I came to be the client of my therapist four years ago after an intervention with two friends, older ladies from church, one who happens to be a social worker.
I had been struggling for a long time with feelings of sadness, hopelessness, guilt and worthlessness. I had been engaging in self-injury for a long time and it was getting worse. I was suicidal off and on, never committing to a plan but just worn out from a traumatic, abuse-filled childhood, and the demands of life in general.
After the intervention, my friend the social worker interviewed therapists for me and found one that she thought would work well with me. (Ordinarily I suppose I should have done this process myself, but I was too depressed to care or to think properly.)
With their support I made the appointment and went to see the therapist.
I was not sure what to expect for that first appointment. I was very scared of the entire process but more fearful of what would happen to me if I did not go. The way things were going for me with my mood, I didn’t think it could get much lower or that I would survive the torment of the depression. The therapist met me in the waiting room and she did a very good job at putting me at ease.
In that initial consultation, I was struggling to explain my symptoms, and I ended up saying that my heart hurt. The therapist said, “Oh, you’re sad.” And I thought, “Yes. That’s it. I’m so very sad.”
I was also trying to explain that I hurt myself on purpose sometimes but without the intent of killing myself. I was worried about telling that to someone, worried about being hospitalized or all those “horror stories” that one hears. She listened and she asked me a question that I didn’t understand. I was relieved when she rephrased it so I could understand and answer it. It was then, in that first meeting, that I felt that this therapist could help me. I felt listened to and I had some sort of beginning answer to what had been plaguing me for so long. Thus began our therapeutic relationship.
It took me a little while to become comfortable with the idea of sharing with another person very deep and painful experiences of my past and present struggles. Ironically, it was during my therapist’s vacation early on that she allowed me the email privilege in order to keep in touch while she was away. I was able to explain and express my thoughts and feelings so much better in writing that we have kept that as an avenue toward healing in addition to weekly sessions and other interventions. She works with my psychiatrist in regard to medication but my therapist is really the one that is helping me heal.
Sometimes I get really frustrated at my perceived lack of progress. My therapist disagrees and thinks I have made good, solid strides. But I know that I have been through a lot of trauma and it will take a long time to heal from those experiences and patterns that have developed as a response to trauma. My therapist often tells me I am exactly where I need to be. It helps me feel accepted and not judged. Every week (except for the odd vacation or brief illness), I show up and she is there to help me and support me and my goals for my recovery and my life. It was so foreign to me that someone even wanted to help me, that I was worthy of help, and then to stick it out with me, and not abandon me like every adult had in my life when I was a child. It was profound and it stuck with me.
The greatest gift that my therapist has given me is that she is there for me. She has excellent boundaries; I don’t expect her to be there for me at two in the morning. However, her support for me is always there. I take what I have learned during the process of psychotherapy and I can apply it to my life, often with her words in my head giving me strength.
I know she can’t wave a magic wand and make my depression or post-traumatic stress disappear. She can’t snap her fingers and make me well from the ravages of suicidal thinking and self-harm. I know she can’t heal me. But she can help me heal. I trust her to do that. I trust her to hold my secrets, and hold my pain; I trust that it won’t crush her and that it will no longer crush me.
The other day I was at a session with my therapist, discussing something of not-so-great importance, but was something nonetheless that bothered me a great deal and was causing me to feel upset. I explained the situation, my therapist listened, and then she listened some more, and then she spoke. She encouraged me to think differently than I always think, to not get stuck in that same headspace, mired in the past.
After discussing the situation at some length, at least half the appointment time, I felt better. I knew that I didn’t have to go to that place in my head and my heart where it was my entire fault and I had done something horribly. I didn’t have to beat myself up emotionally or physically for a perceived wrong on my part. I was truly amazed how much of a difference just talking, and being heard and having my therapist support me made. She made me think differently about the situation. It was no longer upsetting. I no longer felt the need to punish myself. Her words were true, she just made me think more.
I don’t exactly have an ending to my psychotherapy story. After all, my therapy hasn’t ended. I am well on the way to being far less destructive to myself and not so reactive to all of the trauma. Four years ago, I wish I would have known what I know now about therapy, that at times I might be scared, but it’s not scary. That at times I will fail and mess up, but my therapist will still be there. That it is okay to trust people with deep, painful things and they are still okay and I am more okay. If I would have known that therapy could help me become who I am becoming I would never have wavered.
I couldn’t have known that then. I know it now, and only because I know my therapist and I know she can help me heal even more and become whole again. I tell my therapist sometimes that I can’t thank her enough for what she does. I don’t know how she does it, frankly. To listen to painful things day after day, week after week, year after year, it takes someone incredible and kind to do that.
The fact that she does it for me is still amazing to me even after all this time. I don’t know if I would still be alive today had I not chosen to listen to my friends, my very wise friends, and enter therapy, but I kind of doubt that I would be. But now I have hope. I can have a future. I am not the sum total of my abusive childhood, my depression or my post-traumatic stress disorder.
I am me and I have hope. My therapist helped me see that. I thank God for her.