When I Told My Dental Hygienist It Was My Last Day of Therapy
It was late fall 2014, and I was 16 years old.
The air was cold in contrast with the light sunshine that hit my face as I hopped out of the car and headed into the three-story historic house that had been converted into offices. My palms were sweating. I started going up the steps to the front door to my destination, where an office of lawyers would greet me. I’d move on to even more stairs. My therapist’s office was on the second floor. Across from it were a conjunction of chairs, which I sat on with my leg shaking, looking over some bent up fashion magazines on the seat next to me as I awaited for my appointment.
For months, I was a regular at the therapist, falling into her company once a week whether I liked it or not, never missing a day. We talked about my past, my relationships, my self-esteem, my sexuality, my old suicidal self… The reason I began going was purely because months before at an appointment I had with the hospital about a certain something, I had an emotional breakdown that stemmed from my self-esteem and identity. The doctor thought I should talk to someone – if I wanted to – and so I did.
The seconds ticked away as I sat, now listening to music from my phone to keep my mind busy. It was odd how nervous I was, despite it being the last short session I had with the therapist.
The door finally opened. The client before me walked out, and it was time for me to walk in.
My nerves slowly shook out as I sat on the blue couch at the end of the room, placing a pillow on my lap as she sat with the coffee table between us. We spoke about how this would be my last time seeing her, and she praised me on how much progress I’d made, hoping what I’d learned in that room could be of some use later on. We made mostly small talk in this session. She explained she can’t put any more extra sessions in unless I wasn’t feeling mentally well. She said we could talk a year or two later if I thought I needed a check-up. I told her I might take her up on that, but I agreed I wouldn’t be needing any more immediate sessions.
After a shake goodbye and a thank you, I left with a new pounce of freedom and relief.
It wasn’t long until I had another appointment elsewhere — the dentist to extract my wisdom teeth.
I remember being checked in and then being placed into this small cubicle, sitting in a dentist chair, awaiting the doctor.
“How are you?” I heard a female voice ask before seeing a nurse making preparations for the extraction.
“Good, how are you?” I answered almost robotically, waiting for her to reply “good” or “great.” But, she didn’t reply with either.
“I’m doing magnificent!” she answered. “I’m complete and whole. Don’t you think that every day we wake up? It’s just magnificent.”
Something in her tone caught me off guard but made me smile nonetheless. I nodded in agreement.
“How was your day, sweetie?”
“Great. I… well… it was actually my last day of therapy.”
I answered honestly.
I didn’t know why I told her that. I had no idea if it was because she asked and I just wanted to say it out loud to someone or if it was because of the light she carried inside her just made me blurt it out.
“Of therapy? For what? Did you have a broken bone?”
I grabbed at the sleeve of my cardigan as I shook my head.
She stayed quiet for a moment before asking, “Mental…?”
It was almost weird to see how someone so bright and bubbly changed her whole demeanor. It wasn’t uncomfortable. In fact, it was more comforting. There was this certain thing in her eye, if that makes any sense. Perhaps “understanding” would be the word for it.
After a momentary silence, she grabbed my hand, looked me straight in the eye and told me words I still remember to this day — words that still make me tear up.
“Listen to me: You are so beautiful. I’m so happy for you. Starting right now, at this moment, you’re a new person. It doesn’t matter what had happened in the past. It doesn’t matter. You’re here, you’re living and breathing. Starting today, tomorrow and the day after, you’re going to be a new woman, shedding all of that away. All the things that people have said and done, all of those bad thoughts, whatever happened, you’re here. You’re safe. Look at us, baby girl. I’m working here because I’m starting fresh. We’re going to go through this together. You and me. We’re both starting fresh, new lives after this. You see, people like us need to stick together and support each other, OK? God created you, and you’re such a beautiful gift in this world, you hear me? You’re amazing and you’re loved. You’re strong. Please stay strong…”
She rambled on as I cried. I think we forgot where we were until a doctor interrupted, asking if everything was all right. We both broke out a laugh as she got me tissues and told him everything was fine, we were just having a moment. I respected her even more for keeping “just a moment” between us.
I have never seen that nurse again, and I never got the chance to thank her properly for that speech because it meant so much to me.
It reminded me in this world, we meet certain strangers who come and go, but we remember them for the most simple things that mean a lot to us in the long run – probably more than they even know. It also reminds me no one is going through this journey alone, no matter the battlefield.
There is someone out there going through this with you.
The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us about a stranger’s comment about your (or a loved one’s) disability, disease or mental illness that has stuck with you for one reason or another. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.