My Last Day Of Psychotherapy
"Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure." - Marianne Williamson
Over the years, and like many individuals I presume, I’ve felt the need to talk to a psychotherapist from time to time. However, I moved around and traveled a lot, thus it was challenging to keep up a long-lasting, fruitful therapy. Nevertheless, when I settled down in Romania for a good four-year period, and encountered great difficulty with fertility and a stillbirth, I decided to commit to psychodynamic psychotherapy in order to cope with depression and anxiety.
I visited three professionals before making my decision, and chose the one I felt most comfortable with: a young and open-minded english-speaking therapist, who truly made me feel like he was listening attentively, who was accepting of all I had on my plate, competent, and willing to help me figure things out. I went to see him religiously for about two and a half years, only taking a few short weeks break a couple times a year.
To make a long story short, we dug into my family history, my past traumas and painful recovered memories. We talked about all the challenges I encountered with work, business, relationships, health and parenting, and why such occurrences brought so many negative emotions bubbling to the surface. We addressed my behavioral patterns, the core emotions which governed my actions, my coping mechanisms, my mood swings, and my self-sabotaging habits. We identified my personality traits, and diagnosed my anxiety as well as my OCD.
And as I pushed forward in my regular therapeutic sessions, I felt the perception I had of myself slowly shifting and evolving into something that felt better, that made more sense.
Despite that though, and after all that time, we still couldn't find the root cause of my anxiety and OCD. We processed a lot of things, but my "symptoms" weren't wearing off. No matter how much we talked, how much I cried or how much trauma we processed, we just couldn't pinpoint the missing piece of the puzzle. I even remember going to several of my sessions and desperately asking how much longer I would have to do this until we found the answer. This question was always met with the same answer: It could take weeks, months, years, and it was possible that I may not ever find it... If it was a deeper repressed trauma from early childhood, there was little chance of ever getting to the bottom of my problems. After two and a half years, I was desperate. The dead end had carved a hopeless feeling within me. It was as if there was no getting out of the suffering and endless cycles in which anxiety and OCD had trapped me.
I didn't want to accept such a reality. Nearly 37 years and who knew how many of which I had endured a life similar to what my father went through as a diagnosed bipolar. Who knew how many years left of this were still to come. I may not be bipolar, but I could easily spot the resemblance between my anxiety and OCD and his manic and depressive episodes. Only my symptoms are considered “toned down” per say, or silent, hidden away under a great load of guilt and shame. The pain though, that’s just as strong. Even more so when you’re aware of it every second, when you’re stuck, and just can't seem to get out of it. And I’ll be honest. There were even times where it reached the point of contemplating life or death. When it overtook me like that, for me, it became a matter of either finding answers, either contemplating death again… And I knew all too well that I would. After having gone through so many depressed episodes in life, you eventually get to this point where you’re tired of fighting them. You lose the will, you wear out. I was scared shitless of not being able to fight the episodes in the long run. Once you’ve sunk so low, you begin to wonder if it's really worth swimming back to the surface. Until now, I relentlessly chose to swim back. Every. Fucking. Time. For myself, for my husband, and for my child.
With the end of 2019 approaching, my husband and I had taken the decision to relocate from Romania to England due to his work. It’s safe to say that I was feeling pressured about wrapping up my therapy before we left. I knew I had the option of keeping it going online, from a distance, but I also knew it wouldn't have been as efficient. With the feeling of desperation spiraling inside me, I started looking back through my journals and my notes. I began to list all of my adverse experiences, the impact and consequences they had on my life, as well as the issues I still struggled with in the present. One of the biggest parts of my therapy helped me to understand that I didn't have an identity; that I didn’t know myself, or who I genuinely was. Therefore, I put a lot of focus on writing about who I am and what I truly want. I contacted my mom and told her about my anxiety, my OCD and the therapy for the very first time. Together, we spent a five-hour phone call trying to peel away, layer by layer, all the major events in my life in an attempt to see if I hadn't forgotten something.
Following that call, one evening while reorganizing my notes, I went over my life's timeline once again, putting my childhood, teen years and adult life in chronological order. Doing so brought me a sense of comfort. I confirmed, with pride, the many times I moved from country to country and how traveling has always been the backbone to my story. It's something I loved so much about myself, something I felt so committed to, something I felt helped me, liberated me, in so many ways. But equally tied to the traveling was an underlying and omnipresent pattern in my life: Moving. I knew I had told my therapist of how much I loved traveling and had spoken of many experiences in different countries. However, I didn't recall telling him everything I felt about moving. Multicultural, polyglot, an avid globetrotter I was... but I had dissociated the relocating and moving involved, whether it be cross-country or not.
I popped into my next session and went over the condensed resume of my notes. Toward the end, as I still hadn’t grasped how significant that missing element was, I bluntly asked my therapist if the fact that I had changed homes a total of 33 times in 36 years could have anything to do with my anxiety and OCD. That's right, folks! In 36 years, I have visited over 40 countries, I’ve lived in 9 respectively, moved back and forth between countries a total of 13 times, and lived in 33 different homes within those said countries. At the end of my question, my therapist quickly noted something in his notebook, closed it, put it down on is lap, and just sat there, looking at me quietly for a few endless seconds. He then leaned forward from his sitting position, eyes wide and said: "This is it, this is the missing element. This is, with certainty, the main reason behind your anxiety and OCD".
I remember we exceeded the session's duration that day, which he almost never let happen, and we even discussed further on the subject during three additional sessions. He explained how much trauma could actually result from moving around so many times. Despite all that, on Wednesday, October 23rd 2019, when he told me: "Basically your therapy is complete and over since we found all the elements explaining the anxiety and OCD you suffer from," I felt a great deal of relief. These were words I never thought I'd hear and yet I sincerely longed for them. I couldn’t believe that these words were directed at me. I accepted that that session would be the last of my therapy. I offered to shake his hand and exchange a hug, I thanked him, walked out, got into my car and drove home. And that was supposed to be the end of that.
For several days following, I felt very awkward. I had anticipated, for so long, that this therapy would eventually come to an end, and yet I felt sad. I felt that our professional relationship had ended abruptly. I hadn’t seen it coming, and even more so, I don’t think I actually believed I would ever reach this point in my life. I had long thought I was a lost cause. I also realized that the relationship I developed with my therapist over time was one that had grown on me and that I cherished. It was like losing a friend, even if he wasn’t one. Still though, I was mourning the loss of some sort of relationship. His guidance, his counselling, being able to tell someone anything, to have someone to count on... It's a pretty powerful thing. I had gotten used to, and even looked forward to, our weekly sessions, preparing my thoughts and what I was going to talk about. And when it suddenly stopped, it was like learning to live without the support all over again.
On the other hand, a whole different part of me was so relieved to have found the answers I was looking for. They were right beneath my nose the entire time, but it’s when you’re too close that you can’t see. I think deep down, a part of me knew it was unhealthy to move around so much. Seeing as I didn't know any other way of living, it took me a long time to figure out how (and why) moving affected me so deeply. I’ve always said that when it was just my husband and I, moving affected me less. But with our toddler... Things were different. I was just tired and my instinct somehow knew it was wrong to put him through exactly what I had gone through myself. He's almost three years old now and has already moved three times between four homes. The revelation was clear to me: I'm on the wrong path.
I won't go into lengthy detail here on how moving triggers my anxiety and OCD. It's quite the complex explanation to be frank and I might take it on in another article, but for now I will say this: The day I settle down for good, both physically as well as mentally in one home, my anxiety and OCD will start diminishing. In other words, even the very thought of ever moving again has to be completely removed, eradicated from my system. Only then will my mental health issues get better.
So, here I sit, writing this article as I once again settle into a new temporary home somewhere in England, knowing full well that we'll be gone again by next Spring. According to our plan, at least. The only difference is that now, I’m aware of how giving into this toxic pattern is debilitating for me. I’m now armed with the awareness and power to control the latter. Psychotherapy hasn't cured me - and it wasn't meant to. What it has given me though, is all the tools and perspective I need to understand and take control of my life. I do feel like a new and enlightened self.
Of course, in certain ways, I'm contradicting myself and what I wrote in my very first blog article: "To New Beginnings". But that’s okay too, because I'm evolving and I’m allowed to change my opinions. Living a nomadic life might be great for some people. It's just that for my family and I, it's not what we need anymore. I undoubtedly and wholeheartedly believe that traveling is my greatest asset and we will keep indulging in all it's benefits. We'll just choose to do so from one single location: Home. A permanent, family forever home. This is what I'm now looking forward to, and what I’m regularly working on. It might take a little while to slow the boat down and get everyone on board, but I know and trust in my heart that we will make it happen, hopefully sooner than later.
Sarah The Digital GypSea
Romania, November 2019