In 2008, when Robin first brought up the idea of writing a book about her life I had to decide whether to tell her I had the same thought. During the five years following her meltdown year, I had given her some information about the positive changes that had occurred for me as a result of being so closely involved with her throughout the crisis. I wanted her to know that what still felt to her like a terrible experience, ultimately had a positive impact. I wanted her to know she had actually helped me by letting me in.
I decided I also wanted her to know I had thought about writing a book about it. At that time, I wasn’t yet ready to tell her I could envision a time when I would not be a therapist any more. I wanted to support her in writing her own book. But, I think I jokingly said something without thinking first, about the idea of us writing a book together “someday.” Robin jumped right on it, and we talked about what a unique idea it was to have the story told by both the therapist and the client. Neither of us could remember reading a similar kind of book…probably for the same reason we could not have written the book at that time. I was still Robin’s therapist. Boundary issues and all, it wasn’t appropriate.
So we went on, and at times would joke with each other every once in a while about “that book we will write someday.” Robin, I think, actually did spend some time writing her version of it but ended up abandoning the idea eventually. She was not a natural writer.
Meanwhile, my job was starting to get very stressful. I was in a top leadership position within the large mental health agency where I had worked throughout my entire career. In 2008, after a large sum of money had been borrowed in the form of a bond issue to build several new buildings on campus…and shortly afterward the state government had made cuts to funding for mental health services, it all caught up and the agency lost a lot of money in a year.
The bondholders were not happy with the turn the agency had taken financially and, in 2009 sent in a group of consultants to turn the business around. I was in the wrong position at the time they arrived. While I was one of the last of the executive management team to go, I knew my days were numbered. I still had the same fifteen clients I was continuing to treat, Robin included, when I was asked to pack my office and resign.
I’ll never forget having to call Robin and the others to let them know I would no longer be working there. I was devastated, and had to pace myself in terms of making the phone calls so as to not start crying on the phone. I was traumatized to have lost my job, especially after working so hard to try to turn the agency around, and dedicating so many years of my life to the place.
In order to be able to transition things appropriately and not feel like I was just abandoning my long-term clients, I rented a “virtual office” in a downtown office building and was able to see people within a couple of weeks. I did not ultimately stay in private practice, though, as that had never been my goal. I was able to help people get connected with new therapists and psychiatrists (Dr. Greene also ended up leaving the agency along with several other psychiatrists), and then I ended up taking a new administrative job. My days as a therapist were over. And, after almost twenty years I was ready for them to be.
Robin was able to get connected with a good psychiatrist and therapist, although it was a difficult transition for her. I stayed connected with her by phone for a period of time, and after I began my new job in middle management at another agency, we began to transition our relationship, gradually, to becoming friends. I did not end up staying connected to many of my clients…just a handful who I especially liked, and who I felt were healthy enough to not need me as their therapist any longer.
It was 2011 and Robin was doing much, much better than ever before. By then she had not needed to be hospitalized for several years, had a stable job, and was content with her life. We began to spend time together here and there, and continued to joke about “writing that book” someday.
My new job lasted two years. I was commuting an hour each way, while also caring for my then 89 year old mother-in-law who had moved in with my husband and I in 2003, right in the middle of Robin’s meltdown year. Peaches, as my mother-in-law was called, was beginning to show signs of dementia and decreased mobility and balance. My husband traveled for business and we were feeling uncomfortable leaving her alone for long periods of time. I quit my stressful administrative job in 2012 and opened another office, this time to do disability evaluations in order to make some income flexibly while spending more of my time caring for Peaches. Eventually I added working in nursing homes, primarily doing testing and evaluations. It was all flexible, low stress work for me, allowing me to use my skills and experience without the stress of being in charge of anything.
Once I was settled into my low-stress job situation and Peaches was in a stable place, the winter of 2014 was the time when it made sense to finally write that book I had been feeling so compelled to write. Robin was ready too, as she had even more time of stability under her belt. We made a plan to get started. We had no idea what a journey it would become.