In two days–less than that, in 42 hours–I will have my last therapy session with E. I wonder how many I have had over the years? Hundreds. I tried to add up a rough estimate in my head and came up with something like seven hundred. I won’t even try to add up all the money I have spent.
I am not panicking. I am not crying. I am pensive, mostly. I have two things that are taking up most of the space in my head: 1) Is there something I’m leaving unfinished? and 2) What tiny bit of the relationship can I keep after the relationship ends.
The answer to the first question is, of course, yes. There are things that never felt entirely resolved. There are issues I still struggle with. Those don’t even bother me much. The hardest to let go of are the times when I feel E has not entirely understood me or my needs. Some part(s) of me still want to be seen, validated and loved by the one person in the world who has heard my darkest stories. They are frustrated because they think, oh, if we just try to explain one more time why such and such (for example: why touch would be so helpful, why an arm around my shoulder would be so valuable), then she will finally understand it and give me what I want.
My wisest adult self knows that. Some of my younger parts don’t, and they don’t want to give up. But I’m stopping anyway, because allowing them to chase after something they will never get is not healthy. Instead, I’m going to take on the responsibility of caring for them. I’m going to tell them that their longing for tender, loving, maternal touch is entirely valid. I will try to give them positive touch experiences (massage?), and if I find that this need still doesn’t recede, I can always go look for a therapist who will offer it. But I kind of doubt I’ll honestly need to do that. I kind of expect that once I am away from E, that longing will die down. I think it’s very specific to the way she knows me, and the way I have allowed myself to be deeply vulnerable in her presence.
Anyway, even if I did have everything neatly wrapped up with a bow on top, well, that could easily change in a year, or in a month, or in a few days. Life will go on, and it will keep throwing challenges at me. I don’t have to have everything figured out to stop seeing E. I just have to have the confidence that I have the skills to cope and that I value myself enough to keep on using those skills.
The second question, about connection after therapy is over, that’s something she and I talked about a little bit when I first told her that I was ready to end therapy. I said that I’d miss being able to communicate with her, not just about big things, but about little things. I’d miss being able to let her know about a book or share a poem with her.
“You can still do that,” she said. “It’s not like you are not allowed to ever communicate with me again.”
Really? That was a surprise to me.
“You mean I could still text you or email once in a while? Send you a meme or something? Tell you if something big happened?”
“Like if Alejandro [my younger son] and his girlfriend get engaged?” she laughed. We had just talked about how much I hope they get married and start a family.
“Yes, like that. Or maybe I could send you an update once a year, like at the holidays?”
She nodded, “That would be great. I’d like to know how you are doing.”
“If something seemed too much like I was asking you to help me work through an issue, you could ask me if I want to set up an appointment, well, at least until you retire.”
“I can do that, she said. “What I can’t do, much as I like you, is start a friendship with you. That wouldn’t be ethical.”
“I know,” I said, and I did. I hadn’t even thought there was room for any sort of relationship post-therapy.
So this week I have been thinking about this, and I find it a little confusing. E is usually strict about boundaries but these feel a bit hazy to me. And having her tell me she didn’t want me texting her so much was crushing, so I really don’t want to ever repeat that experience.
I decided that I’m going to bring a little questionnaire with me to our final session and see if we can work out some defined boundaries. I might add to it, but here’s the first draft:
I’m also going to bake some brownies and bring them to our last session. We had sort of a running joke (kind of a joke, kind of true) between us. When I was really struggling, she would ask, “How can I help?” And I would say, “Come over, bring some brownies. Watch Netflix with me and brush my hair.” She would always laugh. (Did she know how much I really, really would have loved that?)
She asked a few weeks ago how we could mark my last day. I wanted to tell her to bake me some brownies, but that felt incredibly presumptuous. So I said I would bake some and bring them to our session.
Once again, I find that if your child parts really yearn for something, sometimes you have to provide it yourself.
CREDIT: Photo by Arantxa Aniorte on Unsplash