I know we’ve had a rocky relationship in the past, but I wanted to write to say how much I’ve grown to love you. In the beginning, I hated you and for good reason. When you were administered by therapists who were dismissive or incompetent, I felt like I was losing more than I was gaining, like I was flushing my money and my self-esteem down the toilet. As I saw provider after provider who was only invested in gaining power over vulnerable patients, I decided you were a scam, and I didn’t believe in you at all. When you asked me, “But how does that make you feel?” I kind of wanted to punch you.
In my freshman year, I saw a therapist who asked me invasive questions, made assumptions about me because of my religion and would call and email me incessantly. When I told another counselor I didn’t want to see him anymore, she said she couldn’t help me and then left a note for him about it, giving him an opportunity to confront me later. In those moments, you didn’t feel like a safe haven but dangerous. It’s taken a long time to trust and appreciate you, but I understand now that in the right hands, you are the strongest tool I have to combat my severe depression.
It’s no secret that before therapy, I was the human equivalent of a dumpster fire. It’s been almost three years of us consistently seeing each other, and I have just begun to see the drastic improvements I’ve made in my happiness, my productivity, my interpersonal relationships and everything in between. Gone is the meek girl who couldn’t voice her frustrations with her friends or her disagreements with her peers. In her place, guided by cognitive behavioral therapy and plentiful practice conversations with her therapist, is someone who can articulate her desires and thoughts with clarity and conviction.
And because of you, I can feel joy for the first time in years. In my everyday anhedonia, I couldn’t feel any moment of happiness, big or small; seeing my friends and my family, eating really good chocolate cake or seeing cute puppies on campus didn’t make my heart leap or soothe my mind. But with your help, I can see the world in a different way now. Before, I couldn’t accept that I will always cycle through bouts of depression. But because of the skills you’ve given me, I can accept reality rather than avoid it, and those bouts of depression don’t hurt as bad each time. I can find happiness in many moments, and if I can’t, I have the ability to acknowledge that happiness will return again.
I am able to love you, therapy, only because I love my therapist. She has been the guiding light through the past three years. I look forward to sitting on the soft green couch in her calming office once a week, even if I so often want to melt into the fabric if we’re talking about hard things. She makes talking about those difficult topics feel safe. In her hands, my problems aren’t monsters that are eating me alive but are conquerable tasks.
At the end of a lot of sessions, my therapist leads me through a breathing or grounding exercise. We take deep breaths together, counting them out as we go. It makes me feel like we are connected on more than a surface level. She’s my therapist, and it’s a service I pay for, sure, but it’s also so much more than that. Once, she referred to herself as a mother figure in my life. It’s exactly how I feel about her; she has cared for me unconditionally in moments when I felt like I was undeserving of it. Even if I’m not really supposed to say it, I love her, and I know she cares for me too.
Even on the hardest days, when I leave sessions sobbing or feel like I’m taking steps backward rather than forward, I still believe in your ability to care for me, therapy. I know that we’re making each other better. As I get healthier and stronger, more confident and braver, I am able to confront more complex issues in therapy and gain a stronger hold on myself and my life. Like the most cliche love stories, you make me a better person. I’m becoming the person I want to be because of you. For the first time, I like myself. Thank you for helping me love myself.
Therapy is, after all, just a tool. It is as effective and useful as I make it. I love my therapist, but maybe that just means I love myself. She is whip-smart and insightful, but she can only be those things if I open up and come ready to do the hard work to improve myself. She is kind, and her kindness insists that I be kinder to myself. The therapist makes me better, often by highlighting the good in me.
Therapy is the hardest task I have ever done, and I may never complete it. It is the one thing I have put the most energy, time and effort into in my life. It is a project that I am immensely proud of, indebted to (literally, this is so expensive) and has been so worth it, in every moment.
Contact Salwa Meghjee at [email protected].