So I quoted my therapist in my last post, who was retiring - and yesterday was my very last session. I mentioned that she's both from Chicago and was educated in Chicago, and she definitely sees how the therapeutic community here enables our broken socioeconomic system and culture.
I began seeing her again three years ago, when I saw a banner sign hanging outside an office building, letting me know that she was back in town, after moving her practice to south-central Kentucky for several years.
In fact, it was the day after probably the worst day I'd had in years (nothing to do with Mark or anyone in my life now) - and I was completely spiraling. I had been seeing another therapist at the time, but I saw her banner and it was like a light bulb went on.
I originally saw her in the late 1990s at a local sliding-scale clinic, until she moved into private practice in south-central Kentucky, which was too far for me to drive, especially without health insurance, at the time, and then I moved to Florida for a while.
In fact, I was sitting in the clinic waiting room to see her on the morning of 9/11, watching the Today show air the first footage of the first plane hit the twin towers - a moment we both never forgot (which I've written about before) - and we both agreed would change America forever, likely being used to divide it.
All I can say is, this woman had the ability, on both occasions, to help me normalize/stabilize my life again like no one else.
She's the most consistent therapist I have ever met, professionally and personally practicing what she preaches herself.
She's also a liberal Christian, like me, believing in both science and faith, and that those two things aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, and perhaps simply a matter of perception and subjective interpretation.
In fact, we often do call new groundbreaking medical treatments, "scientific miracles," don't we?
Also, Jesus himself was a liberal, by definition - - meaning he interpreted Old Testament law very liberally for social justice reform - even repudiating Levitican and OT law at times, when he felt certain aspects of the man-made OT law and prophets did not "hang on" loving thy neighbor as thyself. (Matthew 22:37-40)
Except she's able to balance her intellect and faith much better than I can - I find those two attributes often fight each other internally, but she has them balanced, in a truly unique and remarkable way.
And when I say she's a liberal Christian, I mean not just a Democrat who believes in equality when it comes to race and faith, but her banner specifically says she's a Christian that welcomes and is trained in treating LGBTQ.
Because, also like me, she believes LGBTQ were "created that way" as a lesson for us to better love our neighbors as ourselves, and to illustrate to us that much like Holy Spirit and "the angels in heaven," the soul/spirit beneath our flesh actually has no gender - a concept which Christ himself hinted at in Matthew 22:30 (but that's another post).
However, she will not discuss faith unless her clients want to, and will never impose her faith on her clients :)
Nevertheless, I told her of my last post and that I think I figured out the exact series of events that caused my social phobia to become more entrenched and permanent - and that I knew what the final straw was, but I had no idea how to fix it
I'm really in a good place, now, too, so I don't think I'll need therapy unless something catastrophic happens and I short-circuit again lol, but fixing this would be nice.
Though I also incorporated something said at the session before my final one yesterday, this is how the conversation went yesterday
M: "It's interesting that you can look back on that situation now with more empathy for yourself than shame now, isn't it? You had all of this empathy for other people, but had none to give for yourself. Good to see you're able to, now."
"Maybe knowing exactly what series of events was the final straw on entrenching your social phobia, having more empathy for the lack of support you should've received, is the start key."
"What's also interesting is the good things that people said to you and about you at the time - you initially ignored them in favor of believing the bad"
"What was also interesting is that when your professor encouraged you to keep going, you did - but when that group therapist shut you up repeatedly, you did - nearly permanently."
"Remember the good things people said, the people that encouraged you, however few and far between they were - write them down somewhere for when you get stuck."
Me: "Well, I already did, on my blog yesterday lol. I don't get too personal very often on my blog, unless current events or subject matter reminds me. And you're right, all I saw at the time was everywhere I looked, it seemed there were messages confirming my worst fear and the words of my family - that I didn't belong anywhere - especially from someone with a PhD behind her name, whose job it was supposedly to be to help people. I heard that one PhD louder than the prior PhD, my PhD professor, or anyone else in the room, or in general, for that matter, at the time."
M: "Good, you see that now. Hold onto that, the good things people said when you doubt yourself, and even a PhD can be wrong. Psychology is subjective opinion, we forget that."
"But I want you to know - and hear me when I say this - I've known you since 1999 - with a 20-year break in between - but for a combined total of 23 years, and I can confidently say - I'm 100% sure she was 100% wrong - just as the prior PhD to her was also sure she was wrong."
" She clearly took personally something that you said, which we don't even know what that was, because what you said was not at all about her, and then didn't see you clearly."
" I would normally say "therapists are human and make mistakes, too" here, but in that situation, that was above and beyond bizarre - and another therapist you've told me about - and I believe you because of the effects it had on you, the self-blame you internalized."
"Those two situations especially were true malpractice and scare me for what they've put others through, but our task is to undo the damage and move forward, thankful you're away from them lol"
"In fact, being this is your final session, I'm going to give you a blessing to try to undo that harm, as I go into retirement ..."
"I think you are wise, you are very intelligent, you're principled, you're honest, you're kind, and you're brave, particularly on behalf of others, and you have a great sense of humor."
" I've always told you, you've always sold yourself too short and been way too hard on yourself. Stop pathologizing yourself - I know you've been conditioned to, by your toxic family and a couple of really bad therapists that had no idea what they were doing and so stuck one diagnosis or another on you because they had no clue - but they were wrong.
"I know you won't report those two therapists, because that's not you, you're not vindictive, and there's no way you would've won that battle anyway, considering a mental health client versus a provider is always wrong, in that case, which is a shame and needs re-evaluation by our field."
" I've seen power abuse myself in this field. They do cater to the privileged and insured, there's a diagnostic bias towards those less socioeconomically fortunate, and that's everywhere, I'm sorry to say, not just the South."
"They've been trained better and know better ... well, many of them have ... and can even preach it to the choir. but when it comes to their own interactions, they don't practice what they preach, they don't live it, professionally or personally."
"It's just like cops or teachers - there are good cops and teachers, mediocre cops and teachers, and bad cops and teachers - the same way with therapists."
"That's everywhere, too, but ESPECIALLY in the American South, I think the proportion of bad VS. good in all of those fields is likely more "bad" than "good," with the majority being mediocre or not trained properly, at best."
"As a result, when people don't react the way you'd hoped, especially people whose job it is to help others, you immediately blame yourself and start looking for ways you could've behaved differently and changed the outcome - which is a good thing, but you become entrenched in self-doubt and self-blame - when the fact is, you can't control how people are going to react anyway, regardless of what you say or do, you're not that powerful :)"
"People are going to do what they're going to do, even if you use textbook good communication, especially if it's something they don't want to take a look at or hear."
"When they get upset, then you start panicking that you're crazy, something is wrong with you, and start overexplaining, which overwhelms both you and sometimes those around you, when the fact is, you don't have to."
"You have the right to see things differently and it doesn't mean you're stupid or crazy. It means you're insightful and analytical, and not in a bad way."
"As I've told you before, you're also likely the most principled person in the room, and I know you don't believe me, but oftentimes, the smartest - and people feel threatened by that, they may see themselves in what you're saying and take it personally, even though you're not meaning it personally about them - or they see it as self-righteousness, though your intent is usually to defend someone or something else FROM them."
"They know what you're saying is the right thing to do, that bullying, making cruel jokes, or taking sides in every situation, without all the facts, is immature and wrong, and sometimes counter to their own social-justice/culture of kindness - even unconstitutional sometimes, in fact - they just don't like it and don't want to hear it, out of their own personal agendas, or in some cases, they just aren't brave enough to say so like you, so they join the loudest, largest band because there's safety in numbers."
"If you can't fully accept those good things about yourself as truth, at least stop immediately blaming yourself and staying stuck there - it's always good to listen to the perspective of others and evaluate criticism of truth, but don't automatically accept criticism as truth and get stuck there. Too much self-evaluation, for too long, can actually prevent progress."
"There's a point where after you've re-examined for what's yours and what you could've done differently that you just leave the rest with them, their problem."
"And lastly, and most importantly, in a lot of ways, I think you're a sort of visionary."
Me: "Hahaha, yep, I sure am, that's clearly why I'm so successful lol."
M: "No, I mean it. You have this ability to see and evaluate how the detail fits into the big picture, examining all sides of an issue, how things affect our culture going forward, rather than tunnel vision on just one issue, and it's not just your intellect, it's spiritual, too. You kind of look at all of the contents of a situation and pull out the important ones to focus on and the implications."
"Not to sound cheesy, but it's almost ... prophetic, like John the Baptist, but with compassion lol - a voice crying out in the wilderness, but with a killer sense of humor."
"I know someone else like that and life isn't easy for people like that, even for people that didn't come from your background - most people see what they want to see or are told to."
"Trust your instincts and your perception more, because they're usually spot on - I'd actually call it spiritual discernment, a spiritual gift. Or just good judgment, if you can't go that far in 'mystical' belief, but you need to trust it. When you don't, you make poor decisions out of self-doubt"
"And of course, your sense of humor helps - I think it's gotten you through a lot. I know I appreciate it."
So ... I already promised myself that I would not cry, because she was retiring - because I don't want her to feel badly about retiring and I'm so happy for her to have more time to do the things she enjoys, like her new grandbaby - but that one got me.
Me: "So ... that is perhaps the greatest compliment of my life, thank you. I'm not very good with compliments, as you know, because they're so rare. You're right, I don't believe that, but it's interesting, because my friend, M, and my grandfather have both said something similar, in different ways.
(My grandfather revealed before his death that he called me "Mule" not so much because I was stubborn, but more because "mules are smarter than people think, stronger than people think, and have great eyesight and instincts - they see or sense some things we can't see or don't want to")
"Also, I respect your ability to balance faith and intellect, that is HARD. And I respect you in general, so I'll consider it."
"BUT - and you knew there was going to be a "but" and argument with you about how those good things aren't true about me - I DO think I have to watch how I act on those instincts and/or discernment, yes?"
M: "Yes, but I didn't say that because you've already got that covered lol. Your tendency to remain entrenched and stuck in self-doubt and self-blame is what's holding you back. Trust your instincts and you don't have to explain it to anybody, and it doesn't mean you're crazy, and if you're wrong, so what?"
"But the thing is, your good instincts rarely steer you wrong - you just sometimes overreact to them from trauma and conditioning. But that doesn't mean your perception was wrong or crazy, you just overreacted to it sometimes, which just complicates things."
"The goal is to respond rather than react, right?"
Me: "I also have to admit, as much as I appreciate that compliment, it scares me a little, too, because my charismatic evangelical mom told everyone she was a prophetess God spoke to, and used that as a way to feel powerful and wield power over others, because you can't argue with God. If you put God's name on it, who can disprove it?"
"But the fact is, she's actually certifiably VERY mentally ill AND none of her "prophecies" ever came true. If I even step towards belief that I have some sort of spiritual discernment, it scares me that I'm crazy like her."
" Also, God doesn't actually speak to me, I wish he would lol. Actually, I don't - because if I ever actually physically heard a voice I thought was God, I'd check myself into the nearest mental hospital for evaluation immediately! lol."
M: "Yeah, God doesn't speak directly to me either, lol. Maybe your mom's problem is you got the spiritual gift she wished she had/coveted! ;) lol."
Me: "I don't predict anything or see the future, either. I wish I could. At most, I feel this additional thing that goes beyond instinct, like almost coming from outside myself - it's like my conscience, but something extra - I call it a "spiritual prompting" - I feel strongly that I should say or do something in certain situations, particularly defense of others struggling, even if I'm terrified and I know I'll be the new target if I do, but I feel compelled to."
"But mostly, as cheesy as this sounds, when I know my reaction is not just emotionally reacting out of my own trauma, I genuinely do try to think about how Jesus would view the situation - and it's rarely the way modern Christians do - present company excluded, of course lol."
"Also, when I ask for signs, there often aren't any. God is just ... silent."
M: "Except for seeing my literal sign, while you were driving down the street, after the worst day you'd had in years? ;)
Me: "Ha! Okay, you got me there, fair enough. We ask for signs, which are extremely rare anyway, but expect them to appear exactly as we wanted or only see the ones we want to."
"But I can't actually SEE the future, I can just see societal trends of where things are going, like the reality-TV thing."
" I've been "preaching" against competitive Reality TV since the mid-2000s, what it was doing to our culture, I could see it, especially at work. Everybody laughed at me for it, then we elected a Reality-TV president. That's not spiritual, that's just paying attention, using your intellect."
M: "Is it? Why can't it be both? :)
"Maybe that's what many "prophets" actually did, even in the bible - they were simply insightful people who observed and documented trends that other people didn't and warned of the potential future if we didn't change course. Then when things turned out exactly as they feared, people especially from earlier civilizations called them "prophets" and interpreted it mystically, thinking they could "see the future" lol."
"Like climate scientists have been warning us for decades, no one paid attention until now - did they "predict" the future in a mystical way or just warn us based on their scientific observations?"
My thoughts at the time - Ya know, I've never thought of that, interesting - by that definition, Copernicus, Galileo, Da Vinci - they could've been Christian "prophets" - not because they actually saw the future, but saw what the future could be, based on general trends.
Or actually, in their cases, even later considered saints by Catholic definition, being that they suffered immensely and performed groundbreaking "miracles" of science?
Because they're not in the bible?
Because though Christians themselves, they challenged what the church itself had become, the human-created church doctrine and long-held unproven belief about how things actually work, and thus were labeled heretics by the church?
Because they're scientifically based miracles rather than mystical miracles?
Me: "God, I'm going to miss you, you know that. But at the same time, I'm so happy for you, embarking on the next chapter of your life, and more time with your new grandbaby. Is it okay if I have mixed feelings about that?
M: "Of course, it's honest. I feel that way myself about it, but I also know it's time. I think it's how most people feel. I'm going to miss you, too, it has been my absolute pleasure and privilege, being your therapist, and I mean that. I can't say that about all my clients lol. However, I do pray for them all."
Me: "So now, can I return the blessing? Thank you, for everything. That doesn't quite cover it, those words - you have been one of the biggest blessing of my life."
"So let me just tell you what all of us psychologists or social workers want to hear and why we initially get into these fields (though some of us aren't still in it) - you made a difference, M. You really did."
"Thank you for your kindness, your empathy, your gentle correction, and teaching me things I should've been taught and would have, had I grown up in a healthier family."
"Thank you for your consistency in practicing what you preach, your wisdom, and your patience."
"I honestly don't know what I would've done without you, you changed my life for the better. I love you, actually, if that's okay to say, Christian sister. I think I'm going to be okay now, because of you :)"
M: "Of course, you know I have to be mindful of the professionalism rules and be careful what I say back, but I think I've already hinted how I feel. Thank you, it does mean a lot to me to hear I made a difference, that IS the reason we all do this. And you know you can always email me or call if something happens, but I think you're okay now, too. In fact, I'm expecting an email from Spain in a few years, telling me you and Mark made it there, and my heart will be filled with joy."
Me: "Ha, right? Then you and G can come visit, sit out on my terrace overlooking the Mediterranean, and sip mimosas made with Valencia oranges, and we'll just laugh about it all right?"
M: "Right. Goodbye, Chrystal. Take care."
Me: "Goodbye, M. You too."
Then I blew her a two-handed kiss over Zoom and that was that.
Isn't she great?
A great loss to the therapeutic community, her.
Bittersweet ending, yes?
The way all things should end, I think :)