The past is like a yellow haze of things which are real, things which don’t seem real, and things which I simply don’t remember. I am doing the kind of reflecting that you only do about once or twice a year or less. It’s when you are at a relative’s home where nothing is planned on the agenda and you end up looking at photo albums which contain photos from the past.
How It Started
There aren’t a lot of photographs of me in my brother’s and his wife’s five-year anniversary album, but there are some. Just enough to make me think. If I look back at my brother’s and my parallel lives, given that we are aged two minutes apart, at the age of 17 our lives became not-so-parallel. We were both in school that first year of college, but our lives were completely different. One of the things which we did have in common, however, was that we both had ample unexpressed anger because of things which had happened during our childhood. At least, that’s my perspective. I turned my anger inward, and he expressed his version of the same emotion in an outward fashion.
My First Experience with Psychotherapy
That first year of college, at the age of 17, was my first experience with psychotherapy. Of course, I didn’t really know what it was at the time; all I knew is that it helped to talk with someone. Normally the university counselling office grants a maximum of six therapy sessions to a student. But for some reason, I was granted an exception and was allowed to continue therapy for all three school quarters.
There was a video camera set up high and a doctoral student was working with me. He was right – you quickly forget that the camera is there. I believe that we had a good connection and a healthy attachment relationship. I always looked forward to seeing him each week and on the day of our last session together, I cried.
After that year, I somehow managed to get through the rest of my time in college without a therapist. I graduated in 2005. Starting the following year after that, it took me going through seeing three therapists in two years before I found the one whom I was going to stay with indefinitely. I started seeing him in the Fall of 2008, and I have been with him ever since.
Why I Choose to Stay in Therapy
I find the presence of psychotherapy in my life to be infinitely valuable. I choose to stay in therapy because life inevitably presents certain challenges which, in my mind, are best understood with the help of my therapist. But it’s not the practice or theory of psychotherapy on its own which I find to be helpful. My attachment relationship with my therapist is one of the key healing and therapeutic factors in my time with him. It’s about how we connect and that I feel that he understands me. The nonjudgemental and empathic stance doesn’t hurt either.
My Fear of Abandonment is No Longer Necessary
One of my greatest fears has always been that my therapist would one day leave me. After almost ten years of providing weekly psychotherapy to me, he has proved that fear of mine to no longer be necessary. I used to record our sessions with the audio function on my phone so that I would have something tangible to hold onto for the fateful day on which he would inevitably leave me. Only, that day never came. Even during the five years during which I couldn’t pay him and my mental health was at its worst, he never left me. Not once. Ever. This has been one of the most meaningful saving graces of my life.
The relationship which I have developed with my therapist is the first and only secure and healthy attachment I have had with anyone since the death of my father when I was three and a half years old. In fact, my therapist could even be my father in a paternal and symbolic sense and I had often indulged in that fantasy of transference when I needed to.
The fact that I pay now in cash for my sessions with him, although on a sliding scale, is one of the most prideful things I have accomplished in my life. At the end of each session, I get to count out four twenty-dollar bills and hand them to him with a smile on my face while saying “thank you.” He always says “you’re welcome,” or a variation thereof, and never breaks eye contact with me during this special transaction.
Everything I Learn in Therapy is Always With Me
One of the things which I have slowly discovered is that even when he is not physically in my presence, he is still with me. Everything he has ever taught me is deeply ingrained in my being. Whenever I need to speak with him, all I have to do is pick up my phone, compose an email, and press the send button. Although he doesn’t respond to me, I know that he reads every single word that I write. I know this because he references material from my writings during our next session.
Sometimes I write to him long essays on my present state of mind. It really helps me and is an important part of our therapeutic process. Each therapist-patient relationship is different. There is never one relationship that is the same as another, and that’s why it’s best not to put on your ‘comparison hat.’ I just, I don’t know how in his busy life, he finds time to read everything that I write. But he does.
I have a lot to be grateful for, and that is a theme which will reappear in my writings again and again. One should be allowed to express themselves repeatedly until that sentiment no longer needs to be expressed. I am sure that gratitude towards my therapist is something which I will be expressing for many years to come. In every healing and helpful way in which he has touched my life, I am constantly paying it forward to the people whom I touch in my life. I am valued, my life is valuable, and now I know it to be true.