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Excerpted from Second Sight by Judith Orloff. Copyright 1996 by Judith Orloff, M.D. Excerpted by permission of Time Warner Books and Time Warner Bookmark.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.
 


"Jim thought the move would give me a chance to grow up and begin to separate from my mother and father."

Judith Orloff, Second Sight, Part 5

Late that August afternoon in 1968, two months after my high-school graduation, the three of us headed for Beverly Hills in the family Lincoln. I sat in the backseat, watching my father's somber but kind face in the rearview mirror. My mother's eyes were unflinching, but whenever she glanced at me, they were sad. To stay numb and pretend I didn't care, I kept silently repeating the words to "Purple Haze," a Jimi Hendrix song.

Our destination was a modest, four-story office building with two cramped elevators and long, windowless halls. While sitting in the waiting room before the appointment, our tension mounted. It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut and not fly out the door.

Not a moment too soon, a familiar figure greeted us: Jim, our friend's neighbor in Malibu, the man I'd met the day before. He was the psychiatrist we were scheduled to see. I was furious; I felt I'd been tricked and set up. At the same time, I was strangely attracted to him, intrigued by my sense of our intangible rapport. Against my will, it seemed I shared an unspoken camaraderie with him, almost a kinship. Whirling with feelings, I nodded at Jim and grumbled a guarded hello. Then my parents and I followed him into his office.

For the first session, Jim met with us all together. He sat in a black leather swivel chair and motioned for me to sit beside him on an oversized rust-colored ottoman. My parents stiffly sat opposite us on a green-and-beige-striped couch. Soon my mother started sobbing and told Jim how worried she was about me. I pulled my knees up to my chest and rolled into a tight ball. I felt suffocated by the intensity of my mother's love. Her attention always seemed to be on me. I knew how much she cared, but was afraid that if I let her in too close I'd be devoured. She was so dominant a personality that the only way I could be real, I felt, was to oppose her. Given her intensity and persistence, to do so took every ounce of strength I possessed.

Jim listened patiently to both my parents. Then he listened to me. I felt unusually timid around him, paying attention to his opinions, sneaking looks at his clothes, noticing his wedding ring, how he held his hands. I never once intentionally provoked him or cut him off, as I did so often with other adults, particularly authority figures. At the end of the hour, I surprised myself by agreeing to come back again, to try whatever "therapy" was supposed to be.

Relieved that I was at last cooperating with them, my parents allowed me to move back into their home. But after a few months, Jim suggested that I stay in what he called a "halfway house." He knew of two therapists, Pat and Ray, who rented rooms to people like me, people who were in transition and needed support. They lived on the premises with their two young daughters, a cat, and two dogs. Jim thought the move would give me a chance to grow up and begin to separate from my mother and father. I was all for it; I couldn't wait to be on my own. My parents were wary but they'd made a decision to trust Jim and so reluctantly agreed.

I fell in love with the house the moment I saw it. It was a two-story, weathered pink Victorian A-frame on the comer of Park Avenue and the Speedway, an alley that runs along the entire stretch of Venice Beach. The boardwalk and the sand, separated from us by an empty dirt lot, were less than a half block away. At night, I could hear waves breaking on the shore as I fell asleep. I quickly became fast friends with Pat and Ray, good-hearted hippies in their midthirties with degrees in social work who now devoted their lives to helping others. They welcomed me into their home.

The big surprise was the other residents: Pete, a schizophrenic in his early twenties who mostly kept to himself, and Dolly, a wired manic-depressive woman. My God, I thought, Jim put me here with the mentally ill! Pat and Ray agreed: That was exactly what Jim had done. And yet, somehow, it didn't matter to me. What mattered was that I felt free. Still, the first time I opened the medicine cabinet and placed my toothbrush beside Pete's Thorazine and Dolly's lithium, it did give me the creeps. But besides the times when Pete was hearing voices or Dolly had her bouts of insomnia, we all got along just fine and life was pretty uneventful.

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