Tuesday, July 26, 2016


“I have a confession,” Randy says. “I’ve been sleeping around.”

A snide, why am I not surprised, goes through my head. I say nothing.

“I know,” he continues, “I was supposed to try not to, to think about my feelings before doing anything. But all I can think about is that there’s this gorgeous woman over there who I’ve never seen before and will probably never see again and why the hell not.”

I have been seeing 36 year old Randy in therapy for about six months. His wife got tired of his constant affairs and gave him an ultimatum – therapy or divorce. Whether she would have gone through with her threat I have no idea, but he chose therapy. Randy is neither the easiest patient for me to work with nor the easiest patient to like. His narcissism and his presentation of himself as God’s gift to women are very off-putting to me, as is his difficulty in self-reflection and his impulsivity.

“Randy, when you say ‘why the hell not’ do you think you’re feeling angry, like perhaps I or your wife shouldn’t be telling you what to do?”

He laughs. “Never thought of it.”

“Well, can you think about it now?”

He rolls his eyes.

“What were you feeling right then when you rolled your eyes?”
“Geesh! You don’t cut a man any slack, do you?”

I remain silent.

“Okay. Okay. I’ll think about it. What was the question again?”

I feel my anger rising and wonder if I am feeling my anger, his, or both of ours.

“I think you are angry, Randy. Can you perhaps tell me what you’re feeling angry at?”

“I think this is a waste of time. I’m clearly not getting better. I’m still messing around. You haven’t fixed me.”

“Wait a second. ‘I haven’t fixed you’ meaning what?” I ask, thinking about neutering a dog and wondering if that’s what he’s symbolically hoping and/or fearing I might do.

“Getting me to stop wanting to mess around.”

“And how do you think I’d do that?”

“I don’t know, you’re the doctor.”

“Randy, do you want to be different? Do you want to stop ‘messing around,’ as you say?

“My wife wants me to.”

“But that’s not what I asked. What do you want?”

“I have to do something if I want to stay married to her.”

“And do you want to stay married to her?”

“Yeah, I guess.”


“I love her.”

“What about her do you love?”

“She’s a good person. She’s a good mother, a good wife.”

“Can you be more specific? What makes her a good wife?”

“I don’t know. She takes care of the kids, the house, she likes entertaining, she always makes a good impression.”

I’m ready to scream. He’s giving me one inane answer after another and telling me absolutely nothing. Is he doing it deliberately? Is he trying to thwart me? Frustrate me? A thought goes through my head. “Randy, do you like frustrating women?”

“What do you mean?”

“Do you like frustrating women? Perhaps tantalizing them? Perhaps never quite giving them what they want?”

Randy straightens himself in the chair. He stares at me. “What made you ask that?”

“You seemed to be enjoying not really answering my questions. Perhaps you enjoy not giving me what I want. Perhaps you enjoy not giving your wife what she wants. And what about sexually, do you enjoy withholding pleasure from women?”

“Whoa. We’re getting way too personal here.”

“That’s what therapy does, Randy, it gets personal. If you really want to change – which I don’t know if you do – we have to first understand why you do what you do, really understand it, not just play at understanding.”

“I don’t know if I can do that.”

“You don’t know if you can do what?”

“You’re saying you want into my world, my mind.”

“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.”

He shakes his head. “I don’t know.”

“Well, at least you’re being honest right now. I appreciate that. I feel like at least I’m getting a glimpse into who you are.”


“I was my mother’s doll. She played with me. Not sexually as far as I know, but she might as well as have. She owned me.” Pause. “I hate her. You ready to deal with all that, doc?”

“I’m definitely ready, Randy. The question is are you?”

“I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it.”

“Fair enough.”

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Truth Revealed

Mrs. Cortez settles herself uncomfortably in the chair across from me, fidgeting nervously with her fingers. “I never expected to be in a therapist’s office,” she says. “Especially not for this.”

I smile at her. “Take your time. I can see you’re anxious,” I say reassuringly.

She sighs deeply. “My husband and I came from Mexico a long time ago. We wanted to have children in a place where they’d have more opportunity. We’ve done well. I’m the office manager of a large cardiologists’ office, my husband drives for FedEx. My daughter graduated from college. My son’s in college now.” She looks down at her hands. “It’s about my son,” she says, barely audible. “He…he told me he was gay.”

She glances up at me.

“It was after the Orlando killings, in the… the nightclub. He said he couldn’t stay silent. He couldn’t keep hiding who he was. He cried like a baby. I was shocked. I held him, told him I loved him, that I loved him whoever he was. But it’s so confusing to me. It’s against my religion. It’s against my culture. I know Pope Francis said who are we to judge and I’m trying not to, but it feels so unnatural to me. And he’s afraid to tell my husband, which I understand. But now I have this secret from my husband and I don’t like that either.”

“I can see how much pain you’re in, Mrs. Cortez.”

“Please call me Daniella. I just told you the biggest secret of my life, Mrs. Cortez is much too formal.”

“Of course, Daniella,” I respond. I like this woman. Although we come from vastly different backgrounds with vastly different values, I appreciate both her pain and her conflict. From a place of love, she’s struggling to take in a new reality, to expand her view of what’s acceptable, to integrate her new information about her son – her gay son – with who she always understood him to be.

“I know it’s hard,” I say, “But your son isn’t a different person from who he was before he told you he was gay.”

“It feels like he is. I look at him and I wonder…” Pause. “I imagine… I wonder who he’s been with and how. It kind of makes me sick. My son? How could my son kiss another man? Could he put another man’s… No, I can’t say it. I can’t even think it.” Pause. “I haven’t been to church since he told me.”


“I have all these impure thoughts, all these images. If I go to confession, what will I say? I don’t want to tell the priest.”

“I thought you said Pope Francis said who are we to judge.”

“That’s Pope Francis. Not all priests are like that.”

“So you’re afraid the priest will condemn your son, just like you’re afraid your husband will.”

“Yes. If I’m having all these problems, my husband is so much more traditional. And he’s a man. I know what men say about gays. All those jokes. And that’s something else. I worry about my son. He’ll have such a harder life. And Mexicans aren’t having such an easy time in this country right now. Then you add being gay. I’m scared for him.”

“Daniella, this may seem like an odd question, but can you say what you are hoping to get from therapy?

“I needed to tell somebody. It’s been such a burden.” Pause. “And I guess I want you to help me accept my son.” She cries silently. “He’s a good boy. I love him. I keep wishing this was a dream. That it will go away. But I know it won’t. I know I won’t change him. I want to accept him. And I want to figure out how to tell my husband.”

“Do you feel ashamed that your son is gay, Daniella?” I ask.

She nods. “I know you’re supposed to be born that way. But I keep wondering if it was something I did, something my husband did. Did I keep him too close, was my husband too strict?”

“There are no answers to those questions. But I wonder if we can understand how shame came to play such an important role in your life.”

She looks down. “I’ve always felt ashamed. Ashamed of my background, my poverty, my alcoholic father. Ashamed of being different, of not being born in this country. I always wanted to fit in. And now there’s my son. Another difference – for him and for me.”

“So hopefully as we talk about these issues and you find more peace, you’ll also be able to be more accepting of your son.”