Exactly two years ago, I was officially accepted into the therapy programme and started sessions. I still remember the relief when signing my name under the contract – finally an official diagnosis, finally a glitter of hope.
Psychotherapy is a long process, at least when you are talking chronic conditions. At the age of 30, I had a depression history of almost two decades, and you don’t wipe those away in just a few short weeks. There were aspects of the depression which vanished within a few weeks, and others which I am still labouring around with. But generally speaking, a bad day now still is better than a good day two years ago.
Psychotherapy also is a lot of work. Hard work. You revisit a lot of bad memories. You get confronted with your own shortcomings. You have to practice both in the session and outside of it, relentlessly. I won’t lie: there have been days when I got fed up with all of this. Days when I cried, when I got frustrated with myself, when I didn’t want to do my homework. What’s worse, the majority of people you meet will never know how much effort you put into recovering from depression – be it because they don’t know you are suffering from it, be it because they don’t have enough empathy to put themselves into your shoes.
However, I do believe it was worth absolutely worth it, not only in terms of symptom reduction, but also because it made me grow. I changed more in those two years than in the ten years before. I feel like I am much more in charge of my reactions than I used to be: where I would just run a “standard response programme”once triggered by certain emotional stimuli, I am now actually aware of what is happening, of how I react, and why. I am more confident, more secure of myself.
I already wrote a post exclusively dedicated to my therapist in August 2011, and everything I said there still rings true. However, almost a year and a half later, I find that our relationship has matured. For a while, during the first therapy year, I was under the spell of transference regarding my therapist – not that I was in love with him, but I saw something like an ersatz-parent in him. He gave me the kind of emotional response I would have liked to get from my parents: protective, but not smothering me, and at the same time encouraging me to try myself out.
I think that kind of transference is not only the rule in CBASP, but actually accounted for as part of the therapy process. After all, chronic depression originates in the childhood. I believe my therapist was both expecting and aware of the transference, but never mentioned it to me, and I didn’t breach the subject either. Maybe I was more susceptible for it because at the time my husband was back in the United States and I was feeling lonely without him, and I could talk about this situation much better to my therapist than with my parents. That actually still is the case, but since my husband and I are not geographically apart anymore, the need to talk about this has naturally vanished too.
Back in the day, I would email my therapist at least once every week, to keep him up to date about my life – which had been his idea, not mine. Every other week, I’d have a session and see him in person.
Now, I have sessions in intervals of six weeks, and I email him maybe once per month, if something really important happens. The therapeutic relationship mimics that of parent and child again, and it looks like “I’m growing up” now and become independent from him. In fact, I do not need him anymore for my everyday life. The transference has faded away.
Does that mean I could do without him? Absolutely not. I am still looking forward to every session, but now in a strictly professional way, because I still want and need to work on myself. I still need the “security net” he provides, take great comfort in knowing that I could get in contact whenever the need arose. If shit hit the fan, he’d be only an email or phone call away. And I’m not quite ready to let that go. Yet.