The Mighty Logo

This Is How I Feel About My Trauma Therapist Retiring

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

“I have something I need to tell you. I’m retiring.” 

Constantly, I ask my therapist to unknowingly play the numbers game with me. “How long until I feel like working again? When do you think I’ll be able to handle a large social group again? Am I on the right track or have I went backward and added more time onto this healing process?” 

• What is PTSD?

I never get a solid answer but I run the numbers in my head anyway: Twelve months since I fell apart. Ten months since I asked a pastor for help and seven months since he referred me to a therapist. Five months since the worst flashback. And then, I remember she once told me that rewiring the brain takes about 18 months when you’re healing from trauma. 

The calculations in my head are always going as I try to figure out a timeline. Last month, I set a private goal to soon be able to skip a week of therapy without going deeper into depression. I want to reach that goal but at the same time, I look forward to time with my therapist each week. Her words inspire me to be better and to tackle the hard things, which I’ve always hidden from before. After sessions with her, I usually feel more empowered and less like a victim. She has seen me at my darkest and has loved me when I hated myself. There’s a bond there that I can’t describe to most people unless they’ve sat on the couch and had a truly great therapist themselves. 

A while back on some forums, I was reading about people who moved past therapy because they were healed or doing so well that they no longer needed the level of care their therapist provided. My heart sank as I realized that one day, the client relationship with my therapist was going to end. I wouldn’t be privy to a friendship with her, even though she knows my darkest thoughts and feelings. Every bit of trust I had ever built with her would be put to bed, its purpose having reached an end. But I didn’t let myself dwell too long on that fact. I knew it would happen but I still had my countdown in my head. I was only seven months into seeing her — seven months, when a lot of research shows it’s going to be a minimum of 18 months when you’re dealing with trauma such as what I experienced.

There were numbers to back it up; I was fine. I knew I would finish my journey with her by my side. I wasn’t alone. I had someone to fight with me.

But then the words came from her mouth as we were closing out the session for the day: “I have something to tell you. I’m retiring. 

Betrayal. Anger. Hurt. Pain, so very deep pain. It all hit me like a sledgehammer. She was supposed to walk this journey with me. This therapist knows things that took me sessions to finally say aloud, some of it written down instead of being spoken because it’s too painful. 

“Bee, look at me. You’ll be OK. We’ll find you another therapist together.” 

Yet in that space, I didn’t feel OK. My safe world inside that office was falling apart. My emotions ran wild, not sure which way they should go or what they should do; they just did everything. 

I texted my husband that I was coming home and going straight to bed and to keep everyone away from me. My world fell apart. I tried to go to the store after lying in bed for a few hours but the world was too bright, so I went back home to my cave, my bedroom. Friends showed up with food. My kids tiptoed around. My husband looked lost. 

My heart continued to break as questions ran wild in my head. How long would it take me to trust someone else? Would I have to relive all that trauma again and walk through it again as I told someone else? What if the trust never came with someone else? What if the dark places came again and this time the darkness won? Every question took me to a darker place: I can’t relive that story again. I can’t tell it again. I was mad that I might be in the place where I would have to do that. I was furious I had trusted her and now she was leaving.

I was also scared and terrified. When you hand someone your life into their hands and ask them to help you with it, it’s worse than being stripped naked and put on display. There’s nothing more vulnerable than telling someone your darkest secrets and asking them to help you with them. They know what you do that hurts yourself but they know you do it because it’s safe to you. They know how you tick and where you fall short. Therapists know your very soul, and now I have to trust someone else with the worst times in my life and ask for their help.

But then there was something else, something that hurt worse than everything put together and pushed all anger and fear to the side: Grief. Days later and I realize I’m grieving.

Not only am I scared as now I have to try to build a new relationship with a new therapist, but I’m also grieving for the one I currently have. Six weeks. The timeline that always runs in my head is now cut down to six more weeks; that’s all we have. Now I find myself questioning how fast the trust will die off. In two weeks, will I find myself shutting down to protect myself? Maybe she’ll do the same to protect me. This relationship that has pulled me through times I didn’t think I would make it through is ending and to do it professionally and ethically, it’s over for good. My heart is breaking. My hardened-to-shield-me-from-trauma heart that I’ve protected for so many years by only letting it feel joy or happiness is breaking and the pain is excruciating. 

I don’t know what to do with the pain or how to process it. Grief is an emotion I wrote off years ago. And yet, I find myself going through it. One minute I’ll be fine and distracted and the next minute my heart will seize up and I’ll realize that in six weeks, I’ll lose a friend for good, someone who pulled me out of the darkness and never gave up hope for me.

Now, I’m realizing the last lesson she’ll leave with me will be about grief and losing those who have belly-crawled through the worst of it with you.

I don’t know what the next six weeks will look like. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to stay in a healthy mindset or not. But one thing I do know is that I’m not giving up. I didn’t work this hard and come this far to give up now. I’m not alone and I never will be. My friends and family have spent the past few days surrounding me. Grief happens. I’m going to get through it and I’ll be able to do it with a heart that feels again, even when the feeling is pain. In the fight to reclaim emotions and the ability to feel again, it’s a victory to feel pain out of love rather than trauma.

Photo by Yasin Hoşgör on Unsplash

Originally published: October 25, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home