"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Time of Year

Some years it sneaks up on me, at others times I can feel it coming. From about mid-September until mid-January, I struggle. In the strange irony that supposedly makes life interesting, this is also my most favorite time of the year, my favorite season, by far.

I love fall the most, when the air gets cooler, and unfortunately just when all of "this" starts to set in, and on the years I forget it's coming, or when a few more weeks have passed before whatever this is “hits”, it breaks my heart all over again that I can’t just get past whatever is hard-wired in me to drop a little lower this time of year.

It’s the only way I know to explain it. I think people that have had relatively "normal” lives, (I use the word normal with caution here- it’s hard to define what is normal, so just bear with me) with no severe depression or anxiety, with no trauma--or timing tied to that trauma-- who didn’t experience abuse or severe dysfunction-- well, there's a certain base level in life that they walk along, their pathway if you will, with some hills and valleys, but nothing that consistently sets them reeling that is tied so close to the earlier suffering.

For the rest of us, the category I find myself in, I don’t really know what to call it—but that “level” I tread on is a bit lower. It’s closer to more pain, more associations with trauma and traumatic events, and memories that won’t erase or ease, no matter how much therapy or time I throw at them. It’s where I reside, and I understand that it also makes me who I am, and there are things about that level I am grateful for—deeper compassion, understanding those who suffer similarly, and just an overall awareness of my tenuous place in the world.

So, there I am walking on this lower line, and the thing is, that’s during the rest of the year—spring and summer. That is my “normal” line or level, lower than some others—but it’s there. And it’s fragile. And I know that.

Then, as in the past, let life throw in a curve ball like getting laid off from a job, severe financial stress, the loss of a love, experiencing an abusive relationship, or just re-hashing family pain to the point of insanity, and there’s a crack that gets bigger and bigger on that level, until I fall through. How big the curve ball, how close it is to past pain, defines the width of the crack, and I can either (barely) hang on to the edges and climb out, or slip through and fall. And fall. How low, how deep I fall before I try and catch myself is key--and it varies. 

There have, at times, been moments when it felt better to fall and fall, rather than to try and catch myself, grasping  on to dirt and rock that gave way constantly, knowing then that I would just have to fight with every ounce of strength to climb and cry and struggle to get back to my semi-normal level. But I have done it. More than once. Not without scars. And certainly not without help.

This year, the crack came fast and opened up and swallowed me quickly. It wasn’t some obvious curveball this time. It was a combination of things where I kept nodding and saying “I am ok”, until there was no more “I am ok” left. My lower level gave way. That overpowering feeling hit me--hard. I am tired of this. I am tired of feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and dealing with not ever feeling like I have had what I would have deemed a normal life one day-- looking ahead through ten-year-old eyes.

I am finally smart enough now to know that when that crack opens, I need to call for someone with a good, strong, ladder to send down to me in that dark place and help me climb out a little easier. I called a therapist. I found her randomly on my insurance website, and hoped that I would get lucky. Sometimes it takes a few tries to find the right person who fits and “gets” you and what will help. I told her I was trying to be proactive before things got worse. I called just to make the appointment and I told her I was terrified I was going to slip back into a massive depression as I had before. I told her I was scared to come because somehow, it would throw me further down the black hole.I told her I was talking to friends, and my husband, maybe that would be enough. I even tried to call back and cancel.

She was having none of that. She gently pushed me to keep the first appointment. And boy, did I ever get lucky. This woman is the most perfect therapist I could wish on any human.

She listened for a few sessions as I lamented that I didn’t understand why I was falling through the crack again, why I couldn’t just be a normal person and get through things without feeling this way. I have love in my life, I have my husband, I have a house-full of rescue animals that are an incredible comfort, I have these good things--I have a childhood friend who checks on me constantly when I am like this. Why isn't it enough? I cried a good bit. She helped me catch my breath.

After a few sessions, she reminded me that I lost Lucy last year at this time in a very traumatic way—and that I had to quickly press on with everything else, while not necessarily having the time to grieve for what happened and the horrible way it all took place. Anniversaries are hard, no matter how tough you are, and I am approaching that one.

She listened as I told her that I lost a friend of decades recently—only a few months ago. He was always one of my closest friends, I considered him (and others in his family) within the small circle of people I trusted-- one of my safe places. And then, with great pain, I discovered that to him, I had all along really been (along with a line of other women) nothing but an odd person to have in reserve for ego boosts to draw from when he felt inadequate in his life. Several times recently, he tried to overstep with me (with confidence behind a virtual screen)—completely disregarding my marriage and his, and making me feel used, sad, and foolish for believing he had always been a close friend. It hurt both me and my husband, and I ended all communication with him. I didn't know how to handle the situation. The realization of the truth of this friendship--or lack thereof--made me doubt my value as a friend--and a person. I feel so insecure about the few truly close friends I have, and losing one that I trusted was devastating. (another situation over the last few weeks that I kept telling myself “I was ok” about).

We talked about how recent layoffs at my job have left me covering extra duties, when I already work so many hours. I told her how overwhelmed I feel at times when I can’t be on top of everything at work the way I like to be---and how that can feel like failing—when somewhere in me, I know it’s not.

She reminded me that even though I am no longer alone for the holidays, that I was for many years and it was so painful, and that paying some type of homage to surviving those times was going to always linger with me. As I told her stories of painful moments from so long ago—from childhood and in college that very few people know—that I write off as just my family history-- she listened.

During one story, she got a look of horror on her face as I shared a particularly difficult Christmas eve episode—and she told me I wasn’t grasping how strong I was to have faced all of this, survived it all—and found the strength to reach out for help. That anyone in my situation would need help to navigate all of this loss and pressure. That I was strong, not weak—which is how I always feel when I reach out. Why do I do this--even knowing the value of therapy and how it has helped save me before? Why do any of us? Why do I think I have to have superpowers in the face of a lot of things going wrong, or just too much to handle all at once?

She is helping me re-define that. The strength in reaching out. No matter how much I preach it to others on social media, or in one-on-one conversations with others who are struggling, I see myself as weak for needing help. 

So many of us do. We think we are more flawed, more unworthy, more wrong about things if we ask for help. We are not. Life is hard. There is love and joy and beauty and friendships, and surprise moments that make the ride worthwhile, but it is hard. For all of us.

Today I left my session feeling so empowered, that I could take on everything in front of me, including these ghostly memories, these haunting associations, these struggles, pain, losses, and just my exhaustion, and crawl back up to my “normal” level a little faster.

This therapist of mine...she is wonderful. She has a beautiful, long ladder, and as she lowers it down to me, under my breath, I thank her as I climb every single rung to the top.

There is breathtakingly beautiful art throughout this post. All of  the black and white gorgeous pieces can be found on etsy in The BlackraptorArt's Shop- Unique black and white art by Joonas Ennala.

The beautiful angel kitty photo is by Krista May and more of her work can be found in her etsy shop

And finally, the ladder image, named (appropriately) Above All Odds, is by the artist Daniella Fishburne. More of her beautiful work can be found in her etsy shop.



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