A very bad thing happened to me a long time ago. Because of shame and guilt, I turned that pain into a joke—“Can you believe the crazy situation I got myself into?” Over time, that bad thing was like a piece of gravel in a hiking boot. It was small, or so I wanted to convince myself, and I should just ignore it. Of course, like the gravel, that bad thing didn’t disappear; instead, it rubbed my spirit raw, sometimes getting infected, affected my gait through life as I tried to protect the weaker part. And just as with that sore foot, I didn’t want to examine anything. Taking the boot off would hurt, the foot would look gross, it would be even more painful to have to put the boot back on. Anyway, it was just a piece of gravel in there.
A little more than five years ago, I’d just started a new job, a great job, the job I was meant to have. I was in a relationship I thought would be forever, until one night I was curled up crying on our bed moaning at my partner to just leave me alone. Nothing had precipitated this—except for 35 years of trying to walk through life with that piece of gravel always there. The job lasted; the relationship didn’t, and understandably so. The reason the job worked, I truly believe, is because of what the relationship’s failing led me to. I reached out for help.
I’m a veteran and I went to the Veterans Center in Hooksett, NH. There, I was introduced to the woman who helped me save my life and helped me find the strength to do significant things at that job. Working with Bette, I was able to take my boot off (metaphorically—despite typical transference, I kept all my clothes on at all times), look at the wound, disinfect and bandage it, then put my boots back on. Bette Burbank helped me talk, for the first time, about the events of my Military Sexual Trauma (MST); much more than this, she helped me see and understand that any guilt I felt was misplaced. I hadn’t done anything wrong.
Although we did a little bit of work with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), once Bette saw I viewed the exercise as a pile of nonsense we moved into a traditional therapist/client relationship, and she built up my trust enough that I could reveal to her things I’d never shared with another human being. From here, healing took place and with that healing Bette helped make my life worth living. Later, as the extent of my PTSD became more apparent, Bette was an incredible advocate throughout the process of applying for recognition from the VA, even showing up at a review hearing just to be there with me.
As an alcoholic, I’d been in and out of therapy for years—sometimes self-directed, more often at the direction of a spouse, girlfriend or employer. I have nothing to say about much of that time, because I really believe alcoholism creates an inability to be honest about any potential impact on drinking, a need to protect almost all of one’s life from the outside. I wasn’t honest with them, and they didn’t help me much. When Bette and I started working together, I’d been sober about five years, and I’m sure my sobriety helped. More than just that, though, in Bette Burbank I found a human being who listened to me, who supported me, who believed in me and who helped me create the life I live now. I am a happy man, and Bette owns some of that happiness.