I have this patient who from the day I met her has said I look and sound so much like an old friend of hers. She's talked a lot about how much my laugh sounds like this person. She has also talked about how my hair is so much like hers (the patient's) when she was young (my hair is wildly curly).
At some point she told me I reminded her of her daughter. She wasn't doing very well then, and I was confused because I was pretty sure she didn't have a daughter, and sure enough, no daughter is listed in her chart. When she said the same thing to another therapist the therapist reminded her she didn't have a daughter. The patient told her that she meant I was like the daughter she always wanted and never had. That alone melted my heart.
Tonight she told me the full story. She did have a daughter. A daughter who looked remarkably like me, sounded much like me, and even walked like me. A daughter who was mentally ill, spent time in the state hospital, and eventually killed herself when she was still young.
I've certainly never told this patient my story. I'll never admit my illness to her, especially now because I know it would hurt her. But she knows.