It’s Weird!

I waited over a month to email the news to my two past long-term therapists. When I said bye to C in June 2022, I had already planned when I’d reach out to both her and L again. It’s perfectly reasonable to email your two therapists who saw you for multiple years when you get your tenure-track job, I thought to myself. It’s just a casual update so they know how you’re doing and so they can hear the good news.

I reached out to C and L with the update in February, a month after I secured my academic and clinical positions. Maybe my subconscious had tried to shield me, because when I sent the emails, a small wave of grief hit: when am I going to have a chance to write to these people again? When I said bye to them before, I felt comforted by the thought of sending an update once I got my ideal tenure-track job. Now that I’ve achieved that, what else would I have to share about in the future?

When I take a step back, I can acknowledge that separating from a therapist may feel weird. I spilled my whole heart to these people for years, for an hour a week or more, and then when therapy was over I just stopped talking with them, even though they’re alive and well. I get the rationale from a clinical sense; this separation helps prevent dependency and can bolster my ability to function on my own. Still, it feels helpful to validate the oddity of how these relationships work, instead of judging myself for it. I still remember laughing with L about my obsessive internet searches on the guys I went on dates with back in undergrad and us celebrating in session my acceptance to my PhD program. I remember sending C Twice’s “I Can’t Stop Me” a few hours before a therapy session during my residency interview period and us talking in-depth about how the song applies to my life and personality. It makes sense for me to miss these people, even though I am doing quite well now.

They also served as parental figures, or at least healthy older adult figures. While my own father has expressed his support and happiness for me over recent years, because of generational and cultural differences, I’ve felt more emotionally connected with L and C. L in particular served as the father figure I yearned for as a child. I know L and C would both be happy to hear from me if I emailed them about whatever random update in the future. At the same time, it feels important to let myself honor my sadness of missing L and C, even when I have forged many wonderful and deeply-loving alternatives.

One of my undergrad mentors, a parent of two and grandmother of two, once told me that one goal of parenting is to raise a child who can operate on their own, without a parent in the picture. I find this true of therapy too. Just the other day, I paused texting this white gay who had expressed romantic interest in me. That night, I had a rough nightmare, and while working on a research task the following morning, I noticed myself feeling some kind of vague negative emotion. Instead of repressing the emotion, I practiced mindful awareness and tuned into the emotion. I sat with it. I literally sat at my desk and alternated between staring at the wall and gently closing my eyes while breathing deeply and thinking and feeling through the negative emotion present in my mind and body.

Feelings of disappointment and annoyance soon bubbled up. Ah, I thought to myself with relief, now I understand what’s going on. I felt disappointed about this man not meeting my standard for a romantic partner or closer friend, and I felt annoyed about the lack of radical, emotionally attuned queer men of color within my vicinity. After acknowledging these emotions, I listened to some empowering pop music and went about my day unbothered.

This period of my life, from June 2022 to now, has been the longest I have gone without individual therapy since I started seeing L in 2015. At times, I miss it, both the dedicated space for my healing as well as the simply human element of connecting with someone whose company I enjoy; there have been many instances where I wish I could tell L about some of the men I’ve met since I stopped seeing him in 2017, just to see his smirk. Though, I’m doing the best I ever have right now too. I can process and cope with life’s struggles on my own and with my friends and community.

When C replied to my email, she said that she missed my “unapologetic, feminist spirit.” Huh, I thought to myself, I suppose my spirit is unapologetic. And I do love living a great life with no male romantic partner. It felt nice, to receive a reminder of my strengths. I’m grateful to L and C for nourishing my spirit for many years, so that I can pay it forward through the clinical service I provide and through other avenues in my life.

How do you honor people, therapists or otherwise, who have significantly influenced your life and are no longer in your life in some capacity? What helps you cope with your emotions and go about your day to day? When will a non-boring man enter my life? General reactions to this post? Thank you to my regular commenters and readers for also providing a sense of community and care here, and until next post!



Filed under Personal

7 responses to “It’s Weird!

  1. Oops, I’m all behind again – I’ve been struggling with a horrible virus which left my eyes really sensitive to screen reading so I’ve slipped back. But I am here, promise!

    I know what you mean, in fact my old therapist wanted to be sort of friends with me after our therapy ended and I said no. Well, to keep in contact. She passed me some books for BookCrossing and I got a friend to collect them, but I have updated her when we got married and I know I can go and see her again for a session if I need to (after our unsuccessful fertility treatment I had one very useful session with her). In my case, I still live about a mile from her as she practised from her house and I quite frequently run past it and always giver her a wave!

    Well done for sitting with those emotions and working them out. Oh and can you send me some “You can get through this” vibes please as, much as I am an independent feminist and my friends matter SO much, my husband is going to the US with work for a week and a bit and I’m slightly panicking about being on my own / responsible for the cats and house for that time!

    • Oh no! I hope your eyes are feeling better; I had a stye in my eye a little while ago and it was the worst, I couldn’t play tennis for a few days -_-

      Thanks for your empathy and for understanding what I mean about the therapist situation. I appreciate you sharing your story because large geographical moves have always marked the end of my long-term therapeutic relationships; perhaps it would feel a bit different if not for that. Your story warms my heart and I love the continuity there and how you’ve enforced your own boundaries. I hope your time on your own/with friends went as well as possible!

      • I have got through it, thank you, and he’s in the UK now, just near London, coming back today (and my brilliant, steadfast friend Claire is driving me to the coach station to pick me up – we don’t usually bother to do that but he was travelling all day yesterday and got in to his hotel around midnight then three hours on a coach today!). Lots of my friends took me on trips or checked in on me, I’m very lucky!

  2. I read this last week but didn’t comment. I do this a lot on your blog, I’m not sure why. I think I need time to process your thoughts. Except for the redacted stuff of course….

    I like to tell stories about the people who played a big role in my life. It sort of keeps their spirit alive I guess. I also like to practice some of the things they have taught me – kindness, cooking a dish… stuff like that.

    Coping with emotions is not that easy. While I pick up a lot of good suggestions from you, when it comes time to practice it I don’t have them at my finger tips. I try to visualize the emotion, acknowledge it otherwise it will eat at me more and try not to over react to it. I find in the last year or two, I get triggered very easily when I read about attacks on Asians – especially elderly and vulnerable ones. I have calm myself down.

    You getting ready for your move yet? Take care.

    • I appreciate you taking all the time you need before commenting and for your thoughtful responses! The idea of telling stories about the people who played a big role in your life – I love that notion and that’s what I do consciously and subconsciously on this blog. Coping with emotions can indeed be challenging and thanks for sharing with honesty about how it can be a nuanced and at times difficult process. I still have a decent amount of time before my move so not prepping too much yet, but I will soon. (:

  3. Thomas <3. The sadness that comes up from not talking to someone who was really important to you (and who is still alive) I can acutely relate to! My childhood best friend (from age 7-17) occupies that space for me—there were no ill feelings, we drifted apart slowly and then all at once. He is now pretty impossible to get in contact with, and although it's nothing personal, I feel sad about it. It's not the same as a therapist, but your writing gave me some context on what I am feeling nonetheless. Thank you for sharing.

    • Awww thank you so much for this empathetic and compassionate response to this blog post. Appreciate you sharing about your friend and the distance that’s occurred and your sadness about it. What you describe definitely resonates with me – missing someone who’s still alive, when the relationship wasn’t romantic and didn’t end in a dramatic or bad way, is a unique experience in US culture so your comment brings me comfort. I hope your week is going well.

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