On Tuesday 19th May I wrote a text for Anna in my notes that I planned to send that evening during our missed session time. In it I explained, ‘…texting you twice a week feels like a lot but the reality is that I think about talking to you hundreds of times a day and limiting it to just two texts a week is actually really hard. I feel a lot of shame around this longing for you but in my defense, my therapy isn’t finished yet. I still need support…and I miss the sound of your voice and the way you make me feel.’ I never got to finish or send the text because I received a message from Anna at half ten in the morning asking if she could phone me. As soon as I read her text I knew in the pit of my stomach what she was going to say. I almost wanted to ignore the text just to delay the inevitable. I knew that the minute the call started it would be the beginning of the end. And as she was speaking, I didn’t know what to say to her. I could hear in her voice and in the words she was saying that it was breaking her heart just like it was breaking mine.
She sounded ill and tired and emotional. She said, ‘I’m calling you today, Lucy, because as you know I am in a very high risk category and I have to do what is right for my health. So, I’ve made the very difficult decision to stop practicing as a therapist and not work with clients anymore.’ I felt the panic rising and I sat silently listening with tears slowly streaming down my cheeks. I wanted to beg her to change her mind, it didn’t feel real. Doesn’t she know I can’t live without her. That I don’t know how to mother without her mothering me. That I have so many more things I needed to talk to her about and process with her. WITH HER. Instead I just made listening noises, saying, ‘okay…’ quietly… and listened some more.
Anna explained that with things the way they were she wasn’t able to meet clients and it wasn’t fair to keep things going. I wanted to tell her that I would wait as long as it took but something silenced me. I just listened to her. She told me that I am strong and she reminded me of the toolbox I have made, things like mindfulness, meditation, journaling, drawing and that I am now able to ask for help. She said, ‘I will hold you in mind Lucy. I will always remember you. Little things like how we both love talking in analogies, every time I explain something in an analogy it makes me think of you and I smile. And when you’re working with another therapist. If they don’t get the analogies – you’re creative, you’ll find another way to be seen and heard, you’ll find a way with another therapist. You have a voice now. When you started working with me you didn’t have a voice and now you do. I want you to use that voice. Use that voice to get what you need out of the sessions and out of your therapy.’ She said, ‘this is not how I wanted things to end Lucy and I’m so sorry you’re not getting the ending that you wanted. You didn’t get it with Paul and now you’re not getting it with me.’ I couldn’t really speak because I was crying. She said, ‘don’t let this be the end of your process, this is an ending with me but it’s not the end for you – take this to Linda. Don’t just draw a line or put a lid on the box of our work, be honest with how you feel about us ending like this and talk it through with Linda, all of your feelings, don’t just leave it here…’ I said, ‘I wouldn’t be able to do that anyway…’ and I started to cry heavily.
It started to sink in and I felt like the air had been pulled from my lungs. I said, ‘So this is the last time I’ll speak to you and I’m never going to see you again?’ She said, ‘Yes that’s right. I’m closing the practice and won’t be counselling anymore. You will notice my details come off the psychology sites, I’m not going to be working with any clients. I am not rejecting you Lucy, I wish it could be different but there is no other way. I am making a decision for the good of my health.’ She sort of hesitated and there was a break in us talking then she said, ‘Lucy, I never planned any of this. This has been the hardest decision to make and one that I have thought very carefully about, Lucy this is coming from the heart, I am so sorry we are having to end this way… Please know that this is not your fault.’ I told her that I could hear it was hard for her too.
She had this deep gravity in her voice as she said, ‘I want you to listen very carefully… I want you to know that you are not too much Lucy, you are NOT too much and you were never too much. And if you are ever working with a therapist and you start to feel like you’re too much I want you to know that THAT is the work. That’s where the work is. Tell them. Tell the therapist everything that you’re thinking and feeling. Because you are not and you will never be too much, Lucy.’ There was some silence and then she said, ‘You know, because our work is ending, unfortunately that means…’ I interrupted and said through tears, ‘I know. I can’t message you again. I know I can’t message you if you’re no longer my therapist.’ She made agreeing noises. I took a breath and said, ‘I’m going to have so many things I want to say to you… as soon as you go I’m going to think of them all… Anna, I want you to know… (crying) I want you to know that you changed my life Anna, working with you has changed me. I want you to know that… and I’m thankful. So thankful for all your patience and your care. And I’m so sorry that you’re ill and that this has happened and that you’ve had to make this decision. Shit this is so awful.’ I cried a little more here. She told me she was so grateful for my words and she knew how hard this is and that it was hard for her too.
Anna’s voice was cracking. She sounded ill and emotional. She said, ‘If you remember nothing else from this phone call Lucy, I want you to remember that this is not me rejecting you. I am doing this for my health, not because of you. I am so very proud of you Lucy. And I want your child to hear this, I am so so proud of her. She’s done so well through all of this. I’ve watched you grow so much in two and a half years. Working with you… it’s a two way thing, I learned a lot from working with you and I know you can only ever have 100% but you always gave 100 plus percent… you’ve amazed me… it’s been inspirational to watch, you gave your all, every session, week in week out and between sessions.’
She continued, ‘Remember Lucy, be patient. This deep work takes time. I know you want to rush through it sometimes but be patient. It’s like building a house. We built strong foundations together. That doesn’t just disappear, it’s there inside you forever now. And I am always with you. Everything I’ve said and the patience I was able to give you. It doesn’t go away. It’s always with you. And you are with me. I want you to know that you changed my life too Lucy. Working with you changed me. It has been a privilege to work with you and watch you grow. I care deeply about you Lucy and I will never forget you.’
We told each other to take care and that was it. Goodbye. Forever.
And as the call ended, my heart was ripped out. The waves of grief kept punching me in the gut and drowning me all at once. I was just thinking, ‘how do I even get off this bed and walk downstairs to my family… my beloved therapist who I adore and who has been more of a mother to me than my own ever was is now gone forever. The only woman I ever learned to trust… my worst nightmare has come true… I hope she knows that I love her.’