It’s been three weeks since I last saw Therapist, although ostensibly it’s 9 weeks since I finished therapy as our last session was more about goodbyes than working on anything. That’s the longest stretch I’ve done without therapy in a good five years. And, it’s going remarkably well! Yes, there have been some spectacular meltdowns, and times when I’ve resorted to less than helpful coping strategies, but on the whole I’m doing a lot better than I anticipated. I haven’t collapsed into a horrible state of depression, and while I still miss her, the intensity of the loss has decreased. So much so in fact, that when our paths crossed in Galway last week, I was able to both wave and smile, I didn’t cry afterwards and I didn’t feel a burning urge to run up to her and tell her everything that’s been going on. That feels like a really big step forward.
The more distance I get between us, the more I’m beginning to think that I had very much come to see her as a friend. I enjoyed spending time in her company, and she always made me feel better about myself. But the last few months, with her being more firm with boundaries, the sense of rejection that brought up in me was getting in the way of everything. I massively, massively resented it. If I could have kept the distinction between therapist and friend clear in my head, it may not have been such an issue. But I couldn’t. So instead of seeing a good therapist do her job and maintain boundaries, I saw a friend pushing me away. I don’t like conflict, or awkward conversations, never have, and will shy away from them at all costs. So instead of asking what was going on, why things were different, I shut down. I was a wreck going into her office every week, and tormented myself for most of the time I was there because all I could feel was rejection and abandonment. I struggled to look at her. I desperately wanted her to make me feel better, but that wasn’t her job anymore, I was past needing her to do that for me. I just couldn’t see it. Or maybe I didn’t want to?
It’s strange to write about this. When I sat in front of the laptop today I had no clue what would come out, I’m kind of thinking this through as I write it. But slowly, so very slowly, I’m starting to realise that finishing was the kindest thing she could have done for me. To continue would have meant staying trapped in a vicious cycle of needing her, resenting her for not being more available, feeling guilty about that need, then resenting her for not making me feel better……………..it couldn’t go on.
I saw my psychiatrist last week, and we touched on this briefly. She asked me what it was about Therapist that made me so attached to her. It was her kindness, plain and simple. It felt so, so good to know that no matter how hard things got, she would be there. Her understanding made me feel more normal, helped me occasionally see that yes, things were actually quite challenging for me, and it was ok to feel as I did. When I was really depressed, I felt held, and supported, and cared for, and while getting from session to session was really hard, at least I had that outlet. She made me feel safe. But as I’ve gotten better, as depression has thankfully faded into the past, there has been less need for that support. She had to start working on getting me to support myself, care for myself. That has proven to be something of a monumental challenge for both of us, and I think was ultimately what brought the therapy relationship to an end. As long as she was there and available to me, I was never going to try to go it alone. I knew things had to change, but I simply did not have the strength to make that decision, she had to do it for me. I can’t imagine how difficult coming to that decision must have been, knowing as she did just how much I would take it as the ultimate rejection and what kind of behaviour it could potentially trigger.
But, much and all as it hurt, she was right, it’s time to move on. I’m ok. I’m not fantastic, but I’m a lot more ok than I thought I would be. I have my moments, like anyone else, possibly a little more dramatic than most, but they pass. I recently landed on a friend’s doorstep in the middle of an epic ugly cry, where before, I would have kept it to myself, held on to it till I saw Therapist. This time my friend got me through. She listened, she let me cry, she plied me with tea and chocolate, she made me laugh. That’s how it should be.