Questions You Have When Your Therapist Quits
Recently, my therapist told me we had a limited number of sessions left because he is moving to another state and taking some time off from being a therapist. I was confused because, I guess I’d assumed that the therapist-patient relationship was an indefinite one, or at least one, that if it were to end, would end on my own terms — perhaps with me rushing out of my therapist’s office in to the sunshine with my arms wide open ready to embrace life and love and happiness without crippling anxiety and depression, maybe while “Beautiful Day” by U2 played in the background.
Unfortunately, like most of my relationships, this one with my therapist is ending abruptly and without me feeling ready for it. (Abandonment issues! Hooray!) Obviously, I hadn’t previously considered the possibility that my therapist was also a real person and might someday need to move on.
When my therapist told me he was quitting being a therapist, I had many questions. Here are some of the immediate ones:
“Wait, you’re quitting being a therapist? But…but you’re MY therapist! I thought this would go on forever and you’d be coaching me through my panic attacks as we grow old together! It was going to be romantic.”
“Are you even ALLOWED to do that?!”
“What about all your patients?! I mean, I know I’m self-obsessed, but this time, it’s not just me here.”
“You’re just going to abandon us all?”
“But you haven’t heard all my f-cked up stories! And what about the f-cked up stuff I haven’t even done yet? There will be so many of those! Don’t you want to stick around for that?”
“Is that it? You just drop off the face of the planet after everything you know about me and we live our separate lives never to speak again?”
“Can we keep in touch?”
“Is that weird?”
“Like, can we still talk? We used to talk so much and now there’s no protocol for saying ‘Goodbye.’”
“Would you want to be pen pals and maybe listen to my b-tching and moaning via letter?”
“Can we be friends now?”
“Are you going to write a book about me?”
“Seriously, why are you doing this?”
“Did you not hear me when I said ‘Everyone always leaves me in the end’?”
“You can’t just stop being a person’s therapist! Haven’t you seen The Sixth Sense? Won’t one of your disgruntled patients just show up at your house and shoot you?”
“I’m not going to shoot you, no! I’m just saying.”
“Am I supposed to find a new therapist now? I’m not going to liiiike anyone else!”
“What if I hate them? What if they don’t get me like you do? What if they’re mean?”
“What about all we had together?! All we shared? You’re just going to throw that away?”
“How is it so easy for you to walk away?!”
“Was I the last straw? Were my problems too intense?”
“…Or worse, were they too ordinary?”
“I can have weirder problems! Will you stay if I say that I think I go for men who are just like my father? Do you ever wonder if the Earth is just like, a reality TV show for aliens? Is that narcissism? One time, I ate toilet paper when I was a kid because I read a story about a goat that ate garbage and I wanted to see what it was like and oh, god. Okay, maybe I was like, actually a teenager in that story?”
“Don’t leave me. I’m not ready.”
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Try something today. Count how many times someone brings up some sort of mental illness in normal conversation. Add that number up and tell me it doesn’t strike you as kind of weird how many normal people walk around with the belief that there is something wrong with them.
She assumed it was jewelry. Every year he gets her a charm for her gold chain or a pair of dangly earrings.
Fall if you will, but rise you must.
You may lose what would have been the joy of the experience had you not been so focused on some fabricated idea or unrealistic expectation you had of how it was going to turn out.