Blessings and Miracles

There was a time in my life when I didn’t think very highly of the mental health profession.  Let’s face it, I held the belief that they were all a bunch of wackos whose main role in life was to screw with people’s minds and pump them full of drugs.  I thought all psychiatrists were nuttier than the average fruitcake and that counselors and psychologists weren’t worth the paper on which their degrees were printed.

To be fair, I was raised in a house FULL of fruitcakes who spent most of their time lying to, using and manipulating anyone who tried in vain to help them.  To them, all of their issues were the fault of others which included any mental health professionals to whom they were assigned, voluntarily or otherwise.  Since those poor souls were either denying them the drugs or the answers they wanted, they were ineffective quacks who should have their credentials snatched immediately if not sooner.

Let me state for the record, I was (gulp) wro…, um…not correct.  At least not entirely.  I still think the mental health system has a long way to go to meet the needs of the suffering.  From my experience, it’s the system that wants to either pump people full of drugs or send them to overworked and underpaid counselors without the proper training to meet the rapidly growing needs of society.

Please don’t misunderstand, I have personally met some whack job mental health people over the years whose offices I’ve left confused, disappointed and shaking my head in dismay.  But, to be fair, I’ve also met whacked out medical doctors, priests (lots of those), teachers, grocery store clerks and bank tellers.  I once had a creepy gynecologist who I couldn’t wait to get away from.  I’ve had hairdressers that chopped my hair making me wish I was bald and a masseuse once at Elizabeth Arden Salons that creeped me out so bad I complained to management.  But none of these had me telling anyone and everyone that would listen that the entire profession of massage therapists, medical doctors and hairdressers were all batshit crazy.  No – that particular classification was reserved only for shrinks and their brethren.

And then I became clinically depressed.

Don’t you love God’s sense of humor?  I sure do.

Over the last 20 years I’ve been through many psychiatrists and therapists as I’ve navigated this complicated condition.  I’ve learned to overcome prejudice and stigma while simultaneously opening my own mind to the possibility of an excellent relationship with those on the other side of the couch.  It’s been extremely humbling and very hard work but it’s also made me a more compassionate and empathetic human.  Definitely a blessing.

I now find myself in a relationship with a therapist that I’ve come to not only like, but to trust.  I like lots of people.  I trust very few.  I know part of the reason I’m feeling so good about this is because I was ready to hear what he had to say and do the work required to make myself well, but it’s also because he’s very good at his job and he’s exactly the personality type that I needed.  God and the Universe knew that it would take a very special combination of efforts to bring me to a point where I was ready to receive the message.  Another blessing.

One of the most important things I’ve learned in the last 20 years is that this work is required.  For the last 19.5 years it was because unless I took care of myself, my children were going to suffer.  Long time readers of this blog can tell you that shit don’t fly in my world.  My family is worth anything and everything I have to do to create an atmosphere of loving kindness. Besides…it’s not their fault mama’s a nutcase.  In fact, my own depression allowed me to recognize it in one of my children at a very young age and allow him to avoid a lot of heartache and difficulty.  More blessings.

In the last few months however, I’ve also learned that I’m worth the work required just because I breathe.  God created me and, I imagine, as my Father it probably made Him very sad to know how little I thought of myself up until this point.  In fact, it probably pisses Him off – if God can even get pissed off that is.

I’ve now come to the realization that my therapy time is my sacred space.  That hour belongs to me and me alone and what’s said in that room is strictly between me and JP.  If I choose to share it then I share it.  If I choose to keep it to myself that’s okay as well.  It’s one of the few places in my world where I don’t feel judged or like I’m going to make a mistake.  When I’m in that space I don’t feel fat, or ugly, or wrong, or clumsy or any of the things I’ve been carrying around most of my life.  I feel accepted and safe and like I’m worth the effort.

That’s not a blessing people…that’s a fucking miracle.

Namaste

A Date with Me for Tea

One of the main reasons I’m going the therapy route is that I have no idea how to process emotions.  Most people learn how to do that when they’re very young but people from dysfunctional homes like mine just stuff that shit down…ain’t nobody got time for that!  Of course we all know that comes back to bite you in the ass eventually.  For me the bite turned out to be clinical depression and a whole host of other text book behaviors that left me a 53-year-old recovering alcoholic in desperate need of therapy.  Oh well…cest la vie!

My therapist told me about a Buddhist saying that goes something like – rather than avoiding your feelings, invite them in for tea.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that.  First I have to recognize I’m feeling a particular way and name it.  Believe it or not I’m just learning how to do that.  So let’s say I figure out what I’m feeling and it’s knocking like a cop on my front door.  I’m visualizing opening that door with anger and resentment on the other side (or whatever I’m feeling in a particular moment) and instead of shooing them away, I invite them in for tea.  Which of course would be sweet tea rather than oolong because I’m in the south and that’s how we roll.  Which means instead of sitting on the floor on some fluffy pillows and sipping from tiny cups and listening to pan flutes, we’d be sitting on stools around my kitchen counter drinking from Tervis tumblers and listening to Trace Adkins or Colbie Caillat or P!nk.

Don’t judge.

Anyway, I like the way that makes me feel.  Like I could actually get comfortable with my emotions.  Get to know them a little better.  Let them leave in their own good time rather than rushing them out because I don’t want to deal with them.  Because they make me uncomfortable.

Except.

Except that I can’t figure out what to DO with them while we’re at the kitchen counter!  I’ve been trying to practice today and I’m having a hard time knowing what to do with them while they take their sweet time moving right along.  If I were at home and IF I had the time I could go into my closet and just let the feelings be.  But I’m not.  I’m at work and…well…ain’t nobody got time for this shit you know what I’m sayin’?

Yeah…I still have a little work to do.

My guess is that normal people do this on a regular basis and don’t even think about it.  They process emotions and feelings like breathing…it just happens.  I was thinking about how, when my kids were little, I used to make sure that whatever they were feeling was validated so they knew that it was okay.

For example, someone is angry and throwing a hissy fit.  I’d tell them (sometimes having to yell over their yelling) that it was okay to feel the way they were feeling.  That I understood and that they had every right to be angry because it never feels good not to get what you want.  In fact, let’s stomp and little louder and maybe punch some pillows.  But I’m not giving you the _____________ no matter how angry you are or how much you yell.  So get this out of your system and we’ll talk when you’re feeling more like yourself.

And then I’d walk away.

I’d say it worked about 70% of the time.  I mean sometimes an irrational child is just that.  But I notice now that they’re grown, that they are way more in touch with their emotions then I’ll likely ever be (with the exception of my niece and nephew who I’m still working on – but that’s a different post).  So how could I teach that skill without learning it myself?

Who the hell knows?  Maybe it’s just an innate desire to model what I wished was done for me as a child.  Maybe it’s just dumb luck.

For now I guess I’ll just use my feelings journal and me and my emotions will sit at my kitchen counter and stare at each other until they decide it’s time to get the hell out of my head and go bother someone else.

Namaste

 

What I don’t know how to do

In preparation for my upcoming therapy appointment, I’ve been thinking about things I’d like to work on and, ultimately, improve.  A comment I made either on my blog or on someone else’s (who can keep track?) about how I don’t know how to be normal has got me thinking…what else can’t I do?

First, I don’t feel emotions like other people do.  I tend to either feel them too deeply or not at all.  And if I feel them too deeply and they become painful then Mr. McStuffins shows up and stuffs them all…well…someplace…I actually have no idea where it all gets stuffed.  Someday some well-meaning therapist is going to find the key to that “someplace” and things will likely get very, very messy.  I’d like to work on opening that someplace slowly rather than all at once.

I can’t drink Donald Duck Pineapple Orange Juice, look at an old-fashioned billboard, or a box of broken crayons without feeling…well…weird (in fact, just typing those words did it).  There’s a deeply buried memory associated with all of these things that brings up feelings that seem to be uncomfortable, but my psyche doesn’t let me really “see” what it is.  Usually we suppress things that are too painful to remember.  I hope this isn’t one of those times.  If it is?  Let’s approach that slowly as well okay?

I don’t like myself.  I try…but that damned voice in my head keeps repeating the shit that was put there long ago.  THIS is my biggest challenge – to get to the root of all of that and figure out how to stop the message.  But shit is messy yo.  And it stinks.  So I don’t expect this part to be easy but it’s got to happen because, at the end of the day, shit is also toxic if not handled properly.  However, if handled properly, it can be used to feed and nurture and make beautiful things grow. 

I don’t know how to let go.  Again I try…I really, really do.  So much that I had the words tattooed on my body.  All that did was give me a bad ass looking ankle, which is fine, but not exactly what I was going for if you know what I mean.  I need to learn how to keep the good stuff from a situation – you know, all the learning and positive spins – and let the hell go of all the bad stuff.  Just, you know, release that shit into the Universe to be dealt with accordingly.  Yeah…I’m gonna need to work on that.

I don’t know how to forgive.  Okay wait, let me clarify.  I have worked very hard to learn to forgive others and I’m doing a fantastic job and it feels amazing.  I love looking a people with love and understanding rather than anger and resentment.  Believe me when I say that it makes a big ass difference in my gut to not carry that shit around anymore.  Where I fail is when it comes to forgiving myself.  I’m not very good at that.  Down deep I don’t feel worthy of my own forgiveness and even I know that’s fucked up to the max. 

Speaking of “not worthy”, I don’t know how to effectively administer self-care.  Sure, I talk a really good game but when it comes execution?  I suck.  Big suck.  Mammoth suck.  I’m not even sure I really understand what the fuck it means to practice self-care!  I know what it’s not!  It’s not mani-pedis or chocolate or a new blouse.  Those things are nice but they’re temporary.  I may not know what it is exactly, but I know I need it and I know I need someone to take me by the hand and introduce me to it.

“Sherry, this is self-care.  It’s here to help you heal in a healthy and balanced way.  It’s good for you and should become part of your life.” (Said using tones like you’d use when talking to a frightened four-year old.)

“Self-care, this is Sherry.  Chick is all kinds of fucked up and needs you to slap her upside the head from time to time to get her attention.  But yo, she’s a quick study so it shouldn’t take her long to recognize you.” (Said in tones like you’d use talking to 50 Cent.)

The more I think about it, the more I think I should just email the link to my blog to my therapist so he can read and understand and save us both a hell of a lot of time and money.  Okay…save ME a lot of money.

But I don’t want to risk sending him screaming into the night.

Just kidding!

Sort of.

Namaste