To the Psychiatrist Who Gave Me More Than Medication
To my dearest psychiatrist,
Every week at the same time, when you open your office door, I shuffle inside, a bored expression on my face. On the outside, it may look like I couldn’t care less. On the inside, it’s a different story. In reality, I have to bite my lip hard to contain my excitement and keep myself from smiling too big.
The bored expression on my face may just be a half-hearted attempt to appear cool, casual and collected, to conceal the fact that I’m beyond excited for therapy. After all, aren’t I supposed to hate it?
The truth is, I’m embarrassed to admit I really do look forward to our weekly appointments.
When we first met, I was afraid, hopeless and an anxious mess. Nevertheless, you managed within a few sessions to create a safe space. It happened during our forth session. You leaned over and using the reassuring, gentle voice I’ve come to recognize so well, said, “You don’t have to put up a front for me. You can tell me if you’re not OK.”
At that moment, something inside me softened. You had struck the right chord and managed to build trust using two sentences. I used to hate therapy but after that, I didn’t want to leave the room. That day, you wore your indigo colored shirt. I remember spending a long time deciding what color your shirt was. From that day on, it became an item associated with care, comfort and safety, as silly as it sounds.
When I broke down and called everything unfair, you validated my feelings, agreed that having a chronic illness was a type of loss and reminded me that it was OK to grieve. But you also made sure I knew I was not helpless and taught me that it doesn’t matter what I feel or believe in. I can always choose which type to behavior to engage in.
I remember the concerned look on your face when I told you about the cuts on my arms and the fresh razor blades I carried around in my backpack. And how hard you tried to help me cope, genuinely believing in me and my ability to keep myself safe. For that, thank you.
You are never afraid to tell me the truth and do not hesitate to call me out on my bullshit. And even though at times I hate it, I’m secretly glad you do so.
You validate my emotions, support my dreams and help me face my fears. You challenge me out of my comfort zone and are a skillful listener. You are wise, compassionate and professional. I feel like I can tell you anything and everything.
You introduced me to Brené Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection,” the first of many great book recommendations. You advocated for my health and happiness and valued those aspects of myself I wanted to keep hidden from everyone else. You took the time, over the last year and half, to get to know me, the real me. For that, I am grateful.
You showed me I deserved help, and taught me how to strive for authenticity as well as cultivate vulnerability. We sat through a countless number of silences and I even learned to cherish the occasional awkward pauses. You helped me gain knowledge I will carry for the rest of my life, wherever I may go.
You taught me that we all have pain, but that there is no shame in asking for help. You taught me that although self-care is hard and change is hard work, I don’t have to be alone in my suffering.
Mostly, you taught me that I deserve happiness, that I am good enough and worthy. You taught me that we can internalize relationships and carry experiences with us, as well as memories. Perhaps I’ll even write you a book someday.
You encouraged me to be braver, bolder and better. You taught me that it was my job to keep myself safe. Checking myself in voluntary at the hospital required a leap of faith, but I believed you when you said everything was going to be OK. You are part of the reason I am here writing this today.
Dr. S, thank you for rooting for me and for being my number one cheerleader. Thank you for being loving and kind and for helping me believe in everyday miracles. You are irreplaceable. Thank you for helping me heal, listening to my story and never giving up on me. You have done more for me than I’ll ever deserve, and for that, I’ll forever be grateful.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.
Thinkstock photo via Roz Woodward