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To the Therapist Who Started My Journey Toward a Life Worth Living

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Four years ago, my life was in shambles. A miscarriage early in the year led to a downward spiral in my mental health. By September of that year, I was drowning in my own pain and had all but given up on recovering from the heartache of my loss. Instead of completely giving up, though, I timidly walked through the doors of my local psychiatric hospital to learn about the hospital’s intensive outpatient program (IOP).

I trembled as I shared my entire psychiatric history with the intake social worker, tears streaming down my face as my heart pounded. My story made it clear I wasn’t safe, intense intervention was required, and it needed to start immediately. Upon the intake coordinator’s advice, I started IOP that very night.

I’ll never forget the moment I first met the therapist who led the evening IOP group. She seemed genuine and warm as she greeted me, and she made sure I felt welcome in the group. Although I felt terrified, hopeless, and alone, I knew that I’d found a place where I felt accepted and could finally start to heal.

A miraculous transformation occurred in the nearly four months I devoted to sitting in the group room under this therapist’s supervision. Through shattering pots and journaling, I tore down the walls that had imprisoned me for over a decade. I released my disquietude and entrusted my heart to the group, to the process, and, most importantly, to the incredible leading therapist. It was through my time with her I found my voice, embraced my internal courage, and proclaimed the truth about everything.

As the weeks went on, I adopted many of the IOP therapist’s phrases into my daily vernacular, like, “Don’t should on yourself.” And, “Recovery isn’t a straight line.” I started making recovery-oriented decisions, researching my diagnoses, and engaging in self-care.

Before this experience, I struggled with trust issues and an extreme fear of therapists. I avoided anything that made me remotely vulnerable, and I dreaded telling anyone about my childhood trauma and troubled past.

Even though I moved on from my local hospital’s intensive outpatient program in December 2017, I still credit much of my successes in mental health recovery to that incredible group therapist and the program as a whole. In fact, I still keep my certificate of completion and the photo the therapist and I took together on my last night of IOP in a highly visible area in my home to remind me of how far I’ve come.

Nearly four years have passed since I “graduated” from my local psychiatric hospital’s intensive outpatient program, yet I still reflect on the lessons I learned from that group therapist on a fairly regular basis. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the chance to thank that therapist for all that she did for me, but I can honestly say I’ll never forget the impact she had on my mental health and my outlook on life. I’m forever grateful for every single moment of my time in that IOP program and, more importantly, that therapist’s willingness to work with me and help me make my life worth living again.

Getty image by dragana991

Originally published: October 9, 2021
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