A Letter to My Therapist

Approaching our two year therapiversary

Dear Anna,

You are on holiday and I miss you… so I’m sending my words out through my fingertips to try to scratch the itch of longing.

Recently it feels like something magical has happened inside me. A quiet awakening of a hope that maybe change is possible. In the winter, when I drive to work in the morning, the sun rises as I make my journey. The sky is black and blue when I get into my car. As I drive it slowly turns indigo, violet, brighter blue… towards the end of the journey I see lilacs and pinks, sometimes bright orange and red. By the time I get out of my car, the sky is pale blue, feathered with wisps of cloud. The change happens so gradually that sometimes I catch myself thinking, ‘Is it really changing? Was it really that dark when I started?’ Because it doesn’t just happen like the flick of a switch, it’s hard to really notice the change. That’s what this therapy journey has felt like for me… every so often I get a sense that things seem brighter and more hopeful now, was it ever really as dark as I remember?

I have noticed an opening, where there was once a closed and bolted door. When I started working with you, no matter how much I wanted to be vulnerable and trusting, I just couldn’t do it. There was no immediate way that I could suddenly just tell this small child inside me to, ‘just play the game, she knows the rules, we’ll be okay!’ It didn’t feel okay and so she mainly observed from behind the protective barrier. And you were consistently patient with me. Constantly reassuring me that it was important to go slow, the pace of a child, there was no rush, these things take time.

Two summers ago I over zealously preened a hydrangea that I bought when we moved in here. It’s one of my favourite plants and I was heart broken when it didn’t flower at all last summer. I thought I’d permanently damaged it. I am an awful gardener. I appear to kill most green things I try to cultivate – both outside and inside plants don’t seem to want to live with me. My mother seems to be a very intuitive, skilled gardener who has built beautiful, healthy, thriving gardens from scratch… she can’t do it with people but she can do it with plants! I did not inherit her green fingers sadly. Happily it would seem I didn’t inherit her style of parenting either. The hydrangea is such a beautiful flower, the petals actually change colour depending on the quality and ph of the soil (or so I understand it) which I think is an amazing analogy for children and the environments they live in. What nourishes them at the roots can change who they become. Last year I re-potted the plant, fed it and left it be… a month ago I noticed a tiny lilac bud tentatively pushing out between the green leaves. This summer, it began to flower despite my unintended mistreatment of it. Another analogy for children and how they can grow and bloom, despite how they have been hurt. Healing can happen if we put the right care and attention into something. Plants (and people) are resilient. They want to live and be beautiful.

It reminds me of this quote – “And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”-Anais Nin. It perfectly describes how I feel about therapy. The pain of staying small and silent, coiled in on my own turmoil was so unbearable that I had no choice but to do something even more painful by stepping into the brutal vulnerability of speaking my truth to another human being and allowing you to see me… small parts of me, slowly.

This summer I have felt inside myself that you really care about me. I don’t know if I’ve ever really felt that before… to actually feel the care a person has for me. I feel it inside my body… not just words in my head but felt inside my chest. It’s developed so gradually that I almost didn’t notice the change. The fact that it feels easier to sit with you. That your gaze doesn’t make me want to combust. That your questions don’t feel like stabbing judgements. That the caring and affirming things you say to me no longer feel like generic therapy catchphrases.

You have talked about how we get the most out of our relationships when we take risks, take a leap of faith. That people may let us down but that those failings can be repaired with honest communication and a real desire to work towards repair. That if I ask for what I need, I’m more likely to get it than if I never let anyone in. But you didn’t just talk about it, you practiced it and you have repeatedly encouraged me to bring this to you. Consistently asking me what I need, asking if I’m getting what I need from you, making it clear that it’s safe to tell you how I really feel. Then when I did start telling you how I felt, terrified at first and now with increasing confidence, you responded with an openness to understand me, with grace and reflection on the part you played. You’ve modelled a desire to understand the other person and to self-reflect. You have shown me what it feels like to be in a relationship with someone who respects me, is interested in me, wants to understand me, doesn’t want to hurt me. You’ve not been afraid to challenge me, you’ve helped me question the old thought patterns that are perpetuating the hurt. I remember when I first read the info about you on the website and the line, ‘you will be listened to carefully’ really grated on me. I thought, ‘surely that’s the very least she could do!’ but now I have experienced this I understand that I’ve never truly felt listened to my whole life. I certainly wasn’t listened to as a child. Even with three years of therapy with Paul – he struggled to truly listen without letting his own stuff enter the room… I never experienced this level of listening before. Listening to understand and know and help, with no defensiveness and no desperate need to be right.

Recently you mentioned the ripple affect of therapy. How me doing the work I’m doing can have a positive impact on my relationships and other peoples lives. I see that happening all around me. the way I parent the kids, the way I teach, the way I relate to Adam and Daniel and other people and how I then see them relating to me and others… it’s quite amazing really. It makes me think of the first time I heard the song, ‘This Is Me,’ nearly two years ago. It was a demo video and I didn’t even know it was for a film. It shows Keala Settle singing to a panel including Hugh Jackman with all the backing singers around her, ‘…and I know that I deserve your love… there’s nothing I’m not worthy of… this is me!’. The song clearly meant a great deal to her personally and Jackman was moved to tears as he listened. It struck me how powerful the words were and you could see her slowly embracing herself and her own power as the song went on. Two years later you’d be hard pushed to find anyone who hasn’t heard the song and even harder pushed to find someone who didn’t feel like it spoke right to their hearts. The song becomes yours when you hear it and sing it. If someone had written that song and kept it hidden away, it could never have touched so many lives.

The changes that I’ve noticed happening inside me feel like massive mountains have been moving… shifting icebergs. And yet, just like icebergs, there is still so much more ahead of me than what I am seeing. I know this is just the beginning. It is obviously still so hard and painful… the biggest change so far is that I now feel like I can do this.

In one of our early sessions I was talking to you about a session I’d had with Paul. I explained how he told me he’d struggled to pull me out of quite a deep dissociation the previous week and he didn’t want me to upset myself like that again. I said to you, ‘so I never really went close to that pain again with him… I just knew that door was closesd… I mean, that defeats the purpose doesn’t it? I shouldn’t have had to hold myself back for him… isn’t that the point of therapy? To take you places you can’t go by yourself!?’ You nodded and said, ‘yes.’ Well, Anna… I’d like to say thank you for helping me find my way to where I am now. I could not have got here by myself.

With gratitude (and love),

Lucy

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