19 years

It is hard to believe it has been that long. 19 years. I’ve grown and changed a great deal since I crash landed in her office as a pissed off and anxious 20 year old. I had no means of communicating what I was feeling. Hell I didn’t even know what it was that was tearing me apart let alone try to put a name on it. I knew one thing. The woman staring back at me each day wasn’t going anywhere. In the early days I was convinced I could scare her off, just as I had the previous psychiatrist. I tried my best. Silence. Anger. Nada. She kept watching and talking. I sat and looked back. Despite my rage her voice of reason settled there in my head. Day after day. Week after week. We sat and looked at each other. More often than not I looked at the floor or the walls. The woven wall hanging, the diplomas. I didn’t want to meet her gaze because in it I saw an intensity that matched my own. It was a tough start. I’ll give it that. Countless times she pointed at the door and said “Do I need to walk you right back to that unit?”. I was so angry and frustrated but I didn’t want to go back inside. Months passed and I found some distance from my experience of being locked up. I was still angry. I still didn’t want to talk to her. Our sessions were lengthy and frequent. I was unsteady and anxious. I tried making a new life. I was young and bored. I lost my way and acted out and each day I had to return to her office and that piercing gaze. I wrote behavior analysis after analysis. Life was about committing to therapy and to change. It was difficult. The midsummer incident in Nyack shifted our relationship. Instead of fighting the system and being enraged about a psych stay I was suddenly in free fall emotionally. A man had assaulted me. I was vulnerable and fearful. Nights were endless. Days were anchored by my visits to Virgil. She kept me grounded in a world gone totally wrong. She stood by me through the pre trial and trial as the defense honed in on my weakness as a witness. The psych history, the medications, all of it making me less somehow. We got passed the whole disaster and settled into a slightly less prickly give and take. It was still hard. I didn’t want to give up my demons. I was terrified to even let her close. I wasn’t sure I could trust her even though she has stood behind me. It was two steps forward and three steps back. The work was painfully slow. It was an exercise in futility some days. The double sessions were epic. I wasn’t able to hold her off though. Eventually I started talking. I allowed her in, millimeters at a time. and so it went for a number of years. She saw me take my first steps back toward a life worth living. Supporting me one hundred percent when I wondered if I should return to school. I wasn’t convinced I could do it. I had such little faith in myself. She had all the faith in me. I went back. I proved to myself I wasn’t stupid. I showed that I could endure stress and not wilt. I could excel. She shared my excitement at each new partner. I didn;t think I’d ever have anyone again. Didn’t think myself interesting or loveable. after some brief fun encounters I found myself together with my partner. I knew she was different. I fell in love. truly in love. In those next few years I moved away from Virgil, though I always returned. When times were good it was just every few months. I thought all was good. I didn’t think my life would come undone. I had found love. I had a home. I had a job. It was able to build this life because of her. She had steadfastly stood behind me as I worried and fretted. As I raged and I fumed. It didn’t matter. She stayed. As the time neared for the move up to the farm I felt life shift. deeply and completely. It was different. I can still remember leaving her a message. I stood on the deck looking at the barn and listening to her speaking. I felt like a drowning person seeing a life raft. It was that monumental to me in that moment. I needed her more than I ever had and she was still there. It had been many months. That conversation started the next stage of our relationship. It was a rocky descent. The depressions of the next few years were brutal and unrelenting. The medications were numerous. The visits many. I remember her voice and the care she took in telling me I really needed to go back in the hospital. I never wanted to go back in. I told myself I’d rather die. But I heard her. Our years together had taught me she would never harm me. she was there for me, and would keep me safe when I could not. I returned to the hospital. more than a few times. It was a terrible couple of years. She helped me find Beatrice as the commute back and forth to her office was too much combined with the farm work. It was one of the hardest decisions I ever made. and I wavered back and forth. I tried to be present in my sessions up here, but often I thought of her. I couldn’t settle. The work suffered. I kept sinking. I could continue recounting those dark days but I prefer to focus on the eventual transition to where we find ourselves today. It took a very long time but I have started to figure out I can do good work with Beatrice and that Virgil is the constant in the backdrop. She is always there. The daily email check in that helps me keep on trudging when I feel like it is all shit. Just a couple words is all I need. It completes my day. Sadly I don’t speak to anyone in my family that often, nor do I even want to. As I sat in her office this past week lost in the frustration and pain of this latest bout of depression I wasn’t even really present when she mentioned 19 years. It was as if she reached over and touched my heart. I couldn’t help but smile as my mind cast back over our journey. Remarkable in a world of disposable relationships and instant gratification. Nothing lasts anymore or least so it seems. WE have lasted. We defied the odds. A family bent on tearing us apart. A horribly close brush with death, a move to a distant farm. A new therapist. Questioning doctors that wondered if we should not move on from one another. that I was too dependent upon her to fully grow up. Well I think we have beaten those odds and to those naysayers and the family that hate her, I have grown. I have evolved as a human and shed my adolescent rage. I have found my way because she walked not far away assuring me, sometimes without even speaking to continue my journey. She let me go to continue my work with Beatrice. Always supportive of us. I imagine it hard for her, especially after being the only one for so many years. I do not think I could have found a better pair to help me continue on. Despite these rough days and long sad nights I know she is there. Always. I shudder to think where I might be today without her. I will not even go there. I believe everything happens for a reason. There was a reason our paths crossed when they did. I am who I am today because of her committment and patience. How many can say they have a constant like that in their lives? Sadly, I am sure it is far too few. When I look out at my life, even the worst of it these days, I still see how I have changed and how I have succeeded. I was just a fucked up pissed off kid that the drs had written off. I was the one they said wouldn’t get better. Never. EVER has she made be feel like that. Often I find myself frustrated because she just won’t go there. she won’t give up, concede defeat to this chemical warfare going on in my skull. no, she won’t. I’m not sick. Not mentally ill. Not defective or hopeless. No, to her I have always just been Beth. there are no labels, no judgements. Never. I have labelled myself enough for all of us and she is not willing to beat that drum for me. We have had our disagreements, and our wars. Thankfully over the years they have waned. I see no reason to fight her as I know all too well she is often right when it comes to me. In my most lost of moments I still find myself able to hear her. that is forged of years together. It doesn’t come easily to me. She knows that and I know it. Here we are 19 years later. Holy shit. That is a really fucking long time!! jesus, that is half of my years living and breathing on this planet. HALF. I am so fucking grateful and blessed. Words just don’t even apply here. Thank you. from my heart, my soul, all of me- the good, the confused, the brilliant, the anxious, the sad, the tortured, the willful and the stubborn. thank you. for I owe so much to you. I would never have returned to school, moved away, found my love had it not been for your steady reassurance that I could do and be whatever I wished. It only took trust and hard work. I was not destined to die or to suffer. I was not useless and stupid. No, I was an unwritten book with the chapters waiting to be written. I rise above a life of abuse and awful circumstance. I could shed the past and rise beyond what handicaps I was labelled with. I could be anything. In your eyes I saw mirrored for me the infinite possibilities. Always. To fly. To grow. To live unhindered by the suffering I felt sure I would carry forever. You are responsible for instilling in me the belief I needed to move on and grow. You alone. And grow I have. I could never have dreamed where I would be today when we met that first time. It is amazing. truly amazing. So, here’s to many more years together and to the hope that one day I can see in me all that you do. That I will one eventually come to see the endless possibilities and the untapped strengths I have yet to find. As you said It won’t all be okay. Life is not like that. There will be more pain and challenges. Life will continue to hurl curve balls. We cannot change that. But I know one thing I have learned after all these years, no matter what life throws at me, I have you in my corner. Always.


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