The Sandbox

Amnesia, Art, Healing




I dreamed I was for reasons unknown catapulted into playing the lead in a musical without any knowledge or rehearsals. My first go at it went okay but the second time, I could not open my mouth to speak. 

I remember feeling that the experience I had ruined, forever, my joy of listening to that musical. 

I was glad to wake up, to know that wasn’t something heavy I needed to carry with me. But this pain was familiar, the heaviness. 



Therapy maybe. I’ve been getting these very painful stabs lately, A, about Eileen. 

Not overwhelming. Not chaotic. Just really really sad. 

I am in the chair across from hers, like I was for years, remembering things but…differently. 

I am remembering things I think through a clearer or at least a different lens. 

This lens sees things differently. 


And what is it we see through this lens?


I am in that chair and I feel nothing but seduction. It is a shield I have put up that she can’t see. I am playing the same games I've always played in my life and she cannot see through me to help me. 

This morning I see through my lens two rounds of therapy with Eileen.

It is autumn and I remember I am in that first round of treatment. 

Her office is small one, the one before she moved. It is a cozy cave and after I leave every time I want to chase that same feeling, that same place, for the rest of the night. I am chasing it too into the next morning where I feel stale and lost. Later in the week I am roaming the streets in my mind and in my car looking...looking for that hour in that corner of her office, the lights dimmed, the sunlight fading. 

It comes back to me now, a stab of the deepest longing. 

It’s so painful I do a count down on it, a combination of hope and prayer that the stab of pain, as if you’ve slammed your finger in a door, will fade as you go up in numbers. 

And…it does. 

It’s a hang-on kind of countdown that works. 

And I wonder why…now? 

I wonder…is it the season, the fall, the moving into the darkness that I love and that takes me back to certain memories? 

Or is it a deep background noise playing…perhaps notes around guilt in reporting Eileen. 

Or perhaps insight into how the relationship, even long ago in round one was fueled with transference that left me hung out to dry, roaming the streets for resolution. 

I woke this morning with the tiniest bit of guilt drifting in and out and I seemed easily to bat it away with that mantra I had from a few months ago which was: it wasn’t my fault. 

I think of her reading the complaint, twirling the idea around inside my head that a therapist could read a complaint and say of it, “Oh, this client is just unhappy that they didn’t get what they wanted—that I never loved them way they their transference fueled heart wanted me to.” 

I’d carried with me for a long while a fear that my complaint would wind up more a complaint around a client’s frustration with transference—that I wanted Eileen in that deep and complicated and important way that transference creates—and that I didn’t get what I wanted. 

But…I believe and feel with confidence and clarity that good therapy takes those feelings that are normal, that come out naturally in therapy, and it helps the client to understand, to get beyond, to heal. 

Eileen never could deal with transference—neither round one nor round two of it. 

She could spike it. And she could have her counter-transference. But for my benefit, she could not go deep enough to feel what I was feeling, to not take it personally, to bring me up and out of it with new insight and better mental health because of it. 

My complaint isn’t asking for Eileen to be my mother or lover or best friend. 

The complaint is a detailed account of a client who was left worse for wear from the therapy that she paid for—a lot worse. I was left wandering the streets for years desperately trying to find someone that never really existed. 

In the first round, quite literally, driving in my car. 

In round two, it was in pages. 


Allow, allow, allow. It is okay to examine once again and to feel these feelings, to acknowledge those stabs of pain so deep we need a count-down to get through them. 


I know Teresa would go deeper, would say what happened with Eileen whether it be a decade ago or three years, floats above my amnesia. And I do get this too, that it’s about desperately and unconsciously needing and craving parenting. 

The parenting I got was too inconsistent and too spiked with abuse such that I had to disallow the attachment in general. This disallowance…this dissociation…dissolves now…not easily, not overnight, not even over the course of weeks or months…but over the course of years. 


Good morning, S. Up, up, up onto my park bench?




And you too, Monkey. 


Hey B. Thanks for joining today. 


Of course. I can see that we need it. 


It’s the time of year I love most but I am feeling a lot of the Eileen stuff now. How I chased that hour, how it left me wanting more, how I roamed the streets thinking I could find it. 


Yes…I remember this well. And I remember how we shut this down, this pain, and moved on with our life in round one. 

Only to come back to Eileen for round two, to eventually falling into the same trap but this time we did not move on with our life, we fell in deeper, in this home we had with her in words. 

But we ended up in worse shape because of it. 


Why did she do what she did that second round? 


Because she didn’t know what she was doing, because her illness ate away at her common sense, because she needed friendship and wanted ours, because she was fighting to tell herself that she was still an effective therapist but was, in fact, the opposite. 


I feel pretty sad, B. Didn’t expect this, this morning. 


Seasons do this. They inspire our grief to come out at times and in ways unexpected. 


When I think about it all, I think of how much she must hate me, how she must feel that no good deed goes unpunished, how unabashedly ungrateful I have been, how I went back on my promise to somehow always love her the most. 

I said at the door…open heart…but I shut that door, slammed that door in her face. 

On the other hand, if I can breathe into a new place, it is not me who owes her any apology. It is she who damaged me and took my money for the privilege of doing so. 


S, she was never the parent we wanted, never the therapist we needed.  

Consider making this our new mantra if need be.