The first time I see my therapist, she tells me that I’m strong, that I’m valued and valuable, that my life provides a significant contribution to the world and the people around me, and I don’t believe her. I am vulnerable, not strong. I am valued for the utilitarian purposes I provide in the moment it’s necessary but that does not make me valuable. My contributions are ones that anyone could make. I smile at her and nod.
The second time I see my therapist, she tells me the same thing. She asks me to repeat the affirmation with her. She asks me to write it down. She asks me to do the same thing as I wait for lukewarm coffee to come back to life in the microwave after I wake up and as I try to will my body to decompress as I go to bed. I do, if only because the money I’m spending to see her should buy my participation.
The third time I see my therapist, she asks how I practice self-care. I think. I go running until the pain in my hips and knees makes sitting unbearable. I make detailed to-do lists filled with more tasks than there are hours in the day, disappointed preemptively in my inability to do three things at once. I treat myself to a half-portion of my favorite snack and spend three days scrutinizing the reflection in the mirror. She tells me I do not practice self-care. I ask her how to care about a self.
The fourth time I see my therapist, she gives my details to a local hospital in hopes that I will postpone my spring semester and admit myself to the three-month inpatient program. I am not an immediate liability, she says, and so she cannot admit me; she hopes I’ll do it myself. She hopes it will help me find routine and stability, that I will learn how to cope with depression and understand trauma, that I will find reasons why I should allow myself to eat again, that I will stop writing notes about ending a life worth living, that I will make amends, that I will build a future. She hopes that three months of structure and constant attention and peers who understand will be the toolkit and instruction manual I need to learn the revolutionary concept of how to cherish myself.
I do not see a therapist again.