“Music can be like a box of mood pills that we can use to treat ourselves.”
- peter gabriel
Two songs have immensely helped me get through a challenging year: “Thank You for Hearing Me” (Sinead O’Connor) and “Live and Let Live” (Peter Gabriel). The fact that the former is a break-up song written about the latter seems strangely meaningful, too, especially since both songs explore the importance of communication, dealing with hurt feelings, and emerging stronger through forgiveness.
The loss of Sinead O'Connor hit me hard. I found solace in "Thank You for Hearing Me," a song that resonated with me since I first heard it in the "Nothing Compares" documentary in March. Processing the end of a significant relationship, I reflect on this song. Despite feeling conflicted about the release of public records documenting my experience, I recognize that through it all, and perhaps because of it, I've emerged with a resilient heart still eager to learn from my struggles and to value connections.
I admit that when I filed a complaint with the Virginia Department of Health Professions on September 4, 2020, I was both angry and hurt. I had asked a former therapist for an appointment and struggled with what to do when he wanted to meet in person during the COVID-19 epidemic. Over two days he offered me two appointments. I waited almost three weeks to respond because I was scared about what to do. I spent over an hour trying to compose a message maintaining my boundaries of meeting virtually while not offending him. It didn’t work. His response: “I’ll pass.”
Everything that happened in the room over 1,096 sessions I was able to forgive or forget because whenever I was in dire need for support, I went back. When my appointment request was denied for the very first time since I started therapy in 2006, and in such a terse and dehumanizing way, I was gutted and hopeless. I knew it finally was the end of our “stormy” relationship, but it wasn’t on my terms. I was humiliated and ashamed. The only way I could claim some dignity from being “rejected” was to finally be honest with the Board of Psychology about what had happened to me in therapy and the behavior I had always known was a violation of its code of ethics and regulations.
I had so much evidence documenting the claims I made in my initial written complaint and during the phone call interview with the investigator, hours of recorded sessions, voicemails, hundreds of pages of emails, and handwritten notes (both encounter and personal) from my former therapist. In retrospect, I realize I probably provided too much information because it slowed the entire process down as it all was carefully reviewed on multiple occasions.
I’m so sorry. That’s all that I can think about right now. I want to apologize to everyone involved in this case (even the respondent), but especially the staff at VDHP.
I now know I delayed the process by providing additional evidence in 2021 and 2022, but after a year, then two, had gone by without any resolution. I felt compelled to do something to try to alleviate my anxiety and fears that the case would be dismissed. I had written about my experience and had met with my psychiatrist and felt that it was important to include that information to demonstrate the toll this ordeal had taken on me.
If someone would have told me in September 2020 that it would take over 3 years (1,175 days to be exact) for this to be resolved, would I have still filed the complaint? At one point in 2021 I was so desperate for closure I asked if I could withdraw my complaint and was informed that wasn’t possible.
There was nothing I could do to stop it, or to speed it up, but everything I did seemed to slow it down.
I know I sent a lot of emails to VDHP staff because I was frustrated by the system that didn’t allow anyone to provide information regarding an ongoing case. I know I made everyone’s job much more difficult when I asked questions or provided more documents to review. I’m so sorry. I really am. I know that I sent a “multitude of emails” and asked a lot of questions, but it was just a fraction of the incessant thoughts I had about this case. One way I deal with my anxiety is to do something. I regret that my desire to understand the process and get updates impeded their work. I wish I could personally apologize to everyone involved.
When I filed the complaint I was angry. Now that the case is settled I have empathy and perspective.
When the case went to an informal conference instead of getting settled with a consent order I took it personally. When the decision of the informal conference was appealed I took it very personally. I have a tendency to feel that when I’m hurt by something that someone does it must have been intentional and I must deserve to be in pain. I realize now that my feelings are probably not even on the radar for most people, especially someone acting to protect themselves.
An appeal of the initial order from the informal conference was filed in April so he could retire in June without having to comply with the terms of the probation imposed on his license. Maybe he thought the whole thing would just go away. I knew it wouldn’t because I had asked the question over the years at various stages in the investigation and after the hearing, “What happens to this case if he retires?” So I know that he appealed to run out the clock because that was in his best interests. I totally get it. The fact that it also devastated me to not get closure when it was seemingly within grasp was probably inconsequential to him.
I’m actually relieved that he never had to be inconvenienced with the requirements of the 3/6/23 Order. When I first read the terms and conditions of his indefinite probation of no less than 6 months, I felt validated, but then, almost immediately, I felt intense guilt because I questioned my motives and the legitimacy of my case. What was I really trying to achieve? Did I want to protect others or to punish him? I thought about Schadenfreude. “Your motives do not have to be PURE, even though you think so,” he emailed me after introducing me to that term in 2014.
I don’t want any pleasure in any misfortune caused by the settlement of this case.
Peter Gabriel’s song, “Live and Let Live” is my mantra right now:
“When we forgive we can move on.”
As soon as I start to blame myself for everything that happened during therapy and with the VDHP complaint, I need to remind myself the person I really need to forgive is ME. The truth is that I had forgiven my therapist for all the incidents referenced in the order except for the final one or I wouldn’t have kept returning again and again. That’s why I’m still so conflicted. I never wanted to take the action to formally complain because I still wanted the option to continue the therapeutic relationship if necessary. So if I filed the complaint only after he denied me a virtual appointment does that make my motives impure?
I need to accept that I’ll never have the conversation I so desperately wanted before I filed the complaint. What was so wrong with me? What exactly did I say in my email that made him think I deserved such an unprofessional and flippant two-word response when I was in my most vulnerable state, especially after everything we’d been through together over so many years?
I concealed so much about what happened to me in therapy from the people closest to me so I’m satisfied the outcome is a document that outlines findings of facts and conclusions of law. It’s long past the time for me to walk away without the burden of blaming myself for my transference and his countertransference.
Thank you to the staff of the Virginia Department of Health Professions and the Virginia Board of Psychology for all the time spent investigating and litigating this case. I am eternally grateful that my complaint wasn’t dismissed and there was resolution.
Thank you for hearing me.
Three years ago after I stopped sobbing, I felt like screaming "Fuck You" in response to "I'll pass" ... but instead I filed a complaint. Today, if I only had two words to share with my former therapist they would be "Thank you" or "I'm sorry".
I’m grateful for closure, but I never imagined or wanted it to end this way. I’ve taken every action possible to let go of the pain as well as to appreciate the good. I forgive you, and more importantly, I forgive myself.
You helped me and you harmed me.
I will not negate or favor one over the other because both are equally true.
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