I walked into a wall as I entered the office—that’s how nervous I was. I never thought I would see a therapist, especially since I attended a church that taught psychology was of the devil. But they’re against divorce too. I was choosing between a therapist and a divorce lawyer. I didn’t know that the man I was meeting that day would help change my life more than even a divorce lawyer could.
His voice was gentle over the phone and he spent over twenty minutes talking to me, answering my questions, and telling me things that made sense in a way I’d never heard before. I decided Joseph would be my therapist. And he was. For the next twenty years.
His office was small. It felt like a safe, cozy burrow away from the rest of the outside world and its crazy-making chaos. He had a fountain running and dried flower arrangements on the wall.
And a tissue box. UGH!! I didn’t want to cry. In movies, people walk into the office of a therapist they’ve never met and start sobbing almost before the introductions. Would that happen to me? I hoped not.
His voice and demeanor were kind and welcoming; he dissipated some of my nerves, but not all. He asked me many questions I didn’t know the answer to. Questions about things I’d never in my life thought about before. I considered myself a smart person, but it didn’t seem like it when we talked.
I was thirty-five-years old when I met Joseph, and meeting him was the first time I’d ever met anyone who understood me, wanted to know all about me, and validated my feelings instead of discounting them.
After eighteen months of therapy and still no tears, struggling to make progress, trying hard to think in a different way, and reading every book about therapy I could find, a remark Joseph made triggered a poem. I wasn’t a poet at that time, but I wrote a poem.
I brought it to him the following week and when I read it out loud, I couldn’t breathe. Something was closing up my throat. Something inside me didn’t want the poem’s truth spoken. After I struggled and straggled to the end, he suggested I read it to him again. I told him I didn’t want to. That suffocating feeling scared me. He said that was proof that I needed to read it again. So I did, gasping for breath the whole time. Joseph said later that reading my poem was the first time I’d shown any emotion with him. It took eighteen months. Poems started pouring out of me, sometimes six a day. I can’t vouch for their literary merit, but they did express my truth for the first time in my life.
That began many years of breakthroughs, realizations, and change. I left a twenty-two year long crazy, abusive marriage. I left what I’d realized was a cult that I’d belonged to for twenty-eight-years. My daughter and I moved in with my parents. I went to school, learned a profession, and started supporting myself. I bought a house. Joseph was with me through all the progress, the faltering, the mistakes, the tears, the failures, and the successes. Like all therapists, he says that I did the work, he didn’t. I still say that he was right in there working too.
By the time I was fifty-four and he was almost seventy, he told me he was retiring. After being there for me during my appointments and numerous phone calls for twenty years, I would lose him. Even after all the abuse and trauma I had experienced, this felt like the worst thing that had ever happened to me. We said goodbye on March 23, 2016.
My new therapist, Judy, says my sadness is normal. I’m glad. She says only people who’ve had a therapist could possibly understand my grief. And she’s right. My family and friends don’t seem to understand the depth of my grief, but they love me and offer support and caring. I’m so glad I have them.
My new therapist is helping me with the loss of my old therapist. I’m glad she’s with me.