Dear Janice, *not my therapists actual name, so don’t try and looking her up, snoopy pants
One of the biggest things that you have taught me over the past six months has been that it is so so important to open up about feelings and emotions; because this is how we transform and it’s how we heal. So, I hope that it comes as no surprise to you when I express how much you, and our work together, have come to mean to me over the past six months. For so long, I was silenced by my own mind. For so long, happiness was fleeting. For so long, I lived in fear of slipping again. For so long, I was consumed by black and white thinking. But not anymore. And that is all thanks to you.
The truth is, I am SO scared to say goodbye to you, to therapy in general. The last time I finished therapy, I somehow knew at the back of my mind that wouldn’t be the last time that I would need therapy, or help in my life. It very much felt like I was only just beginning, and that realistically, mental illness was only just starting to nestle down and make a home for itself in my brain. It’s not that the therapy didn’t help, but I just can’t describe it… as I walked out of the office and tweeted a happy looking snapshot with a caption somewhere along the lines of “Just finished my last therapy appointment… so happy and so relieved”, I just knew that deep down, the hopes that I had of therapy miraculously fixing me had gone, that I wasn’t healed, my sadness still existed; and in some ways, was worse than ever. This time, I feel different. I feel hopeful. For so long, I have been consumed by my mental illness; but you’ve helped me see that I am so much more than it. You’ve helped me see that this isn’t my “forever state”, but in fact; it may just be a small, yet extremely significant, part in my story. And most importantly, that there’s more to my story than living with a mental illness. For the longest time, all I could envision was the end of my life; it became a cycle, and in the end, involuntary. Even though it’s true that death is the most inevitable part of life, you’ve helped me realise there’s so much that comes before that happens. And I just couldn’t see it. But now, I do. It’s exciting, and wonderful, and colourful; if you choose to make it so.
It’s strange, because you’re neither family, or a friend (even though it has very much felt like it at times); neither have we spent more than an hour at a time together. And in this new found life of a global pandemic, we have never even been in the same room as one another. But you somehow know me, and more about my life, then most will ever know. A simple goodbye would never, ever be enough. Heck, this letter seems like it’s barely scratching the surface of how thankful I am.
Our first appointment together is somewhat a bit of a blur now; but I do remember waking up late from being on an extremely busy shift the day before, rushing out of the shower with sopping wet hair, trying unsuccessfully to get teams working (something I was quietly grateful for because I looked like a hot mess) and nervously trying to tell you about myself all the whilst trying not to combust with anxiety and grounding myself enough to make sure I was making the most of the therapy that I had waited for and needed for so long. But I do remember the softness of your voice, the way you listened so intently (even if I couldn’t see it) to the inner ramblings of my scrambled brain, and the kind words that greeted me through the phone. It took a few weeks, but the knots in my stomach finally untwisted and I felt comfortable enough to start letting my guard down. During this past six months, Tuesday mornings have become the highlight of my week; excited by what revelations would be made in the next hour and how much I was going to progress in the next week.
There was something that you said to me early on in our sessions together that has stuck with me the entire way through; “take the most wholesome parts of yourself, and give them the power”. That was the very first moment I had one of my revolutionary, staring at the wall for an hour afterwards, moments. But this was also the moment that I knew that you understood me; that I could trust you. That you were going to not only help me, but encourage me beyond just “getting better”. I never told you, but I wrote that phrase down on a notepad that morning and to this very day, it’s sits on my desk so that I see it when I get ready in the mornings, or it catches my eye as I rush out the door to yet another busy shift.
From the girl who first started noticing the pangs of anxiety and sadness five years ago; as she laid confused about why she suddenly couldn’t get out of bed and awoke every morning and fell asleep every night teary eyed – Thankyou. Thankyou for being so attuned to everything. Thankyou for helping me piece together not only the emotions and feelings, but the why’s and how’s of coming to feel them. And why I felt them 100x more than everybody else. Thankyou for validating those feelings to the fullest extent. Thankyou for consistently reminding me that it’s okay for feel whatever I feel and helping me to stop fighting not only every single one of my emotions, but myself. Thankyou for being part of the reason I can now feel what I feel, and let it be. That instead of every little feeling or thing getting in the way of my life and leading me distraught and chained to my bed, lamenting in tears for days; I can now feel, acknowledge, process and move on.
One of the biggest things I was always worried about, was opening up about the abuse I suffered at a young age. But all of the awful things I envisioned happening when I finally told my truth, didn’t happen. Thankyou for metaphorically holding my hand as I lifted the lid on the box that once resided in the far corners of my mind. You made me feel safe. You made me feel believed. Because there have been moments over the years where I’ve barely believed myself. It was also the moment you helped me to realise that what happened to me, doesn’t define me, in the least cliche way. That what I experienced, isn’t the reason for so much of who and what I am. This was the first opportunity you gave me to write; and I think such a pivotal moment in our work together. After that week, I found a love for not only writing, but writing my truth. Thankyou for continuing to encourage me to write so much. I have learnt so much about myself by writing my feelings down and putting them out in the open. But I’ve also learnt how to do it in a healthy way because of you; there was a time where journalling and putting a physicality to my feelings was unbearable; as it made the emotions I was feeling even more real, and even more scary. My blog existed for about a year before therapy, but I don’t think it necessarily started to thrive until I started writing and publishing things based on your suggestions. And neither did I.
From the girl that got to the point she using any method of self-harm she could think of, sometimes without even realising it; Thankyou. Before we met, I had been “clean” for quite a long time, but it took every last effort to fight those urges. And it was all consuming and exhausting; some days were taken up with fighting those demons. But what even determines “clean”? Because the reality is, I’d still turn to restriction, alcohol and anything I could grasp at as soon as I was having a bad time. Thankyou for helping me see that I don’t need to turn to any of those methods anymore. And thankyou for letting me trust myself in so far that I got rid of everything I used to self-harm with. That was a moment that I, and a lot of other people, never thought would happen. Thankyou for making me see that I need to trust myself again, before I can start trusting other people. I don’t think I ever told you this either, but that was another revolutionary moment of our time together. I’m sure it didn’t, but when you told me that, it felt like my jaw dropped to the floor. Thankyou for always being so honest and attuned to everything; you’ve helped me see the things that I couldn’t, and you’ve told me things I think many others have struggled too; the things that I needed to hear, to see, to feel for so long in order to get better.
From the girl who laid in a hospital bed one march night three years ago fighting for her life, even though she didn’t want too – Thankyou. Thankyou for listening so intently and letting me tell the story that I’ve never got to tell anyone to it’s fullest extent. Thankyou for not acting shocked. Thankyou for not passing judgement. Thankyou for not being one of those wierd, blinky eyed people who doesn’t know what to say. Thankyou for not sweeping it under the rug. Thankyou for acknowledging it as a significant part of my life and thankyou for validating it. Thankyou for giving me the idea to write a letter to that very girl; it is one of my proudest pieces that I have written and I don’t think there will ever be a day where I don’t read it to myself and smile. It’s helped me so much in differentiating the then and now, and it’s helping me move on from everything that that girl was and what she wanted and what she stood for.
From the girl who was stuck for so long and “wouldn’t get any better until she got the therapy” – Thankyou for actually helping me make the progress that I needed to make for so long, but couldn’t. It made the long nights and countless trips to the doctor that were spent crying over the fact that it felt like I was never going to make a solidrecovery so so worth it. You have made all of the fighting and reaching into the deepest depths of my soul for the strength to carry on, worth it.
From the girl sitting in front of you right now; the girl who is not only happy, kind and light, but the girl who finally feels free. Thankyou for the clarity and the headspace that I have needed for so long. Thankyou for helping to finally make those everyday tasks that were once so hard, so easy. Thankyou for giving way to relaxation, and allowing me to enjoy life and the world around me instead of pushing myself to the limit every single day in order to not feel or think. Thankyou for helping give myself permission to rest.
From the girl who is going to trip again one day and the girl who is going to be tempted to relapse and relapse hard. From the girl who is once again going to be tempted by the realms of self-harm and who is going to be tempted to listen to every voice of her inner saboteur. Thankyou. Thankyou for helping me create and uncover the better path. Thankyou for constantly reminding me that I have a choice, even if my brain doesn’t make it seem that way sometimes. Thankyou for making me see what that better choice is; because at times, even though it may be simple to most , the darker path has been my twisted enemy disguised as a friendly warmth that I’ve drifted to time and time again. Thankyou for helping to create the big sister voice that now so softly resides in my brain instead of the intrusive, ugly demons that once scrambled my brain into thinking things that weren’t true.
Thankyou for being the reason that one day, this girl is going to trust herself to the full extent again. Because I’ve come to the conclusion that falling apart is the easiest part; but it’s the getting back up again is the hardest. But I now know that even though it is exhausting, I can do it time and time again. And as hard as it may be, it is so so worth it.
The simple truth is, I’m not sure what the future holds for me. But I do know that it’s not so much black and white anymore. It’s colourful; and there now seems to be a new colour that I’m discovering every single day. Thankyou for turning the scariness of uncertainty of a future into curiousness for me.
From the girl who now goes to bed in happy tears, thankful for the days in which she’s not only surviving, but thriving. From the girl who no longer goes to bed wishing she won’t wake up, but is excited by what tomorrow may bring, even in the face of adversity. From the girl that is FINALLY in a good place. Thankyou so so much. No amount of words or thanks will make up for what you’ve done for me. And one thing is for certain – Tuesday mornings simply won’t be the same without you.