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In my work it happens regularly that I have a client who is suicidal. One of those clients was A – 50 years old. During the early stage of the therapy, there were several times that I wondered whether she would still be there the next session. It was a difficult time for both of us. She has written down her experience – I have permission to share that with you. Our hope is that it might be a lifeline for someone out there for whom life feels too difficult.



A: Here is my experience.


The emotional pain I felt was crushing and seemed unending, not something I felt I could survive.  Not something that I felt anyone in my life could really understand, also not something that in my darkest moments I cared if anyone understood or not.  Platitudes from friends and family about 'time being a healer', suicide being a 'permanent solution to a temporary problem' and 'not an option' were irritating, frustrating and confirmed that they had no idea of the mental torment I was going through.  The mental pain was a daily reality - the mental walls trying to keep my mind in one piece paper thin.


How did I manage to survive it?


I acknowledged the reality of my experience and talked about it in therapy, this is why I wrote how I felt above, certainly many people do not understand, however some do - even if the experience is not exactly the same, there are people that really do get it.  When Nanneke said 'trust the process' I did not, but she trusted it for the both of us and I trusted that she was saying what she sincerely believed.  Actually at the beginning I did not believe that Nanneke could help me, I thought I was too far gone - but I was wrong about that.  I would take a walk in the graveyard at the church near my home and tell myself that if I died I am in the grave in front of me, that it's all over and I have no chance to recover and no possibility to see Nanneke anymore.  I built things, somehow building things occupied my mind in the right kind of way to give me a short mental break.  I built Lego and a cabin in the garden.  What works for another person may be something else, try to look at what you were doing if you manage to have a spell of mental relief and do that (safe) thing as much as you can.  I kept turning up to therapy, it was my life raft and in that life raft I was safe, a process was happening even though I didn't believe or see it.  I was not doing this alone, because Nanneke was with me in the therapy.


What didn't I know but came to realise?


Because I couldn't cope with life then didn't mean that I would always not be able to cope.  That the process of therapy really does work, it takes time, it feels like too much time, it was hard for my brain to do what it needed to do, so it happened slowly, but did happen.  That some of the painful feelings I felt back then I later realised were emotional memories from my past, the feelings were real - they were coming up from my past.  That Nanneke really cared, I had never experienced that deep level of caring in my life, initially I didn't recognise how much she cared - I looked for the little things that may cast doubt on that.  But really she cared more than I was capable of seeing.  I didn't know when I started to feel a bit better I would be terrified and want to go backwards, this is ok (and I understand completely normal).  Sometimes the suicidal feelings returned for a bit and I felt again like they will last forever, but they passed like every feeling that I experinece, the feeling that it will never end is also a feeling that in time I realised would also pass.  I eventually became confident that even if I felt like a feeling was forever, it wasn't.  I realised that there were people in my life that would miss me and although they didn't understand everything, they absolutely wanted me in their life and I was in fact adding value to their lives.  Nanneke 'showed' me how to cope with life, it's not a task that she simply taught me how to do, it's something that occured during therapy, it's truly the most wonderful thing that anyone in my whole life has ever done for me, it's hard for me to find the words to explain how it feels, I am so grateful to have experienced it.


How am I now?


The crushing suicidal feelings are gone.  Life is significantly easier, life's challenges still come my way, but I can cope much better with them.  I now better understand my life experiences and why it makes sense that I was in that painful place that made me think I would give up on life.  Now I know I deserve to exist,other people are happy I exist and I have a good life with a future.  Therapy with Nanneke has changed my life from one that was consumed by emotional pain, to one that I enjoy.


If whoever reads this can only take one thing from my experience, I would hope it is how much Nanneke cares about you and it's ok to tell her whatever you can manage to say, your feelings are valid, they are coming up for a reason and they are important.


Thank you.


I am so grateful that A wrote this. There are lots of very good therapists out there with whom A could have done this work – but she chose me and I am very grateful for that; it was a privilege to be part of her journey.

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