{character} · {reflection} · {vulnerability}

{ punctuate : wonder therapist }

Last week marked my two-year theraversary—that is, the two-year anniversary of my first session with Wonder Therapist (she really is so wonderful!). Technically, the date was October 14, 2014, but I meet with her on Tuesdays, so this year the date was October 11.

Life being what it is, my first appointment in October was canceled and rescheduled for that very day, but then was canceled again. Since I hadn’t been in her office since the beginning of September, I was in desperate need of the warmth and peace and safety of her office by the time I arrived for my appointment earlier this week. It was a wonderful and cathartic hour of word and emotion vomiting, of trying to put words to why I am feeling the way I am, of basking in the absence of expectations or shame, of soaking in her compassion and care and talking through ways to show myself the same compassion and care once I left that little sanctuary she calls an office.

Have I mentioned yet that my therapist is wonderful?

Last year, I posted the following on my Facebook timeline to commemorate that one-year milestone:

One year ago today, I sat in my therapists office for the first time ever. I told her what was going on and some pertinent personal history that seemed relevant.

Four weeks before that I’d been in jury selection, and the intervening weeks were some of the worst I’ve ever lived. But I sat down on her couch and felt so safe, and while my friends had been amazing supporting me those horrible weeks, it was such a relief to have someone in my corner so confident that we would figure this thing out and I didn’t have to be stuck in it forever more.

I have known from day one that her office was where I was supposed to be to work through this stuff, that I was exactly where Pops wanted me to be. And I have known it every day since then, no matter what challenges have come.

Despite how horrible the junk has been to work through, and how horrible the junk to come may be, two things have always been and will always be true: her office is the safest place I know right now, and she is 100% in my corner.

It has been a hard year, but one year later, I can see progress and I can finally SEE Pops doing things, and she has been an integral part if it. So, happy one-year theraversary to us. I know that sounds weird, but this is one fall anniversary for which I am grateful beyond words, and it deserves to be recognized too.

Now, at the two-year milestone, I continue to affirm that walking into her office that day was indeed one of the best things that ever happened to me. And yes, I do mean to say that it happened to me. I was only barely in my right mind back then, and while I made the phone calls and drove myself to her office and walked myself in and sat myself down, you have to understand that she was the first person to actually have a time slot that worked with my schedule. And when I walked out, I did so with another appointment already scheduled. There was no “interview,” no shopping around, no consideration of whether or not she was the best fit for me and my needs. The fact that I landed in her office and that she was the right therapist for me was entirely an act of God on my behalf.

You see, one week after that fateful day of jury duty, when I realized I needed to see someone, I texted the resident counselor from my church. She had just started maternity leave, so she gave me the info for a popular and well-regarded service in the area. I filled out the very detailed three-page intake form on their website and then waited for a response. And waited. And waited. A week later, when I still hadn’t heard back from them, I spent two hours trying to find their phone number and then finally scored it from the gal who had originally recommended them. I called the office and asked when I would hear something because I was desperately in need of help. The receptionist was appropriately apologetic and told me she would get right on it and I’d hear something in the next 24-48 hours. When I finally heard from a counselor, she was an intern whose availability was exactly the days and times I’d marked on the form that I was NOT available. As I did my best to refrain from sobbing on the phone, she informed me she’d have to send me back to intake to be matched with another counselor. Another week later I got a call from a second gal, who was also an intern and also only available during the times I was not. She too sent me back to intake, informing me that they would do their best but they might not have anyone.

Just a couple of days before that, I’d been sitting in the church pew when one of my pastors came to see how I was holding up. I told him what was going on with trying to find a counselor and he told me about a small counseling center that had just opened a satellite office in the town where my church meets. He had just had a long conversation with the manager of that satellite office and was really impressed with him and the center and suggested I give them a call. After I got off the phone with that second intern from the big counseling service, I sobbed into my lunch and prayed for Pops to help me find someone who could help me, and then I made two phone calls: one to another smaller but well-known center and one to the center my pastor recommended. I had to leave voice mail messages at both, but at least they had phone numbers on their websites!

One hour later I received a phone call from a gal at the center my pastor had recommended. She believed she could help me and had an appointment at 8:00 p.m. the following evening. Done! Booked! And at 9:00 p.m. the following evening I left Wonder Therapist’s office without a doubt in my mind that I had found the counselor I needed.

Like I said: an act of God on my behalf.

Over the past two years she has cried literal tears with me. She has also cried them for me—over things that even I don’t cry about anymore and over things I didn’t even realize existed. She has gotten angry on my behalf. She has given legitimacy to the tears I have cried and the injustices I have endured. She has called abuse and neglect and abandonment in my life by their real names. She has given me permission to call them by those names and hugged me when doing so was the hardest thing I had ever done.

She has also been my biggest cheerleader, my truth-speaker, my hope-reviver. She has cut through the noise and made space for quiet. She has validated my perspective and given me permission to believe the stories I’ve lived, and she has told me over and over and over again that they are important. She even reads the stories and blog posts I write here, and then she dances and flails and cries and squees in response, making me believe that maybe I can make something of them one day, that they won’t just sit in the archive folders of my soul collecting dust but will serve a larger purpose somehow.

Most of all, she demonstrates the heart of God to me in every interaction, whether it’s by expressing anger at what angers Him, crying real tears over what breaks His heart, giving me a physical hug because my heart needs a hug, or cheering with me for the victories He’s rejoicing over in my life.

By blessing me with the need for therapy, Pops gave me a safe place to be shattered, to just be in all the pieces that I was and still am in. And by blessing me with Wonder Therapist, He gave me Himself with skin on, in all the ways I needed Him to have skin on.

Once upon a time, Wonder Therapist asked me what it felt like to be me on the inside. I told her it felt like a scene from the movie The Truman Show—the scene where after learning the truth about his life, Truman gets in a boat and sails until he finally comes to the edge of the domed sound stage. The front of the sailboat pokes right through the wall, and he stands there with his hands against it before breaking down and beating on it. That was what I told her it felt like to be me on the inside: that it was like living all alone inside a bubble. Sometimes the membrane was so thin beneath my hand that it didn’t hinder me from feeling connected to whoever had their hand against it on the outside, but other times it felt as thick as that domed sound stage wall.

I don’t feel like this anymore. Why? Because of therapy. Because of Wonder Therapist. You see, through therapy Pops finally got inside my bubble, and then He completely dissolved it. Therapy was the key that opened the door of that bubble I was trapped in, and Wonder Therapist was the guide Pops sent to show me how to walk through it.

So this year as I celebrate two years of meeting with Wonder Therapist, I have no words to express the depth of my gratitude to and for her: for the freedom she has ushered me into and the tender care and myriad emotions she has invested along the way. She might say she is just doing her job, but I say she’s being the hands and feet of Jesus to hurting and broken souls on this earth. One of those souls is me, and I praise God every day for sending me to her. Through her, He has put skin on His promise in Isaiah 61:1-4:

1The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
4They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.

I could go on and on, but I’ll end with this: if you are hurting or broken to any degree, find yourself a therapist, someone to put skin on these promises in your life too. I promise it will be the best decision you ever make.

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