One of the most extended relationships in my post-divorce life has been with my therapist. We’ve been together nearly a decade. I have moved with him when he moved offices. I have sent my children to him so we can communicate better. I mean, after all, he knows me very well. He calls me his prize patient and often uses my life stories, anonymously, of course, like this post.
I chose him because I was tired of the echo chamber I heard with my previous female therapists. When I walked in, I was surprised at his youth, but quickly learned that he was brilliant. He had bookshelves filled with resources he regularly used during our sessions. He made copies of relevant charts and diagrams for me to review later. He encouraged me to take notes. I still use the same journal during our sessions. This journal chronicles my work with him, which has been deeply personal. Because I chose to be brutally honest in therapy, I decided to drop the mask and tell the truth, even to myself.
However, as he recently reminded me, it took over a year of nearly weekly sessions to open up. I often told him I had a difficult marriage. I spoke of a narcissistic ex-husband. However, when I detailed the abuse I endured in my marriage; being told what color underwear to wear, what to eat, being given a list of acceptable behaviors and consequences, being instructed on how to address him, etc. It was only then that he truly knew what it took for me to leave my marriage.
During our sessions, the floodgates of anger, sadness, and despair often opened up, but he was always there to keep me focused on healing. I always left with the feeling that I had done good work and that I was on the road to recovery. Little did I know that the most challenging mountain to conquer would be forgiving myself.
I remember when he asked me to write a letter to myself explaining why I made certain decisions. He also had me write letters to other people and destroy them. Well, the notes were kind of helpful, but there were still many layers to go through. He realized it was more complex for me. For a few years, we worked on self-forgiveness. I would make a little progress and retreat. He stayed with me. He would not let me stop doing the work. We laugh now, but he was with me during that wild phase after divorce where women are frowned upon for dating with abandon.
I had to forgive myself still. Self-forgiveness is HARD. I had to forgive myself for making the decision I knew was wrong as I did it–walking down the aisle. It was hard because I had to own the reasons WHY I proceeded down that aisle. I won’t explain why I betrayed myself, but I will say that was the best work I ever did with him. I grew so much when I forgave myself, and I opened myself up for love again simultaneously.
Ahh, love again. He walked me through that too. I was so afraid to love again. But he helped me see that I not only could love again, but I was also worthy of love again. You see, my ex told me that no one would ever want me, and he mentioned a sanitation worker wouldn’t want me, which to him was meant as an insult, and all I could think of was how kind sanitation workers are to me and how I would be happier with one than I was with him. So, you see, my ex was just not a good person.
My therapist has seen me through so much pain and happiness. When he told me he might reduce his hours, I became a little panicked because even though I have done a lot of good work, I still return for check-ins and for that ever-lingering self-love work that I continue to need guidance on.
My therapist has been the life preserver I needed as I entered the muddy post-divorce waters. He coached me through challenging co-parenting, step-parenting, and no-parenting moments. He has helped me navigate the confusing parenting maze that is mind-boggling. He has shown me that it takes work to be healthy. He also says that I can be healthy and happy- if I do the work. I am grateful to my therapist and for the guidance he has given me to help me be whole. Oh yeah, even if he reduces his hours, he has assured me he will always have an appointment for his “best patient.”