I was chatting with my friend Megan O. via Messenger, and she’s a therapist. (I have a lot of friends who are therapists, which might say something about me.)
We were chatting about how good things are for me now, and I wrote to her that I feel so wonderful, but also like there must be some terrible, disappointment impending.
And she wrote back, “Uh, don’t forget what happened prior, my friend.”
And I laughed, then wrote, “I know that you understand that it’s hard to believe that anything can ever just be good.”
And she wrote to me that she believes that we build our own paths by our intentions and what we pour our actions into.
She wrote, “You built success and community from wretched abuse. Probably not that long ago, it was a seed you nurtured and focused on, and it grew.”
And I remembered—not so long ago—when I was talking to my therapist Liz for the first time. We were in the basement office of Caleb’s therapist, X. It was the same office where Caleb and I had sat on the couch and talked to X. Where I had cried “He’s just so mean to me!” during our final session with X.
Where X had asked Caleb, “Is that true?”
Where Caleb had slowly nodded, and X had said, “We are out of time, but we are going to have to talk about this next time.”
But there was no next time.
The next time that I was in X’s basement office, I sat on the same couch alone.
Liz sat across from me in X’s chair; X was Liz’s mentor.
I pulled up my sleeves shyly, held out my arms.
This was the first time I had exposed myself in that way. I showed her the bruises.
She moved quickly, sat next to me, took my arms and turned them gently, traced her fingers along the outlines of the bruises. I started to weep, and she hugged me—this stranger—while I wept on her shoulder.
When I finished sobbing, she said, “You needed that, didn’t you?”
I talked to Liz last week. She’s not actively treating clients at this time because she’s in her dissertation year, but she continues to speak with me via Facetime while her toddler crawls around patiently in the background.
She hasn’t charged me any money since I was still with Caleb.
The last time I spoke with her, I held up my book and showed it to her through the screen, and she cried. We both cry pretty regularly now during our sessions, but not because we’re sad. We cry because we’re both so grateful.
She saved my life.
There is no way to understate that.
Liz was the person who got me to leave Caleb. She was the person who helped me not return to him. And she’s the person who helps me keep from recreating that relationship.
She gets me better than I get myself.
When she was crying, she said, “Every counselor has a few clients during their lifetime who change everything, and you’re one of those for me.”
I don’t need Liz very often anymore. I can usually figure things out myself these days, but I had a low point last fall. I reached out to Liz, and she wasn’t available, so I reached out to a friend who Skyped with me in my office and talked to me while I cried.
At the time, I said to him, “I could have cried alone, but I really wanted someone to be with me when I cried.” And he was there, so it was okay.
But later, as I relayed this to Liz, she grew horrified. She said, “I had no idea it was so serious.” And the last time that we talked, she said, “When you text me, I want you to let me know if it’s an emergency.” But even then, it hadn’t been an emergency, and I had reached out to someone else who had comforted me. I guess that’s the role of therapy—to teach us how to self-soothe.
I know that Liz will always be there for me during an emergency, but there simply haven’t been that many emergencies since I really got away from Caleb.
Life has been pretty good.
I left Caleb in the fall. We stayed married for a while. We had initially planned to stay married indefinitely so that I could stay on his health insurance. He didn’t really want our marriage to end, and maybe I didn’t either.
When I was accepted to OU’s PhD program and realized I’d have health insurance, I first called my lawyer and asked her to change our separation papers to divorce papers, then called Caleb and told him that we could just go ahead and get divorced.
He freaked out. Yelled at me. Claimed that he should have custody of Reed.
He didn’t want to divorce. I realize now that he was probably biding his time until he got me back.
At that time, I went to see Liz in X’s office. I was distraught. She drew a picture of a flower with petals on a pad. She asked me what fulfills me. I said, “Reed.” She wrote the word Reed in one of the petals. I said, “my family.” She wrote that in one of the petals. Then, I said, “my friends, my career, artistic fulfillment.”
She filled the petals in.
There was one petal left empty. She looked at me expectantly. I knew that I was supposed to say Caleb, but I couldn’t.
She then drew another flower. She added petals. She said, “What fulfilled you when you were with Caleb?”
I answered honestly, “Caleb.”
She said, “Look at all of those empty petals.”
She drew a seed.
She said, “When you were with Caleb, you were a seed. That’s all you could be.”
She said, “Now you can bloom.”
And reader, I did it.
I divorced that guy.