I recently came to the end of a therapeutic relationship that spanned just over six years. I can quite honestly put my hand on my heart and say that that relationship has changed my life more than I ever thought was possible.
When I first met Therapist (as she is known on my blog), I was severely depressed, anxious, and totally isolated. I had moved to the town I still live in just a few years previously, and had found it incredibly hard to settle in and make friends. Despite being married and having a gorgeous baby boy, I was heart breakingly lonely and pretty much at the end of my rope.
The funny thing is, I had tried therapy before, on three separate occasions. I had had a series of sessions with three therapists, none of whom I particularly clicked with, and all of whom left me feeling worse than when I started. So when I met this woman, I was incredibly cynical and resistant to the whole process. This time was different though. I don't know why, or what that difference was, but for the first time I felt that someone really got me. I felt safe with her.
As the years progressed, and we dealt with episode after episode of progressively worsening depression, it became apparent that there was something bigger going on. I was referred to psychiatric services in Galway, and back in 2013 spent five weeks as an inpatient during what was my worst episode to date. There was a lot of trial and error with medication, and various diagnoses were discussed. Eventually there was agreement - borderline personality disorder. This has led to a whole world of complications, the majority of which I'm still working to get my head around. While I've now finished with Therapist, I'm still engaged with psychiatric services, and am waiting to start a programme of dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT), which is the treatment of choice for borderline.
Throughout all of the upheaval and chaos of the last few years, all the failed efforts with medication, the many, many crises, Therapist has been my lifeline. She has never once judged me, or made me feel inadequate. She has listened, she has empathised, and most importantly, she has understood. Back when I first started seeing her, I honestly felt like I had no one else to talk to. I was so locked in to myself that I couldn't speak to my husband or family about how I was feeling because I didn't understand how I was feeling, and I had no friends that I trusted enough to talk to. She was there at a time that I felt truly alone, and she remained there, right up until last month, when it became apparent we had come as far as we could together.
I am a completely different person to the scared and lonely girl who walked into her office all those years ago. She helped me get to a place where I could go out and find the wonderful friends I now have in my life. She believed in me, so much so that I started to believe in myself. While I'm still very much prone to anxiety and depression, I have much more of a handle on it now, and know what I need to do to keep myself well. I'm also able to recognise (most of the time anyway), when I've gone beyond the point of managing the situation myself, and need extra help.
Just a few weeks ago, I had a particularly bad day. I was overwhelmed, had completely lost perspective, and left my house in an extremely bad state. A few years ago, I would have driven to the nearest quiet spot and had my meltdown in private, or else called Therapist in desperation. On that particular day though, I went to see a friend. She made me tea, plied me with chocolate, hugged me, listened, and eventually made me laugh. She didn't change the situation, she couldn't, but just the simple fact of her presence was enough.
Much and all as I didn't want to finish the relationship with Therapist, I don't need her anymore, not the way I used to. She has helped me move into a place where I can help myself. I remember once, years ago, she told me that her job was to make herself redundant. At the time I couldn't imagine a future without her, and even now, that thought will scare me when things get tough. But if nothing else, she taught me that I can cope, and I do cope, no matter how tough things get.
Therapy can be challenging, frustrating, terrifying and heartbreaking, occasionally all at the same time. But there is no doubt in my mind that without it, without the connection I made with Therapist and the support she so willingly gave, I wouldn't be here today. I may not need her anymore, but I will always remember and be grateful to her.
This post first appeared here.