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.
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.