Therapy: Getting An Objective Opinion

I saw my therapist yesterday. She is wonderful, as I have said numerous times. Yesterday, for the first time since I resumed talk therapy I simply DID NOT WANT TO GO. I felt as if I wore a cloak of negativity and had nothing to contribute to our session. I think this can be common among people with mental disorders. Some days we just do not want to talk.

But god, I’m glad I went.

An objective source is always needed. Those who are in our lives, whether they are our family, partners, and even friends, cannot give us feedback on our emotional state, whatever it might be that day, because they tell us all the things we do not want to hear:

  • “It will get better”
  • “You are spinning”
  • “You are playing the victim”
  • “You are only seeing the negative”

Words like these from those we love can hurt. They can wound. Because we put our trust in these people and share our issues with them. But they can become too much noise. They can cause even more static in my head, until I finally block it all out and isolate again.

And then the therapy appointment…

I moaned. I complained. I talked about how much I hated my life and how I was not where I thought I would be at this stage in my life. I bitched about everyone and everything and how I was miserable.

Then she said it: “YOU are being a victim. You are here, at this stage in your life, because of the choices you have made – good or bad – and have to accept that.”

WOW. Yes, she was saying everything all these other people in my life have been saying for years, but coming from her – an objective source – I could handle it. I could take it in and digest it, and realize, yes, I am playing the victim. I have found myself caught in this eddy of negative self-talk and with that as a continual message in my brain, nothing would ever change. Years ago, I did Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and it was successful, until my husband died. Then I ran from it, because storm clouds filled my world and all I could feel, see, experience was the bad. The negative. There were no answers to how radically my life had changed, without warning and on the brink of a new chapter in our relationship.

I turned my back on it. On my husband. On everything and everyone I had known, who had known him, because I could not deal with their grief on top of my own. I drowned my emotions in substances to block it all out. I think I have been running since that day.

I told my last talk therapist I was too smart for CBT – I can talk myself out of positive self-talk, so we tried EMDR therapy, which helped me deal with the trauma of finding him and got me to a place where I was able to accept he was gone. It lightened the load of grief slightly, but the gaping hole still remained. I was also in a very toxic job where I was a target daily and in immense pain from a bad spine. It was not a positive place for me to be. And even to this day, sitting alone in this southern town, I do not regret that I left.

I thought back – this job, the one I am in, was THE JOB I wanted when it was posted. It was exactly what I did, a town I knew I would love and got me out of the snow. So, in answer to my therapist, yes, this was a decision I CHOSE. Sitting on her leather couch, realizing that, I was able to see that it may not have started out as I had hoped, but it was my decision to come here, and it is time to try and make it what I initially thought it would be. Or realize that it never will, and figure out a new plan.

Because her next question was one she always asks me: “What do you WANT to do?”

And I told her I wanted to be a writer, and she looked at me gently and replied, “You tell me that every time we meet. You are talented. It is something you should be doing. But when you are focusing on all that is negative, nothing will change, the whirlpool will strengthen and you will get pulled into the depths of it.”

And then she asked me what life was like with my husband. I am sure my entire being changed. I relaxed into the soft leather and described the life we led together in the New England town where we lived. The serenity of it, the dancing of his feet when I would return home, the artwork we were constantly creating. He was an atheist, but believed in the tenets of Buddhism. And he lived them – the peacefulness and tranquility that existed in that house, in his presence was, for lack of a better word, simply magical. One could breathe there. One could exhale. One could forget about everything else and exist in the here and now, in the moment. Every house guest we had were loathe to leave after a visit, as they knew the moment they did, some of the peacefulness would be gone. I experienced that, like a slap in the face, the day I found him.

But it wasn’t the house. It was him. He was the magic. He was calm and cared so much for others. He didn’t understand why people would go to church (which was always ironic to me, having spent my life growing up in one until I was 18 and finally got to make my own decisions). I recall one day, as he showered – and he loved long showers, long enough for the hot water to run out and the bathroom to become a sauna – he called to me. He always wanted me to talk to him as he enjoyed the water gliding over his skin. I went to the bathroom, and through the steam, his voice asked why people followed religion. I told him I had no idea – other than it gave them something bigger than themselves to believe in, and perhaps the comfort of thinking they were not alone. I certainly do not believe in any institutionalized religion – it has caused too much strife in our world history, and with a father who loved his congregation more than his family, I felt it had never done anything for me. I was on board with my husband’s views, especially the living in the moment and never taking anything for granted.

Which made his death so hard. Because there was no heaven, no hell, no purgatory, after his death he was simply gone. We had discussed death and where you end up, but he believed we all go back into the elements, all become a part of everything that surrounds us and makes life – the tress, flowers, butterflies, all of it. But it was little comfort to me in the days, weeks and years that have followed that April afternoon. I cannot feel him. He was my compass, and I lost it and do not know where it is anymore. Most people would turn to their church. I turned away from everything. Everyone.

My therapist smiled. “He sounds like he was an incredible man. You had an incredible relationship. You were happy. How do you get it back?”

I just stared at her. How do you get it back? Her question rolled over and over in my mind.

Maybe the serenity that existed wasn’t solely within him. Maybe some of it was in me too, but I had lost it somewhere along the way, through the many years of running I have done since his death. I drowned it in substances and illicit flings and becoming more isolated from the world around me.

As I sank deeper into her couch I realized, I don’t want that life anymore. I want to be my own hero. I am exhausted from playing the victim, of only seeing the negative, of complaining constantly that NOTHING changes. I’m not saying this is easy – especially for someone who is bipolar – but perhaps it’s time for me to take control. To accept the fact that I am here, right now, because of all these choices I have made, either consciously or unconsciously. It is not an easy pill to swallow. But I think she is the only person who could have snapped some sense back into me, tell me to stop wallowing, and figure out how to change my narrative.

And now I have homework. I meditated for 5 minutes this morning – I know it’s not that long, but it’s a start. I created a positive mantra in my head that I repeated over and over again: the day was going to be wonderful, time would fly by at work, I would write, create and be positive. That’s step one. Next, I am to create serenity in my home. A house that has been an adjustment, simply because I have someone living over my head and have had to get used to the noise I do not create. And I am to carve out creative time. Which I am doing in this moment. This moment.

I left feeling better. Not 100%. Probably not even 80%. But better, and that is what mattered. I was still exhausted, still contemplating all we had discussed, and trying desperately to get the bile out of my mouth from the first part of our session where I was just bitching about how terrible everything is.

Life is not easy. For anyone. But maybe, just maybe, I can change the negative to a positive. And then, when the switch has been flipped, I can figure out what to do. Stay? Go? Find a peaceful medium? I do not have an answer yet.

But I am not done trying. And I feel that after my session yesterday, I have more ammunition under my belt to help me find a way back. To help me find my own compass. Yes, I want to know where he is. I want to feel him around me. Will that happen? I do not know, but if I do not let go of the negative, I am certain it never will. And thus, I am trying to find a middle way – for today at least. One step at a time. One moment at a time. Because that is all I can do. It is all any of us can do.

© Sorrow & Kindness

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