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HAPPINESS IS A BUTTERFLY- Part I

HAPPINESS IS A BUTTERFLY

If he’s as bad as they say,

then I guess I’m cursed.

Looking into his eyes,

I think he’s already hurt

He’s already hurt.

I

After the last episode with his girlfriend, James had flown back to London as he felt the need to see his therapist in person. James would usually have online sessions once a week but the time difference and his commitments didn’t make it easy to maintain a regular schedule and he had missed the previous appointment. After the last fight with Lucy, he knew he couldn’t afford to neglect his mental health so he had decided he would have made the extra effort of flying to London and have face to face sessions at least twice a month, starting right away.

“How are you, James?” Asked the therapist, a brunette in her fifties called Ruth, casually dressed in black trousers and a grey turtle neck, a big amber pendant on her chest.

“Tired,” said the actor. “A bit dazed but overall good”.

“I’m happy to hear that and I’m happy you decided to see me in person,” she smiled kindly. “In your call, you said something happened?”

James nodded.“Yes, I had a fight with Lucy a few days ago.”

“Tell me about it,” Ruth offered.

James told her about the episode, recounting the events that had led to their fight and the woman listened in silence, taking notes on the yellow pad on her lap.

“Ok, let’s work through it,” she said when James had finished his report. “What made you frustrated in the first place?”

James looked away briefly, thinking about the way he had felt.

“I think it all started because I wanted to be alone with Lucy and she was just too nice with that reporter, he talked to her for a while, asking all sorts of questions.”

Ruth scribbled something on the pad. “When you say too nice, you mean flirtatious?”

“No, not at all. I mean she was just very pleasant, kind.” He sighed. “I know she’s always nice to everyone but...I don’t know, I think I found it inappropriate to be so open and casual with a reporter.”

“Why are you shaking your head?” The woman asked.

“Because I had time to think it through and I realise it sounds so idiotic..”

Ruth looked at him from under her glasses.” Remember James, we’re not here to judge but to understand. So you became frustrated at her because you believed her behaviour was inappropriate?”

“Maybe.” James scratched the back of his neck. “She had a situation a couple of months ago involving the press and it wasn’t a pleasant one. Her privacy was violated, she was followed home and some pictures were taken without her permission...Anyway, I think what annoyed me was how easily she seemed to have moved on from that. Plus we had a discussion about how irritating and intrusive the press can be, that same afternoon...I was trying to protect her because I know better in this case but she just doesn’t listen...”

“So you felt belittled by her behaviour?”

“Yes, I think that’s it”.

The therapist nodded and noted something down. “Then what happened?”

“When she stopped replying during our fight my frustration just skyrocketed. I don’t know, maybe I thought she was not taking me seriously, you know, you don’t argue with fools...”

Ruth was silent so that James could gather his thoughts and continue.

“I said things to get a reaction, all I could think of was getting her to talk. Scream, fight, I didn’t care, I couldn’t stand her silence.”

“So what really brought out your anger was her silence?”

“Yes, well it was a build-up of frustration but yes, what pushed me over the edge was that I believed she was brushing me off.”

“And then?”

James drummed his fingers against the armrests of the armchair where he was sitting, giving quick little bites to his lower lip.

Ruth put down her pen and kindly looked at the actor. “James, relax we’re here to talk it through. This is good progress,” she reassured him.

James swallowed and took a deep breath, puffing the air out of his lungs.

“Then I scared her; I grabbed her wrist because I wanted her to look at me, I didn’t think I would hurt her,” he knotted his eyebrows. “But she told me to shut up, she screamed that at me and I could see the concern in her face, not for me but for herself. She wanted me to hit this pillow because it was better than hitting her.”

“How did that make you feel?” Ruth asked.

“Mad. I couldn’t believe she would seriously be scared of me, I thought I had made myself clear. I told her so many times that I would have never allowed that. Part of me thought she was being dramatic,” he frowned and swallowed again. “But then I saw myself...” he looked away.

“James...” the woman encouraged him.

“I had never seen my face like that before, my eyes... I scared myself and realised how petrified she must have been. It’s like something...broke. I registered that that’s how my parents must have seen me, my friends, my ex...I felt so broken.”

“That’s when you started to cry?”

James nodded, his eyes low on his lap.

“That is very good James, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I think it’s excellent progress.”

“How so?” He asked.

The woman removed her glasses. “You were able to make a shift. I know you see it as a negative episode in its entirety but, despite you being so distressed, you had a moment of clarity. You managed to take this red flag emotion away from anger and channel it into something new.”

James scoffed.

“You said you felt broken. Can you explain that?” Ruth asked.

James thought for a moment. “I was suddenly terrified...I felt like I had been confronted with my worst nightmare.”

The therapist noted something quickly.

“How did Lucy react to your breakdown?” She asked.

James smiled weakly. “She just held me and reassured me. I don’t know for how long I was in that state but she didn’t let me go for the whole time.”

Ruth smiled too. “That was very nice of her.”

“What’s bothering you?” She asked when James’ smile died on his lips, replaced by a frown.

“I can’t stop thinking about the way she yelled at me. What if...what if I’m dragging her down with me?”

Ruth tilted her head to the side. “Did you notice changes in her behaviour that could be indicative of new issues?”

James shook his head. “No, I don’t think so”.

“Well, then I wouldn’t worry. Exasperation is normal, James. You surely know it’s not easy to deal with this situation from the outside, either. But by now you should also know that anger is healthy, there’s nothing wrong with a healthy outburst from time to time. If you are worried then, by all means, keep an eye on her but I wouldn’t overwhelm myself with issues that are very likely not there.”

James nodded.

“James I understand you want to protect the people around you but you don’t do yourself a favour if you fill your head with preoccupation. You need to keep clarity in your mind to be able to recognise your red lights and work through them like you’ve been doing so far.”

“I know. Having Lucy around is so beneficial for me but I’m just worried this might be too much for her.”

Ruth looked at him for a moment. “James, you’ve had a few episodes of physical violence but you’ve never been abusive, in my professional opinion you’re not a threat to her. And Lucy is her own woman, you can’t decide for her how much she can or can’t handle emotionally.”

James sighed. “You’re right.”

“If you think it could be beneficial we can have some more shared sessions. I see no harm in that and maybe it could put your mind at ease?”

“Maybe. I’ll talk to her.”

Ruth put her glasses back on. “James I’m really happy with what you’ve told me today. You described that event as a “break”, I’d say it’s an important shift that we need to work on. Now the pendulum swung from anger to sadness and we want it right in the middle, in the balance zone. I want you to do your best to truly observe your reactions and reflect on any significant change that you notice in the way you deal with stressful situations.”

“Ok, I’ll do my best”.

She looked at him, his head bowed slightly. “Is there anything else, James?”

James scratched his chin, thoughtful for a moment. The media process about Pablo Ramirez’s mugshot scandal had resonated with him deeply and had been eating at the back of his mind, adding to his tension.

“Do you think it’s possible to feel guilty for something you didn’t do?”

Ruth leaned forward. “The brain is a complicated machine. Care to elaborate more?”

James heaved. “I’m not sure myself. I have this feeling of unease about a situation that I’m not directly involved in but that hits really close to home”.

“I see,” Ruth put down her notepad and pen. “Exactly what do you mean by unease?”

“That’s what I can’t put my finger on. Nevermind...” he waved his hand dismissively.

“Is there anything you can do to help this situation?” Suggested the woman.

James shook his head. “No, I don’t think so.”

Ruth sat back against her armchair.

“Well, maybe you can be of support to the people involved. You said it hits close to home so maybe you have some kind of feedback or insight to share.”

James brushed his index against his lips, still trying to make sense of the ideas in his head.

“It’s complicated...”

“Well you know I’m here to talk and support you when you’re ready,” the woman said with a smile and James nodded as a thank you.

“Righ, James. I’ll see you in two weeks?”

“See you in two weeks”. Confirmed James as he stood up, ready to leave.

“Oh, and good luck, James” the woman added before James closed the door behind him.

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