My therapist died suddenly, and I’m heartbroken. Her name was Tracye Ditmore. I found her online around six years ago. She knew everything about my emotional life–she helped me get through so many things. She was brilliant, and I can’t believe she’s dead.
This is her picture from the internet.
The therapist-client relationship is weird to begin with. We had a lot of care and some affection. But she wasn’t a part of my regular life, and I wasn’t part of hers. So I’m feeling intensely upset, surprised, and sad, but I can’t go to the funeral or reach out to our mutual friends–we weren’t friends.
I can do a ritual on my own. Already I said a prayer. I can think of an organization she would like and make a donation in her honor. I could make art about her. But really I can’t believe the loss yet. Death can be so fast and confusing.
Her biller called me. Initially her biller txted me to say Tracey had to cancel my appointment because of a medical emergency. I was afraid right away that she was dead. The word “reschedule” was not being used–cancel. I knew it was big and hoped the medical emergency was not hers.
A couple days later, I searched for her obituary. I couldn’t find anything and was heartened. But then the biller called and told me she had some sad news, and wow. I kind of lost it. A toned down, Laura-Marie version of losing it.
what I liked best about Tracye Ditmore
I liked that Tracye was respectful and kind, validating, willing to laugh at the absurdity of life, and helped me understand reality. At first I misunderstood her as a smiler and nodder. But after a few meetings, I understood that an intense intelligence was vivid behind her unpretentious, chill demeanor.
I also loved that she was Black, a woman, and possibly fat. I say possibly because she was not a thin or medium sized person, but I don’t know that she identified as fat. She could have identified as overweight or one of those terms I don’t use. (I’m not overweight–I’m a great weight. My weight is 100% ok with me.)
Every time I spoke about my experiences as a fat person who faces potentially lethal mistreatment at a doctor’s office, and hate in social situations from people who shame themselves about their bodies, and then their self-shame gets onto me… Tracye understood. She was right there with me.
When I spoke about being unconditionally valid and how my self-worth had nothing to do with society’s judgments, Tracye would say, “Absolutely!” She gave enthusiastic approval to my fat liberation, queer liberation, mad liberation, and all the ways I’m kind to myself and give myself permission to be who I am.
Tracye being woman was important to me. And she understood any racial thing I’d discuss with her. It was great to talk with her about bad behavior I see around me that could be classified as white supremacy, being mixed, and the differences between the white and Mexican-American sides of my family. Even though I’m not Black and we didn’t have the same experiences racially, I was a hundred percent comfortable with her as brilliant person of color with a grasp of any racial issue I might bring up.
Not sure how she identified politically, but I love how Tracye didn’t bat an eye when I mentioned being an anarchist, getting arrested at the test site, the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective, or any of my work and what’s important to me. She had a chill curiosity and appreciated what was most important to me. Never did I feel even a hint of judgment.
Tracye was brilliant about relationships. She helped me understand what happened in my family of origin, and what was going on in my friendships and communities. She didn’t speak up a lot, mostly listening with validation.
I loved her gentle reframing. She’d say something like, “I heard you say such-and-such. And I was wondering if you ever thought of it this way.” Then she would offer a reframing of what I’d said, that I’d never thought of before, that was often extremely helpful to me.
She didn’t do that a lot–maybe once or twice a session, she would offer me an alternate reading of a situation of my own life that would be super valuable to me. Paying such smart attention, she knew me well enough to know what I couldn’t see and nurture me in this sweet way, with her insight and gentle suggestion. I would take her ideas and build on them, applying them to other aspects of my life, and bring them inside of me to help me make better choices.
behaviors of men
She especially helped me understand the behaviors of men. I remember a man who had power over me and Ming, who I loved very much, some years ago. Tracye explained to me the fuckery that he was doing, and I didn’t want to believe her. But in a few months, what she had told me would become painfully obvious. I had to admit that yes, the man was doing that horrible thing.
I really didn’t want her to be right. She worked with homeless youth, and she’d explain what she learned from those kids, and how she saw parallels in my life. Especially when it comes to power–she learned from those homeless youth how people can skillfully manipulate one another. She helped me understand how the underhanded guy I loved was doing that to me and Ming.
what I’ve learned
Tracye’s gentle, unpretentious brilliance was so refreshing. She helped me learn about my role in my family of origin, how men play me, how my good intentions are more to be trusted than my self-criticism. She helped me learn how to trust myself more, by modeling that I’m trustworthy. I love how she believed in me.
I remember once when she asked me what I’ve learned in Las Vegas. Excitedly, I listed.
- I’ve learned to have faith in myself and the universe after a time of losing all faith.
- I learned how to love myself and my body, rejecting an entire society’s belief that I should hate myself and starve myself into a smaller version of me that’s acceptable.
- How to care for myself by centering my own well-being and Ming’s.
- How to define success in a way that includes me and see myself as unconditionally valid.
- I’ve learned how to speak my truth on my terms, in ways that work for me, like in zines and this blog.
- I’ve learned what really matters to me.
- Importantly, I’ve learned how to say no.
I listed for her all these things I’ve learned, and she marveled at how far I’ve come. “That’s amazing!” she said.
“Well, I have you to thank for that!” I said. “You helped me to realize all those things.”
“It’s you,” she said. “You did all that work.”
But she knew–she had a hand in that, for sure. We were both glowing inside, to see how far I’ve come, being the person I want to be and healing old pain.
Many self-destructive behaviors I let go of, and ways of thinking I was taught as a child that I needed to shed. I replace what I shed with my own adult values and behaviors, now as the person I am. With self-respect and unconditional self-love.
Thank you to Tracye Ditmore for being an amazing therapist. I feel lucky I could see her for around six years. I’ve only had two good therapists in my life.
I did a lot of work on my own. Then it was fun to meet with her, have rapport, present her with what I’d been going through and realizing, and learn from her feedback. I felt safer in the world, knowing she was on my team.
Thank you to her spirit, wherever it may be, to her family, and to the truth she was so deeply connected to. I’d say that truth was Mother God or Love. The nurturing Tracye Ditmore gave to me, in this particular detached role, changed my life.