Flying Lessons

Flying Lessons

Discovering Another Way of Being

By Marian Sandmaier

March/April 2004

By the time I knocked on the door of the narrow rowhouse with slightly cockeyed shutters, I'd been shopping for a therapist for a month. The first one I'd met with, a psychologist in a smartly tailored suit, had shaken my hand briskly, pulled out a clipboard, and begun firing intake questions at me, dozens and dozens of them, as I sat trying not to cry. The second woman gave me an unabashed sales pitch: I would see her in individual therapy plus join one of her "transformative" groups, yes, I would definitely need that, and when I ventured that the fee seemed steep, she looked at me brightly and said: "I'd love to help you deal with your money issues in therapy!"

As I waited for this latest prospect to answer my knock--her doorbell appeared to be out of order--I steeled myself for another disappointment. It was likely: I'd run out of referrals from friends and had copied down her name from a resource list at the local women's center. I knew better, but I was desperate. Since moving to Washington, D.C., the year before for a new job, I'd fought off depression until I could fight no more. I was only 27, but already I felt old: eight years earlier, I'd been in an accident that had caused me severe back pain, and though I'd mostly recovered, I was still treating my body like a piece of antique china that might, at any moment, crumble into dust. I felt disembodied, hollowed out, in some horrible way unreal to myself.

I looked fine from the outside, a young woman…

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