I had my last session with my regular therapist on Friday. He is retiring and I am referred onto a new lady therapist in another facility. To me, it was difficult to say goodbye to him. He quickly became a trusting figure in my life. Someone I could safely talk about my emotions with. He would not get angry with me about my feelings, or ridicule me for having them. He understood why I was having them and helped me sort the feelings out. He helped me make sense of this very dark place.
Due to a recent increase of my depression/anxiety med, and the addition of a true sleeping pill, my mood has been altered. I am no longer foggy and angry as I constantly think about self-harm or ending my own life. Suddenly, my head has become clear and I can process. This is a feeling I haven’t felt since before my dad died (March 2015).
My therapist told me right away that he “noticed something different” about me while I was sitting in the waiting room. He said I looked calmer and genuinely “happy” (as opposed to the forced happy I was before the med change). We talked the differences I feel then we got deep. We discussed my life and transition, as well as his life and his transition. It was like a chat with a friend.
The day before this session, I had the “recurring nightmare” again. In this nightmare, I am ALWAYS on the Titanic and it is sinking. The room is always filling up with water, but I can’t get out. The water continues to rise and I can see it rise over my feet, knees, waist, etc. The boat starts to tip. It is going down. And I with it. I wake up just before the boat sinks. This last one was different. Same beginning, but this time….I got off the boat. Somehow, I ended up in a dry room and my sister was there yelling because I was intentionally left out of a meeting for my father’s estate. I woke up in a panic. I told my therapist this and I noticed something. He’s not taking notes. This NEVER happens. His pen is always going. Drawing or writing. He is staring at me. I look at him and shrug as I say, “What?” He shakes his head and smiles as he says, “The psychology gods are going to strike me with lightning for saying this, but hell…it’s my last session with you and I am retiring after this. So, I am just going to come out and say it!” I stared at him in disbelief, and I am sure my mouth was hanging open. He continued in a frantic and fast way, as if he was telling a secret he kept for a long time, “The Titanic is your family! It’s sinking because your family is sinking and will soon no longer exist. You FINALLY got off the boat because you realized that you are an independent unit and have always been. You know you don’t need them anymore, so you are letting the boat sink without you. You got off the boat.” Then he reclines in his chair and let out a loud sigh as he said, “I have wanted to say that to you ever since that dream started!” I was in disbelief because it all made sense. I asked him why he never told me that. He just smiled and said, “because you were in crisis every week. My first and foremost goal as a therapist is to make sure you live and see the value of your life. Every week I had to solve and work on your suicidal and self-harm thoughts. I couldn’t move on to this because that comes first. I couldn’t work on this deeper stuff until those thoughts were gone.” It made sense to me and I began wondering what all he had talked about for the past year. I was sure there was a suicidal or self-harm thought every single week. He encouraged me to take up the concept of my family and past with my new therapist. That I am ready for that now, since the new dose has taken away the suicidal thoughts. He said it was time to get rid of the emotional baggage so that I can freely move on with my life when I move. I nodded and agreed with him. As much as it scared me to.
We got to discussing his career. I asked him what his “worst case” was. He sat and thought for a bit. Then, with a straight and solemn face he said, “I have been fortunate to have clients that I can work with. My worst cases were never the client. It was always me. The worse case was not knowing how to help the client. Going home knowing that I failed them and didn’t perform my best. I would go home and keep going over what I could have done better.” I nodded and thought about how these comments proved to me that he was a good therapist. We talked about being a therapist and how depressing it can get. I told him how I want to help the movement of grief therapy/counseling for young adults and children because no one reached out to me when my mother died and I want no one else to experience what I have. He smiled and met my eyes as he told me ideas of what I could do. It ranged from starting a support group for young adults and children in the community to writing a book or just talking with someone experiencing grief one-on-one. His last comment about this was, “I wasn’t a leader to ever do something like that. I was the one that wanted to blend in and just help one-on-one. But you….I see you as the leader type. You are most certainly not a follower. You make your own way. You….you can start a movement.” His words deeply touched me.
Shortly before ending, he did the “summary thing.” I knew it was coming when he put down his notebook and quit taking notes. He looked at me and said, “Well….I have to say that you are truly an amazing young woman. You have been through quite a lot of pain for a woman your age. In fact, you have gone through things people in their 40s usually don’t even go through. BUT, you can’t know how amazing and wonderful you are and will be, if you don’t continue to live. You have a lot of reasons to continue living. You can’t know what success is in store for you, if you are not there to experience it. You have to be alive to see it.” He stopped and stared at me as if he was waiting for a response. All I could do is nod. I didn’t know what to say. He wouldn’t talk. So, I said, “ya…I guess you’re right. I mean my suicidal thoughts haven’t been there since I started this new dose.” He nodded and said something along the lines of, “I’m glad.” Then proceeded with a lecture about how brave I was to discuss my suicidal thoughts with him and continue with the meds because not many people are willing to do this.
As we ended the session, there was an awkwardness that set in. We both got up and he reached out his hand to shake mine. I gave him a firm handshake back as I wondered what to say to him. How do I go on and process what is happening to me without this man that I have become almost dependent on for weekly sessions during the past year? He shook my hand and smiled as he said, “Have a good life and take care.” All I could do was pat his arm and say, “You too….take care of yourself and enjoy your retirement.” I had to get out of there before I cried. I didn’t know it was possible to become this close to a therapist. I didn’t think I was that close to him. But, he has helped me move on with my life amid the crisis that it has become. I will miss him. He has surely changed my life, and for the better. He has always known that there was hope. That amid my darkness there was a light. And that someday that light would shine again, if we continued through the muck and mud together. All I can say is thank you. Thank you Mr. Therapist for everything. I am alive today because you fostered in me the will and strength to keep living. You made a difference.