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NOTE: This is the 2nd chapter. The first chapter can be found here.

Starting Therapy

Sarai smiled every time she thought about the group’s name: Mining Minds for Mending Minds. They usually just called themselves 4M.

As a young counselor, she really appreciated getting to participate in the collegial process of batting around one another’s difficult cases to try to find fresh approaches to them. Mostly she tended to remain quiet, mostly listening as she was unsure that she had much to offer them, at least not yet. She’d been told this was a pretty common approach to the first year or so in the group, for which she was grateful.

Tonight had been fairly slow until Dr. Netsuke presented his case:

I have a client – let’s call him Watcher - whose problem seems to derive from his having seen something nobody believes he saw or could have seen. And by nobody I am explicitly including me. He is under the impression that he saw a stage coach turn into a large pumpkin near Central Park.

“Well, that got the group buzzing,” thought Sarai to herself. “Of course nobody believes him. I am pretty skeptical, myself!” She shared none of her thoughts aloud.

Yes, really. He says it was a couple years ago and just out of the corner of his eye, but that he has very good peripheral vision and is not prone to “seeing things.” His record backs him up on the first count and there is no evidence that contradicts the second. He is sure he saw something magic – but that’s not exactly the problem, ‘merely’ (said with air quotes) the proximal cause of the problem.

Since then Watcher has suffered from a clear case of anhedonia. He describes it in a blend of visual and emotional terms, reflecting both a loss of intensity of color and a depression of mood. There is no lab work that shows any problem with his eyesight or his brain’s optic processing, but his brain certainly reflects a lower intensity of emotion with the exception of this one topic. He gets relatively animated when talking about what happened and how real it was, despite how unreal it had to have been.

We met a couple times, first for him to feel me out before he shared anything and then for him to lay out the issue. He could tell very quickly that while I claimed to be open minded, in point of fact I flat out did not believe that he had seen what the thought he had seen.
He wasn’t angry – he was quick to console me and assure me that it was all right as he would not have believed either, prior to his experience. But it did mean that I was likely useless to him in terms of figuring out how to cure/fix/alleviate his grayness. I asked for and received Watcher’s permission to share his case with you, though he smiled wanly at the notion that it might come to anything. He explicitly noted that he appreciated my not either laughing at him or pitying him, but that didn’t mean he would be back for a third session. He thanked me and was out the door, hunched over and seeming a little haunted.

They peppered Netsuke with questions, exchanged impressions, asked each other for their thoughts and just bubbled about it for the remainder of the evening’s scheduled time. This was the most exciting new case in ages! Perhaps one can forgive them a little that compassion for Watcher was not foremost on their minds.

Sarai just sat in her chair and thought, barely even listening to the interaction. She wasn’t quite sure what she should do – or could do - for Watcher. She suspected it meant talking with her aunt.

Sarai lived alone, for the moment at least, in a small flat on the lower east side of Manhattan. “Alone,” more properly, as she shared the flat with a cat and a lizard, neither of whom would take kindly to being excluded from the living situation. But talking this out with either or both of them was just not going to cut it. She glanced up at the picture of her great grandmother and her aunt, grinned briefly, and grabbed her cell phone.

It rang before she could so much as push the speed dial.

“Hi Aunt Jinny.”

“Of course I can come over to talk. And what have I told you about calling me “aunt?” said Jinny in a mock stern voice.”

“Thanks, Jinny. When should I –”

A knock at the door distracted Sarai from what she’d been saying. “Hang on, there’s somebody at the door.” As she said it, she realized the connection was dead. She opened the door.
The 20-something standing at the door gave her a big hug. “What’s on your mind? You were thinking about me pretty loudly!”

“Do random people ever see you do what you do?”

A bit of backstory:
Sarai’s great-grandmother’s name is Mirabel. The woman who lives with her, Jinny, is not really Sarai’s aunt- this is not particularly shocking in this day and age and hasn’t been for quite a while. Perhaps a tad more surprising is that Jinny is also not human. She’s a marit and the story of how Mirabel and she came to meet is told in Mirabel and the Djinn.

As each successive generation turns roughly 13 years old, they are told that same story, and finally understand why this young woman is living with their less young ancestor. And they each get to build their own relationship with Jinny as the two of them wish it. Or, perhaps, desire it would be a better way to put it!

Jinny was horrified when she heard the story. Double horrified, because she knew how upset it would make Mirabel.

“Nobody’s supposed to see anything. Well… there is a spell against their seeing us accidentally, but now that you mention it, I don’t know of anything that would block a glimpse from somebody who didn’t mean to be looking.”

“Is there anything I can do about it? Or that you can do about it? I know that you can’t just remove or cover over their memories. That ethics lessons that you and GiGi (GG = Great Grandmother) taught made it pretty clear to me that destroying knowledge is wrong as is bending minds without informed consent – and just how hard it is to get informed consent for magic, given the way of the world. But still, Jinny! We can’t just do nothing!”

Jinny thought about it for a bit. She smiled, as she often did, when she realized she was analyzing the situation. She still loved that!

An idea… then two of them.

“Sarai? What needs to happen for him to get better? And how can we get that done?”

“What? Oh. Well… to start with, he needs to feel acknowledged instead of denied – at best, but more often derided. He needs to feel heard in a non-judgmental way.

Oh, wait! Jinny, there can’t be just the one. You’ve been pretty clear that magic is all over the place. Doesn’t that suggest that there are likely to be a fair number of folks suffering the way Watcher is?”

“Okay,” said Jinny. “Then what do we have to do for them and how do we reach them?”

“Well, my starting point is a little off. First they need even the slightest reason to think that this is not certain to be one more dead end. They need a hook.

From there, feeling heard is vital, as I said. They must tell their stories and have the reaction be one of cautious acceptance rather than cautious or blatant disbelief. They need a therapist who can validate their feelings, but who feels totally sincere to them rather than humoring them, which they likely have all been through.”

The two women talked long into the night, working on the underlying principles of treatment. Sarai came up with the hook: Post-Wonder Stress Disorder. Familiar enough to be almost a comfortable concept, while different enough to offer possibilities. But finally, they bumped into an obstacle that Sarai just could not see her way around.

“Who could do this kind of therapy? The fairy world doesn’t strike me as filled with therapists!” She slid down glumly in her chair.

“Seeing one of us would not help them to recover! Indeed,” Jinny seemed to say agreeably, “we would need a counselor who understood the problem and who believed in magic, already. To break in a new person would not be either quick or easy. If only there were such a person we knew!” She cocked an eyebrow at Sarai.

“Hey! You can’t just hand this to me! I’m still practically a noob!”

“A noob who spotted a problem, came up with a solution, and designed a therapy over an evening’s discussion. We just need to make sure that you can do it safely. That means a safe space, controlled access, and a way in and out for you that does not allow interaction beyond your control.”

About a month later, a nervous Sarai headed into the next 4M gathering with a task.
Dr. Netsuke took the floor to coordinate the resumption of the discussion of Watcher. The group shared lots of ideas and notions and questions, as before. Sarai tentatively raised her hand and was acknowledged.

“In a few weeks, a new support group is opening up to address problems like Watcher’s. It seems there are some others across the city who have similar symptoms, if slightly different stories. The group is for “Post-Wonder Stress Disorder.”

She provided each of them with a small pamphlet for the group sessions.

In some ways, that took a lot of the mystery out of the discussion for the 4M members. It made the problem seem… if not prosaic, then at least something well within the bounds of professional therapy.

And so it was.


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August 2017

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