I am writing (this letter) as I want to express to you how important our cooperation was for me.

I vividly remember our first meeting as if it occurred yesterday. I remember the nervous shake of your foot while you were locking your eyes onto mine. You were really trying to size me up. I remember that my presence and the way I held myself did not allow you to fit me in a box of known types of people and predictable behaviours. I remember how tense you were, which created the sense that you wanted me to disappear from your personal space and environment. I had never felt so unwanted in my life. I remember that you at times locked your eyes on mine, and at times you stared at the door. I remember you had pulled your sleeves up, getting your defences ready, preparing for battle. It was obvious that my presence implied a sense of danger. Your defences seemed tried and tested. They existed and were rising up against all the people who caused you pain, disappointments, and fears. These defences raised up against me, and created the duty of appeasing them, to calm them down to allow for the trust between us to be built. This I did, with determination and respect towards the fact that your defences were doing what they were created to do. To keep yourself and your inner world safe from disturbances. This was absolutely necessary in order for you to have a safe space to recuperate and survive. I balanced the need to show you that you are safe with me, with the fact that you exist in an unsafe environment, and by default your defences were absolutely necessary. As you yourself mentioned, physical pain is only temporary, and was dealt with a “so what attitude”, while scars to your inner psyche were still raw and bleeding.

I remember that while we were sitting across each other, your eyes were observing my every move, and that your mind was in overdrive. To be honest, my mind was in overdrive as well. “I see you” I was thinking, while taking in the meaning of all I was observing. I saw your defences, I saw the distrust towards myself, since when we initially cooperated, you saw me as representing all the disappointments you were ongoingly subjected to. You were not responsible for this, and neither was I. I felt that I needed to clean up the damage other’s inflicted on you, while trying to prove the beneficence of my intentions. These needed to be combined with occupying the role of your designated representative and negotiator between yourself and others. I had my job cut out for me, and that is exactly what I did.

I managed to gradually gain my promotion as your co-pilot. “I see you”, I thought to myself, trying to find ways of shrinking the distance between us and not taking all of your reactions personally- only the ones I was responsible for. I interpreted your reactions, no matter how painful, as a natural by-product of being left alone to deal with circumstances and people with your only ally loneliness and isolation. I also realised that although I knew a lot about yourself, my knowledge base was only a small fraction of what you were going through. I could not know what exactly you preferred to remain unspoken, but I could see its shadow. A shadow so vast that at times it took over you, and at times you seemed to command it.

I see the overprotectiveness that guides your intentions and behaviours. I see the strength you opt to embody with pride when you are protecting others and yourself from any type of perceived harm and danger. I see the pain you are trying to handle all by yourself, for yourself, not wanting to share it with anyone. Afterall its safer that way. I see that for you to share your pain, the person sitting next to you must not be afraid nor disgusted by its look. You know that pain rarely looks pretty, and you internalise people’s reactions of shock, confusion and disbelief as a reaction to you and your experiences.

I feel the need to express to you that I loved you and still love you, as a human to human. I care for you and wish you the best. I wish that you succeed in whatever you set your mind to. I wish I had the power to relieve your pain and ideally to prevent any further harm to you and your inner world. I wish that you never again experience a very difficult day and that whatever it is that you are going through, you have the capability to cope. Since I truly respected you as a person, I could also respect your reactions and outbursts. I know that these patterns of relating, stem from a part of you that you do not allow others to see. I also love both of your smiles. The first smile that you allowed me to see was the one which caused me the most pain. It was the smile that you chose to put on, to disorientate the eyes that were observing you, and the thinking brain behind those eyes. Your main and permanent aim was to prevent them from seeing whatever you did not want them to see. Your second and secret smile was the one that I interpreted as a sign of your acceptance of me. You are also surprised that the secret smile made an impromptu appearance in one of our meetings.

I am truly saddened that you were forced to develop your strengths and your stamina under such difficult circumstances. I am also saddened that the things you need to cope with on a daily basis leave you exhausted and unable to deal with things that other people might consider basic and simple. I feel anger towards all that have caused you pain, disregarded you and at different times classified you as “too much effort, too little reward”. You were never and will never be that. In my eyes you are always valuable and worthy. You are unique. Your uniqueness is made up by your efforts to cope with your present and past painful experiences, your efforts to understand pain, cope with it and prevent it from happening to others. Despite circumstances and people being stacked against you, you ongoingly try to lift the vails of protection and defences that you have covered yourself with to see past appearances. In the world that I occupy, these are behaviours signifying your strength, determination, and growth since you are guiding yourself towards your own development.

I am honoured that I became part of your life, even for a little while. Your acceptance of me was an achievement. I felt an immense sense of pride when your eagle eyes and sharp thinking mind incorporated me into the small group of people that have the potential to support you. Thank you.

Through our cooperation you helped me realise that I had skills I did not think I possessed. Together we discovered and sharpened both of our skills. You highlighted that I had the patience to deal with intense reactions, diplomacy to help change certain circumstances, determination to navigate a system towards your own benefit, and capabilities of influencing people who hardened their skin and their heart, resembling statues made of rock. You highlighted that it is very possible, to walk through emotional fires, rely on unreliable people and establishments and still remain ethereal at heart. Ethereal or angel like figures are not only found in films wearing white. They exist all around us and might be wearing sport clothes with a stylish haircut. You are the true representation of human strength since you choose to not cause any pain, and to use your defences to protect yourself and whomever else needs protection.

I hope that my presence in your life has at least enabled you to breath with more ease even for a little bit.

With love, respect and appreciation,

Dr. Maria Georgiou Shippi.

P.S: the above letter does not involve one real person. It has been written combining different professional cooperations, from different settings and countries which have ended. The story line is fictional, and changes have been made to protect people’s anonymity and confidentiality. This written piece has been created to allow for expressing emotions, saying goodbye and wishing clients all the best for a better future.