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How One Therapist Changed My Life Completely

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My therapist, Dr. Mary Ann Goodwyn, is my hero. She’s the kindest, most thoughtful, loving and genuine person I’ve ever met.

Or she was. Until cancer took her from us.

Let’s back up. My first memory of Dr. Goodwyn was when I was in fourth grade. That year, I punched a bully in the face, in what was, looking back, probably my first panic attack. My school told my parents I could either go to anger management classes or I would be expelled. My parents opted for the first option.

Dr. Goodwyn was a family friend. She was the same age as my dad and they had known each other for quite a while. So I started seeing her every week. Fast forward a few months and I had learned how to control my emotions better. It was good enough for the school. No more punching bullies, got it.

Over the next few years, I would run into Dr. Goodwyn a few times a year. Most of the time, I would either see her at the bank or at an art show. She was a huge fan of the arts, namely pottery and abstract paintings. When we saw each other, she would always ask me how I had been. Not the kind of in passing “How are you?,” but a genuine question. We would talk briefly and she would remind me it was OK to need to see a therapist, if I needed to.

My freshman year of high school was the first time I admitted to needing help. The depression had finally set in after years of bullying. I was self-harming and experiencing suicidal thoughts and actions. I needed help. So who did we turn to? Dr. Goodwyn.

I started seeing her twice a week, for six months. It was a trying time for my family. We all had sessions with her. My parents were learning how to love me despite my mental illness. It’s not always easy to love someone who has depression — though they do a great job and always have. Dr. Goodwyn fixed our home life. She saved my life. I wouldn’t be here typing this out if it weren’t for her hard work, love, kindness, thoughtfulness and servitude.

A year later or so I went through another episode and started seeing her again. After about three months, I was well into my recovery and was doing better. Life was going well.

The last time I saw Dr. Goodwyn was on Christmas Eve. My family and I went by her house to visit her after an evening church service. This was the night I found out the truth about her. She had a brain tumor and she’d had it for a while. She, in the months leading up to this encounter, had not only gotten worse, but had stopped going to chemotherapy. Our encounter that night was brief. Her brother was there with her, taking care of her. She was feeling very sick that night, but she fought through it to see us. One last time.

About a two and a half weeks later, she passed away. There was a celebration of life service. My parents went, but I was too distraught. They said it was beautiful and it showed how many lives she touched.

It’s taken me five years to really process what her life meant to me. Mary Ann was a truly incredible person. She was kind, thoughtful, brilliant, loving and cared for not only her patients, but for our community. She touched more lives than I think she even knew. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about her and her work. Her work is summarized well in an article in a psych journal, but let me tell you how she has impacted my life.

She fought for my life while actually fighting a losing battle for her own. She did everything she could to keep me afloat while she was in extreme pain. She showed me how important it is to reach out for help. She taught me the value of genuinely caring for others and especially for a community. She showed me what it meant to be kind, how to be thoughtful in words and actions and how to touch lives. She taught me what it means to work in the mental health realm.

I wish I didn’t have a mental illness. But I’m forever thankful for Dr. Mary Ann Goodwyn. Be like Mary Ann. Strive for kindness, love, thoughtfulness and to reach your community. That’s what I strive for.

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Photo via Louisiana Psychology Times. 

Originally published: March 17, 2017
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