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Monday, November 12, 2012

"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage." ~Lao Tzu

About a month ago, when I was least expecting it and definitely not strong enough to receive it, Therapist sent me an email letting me know his job was changing. He was being transferred to a place where he would be working with a select group of clients and his supervisor expected him to transfer his current clients to whomever would replace him at his current job.

In 2006, when I first began seeing Therapist he worked as a satellite therapist. He traveled to various areas in our region to serve clients who didn't have access to mental health providers as they might in larger communities. A year later, Therapist was offered the opportunity to transfer to Utah for a more stable job--and he took it.

When Therapist told me of the upcoming transfer, he asked if I would like him to recommend me to a different therapist in the area or if I'd like to seek one out on my own. I thought for a moment, mentally reviewed the amount of progress I'd experienced in the last couple of years, and decided it was enough. Therapist had been incredibly helpful and the level of emotional healing he'd helped me achieve was enormous. I smiled, wished him well, and thanked him for his help.

Three weeks later I was in the mental health ward of the hospital on suicide watch. Apparently I was wrong. It wasn't enough.

I tried counseling with a couple of local therapists with fairly disastrous results. There are many reasons for this, but I finally decided I needed to track down Therapist and finish what we'd begun together. I knew it would be difficult to make the long trips, but I also believed the time and expense would be worth it. I contacted Therapist, told him I was coming to Utah and asked if he had time to see me. He said yes.

I think Therapist thought I was just checking in or visiting him socially. He seemed very surprised when I told him I wished to continue seeing him as a client. He mentioned the distance and cost of travel. I said I was prepared for that. So Therapist told me he'd love to continue our work.

That was many counseling sessions ago. I'm incredibly grateful for friends who have housed and fed me to help defray lodging costs. I've put more than 100,000 miles on my car and I don't even want to think about how much I've spent on fuel. In spite of that, I have no regrets. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

During those years I've threatened several times to fire Therapist. I've been incredibly angry with him. I've sometimes even made fun of him as I pretended to know what he might say to me, or predicted his response to the newest predicament of my life. There have even been times when I thought maybe he wasn't helpful anymore, or I no longer needed him. In the end, however, I've always been sane enough to recognize the help I was receiving from Therapist, I've been grateful for his willingness to let me call or email when life felt overwhelming or too stressful to manage, and I think I've always known that Therapist cares about me a great deal.

Knowing that your therapist cares about you--authentically, not just in a professional sense--is empowering. I've made harsh statements about Therapist, pretending that the only reason he cares is because I pay him to do so. I knew I was wrong. He's told me often how much he enjoys working with me, how glad he is to see me when I come, and he's even said that he feels happier after our sessions. That's a nice thing. I don't make my therapist crazy.

So when I began reading Therapist's email last month, my heart sank. I was worried. I didn't want to begin again with another therapist. I felt that I was so close to the "maintenance" part of my therapy, that to start over would set me back in many ways, and I did not have the emotional energy to work through that.

There was a part of the email, however, that I want to put here:
"... I don’t start there until January. There is a chance that I could, from time to time, continue to meet with you.  I don’t have an answer back on that, yet.  I’ve only asked for one exception and that’s you.  J  Do you feel special, yet? You should. After all, you ARE Samantha Stevens!"

Being Samantha Stevens really isn't anything remarkable, but I was grateful that:
1. Therapist had asked his superiors to approve his continuing to work with me
2. Therapist wasn't simply letting me know he was leaving and I was on my own
3. Therapist seemed to understand that this would be a big deal for me, and was willing to ask for an exception for the client who would travel more than 600 miles round trip just to see him.

I replied to Therapist's email, congratulating him on the promotion and letting him know I wished to continue as his client if the exception was granted. His response:

"Thanks, Sam.  I’m impressed with your ability to be flexible with all of life’s changes.  Hearing that your therapist is perhaps becoming unavailable is not one of the things you probably wanted to hear today.  I’m so sorry for the craziness.  I have an appointment this afternoon with my ‘current’ boss where I’ll ask her again what can be done.

"I believe in you, Samantha– you’re an amazing person.  I’m impressed with all that you’ve been able to accomplish.  I hope to continue being able to work as we’ve done to this point."

I spoke with Therapist a couple of weeks ago. He says the exception has not been approved, but his supervisor seemed in favor of it. His plan is to proceed as if he'll be continuing to see me, as needed. I suppose I'm thinking about this today because I'm realizing that Therapist did not have to make accommodations for me. He could have cut me loose, or referred me to his replacement. It feels nice to know that I'm important, in a way, and that Therapist understands how difficult such a change would be for me. And I'm glad he cares about me. A couple of years ago that would have felt strange; today it feels nice.

What this means to me is that I'm learning to accept that it's okay for people to care about me--and many people do--and some people might even love me as deeply as I love them. Someday I think I'll not only know how to accept this, but I'll do so without feeling stress or guilt.

However, I might need Therapist to help me get to that point. I think I won't fire him, after all. 

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