Let’s call her Becky.
Becky called me to schedule an appointment at the urging of a friend and former client. This friend has listened to Becky sob as she scrolled through her Facebook feed and saw so many engagement pictures and baby announcements. She wanted to be married and have children as well, but always ended up in relationships with men who did not value her and ultimately disappeared from her life.
I could hear the pain in Becky’s voice as we scheduled her initial session for the following week. When she arrived for her appointment, I observed a beautiful woman with a bubbly personality and mega watt smile.
The smile left her as we started talking. This pattern of dating men who ghosted her had been going on for several years and she was sick of it. She was ready to roll up her sleeves and dig into the work of healing her wounds.
I asked her the question I ask all new clients: How will you sabotage yourself? How will you get in your own way during our time together? Becky assured me that there was nothing that she would do. She was committed to this process for as long as it took. And so we began.
At first, she kept her appointments. But as the work deepened, Becky began to reschedule her sessions so they were further and further apart. When I inquired about this, she was vague and non-committal. Life was busy, she said, visibly uncomfortable and refusing to make eye contact with me. One day, she did not show up for her appointment at all. No explanation and no notice.
My calls to her went unreturned, my emails unanswered. She was just…gone.
That was 2 years ago. I have not heard from Becky since.
She had ghosted me.
But on a far more significant level, Becky had ghosted herself. Of course, I can’t know exactly why she stopped coming to see me. To be fair, therapy is not an easy process. Actually, there are times when it’s downright excruciating. But I have a strong suspicion that she did not value herself enough to do the work. She had disappeared from my life exactly like the men had disappeared from hers.
Get the pattern? How could she expect a man to stick around for her when she was not willing to stick around for herself?
I remind my clients, and have been reminded myself, that you bring who you are to the relationship with the therapist. If you are someone who does not speak up even when you don’t agree or have a different opinion, you are going to do that in therapy. If you re someone who makes jokes to cover your pain, you are going to do that in therapy.
And like Becky, if you are someone who leaves yourself over and over again, you are going to do that in therapy. Your relationship with yourself gets played out in the therapist’s office.
What most people don’t realize is that therapy is a safe space to start showing up differently. To start being honest about the things that scare you or that you are ashamed of. To stop being polite and start being real. To call out your own excuses and sticking points or have therapist call it out for you. To say, “I’m doing that thing I always do when I don’t want to deal with me” That’s why I ask people how they will self sabotage. Everyone does at some point, and the gold is in owning and working it through in the moment.
Therapy is a perfect arena to openly admit you want to run away from this whole getting better business. To freely state that you had to drag yourself into the session today because you DO NOT want to be here. To start owning what is true for you, even if that truth is that it’s time for the therapeutic relationship to end.
That’s where the juice is. True transformation happens in that space where you come clean with the discomfort and the pain and you show the fuck up anyway. You put your butt in the seat even when, especially when, it’s the last place on Earth you want to be. You stay with yourself and for yourself.
Becky did not, could not, would not do this, But you can. You can decide right now that you are not gong to abdicate your sacred responsibility to show up in your own life, however that looks for you.
There’s a saying in the 12-step community that I love. People in the rooms of AA tell you not to leave before the miracle happens. Sit still one second longer than you can bear because that second is where it starts to get really, really good.
To me, this is the essence and the gift of not ghosting yourself. Being with yourself trough the uncomfortable, icky, confusing, enraging, aching moment is what allows the miracles to unfold for you. And unfold they will when you stop running, dodging, hiding and escaping. Stay the course. You’re worth it.