I had been seeing my new therapist for five months or so when I started thinking about the movie Pretty Woman.
The notion of paying someone in exchange for affection and understanding was unsettling, and yet unavoidable. I was drowning in my newly diagnosed mental illness and the myriad of issues that came with it. I was a shattered version of my former self when I walked into my new therapist’s office.
I knew from the moment I met her that my life was going to change. I can’t pinpoint what it was about her that made me see light after such a long period of excruciating darkness. Maybe it was that, just as Richard Gere looked at Julia Roberts like a person and not a prostitute, she looked at me like a person and not a patient. When I returned to my apartment after our first session I felt a pressing need to initiate lifestyle changes: I bought inspirational posters, made the decision to give up alcohol (I will be two years sober this September), joined a yoga class, and suddenly felt faith in my ability to construct a future. I no longer felt doomed.
I saw her two to three times a week, and told her things I had never even admitted to myself. I began suffering panic attacks as a result of confronting my own reality, and she bought me frozen eye masks, stress balls, and rubbing stones to help ease my pain. Logically, I knew she was just doing her job. Yet, it wasn’t long before I broke the proverbial “don’t kiss the prostitute on the lips” rule by uttering the words, “I genuinely think she loves me”. And I meant it. I am not one that lets people into my heart or my soul or my mind very easily. But my guards were down.
Nevertheless, she was my college therapist and I was due to graduate in December. The date loomed over every session as I would study her face, take in her mannerisms, and realize that the safety and security of this person that saved me from myself would soon be gone. We wouldn’t keep in touch on Facebook and I wouldn’t be able to stalk her Instagram… she was a medical professional that I hired to help me. In Pretty Woman Richard Gere says, “My special gift is impossible relationships”. I knew that that was what my therapist and I had: an impossible relationship. I just didn’t know what to do about it.
The months following the “termination of my treatment” were the most agonizing of my life. It felt as though I was hanging off of a cliff and the person who had been there to catch me for a year and a half was suddenly gone. I phoned her off and on in my darkest moments, until I realized I was not Richard Gere, and I couldn’t summon her into my life no matter how hard I tried. She was in Atlanta, I was in New Jersey, and it was over. There was no strut down Rodeo Drive in our future. Our arrangement was finished.
It has been six months since we have spoken, and I impulsively e-mailed her this morning on my way to work. Although I worried it would trigger dormant sadness to reach out, I needed to let her know that after all of this time, I am okay.
And, that my new therapist is great.