Today was my last appointment with M.
Strangely enough, I feel ok. I feel calm. But not “bad” calm….”good” calm. I still feel like crying, but not an inconsolable cry like I had last night while finding the right words to write her goodbye/thank you card. Somehow, I feel an incredible hope and a sense that things will be alright.
That last hour with her was completely bittersweet. I went in her office, and once she sat down I could feel an air of change. It wasn’t as smooth sailing as I thought it would be, but it was still a good last hour with her.
She asked me how things had gone this week. I told her I would tell her in a second, and proceeded to take out a small gift for her. I’ve been painting a lot lately because I was brainstorming something to give to M as a thank you gift. Finally, a while ago I was able to come up with something special, but was still afraid she wouldn’t accept it or wouldn’t like it.
She asked if she could open it. I said yes, but that she had to read the card I enclosed after opening the gift or else she wouldn’t understand what I had written. She opened it.
And she loved it. She genuinely loved it.
Then she asked if she could read the card with me there. I was a bit hesitant, but said yes. She read it, smiled, commented on the lighter parts, and was pensive and quiet on the more serious parts.
She said that I, too, will hold a special place in her heart forever.
It was very difficult for me to talk during that hour, yet somehow I managed to pull through and tell her almost all the things I wanted to tell her. I told her I cried right after our appointment on Monday, and that I continued crying during the week. I told her that the notebook she gave me meant a lot to me. We discussed my seeing her as a mother figure, and how it’s strengthened my relationship with my mom. She said her supervisor at one point told her that one of the goals was for me to see both the good and the bad in my mom. I told her I had made a great deal of progress with that, but that I still have some work to do. She said she would tell her supervisor, and I told her to thank her for me.
I asked her if she had anything else to say about the moment of enlightenment that I told her about on Monday, how it was, in my opinion, the most important thing that had happened between us (remember that other moment I mentioned in this post? Yes, I’m finally telling you about it). On Monday I read her the following portion from my diary entry on the 22nd of July:
At the end of the session we spent five minutes talking about miscellaneous things, such as my medication, how many appointments were left, about G, and I also asked her whether she already knew what she would be doing after leaving. I was surprised at the effect those 5 minutes had on me. I think it was the fact that I saw more of what she felt than what she usually shows. Hearing her say that she, too, was worried about the future, that she was glad we now had G to continue our work, perceiving a bit of sadness when she said there were 4 appointments left….well, it made me see her human side, and somehow it was a small window into what she feels. It surprised a lot, how much she showed in that short amount of time. I felt somehow she trusted me and that maybe I don’t make her feel as uncomfortable as I sometimes think I do. Honestly, I felt weird but privileged, because she allowed me to see her human side, and not just her role as psychiatrist. Maybe it was a weak moment for her as a doctor, a small slip…but it meant a lot to me, although she probably didn’t feel it that way. Surely, there have been moments like that before. Actually, I know there have been moments like that before, constantly. Maybe I’m paying more attention nowadays, after more than 2 years. It seems that what I most wanted to know was right in front of me all along. And I will definitely never forget it.
I hope I didn’t come across as a creep. What I meant was not that I had somehow satisfied my morbid curiosity about her personal life, but that I had finally understood that she is just as human as I am and that she truly cares about me as a patient and person. That I make her feel something, react, and think to a certain point, just as she makes me feel, react, and think. The key is that I don’t know it now because she explicitly told me, but because she showed it with simple gestures. For some reason I don’t think it was simply because of her responsibility as a doctor, but because she genuinely feels it. And so, I think, that I have always, in every relationship, been in search of that genuine feeling that I matter at least a little to the other person. But this time, for the first time, I don’t have that worry in my heart. She, who has no obligation toward me as a family member or acquaintance, made me feel perfect in spite of my being completely imperfect. With a string of small gestures she inspired in me a genuine feeling that I am worth a lot just the way I am. I had never, in my whole life, felt that before. Basically in those few minutes she made me question the ingrained belief that I am disgusting and worth nothing.
It’s a relationship of unequal power, a doctor-patient relationship, whatever name they want to give it…at the end of the day I know I put her on a pedestal, but now I know that I am just as human and “perfect” as she is.
Of course, I hope this feeling lasts, but if I ever split her again into black, at least I can go back to this entry and know that this was indeed real, and not just my perception.
And M said: “You are important to me.”
She said the goal all along has been for me to get better, and that she’s glad I could see a human side to her, because that was another goal. She rambled a bit at that point, of which I don’t remember much honestly. (I’ve always thought she does that when she gets nervous.) She did say, however, that it’s normal to have that curiosity about your therapist’s personal life, but that in the end it’s all about you, not them, which is why, she said, she sometimes said random things about her job or life, but never anything further. She then said her daily life is just as un-interesting as anyone else’s, what with driving, cooking, cleaning, leaving work for the last minute, having to study for tests…at which I couldn’t help but laugh with her (I had a fleeting mental picture of M cooking). But either way, her point got across: that we are always in search of being validated and inspiring love in others, and she was glad that happened with me.
I then asked her why I was initially assigned to her back in 2012, since by that time she was close to finishing her outpatient psychiatry service rotation. She said it might have happened by mistake, because usually they don’t get assigned new patients when they’re close to finishing a rotation. “It ended up being a good mistake,” I said. She agreed.
I asked her what she thought about my progress, and she said she was very satisfied with it and very happy that we were able to achieve so much together. That she was proud of me, and that I had been the one who did all the work, because if I hadn’t been so diligent about my appointments and so dedicated to getting better even when I had lost all hope, then it wouldn’t have had the same result. And then I asked her what she felt during this process, and what she feels now. Unfortunately, I don’t remember exactly what she said, but it was something along the lines of it being full of ups and downs, but that she was glad things ended on a high note.
And, of course, she said my journey has not ended yet, but will merely continue with another person, and that we might actually end up meeting again sometime in the future, considering my interest in psychiatry. She said she knows I will be able to achieve all my goals. And she laughed when I told her that if ever I pass her by and I don’t say hi, to please not take it personally because I’m always very lost in thought when walking.
We talked about a few more things, we laughed a lot, and I almost cried but stopped myself. She asked me what was wrong with my crying, and I told her I didn’t want to feel sad. But really, I just didn’t want our last time together spent on wiping away tears and snot, when in reality what I felt at that moment was sad because she was leaving, mixed with happiness because of all we shared in these 2 and a half years, and hope for the future.
At one point I was at a loss for words. I told her: “I don’t want to say goodbye. This is the worst goodbye of my life.” Then I promised her I was going to be ok, and she said she didn’t doubt it one bit and it was all she ever wanted for me.
I didn’t cry during the whole hour, but my eyes did well up with tears a few times. I don’t know if I was seeing things, but I do think her eyes watered a bit too. She mentioned she cried with another patient’s mother earlier, which I have to admit made me a bit jealous. At one point I wished we’d cried together, but then I realized there was really no need to share a good cry and a mutual suffering. I think it was best having her see me for the last time with hope in my eyes, not tears.
And then it was over. She sat straight and I looked at my watch instinctively, knowing that’s what she does when time’s up. And evidently, it was 12:00 o’clock.
We stood up. We hugged. I almost cried yet again.
In the waiting area I waved a feeble goodbye at her. She smiled and she said, again, that I’ll be ok.
Right outside her office I had told her half jokingly-half true, that I was probably going to sit in the car and cry, and she said: “Oh no!” In the end that’s exactly what I ended up doing, but I didn’t cry as much as I thought I would. Again, I felt a relative calm. I felt ok. I feel ok. And I will be ok, in spite of maybe crying like a baby the next few days.
Goodbye, M. You scarred me for life, but in such a good way. I will never know your favorite color, like I once told you, but I will always know the goodness of your heart.
I don’t know if you remember the first time I showed you some of my paintings. I mentioned that I was very overprotective of my work and that something absolutely extraordinary had to happen in order for me to sell them or give them as gifts. I have to confess I didn’t just say that casually; I said it intentionally in your presence.
Cherry blossoms are, in Japanese culture, a symbol of the cycle of life and death, and how this cycle is fleeting, yet beautiful. That is why I decided to paint you these flowers, and their cycle of blossoming to withering. Let me explain…when we met in 2012 I felt completely dead, but thanks to you I have come back to life. At the same time, this journey we had together unfortunately has come to an end. However, I feel there has been beauty in this whole fleeting cycle: from the moment I was dead and our relationship was barely blossoming, all the way to today, that I feel alive but the relationship has come to its end. So, yes, something absolutely extraordinary happened. And it was all thanks to you (even though I know you’d say: “You did all the work”).
Shortly before the hospitalization in I wrote: “I thought about doing it by cutting myself, and for a minute I thought about pills…and I almost did it. But I suddenly lost the anger and courage I felt. And then I thought about the doctor, with whom I had an appointment today….yet again, the doctor saved my life.” Yes, M, you’ve literally saved me, more than once, both physically and spiritually. There really are no words for how much gratitude I feel.
You were my guide during this whole journey. If there is a recurrent theme in my diaries, it’s the fear of having you abandon me halfway through it. You never did, and what’s more, you always gave the best of yourself. Thank you for believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. Thank you for letting me know that you did care about me each of the one thousand times I asked you (and even when I didn’t ask you). Thank you for giving me the joy of finding my self-worth for the first time. Thank you for helping me understand myself, forgive myself, and for giving me back hope whenever there seemed to be no light at the end. And, finally, thank you for being you, for giving me your unconditional support, your time, your dedication, your patience, and your wisdom.
You will forever hold a special place in my heart, because you truly are a special person. You were my doctor, but I will always see you as a friend.
So, it is with a great pain in my heart that I am saying goodbye, yet I feel fortunate for having met you and for having your lessons with me forever. I am happy for having been a part of your training as a psychiatrist. If someday you doubt yourself and your capacity as a person, just remember that at some point you gave back happiness and hope to a little girl who cried out of all the pain she felt. I wish you nothing but the best in your own journey.
Until we meet again,