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My first long-term therapist was special.
A previous client, who reviewed her online, felt the same way.
“She was one of the good ones,” they said. And she was.
It’s been years now since I’ve worked with her, but as I read through an old journal of mine tonight, I find myself laughing at her remarks and crying over our greatly-cherished relationship.
She wasn’t “just a therapist” to me. She was the first person who ever held space for all my inner parts and smiled at each and every one of them. Her door was always open, and so was her heart.
Her office on the upper west side of Manhattan was my sanctuary, and while in it, I was allowed to be stubborn and messy.
She would prescribe Ben & Jerry’s ice cream instead of hospitalization, and she stared at me with so much kindness that I often wanted to run.
When I slipped and fell on the subway train on a rainy winter day and arrived soaked in her waiting room and about to cry, she grabbed my long coat and purple backpack and carried them into her office without asking if she could help.
When she told me she wasn’t going anywhere and I could trust her, I believed her.
So I talked—at least, I tried. And as I did, I began to scratch the surface of my deepest pain.
I began to make eye contact.
I began to say hello to the crying five-year-old within me.
I began to say, “No.”
As I began to trust the process, I was hit with difficult news.
She told me she’d be closing her practice. It broke the heart of my inner child, and it broke mine too.
When asked how I was, I responded, “I’m fine,” and looked past her left ear so I could smile at the white wall instead.
“You sound like you’re keeping a dead body under a sheet,” she responded.
So I told her I was bummed.
“How bummed do you feel?”
“Very bummed,” I said.
“On a scale of 1 bum to 10 bums, how bummed are you?”
“Twelve,” I said—we both laughed with tears in our eyes.
I left my last session one day in March of 2017, smiling as if her leaving didn’t phase me.
I diverted my eyes while I walked past my favorite doorman before stepping outside into a bustling Manhattan street and allowed my tears to flood me.
I have never lost a parent, but I am certain I learned of this pain that day.
I walked into a smoothie shop and continued to sob hysterically. I could tell the man knew of this pain because he looked deeply into my eyes, didn’t ask for money, and told me, “She’s right here” as he gestured toward his heart.
It’s been over three years now, and I still cry from time to time. I also smile and laugh when I remember the way she used humor to relate to me.
Maybe she was “just a therapist” in the eyes of others, but to me, she will always be the one who first loved me.
I will always be bummed that she is gone, but I promised I would get angry with her and keep going.
I haven’t managed yet to get angry, though.
I am only bummed. Bummed x 12.
Maybe, one day, I’ll get angry. When I do, I’ll take a pillow, as we used to do in her office, and punch it.
For now, I think I’ll just say thank you—thank you for helping me love my inner parts, for opening your door, and for loving me.
Thank you for your humanness, for empowering me, and for never pushing me away.
Thank you for caring.
Thank you for smiling.
Thank you for being you.
It made all the difference.