Four years ago, I’m pretty sure I would have balked at the idea of seeing a therapist regularly. I certainly would have balked at the idea of taking medication, and probably would have tried to get off of it as quickly as possible (maybe even against medical advice, which is how I took myself off anti-depressants when I was 19).
Four years ago my resume listed more law library experience than school or youth work.
Four years ago I had never lived alone.
I had never had a credit card, a car, or paid for utilities in my own name.
What a difference four years can make!
It’s actually just under four years, because I started seeing Jane* in July of 2009, and last week we ended therapy.
I wanted to write something about this, our ending, because it felt like an important milestone. We hugged, something we laughingly admitted we both do not like to do. She told me she was proud of me, and assured me she would not forget me. We marveled, again, at how no one really knew the extent of what was wrong in my mind until I voluntarily checked myself into an adult psychiatric unit, and what a model patient I had been. (“When I called the hospital,” she said, “it was like you were part of the team. Everyone loved you.”)
I started seeing Jane ostensibly to save the relationship I was in, but very quickly I admitted to her and to myself that I needed help extracting myself from it. I was miserable, and now I know my as-yet undiagnosed disorder must have played a part in that misery, but I was also grieving the loss of a relationship that I had once thought would define my adult self. We talked about my history of depression and anxiety, started talking about potential trauma reactions, went through a lot of kleenex, and then, well, the hospital.
I think therapy saved my life.
I said as much to the friend who recommended Jane: you saved my life. If I hadn’t already been in therapy, I wouldn’t have understood anything that was happening with my emotions. I wouldn’t have known that insomnia might be a symptom of something larger, more sinister. There’s a good chance I would have succumbed to my paranoia and wouldn’t have believed the people around me when they told me my behavior was odd, wouldn’t have trusted that they cared about me, wouldn’t have handed over my car keys and sat patiently at my assistant principal’s desk while my colleagues and my superiors figured out what to do with me.
And let me be clear: that was fucking humiliating. These are moments I choose not to ponder often because I am ashamed, even though I know they do not make me a bad person, a crazy person, a person who was less than the person I am today. I can remember the events of that day, that week, quite clearly, but without the amplified hum that was in my head. This section of my memory plays like someone else’s home movie.
Even if I had miraculously found myself in that unit–which, for me, was absolutely the right place to be, though I know that for many people hospitalization is far from pleasant or just–without Jane in my life, I don’t know how I would have found my footing in the outside world again without her. I probably would’ve gotten a referral to some random provider, someone who wouldn’t have had the benefit of over a year’s worth of conversations and tears and breakthroughs. I don’t know if I would have liked this person, or if I would have continued to see them once I was out of the hospital.
So this is a milestone. Therapy was part of my life for nearly four years, and now–for now, at least–it won’t be. But it saved my life, and I think that’s a milestone worth remembering.
*Not her real name.