A couple of months ago I learned my therapist is retiring. Last week I had my last session with him. Off and on for more than a decade, he has helped keep me on an even keel. Not only during the turbulent times of my life but also when its waters were calm.
When I arrived in Hawaii I was recovering from a not-so-small breakdown; one reason I moved here was to get away from a significant source of stress and heartbreak. With no plan to make Hawaii home, I came here to “sort my shit out,” which included seeking out therapy (and medication if need be). While I had been in worse shape not that long before arriving here, I was still pretty screwed up at that point.
Dysthymia and Pills
So, before I had any job or health insurance, I saw a doctor at Leahi Hospital in Kaimuki. I only went the one time. After some testing and questioning, the doctor there was the one who diagnosed me with Dysthymia. I knew then I couldn’t be casual about finding a regular doctor, but a steady job and health insurance were both important prerequisites.
The idea of “shopping for a shrink,” as I called it, was not remotely appealing to me. So I count myself incredibly lucky that I was able to find this doctor from a referral rather than by trial and error.
In the beginning, I was singularly focused on trying to understand what the hell was wrong with me. At the time I believed that if I could understand the root causes of my mental dysfunction, I would be able to make corrections.
Eventually, my therapist convinced it that the causes mattered less than getting better. I recall I resisted a causeless approach, but I was determined to get better. So I acquiesced.
In addition to an insistence on finding root causes of my dysfunction, I was fundamentally opposed to accepting any kind of medication. At the time, though a part of me really understood what it meant to be depressed, I didn’t think I needed medication to get sorted. And again, he convinced me it was worth a try.
And so I did.
For better or worse, it quickly became apparent that medication wasn’t going to help with what was wrong with me. For that I needed good, ol’ fashioned talking it out.
Off and On Maintenance
That was more than ten years ago.
Eventually, I got to the point where I didn’t think therapy had anything to offer me. After years of frequent and regular sessions, it felt like I was graduating to a new life. Or, at least a new perspective.
I was happy consistently for the first time I could remember. Or at least what seemed like happiness; I was content. And so it was for years. Until the wheels came off my wagon again and I resumed appointments.
After some time, I returned to my own equilibrium, but continued what I now refer to as “maintenance therapy.” Some weeks are better than others, and the regular check-ins have done a good job keeping said equilibrium.
I’m in pretty good shape now, for the most part. I don’t claim to be “fixed.” After several small relapses and at least one big one, I’ve accepted completely both the good and bad in me. Maybe I’ll be even better in the future, but for now… I’m good.
Retirement and Thanks
I’ve had doctors retire and relocate on me in other areas of my life. Since being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, I’ve been passed along through four Gastroenterologists. While annoying, none of those changes necessitated a blog post.
My therapist, maybe as much as anyone else in my life is responsible for the person I am now. Maybe there will always be a part of me that is broken. But for the old me, for the former me that would have been enough to send me retreating to the dark corners of my brain. The now me both understands I might change and accepts if I don’t.
That may not sound like much of a revelation, but for me, it’s the difference between happiness/contentment and dysfunction.
So this retirement and changing of the doctoral guard is, for me, much more meaningful. Poignant. I am thankful for who I am now. I like me. And for being able to say that I have my therapist to thank. While an appointment to a new therapist is pending, it’s hard to imagine I will be as lucky to have another that I like and so appreciate.
Change, for me, is somewhat challenging and this change is no different. I write this to remind me of the good work I did with him. The work he did with me. And to say thanks.