The Alphabet Stories: Optimistic
Story by Liane Carter
Illustration by E.J. Klepinger
“Are you going to come and sit down, Ben?” Edward says.
My thoughts switch from Charlotte back to the present as I enter the room and go and sit down in one of the two chairs behind Edward’s desk.
Jon is on the Zoom call, yet reading a book. I watch him on the screen for a few moments as Edward comes and sits down beside me and takes my hand.
Jon looks up.
“Hey. I thought you’d forgotten me.”
“Sorry,” I say. “Lost track of time.”
“So,” Jon says, “Session six. How are you feeling?”
Edward and Jon both tilt their heads back simultaneously and laugh and I find myself smiling too. They are wonderful people. They have taken me into their hearts and welcomed me. I hope I don’t hurt them. I like having friends … and feeling better.
“It’s been a lot of work and you’re doing brilliantly, Ben,” Jon says. “I think after today, we may be able to drop to once a week.”
“Really?” I feel relieved and sad at the same time. Edward will go back to being my boss and he’s become like a brother. I won’t see Jon for six days and he’s become my friend.
I sense a light and look up and there is Edward’s ghost wife, Kate, standing by the window. She turns to smile at me. Edward follows my gaze.
“Kate is here?”
“She’s by the window.”
Edward sighs. “She loved to look out of that window when she came here. She would count the starlings in that tree. I could never see them, yet she said there was a whole world in that tree that we didn’t see, like there is a whole world inside of us that we don’t see. Oh, to have your eyes for a few moments, Ben.”
I find myself squeezing his hand as he has done for me so much in the last week.
Kate glides over and I do my best not to stare so I don’t add to how Edward is feeling. She stands beside him and, once again, places her hand on his shoulder. I am imagining she must have done that a lot in life because it is her favourite place each time I see her in here.
Jon clears his throat and we all look at the screen.
“Ben,” he says. “You are in agreement now that Jennifer, the voice in your head, is not your friend. True?”
He has been showing me it is true, yet I am scared to say it. She is curled in my head and watching. It is creating a distance between us. She is happy when she is controlling me. Jon told me that too.
Edward squeezes my hand and it gives me confidence as it always does.
“True,” I say, though, I still feel I am betraying her friendship by saying it.
“Good,” Jon says. “If I said we could get rid of Jennifer today, just by me clapping my hands, would you want me to clap my hands, Ben?”
I lean back.
“I … don’t know.”
“Tell me, Ben, what good quality does it show about you that you are unsure?”
“Um. If she’s with me, I know she can be dangerous, that I can be dangerous, so I’m more aware to stay away from people so I won’t hurt them.”
“And does that make you feel good to be more aware, Ben?”
“Because I don’t want to hurt people.”
“What does this show about you that is wonderful, Ben, the wonderful we see in you?”
A light goes on in my head. I look from Jon to Kate to Edward and back to Jon.
“That I care about people, that I don’t want to hurt people.”
“Exactly. It keeps you watchful and aware and caring. Aren’t they qualities you want to keep, Ben?”
I nod, amazed that I have these good things in me.
Jon smiles at me.
“Do you think with our help, you could keep these values, even if you let Jennifer go?”
I nod again.
“So do I, Ben. Those values are who you are. You are a good person.”
Tears well and I blink.
“Describe Jennifer’s personality to me in a few words, Ben.”
“Dangerous, unpredictable, unhappy, unstable, volatile.”
I would not have dared to say those words a few weeks ago. She remains quiet, watching, listening.
“We did some deep work about your parents in the last two sessions, Ben.”
I lean back in my chair. I don’t want to go back in the past again.
“Today, I want to just ask you a question about your mother. Is that okay?”
“Was your mother dangerous, unpredictable, unhappy, unstable and volatile?”
I stare at him. “Yes. Yes she was.”
“What was your mother’s name, Ben?”
My hands spring up to cover my mouth.
Ben, Kate and Jon all watch me and wait.
Tears stream down my face, I feel myself shaking.
“Jennifer,” I say. “My mother’s name was Jennifer.”
* The therapy mentioned in this story is based on the amazing methods created by David Burns, M.D, author of ´Feeling Good´and ´Feeling Great´.