Issues, Therapy and Me

I couldn’t write about issues without including this song; it’s been the anthem for my whole life, especially when it comes to love. Enjoy.

I know it’s been quite a long time since I last wrote, but I have been going through an awakening, of sorts. Actually, it may be more of a emergence from a long-term state of denial. I have known for quite some time that there are some deeply seated, dark and painful memories that have haunted me in my weaker moments from time to time. I say in my weaker moments because like anyone who is in denial, there is a certain amount of energy and headspace that you have to maintain, like throwing a sheet over an attacking mountain lion, basically. As long as the sheet stays in place, the big kitty can’t see me and therefore, cannot bite, chew and eat me. But once the sheet slips, the eyes lock, the body lowers and the hindquarters twitch, pupils dilate and the mouth waters in anticipation of that delicious first bite into my sweet, white flesh. Denial is the sheet and the memories are the mountain lion; so long as my state of denial was firmly in place, I was protected from those memories and if they even came up, they were  heavily photoshopped and edited to the point of being unrecognizable. That is another component of not only denial, but basic human survival. Our mind will do whatever it takes to get through whatever is happening, whether that be fracturing into different personalities, wiping the memory entirely from the mind or rewriting the scene to be an entirely different experience and transporting oneself to that beautiful, safe place. At any rate, I have known on an intellectual level for some time now that therapy would be something that could potentially help me to really, truly work through the memories, the events, the recurring thoughts and anxiety that are frequent visitors to my psyche. Having my 50th birthday approaching may have been the extra nudge from the Universe that I needed or maybe I had made an agreement with myself a long time ago (when I thought 50 was basically on death’s door) that I would deal with any demons I picked up along the way well before that specific birthday; whatever the case, I found a therapist named Lisa, had a getting to know you session and now have an appointment to come back and begin therapy.

The type of therapy that Lisa would like to do with me is EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy) and I actually know someone who has had many sessions with her therapist and was amazed at the results. It is a relatively new form of therapy and does not involve pharmaceuticals in any form, so therefore there is a belief in some circles that it’s not real therapy. I believe the people’s experiences speak for themselves and there are a great deal of them. It has shown great promise with victims of rape, violent crime, natural disaster survivors and those diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) including but not limited to military veterans. In the book I’m currently reading entitled “EMDR” by Francine Shapiro, there is a woman who survived the Oklahoma City bombing and her story, along with many others are nothing short of miraculous. Should you wish to learn more about EMDR, click on the link below.

http://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/

Now, all that said, there is still a certain hesitation to open Pandora’s box, to remove the sheet and face the mountain lion; there is a comfort in stagnation for me in many ways. Change is pain and pain is what I’ll do anything to avoid even if it means more pain. Funny how that works. These issues have been my unwanted passengers for decades now and have effected my life in every possible way imaginable. Even then, they have not been successful in their desire to see me fold, quit and ultimately take my life. I have dreamt of being free of them all, the burden lifted, the darkness made to light. Well, dreams are all fine and good but at some point, I must wake up. This is my awakening and I’m going to share it with you as I go. I believe that we as a whole have more in common when it comes to dealing with demons and living through horrific events than we are aware. If any portion of my story reaches someone else, causes a shift in thinking, an opening where hope can shine through, I’m all for that. That’s basically why I keep waking up each morning, apparently. I have to believe that all of the negative that has attached itself to me throughout my life thus far has simply been for my education and in return, to share those lessons, revelations or insights.

In the words of the great Malcolm X –

“There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.”

All that being said, I will be more than happy when I have been able to get the lesson wrapped in a shell of pain, unwrap it, throw away the shell and take the lesson with me as I move forward, a bit more stronger and wiser. I’m happy to have you on this journey with me and as always, amazed and pleased that someone is still reading what I’m writing. Thanks for that and thanks for believing in me.

Wishing you a great 4th of July everyone! May you celebrate your own personal independence in whatever way you choose. A huge thank you, hugs and kisses to all our military service men and women out there. You are the heart and soul of all of us. Words will never be enough to thank those who are with us and those who have fought and sacrificed their lives for what they believed in and what we enjoy today; freedom.

The Invisible Line

I have told you before about one of my brothers who has been facing some challenges and I have done what I thought was in his best interest while trying to help him, but I have encountered an invisible line time and time again, the line between truly helping him and enabling him in a co-dependent manner (teaching a man to fish versus just giving him a fish) and I have to tell you, it is the most difficult, truly undefinable line that you really don’t even see it. Just like those trip wires that you can’t see as you look ahead and end up blowing you and everything within a pretty significant distance to either Heaven, Hell or just tiny pieces of biological matter. You can only look back and second guess yourself or see the end result of the codependency when unhealthy behaviors and crisis status is the current status each and every day. At what point does one admit that the task at hand is so far beyond their abilities that self-sacrifice will appease the gods that are so angry with my brother? Or do I just put myself, my mental health first and let the chips fall where they may, even if that means I lose a brother or maybe even two? Who am I to think that I have the right to cut the string of destiny to spare my brother pain that perhaps is his lesson, his karma? Where does my responsibility as a sister begin, where does it end? Where does my responsibility as human being with the ability to help begin and end or is that even a real thing?

The best that I can do is go with my gut, as Agent Gibbs on NCIS would say (thank you Netflix binge therapy!!) and do what I think is right at the time, with the resources available and with what I believe to be in his best interest.

There is always a kernel of a Life Lesson in each painful event of growth, so there is no win or lose, only try, but then I think of Yoda…

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So I keep putting my best foot forward, keep my mind focused and keep a sharp eye out for that invisible line.

Retail Therapy vs. Real Therapy

When I was in my last huge manic episode, I was completely unable to resist the urge impulse and ended up maxing out seven credit cards to the tune of around $2,500. I was actually lucky that I didn’t have more because I am certain I would have maxed out 100 credit cards. I would shop if I was happy to celebrate whatever had made me happy; if someone made me (you notice the “made me” in that sentence?) angry or hurt my feelings, I would shop. If the sky was blue and the day ended with “day” I would shop. I would buy anything from pink parachute pants to Wonder Bras; ceramic masks to luggage sets. It didn’t matter what I was buying, it was just the whole experience of retail therapy. I thought that by going with these impulses, I would find a way to happiness. Never mind that I was setting up a financial nightmare for my future, non-manic self. Why think about tomorrow when you can spend freely today? Besides, I had to buy these things. The world would stop spinning, I would stop breathing and all would turn to darkness if I didn’t. After all, that’s what the voice inside my head was telling me and if you can’t trust that voice inside of your head, who can you trust? 

Of course, nothing lasts forever and thank God for that. After the madness had passed and I had returned to the reality of debt, I was deeply depressed. How would I ever be able to pay off all those cards? What did I have to show for all those thousands of dollars? Well, the parachute pants had long since gone out of style, the Wonder bras surely didn’t add up to a couple thousand and change. Oh and the other thing I loved to do was give things away. Almost as soon as I had purchased something, the impulse to give it away usually followed. Sometimes I could bargain with myself and give away something that old, that I had already bought months or years ago. That’s also why I had nothing to show for it. But, as my dad used to say, the hardest lessons are the ones we most need to learn. Or something like that.

Today, I still have that urge to go shopping and buy whatever catches my eye or my fancy. However, I have no credit cards and if I overspend, I go hungry. This makes it much easier to put things down and walk out of the store empty-handed and not feel cheated. Also, since people aren’t making me anything, I can’t use that excuse. If I have made choices that lead to me being angry, I now understand that no amount of retail therapy will make that anger go away. I now understand the difference between therapy that helps me to deal with difficulties and therapy that enables me in avoiding them. One doesn’t have to be manic to be a slave to impulses or to engage in behavior with no limits, no boundaries. I am constantly working on disciplining myself against those behaviors that hold me back from realizing my True Self and exercising those actions that bring me closer. I will go shopping and if I find something that interests me, I will put it in my basket or carry it around with me for a while to see if my desire for it can last more than 15 minutes or so. You’d be surprised at how many things actually leave the store with me. It’s little tactics and tricks like that I use to save me from myself. So far, it seems to be working. 

Now I’m off for some Friend Talk Therapy over coffee and to celebrate my independence from credit cards, mountains of debt and the end result – debilitating depression.

Happy Independence Day!