – you’re going to stay home and wait.”
“But I’d wait forever!”
“That’s true, Billy, you would. You’d never get what you wanted and you certainly couldn’t get what you wanted in your past. There’s no way to turn back the clock.”
“Wow! This is heavy. Do you think that’s it? Do you think that’s why I’m stuck.”
“I think that’s one reason. We humans are pretty complex beings and it’s not like one reason explains everything. And not even knowing that one reason – assuming it’s correct – is going to automatically make you able to do things differently.”
“I think that involves really feeling what it was like for you as a little boy, surrounded by all these siblings, your parents harassed and busy with their own lives, never feeling cherished as a unique you. That means feeling your sadness and your anger, neither of which is exactly easy for you.”
“So you really think it’s about the past?”
“I think it’s about your past and your present and I think they both really impact your future.”
“It sounds hard. But I guess I’m not doing anything else. I might as well work on me.”
“That’s a very courageous response, Billy. I hope you can allow yourself to feel proud of yourself, because I certainly do.”
Billy turns red. Mumbling, “See you next time,” he makes a beeline for the door.
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