In Gratitude for Mel Gardner

I just learned that my EMDR therapist died in early May.

Without using this language directly in therapy (although if therapy moved in this direction, by white therapists, that would be fantastic!): I started to learn of the harmful affects of white supremacy and internalized sexism on my body. I started to learn that complex PTSD was not really about the cumulative effects of my individual mistakes–but the systems in operation in and around me.

In our first session I was asked, “How do you know when you are done with therapy?”

My answer: “When I accept myself more fully.”

We often talked about the deep aptitude I have for solitude, how I long for it. And how terrified I was of being alone in my body. How terrified I was for seeing myself clearly, because then I have the choice to enjoy and take responsibility for my life.

Through EMDR’s contemplative & stream of consciousness processing, I experienced how my trauma blocked my own truth-telling, my own self-definition, my own intuition. I was scared to be seen for fear of being abandoned. I saw my own unhealthy relationship with white men, having been raised to be independent, yes–but also to be suspect of my desires and to feel vulnerable without their protection. To maintain the status quo as a white person–namely white supremacy, capitalism, and heteropatriarchy.

I felt a deep disgust and ache in my gut for the ways not trusting my intuition left me complicit. Left me doubting and second-guessing myself constantly. Not truly able to show up for myself or anyone else in an authentic way.

Mel held space for me to say yes to myself. To my desires. To my rest. To my own pleasure and love. Mel had faith that the best parts of myself would emerge over time, when I didn’t know if I had the perseverance anymore.

I entered therapy with an urgency. I didn’t have much money; I really didn’t know how long I could afford therapy. What I didn’t know was that I finished my time with her 3 months before she got cancer. I met her just in time.

Mel Gardner was direct, affirming, and held space for my own rage and agency. She believed on a spiritual level that waiting could be anxiety and trauma in disguise. She believed in healthy anger to propel confidence and intuition. She believed in the ability of the brain and body to heal–but not in a complete, linear way devoid of the unknown. She knew that we need to co-create our reality; that we need to speak to our inner child gently, over and over again. To be in community that affirms our existence, our thriving, our gifts.

“Know that when you drift, there’s time to find your way back to yourself.”

Rest well, Mel. And thank you, thank you, thank you.

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