Friday, November 04, 2005

Fridays Past and Present

For pretty much the entire year of 2004, I spent Friday nights at home watching “Joan of Arcadia” and crying. It sounds sad, and it was, but it felt really good to nestle myself in a blanket and immerse myself in another person’s story for awhile. The storyline to “Joan” was different from other shows on tv. It was spiritual, thoughtful, and dealt with serious issues in a non-clichéd way. I liked it.

I cried because I had so many strong emotions all the time, and the release was necessary. I was blanketed with layer upon layer of grief and shock for all that had changed in my life: the illness and deaths of my brother and father; feeling lonely, lost, guilty, and overwhelmingly responsible for my child’s happiness and well-being; unsure of how I would ever be of a good parent if all I could do was get through the day and then cry any time I was alone (and even when I was not alone. I hate crying in public, but it happened a lot that year). My life as I knew it was turned upside down, inside out, and all the contents were shook about until it no longer resembled anything I recognized. There was no comfort to be found in familiar routines or objects, because very little was left that was familiar. This was how I felt on the inside, too: completely unrecognizable, as though someone had taken an electric mixer to my guts and heart and all remained was ugly, messy carnage. My family was completely obliterated, with each of us launched to our separate corners of the universe, isolated with our grief. It in a wild understatement to say that I did not know how to cope.

I was not a happy person. I could not see my way out of the despair I was in. When a coworker killed himself, I was shocked and saddened like everyone else. Secretly, I envied him the release from it all that I imagined he experienced in his last moments. Scary.

Things changed for me when I made two critical decisions which unleashed positive forces that began to work inside me that I have never before experienced. The first was that I began attending church, and the other that I found an excellent counselor. I don't know what got me to that point, but something inside of me knew there was hope. I knew I wasn't benefitting yet from the inner spring of optimism, but somehow I knew it was there. It is an amazing mystery how that spring became replenished after it had run so low for so long.
The church I found is Presbyterian, who had only months before I showed up, hired a new pastor. He happens to be the most dynamic, intelligent, compassionate, rational, wise man I have ever heard speak in my life. He is amazing! He is brilliant! I cannot do him justice here with my words, and I cannot say enough about him. He renders you absolutely intent on what he’s saying. He weaves in quotations and stories from scientists, authors, scholars, theologians, and more into his sermons, to make his point. Generally, his point is that we are all human, we try our best, and when we don’t that’s okay, too. He drills home that we are all accepted and loved, and that we should now go out and do our best for another week.

His message was like a lightening bolt to my soul. I was okay? Are you kidding? Do you know who I am and how many mistakes I’ve made??? And I’m forgiven? No way! Really?

This experience has proven to be essential to my recovery. I do not believe I would be where I am today without Pastor Rene. I remember one story in particular that began my change of thinking. It is the parable of the lost sheep. I have, for all my life, never felt like I belonged. When I was a kid, I thought I wasn’t supposed to be born because my parents were divorced. Now, it’s interesting to note that I didn’t believe this about OTHER kids whose parents were divorced, just myself. I don’t know where I got this notion. This notion grew until it parlayed itself into the bigger belief when I was older that I was not a legitimate part of the world. All the way through my 20’s. It was only when I became a mother did I feel a part of something. I know, it’s really weird that I thought that way, and for so long.

So, the parable of the lost sheep is something like this: A shepherd has 100 sheep grazing in a meadow. One sheep wanders off, and when the shepherd notices this, he goes off to find that missing sheep, leaving the 99 who stayed where they were supposed to be, alone and ungaurded. At that moment, the one missing sheep is more important than the other 99. This spoke to me. Guess which sheep I felt like I was? And that was when I began to feel important, and a part of humanity, not to put too fine a point on it. Can you imagine feeling this way? Like you were not a part of the world? That kind of thinking had far-reaching implications, and colored every other thought and action I had. It was the main basis for my depression.

After hearing that story, I began to feel differently about myself. It took some time, but after a few months I began to feel worthy, and that my own thoughts and feelings were useful, and that I could express them. I began to feel my own place in the world, and that that place was valid.

After many subsequent Sundays of taking notes during similarly intelligent sermons, and a few personal meetings with the pastor, I have learned more, and built further upon these feelings of validity and worth. Up until this year it was as if my innermost self, my soul, was submerged in cold, brackish water. It was stagnating and suffocating in the mire. This year, for the first time in my life, my soul has warmed and surfaced above the blackness which has allowed me to blossom and become the person I was meant to be.

I have been to three counselors in two years. The first one was a very stylish woman who, I am fairly sure, never wore the same thing twice in the year that I saw her. She listened and listened and listened, and had nothing to offer. There were no suggestions, no insights, no guidance, nothing. It took me a long time to leave her, but when I finally did, she made me feel guilty and tried to get me to come back. I can’t believe I did it, because I was such a pleaser, but I resisted her highly inappropriate suggestions and did not go back.

The second was a psychiatrist, who I chose because I needed someone who could prescribe medication. I was getting desperate because of ongoing sleep deprivation. My appointments with him were in the late afternoon, and he tended to fall into a state of relaxtion where he was moments away from falling asleep. He would sit in the chair with his head in his hand, and when he would start to lean, I would get worried. What does one do when one’s psychiatrist dozes? And, should I feel flattered that I wasn’t crazy enough to keep him awake? Did that mean I was okay? Somehow, I thought not. That was too much for me to take, to have someone on the verge of falling asleep at the moment I am sharing my deepest feelings and reaching out, desperate for help.

This leads me to the third. He was fine and all, but there were never any breakthroughs or anything very significant to come out of the sessions. He listened without falling asleep, and he had things to offer, but we just weren’t connecting. I felt dissatisfied every time I left, like I had talked for an hour and nothing came of it.

After that I waited several months before seeing someone new. I was tired of baring my soul to no avail. It’s a fairly exhausting process. Not to mention, there is the scheduling and the sick time and the insurance to deal with. At that point, I needed a break.

At the end of 2004 I began seeing my current counselor. She is a great fit for me, because of the way she listens to me and has insights to my problems. She has this way of getting to the heart of things, and making me think of it a little differently. I’ve made more progress with her in less than a year of counseling, than I have in my entire life until that point. It’s been incredible. I cannot do justice to my experiences by writing about it here. It’s so hard to describe.

My friday nights, and life in general, began to improve in 2005. The concepts I was learning and the changes to my thinking and behavior coalesced, and I began to not need to cry as much. Friday nights became about resting after a long week, but not about collapsing and crying for hours. This was a great relief.

Now, things are much improved: I am married to a warm and caring man; I work at a job I’m fortunate to have that keeps me in shoes and French facial care products; I have wonderful friends, one of whom told me last night that there are things she can tell only to me which made me feel good, and I also feel the same about her; I enjoy family life with my sweet daughter and of course, the kitties. We live in a three bedroom house on a dead end street with ¾ of an acre with big trees and a garden. It’s lovely. Things are not, however, perfect.

We are currently having the master bedroom and bathroom remodeled. During this time, we are sharing a half-bath containing a toilet and sink with the washer, dryer, bucket of laundry soap, and two litter boxes. Our first aid, brushes, hair products, and makeup is contained in boxes on top of the dryer. The remodel is taking longer than expected, but we’re dealing with it. The most problematic detail is there is no bathtub in which to bathe OC. I have rented my apartment for another three weeks in order to have a bathtub available, which we frequent three times a week. After which we drive home, arriving after 8pm. It’s not the most convenient of things. In fact, it’s a huge pain in the rear. I know that at the end of it all, we’ll have a beautiful new bathroom and bedroom to enjoy. It will be done one day soon, and we’ll look back on this time and laugh! Okay, maybe not laugh, but we’ll better enjoy where we are after having gone through this.

Today is Friday. OH is going to watch his #1 in state varsity football team (he is the jv defense coach; the jv’s went undefeated this year) play the #2 team. I plan to spend this evening cleaning the kitchen, then snuggling with my daughter while we check out one of our Netflix movies. The only way crying may occur will be if the movie is sad. For that I am truly very grateful.

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