February 6, 2017 § 26 Comments
From Nina Gaby
May I call you DJ? This here is just a little thank you note.
First off, thanks for getting me back in the pool. Last time I was this depressed, DJ, was right after Reagan’s election. I’d just stopped drinking. I was all sorts of bloated and baggy-eyed and wow, if I didn’t just swim my way out of that depression and addiction! I was gorgeous! Not a “10” but I bet you’d have looked twice at me, all artsy and zaftig1. I’m older now and have Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and shoulder stuff and can’t really swim, but I’m in the pool again. I strap on one of those belts and jog back and forth, back and forth, just thinking about you.
And who knew pink was my color? I never wear hats. But that march, well, a whole new me.
In a way, DJ, you may also be giving me more job security than I can even handle, though that’s certainly a bit of a mixed blessing. You see, I’m an addictions specialist and psychiatric nurse practitioner, so “good for business” does not necessarily mean good. Of course, if you and your buds decide to dismantle Social Security and Medicare, I’ll need the continued income for my own medical expenses.
Or bail, as the case may be.
Big shout-out dude for signing that anti-immigrant executive order exactly on Holocaust Remembrance Day, though you did somehow forget to mention the Jews. We felt a little left out. Thanks to you, though, I made a special trip to Michael’s Crafts to get a few squares of yellow felt so I could make Jewish Stars (Like sheriff’s badges! You remember!), but then the thought of wearing them prematurely seemed too radical even for me.
Speaking of that, what’s up with Ivanka and her shoulders? When I lived in Israel and went sleeveless through the religious quarter they threw bricks at me. I love that Ivanka got permission to drive home from Inauguration even though it was past nightfall on Erev Shabbat. Maybe one of the things you can do to prove that you really love the Jews is insist no one schedule important events on Saturdays. With a stroke of the pen I bet you can just do that. The thought of it makes me feel pretty darn important. And popular.
And last but not least DJ, let’s not forget social media. I’m no dexterous Twitter genius like you are with those cute little fingers of yours, but I know my way around Facebook and because of you I have so many more friends! I even belong to a book group, the first I’ve ever been invited to, and we are reading a book and it’s about you. Thanks again.
I get a lot more “likes” on my posts than I used to, on all my resistance action plans and silly little memes. How about the clown with the orange hair climbing out of that quaint barn? I stopped on my way to work to snap that. So inspired!
And you know what? I’m writing like a little motherfucker, excuse the language. Because of you I’m getting essays accepted and my fat little fingers just can’t stay off the keyboard.
Well I’ve got postcards to write, and I don’t want to take up any more of your limited reading time. Just wanted to reach out and be that change I want to see in the world.2
In synergy3, NG
1 Zaftig (Yiddish) Means plumply succulent and juicy, womanly. Just the way you like us. Being from NYC I probably didn’t need to define that.
2 From a quote by M. Gandhi, (1869-1948) Indian pacifist who was assassinated by an extremist who did not like Gandhi’s tolerance of Muslims, among other things.
3 When everything just seems to come together like magic.
Nina Gaby is a writer, visual artist, and psychiatric nurse practitioner. She is the editor of Dumped: Stories of Women Unfriending Women published by She Writes Press in 2015. Most recently her creative nonfiction is appearing in Diagram, Proximity, Mslexia, Entropy Magazine, the new Seal Press anthology, How Does That Make You Feel? Confessions from Both Sides of the Couch, among other collections. Gaby is a runner-up in the Quarter-After-Eight short prose contest, and has work coming out in Rock and Sling and the anthology A Second Blooming. She infrequently blogs at www.ninagaby.com. Her sculptural porcelain is in the National Collection of the Renwick at the Smithsonian, and Arizona State University’s permanent collection. She exhibits her mixed media book art in venues in Vermont where she lives and works in a very old house across from the longest floating bridge east of the Mississippi. Politically active on social media, Gaby worries a great deal about algorithms.
You Put Together a Book: How Does That Make You Feel? An Interview with the Anthology’s Editor, Sherry Amatenstein
September 28, 2016 § 4 Comments
By Estelle Erasmus
I have a history with Sherry Amatenstein, the editor of How Does That Make You Feel? Confessions from Both Sides of the Therapy Couch, and a therapist herself. We were both magazine editor-in-chiefs at concurrent times in the mid to late 1990s with competitive publications. In the midst of this cut-throat competition, we founded a friendship, confounding our publishers.
After I dropped out of the publishing scene to get married and have my daughter in midlife, after a long struggle with infertility, Sherry and I reconnected. That’s when I learned that she was putting together an anthology with the unique viewpoint of therapy from both sides of the couch (therapists and patients). Anthologies are tricky. I have known people who have gotten involved in less than stellar publications, with less than adept editing and curating. I knew for sure that with Sherry at the helm I wouldn’t be.
I had a long buried secret in my past, that I’d told to a handful of people (including my own therapist of many years), but I knew that in Sherry’s capable hands, the story would not be made into click bait.
Thus, along with 33 other widely published writers, such as Patti Davis, Anna March, Susan Shapiro, Janice Eidus, Pamela Rafalow Grossman, Amy Klein, and therapists/writers like Juli Fragra, Jean Kim, and Jessica Zucker, I entrusted my story to Sherry.
I wrote about the sex-talking therapist I had sessions with as a teen in an essay I titled, “Therapy Undercover: Satin Shirts and Sex Talk.” There was a great early review of Sherry’s book in the Washington Post the other day and in Tablet.
I spoke with Sherry to dish the therapy dirt.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for the book?
A: An early ambition of mine was to be a therapist. As a child of Holocaust survivors I was immersed in pain. I thought of becoming a therapist, but winded up going into publishing instead. Then I volunteered at a suicide hotline, and at Ground Zero Food Service after 9/11. When I became a therapist in midlife, it was the culmination of a dream, because I had wanted to do it for so long. Frankly, becoming a therapist has been very hard work, but it has helped me to accept myself more. We are all crazy and neurotic. Being a writer and being a therapist are very similar. It involves being curious about other people, listening and writing.
I felt that the therapist is this blank screen, and then your patient projects on to you what they want to project. There is this profound exchange in the room, a compelling connection, but when you leave after 50 minutes, it’s over.
I put together the book, because in the age of the Internet, a therapist can’t be just that blank screen any more. I decided I wanted to demystify the process and obliterate the boundaries for people who are in therapy as well as therapists.
People idolize therapists and treat them in ways that are not good for them. I wanted to illuminate the relationships from both sides. I also did the book to preserve therapist’s sanity. We have to take care of ourselves. It’s like you are never off duty. I mean, I sometimes get calls from patients who are suicidal. You need to set boundaries, and be there for patients as well.
Q: What did you look for in contributors?
A: Everyone had to be a professional writer. For a lot of people it was like a therapy session writing these pieces, because some of them had difficulty going to such a deep, dark place. Your piece was really good right off the get go. I have to say I was like a shark. Whenever I saw anyone had any therapy related stories, I pounced. I also met writers I loved at events and invited them to submit. Once I had the deal with Seal Press, it became even easier to get people to contribute.
Q: How did you approach the essays from the therapists?
A: It was harder to get therapists who were good writers. Some very well known therapists dropped out of the book at the eleventh hour, because they were worried about exposing themselves. I was looking for a wide range of voices and for them to reveal the truth about their doubts, fears and processes. Jean Kim, talked about her own therapy, Jenine Holmes wrote about how black people don’t go to therapy, Megan Devine wrote about feeling “imposter syndrome” as a therapist, Nina Gaby’s piece talks about boundaries between therapist and patient.
The therapists are showing that they are real people and don’t need to be placed on pedestals. I had concerns about displaying their essays, but I thought it was important. My point of view is you can’t do this work without caring about the people.
Q: Do your patients know about the book?
A: I’ve been telling my patients about it, although I’m a little nervous about it. I’m still me, but I wanted to be revealing in a way that didn’t hurt my patients. I run groups for writers with self esteem issues. Most knew I’ve published other books in the past, but I don’t mind if they don’t buy my book.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: Right now, I’m not looking into doing another book. After this experience, maybe I’ll dive further into my therapy.
Estelle Erasmus is a widely published journalist, writing coach and former magazine editor-in-chief. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Salon, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Vox, Next Avenue/PBS, and more. She is the chair for the American Society of Journalists and Authors 2017 New York City conference. Her website is EstelleSErasmus.com and her twitter handle is @EstelleSErasmus
Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW, is a NYC-based therapist and author of The Q&A Dating Book, Love Lessons From Bad Breakups, and The Complete Marriage Counselor. She has written for Hemispheres, Brides, MarieClaire, vox.com, qz.com and DAME.com. Her website is howdoesthatmakeyoufeelbook.com and her twitter handle is @sherapynyc
December 23, 2013 § 4 Comments
In the spirit of holiday fun, from guest blogger Nina Gaby:
I thought it would be a good idea to take a break and actually sketch out whatever it was that I thought I was doing with the rewrite. (Besides stopping to make up a playlist with Paul Simon’s Rewrite shuffled through it a few times.) I was in deep, braiding three story lines, toggling between professional and crazy. I’m a visual girl. Plotting out the neuro-tangles on paper, along with actually acknowledging a 40 year nicotine craving, helped me settle. Besides, taking a break was nice. I had let this thing molder for seven months under the umbrella of boo hoo I’m too depressed/busy/tired/fat to write any more. Actually sitting in the chair (OK I was in bed but ‘sitting in chair’ has a more authentic writerliness about it) was making me dig at my cuticles (which I didn’t put on the map but probably should have) and I had to get up for Band-Aids anyway.
Nina Gaby is a writer, visual artist and psychiatric nurse practitioner who lives and works in Vermont across the road from the longest floating bridge this side of the Mississippi. She often does not blog at www.ninagaby.com.