There is no title for this painting; it was on a therapist’s website and I liked it.
As I’m about to get my hands on some of my 401k funds in order to survive while going through the disability qualification process (because I’m not being paid even though my employee benefits say I’m supposed to be), I’m really struggling with giving up work because of the money shortage issue. I am many things, but hopefully I’m not willfully blind to the fact that no money = no ability to survive in America. We have a very limited safety net, and if you’re deemed unworthy, individuals are screwed and survival is doubtful from that point onward. So, reorganizing and regrouping from time to time is necessary in order to ensure one’s thinking isn’t entitled or flawed. The landlord’s not going to wait for his rent, and neither will anybody else when it comes to covering the fees involved in simply existing. Car payments. Food. Gas. Utilities. Personal hygene. Whatever.
I’m going back and forth with where my mother was at this point in her life for dealing with the disease (7 years before she died), and marveling at how similar our lives have been at different points in time, even though our circumstances were very different at similar circumstances and ages. Age 36 – she was in court battling for a divorce and funds to raise her kids. Age 36 – I was in court battling for repayment after an explosion, and for loss of all my stuff. A typical example of circumstances which have parallelled each other and been eerily similar.
So, I’m looking at what kind of medical staff should be involved in my care as I’m adjusting to leaving work and making life quality decisions, and everything I’m reading is recommending I have a therapist, life coach or counselor.
Plus, yet another parallel with Mom. (I love her dearly, but she’s been gone ten (10) years this past April, and I feel like I’m being haunted). Haunted in a kind, supportive, and very motherly way… But, it’s still weird.
Mom was having a horrible time in 1985. 49 years old. Her best friend moved to Florida in semi-retirement preparation. Her youngest daughter ran away to California at 16 with her boyfriend, only to come back home in a few months to live as a high school drop out. Her oldest daughter (me), moved away to California, almost as soon as the younger daughter came home. Mom’d had a hysterectomy; she was exhausted all the time. The hot flashes were killing her. Daddy Dearest, her ex-husband, was refusing to pay child support and her life sucked (her words). She was passed over for promotion at work, even though she ran the department. Her youngest daughter then says she’s pregnant at 16. She felt like she was losing her mind trying to keep it all together. Her nightly coffee brandy bedtime drink was getting out of control, and something had to give.
So, therapy. Mom was always an amazingly self-accountable person, and I’m trying to follow her example while not liking it one little bit.
In my case, I come to therapy with baggage. I’ve already been through treatment as a child, as I suffered from ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) and the school wanted me locked up with other less intelligent children as “damaged goods”. (For background on how common this was in New England in the 1960’s, before Title IX, I suggest reading, “The State Boys Rebellion” about children written off and sent to The Fernald School in Massachusetts as societal rejects, just because they were poor or disadvantaged or were independent and defiant).
Regardless of how far I’ve come in life and how well I’ve done, though, I remember my childhood as both idyllic and tortured, depending on the circumstances on any given day. School was pretty much jail. Who wouldn’t have ADHD if being held against their will by a hostile group of people? While I am a student of therapeutic approaches, and have read a number of theories on the topic in my own efforts at self-treatment and to learn how to get along with others, at the end of the day I don’t blindly trust anything that does not have systematic, reproduceable results when applied to behavioral issues. Mental health therapy is too much an art and not enough of a science. Plus, many of the therapeutic “experts” are trying to resolve their own issues by counseling others. Not always a good place to come from, in my humble opinion.
In my case, the therapists they had me see were generally pretty good, well-meaning people, with the exception of Dr. Gall. Gall was the one at the state mental institution who gave me a lifelong distrust of mirrors (I was studied by my parents through a 2-way mirror during my therapy sessions, and Daddy Dearest punished me later for anything I said that he found offensive or felt I shouldn’t have noticed or expressed an opionion about to an outsider). Talk about counter-productive for making progress ! It’s probably why I find it much easier to write painful or challenging things down in order to get them expressed. Talking about dangerous subjects always causes my throat to tighten and the tears to flow, but like everything else in life, I bull my way through the landminds of my body’s distress signals because I know it must be done. Even if I sound like a whiney-voiced, yippy French poodle when trying to get the words out.
Thinking of how difficult it can be for me to speak if I can’t get my emotions calmed and under control, I’m amazed that I make my living speaking. It’s crazy to have so many of my actions during a negotiation dependent upon cadence and air flow, rhythm and pacing, when the first thing that leaves during stress is my voice.
I often wonder if I went into contract negotiations (procurement) due to the loosey-goosey style of my first behavioral contract with my parents, therapist, teacher and school principal. Apparently, I only had to “try very hard” in order to complete my part of the process. Ha !
As you can see by what was expected of me, for merely showing up and being quiet, it was clear at a young age that I was strong willed. Combine that with being at the mercy of my body’s ills and nurses (some good, some abusive) for the first five years of my life while in and out of the hospital constantly, it’s clear I learned to express myself despite my social and behavioral challenges.
Mrs. Garbit, my first grade teacher, was evil. There is no other appropriate word that can be used to describe her counter-productive, abusive behaviors. She was power mad, and she was going to groom me like a puppy until I would obey. Obey; what a red flag that concept is in hindsight, 48 years after the fact.
Using pinches and condescension to try and control me, we were polar opposites from the moment we met, and destined to hate each other. When going truant as of the second day of first grade didn’t work, I learned to endure treatment I would not normally tolerate because my mother was powerless to help me. She made it known my freedom was on the line if I didn’t suck it up, so I did my best. Every day for 4 years of hell, until they sent me to a new school. Why? Because the powers-that-be, lead by Mrs. Garbit, were determined that my birth defects were indicators of a character flaw, and she wasn’t going to rest until I was out of her class and locked up. Regardless of how honeyed her tone when she tried to appear as a caring and concerned woman looking out for the best interests of all the children that I was contaminating with my defiant attitude, I knew her for what she was. Evil. My nemesis.
At any rate, I survived.
I’ve told you all that to tell you this… I may have to go – willingly – to therapy as part of getting my disability claim adjudicated properly. This is what you find out when you’re a smahtypants, trying to stay on top of your own issues while playing the denial-of-benefits game with your employer’s insurance company.
So, as I’m involved in healthy self-care, and also because I don’t think anyone has as much skin in this game as me during this challenging time, I’m trying to ensure I’m doing my best as part of ensuring that I’m dealing with all my issues as we’re discussing end of life realities and evolving my day to day existence into its next phase. Plus, it will work as a sanity check and possibly as a tie-breaker to see if I need a life coach to suck it up and go back to work, or if I’m right to gamble my 401k funds on a healthier future by eliminating unnecessary stress and claiming my retirement benefits 10-15 years earlier than normal. All while hoping that they have to repay what I’m spending from my 401k because they are withholding my salary / disability benefits.
It’s been just about a month since I stopped working. Can’t say I’m doing any better for keeping up with the necessary chores and organizing my life, but I am feeling better to not have to try and deal with work demands each day. I’m still fighting fatigue, but being able to nap each day is making a huge difference in my quality of life and geneal energy level.
Hopefully, talking to a therapist will help on this journey, too. Maybe 2-3 visits just as a sanity check? That will be about $600 or less. I can dig up the funds to see if there’s any relevancy to my situation by at least initiating the conversation. We’ll see what the therapist has to say as I summarize my needs and understand their ability or interest in participating in this kind of chronic illness review.
Therapy. I’d rather go to the dentist. Or watch sports.