Ended, Not Abandoned

Three years ago, I felt abandoned by my therapist L. I remember curling up into a ball on his couch, a few months before I graduated from undergrad. I muttered something about wondering if he would miss me when I graduated. I felt a tight ball of shame in my stomach, like my desire for him to miss me marked me as too needy, or disgusting.

“Of course I’ll miss you,” he said. “I’ll miss you a lot.”

I struggled to believe L: to believe that he liked me, that he cared about me, that he wasn’t abandoning me. Looking back, my feelings of abandonment make little sense. In a few months, I would graduate and move to the D.C. area to start my PhD in Psychology. L had said a few months earlier that I would abandon him before he abandoned me. My acceptance to a graduate program fulfilled that prophecy, and yet, I still felt that I was the one being left behind.

“I do like you a lot,” he said, while I remained curled up into a ball on his couch. “You make me think, which I like about you, and you make me uncomfortable, which I like about you, and you annoy me sometimes, which I still like about you.”

I remember smiling into my shirt sleeve when L said I annoyed him. I smile writing about it now, because oh boy, did I annoy the heck out of him. A lot of the time, I fought with him about whether he cared about me, in large part because of how my dad failed to care about me in the ways I wanted him to throughout my childhood. My father abandoned me to my mother’s abuse. I then saw that abandonment in L, like when he would say something that showed even the slightest lack of empathy, or how he sometimes came across as detached and distant, even when that was just his genuinely more reserved demeanor.

“It’s really sad, how you’re a wonderful person, and you’re good in all the ways that matter, and yet you’re still so disgusted with yourself,” L said. “I just imagine your mom calling you disgusting.”

After L said that, I remember uncurling myself and turning to face him. Unlike my father, L validated the anguish my mother put me through. L saw me, all of me, even the worst parts, and he never left. Of course I wanted him to miss me. I literally spent dozens and dozens of hours with him, unpacking my trauma for the first time, laughing about my very first crushes on boys, and watching Ariana Grande music videos.

While preparing myself to write this post, I thought a lot about L. When I rediscovered Kara’s iconic song “Mister” and jogged for two hours to it in the woods, I thought about how happy L would feel to see me thriving, taking care of my body, and eating a full meal after my run. When AWLOB’s Reddit post about his ex-boyfriends came to mind the other day, I laughed out loud, thinking about how funny and unsurprising L would find my crush on this super social justice-oriented, super emotionally messy Harvard boy. As I reflect on how healthy all my relationships are now, even the close friendships that ended last year, I’m grateful to L for giving me a space to practice more direct communication, to assert myself and what I want.

Three years later, I can now see with more clarity what I struggled to make sense of then: that L cared deeply about me. Though imperfect at times, his care was profound in my healing process from PTSD. And even though our therapy relationship ended, he had never, ever abandoned me.

chocolate muffin bites mitch

Speaking of meals, these mini chocolate muffin bites I ate the other day provided me with more satisfaction than 95% of the men in my life (the other 5% of course includes L, the men who comment on this blog, etc.) We stan socially distant in-apartment snacking.

Okay wow I literally shed a few tears after I wrote this post a few days ago, which hasn’t happened in a while. I felt inspired to write this after reading a book on providing interpersonal therapy and reflecting on my relationship with my own therapy clients. What are your feelings and reactions to this post? How have you navigated various endings in your life, either with therapists or other people? It was raining when I wrote this post and literally when I wrote the last paragraph the sun came out, ugh we stan nature supporting my healing process in the most on the nose way possible. Until next time.

9 Comments

Filed under Personal

9 responses to “Ended, Not Abandoned

  1. Thomas (Tom? Tommy? hmm…) This was so beautifully written and you honor him with this entry. I know you will be like him, if not better, as a therapist. One day, someone will write something amazing about you in his blog. He’ll probably include a line ” He’s the first therapist that understands me. I just can’t figure out his red hair though.”

    Thanks for sharing about your personal experience. I suspect both your parents have been traumatized by events in their past.

    Stay safe and hugs.

    • Awwww thanks so much for your compassionate comment Matt! I’m doing my best to excel as a therapist while recognizing I will always have more to learn. Yep, my parents are complex people and there’s a lot to uncover there, so I appreciate you hinting at that. Hope you’re doing as well as you can be right now.

  2. It is so hard ending a therapeutic relationship; fortunately, my main and good therapist is still around, and years after I finished sessions, I was able to go and see her for a top up when something was troubling me. I also run past her house a lot and always give her a wave. I did know she cared about me, which really helped. In fact she once asked if she could send me a Christmas card (after the therapeutic relationship had ended) and I said no because I didn’t feel it was appropriate somehow, but it was good to know she cared. Thank you for sharing your feelings on this, and I know it will make you more empathetic and decent in your work, remembering how this felt for you.

    • I’m so glad you were able to feel that your therapist cared about you during your relationship and that you were still able to see her when things came up later! It’s nice that you felt comfortable negotiating boundaries and doing what felt best for you. Thank you for your vulnerability and for your validation of my experience. (:

  3. I love that part at the end where you talked about the sun coming out to support you. We stan someone that can look back on something and realize their growth!!

    As far as relationships with therapists go, I’ve always had a hard time fully opening up to mine, and it really impresses me that you were able to be to vulnerable with yours! I was talking about this today in my own therapy session where I was trying to explain to my current therapist that I had a little bit of a hard time opening up to older authority figures, or even just people that I see as more “adult” than me; I feel a very intense need to undermine my needs and to present myself as “okay”, as a “good person”, as not being too “troublesome”. The longest therapy relationships I’ve had have only been 2 years at most (one in college, who had a very loving therapy dog, and one after while I lived in PA), and then I feel a lot of anxiety about starting anew with someone else. But what’s interesting to me is that I’ve never really thought about my therapists as liking me/disliking me as a person… I kind of assume I’m a client, and if possible they can help me but I should try to stay out of their way as best I can. This is probably something for me to self-analyze a bit…

    Grateful that this world is one that gets you as a therapist for others. Your own journey and self-awareness will undoubtedly affect how you deal professionally with others, and the world is so lucky.

    • Also wanted to make a side note: while Mister has always been on my kpop faves list, KARA came up since it’s their 13th birthday this week, and I totally forgot how STEP and Lupin are straight BOPS. Thought you would understand.

      • Thank you for vulnerably opening up about your own dynamics with your therapist! Yeah, I’ve always been a pretty open book (lol as evidenced by this literal like, decade old blog where I reveal all of my personal life on the internet) though it was difficult to trust L, so there is perhaps some similarity in our experience though of course there are differences. I think the idea of getting out of your therapist’s way is something definitely to think about, like, do you view yourself as an active agent in your therapy? And in general are you able to trust that your therapist can help you help yourself without hurting you (or at least processing and naming if they do hurt you)? So many rich questions. And thank you, I stan you and am grateful for our e-bond! Yes, I just checked out your Kara post and I do like Step and Lupin too. (:

  4. X

    Oh man… I miss my therapist too. I can see how special L is to you. When you had someone like that to help you, to be there for you … it is beautiful. I do believe your therapist will miss you and think of you. Though this is not like a regular relationship, but like friends would think of each other even though they haven’t been talking, they will think of us as well.
    I used to feel so sad that I can’t continue to see my therapist. I mourned and I imagined If we were friends from college, if we were friends in real life… haha. I’m now so satisfied and grateful that I went to see her as a patient. I wish her all the best every time I think of her.
    I still imagine sometimes, that I sit on her couch, facing her, telling her all the things I hate and like…. It’s unique; it’s not like any other relationships in my life. I hope I could find her or another good one again at some point in my life.
    I didn’t know that you curled up into a ball on your therapist couch. I didn’t do that! Now I feel like I missed out. Hahaha… sending you hugs.
    Xin

    • Thanks for your solidarity in mourning, Xin! I appreciate you naming your own sadness in your process as well as how now you’re at the part where you are satisfied and grateful that you went to see her as a patient – I feel the same way about L too. The therapy relationship is unique and often beautiful when it works out well. My current therapist is great though the dynamic isn’t the same as my one with L, which is totally fine and makes sense given they’re different people. Haha, the curling up was often me in a lot of psychological pain so I don’t think you missed out on much. (: Grateful for the hugs and sending them back to you too!

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