Two years ago today my life changed forever.
I remember sitting in my therapist’s office on July 8, 2015, shaking, anxious to meet her. I was wearing white shorts and a black shirt with sparkle detailing around the top. I had spent extra time on my hair and makeup that morning. I needed to look normal. She can’t know I’m crazy.
She stepped out of her office and into the waiting room to greet me. I walked in and sat down on the couch. Everything was very “normal.” She wanted to know why I decided to start seeing a therapist again. I talked about how I was having urges to cut again, but I failed to mention that I was actually still cutting myself on a regular basis. We talked about my marriage and how horrible it was. We talked about my struggle with addiction and my almost 3 years of AA sobriety. We talked about the stress of basically being a single mom. And we talked about my sister being sick. Basic new patient history kinda stuff. Totally normal.
And then, with 10 minutes left in the appointment, she asked me if I had a history of trauma or abuse. Why would she fucking ask that, I thought. Just the question made me dissociate. I could hear her talking about self injury and abuse, but it was so muffled, I couldn’t comprehend her. I realized I was nodding my head yes, indicating that I had “stuff.”
That was it. The session ended with my therapist saying that it seemed like I had a lot of really good skills and would just need therapy to help me maintain them. She used the term “maintenance plan.” I remember thinking, “I don’t need a maintenance plan, I need some fucking help.”
I left feeling agitated. I felt like her questions were too intrusive for a first session. I didn’t trust her. I cut myself later that week when I became overwhelmed with trauma memories, no doubt stemming from her “intrusive question.”
I was in so much denial then about how much my traumatic past impacted me. I expected my therapist to agree with the borderline personality label that I had been given. Never once did I think I had Complex PTSD or developmental trauma…. or even anxiety or attachment problems. I had been in therapy for 14 years by this point and had yet to really discuss any of my childhood. And I didn’t plan to start doing it now.
Those first few sessions with my therapist were rough. I found myself hating her. I hated her optimistic outlook on life, her stories about her husband, and her inscessant talking. I hated how she tried to get to know me better and how she tried to act like she could relate to me…. as if your life could even come close to what I deal with. I wanted to quit seeing her, and at one point, I almost did. And then something happened…
I emailed her a few weeks into our sessions. My sister had been accepted to college for nursing school and was about to move in. However, she got really sick again and she wasn’t able to go. I watched as yet another dream was ripped away from my sister due to her health problems. I emailed my therapist. I had wrist banged for an hour. My wrist was bruised and I wanted to cut so bad. I needed to be numb. When I emailed my therapist, I had assumed she would tell me I was too difficult for her to continue seeing. I expected her to refer me to someone else or send me somewhere to get medicated. That didn’t happen though. Her response was filled with so much care and compassion; so much understanding. In that moment, tears running down my cheeks as I read her email, I knew that she was capable of helping me.
The following weeks were spent discussing Brené Brown, shame, and vulnerability. It would be September before I really told her about any of my trauma memories. I relied on her so much during that time. I needed her to keep me from hurting myself as I sorted through an array of overwhelming memories, emotions, and urges. Those first six months were, hands-down, some of the most difficult times of my adult life. But I didn’t have to do it alone, because my shrink was always there for me.
Two years later, I firmly believe that the universe gave me this therapist for a reason. I would not be where I am today without her. Because of her and our work together, I have yoga. And because of yoga, I have so many other amazing things.
I am a totally different person than I was two years ago. For the first time ever, in my entire life, I believe that I can keep myself safe if I want to. I have a little bit of freedom from the grips of Complex PTSD and self-injury. I belong to an organization of amazing yoga teacher trainees. I have some community, something I haven’t had as an adult. I have worked through countless traumatic events, being vulnerable and sharing secrets that I thought were too terrible to ever speak. And through this process, I have discovered that I have value. My life is not meaningless. I deserve to be treated with care and compassion; I deserve to be treated with love and respect. In so many ways, I have healed from the deep wounds that were created in my childhood.
There has been some recent discussion about whether or not I still need to see my therapist. I get incredibly emotional when this comes up. I know that I don’t need her like I did when I first started seeing her. However, my entire life, the person that I am, is different because of her presence in my life and the work that I have done with her. It is important that she remains a part of my life right now.
The amount of gratitude I have for this journey, for where I am, for the hard work my therapist has done for me… it’s endless. 2 years ago, when I walked into her office, I never thought I would be where I am today. I never intended to do trauma work. I never imagined I would go almost 600 days without cutting! I am proud of who I am and where I am.