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.