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  • Tara Ferguson, PhD

Client Stories: Laney* (part 1)

For our 2nd in the series of client stories of recovery, Laney talks about her challenges with mental health, her difficulty believing that therapy could ever help her and how she developed trust in the process over time.

*Names have been changed to protect client identity.

I was 19 when I first met Dr. Ferguson in 2011. I was a freshman in college who was homesick and constantly battling what felt like a losing battle with my emotions. I had seen a counselor on UNCW’s campus and they referred me out to a couple of people, Dr. Ferguson being the first person I made an appointment with. I was anxious, I was angry, and I was not at all eager to meet with her even though I knew I needed it. I had been in therapy since I was 15, so I was no stranger to asking for help, but accepting it seemed to be a different battle. No one could help me. Or so I thought.


I sat her in office, and we chatted. About what, I can’t exactly recall. What I do remember is leaving her office and calling my dad to tell him about her and how the appointment went. He said she sounded like a great fit, and truth be told I did not want to go back to her. My 19 year-old stubborn self was certain she wouldn’t be able to help. But I made a second appointment.


At this time in my life I was entering into a relationship that would take up far too many years of my life, and was never really a relationship. I would allow for it to define my self-worth and decide if he didn’t love me then no one would (ha!).


I was 19. I was stubborn. I was hurt. I was lost. I was depressed. At 20 I had a falling out with my step-mother and fell into a greater depression that ultimately led to committing myself for being suicidal.


Looking back, I can’t believe I thought suicide was my destiny. But I did. I did not think I would see 30. I’m still not 30, but at least I want to get there.


When I was in the hospital, I remember Dr. Ferguson agreeing it was a good idea. My recollection of events is blurred, as many events in my life are, but this moment in my life was good. And when I got out, I continued to see her, to work on positive beliefs in myself, to work through the hurt I felt on a daily basis. At some point in my years with her, I connected. I knew she would be the one to help me. I knew she had the knowledge and tools to teach me how to be okay on my own, to believe in myself. I so desperately wanted to be better, to learn to live with myself every single day, that I went to her. Week after week, month after month. I could get through this, surely.


At times, Laney believed there would be no way out of the dark places she found in the crevices of her mind. Luckily, over time, she decided to feel hope and to trust a therapist to help her find the way to recovery.

My mind was a dark place. Black veils of emotion folded over the bright colors that should have filled my day and instead of feeling content or living in the moment I was constantly panicked and was on the verge of a breakdown. I wore down my friends. I wore down myself. Happiness was fleeting and sadness was an emotion I knew to welcome daily as it burst through my chest, waves of emotion pouring through me, tears held back long enough to get through the necessary motions of the day, only to be left alone at night with darkness and tears that flooded through my eyes. I was poor company who only knew how to talk about the hurt that never seemed to leave my side and stopped listening to what those around me were experiencing. This was most important.


Finally, I don’t remember exactly what I was dealing with that made her say this, but Dr. Ferguson informed me that her specialty was in treating trauma, and she believed I would benefit from the work. I experienced two things: Extreme fear and extreme hope. Maybe I would finally stand a chance to be normal and have a handle on my emotions. Maybe the clouds would part and the sunshine would find its way back into my life. Maybe, just maybe, I might survive.


......to be continued.....stay tuned for Part 2, where Laney talks about her experience of going through trauma therapy and coming out on the other side.

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