"I feel like I'm just waking up. I'm sixty years old. I've spent most of my life being afraid of people, of places, of things. I'm only now becoming aware of what I can still do with my life."
She sat before me in the exam room for our weekly appointment to prefill her med box, review her meds, discuss symptoms, and basically check in. We've known each other about six years now, and we have a sweet therapeutic relationship.
"I think about the things that happened to me in the past, and I realize that I don't have to focus on those things. It's like I've been asleep." Her eyes filled with tears.
"You know," I began, "there are times in many people's lives when they begin to see more clearly, and the things that used to limit them seem to lose their power. It seems like you've arrived at one of those moments now."
She shared more of her personal history of trauma and suffering that I don't care to elucidate on here. Suffice it to say that the abuse and trauma that she suffered as a child and young woman would be enough to cause anyone to shut down emotionally and to fear affection or attention. It felt like an honor to be given that honest glimpse, to be allowed that much further into her inner world, and I told her so.
"I haven't shared these things with anyone else, not even my therapist. I trust you and wanted to talk about them with you first." She smiled.
"I'm very honored that you would choose to share these stories and feelings with me, and I advise you to bring all of this to therapy where you can do alot more work than I am able to offer based on my lack of experience in this area. Still, no matter what, I think this opening that you are experiencing will have a very positive effect on your life."
We walked down the hall, my hand on her shoulder. It was one of those golden moments, and I felt myself glow for several minutes afterwards before I was distracted by the next brushfire in need of attention. But those thirty minutes with my patient were so well spent, so worthwhile, and in that moment my work made so much sense. What did I really do in that room? I listened and reflected, nothing more. She did all of the work, and my pride in how far she has come does so much for this nurse's heart and soul.