Here’s a photo of me from 1975 fresh out of Synanon. I’m 23 years old and feeling some despair about my life. I’m confused and in search of a way forward. A year before, I had entered Synanon, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation community, as the only person ever admitted for depression. Rather than be treated in a psychiatric facility, I chose to be part of this group that called itself The People Business. I thrived while there, but once back out in the community, I dropped into depression once again. During this time, in an attempt to understand what I was going through, I drew pictures that revealed the root of the problem–infant surgery–but showed them to no one. At the time, I was in therapy, but it was unsuccessful; for whatever reason, the trust was just not there.
Here’s a photo of me in 1980, five years later. I’ve been in therapy for two years with Lee O. Johnson and, as you can see, have made a lot of progress. The little boy is part of a family with whom I’ve become friends through my housecleaning business. The first session with Lee, I told her that I knew it sounded nuts, but I was afraid to cry because I was terrified of breaking my stitches. I showed her the stitches on my belly and explained that I’d had a surgery at 26 days old. She took me seriously and told me that it was ok to cry and that I was safe. That permission was the beginning of healing emotionally from the trauma of infant surgery.