“If this therapist can’t help you, we’ll find one who can. I don’t care what it takes.” My mother wrapped her arms around me. “I’ve prayed to God he would send you an angel.”
We sat in the therapist’s waiting room. There is no hope for me, I thought.
In my senior year of high school, my cousin died in a car accident. I slipped into a deep sadness. My sadness only grew after I moved in with my grandparents and started college. I rolled around in my bed at night begging for sleep and found myself sick to my stomach every morning. Why didn’t I die instead? I don’t want to live any more, I thought before I dragged myself to classes. As the pain inside me increased, I discovered cutting myself to gain release from my inner agony.
After a year, I moved back home with my parents and started seeing a therapist in a nearby town. The therapist told me I was injuring myself to hurt others. With each appointment, I felt more hopeless and my mother became desperate to find me help. She turned to the outpatient clinic of a neighboring state hospital, which referred us to a clinic a half hour away. Even though I had no insurance, the clinic had a sliding scale and was willing to accept what we could afford.
“Aimee Eddy?” A slim lady walked into the waiting room and extended her hand toward me. “Hi, my name is Theresa.”
“Hi.” I shook her hand and peace filled me.
A smile stretched across Theresa’s face and she led me to a small room. “Please sit down and tell me a little bit about yourself and what is going on.”
I sat down and warmth engulfed me. My fears of talking to a stranger disappeared and my life story spilled out. After an hour, Theresa diagnosed me with major depression and anxiety disorder. She handed me a video on depression, and my assignment was to watch the video before our next appointment.
“You’ll see that depression is a common illness and recovery is possible.” She took me back to the waiting room. “You will reach recovery.”
For the first time in a long while I had hope. Theresa encouraged me to take a year off from college, saying, “You need time to care of yourself. When you get better, you can go back to college.”
At the same time, I started seeing a psychiatrist who prescribed medication. Theresa signed me up for a program to get my anti-depressants for free.
With each appointment, overcome by a calming feeling, my mood began to improve and my depression started to fade. I stopped cutting and began working at a grocery store in the bakery department. In time, I moved to the front end of the store as a bagger.
“For the first time I have a social life. I never had this many friends during my high school years.” I sat across from Theresa. “When I was in high school, I was picked on and now everyone loves me. I’ve never been so happy.”
“This is just what you needed.” Theresa’s eyes reflected joy. She leaned forward. “Now–-we will be able to take you off your anti-depressants.”
“But the psychiatrist told me I’d never get off my medication. He said I’d be on it for life.” I looked into Theresa’s eyes and my heart fluttered.
“I assure you; you will be off your medication and will no longer need me.” She reached over and patted my hand. “But I must warn you, after a period of five years your illness will return, and you’ll need to get help again.”
Could this be true? Am I well enough to get off my medication? Wow, I can’t believe it. It’s a miracle.
Theresa directed me to stop taking my medication. I learned years later therapists don’t take patients off antidepressants. Within a year, I returned to college as a part-time student. I continued to work on the weekends at the grocery store and found time for my social life. After three years, I was ready to graduate from college. I sent an invitation for my graduation to Theresa only to have it returned. I went to the building where we had our therapy session and found it empty. No one had ever heard of Theresa and said the office had been empty for a very long time.
My father rubbed his chin. “She must have been an angel.”
Two years after my graduation from college, I slipped back into my depression and began injuring again.
Years later, I have reached recovery, but I still must take medication and deal with the challenges of mental illness. Memories of my therapy angel, all that she taught me, and my five wonderful years of freedom that doctors cannot explain have become part of my drive to stay well.