Thursday, April 29, 2004

Jettisoning the Professional Friend

So, last week I dumped my therapist.

That's probably a loaded phrase, isn't it? But how do you end it--an amicable-but-also-covered-by-the-health-plan relationship like that? You break up with him? You fire him, all Trumpin' it with the little jabby hand-gesture and everything? There isn't a word for it, I don't think.

I have--had?--been "with" the Good Doctor, been "seeing" him, for seven years. Almost to the day, I now realize. When the ExLoveOfMyLife dumped me, seven years ago, I called the number on the refrigerator magnet distributed by the Employee Assistance Program; they entered my global positioning coordinates or somesuch and matched me with the Good Doctor. (The building that held his office also housed a bakery, so I knew that therapeutic comfort of one kind or another would be handily available. Some days, I applied both.)

Seven years. That's longer than the relationship with ELOML that put me on the couch in the first place. It's probably not a stretch to say that it's the longest, most positive relationship I've ever had with...a man. Gender isn't a factor, here...but then again, it is. Isn't; is. Transferrence all over the place. And yes, we talked about that too, over time.

How did I figure this out? The last month or so has been strange. I'm still distracted by my House Joy, feeling generally content and happy. I'm working out; I'm writing this blog; I've lost 6 1/2 pounds. I would go to therapy and find myself groping for things to say, or fretting more about, say, my sister's mental health than my own. We were talking about ice cream. Then, three weeks ago, busy working from home, I completely forgot my appointment--didn't think of it at all until I saw his name on the caller ID, 90 minutes later. Which was a whole new can of worms: he admitted he rarely called the no-shows, but wanted to make sure I was okay. Was concerned. Was worried, maybe.

I've searched myself a lot on this, too--with firm proof that he "worried" about me, am I just fleeing? Is this just responsible Me, fleeing the burden of needing to keep another Grown-Up from worrying, from suffering on my behalf? We talked about that a lot, the next week, but ultimately...I still felt ready. I hadn't missed therapy, whether or not the Good Doctor missed me.

So, we talked about it. I did fret...I hate to be forgotten, after all. I told him a story about revisiting a couple favorite old high-school teachers, when I was a graduate student. English teachers! In whose classes I had cranked out pages of prose, had fancied myself a genius, had laughed and cried and been forced to read Ophelia to my secret crush's Hamlet, the worst indignity ever...anyway. They didn't remember me, couldn't put a name to my face, just four years later. Ouch. The Good Doctor declared that horrible, and said he would be unlikely to forget my name. This moved me deeply...though a bit later it did occur to me that my last name is his first. Heh.

But I was ready. I was grateful, I was happy, and I was ready. He said "goodbye," which I don't remember him saying before. He would not see me next week. And I cried...and did my ears deceive me, or did he sound a little choked up, too? But...I still left.

Absurdly, now, I want to thank him profusely...all "To Sir With Love" about it...or recommend him to others, like a restaurant. How do you thank someone? Where's Lulu when you need her? The thesaurus fails me here, also.

For the record, though, I still possess both crayons and perfume. I'll leave it to you to guess which of those gets more frequent use.

Thank you, Doug.

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