My Therapist, The Gaslighter: Part One

I was utterly vulnerable when I sought out therapy. I had no idea my fragility would be used against me

Photo by NEOSiAM 2021 from Pexels

I needed something.

My father had died six months earlier and after weeks of being immobile, leaden and bed-bound in the immediate aftermath of his death, one day I started to feel less desperate. Not better, exactly; just further away from the edge.

I started to pick up the habits of my regular life, one by one. I could sit at my desk again, I could open a book. I resumed my daily walks, and marvelled at how nature threw its colours on the ground so casually, so generously; how the crunch of autumn leaves under my feet felt so normal, but so completely new.

And yet underneath that resumption of routine, something simmered, treacly and thick. I would pick fights with my partner — my affable, peaceable partner — over nothing. He wouldn’t take the bait, and that made me scrappier. I would snap for no reason, answer his questions quickly. We’d never experienced that kind of tension before; we’d never even really disagreed about anything. And here I was, storming out of rooms, hiding myself away behind all kinds of doors.

One morning, we were making the bed together and I flew off the handle for no reason. And then something happened, and this is when I wish that atheism had a language for the inexplicable, the liminal space between what we can perceive and what’s just out of frame.

A split-second before, I did not have a name for the festering darkness that had turned my insides to granite; a split-second later, everything inside me lit up, like a sudden stripe of light on a statue. It became so clear: I was livid. My father had died and left me. I wasn’t there when it happened. I hadn’t seen him in a month. Not only that; fourteen years earlier I had moved three-hundred miles away from him and the rest of my family. That had felt like a great distance, by land, and by heart. But it was nothing compared to now. Now the distance was impassable; unimaginably vast.

I sank down on the half-made bed and howled like an animal howls. The cries barrelled around my chest and up my throat and came out broken and heavy. I held my torso tightly, as though, if I let go, my insides would fly off in severed lots and leave me truly empty.

‘I’m so angry,’ I said to my partner, my voice raw and cracked. ‘I’m so, so angry.’ I suddenly felt exhausted and frail. He sat down next to me and wrapped his arms fully around me, like he’d done a million times before in those six months since it had happened. I could feel the tiny shudders of his body as he wept silently, his movements in double-time against my own.

I knew it was time to speak with someone professional. I’d had counselling a couple of times already, years earlier, but I knew, in that moment, that what I needed was not something just to get me through: I needed someone to open me up, help me lay it all out on a table and pick through it all. I felt like I’d lived for a thousand years, and had only ever moved forward, dragging a cloak of stone behind me. It felt like time to finally turn my head and look back; to really appraise the trail I’d left. I wanted to feel the weight of my past in my hands — to turn it over, gently and with care, to examine it with kindness until it turned into feathers and flew away.

I found a psychotherapist online who worked nearby. I emailed her immediately and told her how I felt. She booked me in straight away and a couple of days later, I stood outside of her office, a few minutes before my appointment was due to start. I was nervous. I didn’t know whether I should knock straight away, or wait. I wondered what turning up early would say about me, what my appearance would say about me (though I would find this out, much later).

Then, right on the turn of the hour, she opened the door and welcomed me in.

If you’d like to support my writing, please visit buymeacoffee.com. If you’d like to receive my free newsletter, please sign up here.

Writing all the things. She/her. Owner of Modern Letters publication. linktree.com/kelleerich

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store