When It's Time to Break Up With a Therapist
The other week was my last session with my therapist after almost two years. I hadn’t really thought much about the fact it was ending beforehand. In the brief moments I had given it passing consideration, part of me thought I’d quite like having the time back. Time is in short supply and high demand these days, so if I’m being offered 50 more minutes a week then I’ll gladly take it. Another part of me felt like I’d miss the familiarity of the smells and sounds as I walked into the room each week, but little more than that if I’m honest.
It’s hard to think back to that first session all those months ago where I kind of fell into her room, a messed up new mom, crying and talking about my then partner, his addiction and mental health problems and my inability to decide what to do.
I’m not sure I left there all that different either.
I’ve moved on in some ways. I’m no longer with my ex. My anger and fears have changed, they are no longer about my own relationship with him, but about his relationship with my son. His son. And about my hopelessness for my own future.
Maybe that’s unduly harsh of me. Maybe I don’t remember quite how bad it was during some of those months and quite how far I’ve come. How the crying has gone from numerous times a day to merely numerous times a week. How the type of crying has changed too; from the curled-up-heap-crying-on-the-floor-punching-the-carpet (thank God for the underlay), type crying, to mere sobs-streaming-down-my-cheeks, type crying. I’ve pretty much nailed the whole crying silently trick too, so as not to disturb the toddler.
I knew I’d appreciated the space my therapist gave me. But before that last meeting I gave very little thought to the substance of our meetings. Of what those meetings had been for me over those months. Of the outlet and space they had provided me with.
Then, just the day after our last session something happened, I don’t even remember what now. Something little. Instantly I thought, “Oh, I’ll talk about that next week.” It was then I realized quite how dependent I’d become and quite how much those sessions meant to me.
The realization that there was no next week (not with her) made me anxious. I could feel my heart racing. Then I thought I could tell her about being anxious about not having her to talk to. Then the realization struck again. And then, and I swear I’m not making this up, I thought I could tell her about telling her I got anxious about not being able to tell her that I got anxious cause I wouldn’t see her to tell her about that thing that bothered me (that I seem to have forgotten about).
Seriously, that’s some level of dependency right there. My brain could not quite accept I wouldn’t be able to share the burden of what was bothering me. And when the shit really hit the fan for me a few days later then I really felt the loss.
I don’t know why I’m telling you all this, a bunch of (mostly) strangers. But I guess I told her, a stranger, about the most private thoughts of mine for the best part of two years, so it seems appropriate now to share that with others.
Friends and family would ask if I’d had a “good session,” if it was “helping.” It’s what I would have asked in their situation, too. It’s what I used to ask myself at first. When I didn’t really know what helping meant, when I thought I was there to “get better.”
But I wasn’t there to get better. And I didn’t really “get better.”
I was there to understand myself better and actually I think much of that will come now as I reflect on what we talked about. As I reflect on what I chose to talk about (therapists sometimes don’t say much, but they are incredible listeners).
Some of that listening and strategic, directed questioning helped me help myself of course, like setting up a blog. Or learning to distance myself from my ex, but most of it didn’t have an immediate, practical application.
I struggled with that at first.
We, I, have become so used to quick fix solutions. Just like everything else in our lives nowadays, if there isn’t a quick fix solution then it’s not worth solving. Or perhaps it’s just not solvable at all.
I got over my expectations of a solution to my situation relatively quickly. Although I often wondered if I was doing something wrong, perhaps not talking about things in the “right way.” Of course really there’s no right way (or wrong). Sure, had I had more time for self-reflection outside of the sessions too, that would have been helpful, but as a single working mom that was never going to happen. Explaining that to others was often hard though. It felt like I was wasting money (my mom’s money to be exact). It felt like I was taking too much time. That I should be cheering up quicker.
But I didn’t.
Not because I have some serious mental health issue. Well, not in terms of how we are usually made to think of mental health issues as. A problem to be fixed. No, my problem was, and still is, my life. My life as it currently stands and a number of chunky sized challenges that have been thrown my way in the last few years. There’s no quick fix solution to that. There’s no way to get over it. If I got over it I would be over life itself so where the hell would that leave me?
If only it could become more normal to have these self-reflection experiences. If only it could be OK for us to struggle with life and not be pushed into quick fix solutions. I know we don’t like to see those we love sad. They say kids wear their hearts on their sleeves and my son really struggles if he thinks I’m sad. He wants more than anything for me to be happy. I get that. That’s what we all want for those we love. But sometimes it’s just not possible. Sometimes people need the space to be sad. I don’t have a mental health condition. I have the normal reactions to what I’ve been through, to what I have experienced and felt. And that’s made me anxious and depressed but it’s not who I am.
I shall miss my sessions. I shall miss having someone listen to me for 50 minutes most weeks about whatever I choose to mention. I shall miss having a space where I can let my shoulders droop down and just cry out my upset and anger and exhaustion for that week. I shall miss that time of self-reflection where I can analyze how I react and interact. I shall miss how that made me more in tune with my feelings through the week as I (mentally) noted events and feelings to discuss.
But I guess the mere fact I am writing about it here means she did do her job. Or rather, I did my job. I’m already starting to embed those self-reflection and sharing practices into my “real” life. I will miss the comfort of speaking with her. But perhaps that’s good. Perhaps it will push me more to deal alone. And more importantly than that, perhaps it will push me more to share with people around me. Because until all of us have more meaningful discussions about our mental health, the more of an epidemic this will become.
Follow this journey on Ellamental Mama.
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