This is one of those “I’ll write this article and assume that I’m not the only one” sort of posts. I’m going to pretend that at least one other person out there is still hung up on an ex.
An ex-therapist, that is. Because I have to confess this: I miss my old therapist.
Veronica* was an extraordinary therapist. When I met her, I was seventeen years old and, let’s be real, I was the poster child for Mental Health Crisis™. She was compassionate, non-judgmental, sensitive, and perceptive in ways that I had not expected.
I spent three years (and a half, to be exact) in awe of her calm, even when I sat curled up on that couch, describing my depths of my suicidality or my utter despair for things ever improving. She created a safe space for me to explore the darkest parts of myself, with a passionate and relentless commitment to my well-being.
The cherry on top: Despite not being a gender specialist by any means, when I came out as transgender, she told me it was her responsibility to provide the best possible care. She educated herself, sought out resources and guidance, and did a damn good job at helping me embark on my transition.
By the time we parted ways, I had gone from being completely despondent to being the happiest and healthiest I had ever been. It’s no coincidence that some of my most important realizations and growing happened under her care.
So I’m not sure that anyone can blame me when, in the midst of a crisis, I find myself thinking, “Ugh, shit. What would Veronica say? What would Veronica do?”
Followed by an ever-so-small part of myself still grieving for this person who was so significant and yet, for professional reasons, is completely gone now from my life.
If this sounds anything like your own experience, I suspect we aren’t alone in this. When you spend a good amount of time with someone, divulging difficult experiences and intimate secrets, an attachment happens whether you mean it to or not.
I certainly never meant to get so attached that I would actually miss my old therapist. In fact, when I entered into therapy as a depressed teenager, I was convinced nothing could help me. Oh, how wrong I was.
I like to think that the occasional sadness I feel for not having Veronica as my therapist means that she did something incredibly right. It means that I felt supported and cared for, but not so much so that I couldn’t move forward without her.
In fact, the happiness that I have now is fostered, in part, by the many tools and skills that I learned during our time together. Whether or not I understood it when I first left, I was ready for this next chapter, and our sessions laid the groundwork for the life that I’m leading now.
Nonetheless, the sadness still comes around once in a while.
I count myself lucky to feel this kind of sadness. Lucky because it meant that I was one of the fortunate ones who could find a therapist that had such a profound impact on me. A therapist who could disarm me, who could provoke such unwavering optimism in me, and could create a safe space when it was difficult just to feel safe inside my own head.
Finding a therapist can sometimes feel like a cruel game show, auditioning total strangers with the hopes that you can trust them with the deepest and most important work you’ll ever do.
But if we’re lucky, really lucky, some of us are able to find the Veronicas of the world – the therapists whose empathy and validation convince us that there is, indeed, some good out there – and we trust them with this work, forging the kind of bond that’s needed so the real healing can begin.
I am the person I am today because there was a therapist who believed in me. I can honestly say that, even at my worst, there was never a moment when Veronica seemed to doubt my potential to do something meaningful, to do something important with my life.
She was the first to hear my authentic voice and to teach me of the power that my voice really had. In a way, the work that I do now was made possible by her conviction that my voice mattered.
If you haven’t found this therapist yet, fear not: They exist. They’re out there. Sometimes it requires jumping through obnoxious hoops and navigating a health care system that doesn’t look too fondly on us neuroatypical folks. Sometimes it requires paying out of pocket and dealing with an empty wallet at the end of the week. Sometimes it means getting yourself out of the house when you’d rather hide under the covers.
Whatever it takes, if you can, find the person who deserves your trust. Find the person who deserves your time. Find the therapist that is worthy of taking this journey with you.
And years down the line, when some smashing opportunity arises and you decide to move to California or something equally spontaneous, you’ll have that moment when everything goes awry and you start to think about them. You’ll start wishing they could offer just one more bit of advice or lend their ear, calmly reclining in their chair as you rant and rave about the way that things never go as planned.
Because, oh man, do they ever go as planned?
You’ll miss your old therapist and, like me, you’ll be glad that you do.
*Editor’s Note: Names have been changed to protect the identities of those mentioned.