The Light at the End of the Tunnel

I met with a counselor/therapist yesterday. At the two hour meeting, I recounted all of the relevant events in my life: physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, rape, numerous deaths in the family (some traumatic), miscarriage, drug abuse, suicide attempts, breakdowns, discovery of my bastard status, finding out I’m half-black at the age of 29, my failed marriages, my second husband’s sex change operation, premature birth of my daughter, episodic depression and anxiety, post-partum depression, pre-menstrual insanity, family history of mental illness, current marital problems, current career concerns, psychiatric medications that I’m taking, my “diagnoses”, and the fact that I’m so tired of dealing with “mental health issues” that I would probably kill myself if it weren’t for the devastating effect it would have on my daughter.

Hell, it’s not surprising that my heart hurts. What’s surprising is that I’m not a raving lunatic drowning her pain in heroin, crack, meth, sex, or all of the above.

Needless to say, I was exhausted and emotionally drained by the end of the session.

I like what Jef had to say. His office is in his home and his home radiates peace and serenity. God, how I want that. He rejects traditional DSM-IV diagnoses and refers instead to “soul wounds”—that completely works for me. He also works with art as therapy, and believes part of his job is to give me tools that I can use on my own in future, as opposed to creating a dependent client-therapist relationship (think Woody Allen and years of analysis).

Notably, when he asked me where I wanted to be in six months, “happy” wasn’t on my list. I don’t know if I believe in happy or if I’ll ever be truly “happy” in my life. I’d settle for a sense of serenity, of being okay with my unhappy life. Happiness is transient. I want to be okay in myself, whatever happens. I told him that I didn’t want to be happy, I wanted to be able to enjoy the strawberry.

The tale goes something like this:

A monk is walking through the forest when he begins to be chased by a tiger. He runs until he gets to the edge of a cliff, where he’s trapped. He begins to climb down to avoid the tiger. Partway down, he notices that more tigers have spotted him; they are pacing around at the foot of the cliff, waiting for him to climb down or fall. The other tiger waits above. The monk, clinging tightly to a root, sees before him one large red perfectly ripe strawberry. He plucks the berry and pops it into his mouth. Savouring its burst of juice in his mouth, he closes his eyes and says “Mmmmmmmm.”

I don’t think I’ll ever be happy. I’ll settle for “Mmmmmmmm.”

The other important thing in this relationship is his inclusion of spiritual life and practice in the mental healing process—the mental and the spiritual are intimately interconnected and need to be addressed that way. It was *incredible* to be able to discuss how I see my actions as violating the precepts and how that dichotomy creates a huge amount of shame in my life. I feel a lot of shame right now—I’m embarrassed at my reactions to the painful events in my life. I’m ashamed of who I am and I’m ashamed of not living my life according to my values.

It’s amazingly difficult to recount these things. So much easier to try and escape the pain by any means necessary. But it’s not right for me. I cannot go on the way I have been and I don’t know how to move from here.

But I think I’ve found someone who I can trust and who can truly help me. That is the light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s enough for today.

Self Injury

Why do we do things that are self-destructive? I know I’m not the only human being to walk this path. Logically, we should gravitate towards things that help us grow, like a tree to the light. But somehow, some of us end up twisted and gnarled, and the bitch of it is that we do it to ourselves. Unless you are actually enslaved (a reality for far too many people on our planet today) or actively being tortured, we ourselves propel ourselves not towards growth, but behaviours that injure us. Why?

This is the point where I try to remind myself that “Why?” is a dangerous and often useless line of inquiry. Does it really matter? Or, more to the point, why not?

Why not? All I can do is shrug. Why not indeed.

Now what? That’s a more useful question. Perhaps the best question is “What’s next?” What is the next step that I need to take in order to move forward? That’s the $64,000. question.

To answer it, I need to know where I am. I have to be honest about what is going on with me. Time to do a little journal writing.

Nothing like some real suffering…

to make one realize how self-indulgent one has been. A story about a 15-year-old girl who died after performing genital self-mutilation on herself. She was embarrassed about not being circumcised.

Besides my heart aching for that child and her family, especially her mother, the whole story patently reminds me of all the blessings that I enjoy in my life. It gives me a different and important perspective. It also gives me a break from focusing on my problems. I believe these are good and important things for healing.

Happy Belated Solstice

I celebrated the summer solstice yesterday. Since a bonfire was not appropriate for our backyard, I lit a torch at dusk and watched the sun set on the longest day in the northern hemisphere.

After an awful weekend, I seem to be on the rebound. I saw my doctor yesterday and had an upfront and candid discussion with her about everything that’s going on in my life. She gave me a referral to the therapist in her practice. It’s expensive, but I’m going to find the money somehow, because I can’t wait three months for a spot to open up with the Canadian Mental Health Association. I think the weekend was so rotten (horrible mood swings, major irritibility, extreme fatigue) in part because my last cigarette was last Thursday (hey, that makes today a week cigarette-free). Yay me!

Dr K also has a referral for couple’s counselling, which is good. The relationship stress is causing me extreme emotional distress. I really really want my marriage to work and it scares me to death to think that this one too may fail. It scares me so much that I self-medicate in order to avoid facing that thought.

Dr K also asked me if I’d thought about “coming out” as a person with mental illness and an advocate for the same. She said I was extremely articulate about what was going on and it would help others as well. Interestingly, she said this shortly after I spoke about the feeling of shame that surrounds my psychiatric diagnoses. She also suggested volunteer work to give structure to my day.

The idea of being an advocate has occurred to me recently. I’m always loathe to commit to ideas that pop up in the midst of one of my “moods”, because I do tend toward bipolar. But this is one that I want to remember and think about. There is something here that resonates deeply and I don’t want to lose it.

Mood: Extremely mutable. The weekend rollercoaster has slowed a little, but I’m still being flung about hour to hour and moment to moment. I have moments that resemble panic attacks but the primary sensation is one of being completely overwhelmed. This sensation is intense and difficult to deal with. I’m so tired of the roller coaster. Plus, every move forward that I make seems to be followed by a severe backlash of self-loathing and self-attack. It’s like I’m fighting myself to prevent myself from getting better. I just had an image of Captain Kirk and the evil Captain Kirk fighting for supremacy. My mind is so weird.

Home Day

Miss Bri has a nasty cough with some awful sounding wheezing, so we’re having a home day today. Maybe we’ll go visit Grandma Joy.