Tracy’s Birthday

"Temper Tantrum v. Patience, Poise, and Benevolence." 12/17/12. Colored pencil and pen. 10x8".
“Tracy’s Birthday.” 12/17/12. Colored pencil and pen. 10×8″.

I made this for my counselor at Tranquil Shores last year because I’m a sweet, sweet boy. And also maybe a little because she kinda sorta played a huge role in saving my life and is one of my favorite people ever. The little bubble of text says, “I know you’re required by law or something to be nice to me, but a weaker soul would have definitely snapped my neck by now (U.S. Constitution / Hippocratic Oath be damned). Thanks for not giving up on me, even when I try to. Oh – and … HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” Technically, I wasn’t even supposed to know it was her birthday but I found out by virtue of a happy accident so… I took advantage of it.

I don’t know how my personality comes across through my writing on this website but I joke around a lot (and propriety is not my strong suit). One of my favorite things about Tracy (on a personal level) was the way she’d react to that. As a counselor, she’s really serious/professional/by the books. Joking around in our groups wasn’t really something she had time for. So whenever I cracked a joke in group, I’d look over to gauge her reaction and see just how much trouble I was in. She can make a more serious face than any serious face that’s ever existed, so if she had that expression (her “ice cold death stare”) when I looked over at her, I could immediately feel my soul being ripped from my body and shredded by the demons now feasting upon it in hell. That face could wreck me. But sometimes I’d look over and see her smiling – which would be the best thing ever. And every once in a while I’d get a laugh out of her, which would be the SUPER best thing ever. As bad as the ice stare could make me feel, the laugh would make me feel equivalently at the other end of the spectrum.

Really – all of that kind of ties into what made her such a great counselor though. She wasn’t some robotic super-counselor incapable of being a human being at any point but she also wasn’t someone who could be “won over” and manipulated with charm. I can bullshit a lot of counselors (I’ve had a lot of practice!) but Tracy could detect my bullshit even when I didn’t realize it was bullshit. And she had just the right level of tolerance for all of it. She’s compassionate but she’s not a sucker. Really, she just knows what she’s doing. She always knew when to guide me and when it was best to just let me flounder and figure something out for myself. And when I put it that way, it makes me think of how –  in some of my one-on-one sessions – I wouldn’t really wanna talk about anything; I’d say I was all out of issue or problems to talk about. And I don’t think she ever once responded with a question like, “Well, what’s happening with […]?” (If I had to guess, I’d say she knew that only I knew what was fucking up my brain on any given day so trying to ask me about something would only serve to move us away from talking about whatever that might be). I’d sit there, alternately making/breaking eye contact and squirming around in my chair, occasionally smirking or laughing or jokingly trying to play counselor to her (“What’s on your mind today, Tracy?”).  And she’d just sit there, looking me in the eye, until I’d finally start talking about what I needed to. No matter how long it took. Other times were more like the scene I drew, which also (as noted) required patience (and a lot more).

I love all the counselors at Tranquil Shores and I got a lot from all of them but – as my primary counselor – she was just right. Somehow, she always seemed to know exactly what I needed to “get better.” Even before she became my primary counselor – WHEN SHE KICKED ME OUT. As shocked and outraged as I was initially, it wasn’t long before I realized that it was exactly what I needed – it was what had to happen. Unlike the other times I had been kicked out of treatment, this one had a profound effect on me. I realized (fairly) quickly that I hadn’t been the victim of a terrible injustice but had been given exactly what I deserved.  I resolved to get back in and – after a letter, a couple phone conversations, and a meeting – I was given a second chance. Or (more accurately) a 634th chance.

When I came back, I remember a conversation with Sandy, the program director, about who would be my primary counselor. Before I was kicked out, it had been Rob, who (like all the counselors there) is awesome. I told her I’d be happy with whatever choice the treatment team decided was best for me. I don’t know if it had anything to do with their decision, but I did say one other thing on the subject – about the counselor with whom (up to that point) I had had the least contact: “I think Tracy might be a good fit,” I said smiling, “because she’s mean to me.

Which (as much as I half-meant it at the time) couldn’t be further from the truth.

I miss that place.

Say somethin'.