I’ve been reluctantly in therapy because “they”, the experts on my condition should I choose to have stem cell treatment, advocate that the head docs need to weigh in on life and death matters.
Even though I’m not dead yet, but accept its eventual reality.
So, I chose a therapist who specializes in “life coaching”, “transitions” and “grief counseling”.
I chose my particular therapist because I’m aware of the school of thought which tries to rate one’s stress level as a wellness predictor. In my case, I have my mental health baggage organized and ready to go. The problem is when my heart argues with my head.
Knowing what the “best” or “right” decision to make is, and actually making it, are two different things.
I first went to counseling when I was about 7 years old and defiant about going to school. Those people were wasting my time, and I saw no reason to deal with a teacher who talked down to me, babied me, and disliked me.
I say “disliked” and I mean it, because I saw her for what she was, unhappy and cruel, and knew that we’d never give each other the time of day if we hadn’t been forced to be together. At 5-3/4 age, I entered her class already knowing how to read and write – cursive, even ! – and instead of promoting me ahead, they left me with her because first grade is hard and I needed the social exposure to kids my own age.
I had spent the first 5 years of my life in and out of hospitals, battling my own body to live. My mom, when allowed to visit (because this is in the days when visiting hours were strictly enforced), entertained me with stories and gentle activities that could be done while lying in bed. So, I was ahead of the curve in terms of reading and writing, even if I was behind the curve in socializing with my peers.
Multiple surgeries and recuperation periods means that I know how to sit. Just sit still and endure. My body may be trapped, but my mind roams freely.
So, I think I’m pretty much on top of my mental health challenges, and dislike having to tell my story to anyone just because I have to check a box on a form that I’ve done what they asked and gone through the necessary counseling.
That doesn’t mean that I won’t cooperate, but that I do it because I know I must, and I deal with the fallout of my heart fighting my mind whenever I open my mouth. Tears are normal for me. It doesn’t mean that there’s something else going on subconsciously, because I acknowledge my unhappiness while still cooperating. I’m a big fan of getting out of one’s own head without adult supervision, and letting the experts weigh in.
In my case, I don’t need:
– compassion, respect and practical guidance (I have that, thanks)
– to gain perspective on past patterns and negative feelings (ditto)
– new strategies for enacting positive change (I like my life the way it is)
– to gain a sense of inner calm, self-awareness or self-acceptance (got it, thanks)
– to gain a feeling of empowerment or control over my life (nope. Fantasyland).
I have great friends who see me as I am and who like me. Really like me. I am blessed. I’ve even been able to figure out how to have a significant other without driving the both of us crazy trying to fit into traditional roles. We truly are friends with benefits. We laugh over our individual peccadilloes, and enjoy each other for who we are – warts and all – without trying to force the other into a mold which just won’t work for us.
I don’t hate my father. (It’s certainly complicated, but I feel for the child he was).
I don’t idolize my mother (although I am her biggest fan).
I don’t regret things that take two to change (and which I can’t fix on my own).
I understand boundaries and where I have to let things be and simply accept what is in life.
While I still envy a good looking bosom, and wish I was able to be born with a rocking body, I’m grateful for the tattoo’d generation of young women who showed me that my scars are not a burden but just another reality. Age would have come along anyway to impact my body perspective, so it’s all good. I accept that my body functions, not as well as some or as poorly as others, but it functions.
I’m grateful for all the pancakes that I burned while dating who showed me that I could make healthy dating choices by waiting until guys were older and maturer, without latching on to a “Daddy” figure at a young age. Or deciding that a guy was the key to financial or emotional stability. I have remained:
I’m all of those things while also being:
I tell you all that to tell you this, at any rate: When I was at my worst, as a child, I was diagnosed with ADHD. Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. In my case, a type of mania which said that I couldn’t concentrate on anything (I didn’t want to concentrate on), or sit still for five minutes (when forced to do so).
My ADHD was situationally-related.
While I took ritilin, I was also blessed with a Mom who assured me that people had lived millions of years with mental health challenges and no medicine, and survived. I was going to be on that medicine until I could control myself, or until maturity arrived and my actions demonstrated that I didn’t need it any more.
Mom was a huge champion of mental health therapy, even when she saw the damage it was doing to me in trying to help me. Mom was trying to keep me out of the institution personified in the State Boys Rebellion up through the 1970’s, and before the mental health institution exposures began to come to light:
She knew what could happen to me, just like it happened for others worldwide, if the state stepped in to remove me from our home (which the school was suggesting was “best” for everyone involved). Mom had already lost a few kids to miscarriage and death – she wasn’t losing me to an institution.
When I’ve seen a movie like “Evelyn”, or read a book like the “State Boys Rebellion”, I have few memories of that time as I believe most have been lost through PTSD. Thankfully, I have blank spaces in my head, and that’s ok. At this point, and while it was happening, I knew/know that my Mother was my greatest ally, and that many of her unorthodox theories have really worked to put me on an even keel in life.
One of her key theories, however, is that you need to take your medicine when dealing with an invisible illness (mental health issues) as it has the ability to force or enable one to endure intolerable conditions (in my case, being treated like an idiot just because I’d had multiple surgeries and was refurbished). Being treated as “lesser” was never tolerable to me, and that’s before one understand’s that Mom also raised me to be a lady with the Queen’s sensibilities:
– Never without my permission may anyone (touch me, kiss me, dictate to me, etc.)
– A lady never resorts to violence or public displays of temper (seriously)
– Never rest when facing injustice; acceptance of the intolerable is unacceptable.
I had those sensibilities, yet I was being forced to deal with a teacher who insisted on cuddling and kissing me (yeah, the more I hated it, the more she did it). I was also dealing with regular beatings from the kids at school. Like animals, they know if someone is defective, and my warnings from Mom to never raise a hand to another (although I had quite the mouth), ensured that I was out of step with my peers, and too tempermental to realize that my big mouth was causing most of the problems.
I was born into a family with a bedrock of independence and royal manners, but without the money necessary to fund such an effort in a public manner to make the acceptance of such airs commonplace. Since Mom felt that the idle rich were damaged by being idle, she assigned me chores and gave me resources to work off my excess energy to tolerate those things that I could not otherwise contemplate enduring.
If scrubbing the floors and such keeps me from falling into despondency and depression, then it’s a beneficial side effect for being OCD about having an immaculate home. If doing all that work exhausts me enough that I can live in my body without the aid of medicine, then it’s all to the better.
When the going gets tough, though, one falls back into the old cleaning patterns first, trying to nip depression or despondency in the bud. Yes, I’m powerless at present. But, it’s only at present. I’m in limbo waiting for the next phase of the process to begin, and things will evolve, given time. I just have to continue to exercise my patience and not let my OCD plus ADHD drive me insane in the meantime. (The ADHD is causing me to have 1,001 projects unfinished in “piles” about the house, and my COPD tiredness is causing me to nap any time I need to get stuff done. Very counter-productive).
Many years have passed since those early lessons, and my home is anything but immaculate at this point. But, I’ve stayed on top of the mental health housekeeping, so I’m ok. Yes, my life is frustrating right now, but it’s manageable. The lessons she taught me are still effective and helpful.
I can tolerate the therapy if I must check the box to have something else accomplished, but otherwise, I’d prefer to skip contemplating my feelings. Things are what they are, and I’m ok with it all. Excuse me while I go and scrub the tub… ’nuff said?