Sometimes interviews are a great thing. They actually make you think. One interviewer asked me if being a psychologist for 25 years had anything to do with the fact that I wrote a few memoirs. I said that it made me less afraid to write the truth about myself and my feelings no matter how bizarre or unflattering they might be. After delving into the unconscious of others for so long I realized that we are all pretty much the same. The difference between a murderer and a nun is really very little. Usually it is only one moment in time that differentiates the two. Both people have the same unconscious instincts or desires that they have had to repress--primarily sex and aggression. Freud isn't famous for nothing. Just look at TV that only has various forms of sex or aggression blasting on 400 channels to know that Freud was no amateur. Sometimes people say to me "Oh I was so shocked you were involved in a murder trial and were investigated by the FBI." Really they had thought or probably did the same things I did but didn't get caught. I know that and they know that. Realizing we are all on a level playing field is freeing and I felt I could write what I wanted so my pen just danced across the page.
When I gave this answer to the nineteen-year-old journalism student who had not finished the book yet, she said, "Yeah but over all those years you were a psychologist sitting across from patients didn't you ever want to say anything about who you were. Like--you could only listen. It was a one way street."
For some reason her words hit me like a thunderbolt. It was the act of personal silence for twenty-five years, eight hours a day that prompted me to write a memoir, then another and a third is in the works! Now that the words are coming out I can't stop them. I have become the Grand Coolee Dam of memoir writers. No one can turn me off. That journalist was right. I had to listen for all those years to every word that people said about themselves. When they expressed how they felt about their parents, their husbands or their children I could never contribute my feelings about mine. I could never express an inner longing of any kind. My job was to help patients to understand themselves. I was meant to be the blank--the person they projected all of their needs upon. I was the human sponge in my beige suit sitting across from them ready to mop up their melting psyches.
One day I put down my notebook, stopped listening, locked my office door, took my Dr. Catherine Gildiner shingle off of the front of my office building and never went back. I'd had a quarter of a century of listening to others. I walked away and locked myself on the third floor of my house and began the first volume of my memoirs. The words spilled out ad nauseam. In less than seven months the first volume was finished. I was shocked when a publisher bought it and I was even more shocked when it was on the best seller's list. Ditto the second volume and the third is in the works. Really I only wrote them so I could have my turn.
Catherine Gildiner has been a clinical psychologist in private practice for many years. Her memoir Too Close to The Falls (1999) records her life from age four to thirteen. The book was on the Canadian best seller's list for 172 weeks and was published in several countries. Her follow up memoir, After the Falls (2010) picks up the story from age fourteen onwards.
Follow Catherine on Twitter at twitter.com/cathygildiner