Week after week I sat on the cold cream leather sofa nestled into the corner with a pale blue velveteen pillow pressed between my side and the arm. My feet usually curled up under me, making me feel small yet secure against the rigid corners of the room.
Across from me my therapist would sit. Her legs crossed with a paper pad and pen propped up noting each word I said. Every so often her head would nod along, encouraging my likely babble. Mentally, I take note of my words and a part of me starts obsessing on the cadence of my voice and wondering if what I’m saying is boring or annoying, or whether she wished I would stop coming to my appointments.
In another part of my brain I desperately sought to be her favorite client, one that maybe stand out from the rest, that maybe she looked forward to seeing on her weekly calendar. I think because my story so closely resembled parts of hers, that empathy poured out into a sea between us, enveloping me in comfort and peace. Maybe that’s what made her good at her job. She often self-disclosed that she would tell me things she wouldn’t tell other clients about herself. I want her to want to be friends with me. I know, intellectually and professionally, that this is not possible. Ethically, that wouldn’t be right. Dear friends, please know that I know this.
I wanted to please her. I wanted to feel like I reported back to her what she wanted to hear, that I was progressing, evolving, growing, and healing. Even if I held back a bit, disgusted by my own self and the things I have felt so ashamed of that brought me to therapy in the first place. I could never bring myself to talk about the things I so desperately wanted to talk about. So then I felt like a failure.
The irony of a future therapist failing at therapy would be funny, if it wasn’t so sad. It’s so much easier to listen to other people than to start talking about your own problems. But trauma hides in the darkest corners of our hearts and minds only to remind us with the same sudden suffering sharp intensity as if it had just happened to us all over again. And for me that means I’m instantly flashed back to hiding in that tiny ball suffocating from the loss of breathe of screaming terrified silently, unable to stop shaking or calm the stabbing throbbing pain in my chest, my head is pounding pounding pounding… but now I’m back here standing and I still can’t breathe.
I told my therapist why I was coming to therapy. I wanted to one day help people. And one day I wanted to do that without sending myself down that depressing spiral. She pushed me into the parts of darkness that I’ve yet to overcome. I guess part of that is leaning into my need to be liked, to be everyone’s favorite. True healing comes when we can surrender. And maybe that means I need to start accepting my failures… even in therapy.