An Open Letter To My Therapist
Heroes don’t always wear capes
When I was in elementary school, I remember getting an assignment asking me to think of who my hero was. I was to draw what they looked like, and to describe them. I remember having a hard time choosing between my mom and dad. I was never one to believe in the kind of heroes that could fly or pick up cars, not even as a kid. I guess I’ve always been a little deeper than that. A hero to me has always been someone real. Now, at 25, my idea of what a hero is has not changed much; when I hear the word hero, I immediately think of you.
When we met, I was newly discharged from eating disorder treatment for the second time, and I was very, VERY cautious of letting you into my life. It was normal for me to meet therapists that had little to no faith in me; hell, one of them even told my mother at one point to never expect anything out of me. Soon enough, I started to believe I was just a severely mentally ill patient who’d never succeed at anything on my own. I’d never get a job, find love, gain independence, want to fully recover, the list goes on.
It took a long time, a lot of hard work, and tons of modeling and encouragement from you to prove to me that I do in fact have it in me to be the person I want to be. I’m not there yet, but I have more confidence than I ever thought was possible. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you don’t just talk the talk, you walk the walk too. You tell me what life is all about and show me too, by showing up in the world being your authentic self so that I can see it’s safe for me to do the same.
From nearly 2 rounds of DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) group, to DBT yoga for 5 weeks (even though by that point we had decided I did not have a personality disorder and never did) to going through your very first RO DBT (radically open dialectical behavioral therapy) group together, and finally, to you opening up your very own practice. I am so happy for you and everything you have accomplished. I know in the therapist-client relationship, I don’t get to know every detail about your life, but I hope you know that I do appreciate what you do share with me and I love that I’ve gotten the chance to watch you take steps forward in your own journey too.
Brenè Brown says in her book “Daring Greatly”: “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” This quote makes me think of a lot of the work we’ve done together. I can’t thank you enough for seeing me, because despite being a gold-medalist in negative self-talk and doubting myself nearly every step of the way, I still showed up, and you saw my potential and knew that I could get past the negativity I was stuck in (and occasionally still go back to.) I remember thinking more than a few times that you believed in me too much. I thought you were just being “too positive” and didn’t actually think I could make any real changes and get better, but you wanted me to. I was prepared for you to be angry with me, to be disappointed, and even set me up to fail and eventually give up on me. There are no words to express how grateful I am that you were never planning on sabotaging me in any way. Thank you for showing me that none of those things would happen and for proving to me over and over again that I could be successful if I would continue to put in the work and not give up on myself.
I believe our parents are supposed to be our number one role models: to love us, care for us, and help us develop into good people. But I understand now that sometimes, our parents have their own stuff, “boulders” as Glennon Doyle would put it, that gets in the way and prevents them from being good, loving parents. So sometimes, we just don’t get the parents we deserve. I think, in a lot of ways, I’ve spent the last couple of years, with your help, unlearning the unhelpful things I was taught or conditioned by my upbringing, and learning so many new things, such as how to live by my values and goals. This has been so unbelievably helpful and healing for me, and not to mention all of the deep trauma work you’ve been helping me with along the way.
I am beyond grateful for you and the work we will continue to do. You probably know more about me than I do. I had no idea what I was capable of until I decided it was time for something to change. I was exhausted and I needed help. I could tell you were different; there was just something about the “no-bullshit” attitude you had that you presented in such a kind way that made me think, “This might just work.” I was still terrified, but I always showed up, and so do you. Some days I’m still scared because I still have so much more I want to learn and improve on, but I know now more than ever that lovingly, your intention was not to save me, and you didn’t save me, because you’re helping me save myself, and that’s the best kind of hero there is.
About the author
My name is Amanda and I am a college graduate with my bachelor's degree in English. I’ve loved writing for as long as I can remember and am a proud advocate for mental health and abuse survivors.