I must be the slowest person ever when it comes to deciding to end a long therapeutic relationship. I have been contemplating the end of my time working with E for ages.
I mean, first I resisted for ages when she started suggesting we might be finished, that I had done my most important healing work. But slowly I started to feel the same way and still, I haven’t been able to let go.
And then, today, I did it–I set an end date. Are you amazed? Did you think it would never happen? Me too!
Maybe you are wondering how I got to this point, at long last. I think my dissatisfaction with last week’s session was a contributing factor, for sure. And I remembered that during the therapy break I set up myself, as an experiment, in April, I had generally felt well, balanced. I had not been consumed by missing E, even though I still thought of her.
I’m also affected, I think, by her decision to take an increased number of weeks off this year. I feel like my best work in therapy happens when I’m meeting regularly with the therapist and establish some kind of momentum. She’s pretty much planned to take a week off every month for the rest of the year, and then even more time next year, before she retires at the end of 2022. That’s fine, for her, but I don’t think it’s helpful for me, if I want to work on things. I am not even sure I DO want to work on more things in therapy, but IF I do, then I want some continuity.
But I think what really did it was taking a three-day weekend to go camping. We tried out Hipcamp, which is a little like AirBnB, but instead it’s a place where farmers or others with some acreage let you use some of their property to camp. We went to an organic farm a few hours away from us, nestled at the foot of the mountains. The farmer only rents to one group at a time, so we were the only ones there. This meant we could let our dogs live joyfully off leash all weekend, and we were never disturbed by noise from other campers. It was peaceful and quiet, except for the near-constant singing of the birds. During the day, some of the time I literally sat still and just watched butterflies. At night, I stared up at the stars.
It’s a lot of work to get organized to go camping, or at least it feels like it to me, so I don’t do it very often. But when I do, I love the way time just slows down. There’s no house to clean, no projects to finish, no to-do list. I can just settle into whatever place we’ve come to, breathe, walk, observe, and think. I’ve noticed this helps clarify my thoughts.
(Side note: I’m sure that restoring my Wellbutrin dose to the level it was at before I so clumsily reduced my meds also helped clarify my thinking.)
Anyway, when I was outdoors and tranquil and relaxed, I didn’t have to grapple with second thoughts. I could hear the calm voice of wisdom within me, and it told me what I knew but hadn’t always believed: I am ready to let go of this therapeutic relationship.
We got home late yesterday afternoon, and I gave myself another 24 hours, not to think about it, but just to see if any major objections emerged from some part. Maybe Anxiety would want to protest. Maybe the little girl parts would fuss and resist. But no; they remained quiet.
So this afternoon I sat down at my computer and drafted an email to E:
As you know, being out in nature and away from the pull of obligations at home offers the opportunity for deeper thinking about what we want in our lives. Our little camping trip this past weekend certainly provided that for me. I thought about waiting until I see you tomorrow to talk about it but decided instead to give you a heads-up.
I finally feel ready to let go of our regular therapy sessions. This is a little sad, but it’s also a really good thing and a sign that I’ve learned a lot and am doing well.
I’d like to try to make our final couple of sessions more celebration than sad goodbye, even though I know both elements will be present. For tomorrow, I would like to spend a little time continuing our conversation from last week about [a topic I might write about later]. Then I’d like to plan for a nice goodbye in August, after your next break. I’m not sure yet if the 4th or the 11th will be my final session, but I’m okay with giving up my Wednesday time slot for sure beginning August 18.
Anyway, I just wanted to send this email to give you time to process whatever feelings come up for you (Shock that it’s finally happening! Relief! Whatever!). And also I hope to nudge your creativity a little. It would be lovely to have some sort of wrap-up activity to do together. I have been mulling this over myself—maybe something about writing down on cards what I/we have learned from working together??
See you tomorrow. Warm hugs,
I read the draft, waited a bit, read it again. I realized that when I said I wanted to give her time to process whatever came up for her, I was kind of hoping there would be some sadness, but it felt presumptuous to say that, so I left it at “Whatever!” I do think she’ll feel some relief, after all the times I sulked and fought her if she even hinted that she thought I should go away.
Anyway, I waited a while more with the email, but no sign of frantic resistance emerged, so I went ahead and hit “send.” And right away, I felt oddly empowered.
E wrote back within 30 minutes:
I’m really pleased that this is coming from your end and not mine. I’m glad you feel ready to make this shift to more independence and self-support. I would agree that you are ready for this. And you know I will be here to offer support over the next year if needed.
I love your idea of a creative closure. Let’s talk about some options tomorrow. It will be such a bitter sweet ending and one worth marking and celebrating.
Thanks for the heads-up.
I’ve decided not to over-analyze every sentence to see if it “really” means that she’s glad to get rid of me, blah blah blah. I don’t need to feed those fears. For now, I’ll take her email at face value and just see how our session goes tomorrow.
I know it’s going to be complicated and sometimes confusing. I fully expect I will feel sad at times and that also, even though I initiated this ending, that I may feel rejected because E won’t seem to be grieving my departure. I am sure, however, that I can ride out those feelings, that I can tolerate them. I’ve survived worse.
So, okay, maybe it’s a little wishy-washy to “set a date” by saying either August 4 or August 11. But still, by the latest on August 11, I will be done with this very important chapter of my life. I wonder what will come next?
CREDIT: Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash