Did not get the opportunity to write about monday’s session with Beatrice. We returned once more to the change in my willingness to do the tougher work. Honesty I never wanted to. just the thought of dealing with any hard stuff sent me running. For years I would brush right up against it and retreat. Over and over this played out. Not that I didn’t do any solid work, I did quite a bit. There always remained that untouched and deeply painful layer that desperately needed tending to. It is what stood in my way of moving on and maturing. I needed to get some sense of mastery when it came to these painful places. I just always assumed I couldn’t tolerate it, or I would end up stuck in this awful place unable to retreat. We all know that isn’t the case, but that is what I thought. So for all these years I let the most painful and close work go undone. I knew I had to do it and so often in session where I chose to run away I would kick myself for not being braver and going there. I knew part of me wanted to go and work rather than retreat. I knew it. In this past year and a half I have changed. So much I often don’t recognize myself. This past monday Beatrice and I talked about that change.
Is it losing my father to dementia that has kicked my progress into high gear? Is it the separation? To finally be out from under his vast shadow of control. Have I finally found maturity in its absence? I think that this does play a large role, but if anything it has caused anxiety and fear. I don’t feel stronger for losing him. I feel lost and adrift without his compass. He is not the key to this puzzle, least not all of it.
Returning to Beatrice plays a role as well. For whatever reason I was always under the impression she did not want to work with my after the SA 8 years ago. I think the hospital and the social worker really planted that piece of misinformation. In the aftermath I worked with other people, but always wondered about Beatrice. I knew our work was unfinished in so many ways. I felt terrible for how our work had ended. It was frustrating and sad to me. When I reached out to her and she agreed to see me again I was so happy. Well nervous, and happy. Our work resumed and we returned to our path that is my life and emotions. I was comfortable with her, always was. I was beyond thankful for her agreeing to see me again. I learned that I was mistaken and that she had not refused to see me. We continued along without much issue. I was doing okay. Our work was solid, but nothing too difficult. It all changed as we came into the fall 2012. It went from bad to worse with the steroids. I was on a runaway train in my mind and didn’t know how to get off. I fought my suicidal demons with her. She didn’t back up and she was just as effective as she always had been. I never felt I was not in good hands. But the spiral got tighter and deeper and in less that a week I found myself alone with a gun to my head. In that late evening fading light I caught myself in the deadliest and most painful of places. In those minutes I sat with an ice cold barrel resting against my head I could not think of a way out. I was frozen there in fear of moving. I was not even sure what I would do if I allowed myself to detach. In all my years on this earth it was by far my most terrifying moment. To completely lose control like that. I was ashamed and horrified. I did not want to say anything to either Virgil or Beatrice.
In the end I could not keep it from them. I knew I needed more help and support if I was going to survive. As I sat in session with Beatrice and recounted the story I watched the odd shift in her. Her posture, eye contact, and demeanor all changed like I had flipped a switch. As I have written about before, I was beyond confused. Here was the most empathetic and warm person I have ever worked with and I turned her to ice. In the blink of an eye. I not sure what scared me more, the gun or the sudden disappearance of the therapist I knew. I walked away shaken and upset about all of it. I was walking a fine line trying to stay alive. In our next session she had returned much closer to her normal, though I still sensed an edge that I could not define. I said something about it. In that moment she took a risk, and rolled the dice so to speak. She was about to share with me something deeply personal and way too close to my predicament. In the years I have been in treatment I have never had a therapist share something like that. Though Virgil is far more sharing than most. This was different. I remember the temperature of the room, and the way the light hit the hardwood floor. I remember my eyes tracing the electrical cords spilling off the desk and down to the outlet. I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to talk about it and so I distracted myself with looking at all the details of the room. When she started talking I realized it wasn’t a question. This was something very different. I recall all my cells stood at attention in my stillness. I listened. Carefully. In those moments she shared something so deeply personal and relevant to my situation. I could feel my heart beating in my chest. I was overcome with emotion. It was not shame, nor embarrassment over what I had done. It was empathy and sadness. I felt the exquisite nature of her pain. Like a live wire. I was wrenched from my pain and suicidal ideation. I saw clearly and I realized how close I had come to the biggest mistake of my life. Suicide wasn’t just some beautiful picture up in my mind anymore. It became real, human. There before me sat the aftermath of suicide. This person I respected and trusted. My therapist. She suggested this experience made her more human in my eyes. That is possible, though I believe it is the risk she took that really shifted our work. I knew beyond any doubt she understood me. Despite my episode with the gun, and how terrible close that was for her she stayed by my side. She didn’t detach, or run away. She stood her ground and showed me in the most poignant way possible what would happen to me.
I will never forget her words that day. I’ll never forget his name. I said to her on monday “It was his gift” and I so deeply believe that. He left something behind and I am so blessed to be the one that was given that gift. His story got me through that week, and I am still here. I know that when the suicidal thoughts come, so too will his legacy. I only hope I can continue to hold on to that and use it to stay here with everyone. I don’t know that I can ever thank Beatrice enough for taking that risk and for opening her heart that day.
That is how our work evolved and has moved into a very different place. I know she is right there with her heart damn close to her sleeve. I have a confidence now I never had. Somewhere in my mind I know it doesn’t matter how bad it gets, or how awful the work we need to do that we can accomplish it together. Our bond is different now. All of that thanks to a brave choice and the story of a man who wanted to live. She showed me her vulnerability and I have in turn shown her mine. Just as I will continue to.