The question I get asked the most - Why did you decide to become a therapist? This is a completely acceptable, normal question for pretty much any therapist but I know I am extra mysterious and confusing because my bachelor's degree is from the Hartt School of Music and has absolutely nothing to do with my current (and correct) occupation.
Hartt = fun. Period. I was 17, had visited a friend there and met kids who were doing a major in music business. Perfect! I get to play piano and sing and get business training! Yay!
So I started in there and absolutely loved it. I loved my ear training classes and being in a master choir and having a great roommate who was a music theater major. Freshman year was amazing.
Sophomore year? Not so much.
I did manage to land another excellent roommate who was also a music theater major so that was cool. And I managed to live in the same suite as my best friend and have easy access at all times to see friends because dorms are cool like that. I lived in RCA - Residential Complex of the Arts - so I was surrounded by amazing artists and musicians and basically given the experience of living in an artist colony that so happened to require walking up four flights of stairs because two years in a row, I managed to be on the 4th floor. I had thighs of steel from those steps I tell you.
Sophomore year was looking like it was going to be just as awesome as freshman year, if not more so. Sadly, however, that was not meant to be. You see, going back a little ways to high school, I met Shannon when I was a high school senior. Shannon was a boy btw. With a very Celtic name. And he was The One. We literally met at a friends house and that was it. From that moment on I loved that boy. It was the first time I'd been seriously deep down in the trenches of love and it was intense.
To provide a little background info - he was the perfect broken baby bird for me. I have always been a rescuer. It's encoded in my DNA I swear to you. His parents were divorced. He technically lived in Mass but he went to school in Manchester, CT hence how I met him. His mother was awful, I literally saw her twice in the entire three years we spent together. His father was very wealthy but never showed it and preferred the friend role, he was also a cheater who was more concerned with his girlfriend and the effort of cheating on his wife to really give a shit about what his son was up to. Shannon had zero parental supervision unless you counted my parents and you probably should seeing as how they let him stay over for at least one night most weekends. This was largely so I wouldn't have to drive him home to Mass more than because of their interest or concern for him. I don't think my parents ever liked him and that hurt. It hurts to have your parents dislike the person you're head over heels for.
It's also a basic guarantee you will fight like hell to stay with that person rather than be proven wrong.
The biggest difference between Shannon and I, was that he loved to party. With drugs. And alcohol. And I...didn't. But I put up with it because I loved him and because he was a brilliant liar. Truly, he should be on the NY Times bestseller list because he had an amazing imagination when it came to lying. And I had an amazing ability to not see anything I didn't want to see or didn't know to look for. One of my clients read through my blog entries and he said he thinks I am a person who loves too much and he is right.
So even when he did coke at a party and I threw a fit, or when he did 8 hits of acid at my senior prom, I pretended not to notice he was a zombie and ruined everyone's night. I refused to see he was on the thinnest of ice with his drug use. Until he discovered heroin. That freaked the shit out of me. Because, of course, he loved it. He loved it so much I didn't realize he loved it more than he loved me until I had no choice but to see it and accept it. I had many opportunities to get away but I never had the heart to keep to it. I broke up with him at least three times but each time he said he was going to die without me and I was the only person in the world who loved him. And, honestly, he was kind of right. His parents sucked, he had no extended family, and friends aren't the same kind of love as what he was searching for. What made him impossible for me to quit was knowing he was completely alone and needed love. (Love addict? Pathological rescuer? Yes to both.)
I definitely had denial. Like, superhero strong denial. All my friends tried to tell me he sucked and I should move on. I wish I had realized at the time how bad things were but even when presented with glaringly disturbing evidence I stuck by him. Like the time he decided to break into his dad and step-moms house with me and he stole a bunch of silverware. Like, a lot of it. Because apparently it was real silver and worth money. I can't remember how he sold me on that one. I don't think he told me the plan prior to getting there. Or the time we went to this terrifying motel so he could buy heroin and he told me it was too dangerous for me inside so I had to wait in the car. Alone. In an extremely bad section of town. Until I couldn't take it anymore and went to the room door and knocked. Only to have it opened by a spaced out junkie who was panicked because his friend had just OD'd in the bathroom and they were all running away after calling 911.
Or even the awesome time a girlfriend of mine and I went to pick Shannon up to go play pool when I SAW needles on the floor with my own eyes. And I pointed them out to Shannon and he insisted he was just selling clean needles to junkies for the money. And I believed him. That was about a month before sophomore year began.
It was about a month into the new semester when I got the call. That he couldn't hide it from me anymore, my friend from the night of the needle sightings knew because she had hung out with him after I'd gone home that night and he'd confessed everything to her. But she didn't tell me. Because she fell for his bullshit as well. I cannot express in words how good at lying an addict is. It is their entire life. Everything an addict has is built on lies, they have no choice but to be brilliant at it.
But I was then 19 and still naive. After everything I had seen. So when the phone call came from Shannon when he said "I'm a junkie. I've been lying to you. I've been shooting up for months and months and I can't stop. My dad is sending me to rehab" I just went into a kind of shock/coma thing.
Ah rehab. That he ran away from. And then tested positive for cocaine in. The last time I spoke to or saw him was at his father's apartment where his dad gave me the money he owed me. (It would be 10 years before I saw him again.) His dad, had actually come to see me at school while looking for Shannon when he was missing. He accused me time and time again of hiding him in my dorm but I think he was just hoping that was the truth. It upset and traumatized me to have someone else's dad leaning on me so heavily. We went for car rides and talked about what to do. He'd call me to check to see if Shannon had shown up and would get angry and frustrated when time after time I would have to tell him I hadn't heard from or seen him. I think his dad cared about me and maybe I haven't been fair to him. He loved his son, he just didn't know how to be a parent. He was much better at being a friend.
Essentially, that phone call from Shannon, where he confessed to being a junkie who shot up so hey, I should probably get tested for HIV and Hep C...that broke me. I was terrified, traumatized, and had absolutely no idea what to do. My friends did the best they could but at that point I was unreachable. I just wanted to go to bed and never wake up.
And then it got worse.
Shannon's dad had been cheating on his wife with a woman named (I shit you not) Candy. And because it's a tiny fucking world we live in, Candy knew my mom's entire family because she'd grown up across the street from them. So, Candy, in all her wisdom, purposely told my aunt about Shannon (at least it was the best aunt possible). Because she knew who I was and I think she hated my mom because when she asked about her she got this look on her face like something smelled bad. Bitch. And, of course, my aunt told my mother. (Apparently she took her for a car ride and gave her a cigarette which, according to my mom, made her nauseous.)
So as I was tucked away in my dorm trying to find the ground beneath my feet, I received a totally unexpected phone call from my mom. "We know about Shannon. When were you going to tell us? Were you going to ever tell us? You know your father doesn't know yet. I'm going to have to take him out to a restaurant so he can't totally freak out in public." She probably said she loved me and attempted some words of comfort but I don't remember them because I was shattered. I was barely keeping it together with Shannon being missing and my thinking I was going to die from some horrible needle disease. I could not do this. I could not comfort my parents and I was completely humiliated and broken. Lost. Traumatized.
And Candy? To this day, if I ever see that bitch I will punch her in the face. I have yet to forgive her because I knew then and I know it today, she did that to fuck with me because of her weird issue with my mom. Psycho. Bitch. Life ruiner.
My poor roommate. She thought she was getting a fun roomie. She put up with the crazy phone calls and with me literally being in my bed as much as humanly possible giving her virtually no privacy in the room because I was always there, usually sleeping. Classes were not my priority anymore. Everything lost its meaning. I was clinically depressed and had been changed on a cellular level. I was not the same girl any more.
I attempted to use the on-campus counseling service, I think my friends recommended it. The intake lady was amazing and if she'd been my therapist I probably would have been about a million times better off. But she wasn't. My therapist was an intern and when I told her what was going on she basically fell out of her chair. Not exactly helpful. But for the first time, I was exposed to therapy land. A seed was planted.
I made it through sophomore year by the skin of my teeth grades-wise. Piano was no longer fun but a necessary evil. I met a new boy and he was amazing and just what the doctor ordered. A complete distraction from the suck that was my life. It was at that time I began experiencing panic attacks. I didn't know what they were. That's also when my anxiety started. I remember running to the campus store to buy Immodium because my digestive system had shut down and I was constantly dealing with what can only be described as ass-plosions. For what would be the next 14 years.
By junior year I was a completely different person. I barely cared about my major. I did my work because I had to but that was about it. My required internship was a plum job at Sony Music in Boston - just what I had wanted. That internship was so good in so many ways and so awful in so many ways. I liked doing the work but I couldn't stand most of the people I had to deal with and I think it showed. The extreme extroversion required to work in the music industry went against my core make-up and I didn't really connect with anyone that strongly. They were nice and it was fun to meet artists and get tons of free stuff but it was also frustrating to not really enjoy something I knew my classmates would kill for. The music industry is an ego-fest. I couldn't keep up and barely tried. I knew by the end of summer I needed to do something meaningful with my life. This shallow world held no appeal for me anymore.
Senior year I was hit with another bomb that someone else in my life was addicted. To heroin. And it knocked me down. Again. But it was almost over. I was almost free of school. I kept plugging away as best I could. I sucked it up to graduate because I just wanted to be done. I wanted the degree so I could move on and start my life. I had been working with special needs children for years by that point and knew I loved it. I knew I didn't want to be with kids who had physical special needs but I was extremely drawn to the trouble-makers. The outsiders. So upon graduation I took a job as a special ed paraprofessional in an alternative middle/high school. I loved it. I decided to get my masters in special ed. But then I hated the classes and realized I didn't want to teach kids math, I wanted to help them survive life and channel their hurt into positive things. While at St. Joseph College one day I noticed a pamphlet for their Marriage and Family Therapy program. I was instantly hooked. I got in without problem despite my music background.
Some shit is just meant to be. Because despite all of that, I wouldn't trade the life I have now for anything. There's even more to the story but frankly, I'm tired and this post is redonkulous long.
Future Plans for AnxietySocialNety (ASN)
When AnxietySocialNet (ASN) made its debut, one of its primary objectives was to provide support to the individuals whose lives were clouded by their silent struggles against anxiety related disorders. Almost a year since its launch, this aim has been met, and ASN continues to build up strength with each new member and contribution from the community.
Within ASN, members have been discussing their fears, symptoms and experiences, and it's been reassuring when the advice and exchanges have proven helpful. Whereas in the past, sufferers felt alone, they now realize there are many out there in the same boat, who are willing to reach out with support and encouragement.
To continue on the path of providing support to our members, we are working on launching a new dimension to ASN, the Therapist Program.
What are the goals of “Therapist Program”?
Since the start, ASN has leaned towards creating an environment of peer-to-peer support. It is our core belief that personal stories and shared experiences can provide an important level of moral support. Yet, we also understand that this approach may not work for everyone, and in many cases, it is important to seek outside expert help. Just as there is no substitute for peer-to-peer support, there is also no substitute for trained and professional therapy.
Depression and anxiety manifest themselves in different ways, and symptoms may be dissimilar, even from person to person. The roots of an individual's problems are sometimes deep seeded, and a non-specialist may not always be able to provide the necessary depth of understanding or support.
The "Therapist Program" will be a great tool for those looking for therapy within ASN. It will provide ASN users with the possibility of choosing a therapist in a much more social way.
We hope that by additionally launching the “Therapist Program” ASN can expand our support and value to our community members. We believe the program will deepen the effectiveness of ASN in providing a range of helpful advice and help show us alternative pathways to recovery.
What changes can you expect with the launch of “Therapist Program”?
Current and future members will continue to enjoy membership at no charge. Professional Therapists, however, will be able to register under the ASN Therapist Program, paying a monthly fee which covers their participation as Therapists, as well as being able to get referrals on the ASN network.
While the listed therapists are free to respond to members in the Q & A section, they will be unable to view the other interactions or diaries of members. Members may choose to get in touch with the therapists and interact with them on ASN and offline as well.
What if you are not interested in therapy?
Well, that’s all right! While our aim is to ensure that this feature is available for those seeking therapy, the section will be featured in a discreet way. The Therapists will have their own wall, so their interaction will not appear in the regular newsfeed. Those looking for a therapist will be able to click on the “Therapist Wall” and choose to get in touch and interact with them.
Can I be contacted directly by a therapist?
None of our listed professional therapist will be permitted to view the personal details of members, nor will they be able to send them personal messages. They will be able to interact with regular users only if that user adds them as a friend first.
How would our Therapist Program differ from a regular therapist directory?
ASN is creating the first integrated social network for patients and therapists, and this is the principal difference. Their profiles will appear as a listing, with their details, as well as their stance and qualifications, experience, location etc. One of the unique features will be that the therapist profiles will have the option of “ASN likes” so therapists can be judged by the community.
By being able to see the therapist's blogs, status updates and interactions, members will be able to make more informed decisions on who would be the best therapist for them. This would be a step beyond merely consulting a therapist with no prior information about them.
Are the therapists' credentials verified by ASN?
Yes, we will manually verify every therapist. Many directories claim that their therapists are verified but after a closer look at their Terms of Service they deny every responsibility. It would be difficult to know if a therapist has, at any time, had his license revoked. We will verify this detail upon signing them up, however we cannot guarantee their continued credentials. The listed therapists will not be featured as verified, and it rests with the patients themselves to check the veracity of therapist credentials.
When will the changes go live?
This program is still under development, with plans to go live with the Therapist Program within the next 6 months, around November 2012.
Still have questions? Contact us.
Salomon Ptasevich, ASN Founder
What's my worst fear? How reasonable is it?
Will I be able to cope after all!? (Hint: The answer is Yes.)
My notes for working through cognitive behavioral therapy for depression, in case that helps anyone here!