First off, please accept my warmest wishes and highest hopes for all of you this holiday season. Anyone who has found their way onto the healing journey has a lot to celebrate, regardless of how one might feel about the holiday season.
[This post is a kind of ode to my Therapist. I recently had reason to realize just how valuable the gifts that he has been giving me truly are. I hope that many of you have had this kind of experience in therapy. If so, take a minute next time you see your T to thank them (trust me, you'll get their attention!). I also hope that this story might ease the fear some people have of therapists and therapy in general. I'm convinced that a good therapist is a vital part of any effective healing strategy.]
I myself actually dislike Christmas for a lot of reasons. Mainly it has to do with the fact that I have a lot of awkward and painful holiday memories, and combined with the fact that I really don't have a close family near me, this is always a difficult time of year. But I recently had reason to recognize two gifts that my Therapist has given me that have really helped me get through this time.
I've been really busy this year, and over the past few weeks I've kind of been shutting down and shutting out the world. At first this didn't really bother me, as I used to going these through these periods, but as it stretched into a couple weeks, I noticed that I was getting more and more concerned. I was afraid this meant I was heading into a depression. And the more I tried to get interested in doing anything, the less motivated I felt.
But instead of getting into a fight against myself, I've been able to just allow myself to be whatever and whoever I need to be at this time. This is the first gift my T gave me, the ability just stop and watch what's going on inside of me without getting overwhelmed. My T taught me how to observe myself, to watch and and allow myself to be who and what I need to be at any point in time without forcing myself to do stuff or fight through all the bad feelings. I know that I won't continue to feel this way (or any way for that matter) forever. And as such, I know that it's not healthy to get stuck worrying about how I feel at any point in time. I also know that my basic needs (food, shelter, warmth) are all taken care of, so there's not need for me to do anything else that rest, if that's what I want to do right now.
That in and of itself would be enough to be thankful for, but there was an even better gift I got from my T. The other day, while out running some errands, I was standing on a subway platform, and I noticed I was getting really concerned. My breathing was getting labored (my asthma has been flaring up these past few weeks), and I noticed that I was beginning to feel like I might be beginning to have a panic attack. I worried that I was truly in denial about how I'm feeling at this time. All around me people seemed to be damnably "normal", and I thought I might be on the path towards a breakdown. But before it went too far, a clear memory of something my T told me once came through.
After some really rough times early on, I had gotten my feet underneath me again, but found myself worrying that I might lose it again. I was worried that I'd totally breakdown, that I'd have to check in to some kind of hospital. When I told my T that, he smiled softly and told me that he was certain that I wouldn't break down like that.
It seems like a simple statement, and a rather obvious thing for him to say, but it stuck with me. And every time I got worried about how I was feeling at that time, I was able to reassure myself that my doctor, my trained Therapist, had evaluated my progress and watched me long enough to be able to make that judgment that I wouldn't in face fall apart.
That happened about a year ago. During the time that has gone by since, I attended my first WOR, made some great connections through this site, gave a talk at the recent conference, and managed to survive every struggle I faced this year. But as I said above, these past few weeks I really started to feel more and more tired, and run down. And a few days ago I found myself on that subway platform, surrounded by all those normal people, beginning to feel my body and my brain break down. In the past, this would have been the beginning of a cycle of fear, panic, and self abuse that would lead me down a dark road indeed.
And out of seemingly nowhere, the memory of my T telling me that I wasn't going to break down came flooding back to me. And I was instantly calmed. I remembered that I have made so much progress already. I remembered that no one around me could know what I was feeling or thinking at that moment in time. And I also remembered that it didn't matter what anyone else thought anyway - this is MY life, MY journey, MY healing. The panic subsided and I boarded the crowded train and headed home, full of gratitude for that gift that my T had given me - his faith, his trust, and his care , and also for the fact that I had been able to accept that gift.
So today, the day before Christmas. I've spent the whole day alone, but contentedly so. I've napped, I've been sad, I've played video games, and I've snuggled with my cat. Tomorrow I'm seeing a movie with some friend and going to Chinatown for a nice non-Christmas Christmas. I'm not freaking out, I'm not convinced I'm doing something wrong. I'm not giving myself guilt trips for not getting enough presents for everyone else in the world. I'm just letting myself be. In some ways I guess you could say that my Therapist gave me the gift of me, but that would be really corny and not entirely true. In fact, my Therapist has given me the gift of his care, and his compassion, and his skill. Thanks to him I'm feeling better (even if I don't feel great), and for me, that's a hell of a lot better than anything wrapped up in paper and put under a tree.
I hope you all have a great holiday. And if you don't remember that we're all here to support, love, and care for you. You're never alone.
"I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections.
And it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly, that I am ill.
I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep emotional self...."
Healing D.H. Lawrence