We’ve all been through breakups before. The hurt feelings, the tubs of ice cream, the big, gaping hole in your life and social calendar. Plenty of sitcoms and movies had prepared me for breakups between romantic partners, maybe even between friends. But nothing I’ve ever experienced has prepared me for my breakup with my therapist.
My office is moving to a building farther away from my therapist’s office next week, and it would be nearly impossible to get there after work and still get home at a reasonable time. I’ve known this change was coming for a while, so my therapist and I have been discussing it for months. On the bright side, this move is coming at a good time, because I’m at a good stopping point with therapy.
I’ve been seeing my therapist for about three years, and while I’ve learned a lot about myself and how to deal with my emotions, our past several sessions have definitely had less depth. My world has been pretty stable recently, and I’ve been managing my emotional and mental state decently well on my own. At this point, my therapist and I alternate between talking about the shallow monotony of daily life and just staring at each other until the other has something to say. Honestly, it’s kind of a good thing the move is happening because, if not, nothing would force me to leave therapy and I would keep going to her office twice a month to pay to basically just stare at her. Not that my therapist isn’t beautiful, but still…
I was not looking forward to this breakup. I had prepared myself as much as I could throughout our previous discussions about my taking a break from therapy. But, like any other breakup, there’s only so much you can do to prepare yourself. And, if you’re anything like me, you still prolong the inevitable and feel relieved if you get any opportunity to put it off. My therapist and I usually meet every other week, but this time around, we couldn’t meet for a full month. It was mostly just a relief to delay that awkward breakup talk for two more weeks.
I knew that this session was going to be painful. This was someone I had opened up to and relied on for three years. Even though our relationship is a professional one, I’ve shared everything about my life with her, and of course, learned some about hers along the way. Seeing someone and revealing your deepest thoughts with them multiple times a month tends to create a strong bond, believe it or not.
I explained to her as soon as I sat down in her chair that I was going to be uncomfortable. Not with her socially, I was just going to feel weird about saying an indefinite goodbye. I’m already bad at goodbyes when I’m going to see the person again soon, and it only gets worse if I don’t know when/if I’ll see them again.
We spent the hour talking like always, but I was anxious the entire time. I couldn’t help but anticipate the end of the session. I bit my nails and played with my hair hoping that I wasn’t too obviously uncomfortable, but I am sure that I was. She expressed that she was happy I could come in for a last session so that we could talk in person, but I asked myself if I really felt that was better. Breaking up over text may not be the classiest or most respectful move, but it does give you the opportunity to slip away and grieve privately without being awkward. But you really can’t just ghost your therapist, you know?
Predictably, leaving her office was difficult. We said our goodbyes several times, she told me that she was happy with the work I had done, and we wished each other luck for the future. I couldn’t tell at that point if I was looking for an excuse to linger in her doorway or sprint out the door, but, no matter what I wanted, it was time to go.
Unlike most breakups where my ex wants to get as far away from me as possible, my therapist gave me the opportunity to contact her or come back whenever, although obviously I can’t just text her randomly for a social call at any time. You know that feeling that you have after a breakup when something big happens in your life? “Oh boy, I can’t wait to tell X!” And then you realize that you can’t? Yeah, it’s kinda like that.
Like a typical breakup, I drove home sobbing and listening to sad music that I knew would make me sadder. I just kept repeating to myself in between sobs and sad song lyrics that I was making the right decision – I’m at a point where I just don’t need to go to therapy regularly right now. In what can only be a cruel trick by the universe, I was forced to face these feelings totally alone. My ex, who I usually talk to on my ride home, was on a flight, and my partner was taking a nap at home. Besides that, I seemed to be catching every red light. The universe was really forcing me to sit with this decision and my feelings about it while being utterly alone.
Even though I knew going into that night’s session that I was going to be walking out of therapy for the foreseeable future, actually being done still hurt. It was hard to accept that my life was changing, which made me realize that I am exceedingly bad with change. Like, really unnecessarily bad with change. On my way home from therapy, I sobbed and felt similarly to how I had when going back to college after visiting home. I wouldn’t say that I don’t like change per se, but I do go into it kicking and screaming. Or rather, sobbing and singing.
That entire night, I just couldn’t shake the feeling of loss. Stopping therapy sessions with my first steady therapist is truly the end of a personal era. I never expected breaking up with my therapist to feel like other breakups in my life, but the fact of the matter is, it hurts when you decide to stop seeing anyone who matters to you. Especially one who once held your emotional state in her hand like a fragile glass bird.
On the bright side, I haven’t started scarfing down ice cream by the pint yet, but only time will tell…
Photography by my talented fiancé. You can find him on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/hope_grows_here/