By an anonymous therapist
July 10, 2020
***Trigger warning, this article deals with some subjects of grief and loss***
I Was Adopted By My Therapist
I met her when I was a young boy. My first love, my best friend, and eventually my mother.
I was 5 when my birth parents took me to therapy for help with anxiety. I was a shy kid who struggled with social anxiety and generally feared upsetting or disappointing people. I’ve been told that at the time I was having trouble in school because of my issues with social anxiety.
Life was….always hard for me. Now as an adult I watch my 5 and 1 year old explore the world in joy and security and I can’t remember a time when I felt this way as a child. I was afraid. I somaticized my anxiety and often got sick whenever anything came up to make me anxious. I won’t elaborate here, but my early childhood was filled with a mix of trauma, neglect, and abuse. I was a scared kid and all my birth parents had taught me about the world was that it was a big, scary, terrible place that was going to crush me or enslave me. I don’t remember a time when things were not sad, scary, dark, and grim.
And then there was Pat Floyd. She was beautiful, kind, caring, she played games with me, and maybe was the first adult I ever had one on one time with. Meeting with her was the highlight of my week between the ages of 6 and 8. I loved her. My fondest memory was playing what I used to call “the happy sappy feelings game”, saving up pennies she gave me for “winning”, and then walking to the local 7-11 together to get Cheeto Paws and slurpies.
Pat Floyd was everything good in the world. I never truly knew happiness, unconditional positive regard, and safety until I met her. She showed me that life could be good.
We stopped meeting
After a couple of years meeting with her, my birth parents concluded that she and I were just playing games in session and didn’t need to meet any more.
I was 8 when I came back from being at my aunt’s for the summer, my birth parents had divorced, my mom and siblings had moved into a new home, and I was told I wouldn’t be seeing Pat Floyd anymore. I was crushed. I didn’t get to say goodbye. Everything that was good in the world was gone. I was in a new home, in a new city, everything felt unsafe, and I fell into true depression for the first time in my life.
Conveniently enough, Pat Floyd’s office was between my new home and new school. I walked by her office every week for a long time. I was so young that I don’t remember how long this went on for, but I remember that after a good amount of time simply staring at her window on the second floor of her office building I threw rocks at her window a couple of times in the hope that she would appear and we could reconnect and the world would be good again.
She never came to the window.
She was gone.
I don’t know exactly how she did this, but at some point around 2 years later my birth mom saw my sadness and somehow found Pat Floyd. I was overjoyed when out of the blue I received a letter from her with a small box of polished stones. She said that she had moved since we had last met and invited me to come see her at her new office in Sacramento.
By this time it had been 3 years since we last met. I was a child at the time, so I’m still not entirely sure how all of this went down, but my assumption was that my birth mom worked with Pat to arrange everything that happened next.
I met with her at her new office in Sacramento just to stop by and visit for a bit. She offered to let me check in with her if I ever needed to talk, but we never resumed a therapeutic relationship. I visited her in her office a couple of times and eventually met her husband, another kind therapist who eventually became my father. At some point they invited me to spend the weekend with them in Tahoe.
I’m a grown therapist myself now, 37 years old, and writing this last paragraph feels like I’m setting up a scene for an abduction or something. I think we just connected. She cared for me and I really cared for her. I’ve actually found myself in this position a few times as a therapist: I see a kid I know is having a really hard time in life and I think about how much I want to help them and save them from their hardships. I think we all feel this at some point when working with kids. This is part of why I don’t work with kids under 10. All therapists struggle sometimes with feeling like there must be more we can do for our clients. This thought can be harder for me because something more was done for me….its hard to feel like what I do is enough sometimes.
For 3 years I would spend most weekends and holidays with Pat Floyd and her husband. It was wonderful. We went on all kinds of adventures and did things I had never even heard of. I had my first salad when I was 13, tried sushi for the first time, saw live performances, traveled, saw the snow, got in touch with nature, and generally saw that there was more to the world than the small life I had known before.
This was all great, but in the times between our visits I was miserable and wanted nothing more than to be with them. I was stuck. I remember day dreaming about getting to move in with Pat Floyd and have her as my mom. I couldn’t think of any way this could happen, but I dreamed it.
Again. I don’t know how this happened, but as I remember it, at some point my birth mom just asked if I wanted to move in with Pat Floyd and her husband. I joyfully agreed and the rest is history. We had our ups and downs, bumps in the road, and hardships, but in general it was good.
I moved in with my new family, took on their last name, and things started taking a turn for the better in my life. My birth dad was reluctant to give up actual custody, so I wasn’t able to officially be adopted until I was over 18 and we set up an adult adoption.
People ask me all the time what it was like to be raised by therapists…..but very few of them know that I was raised by my therapist.
In many ways it was scary and hard. I was already a half baked teenager when I moved in with them. So much of what was bad and hard for me was already coded into my very being. There were lots of times where I was unable to be vulnerable with them and I’ve generally always struggled with feeling any form of secure attachment. I always had the feeling that they could just get rid of me if I became too difficult. They never said this. But it was in my head. I think the worst we ever got was the time I kicked a hole in the wall out of anger and rather than explosive reaction I was expecting, my dad just hugged and held me while I cried.
There’s so much I could say about all of this. I know that part of what makes me a good therapist is that I’ve seen and lived parts of so many hardships in life and I’ve always been really empathic….but Pat Floyd gave me the garden I needed to grow in. In many ways I’m still that scared, anxious boy, but I’ve grown, and I know that I wouldn’t be anywhere good today if it wasn’t for my family.
Pat Floyd was everything. My life would not be anything like it is now without her. She showed me love and kindness like I had never known and we chose each other.
Now I’m a grown therapist with two kids of my own who love their G.G. very much.
It brings me such joy to see my eldest who is 5 and my spitting image interact with her and thrive in the joy of a childhood full of her light that I didn’t have at that age.
Pat Floyd is dying. If I was writing this on paper you would see it stained with my tears. Its 11PM and I’m sitting next to her bedside watching over her while she sleeps and my boys are in bed in the other room. I can’t imagine a life without her and It kills me inside to think that my boys are going to lose her. My son is going to have the exact opposite of what I had….5 years with Pat Floyd and no more.
She was feeling ill a little over a month ago. After it had been a couple of weeks without her getting better we took her to the hospital where they found that she had suffered several small strokes, had a hole in her heart, and had stage 4 metastatic primary peritoneal cancer.
She was leaving us.
We thought we had some time. She responded well to her first round of chemo, but a couple of weeks later she fell out of bed and had another incident that led to her now being in hospice. It all happened so fast.
Now we’re with her waiting for the end to come. I’m sitting with her every night and doing my best to show her some of the kindness she gave me in my life.
She is my mother and I love her.
I don’t know how to do this.
As a therapist I’ve helped hundreds of people through experiences like this but I am completely unprepared for this….as I think we all are.
In psychology there is something we call the multi-generational transmission process. Its a principle that basically holds that negative relationship patterns and family dynamics are passed down generations.
Pat Floyd broke this negative cycle.
I came from a long line of people who bequeathed mental health issues upon their children. I’m sure I will mess up with my kids in some way and they will have their issues. But they will know they are loved unconditionally and will know secure attachment.
I’m so thankful to her for everything she did for me in my life.
She gave me a family, a home, a sense of safety and seeded in me something to counteract the massive cynicism I was raised with.
I owe her everything, and to honor her I will carry on and do my best in raising my boys to be good, kind, caring people, and to help others whenever I am able. None of us would be here without her; me, my wife, my sons. She has made a great difference in the world: in my life and in many others.
The world is a better place because my momma was in it.
I will miss her very much.
Pat Floyd died on July 14th at 8:10 PM.
She fought hard and was with us at home in hospice for just about a week. On the day she passed we talked about feeling like there was something she was holding on for.
Later that night, we had been sitting around her as usual. I got up to tuck my 5 year old into bed. I asked if he’d like to say anything to his G.G. He kissed her head and said into her ear “goodnight G.G.”. A couple minutes later she left us.