I am thankful to be something that many idiots believe shouldn’t exist. I am a survivor of Complex PTSD and Severe Depression. My full time job is as a mental health therapist, and PTSD specialist.
There is a memory that comes back to me at least once a week. I was nineteen and inpatient at one of the most “renound” psychiatric hospitals in the country. I was a mess, about ready to drop out of college for the second year in a row. I had sliced my body to ribbons, was terrified of going to sleep, and spent most of my time trying to figure out the best way to die.
This was my second admission in said hospital in less than two months. It was late in the evening, and this admission was spotted with psychology interns from the local hospital. I was sitting at a table in the day room trying to pass the time, and not think about whether or not I was going to be able to sleep that night. So I tried making small talk with one of these interns. She had curly red hair, freckles, and squinty eyes. She was at most a few years older than me.
I asked her, “So you’re studying psychology?” to which she provided a strained, “Yes”. I proceeded to ask her some questions about her program. She gave me as little information as she could. Though she told me she hoped to become a therapist. I realized the conversation wasn’t going very well, but for whatever reason I proudly blurted out, “You know I’m studying psychology too, and am going to be a therapist!”
She laughed, and said, “That’s nice.” At the time it was crushing, one of the worst things anyone had ever said to me (honestly it is still one of the worst things anyone has ever said to me). Even though at the time I was fucking lying about wanting to be a therapist. I loved psychology, and wanted a doctorate in research, but deep down I knew I could be a therapist if I wanted to be.
So a few times a week driving home from work I think, “Who’s laughing now bitch?”
Several of my trauma clients have said they wanted to become helping professionals. I support them, and nurture them. One time a vocational specialist from another agency made a snide remark about one of them stating their goal was to become a case manager. I don’t remember what I said, but I remember resisting my desire to slap her. I remember my words being so forceful that she ended up back inches from the wall and looking like I had hit her with all I had. I did hit her, with words.
Another one of my clients is likely to be starting her BA program within two years.
She is one of those women who has scared me, tested me, and taught me more than she will ever know. She is the client ever closest trauma survivor therapist dreads. From the moment I met her I knew she was me. She’s even around my age.
Within several months of working with her she asked the two questions every young therapist dreads. How old are you? And do you really understand what I am going through?
Both questions are double-edged swords. Age places me in the context of her own development, and she knows immediately I know too much and not enough. Whether or not I really understand opens the door for her comparing herself to me.
I stumbled my way through my first version of the “Stuff” monologue that answers question number two. “What I you want to know is if I’ve been through stuff, and if I get the whole concept of getting stuff. The answer is yes. Though my stuff is different than your stuff because we’re all different. I can’t get into my stuff with you, because our relationship is about your stuff. I can’t open the door for you to compare me and my stuff, to you and yours. What matters is if you think I have the ability to understand.”
The far less graceful version of that soliloquy was accepted gratefully. Though I knew from that moment she knew exactly what I was.
A few months ago as I was helping her accept herself through dropping some courses we got to talking about self injury. I started talking about the work of one of my therapy mentors (who is adamantly not a trauma survivor). Midsentence she started jumping up and down, “I knew you were a cutter, I know it, I can hear it in your voice.”
We had a talk then, I told her the words I was saying came from someone who had never cut before, that I knew this for fact. I told her she had a right to her belief, though I could not confirm nor deny it. Though it was important to know that people who for certain had not been there could still understand her. She said, “Yeah, I know, but you used to cut.”
The other day we were talking about her career aspirations, she asked if it was an issue to have been in the hospital and work in one. I said with a bit too much of a smile that it was definitely not a problem.
I had an extra laugh, and fuck you moment for that intern on my ride home.