When I was 12 I was sexually assaulted. Normally I wouldn’t bring this up but I need to in order to introduce you to one of my greatest influences of my teenage life.
I was babysitting my niece and nephew. My sister was out (I can’t remember where) and my brother-in-law was supposed to be at the cottage for the weekend. It was around 7:30 and both my niece and nephew were sleeping when the door to the apartment opened. In came my drunken brother-in-law demanding to know where my sister was. I told him she’d be home in a few hours and he suddenly grinned at me. I will never forget the look on his face as he came towards me. I’m not going to go into details here but he ended up leaving (he went back up to his cottage) and I phoned my parents. My mother answered the phone and she told me she’d come get me.
She arrived, assessed the situation and packed the kids up and we went to my house. My mother left my sister a note saying she could pick the children up in the morning. In the car my mother told me I was to tell my father nothing about what happened. I didn’t understand how I was going to explain the fact I had a split lip, black eye and one very sore side. I also didn’t understand why she was angry at me.
The next day she told my father and sister that I hurt myself while babysitting. She said I was reaching for something in the cupboard, it fell and hit me in the face. No one said anything to me. My mother warned me not to say anything about that night … that if I did I would be blamed for ruining my sister’s marriage. I was confused, hurt and felt very alone. My nephew spent most of the day on my lap as if he knew I needed someone to care for me. I knew that day I’d protect that little boy for the rest of his life.
OK enough of that … now to the person I really wanted to talk about.
Over the next year I was becoming a normal teenager. My sister ended up leaving her husband, and to my mother’s relief, I was not blamed. Apparently having the shit beaten out of me wasn’t a good mark on the family. I started high school alone since most of my friends ended up going to the Catholic High School and I went to the public school. I changed my look entirely. I went from wearing very short (my mother used to cut my hair) hair and horn rimmed glasses to growing my hair long, going strawberry blonde and getting wire framed glasses. I embraced the hippy lifestyle. I wore fringed vests, long flowing dresses and coloured glasses. My mother HATED it or me. Obviously I was crazy so I was sent to see a psychiatrist. I am surprised she did this because I would think it would also reflect on her that I had to see this doctor.
This was the beginning of a beautiful relationship that lasted several years.
I remember the day I met Dr Raskin as if it was yesterday. I was nervous waiting in the reception area. Everything seemed so dark. The walls were dark, the lights were turned down … I guess it was meant to relax you. Didn’t work for me as I felt very uneasy waiting. My mother and I went in to meet this man who was going to turn me into a normal human being. For the first hour (ok 50 minutes but I’m going to say hour because it is easier) my mother talked. She told him that I was impossible. I listened to loud music (IT WAS NEIL DIAMOND … WHAT TEENAGER LISTENED TO NEIL DIAMOND), I didn’t keep my room clean .. she told him about me and my faults for the entire session. I just sat there. Went back the next week and once again she did all the talking. How horrible her life was, how horrible I was … I just couldn’t understand why I was there. Third session started and Dr. Raskin finally spoke. He looked at me and said, “Why are you here?” My mother started to answer and he looked at me again and said “No .. Why are YOU here?” I replied, “I really don’t know. My mother feels I need to be here.”. He asked, “Do you?”. I just shrugged. He told my mother that she was no longer needed at “our” sessions and that he would contact her when he felt she should be there. It was the quietest ride home.
The next week (I went every Wednesday at 4) I went in alone. Dr. Raskin and I just sat there. Minutes dragged on. He started reading something on his desk. I didn’t want to interrupt his reading so the silence just dragged on. He finally looked at me and said again “Why are you here?”. I told him I really didn’t know but apparently I was defective and, as a doctor, he needed to fix me. He laughed. Now you have to picture this man. He was very tall, dark hair and had a mustache and always was dressed in black. For some reason he reminded me of Dali’s sane brother. He would twirl his pen in his long fingers and it fascinated me. When he laughed, I laughed. And we started to talk. And talk. He saw me through all the high and lows of my high school years.
Every week we would talk about school, my school mates, music, life … nothing was off-limits. He sent me to the Oshawa Hospital for two days of extensive testing. I was having migraines and he had them run every test possible. Not that it surprised me because I already knew this but I have a high IQ but trouble memorizing things. Don’t ask me dates, names, even words to songs. My mind doesn’t work like other minds … he would tell me I could be brilliant but I had an undisciplined mind. He would lecture me to focus, train it as I would any muscle but I never could learn to memorize things properly. I wonder if it is too late to start training my mind.
For three years I saw him every Wednesday at 4. I looked forward to our visits. To me they were not “sessions” but two friends getting together to chat. We did talk about the reason my mother sent me there originally and dealt with it. I remember leaving one week and as I got to the door, Dr. Raskin said to me, “You know, it is not you”. Nothing else. I laughed and replied that I knew that too.
I started dating the high school football captain and ended up marrying him. When we were getting serious I told him where I went every Wednesday afternoon. He was horrified. He didn’t say anything for a few weeks and then told me that I would have to stop seeing the doctor. He could not go home and tell his parents that I was in therapy! As it was they hated me for not being Ukrainian. This would be the final nail in my coffin. So I went to see Dr Raskin and told him. Dr. Raskin totally understood and told me his door was always open. For the first time, he actually touched me … he hugged me as I left. This time, when I was leaving he said to me “Susan … it is not you. Be you. And … your mother is crazy”. I said I knew that since I was a kid and that was the hand I was dealt as a child.
I married my high school sweetheart. I married him for all the wrong reasons and leaving him was probably the best thing I ever did for him. He will be the topic of a blog some day … but not today. When I left him, I knew it was over. I filed for divorce (back then you had to wait 3 years for it to be final). He said he would not contest the divorce IF I would go see Dr. Raskin (apparently I was crazy to leave him) and he agreed that leaving was the best thing for me. I agreed and went to see my old friend. We didn’t even talk about my ex-husband in that session. I knew nothing was going to make me go back to that life.
Dr Raskin had aged. Perhaps he was ill, I really don’t know but all I could think of was he had become an old man. We chatted but that link between us was gone. This time I left without looking back. We both knew it was time for me to be out in the world on my own.