On a cool Colorado morning in June, I guided Alexis and her daughter up the switchbacks leading to the summit of a 14,000-foot peak. With the tree line below us, I watched the two extraordinary women in front of me scramble up the rocks and obstacles that stood in their way. The air was thin, especially for us flatlanders, requiring frequent rests and breaks. Near the apex, we sat and reflected upon the remarkable journey that Alexis had been on. On that day, she showed the same courage and tenacity that she had shown through our years of therapy together. She made it evident that nothing would deter her from summiting. It was the literal realization of the metaphorical journey that we had been on.
Climbing a mountain. This was the early metaphor that we adopted to describe the healing process. My role was that of Sherpa; I was there to guide the way, keep her safe, and help carry some of her burdens. Her job was to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to trust the process, and to honor my requests for her to slow down and rest along the way.
Over the course of our time together, Alexis has taught me a great deal about the human capacity for growth and change. That tenacity helped mediate the incredible sadness, sorrow, and horror that came with my bearing witness to the abuse and torture she endured during the first half of her life.
As serendipity would have it, we share some common beliefs. We have a mutual respect for one another, a shared love for all the ways the F-word can be used in the English language, similar humor, and spiritual beliefs. All of these things have been a gift as we worked to untangle the extraordinary mess that trauma left behind.
I am indebted to her in so many ways. She has been a steadfast example of the parent I aspire to be. She has broadened my awareness of world politics and the unfortunate path the intelligence community has at times followed. She is the embodiment of courage, and I have stolen many of her mantras along the way. She has made me a better psychologist and a better human being, and for this, I am eternally grateful.