Here's the prologue:
Before we begin…..
It is as though there is a window of opportunity for falling in love. If it happens when one is too young, circumstance and immaturity often create insurmountable obstacles. If it happens too late, well….that's when the anxiety begins. For it's not just a When? but a What if never? that bring so many to the therapist's doorstep. People settle, and they don't like to admit that they do, but they settle for less than love. Perhaps they believe they will never find that magical soul-filled spark that will make their hearts pound and their bodies alight, that will sound the metaphoric sirens that let them know they have found their one, and possibly only, life partner. Instead, they bank on safety and the reassurance that they will not grow old and infirm alone.
So I thought it was to be with Polly. I thought she would settle. And yes, I was happy when we both realized that her window still remained open, though it seemed to be quickly falling shut as her newly beloved belonged to someone else. I should have realized much sooner what was going on since both sides of the story developed before my very eyes. But I see so many patients—I just could not link it and my patients made the connection first. Of course, they thought I knew. It seemed so obvious and, in retrospect, it was.
Let me tell you why I love my work as a psychiatrist. It's not what you'd think—it’s not the money, the prestige of being a doctor, and it’s not even the satisfaction of knowing I make a difference in peoples’ lives. It's the intimacy, that flicker of connection, those momentary seizures of intense emotion when one person feels completely understood by another. They happen all too seldom in the real world.
In my personal life, those moments of intimacy and connection had fizzled away and my work was all I had left to cling to. It had become my life raft. As it would happen, these particular patients helped me to regain my own footing. Their therapy healed me as it healed them. It’s not actually supposed to work that way, but things did not go according to a formula.
Here and there a psychiatrist has a great story—one he would love to shout to everyone he passes on the street—and this is one of them. It is a story of coincidence and of heartfelt romance and usually we head for the theatre to experience this. You need to know that such tales of love are not just fantasies of escape concocted by screenwriters. I am bound to the confidentiality mandated by my profession and I have discussed with Polly and Tom (not their real names) what it means for them to allow me to tell their stories. They have consented to let me tell it this once and the forms and releases have all been signed. I must ask that you listen with the appropriate degree of dignity, respect, and sensitivity to the narrative which follows.
It was good they showed me that love's window of opportunity exists only in our minds.
--Julius R. Strand, M.D.