I’m happy to welcome back writer and producer Jeanne Marie Spicuzza with the second part of her experience with a scarapist, a scary therapist. If you missed part one you can see it here.
The next session, she led me to the bedroom fashioned as her office and showed me how her cat had been attacked by an animal, possibly a coyote. She pointed to a spot underneath, on his belly, where a large gash had torn his flesh.
“Look. Where the hair is gone. But it’s growing back.” She smiled. “See, we can heal from old wounds.”
She sat down and commented that I hadn’t gone to her stylist yet. Strange, I wanted so little trimmed off, how would she know…? But I was trusting, not at all suspicious.
She asked me what frightened me about haircuts.
“Layers,” I answered. ” Layers. Five or six inch layers. Too much off the right side. An inch too crooked. A hole on that side, a place where the hair is too short inside on the right. A thinning of my hair. Bangs. The one thing that could potentially destroy me,” I reiterated.
Then she asked me what frightened me most about haircuts.
“Layers,” I said.
“What are layers for?” she inquired, with trained innocence.
“They’re supposed to give hair bounce,” I explained, “but I have very fine hair. It took me years to grow out. They just make my hair look thin.”
Then she put me under. But she never called it that. It was spiritual work, inner work. When I still assumed spiritual meant benevolent.
“I’m going to do something with you that I rarely do with my other patients. I’m going to take you on a high spiritual meditation.”
Wow. I was worthy of that? I was so flattered, so honored. I only later I remembered this:
“Layers,” she said, calmly. “I want you to remember the word ‘layers’ and that layers give hair bounce.”
I went to my hair appointment that week. Three times I’d asked her stylist to trim 1/8 inch off the ends. I told her I’d had “hair issues,” that if I lost more than an inch, I’d have a massive trauma. Shorter on the right side. I used to suffer from Trichotillomania. Control issues.
“Is that a nerve disorder?” she asked.
I explained that it was. Just like the scarapist had instructed me. The stylist nodded.
“Do you have a husband? I don’t have a husband. Do you have a house? I don’t have a house. Do you have children? I don’t have children,” she recited. I wish I would have known what destruction envy, the most deadly manifestation of shame, can do.
She said my hair was split. But I knew that it wasn’t. Then she began stroking the back of my head.
“Layers,” she said. “You should have layers. I’ll put layers in your hair. Layers give hair bounce.”
And I wanted to scream. I found that I couldn’t. And the stylist began. I forgot most of it, until two months later. Here is what I remembered.
Starting with the right side. Six inches fell to the floor. She moved to the back.
“Not in the back, please, not in the back,” I screamed to myself, but it still wouldn’t come out.
She raked the scissors up the shaft and broke my hair. She cut it crooked, too much off the right side. My voice wouldn’t work. “Please stop,” I thought. It didn’t matter. It was too late.
It turned out, she had hacked out over 65 percent of my hair, causing root and shaft damage, even hair loss.
I left for Europe four days later for a scheduled appearance at a film festival. Upon arriving, the reality of what had happened was beginning to land, and I had a massive breakdown. I couldn’t walk on my own. I called the scarapist from a pay phone across from Victoria Station. I told her I was remembering.
“You should have said something, dear,” she cooed.
I returned home. I went to see the scarapist, shaking, sobbing uncontrollably. She clasped her hands together, excitedly.
“You’ve had an abreaction!” she exclaimed, victoriously. “You’ll see one day that this is a gift of grace.”
And I had trusted her. I had thought that by telling her my history, in great detail, she would protect me from harm. But I had thought wrongly. I had been betrayed.
She wouldn’t let me go. She kept calling me, wanting me to come back to her.
“I’m the first therapist to let people go when they’re ready,” she cooed, as before. This time, her words held new meaning. “And, dear, you’re not ready.”
I phoned my former psychiatrist from my hometown, a wonderful woman who’d helped me obtain my high school equivalency. She advised me to leave a message, canceling all appointments until further notice.
The scarapist actually phoned me back, shocked to receive what she called “such a curt and angry message.”
I was not angry. I was asserting my boundaries.
She continued, how she’d wanted a voice on the phone. I called her again and told her I was releasing her.
“See, now that’s nice,” she purred. I was horrified.
“Whatever it is,” I chimed in, “I’m letting you go.”
I called suicide hotline over twenty-three times in nine months following our last conversation. I felt folded into pieces, broken, seemingly beyond repair. I beat my own body. I didn’t want to live with the shame. My husband found me, naked in the dark.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Just leave me here,” I cried.
“No,” he said. Then he carried me to bed.
“I’m a horse that can’t run. Leave me by the side of the road. I’m ugly.”
“Shhh… ” he whispered. “No, you’re not. You’re beautiful.”
I asked, prayerfully, how I would ever get through it. A voice, seemingly entering my ear and embracing me while simultaneously coming from within my heart, sang, “I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have called you, and you are mine.”
It was a new beginning.
I visited my hair therapist in my hometown. She told me it that would take three and a half years for my hair to grow back, forty-two months from the day it was cut. I sobbed. And in fact it never grew the same. She would later tell me, “I didn’t want to say it then, you were traumatized enough. I’ve never seen anything like it. It looked burned. She hacked the shit out of your hair.”
It seemed like all my labors, crawling from a deep hole, had disappeared. Shattering and devastation, my pain, grinding on my mind and bones everyday. I was often dizzy, and had to catch myself from falling. I was diagnosed with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, and was told it would be years before I would recover. The sorrow sat on top of my head everyday, a constant reminder of the scarapist’s betrayal. The ugliness and anguish of other people’s shame.
I was determined to take legal action, to report the scarapist to her licensing board. I kept thinking of our last appointment.
“I’ve taken people there before, but this just happened!” she uttered, proudly. “I have patients I’ve been seeing for years and years. I have one patient, and I’m all she has… ”
She had to be stopped! She was making people sick. She was implanting memories. She was destroying lives.
I hired an attorney. I contacted the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. I wrote to the scarapist, requesting full copy of my records. She left three voice messages. The third was the most telling.
“I don’t know what’s come over you. I would never do anything to harm you,” she recited, hypnotically. “And you know that in your heart.”
I sat down. My hand covered my face. I couldn’t move for twenty minutes, all the lies and manipulations rushing over me like a sandstorm. And then I knew.
I’ve since discovered that the type of sexual abuse I’d thought I’d suffered was implanted. Encouraged by the scarapist to alienate everyone around me– save her, of course– I would have to rebuild my life.
I won the lawsuit. I felt like I was winning my soul.
I saw the scarapist one last time. We were walking towards each other in a long, slender hallway, following the court hearing. She wore a precious powder blue dress. She approached with glazed eyes and a wide smile. All I could think was, “You’re a liar, you’re a liar… ” I felt a force propelling me forward, like a hand at my back. As soon as she noticed me, her smile fell into a frown. She began spinning around, her hand reaching for a door. She searched the wall for something to stare at. She kept turning that way. That’s how I remember her: her own shame exposed, betraying herself. She knew what she had done.
The most painful thing I had to do was to find pardon. I was otherwise in danger of becoming like the ones who hurt me. Like the scarapist and her hypnostylist. It is an ongoing process, and a struggle.
I vowed find my place of safety in the healing work I created. I would labor my own salvation, “with fear and trembling,” as Kierkegaard so aptly put it. The path as narrow as the razor’s edge, so the Vedas say. Because sharp moments cut deep impressions and so determine our life’s directions.
In her notes, the scarapist called my daughter “illegitimate” and my movies pipe dreams. In fact, my daughter’s presence in my life is the most incredible and authentic joy I have ever known. And my first motion picture, based upon this experience, will be completed later next month. So the scarapist was wrong on both counts.
I have learned. And I will trust again. I promised myself I would forgive, and even grow to love, however deep, wide, agonizing, receding, or glorifying, my decisions.
Because they are mine. I had found it. It’s these cuts that help shape who I am.
Jeanne Marie Spicuzza is an award-winning performance artist and poet, actress, writer, illustrator, producer and master herbalist. The author of various books, including Beautiful Terrible & True and My Italia, Jeanne Marie is published in Shepherd Express, Blue Fifth Review, The Nervous Breakdown and others. She is the founder and CEO of Seasons & a Muse, Inc., a seven-division arts and entertainment corporation, and the creator of Womanness Skin Care. Jeanne Marie has starred in movies and theatre, on television and radio, and at festivals and venues, worldwide. Her premiere feature thriller, “The Scarapist,” is in post-production, and scheduled for release in 2014. She lives in Los Angeles.