Content warning: mentions of death by suicide
The last time I went to therapy was 18 September 2018. That was the day my therapist told me I predicted my best friend’s death.
I remember everything about that session. From the way the chair I sat in clacked a bit from the right side. The way the sun soaked my left arm, burning it just a little. How the fan whistling in the distance was irking me, I never liked fans. And then, above all of it, how I was pushing myself to speak to this woman I was not yet comfortable with.
When I was 18, I wrote a novella based on a protagonist (Sophia) whose best friend (Zaid) passes away. In the book, Sophia and Zaid are neighbours and after his death, Sophia befriends Zaid’s cousin.
From the age of three, Emad was my best friend. He lived on the same street as me, a stroll and a few trees down. After his death, I befriended his cousin.
Uncanny, isn’t it?
I never thought about it until someone pointed it out to me. And then, it became all I could think about.
After Emad left, I sought out a new therapist. In my first session, I cried. A lot. I usually do when I start going to a new therapist. But this was different, I was there for grief counselling and I had never experienced a loss like this before. He died by suicide. It was a loss that made it hard to speak to the people in my life because no one could understand it. A loss that was riddled with a deep and piercing guilt that clawed at me every time I tried to sleep.
I told her all about our friendship, about what had happened, about how I didn’t know how to be human anymore, much less simply be. I told her about the similarities between my novella and my friendship with Emad, and then his cousin. She wanted to read the book so I brought it along for the next session.
My second session with her was exactly four months after he had passed. It had been a hard day. I was teaching Romeo and Juliet to O Level students and they were making jokes about suicide and my heart was hurting and I needed reprieve. Solace. Anything to fill the darkness that was encapsulating me.
“Have you heard of theta-healing?”, the therapist asked me when I next went to see her.
I had briefly heard about it but she elaborated on how she had a certified theta-healer upstairs at that moment. And how before I had come, she had connected with Emad.
I never told her his name.
I never told her anything about him except my connection with him and my grief. Because that wasn’t my story to share.
“She told me that I predicted his death in my novel, which was probably the worst possible thing I could have heard at the time”
Theta-healing is a meditative state of therapy that some people use to connect with loved ones who have passed. And without my consent, she connected with him.
I didn’t know what to believe, so I sat and listened. She told me that in every space and time continuum, we would meet, become friends, and he would take his life all over again.
She told me that I predicted his death in my novel, which was probably the worst possible thing I could have heard at the time. Each of these apparent ‘revelations’ pierced me. My first reaction was shock. Was it true? Did she really connect with him? And if so, what gave her the right to do that? It wasn’t her place to ‘connect’ with my friend. She didn’t even know him. She didn’t even know me.
While I was in session, I believed her. Her deep voice coaxed me into visualising the two of us floating around different timelines, saying goodbye over and over again. It was only after I got home that I realised that it wasn’t real. My rationale came back out of hiding and I understood that what she did was not therapy, it was breaching the trust I had put in her.
She was simply a ‘professional’ I had reached out to for help and for her to come out and tell me that I knew he would pass away was not okay. All the guilt surrounding his passing gripped me once again – that I didn’t reply to his last message. That I didn’t reach out.
I was broken. Conflated. Completely flat. I couldn’t feel my body, couldn’t connect with it. I was fixated on her words. Even today, three years later, thinking about what she said pushes me down a spiral of trauma I’m not yet ready to completely tackle.
“My rationale came back out of hiding and I understood that what she did was not therapy, it was breaching the trust I had put in her”
I didn’t ask her any questions. I listened to the sound of her voice telling me things that didn’t make any sense to my brain. I listened to the whir of the fan. I was instantly uneasy in her presence. The room, large at first, began to feel too small. It was too small to contain my feelings and every piece of me hurt. And so, when the time ended, I thanked her, walked out of the room, and into my car.
That was when I began processing. I cried for the rest of the day. I didn’t stop for hours. The guilt regarding his passing that I was trying to push away was now boundless. It was overarching and the only thing that would define my life for the next year.
And the next year was awful. I found it hard to socialise, to write, to do all the things that once brought me joy because I didn’t feel like I deserved joy, much less satisfaction in life. I was okay with hurting, I had built a hole of pain, locked myself within it and thrown away the key. All the steps I had been taking to confront the way I felt after he left, were simply erased.
I recounted every conversation I had with Emad in the past year, two years, even three. I combed through every Facebook messenger chat, every WhatsApp, every text, every Facebook wall post to try and see if I had missed anything. I read my novella over and over again, trying to understand Emad’s death. But the onus to find answers wasn’t on the living. This wasn’t a story that had a clear beginning, middle and end. This was life at its most tumultuous: raw, painful and devastatingly real.
“For anyone seeking therapy, I urge you to nurture a relationship with your therapist before revealing all your truths”
I haven’t been back for therapy since that day because there’s a part of me that is so terrified of being that broken again.
I dream about the parallel universe at least once every few months. I dream about meeting him again. But every dream ends the same way. He leaves. And I’m still here, half-asleep, simply pushing through this life.
Therapy is a dangerous word in Pakistan. Most of the time you’re just labelled ‘crazy’ for seeking it in the first place. But grief isn’t something one human is capable of shouldering themselves. It takes an army. For anyone seeking therapy, I urge you to nurture a relationship with your therapist before revealing all your truths. Set your boundaries for yourself because not everyone is inclined to follow them. Consent is everything, especially in a space you go to for healing. Know when someone is taking advantage of your vulnerability. I was too afraid, too exhausted to confront my own but I know that there are therapists out there who can positively impact your well-being. I was just unlucky.
I think about her all the time. I think about whether I should tell her how much she destroyed me. A part of me is concerned that she will continue to use theta-healing as a way to con her clients, and maybe I’ll one day find the strength to confront her. But at the end of the day, none of that will come close to helping me grow. All I can do is focus on myself, work through my trauma and keep going.