This is the time for sincere wishes, heartfelt thanks and reminiscences…
There is one particular group of people in my life that I feel very grateful to: my patients, past and present, the hundreds of people through the years that invited me to share their journey of self-discovery. Some of those journeys were short, some long. They all taught me something invaluable, something about myself, something about life, something about human nature.
I remember one of my first patients. I was an intern at Elizabeth General Hospital, wet behind my proverbial therapeutic ears, scared, anxious and eager to do a good job. He was a gruff, big guy who for months said very little and he looked at me even less. At the end of my year as an intern when I was saying good bye to him he said that he wanted to give me a gift. He put a knife on my desk and informed me that he had carried it to every of our sessions for the whole year. Life had taught him to trust no one but, he said, I had taught him that there was one person he could trust. Thanks Antonio for sending me off to my new career with a boost of confidence.
I remember my first job as a staff psychologist at the hospital, still nervous, still a baby in the proverbial deep and challenging woods of psychology. I remember the woman who sat in my little office and said; “I know I need help, but she is telling me to tell you to f…off.” Who is telling you that I said baffled, “the voice in my head, she calls herself Ella”. And there and then she chose for me my specialty in DID (a.k.a Multiple Personality Disorder) and Trauma related disorders.
This was the most horrifying, challenging and rewarding learning expedition ever. It opened the door to the ineffable horrors human nature is capable of and at the same time the resilience and wonders of the human mind and its ability to heal. Along with these tortured souls I questioned life and its purpose. Along with them I lost faith in humanity and my nerve as a therapist and together with them and through their struggle to put the shattered pieces of their lives back together I redeemed both hope and faith.
I remember the old lady, a concentration camp survivor, the horrors of her past carved in the deep lines of her face as indelibly as the haunting numbers on her arm. She had just lost her son to cancer. She saw the tears in my eyes looking at the horrifying numbers on her arm and said : “oh Liebchen, I had kids, and grandkids, I still laugh and cry. I am here talking to you. He did not win, I did” Thanks Aida for the lesson in courage.
And then there were all the people that I could not reach, I was not able to help. They too had a lot to teach me about my shortcomings, about the dark places in my mind that I was unwilling to explore in order to help them. They disillusioned me and taught me humility.
For all the lessons taught,
for all the tears shed,
for all the laughs that lifted my spirit,
for all the journeys taken.
For the privilege and the trust that you have given me….
All acquaintances should certainly not be forgot
And they will always come to mind….