Vulnerability

vulnerabilityPut on your galoshes, kids because we’re going in deep today. Vulnerability. Before you continue reading, think on that word for a moment and think about what it means to you and what it looks like to you. It means a lot of different things and looks so many different ways, doesn’t it? And naturally, it’s going to mean and look different for everyone.

I got started on this vulnerability thought process because, again, my therapist possesses voodoo magic and just has the most epic timing of anyone I know. She assigned me a TED talk video about vulnerability (given by Brené Brown) to watch for homework this week (and, as always, this blog post was not assigned as homework but so many fucking epiphanies and light bulbs went off that it HAD to be a blog post) and she assigned it not knowing I had already seen it (for once, I had a one-up on her) but I was told that I could watch it again if I wanted to (but I didn’t have to) but come back next session ready to discuss the subject.

Brené Brown is an amazing speaker and has some abso-fucking-lutely amazing ideas and thoughts and theories. Her book, “Daring Greatly”, has been in my “To Read” pile of books for…probably a year? (I’ve been having a hard time with concentration don’t read as much as I once did/as much as I would like to). I don’t know when I first came across her but when I did, her words hit me like a sack of potatoes. So true and so real…right in the gut.

Before I talk about Brené’s version of vulnerability and why it strikes a chord with me…I want to talk about MY version of vulnerability, how my therapist’s timing couldn’t be any better and why all this matters to me.

First, the actual definition of vulnerable:

vul·ner·a·ble

adjective \ˈvəl-n(ə-)rə-bəl, ˈvəl-nər-bəl\

1: capable of being physically or emotionally wounded
2: open to attack or damage : assailable <vulnerable to criticism>
3: liable to increased penalties but entitled to increased bonuses after winning a game in contract bridge

For me personally, vulnerability means shedding my protective outer shell (which is like titanium) and…like a turtle in the same position, I suppose…stand there naked as a jay bird and deal with whatever comes my way. I don’t like to be vulnerable. At. All. Because it sucks and it leaves me open to so many wounds and punches to the gut and if I just keep my titanium shell on, no one can penetrate that and thus, I don’t have to deal with all the hurt and emotions that come from allowing myself to be vulnerable. I’ve come to use and rely on my protective outer coating more in the last two years than I ever have before. You aren’t born with a shell…you build it with experience…or at least I did. You get burned once or twice, so you start out with maybe like a paper bag shell…then you get burned/taken advantage of a again and you upgrade to maybe aluminum foil and so on and so on. Not everyone is like this, of course…and I envy those people…those who can be vulnerable and take whatever comes their way. Personally, I’m tired of picking up the pieces each time being vulnerable backfires on me and I find it easier to just completely shutdown and guard myself (and my heart) rather than even chance a good or bad outcome (because really, that’s a lot of what vulnerability is…taking chances).

As I thought about this topic and the ways in which I myself am (or choose to be) vulnerable…I noticed marked contrasts in my life. I have NO problem whatsoever in being completely vulnerable with my therapist, M (and even her cohort, K…who worked very hard to break through that titanium shell). But I have a HUGE problem being vulnerable with my friends, family and other people I encounter in my everyday life. Why? With M, I have complete trust in her as well as complete confidentiality…by law, no less. By law, she is required to keep my shit to herself and not divulge it to anyone unless she feels I am a danger to myself or those around me. That means, for example, that if my mom isn’t getting her way at home and she thinks I’m the problem, she can call up M all she wants but M cannot (and would not) tell her anything I said, even if our last session was all about that very issue: mom. I think there are a lot of different components that allow me to be vulnerable with M…I’ve been seeing her for a long time, I’ve had time to build up the trust I have in her (I didn’t just waltz into her office and spill my guts during our first session), and the laws just happen to work in my favor in this situation/relationship. I know M talks to K about me and I get brought up in meetings and with other therapists too and when I first found out about that, I didn’t like it…but once I realized that me and my case are still confidential, that it never leaves their offices, I was like, “Aiight, cool…whatevs.” I think it’s great that I can be vulnerable in the very place where I should be vulnerable…in my therapist’s office. If I didn’t let it all out there, nothing would ever get accomplished and our time together would be completely futile.

I cannot, however, be vulnerable with a lot of my friends. Well…I should say that I choose not to be vulnerable with others. Why? I’ll tell you why. I have tried to be vulnerable on several occasions and with several different friends over the course of my twenty-nine years of existence. Sometimes it’s paid off but more often than not, I end up hurt. (Don’t take that to mean I’ve dumped a friendship down the drain once I got hurt, I may just “tweak” the relationship and be more selective about what I share with a particular person.) When it comes to friendships, I hate to toot my own horn but I feel as if I am the exception rather than the rule when it comes to being a good friend. I am honest (sometimes to a fault) and I always mean what I say and say what I mean. So, for example, if you tell me something in confidence and say, “Please don’t share this with anyone.” I won’t. And even if you don’t tell me to keep my mouth shut, I probably will keep my mouth shut anyway, guessing that what you say is not anything you want all over the 5 o’clock news whether you said so or not. (I like to think I’m rather good when it comes to using discretion.) What you say to me is between us, whether or not it’s a “secret”. I don’t need to go tell someone everything you tell me. I am not the National Enquirer. To further illustrate this concept (and further explain why my therapist’s timing is so eerily pertinent), I’m going to tell you a real story about something that just happened in my life. Well actually…I’m going to tell you two:

1: A few months ago, I had a friend that I’ve known forever but am not very close to message me one day and confide in me a secret. She told me to keep it quiet and just wanted someone to talk to…so I just listened and didn’t say a word to anyone, despite our many mutual friends. It was a pretty big secret but I felt no need to go and spill the beans. A month or so after that conversation, one of our mutual friends came to me and said, “I can’t keep this a secret; I have to tell someone! And if anyone asks, you know NOTHING!” And then she proceeded to divulge the very same secret that the first friend told me. I didn’t let this second friend know that I already knew what she was telling me, I just played along and acted surprised, interjecting “ooohs” and “awwws” and “OHMYGODs” where appropriate. I didn’t even go skipping back to the first friend that confided in me saying that second friend spilled the beans or anything like that. Consider me a vault…the Keeper of Keys and Grounds at Hogwarts. I can take secrets to the grave. (Don’t take this to mean I wouldn’t “tattle” if I felt someone was in trouble or anything…just know that I can keep my mouth shut.) Unfortunately, just because I can do this doesn’t mean that everyone/all my friends can…which leads me to vulnerability story two…

2: I hit rock bottom again a little over a month ago. I don’t want to type out all the drama here because really, I still don’t even know all that happened and who said what to who…I don’t really even care. Ain’t nobody got time for that. One night, I was desperate…and I made the mistake of letting myself become completely vulnerable during a conversation with one person…a person, a “friend”, that I thought I could trust. I clearly stated that anything I said stayed there in our messages. She gave me her word. The next morning, it had made the morning news (not literally but a lot of people knew things I never told them and I knew it was the aforementioned friend I was vulnerable with the night before that broke my confidence because she is the only one I talked to about the things that everyone else was now talking about). So it was then that I made a mental note to myself to never confide in her again. I still have (and will keep) the friendship, but I will never again allow myself to be vulnerable in front of her.

When people engage in conversation with me and ask that certain things be kept between the two of us, I always do just that. I don’t go to the next friend down on my list and go, “OHMYGOD can you believe what Sally just said/did/told me?!” No no no no no NO. Again, I seem to be the exception rather than the rule. A close friend I’ve mentioned on here before, C, is an exception right along with me. She is one of the few people I am completely vulnerable with no matter the subject matter and she is the same with me in return. We often say that we know too much about each other to NOT be friends. There’s a lot of shit each of us will be taking to our graves and I am A-okay with that…even grateful. I’ve known her for a long time and I have yet to ever hear/see my confidence broken in regards to things I’ve shared with her…and it goes both ways. I just don’t understand why it’s so hard to keep your mouth shut. I find it relatively easy and I don’t understand why I can’t receive the same respect in return. But it is what it is (thank you radical acceptance) and that is why I am so guarded and not vulnerable with a majority of people. Being vulnerable runs the risk of being kicked when you’re down and for punches to the gut that just really really hurt when you’re already hurting. Don’t get me wrong, there is a good side to vulnerability too. If you decide to be vulnerable and tell your crush your real feelings, you may marry and live happily ever after…and if you decide to not be vulnerable and never tell that person how you feel, how will you know? Again, I can see both sides of the coin…both sides of the story. Just like when you gamble, you risk winning or losing…and it’s just that, a gamble…a risk…a chance you take. Are you prepared/can you handle the outcome, whatever it may be…even if it’s not what you want? I’m more apt to say no, I can’t handle it…which is why I don’t engage in vulnerability often. I seem to prefer this shitty safety net of emotions and stay stuck feeling this way rather than risk the chance of maybe getting better and maybe not, or even maybe feeling worse than I had before I opened myself up. It’s easier and I feel that it’s a lot less taxing on my mind and heart to stay in one place rather than bounce up and down all the time.

Remember when I said earlier that I can be completely vulnerable with M? If you’re not a regular follower of mine, M is my primary therapist and K is her cohort and also facilitates a DBT therapy group with M that I “graduated” from in February. M didn’t always facilitate with K so in the beginning of my group journey, it was K facilitating with one of two other therapists (and K did not succeed in tearing down my wall until about 10 months later). So here I was, able to be completely me and completely vulnerable one-on-one with M in individual sessions but I could not (or rather, chose not to) do it in group…because I didn’t say a word (literally) for about 10 months. (If you are interested, please refer to my “I’ma let you finish, but…” post for more.) About…oh I don’t know…3-5 months into group therapy, M started facilitating with K. That meant the one person I felt safe around was now facilitating the group I was completely shut down in. You would think that having that “safety net” in the same room with me would give me the comfort, safety and confidence to open up in group. Nope. That didn’t happen for another 6 or 7 months…and it really had nothing at all to do with M being in the group with me. It just happened for reasons I still don’t know. It was what it was. It was a risk I unknowingly took and I was greatly rewarded for it in the end. I just find it…amusing, if you will…that you can bring someone I trust implicitly and someone I can be completely me around into a group setting where I’ve made myself invulnerable and I will still hardheadedly refuse to let myself be vulnerable (never mind the fact that it happened in the end anyway). And just so it’s noted, I never completely let my guard down in group, even after I started talking and participating. I got better at letting it down and I got better at letting my true colors show, but I never fully stepped out of my shell and that was done on purpose and that was a conscious choice I made once I realized what was happening…that I was opening up in group.

Now let’s go back to Brené Brown. I’m going to paraphrase her TED talk here and just take out some of the things that resonated with me. In beginning her research, Brené hit a roadblock when she started to dissect vulnerability. She made two groups…those who allowed themselves to be vulnerable (yes, it is a choice) and those who didn’t and what made them different. In the first group, she noticed that those who chose to be vulnerable had courage, compassion, connection…courage to be imperfect, compassion for themselves first which allowed them to in turn be compassionate towards others, and they had a connection with people based on authenticity…they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to just be who they are. This group of people also believed that what makes them vulnerable is also what makes them beautiful. I could probably save myself (and others) a lot of headaches if I could just embrace this concept because I feel that what makes me vulnerable is what makes me bait, leaves me open to being hurt, and makes me appear weak…and I try my hardest to deflect that on a daily basis. My Facebook page, while not fake, is full of “I got dis shit by the nuts!”…”I am woman, hear me roar!”…in essence, it projects a strong taking-the-world-by-the-horns facade. Again, it’s not fake…but I won’t let myself appear vulnerable, even on social media. So what you see is really me, but it’s all the funny, good and positive stuff…you’re not seeing all the behind-the-scenes things that I’m feeling and thinking because I vehemently refuse to post those things…so you’re only seeing one side of me…the side I want you to see and, oddly enough, the side I find hardest to let show when I’m one-on-one with you in real life and not online. (I’m often very shy at first, feeling you out, deciding if I can trust you or not…but once I get to know you, get ready for some craaaaazy shit.)



One key word I picked up on in watching this TED talk is “willingness”. I always pick up on this word because I tend to be more willFUL than willING. But I’ve gotten better (although I’d like to think I’ve surrendered more than I’ve chosen to be willing). Willingness is a big topic in DBT therapy and is one I am still working on and will probably be working on for the rest of my life because I am SO stubborn. I’ve had to be willing to let therapy (and M) work for me, I’ve had to be willing to give M the benefit of the doubt and let her test out any new “experiments” she comes up with in her laboratory (and she comes up with A LOT!)…I’ve had to be willing just to continue going to therapy at all. It’s not easy and it’s a battle I fight daily. (Small tangent: K hijacked a phone call M made to me a few weeks ago just because she wanted to say hi and during the conversation, she said the DBT group was covering the distress tolerance module and she asked me, in the opinion of a “graduate”, what skill I think they should spend some extra time on. Without hesitating, I said, “Willingness.” K said, “WHAT?! Can you repeat that?” I just laughed and said, “You heard me.” Insert some inside jokes and a mutual understanding of what I said, why I said it and what I meant…which is part of why I love M and K…I don’t have to explain myself 90% of the time. K also knows I’m stubborn as hell and so for the jackass to tell the therapist that the group should focus on the topic of willingness was rather amusing to the both of us. But it was an honest answer and I meant it, even if I said it through gritted teeth, knowing K was going to go, “Say whaaaat?”)

Brené Brown also says that vulnerability is the core of shame, fear and our struggle to feel worthy (of love, etc.)…but vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, creativity, longing and love. Being a DBT black-belt, I can see both sides of the coin here…my problem is finding the balance. I agree with all that she says and can find examples of all of the above in my own life…what I’ve missed out on by not being vulnerable and what I’ve gained by being vulnerable (sometimes it “pays off” but more often than not in my life, I’ve “gained” shame, fear and a deep-seeded belief that I’m not worthy). One of things Brené says that resonates with me more than anything is that we cannot selectively numb our emotions. Meaning that we can’t choose what emotions to numb and what emotions we don’t want to numb. When you numb the hard things, you, by default, also numb the great things. Once you start to numb yourself to pain, sadness, fear, etc., you also start to numb joy, peace and happiness…even if you don’t mean to. It’s a vicious circle and one I will admit that I am in the midst of. I’m trying so hard to numb all the bad/hard things that I’m not allowing myself the opportunity to experience the good things. Just because I feel like I’m in a bottomless pit doesn’t mean I don’t experience joy or happiness or that I never smile…it’s just that it’s so dark here, I don’t give myself a chance to experience those “good” emotions to the fullest extent when they do happen…almost as if the good is dampened due to the bad I feel…tainted is a better word, I think. I fully admit and own that I do that to myself. I’m working on it…but it’s still a struggle. It’s very hard to overcome 29 years worth of vulnerability backfire in just a few sessions with a skilled therapist. At this point, I’m just grateful that I can be me and be completely vulnerable with at least one person in my life, even if it’s only my therapist. The rest will come in time if it is meant to be.

One example of vulnerability that Brené has used in past lectures that I absolutely love is the example from the movie “Say Anything”. We love seeing vulnerability in other people and see it as courage and bravery, but when we ourselves engage in it, we see it as weakness. In the movie “Say Anything”, John Cusack goes completely vulnerable when he decides to express his true feelings to the girl he loves. No holds bar, all or nothing, this is how I feel, I am showing you and thus, am completely vulnerable as I hold up this boombox and play this song as loud as I can for you. He opened himself to rejection and any of the numerous “repercussions” that could have come from that simple act of vulnerability.



Vulnerability is so hard for me on so many different levels, especially because I see and engage in the two extremes in my own life…completely vulnerable with my therapist…completely shut down with most everyone else. Kudos to M because I never noticed/observed the two extremes before. I have watched many of my friends confide in me and others, only to watch what is said behind their back and watch as the people they have confided in break their confidence. That makes me hurt for my friends and inadvertently, makes me shut down more. If you are like this with that friend and that “simple” secret said to you in confidence, what will you do and say about me when I tell you things in confidence? Not everyone is like this and not all my friends gossip and break confidences, but enough of them do that I choose to stay closed down with everyone rather than taking that boombox-I-love-you risk with everyone or even a select handful of people. There are benefits to reap from taking that risk…but there is also the risk of feeling hurt and other things. Some people are okay with that gamble and I was too…once. But I’m not okay with it anymore and prefer to stay “safe” rather than take that risk. I realize that I lose out on a lot of things by doing that, but it is a choice I consciously make to guard my heart. I hope there comes a time where I feel safe being vulnerable, accepting whatever comes my way as a result, be it good or bad, and just not be scared to be who I am. Because really, that’s all it is…being scared. Being scared of being hurt, scared of broken trusts, etc. If I stay shut down and remain as invulnerable as possible, I am safe…you cannot touch me…you cannot kick me when I’m down. I may remain in this “place” but this “place” is so normal and comfortable to me now that it is better to stay here, a place I know well, than risk the chance of doing or saying something that may help me get out of it…because it’s a risk…which means it may or may not happen. It’s certainty versus uncertainty. I’d rather know than wonder…I would rather know than go, “What if…?” I, along with many others, could do that all day long…”What if…?” Kudos to those of you who can be vulnerable and take those risks and are able to embrace whatever comes your way as a result of taking that risk. Gold stars to those of you who are at least willing to be vulnerable in certain situations and with certain people. Cheerleader pom-poms and a swift kick in the ass to those of you who think you can’t do it and are unwilling to even try.

Lastly, no post is ever complete without a song. Naturally, I stumbled upon this song only recently and I think it speaks volumes (no pun intended) about where and how I choose to be the most vulnerable…here in my blog.

Lyrics: “Brave” by Sara Bareilles

August 14, 2013 – 9:23 AM
PS: Six types of people you shouldn’t be vulnerable with… http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/3392414

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June 7, 2011

hospitalbracelet

Where do I even begin? I guess the best place to start would be to explain the significance of the date: June 7, 2011 was the day I tried to take my life for the first time. I’m not going to rehash all the not-so-pleasant details or any of what led up to this day two years ago…I talk about most of that in my “Pensieve Dump” post (about three quarters of the way down, the paragraph where I start talking about February 2011).

I brought this day up during my last session with M and it wasn’t because I wanted to talk about it, but because I couldn’t remember the actual date…I got confused somewhere. In talking to some people lately, helping them try to understand their friends who are going through some of the same things I have/am, I was telling them that attempt one was June 6th. And then I re-read something I wrote some time ago and I had written there that it was June 7th. So I was like fuck…you would think this would be a date I would never forget. I think I got confused while filling out forms asking about the date I had last worked, THAT was June 6th, the day before the attempt…and I’ve spent so much time writing down June 6th that my stupid brain got confused. I brought it up to M because I knew she could access my medical record and tell me the actual date of my admission to the ER. She was rather excited that I had gotten confused and had technically forgotten the date. “Isn’t that a good thing?” she asked. And I said, “NO!” And she asked me why, bewildered. And I said that, at least to me, that date is just as significant as a birthday or the date of the passing of a loved one. No, it’s not pleasant and something one would normally “celebrate” and as much as I would like to forget it, you don’t often forget such traumatic events. If we could, I’m sure we would put therapists out of business. Another part of why I wanted to make sure I had the right date was my OCD. For my own peace of mind, I wanted to know/remember what the actual date was even if I wasn’t going to write about it. People ask me all the time, if we talk about this subject, when I did it. I would like to give them the real answer and be sure of myself. I don’t even know if this is making sense…the OCD and just wanting to have my shit in order and know for sure rather than second guess myself/wonder if that really is the right date. But…the picture above is my actual hospital bracelet so June 7th is the “winner”…the actual date.

Why I even wanted to blog about this is lost on me now. Maybe I just wanted to pay homage to the date, acknowledge it and reflect on the two years since it happened. C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different…” That pretty much sums it up. End post. Adios.

 

 

 

But seriously though…that’s what it feels like. I don’t feel any different than I did two years ago. I don’t feel healthier, “better”, stronger. I still feel like I’m in the same place. But when I pick myself and my brain apart, I can see some notable changes. I wonder what this blog would be like…what you and I would be able to see had I started this the day after I got discharged from the hospital… Since the last six-ish years have been preserved on my personal Facebook page, I can definitely see MAJOR changes there. (Word to the wise: don’t Facebook-stalk yourself at 2 AM.)

I suppose we can start with my “progress” in therapy. I’ve been with M for a majority of the last two years. She wasn’t the first therapist I saw when I was discharged but she was THE ONE when I met her a month or so later. (I had a different therapist at the time but it really wasn’t working out and I had no interest in continuing to see her.) Naturally, it took me some time to get to know M and trust her. Once I did, it was no holds bar. Anything and everything came out…tears, snot, laughter and all. I think M knows the real me more than anyone else, even better than my mom (though my mom would beg to differ and would scoff if I dared to suggest anyone knew me better than the woman who gave birth to me). M has seen it all…the good, the bad, the ugly and the REALLY ugly. We’ve had fights…not knock-down drag-out fights…but fights where I stopped seeing her for a period of time or refused to make a follow-up appointment. But we are (now) so honest with each other that we can talk about whatever upset me or her, dissect it if we have to and move on…and do it in such a way that it’s not something either of us has to bring up again or throw back in the other person’s face when upset in the future. That’s pretty awesome because I don’t know anyone in my life that can do that…not bring the past up when disagreeing/fighting. M, much to my chagrin, gets EXCITED when I’m pissed off at her. Her grin and the twinkle in her eyes pisses me off when I’m already pissed off! “Feelings are good!” “Let me have it!” And I’m like, “For the love…” I’ve probably been the most real and the most open and honest with M in terms of showing genuine laughter and genuine pain…genuine emotions period. Not many people can make me cry (not many people have even seen me cry). She can. Not many people can make me laugh without saying a single word. She can. And not many people can make me laugh and cry at the same time. She can. (And sometimes I hate that she can do that! I’m trying to be serious and she’s not helping!) And knowing myself and how I let people “get to me” and my heart, I think the fact that she can do all those things is a testament to the depth of our relationship and the trust and respect I have for her. I know of no one else in my life that can do the above things to me or bring out the above things in me…and I don’t care that only my therapist can…I’m just grateful someone can. With M’s prodding, she has gotten me to do things I would have never done if left to my own devices. The first major thing she got me to do was go to group therapy. THAT was a fight and I have to give M props for being persistent. I fought her for over two months about going and finally, I was just like, “If I go, will you stop nagging me?!” M said yes and off I went, dragging my feet, feeling defeated. M even said I only had to go once or twice and if I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to continue. And so there I sat in group, stubborn as hell, arms crossed, not saying a single word for about a good ten months (don’t ask my why I stayed because I still don’t know the answer). Mix K in there somewhere and refer to the “Boots of Awesome” post for how that adorable slice of heaven got to me. As stubborn as I was during my time in group, I still soaked up what I was being taught like a sponge…so much so that I actually had to be kicked out of group. M and K called it “graduating” but it didn’t feel so pomp and circumstance to me. M told me (and the group) on my last day (and continues to tell her fellow DBT cohorts) that if she ever calls in sick, call me because I can teach the group. (Knowing the material and being able to execute it are two totally different things but that’s a different post for a different day.) I learned a lot in that group and I continue to learn and practice the skills I was taught even though I’m no longer in the group. Graduation or not, using DBT skills will always be a work in progress and something I don’t feel anyone can master, without effort, all the time. That was huge…the group journey. Even other therapists, who facilitated with K before M even became a part of the group, who knew me in my early days of group and later filled in when M or K was sick or out of the office, have made comments to M that essentially said, “Holy shit…that girl is on fiyah!” I won’t poo-poo the change or “compliment”…I own it. My group journey was significant, especially when you compare the beginning me to the end me. I don’t give myself kudos often but I think I will when it comes to group.

M has recently started referring to me as her therapy baby because she’s learning right along with me, like a new mom. (For clarification purposes, M is only a couple years older than I am and is still a relatively new therapist. Lucky for her, she got the one patient early in her career that will test her patience, skills and everything she knows/thought she knew.) I have severely tested M and her fellow therapists and I’m not exaggerating. They have never had anyone that has been in such intensive therapy for as long as I have (and who was committed/persistent enough to never miss or cancel a single appointment), been in a therapy group so long I had to be kicked out, and stuck around long enough after “graduating” from said group. So now everyone is all, “Well now what the fuck do we do with/teach her?” I’m an experiment y’all. M has told me on countless occasions that I have taught her a lot…how to be a better therapist, what cues to pay attention to and how to get people to continue to see/talk to their therapist after said therapist pissed them off. I am, apparently, the exception rather than the rule when it comes to being a patient. I have never missed or canceled an appointment or group session and I have never been late. Most people give up and do not finish group therapy which is through no fault of the therapists…it’s the patient who said fuck it, gave up and stopped coming. It is not a therapist’s job to chase you if you run out the door and don’t come back. Also, I had no idea that such a big chunk of therapy patients only go to therapy and group when it fits into their schedule and/or when they feel like it. To me, therapy is (and always will be) a commitment…and if I don’t make the effort, how can I expect my therapist to make the effort? You get out what you put in. M has told me, and I’ve witnessed first hand, that a lot of people who start group end up quitting (often within the first month or two) before giving it (and themselves) a chance. It’s not instant gratification and it takes some effort if you want to get something beneficial out of it. I may have fought M about going to group and I may have wanted to give up and stop going more than once…but I didn’t. I kept going. It wasn’t a cure all and it didn’t fix anything, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t get anything out of it…and that goes for more than just better coping skills. If I hadn’t gone to group, I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to meet K and let her join me in my journey and some days, just going to group and having it take up a good chunk of my afternoon was my therapy and was what got me through the day despite what was taught or said that day. I stuck it out and I followed through with it until I was told I had to be done. So to have someone so stubborn refuse to go to group, then cave and go, and then stay to the point where she had to be kicked out really threw M and the DBT team for a loop. They are now in the process of devising an “after treatment” treatment: what do you do/where do you go in therapy after a patient graduates? It’s never happened/gotten this far before. I’m a lab rat. They’re still trying to figure out what to do with me because by some fucking miracle, I haven’t given up yet and they’re apparently not about to give up on me, even if they’re not entirely sure what to do. We’re making it up as we go. I’m breaking new ground y’all! To future patients: you’re welcome.

Another big change I see, that maybe a lot of people don’t see or can’t see, is my attitude and my thinking. I’m sure someone reading this will call me out and say that of course people are going to be able to notice your attitude, especially if it’s changed. And for clarification purposes, I guess it’s more my attitude towards/about certain things and not necessarily my attitude as it relates to my outward behavior (though I’m sure to the people who are looking for it will see some change in that area too). I’ve always been a thinker. I prefer to think before I act or speak (though I don’t always do it) and I will over-analyze a situation/conversation/problem/person until there is nothing left to analyze. That hasn’t changed, much to my dismay. While I’ve always thought of myself as a thoughtful person (no pun intended), I think I’ve become even more so over the past two years and probably over the past year especially. I LOVE giving…and I don’t have much to give but people severely underestimate the power of a kind word or a simple, “Hi. I’m thinking about you.” in the form of a text message or card in the mail. (For more on this, please read my “Warm Fuzzies” post.) No matter what mood I’m in, you can be sure that I’ve tried to do something nice for someone at least once a day. I often do it anonymously, but not always…and I think it’s pretty huge that I can pull my head out of my ass long enough to shoot some love over to someone every now and then. It makes their day, makes them smile and in return, gives me warm fuzzies…and I like that…a lot. Win/win. I’ve also become much more careful with my words. I’m not perfect, so I do fuck up here and there but for the most part, I ask myself, before I speak, “How would this sound/feel if it were said to me?” Words are SO powerful…that sticks and stones ditty is a load of crap. I’m the type of person who can forget an entire conversation we had, yet hang on to one single thing you said and repeat it to myself over and over in my head. This goes for good things and bad things. For example, K called me one week when M was out and I was a sobbing hot mess and I remember bits and pieces of the conversation but what I took from it and repeated over and over in my head (and still do, to this day) is what she said to me at the end of that phone call: “You rock my world, J.” And I’m going to take a wild guess and say that K doesn’t even remember saying that. She might remember it if I brought it up, but without prompting, she may not ever give it a second thought. K isn’t nearly as forthcoming with her feelings as M is and that’s just how therapists are (K is also not my personal therapist and now that I’m out of group, I don’t see or interact with her very often)…they choose how much they want to share and say regarding their personal lives and feelings for their patients. So knowing that about K and knowing that she doesn’t say things like that often meant the world to me (obviously, if I still remember it like it was yesterday). And on the flip side, during a conversation (a rather one-sided conversation as M was doing all the talking and I was crying) M and I had, she said, “I don’t know what more I can teach you. I don’t know what more to do with you.” Forget the rest of the 49 fucking minutes I was with her and what she said, that is what stuck with me and that is what kept replaying over and over in my head. (For clarification purposes, M was not saying this in exasperation and giving up on me though that’s what I thought, heard and felt at the time.) I have a new appreciation for the little things people say and do and I’ve realized that people usually don’t give a second thought about them, but the person you did said action to or said whatever you did to may remember and think about it for a lifetime. That person you flipped off while on the interstate this morning? You probably didn’t give a second thought about it all day and won’t ever think about it again, but perhaps the person you did that to…maybe your action ruined their entire day and/or made them start their day off on the wrong foot. Don’t get all philosophical on me and say that that person you flipped off had a choice to let your behavior affect them or not (and even had the choice of not engaging in the behavior that led you to flip them off in the first place)…my point is that sometimes it’s not always easy to brush something so “innocent” off your shoulders and forget it happened or forget it was said…and the things you don’t give a second thought about are some of the same things others can’t STOP thinking about. In summation: if you can’t say/do something nice, don’t say/do nothin’ at all. (Thank you Bambi, Thumper and Walt Disney for teaching me that lesson, even if I learned it a little late in life.)

One of the questions I get asked most when talking about suicide with other people is, “Are you glad you were found/saved?” My answer two years ago and my answer now has not changed: “No.” A friend recently countered my answer with, “But J, you said you believe all things happen for a reason. You were found/saved not once, but three times…don’t you think there’s a reason for that?” Here is where I’m probably going to totally contradict myself and not make sense…forgive me in advance. Yes, I believe all things happen for a reason. I think I can say that yes, being saved three times means that someone thinks this bitch ain’t done here yet as much as she wants to be done. Do I know the reason I’m still alive? No…’cause Lord knows I shouldn’t be here right now. None of my attempts were half-assed. I should seriously NOT be alive right now. And then, of course, I sound like an ass when I say that no, I’m not grateful I was saved. I do think there’s a reason for it, but it’s never been revealed to me and to be honest, I’m kind of tired of waiting to be shown and whatever the reason may be, I really don’t want to go through all this shit just to find out what it is. Everyone can make the argument that you never know what you will do in life or the impact you may have. I could win a Nobel Peace Prize, I could find a cure for cancer…there are a million and one things I could be or do. I don’t have a degree in statistics, but they don’t look too favorable considering I’m nearly at the halfway point in life and have accomplished jack shit. And if you’re going to ask me what would make my life worth living, save yourself the e-mail and breath because I don’t know nor can I think of something that would make life worth living right now. I made a choice two years ago, an informed decision. Some people think you have to be off your fucking rocker to make such an insane decision like ending your life and do it while knowing all the pro’s and con’s…I’m here to tell you that it’s possible. It doesn’t happen with everyone nor does it happen all the time or with all suicide attempts but in a nutshell, I’m telling you that I did my research and I weighed the pro’s and con’s and made a rational informed decision. Whether or not I’m here for a reason, I’m mad that a decision was taken away from me (e.g. my life was saved). I was gone in attempt one…literally. I was found blue and unconscious and I was even told that had I been found a minute later, I would not be here writing this right now. That choice was taken away from me and I can’t tell you if that’s what upsets me about the whole thing or if it’s because, two years later, I’m still miserable and wish I had just succeeded (or been left to succeed because technically I DID succeed, I was just…not left to finish succeeding). Perhaps a bit of both? I am not pro-anything. I am pro-choice when it comes to pretty much everything. I may not like or agree with your choice, but I support your right to choose what you think is best for you, however wrong, sinful, immoral or bad others view your choice. I will not condemn you for the choices you make whether or not I agree with them. It’s not me that has to live with your choice; it’s you. No one but me has to live with three failed suicide attempts and no one but me has to live with all the other bad choices I’ve made over the last two years (and over the course of my whole life, if you want to go that far)…I have to live with it. I own everything I do, be it good or bad. I don’t blame my feelings, my problems or anything else on anyone but myself whether or not the blame should be rightly placed on someone else (this leads to many long nitty-gritty therapy sessions because I will own shit that isn’t even mine to own…but again, different post for different day). My mom thinks I am on some hell-bent mission to make her life miserable and everything I do and have done over the past two years has been some life mission on my part to make her life a living a hell. This boggles my mind when, in the next breath, she will call me selfish. Soooo…I’m being SELFISH by doing all this to get back at YOU for wronging me somehow? I don’t have a math degree either but 1 + 1 is not adding up to 2 here. She refuses to understand/validate that I keep trying to end my life to actually SPARE her the heartache and headache of dealing me with me for the rest of my/her life. Think of all the money you will no longer have to give me to pay my bills, think of all the worry that will be lifted from your shoulders when you won’t have to wonder why I’m awake at 3 AM or why I won’t talk to you or how the hell I landed in a psych ward AGAIN. I could go on but that mess is also a different post for a different day. I’m not here to convince you that suicide is right or wrong. I’m just saying that it’s a choice and it will always be a choice. Per M and K, it doesn’t have to be a choice…I know that but I choose to let it be a choice for me…that card is always on the table and has been for two years. I’ve been accused of not letting the choice of suicide go as if it were a security blanket and if you want to psychoanalyze me, that’s probably right…it is a security blanket…I always have an out if I keep the suicide card in my hand. And while that may be true, that’s not how I see it. The suicide card is one I want to play, but no one will let me…letting their choices and morals get in the way of and prevent any choices I want to make. Perhaps a better metaphor is that I want to play the suicide card, but per the “rules of the game”, I cannot. It’s not a joker card or a “draw 4” wild card in UNO that I can lay down and play whenever I want to…I have to wait to play it and/or it’s not a playable card at all (in terms of the “rules of the game/life”). Maybe it’s like the Old Maid card…it’s not a playable card and it’s not a card anyone wants to end up with. Am I making any sense at all? God I hope so… In summation, I don’t keep suicide floating around in my brain or in my hand of cards “just in case”. I want to play that card but things and people and “rules” prevent me from doing so. It’s never a last-ditch thing for me…it never has been. It’s never been a “fuckitallimdone” decision. I don’t hold on to it for when things get bad just so I have somewhere to run…so I have an “easy” out. In my opinion, things are already bad and I want out but y’all won’t let me. Yes, I know I can discard it and choose to not let it be a choice for me but I am actively choosing to let it be a choice for me because I want it to be a choice…no one is forcing me to keep that card in my hand. I’m sure we could throw this around and dissect it all day but ain’t nobody got time for that and I don’t feel like I’m making any sense…so let’s move on, shall we?

Something I roll my eyes at and blame voodoo magic on is the timing of this “anniversary” and how I feel right now. I don’t want to get into details, but suffice it to say that June 7th almost became an anniversary twice over…2011 and 2013. For clarification purposes, I have never actively chosen the dates I’ve attempted to take my life…the dates have no significance to me whatsoever unless I survive and they become a date like June 7, 2011. And also, don’t assume that just because I am still here and able to write this post commemorating the first June 7th to mean I’m no longer feeling that way. It just didn’t happen like it almost happened. Capisce?

I never put myself in a pessimist or optimist category and one of my major faults is that I tend to look at how much further I have to go instead of looking at how far I’ve come. If you ask me if I’ve changed, gotten better or healthier over the last two years, I will tell you no. If you ask M, K or a select few friends, they will tell you yes, I have changed/made progress. I concede that things are different…as in how I think and my attitude towards certain things (i.e. I’ve become VERY uncensored, especially over the past six to eight months, not caring much about what other people think about me and just being me and adopting a “like it or leave it” attitude)…but I don’t think things are better nor do I think that I am healthier. When I look at just the surface:

– Me two years ago: suicidal and done.
– Me now: suicidal and done.*

I see no difference. Do you? I will cave and give myself some gold stars in some areas but NO ONE can look at the last two years of my life and say I didn’t try. Some people think (and tell me) I didn’t/I’m not trying hard enough. I’m just at a point where a lot of people are saying, “I don’t know what more I can do with/for you.” And I am wholeheartedly agreeing with them…I don’t know either. I have exhausted the entire pharmacy, being on every kind of medication combination possible. I have been in intensive one-on-one and group therapy for two years. I have done (almost) everything M has ever asked me to do, even if I fought her before surrendering. I’ve never been one to do things half-assed. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to go above and beyond…that’s just how I do. My suicide attempts are no exception. Sometimes I think, “I can do this! I can win and live and be happy!” and other times I’m like, “You are so stupid for thinking you can win.” I feel like I am trying to win a win-less fight.

And it’s funny how I imagined
That I could win this win-less fight
But maybe it isn’t all that funny
That I’ve been fighting all my life
But maybe I have to think it’s funny
If I wanna live before I die
And maybe it’s funniest of all
To think I’ll die before I actually see
That I am exactly the person that I want to be

Oh this roller-coaster of life…it’s what drives us to keep going and it’s what drives us to give up. Some people can handle it and some people can’t. Some people can endure and some people can’t. I probably can endure…if I chose to…but do I want to? Is it worth it? What makes it worth it? Only time will tell, I suppose. I’ve been through a lot…others have been through more. There’s a difference between giving up and knowing when you’ve had enough. I can handle, tolerate and put up with a lot of shit…and not only can I, but I do…on a daily basis. But just because I am strong enough to handle the pain doesn’t mean I deserve it. Granted, I probably create a lot of it myself….but remember: I own all my shit. I don’t feel that the world is out to get me nor do I think that my hell hole is any worse or more miserable than someone else’s. I’m not here writing this to make you feel sorry for me. PLEASE, for the love of God, do not feel sorry for me. I just know my limits. If I’ve learned anything over the last two years, I’ve learned more about myself, who I am, why I do what I do and why I think what I think. I don’t necessarily believe that “that which does not kill you only makes you stronger” but I concede that I am stronger than I ever gave myself credit for…stronger than I thought I was, even if I’ve whimped out a few times and tried to end my life. I’ve told people my story time and again and I’ve gotten a lot of “holy shit”‘s and “I would have never been able to live through that.” and “Oh my god, that’s a lot for someone your age.” I’ve gained more insight into what makes me tick, what I can and cannot handle, what I can and cannot do, what I want and do not want. The last two years have not been all bad. Just like a heart monitor in the hospital…each blip on the screen represents a heartbeat and each blip in my life is a moment of happiness or joy. I’ve had to let some people go and I’ve welcomed new people into my life. I’ve even welcomed some people back who left or that I lost touch with. I’ve experienced some amazing things…amazing good, amazing bad and amazing I-can’t-believe-I-lived-through-that. I don’t have any regrets. I love the people who are in my life and I love them even more when I turn around after falling and they’re still standing there. What hurts and what makes me push them away is that I don’t want to cause chaos for them. I don’t want to hurt anyone or affect anyone’s life while I ride my roller-coaster of ups and downs. I say shit I don’t mean, I shut people out, I get angry and I get hurt…and in doing that, I inadvertently hurt others…and I don’t want to do that…it crushes me. I realize that had I left this world two years ago, and even if I choose to leave it now, I will hurt people. But pro’s and con’s: do I hurt you now by leaving, knowing that that pain will lessen over time…or do I let you hurt/cause chaos for you as long as you choose to have me in your life? I don’t want to hurt you…I don’t want to hurt anyone…yet I know that I affect everyone who comes into contact with me…be you the person I flipped off on the interstate this morning or be you my therapist or best friend, who knows everything…knows my heart…and will do anything and everything to help me keep going.

I thought I had a point in writing this and as I get ready to wrap it up, I realize that I have no point. It’s been two years. A lot of shit has gone down and I don’t expect anything less in the next two years to come…and the two years after that…and so on and so on and scooby-dooby-doo-yeah.

6_7_2011

A MILLION

A million different realities
A million different me’s
A million different “A”s
A million different “Z”s

A million steps forward
A million steps back
A million steps up
A million steps down

A million miles away
A million miles to go
A million miles walked
A million miles flown

A million things I want
A million things I yearn
A million things I know
A million things I learn

A million loves lost
A million loves gained
A million loves healed
A million loves pained

A million ways to live
A million ways to die
A million ways to laugh
A million ways to cry

A million ways to hop
A million ways to prance
A million ways to sing
A million ways to dance

A million things written
A million things read
A million things forgotten
A million things unsaid

* This is not a suicide note or me saying, “Goodbye cruel world.” I’m done leaving notes and even if I did leave a note, I wouldn’t post it publicly for a bunch of strangers to read. This is just a lot of nonsensical rambling, trying to put words to my thoughts/feelings and failing. This post didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to and I blame that on my current emotional state, which is probably very obvious if you read in between the lines. But I chose to post this anyway. It is what it is. This is water.

Boots of Awesome

This situation/event happened back in October of 2012 and I’ve never published it (I hadn’t even started this blog at that point). I can’t sleep tonight for whatever reason and there’s a lot of things happening in my head and maybe if I just write for a bit, I can chill out and then, as Samuel L. Jackson so affectionately puts it, go the fuck to sleep.

M first told me, many moons ago, that she would be leaving on vacation for a week in October…and when she told me this, I naturally had a mini panic attack…but I quickly recovered because I was offered a chance to see K in her absence…because by this time, I had finally let her tear down my wall and trusted her enough to make more than just eye contact with her. (For those of you who do not follow me on a regular basis and/or are new to my blog, M is my primary therapist. She facilitates a DBT therapy group along with K, who is also a therapist, just not my personal therapist…but once I agreed to go to group, K became part of my care team. Group is over now [I “graduated”] but K still remains my “backup” therapist, as you will read, when M is gone/not available. The two bitches are double-teaming me…and I don’t mind at all. But don’t tell them I said that…) This appointment was scheduled many months before it happened and while I knew it was going to happen, I hadn’t given it much thought…until it was time to start thinking about it because it was here. M asked me if I was anxious about seeing K and I said anxious wasn’t the right word…I was more intrigued…curious. I could see our appointment going in many different directions and my awesome mind was running rampant thinking about all of the possibilities of what 50 minutes one-on-one with K might look like (I hoped she had a fire extinguisher handy).

My one-on-one session with K got a whole chapter to itself in my journal. I really wish I could have recorded that session (along with other eye-opening sessions) so I could play it again and again. I wanted to remember every word that was said…the kind words (I don’t hear them often), the validation and the encouragement…I want to hear that “Yes, you can!” and that “You are awesome.” over and over. Like taking a picture of a great/memorable moment…a memory you want to remember and have forever. I want an audio recording so I don’t forget and so I can “look back” and remember meaningful moments…my warm fuzzies. This appointment was bound for something from the get go…I don’t know what but for one, it was my first individual appointment with K and two, when you have an appointment with me at a time that required me to get up before the sun, shit’s gonna be kinda…something. I do not like mornings and I like them even less when I have to be up before the sun is (still being awake as the sun is rising is something TOTALLY different). The night before this appointment, I made the very stupid mistake of setting my alarm tone on my phone to the song “Good Morning!” from “Singing In The Rain.” It sounded (no pun intended) like a really good idea when I downloaded the tone at 2 AM…it didn’t sound so awesome at 7 AM. I heard that first “Good morning! Good morning!” and I was like FUCK NO and hit the snooze button with a bit more gusto than I should have. I’m glad they build phones to withstand beatings like that. It took me a minute to get going but I got up and out the door and managed to make it to the clinic on time without receiving a speeding ticket (which is not as easy as it sounds if you know me at all). I checked in and told the lady to not even give me a clipboard and I just filled out my P90X right there on the counter. (I know that P90X is a workout program…but the form I have to fill out every time I see M, K or go to group has a form number that has a P and a 9 in it and because I’m a smart-ass, I just started referring to the form as the P90X. If nothing else, it makes M and K smile and laugh.) THEN (if an early appointment and it being with K weren’t clear indications, this next moment should have been one of my first solid clues that the day was going to be anything but “normal”) I ran into a former co-worker from the clinic I used to work at as a pharmacy technician. Homicide was preempted because she is an LPN and I actually happen to love her to bits and had ironically just been thinking about her/missing her the previous day and then to see her there in the lobby threw me off for a minute. You usually don’t sit in the lobby of a mental health clinic expecting to run into people you know…and my guess is that we usually hope we DON’T run into anyone we know for fear that our “secret” will get out or be turned into gossip. We were able to catch up for a few minutes before she was called back to her appointment. I sat there, waiting for K, when I realized that I had written my medical record number on my P90X mixed in with my bank account number…323/393…toe-may-tow/toe-mott-oh (clue #2 that that day was going to be off….but also remember that it was morning and I still wasn’t totally coherent)…so I cursed and fumbled for a pen to change the # before K came to get me. I finished just as she swung the door open and asked me if I was ready. This should have been my third indication that today would not be normal because K seemed to be armed and ready for me….hell, even seeing K one-on-one was not “normal” so…screw anything and everything that made me think that day would have been just another beautiful day in the neighborhood (a beautiful day for a neighbor…would you be mine? could you be mine? won’t you be my neighbor? I’m done…sorry…). As we were walking down the hall, I explained my number goof to K in case she couldn’t read it and told her that her only saving grace that day was going to be that she was seeing me in the morning and I wasn’t quite functioning yet, despite being up for about 2 hours at that point…therefore, she would not be forced to endure the full impact that is me after 11 AM. (I, as stated many times, am not a morning person and I think I kind of tend to be a little more incoherent, “prickly” and less talkative when I have early morning appointments. Note to self: ask M if I am a bitch when I come to early morning appointments). I also told K that my own mother had walked out the door as I was finishing getting ready that morning and as she did so, told me to, and I quote, “Cut K some slack today.” (My mom was joking of course…well…in how she said it…she was probably quite serious in telling me to behave/be nice to K).

I tried not to go into this appointment with an agenda or plan of any sort…I wanted to see what would “naturally” happen if you were to put K and me in a room together and close the door. Nit-picking through the diary card was all fine and dandy and took up the first 20 minutes. (And this is probably irrelevant and stupid, but I laughed to myself when I was led into her office and she told me to cop a squat in the black chair because I was GOING to remind her that she said I could have the white chair [which is K’s chair/position when in session…but it looked SO comfy] if I did an awesome job on my diary card and that I could play with the dollhouse if I did an even awesomer job…but I didn’t argue with her and took the black chair…only to watch her sit in her computer chair the whole time…so I’m like…wasted white chair usage! I also noticed the toys in her office. I was all over her office like the rover on Mars because it was all new turf to me. She told me that M has toys in her office, too…but M hides them better than K does. Note to self: seek out M’s toy collection. Like I said…completely irrelevant and dumb….but not unnoticed!) I stated in my “Diary Card Decoder” instruction manual that I knew I would find myself explaining things to K and giving her more details about me and my life and my journey than I would if I were with M because K doesn’t know all that M does and I didn’t know what K knew…so I spent quite a few minutes here and there filling in some blanks. I would also like to note that K said I wasn’t just M’s patient…I was everyone’s…as in the entire DBT team’s patient…which is true if you want to get technical…but I never thought of it like that. It was many many months before I learned that all the DBT therapists had weekly meetings to discuss the group and the people in it. I still don’t know how I feel about that…people that I’ve never met knowing my business…especially since I was clearly a hot topic at one point because of my refusal to speak…and was or am a hot topic now because of my refusal to shut up. K started out by talking about my journey, namely my DBT/group journey because that’s pretty much all she has seen/been a part of. And so we rehashed the “early days” of my DBT journey…when the group was conducted in the head honcho’s office. I don’t remember if K said anything to me that day about what she initially thought of me when she started facilitating that group. She knew I wasn’t talking or making eye-contact or doing much of anything in group besides just sitting there, but I don’t remember if she mentioned any judgments she had made before getting to know me better. She saw that I had a solid wall up and I was making it quite clear, without words, that ain’t nobody gonna tear it down. And so she watched me continue that behavior for a few more weeks…until I walked into group one day after Christmas. I have a “conviction” that we, as group members, don’t know what others take away from a session/group and we, as patients, don’t know what the therapists take away. This is one of those moments. I hadn’t EVER given this a second thought…yet it is K’s defining “J Moment”…the moment she knew that there was more to me and inside of me than what I was showing people. Do you know how she knew that? For Christmas 2011, I asked for (and surprisingly received) a pair of bright pinkish-purple (‘cactus flower’ is the name of the color on the box) Ugg boots. I LOVE these boots…obviously, if they made it on my wish list for Santa. The simple act of me walking into group, wearing those bright colored boots one day (with a closely matching backpack that I had no intention of pairing with the boots…it just happened) is what made K look past my wall…and it was then that K knew there was someone awesome behind my wall.

bootsofawesome

She asked me during our session who, in their depressed emotional mind, goes out of their way to wear something so…bright and joyful and…awesome? After she asked me this, I was like…what was I supposed to be doing, walking around wearing all black? And she said no J, that’s not the point…the point is that you didn’t care what others thought…you loved those boots SO much and they were/are SO you that you wore them until it got too hot to wear them (and then we noted that it was time to get the boots out again because the weather had changed). I was literally rendered speechless after hearing this. Something I chose to wear…something I didn’t think twice about wearing regardless of how I was feeling…was the defining moment for K and is what led her to believe that there was some awesome somewhere inside of me. And it was that day that K set her sights on me and decided that she was going to fight for me and not give up on me. A whole year had passed…ten months without words…two plus months flooded with words…and many more days passed where I asked myself how in the hell K got to me. How did she break down my wall? Why didn’t she give up when I pushed her away? Why was she so persistent but not obvious about it? Because I chose to wear a pair of bright pink boots. And those boots told K that there was more to me than just tears, than willfulness, than a wall…there was/is some awesomeness in here just waiting to be let out. (Cue appropriate song here: “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper) I don’t think it’s all out or that I am all better…but I concede that I am a bit better than I was two years ago. I’ve told M before (maybe K, too…I don’t remember) that she will never look at a starfish the same way ever again. I will never look at and wear those boots the same way ever again. They are no longer just made for walking. As I sit here on my bed, looking into my closet and seeing my shoe rack…I can easily spot those boots because of their color. And I see them now very differently than I saw them before my one-on-one session with K. I see ruby red slippers now. I see indirect opportunities to let some of my awesomeness out just by wearing those boots. I now call those boots my “Boots of Awesome”. And I now also get a warm fuzzy feeling whenever I see them or wear them, knowing that it was those boots that led me to K, however directly or indirectly. If I had never wanted and received those boots…would K have seen what she saw in me that day a year and a half ago? Everything happens for a reason. (Anecdote: I wore those boots to an appointment and group the day after my appointment with K and yes, I purposely chose to wear them because of their new-found meaning…but unlike before, I walked with my head held a little bit higher and I also now paid more attention to people’s reaction to them. In the few short hours I had the boots on, I received no less than three direct comments about my shoes, said in some variation of, “I like your boots.” [This included one from K…but I think her comment had a double meaning. “I like your boots, J.” translated into, “I like your boots and I know you’re wearing them because of our conversation yesterday and I am glad that you were listening and I know your are choosing to wear them to flaunt your awesomeness, if only indirectly, and I think that’s awesome.”] But I also observed other people commenting on my shoes indirectly. One incident involved two girls in the lobby of the clinic…one pointing out my shoes to her friend and a few similar incidents at the mall later [peripheral vision is an amazing thing..so don’t think I don’t see you when you point at me {or my feet} and whisper]. In my head, as I noticed this, I was all, “You better be talking about the awesomeness of these shoes and not talking smack about the chick wearing them…but thanks for noticing anyway.”)

I told M (and K indirectly via a dissertation) to NOT ever make assumptions about my progress or about how I’m feeling based on my behavior because yes, I can walk into group and take it on like it’s open mic night…but I still rehearse my death every single day. This is the point during the session where K turned out to be absolutely right, offered me a new perspective and touched on a subject M and I had only briefly touched on before: fear.

Therapists and their metaphors…I swear to God…first I got a boat, then I got a cliff, now I have a ladder and a door. The door is my own door that is currently “open” to suicide…as in I choose to let that still be an option for me. The ladder is my…how do I put this…my getting better/healing scale? A mountain to be climbed and conquered? With rung one being not really okay sorta kinda working on things…and the highest rung being all out better and awesome and no longer requiring therapy. K again brought up another group moment that I never thought twice about. This was many months before my incessant talking began, when our group was down to about five people. I don’t remember everyone who was there that day but K noting that I had even talked that day tells me that they were people I had been around for some time and I was comfortable enough to talk in front of them. And K reminded me that, on that day, I had brought up a recent epiphany of mine wherein I acknowledged/admitted I was a little scared to get better because I didn’t want to get better and then be constantly looking over my shoulder, waiting for the next heartbreaking moment to happen. Why bother to get better when you know there are going to be more things in the future that will knock you back down? Is it not easier to just stay down and endure that pain while you are already on the floor than it is to get up and better and fall back down to the floor? I don’t want to be on that top rung of the ladder and fall through the open door of suicide. I would rather stay “unhealthy” and “comfortable” by staying close to the choice of suicide like it’s a security blanket and wavering between rung one and two or not even holding on to the ladder at all instead of giving myself even a CHANCE to get better and climb higher…because if I fall off the ladder from rung one, it won’t hurt nearly as much as it would if I fall from rung ten. And K was/is absolutely 100% right. She knows it. I know it. And she knows I know it. Her final question to me that day was this: What would it take for me to close my suicide door (maybe even lock it and throw away the key) and climb up to rung ten on the ladder? And I honestly told her that I didn’t know. She then said something that implied I WANTED a better a life and to move forward and continue life. And I interrupted her and said no, that’s not what I want. If you ask me right now what I want…I will tell you I want to die. I don’t want to get married anymore…I don’t want to have children…I don’t want to explore the rest of this life. And K again rendered me speechless by telling me I don’t want those things because I have my suicide door wide open and I’m barely hanging on to the ladder. Getting better scares me and I want a clear, unobstructed escape route in case things get bad. Goddammit…she’s right. JOHNNY! TELL HER WHAT SHE’S WON!

I later wrote a letter to K and firstly, thanked her for the headache I got from thinking about that session all day (literally…because I had been up all day) and I wanted to thank her for not giving up on me and for seeing past my wall of “dark colors” and seeing instead, my bright awesome colors…my “true colors”. I had absolutely no idea that anyone could see that in me at that point in my journey. And yet I am still floored that K saw it at all, much less at a time when I was trying my HARDEST to not let my “true colors” show. When I thought I was really good at hiding is actually when I slipped and let someone see that there was more to me than doom and gloom. Who knew?

Here is a reminder of J’s philosophy on life: all things happen for a reason…there is no such thing as luck or accidents or coincidences. Yes, I initially freaked when M announced her vacation, but I was offered a chance to sit down with K, one-on-one, for the first (and probably the last) time…and I took it. I took it not having a single fucking clue what I was getting myself into or what I would take home with me that day. My mind was running rampant about what a one-on-one session with K might be like…and through ALL of the scenarios I envisioned…what actually happened was not EVER one of those scenarios or even close to anything I imagined or came up with. Is it not true that the things we worry and think about most are often the things that never happen; the things that actually happen are the things that never cross our worried mind and blind-side us? I feel speechless yet I’m filling up this blank white space with words. I go to type or open my mouth to say something about that session…and I pause at the beginning of every sentence and at every attempt to find the right words. Neither K nor myself liked the idea of M going on vacation…but in what other instance would it have been possible for the two of us to have had that time together? The appointment was made to keep my sanity in check and allow me to have my verbal/physical Xanax in the form of another person I trusted…but what I walked away with (aside from a headache) is a moment where I’m like…fuck. I don’t have any other words, I’m sorry. And it’s not a bad fuck…just like a…fuck…a stunned “fuck”…I’m floored, I’m speechless, I’m grateful. K knew more than I gave her credit for…and she knew it long before I knew it and before I ever even said a word to her. And if we hadn’t been given that time together, would I have ever known about her J Moment? Would it have made a difference before now if I had known? Would it make a difference if I never knew? Would I have been touched the way I have been? While I knew I was scared of getting better before, would I have been able to discuss it like I did today? So honestly? K hit the nail on the head and I give her full credit for swinging the hammer. I had been aware of being scared…even bringing it up to M…but no one had ever talked to me about it the way K did that day. (Don’t take that sentence to mean that M and I didn’t do this theory justice, that we didn’t talk about it…because we did…just not in depth. And sometimes, hearing it and talking about it with someone else/someone “new” gives you a new perspective.) Not only did I believe K and I were given that time for a reason…the no accidents/coincidences conviction continues when I tell you that that day only got better (or more eerie, depending on how you want to look at it). Guess what song I heard after I got in the car and turned the music on. Are you ready for this? “Reach” by Gloria Estefan. No big deal, awesome song…so what? Read:

Some dreams live on in time forever
Those dreams, you want with all your heart
And I’ll do whatever it takes
Follow through with the promise I made
Put it all on the line
For what I hoped for at last would be mine

If I could reach, higher
Just for one moment touch the sky
For that one moment in my life
I’m gonna be, stronger
Know that I’ve tried my very best
I’d put my spirit to the test
If I could reach

Some days are meant to be remembered
And those days, we rise above the stars
So I’ll go the distance this time
Seeing more the higher I climb
That the more I believe
All the more that this dream will be mine

(Remember here that I have a very “special talent” for finding the most appropriate songs for the most appropriate situations…and/or they find me…this was one of those moments…I was like, “Really?!”) This song may have been written and sung for Olympic athletes many moons ago…but who’s to say I’m not competing in my own version of the Olympics…competing against my heart and the world to win a gold medal? When people ask me what it is I want, what my goals are, I answer, “Death.” And even though I give you that answer, I hope you know me well enough to know that deep down…maybe wayyyyyy deep down…I really do want an awesome life…marriage and children and all the perks of growing up and growing old. That’s the American dream, is it not? When I say I don’t want those things anymore…it’s because I don’t think I can have/deserve them. It’s not that I can’t have them…but in order to get them, I have to climb up a ladder that scares me and it’s a ladder I don’t think I can climb. I guess I just realized I have to “reach” for that dream and climb the ladder K spoke of to get what it is I want. The part that stops me from doing that is fear, yes…but I’m not sure I know how to climb that ladder either…much less get to the top of it without looking back and shutting the door marked “Suicide”. I try to picture what my future might be like if I could even just get to that next rung on the ladder…never mind getting all the way to the top. (It’s too overwhelming to think of how to get all the way to the top…I have to just focus on the next rung, the more attainable/possible thing at the moment. One foot in front of the other…I have to get to rung one to get to rung ten…I can’t skip a step/rung.) But I can’t see anything….I can’t envision a life without chaos and sadness and pain. I can’t see a happy me. I know that life isn’t all butterflies and rainbows for even the most “normal” of people and even if I can make it to the top of that ladder, no one can promise me that something won’t come along and knock me down again…but can I find a spot…achieve that dream…where I’m at the top of that ladder and when something does go wrong, I only get knocked down a rung or two instead of knocked all the way down? Your guess is as good as mine. For now, I suppose I will hang on to the first rung or just hang on to the ladder in general. I’ve gotten this far (hell, I never even had a ladder to climb before)…and I need to try to just keep on keepin’ on and hopefully, I will be able to answer those questions and achieve that dream…preferably sooner rather than later.

I have told this story to many people over the years and as simple and humorous as it is, it is a total J-ism…the way I have lived from the time I spoke my first words: “Do it self.”…(or it’s at least what I used to be and that part of me has gotten lost somewhere among the chaos). There are about eight and a half years that separate my half-brother and I in age, so when he was 18 and graduating high school, I was only about 10. I remember, distinctly, sitting in the stands of a high school football field. I had never been to a graduation before and I sat there in the stands with my mom and dad and watched in awe as the senior class filed into the stadium. For most school graduations, all the students match so it can be very difficult to spot your brother among the estimated 400+ other students. As they filed by, not only did I see their matching green caps and gowns and their yellow/gold tassels…I saw something else…something that made some students stand out among their peers. I nudged my mom and asked, “Mom, what do those ropes mean and why do some people have them and others don’t?” My mom told me that those were called honors cords and the students wearing them had earned them because they did very well in school and got very good grades. I pondered this for a moment…as much as a 10-year-old can ponder such things (back in my day and at this age, I was still in elementary school and grades came in the from of + signs and – signs, simple “pass” or “fail” and annotations about what needed to be improved). After thinking about those cords and what they meant, I turned to my mom and said, “Mom…I want those cords some day when I graduate.” Without any further mention about this moment or the “goal” I had unknowingly set for myself at such a young age, I proceeded to earn those honors cords…three…separate…times. I remember my high school graduation (my first of three graduations) and receiving my honors cords. I had forgotten about what had transpired at my brother’s graduation by then. But as my mom proudly took pictures and glowed with that glowing proud mama look…she reminded me of what I had said 8 years prior at my brother’s graduation…about seeing the honors cords and wanting them. In June of 2002, I earned them. I had a goal (even though I had forgotten about it)…a dream…and I wanted it bad enough to make it happen. This is usually how I operated until about two years ago. I had a dream, set a goal, wanted something bad enough that I did everything in my power to obtain it. I set the bar high for myself in many situations involving school and life in general…and not only did I clear the bar several times…I usually cleared it by several feet…above and beyond the minimum effort needed to reach that goal or dream. By high school and then even more so in college, people were learning that if I was told I couldn’t have something or wouldn’t be able to do something…I set out in my stubborn ways to prove them wrong…and I did it every single time, never faltering. (I have experienced failures of course, but I cannot ever recall failing to achieve a goal I set for myself, even if it meant I had to try more than once to do it.) After I graduated high school and continued my education at a local community college, I sat down with an adviser at one point and outlined my goals…the major I wanted to focus on, how I wanted an AA degree first and then transfer to a four-year university. I also told the adviser that I planned on being a full-time student and take as many classes as I could while ALSO working full-time. Obtaining an AA degree in two years (the normal time it takes to complete it) usually requires full-time enrollment which leaves little time to devote to much else. That adviser told me that I would not be able to get my degree in two years with a full course load made up of mostly night classes while balancing a full-time job. She told me it was impossible…I said, “Watch me.” Not only did I graduate in two years (I actually finished the quarter before the graduation ceremony was to take place), I did so with about 20 more credits than I needed to meet the requirements of my degree. I also did it with honors cords around my neck…again. There was also an incident in high school where I was in a class that was teaching Microsoft certified training for their Office programs (it was sort of a self-guided hour where we were allowed to go through the material at our own pace). The time it typically took to go through the training for all five programs and take their accompanying tests (and pass them, which wasn’t easy) took about a year or more. I hold the record, to this day, for not only being the first student to obtain certifications in all five (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Outlook) programs (including core and expert level) but for doing it all in less than six months. (Expert level completion of all five programs earned me the title of “Master MOUS”: Microsoft Office User Specialist.) In the ten years since I graduated, no one else has ever done that. I used to love proving people wrong…not so I could rub it in their face and say I told you so…but to prove not only to them, but to myself, that I could do anything I put my mind to. Telling me no was the ultimate challenge to me. “Oh yeah? Watch this.” I don’t know what went wrong or why I can’t do that anymore. Back my “healthier” days, if I had been given a task such as taking care of myself and getting better and then had a lot of people telling me I wouldn’t ever be able to get better…I would have gone to the ends of the earth to prove people otherwise. If I had thought about suicide during “healthier” times yet was told I had exactly one year to fix myself and make that choice disappear…the old me would have gone out and done it in six months or less, just because she could. A year? HA! I don’t need a year…”Look, Ma! No hands!” And while me getting better was not assigned a specific date or deadline…it’s been communicated to me that I’m taking too long. I don’t know where or when I stopped caring about proving people wrong and doing so with flying colors. I lost that part of me somewhere over the last seven years. There is a goal I have, maybe more, that I want to achieve, meet, and exceed people’s expectations. There is a part of me that wants to prove everyone wrong. Yeah, I fucked up…yeah, I made some poor choices…but watch me as I come out on top…like a firework…showing you what I’m worth…letting my colors burst. I wanna go boom, boom, boom and be even brighter than the moon, moon, moon. I very much want to do that…but I lost that drive/desire somewhere and I don’t know where to find it. I don’t know how to get that part of me back. I am fiercely independent and stubborn as hell, especially if you tell me I can’t do something. There was a time where I would have run your ass over in order to achieve a goal or dream…even if it was stupid or futile, even if I didn’t care about it or wasn’t passionate about it. I would do it anyway just to prove to you that I could. I wish I still had that kind of passion…that drive…that tenacity…that incentive…be it the result of achieving a goal (e.g. good grades) or just for the opportunity to prove you wrong…to prove to you that yes, I can do it…and don’t you ever tell me that I can’t. Secretly, I want nothing more than to come out of this as one BAMF and be able to contact M and K and say, “Look guys! No hands!” When people tell me I can’t do something or am incapable of obtaining something I desire, I see as it a challenge…a dare. Or at least…I used to. (As a side note: M now knows this about me and she often “challenges” me, using my own “powers” against me for the greater good. Even if I don’t want to do something she asks of me, she knows that more often than not, I’ll cave and do it anyway [with flying colors and a dash of awesome] just because I was inadvertently “dared” to.)

I know the answers to all of this, as in I have the information and can tell you what I should be doing and thinking. What stops that information from being executed? As I see a long and emotional day winding down, I wonder what is keeping me from climbing a little further up the ladder right now…right this very minute. I didn’t know when I finished processing my appointment with K and I don’t know now, seven months later. And chances are, after a restless night, I won’t know the answer tomorrow either. But I suppose, as long as I keep on keepin’ on and stop trying to push K and M away, I will be given more days and more opportunities to try to find the answer…to find the “Real J” people keep talking about and remembering. This J is lost right now and doesn’t know if it’s safer to just stay on the bottom rung and cower “just in case.” I want to meet (or see again) the J who wants so very much to be on the top of that ladder, not afraid to fall. If (or when) I find the answer, M and K will be the second to know…right after me.

Now excuse me while I go put on my Boots of Awesome…

 

Post thought after original post: After my first attempt to take my life, I made I guess what you could call a vision board. I clipped a shitton of quotes, words and pictures out of a bunch of different magazines and made a huge collage out of them. Everything I clipped out and glued to the board pertained to things I want to be, things I want/want to achieve (i.e. being debt free, being happy, etc.), things that make me smile, things/people I love and am passionate about, things/people that inspire me and things that represent my personality and who I am/want to be as a person. After I finished making the vision board, I hung it up on my wall. Later on that year, I had to kill some time before an appointment with M and her office is close to a mall, so I went window shopping. It was that day that I first saw those cactus flower colored Ugg boots in person and I wanted them enough to ask for them for Christmas. I see my vision board everyday, mostly just in passing or in my peripheral vision…but every now and then, I take the time to really look at it. One such time was a week or so after the aforementioned session with K. As I was reading all my quotes and words, taking time to really look at each thing and remember why it was put on the board, something caught my eye: a picture of a pair of pinkish-purple Ugg boots. As for why I clipped out that picture in the first place: 1) I wanted a pair [not necessarily that color] and 2) I loved the color…I love color period and I love having/wearing things you don’t see everyday and things that not everybody has. There are a lot of people who have the beige and black Ugg boots…but I had never seen anybody wear the ones I put on my board. And to this day, I have yet to see anyone else with the same boots. The expression on my face, had it been captured, upon seeing that picture on my board after my session with K would have been a priceless Instagram moment. Eerie? A bit. Coincidence? I doubt it. Goosebumps? Me too.

This is water.

water

This post started out as a homework assignment my therapist gave me last week. And if you follow me on any sort of regular basis, you know that M (said therapist) possesses voodoo magic. DAMN HER AND HER METAPHORS AND FOR MAKING SO MUCH DAMN SENSE AT THE RIGHT DAMN TIME! GAWD! SRSLY. What follows is what I was asked to do for M this week. She didn’t TELL me to blog about it but it became so powerful and such a huge epiphany to me that I HAD to blog about it. And I will be giving her this as my “homework” and I expect a fucking A with a + AND a gold star next to it.

What I was asked to do by M was to just mindfully listen to this speech (the irony of her asking me to do this will come in a moment) called “This Is Water” by David Foster Wallace once. Then I was to listen to it AGAIN and “respond” to it/discuss it when M and I meet next. What follows is my response. I will attach the YouTube video I listened to at the end of this post but the transcript of the speech will be right here in italics with my personal thoughts/epiphanies in bold.

2005 Kenyon Commencement Address ~ May 21, 2005
Written and Delivered by: David Foster Wallace

Greetings and congratulations to Kenyon’s graduating class of 2005.

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”

This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories. The story turns out to be one of the better, less bullshitty conventions of the genre, but if you’re worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, older fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don’t be. I am not the wise old fish. The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. [Srsly. Think about it. What is right in front of you right now? What are you thinking about right in this moment? What are you feeling right now? For me personally, I’m going to say life in general…it is such a simple “topic” yet my thoughts and ideas regarding it cannot be neatly put into words or a box and given or said to someone. It’s a hard thing to notice and talk about even though it’s, quite literally, right in front of my face all the time.] Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance [Seriously. You may think this is figurative but by the end, you will realize it’s literal. Keep reading.], or so I wish to suggest to you on this dry and lovely morning.

Of course the main requirement of speeches like this is that I’m supposed to talk about your liberal arts education’s meaning, to try to explain why the degree you are about to receive has actual human value instead of just a material payoff. So let’s talk about the single most pervasive cliché in the commencement speech genre, which is that a liberal arts education is not so much about filling you up with knowledge as it is about “teaching you how to think”. If you’re like me as a student, you’ve never liked hearing this, and you tend to feel a bit insulted by the claim that you needed anybody to teach you how to think [DAMN STRAIGHT!], since the fact that you even got admitted to a college this good seems like proof that you already know how to think. [Right?] But I’m going to posit to you that the liberal arts cliché turns out not to be insulting at all, because the really significant education in thinking that we’re supposed to get in a place like this isn’t really about the capacity to think, but rather about the choice of what to think about. [Your light bulb should be coming on right about here. The key word is “choice”.] If your total freedom of choice regarding what to think about seems too obvious to waste time discussing, I’d ask you to think about fish and water, and to bracket for just a few minutes your skepticism about the value of the totally obvious. [Do NOT roll your eyes at me…or Mr. Wallace. Keep. Reading.]

Here’s another didactic little story: There are these two guys sitting together in a bar in the remote Alaskan wilderness. One of the guys is religious, the other is an atheist, and the two are arguing about the existence of God with that special intensity that comes after about the fourth beer. And the atheist says, “Look, it’s not like I don’t have actual reasons for not believing in God. It’s not like I haven’t ever experimented with the whole God and prayer thing. Just last month I got caught away from the camp in that terrible blizzard, and I was totally lost and I couldn’t see a thing, and it was 50 below, and so I tried it: I fell to my knees in the snow and cried out ‘Oh, God, if there is a God, I’m lost in this blizzard, and I’m gonna die if you don’t help me.'” And now, in the bar, the religious guy looks at the atheist all puzzled. “Well then you must believe now,” he says, “After all, here you are, alive.” The atheist just rolls his eyes. “No, man, all that was was a couple Eskimos happened to come wandering by and showed me the way back to camp.” [If you’re anything like me, able to “put yourself in another person’s shoes”, your next light bulb should have gone off here. Mr. Wallace will explain this more in a minute but this is my homework and my blog so I’m going to “spill the beans.” Perspective. The religious man (and even I myself, retaining some knowledge from my “Jesus Years”) could easily turn this around and say that God put those Eskimos in that man’s way and answered his prayer. The atheist, being “close-minded”, clearly will not see the situation that way. This is called a dialectic, people…there are TWO sides of the coin…two sides to every story. Neither side is completely right and neither side is completely wrong. Each side is its own truth for whichever person that side “belongs to”. AND YES I AM GOING ALL MARSHA LINEHAN ON YOU. Let’s take God and religion out of this. M says to me often, in all sincerity because she believes it, that “It will get better.” My first reaction is to scoff at her and say, “Bullshit.” because I don’t believe that things will ever get better. But is M wrong? Is she right? Is her statement possible? Am I right? Am I wrong? Is my statement possible? None of the above. Each statement is each person’s truth and belief. I can choose (keyword there) to do one of two things: A) I can continue to be close-minded and not give M’s statement any credence at all and continue to be miserable while I choose to be self-centered and believe my own statement as truth. Or B), I can choose to be open-minded and acknowledge that M’s statement is just as valid as my own (which, knowing M, is probably the whole fucking reason she’s having me do this damn assignment). Neither statement is true or right and neither statement is wrong or impossible. But the acceptance of THAT truth (that neither statement is the ultimate truth) is where true knowledge and freedom comes from. And I would probably make M’s job a lot easier if I would do this more often and quit being so stubborn.]

It’s easy to run this story through kind of a standard liberal arts analysis: the exact same experience can mean two totally different things to two different people, given those people’s two different belief templates and two different ways of constructing meaning from experience. [See, I told you he would tell you.] Because we prize tolerance and diversity of belief, nowhere in our liberal arts analysis do we want to claim that one guy’s interpretation is true and the other guy’s is false or bad. Which is fine, except we also never end up talking about just where these individual templates and beliefs come from. Meaning, where they come from INSIDE the two guys. As if a person’s most basic orientation toward the world, and the meaning of his experience were somehow just hard-wired, like height or shoe-size; or automatically absorbed from the culture, like language. As if how we construct meaning were not actually a matter of personal, intentional choice. Plus, there’s the whole matter of arrogance. The nonreligious guy is so totally certain in his dismissal of the possibility that the passing Eskimos had anything to do with his prayer for help. True, there are plenty of religious people who seem arrogant and certain of their own interpretations, too. They’re probably even more repulsive than atheists, at least to most of us. But religious dogmatists’ problem is exactly the same as the story’s unbeliever: blind certainty, a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn’t even know he’s locked up. [Read that last sentence again. Blind certainty. Close-mindedness.]

The point here is that I think this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. [DING DING DING! BINGO!] Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. I have learned this the hard way, as I predict you graduates will, too.

Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness because it’s so socially repulsive. But it’s pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. [Here is where I’m going to caution you if you are an over-thinker like myself: this does not mean that you are wrong for thinking this way. Re-read what he said: it is our default setting. It’s “natural”.] Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

Please don’t worry that I’m getting ready to lecture you about compassion or other-directedness or all the so-called virtues. This is not a matter of virtue. It’s a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting which is to be deeply and literally self-centered and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self. People who can adjust their natural default setting this way are often described as being “well-adjusted” which, I suggest to you, is not an accidental term. [Insert another light bulb here. What he’s getting at and, correct me if I’m wrong, what a lot of therapy is trying to get at is to get you to “adjust” your thinking in a way that allows you to see what is beyond your eyes and your mind…stepping into other people’s shoes and seeing the world from a different point of view. Again, a very simple concept it seems…but it’s actually quite hard to do. You may be able to do it for an hour here or there or during a conversation with a struggling friend, able to empathize with them. But can you do it all the time? I didn’t think so. It takes practice and a lot of hard work.]

Given the triumphant academic setting here, an obvious question is how much of this work of adjusting our default setting involves actual knowledge or intellect. [Another light bulb. This concept has absolutely NOTHING to do with how good your grades are/were. You could be Einstein and it would not matter in executing this “skill” or concept. You have to find and learn it yourself in your own way.] This question gets very tricky. Probably the most dangerous thing about an academic education – least in my own case – is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualize stuff, to get lost in abstract argument inside my head, instead of simply paying attention to what is going on right in front of me, paying attention to what is going on inside me. [GUILTY! And to put this into DBT/therapy terms: this is the whole point of DBT mindfulness…to just be in the moment, pay attention, participate. The goal is not to change what is going on, it is simply just to notice what is going on be it good, bad or indifferent. After two years, I still personally struggle with this immensely. I want to over-analyze and think about everything instead of just letting it be. I made the mistake of doing the first part of my homework, listening to this once “mindfully”, at 5 AM. I should have known, coming from M, that whatever she was going to have me listen to was going to make a million light bulbs go off in my head. Remember, the first time I listened to this, I was not to respond in any way and it took immense self-restraint (and a few Benadryl) to make myself STFU and NOT say/write anything. Again, my bad for choosing to do part one at 5 AM.]

As I’m sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). [GUILTY!] Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. [JOHNNY! Tell him what he’s won!] It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. [I don’t even think I can add anything to that sentence…he nailed it…on the head. All the shit I put myself through, all the worrying and over-thinking I do is a CHOICE. It’s a hard to NOT do that stuff because it’s a habit…it’s natural…it’s how I roll. The choice comes in when I become aware of what I’m doing to myself (and possibly those around me), what I’m CHOOSING to pay attention to and being conscious of what I’m doing/thinking enough to CHOOSE to change either HOW I’m thinking or WHAT I’m thinking or doing.] Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about “the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master”. [AMEN!]

This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. [TOTALLY off-topic, but when I read “great and terrible”…I read “terrible…yes…but great” and heard it in the voice of the actor who plays Mr. Olivander in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Just me? Okay. Moving on…] It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger. [Again…he nailed it…on the head. I never thought of a gun suicide that way but if I ever choose that route…I would totally go for the head…to make my brain STFU…forever.]

And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head [A SLAVE!] and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let’s get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what “day in day out” really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine and petty frustration. The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I’m talking about.

By way of example, let’s say it’s an average adult day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging, white-collar, college-graduate job, and you work hard for eight or ten hours, and at the end of the day you’re tired and somewhat stressed and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for an hour, and then hit the sack early because, of course, you have to get up the next day and do it all again. But then you remember there’s no food at home. You haven’t had time to shop this week because of your challenging job, and so now after work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket. It’s the end of the work day and the traffic is apt to be very bad. So getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when you finally get there, the supermarket is very crowded, because of course it’s the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping. And the store is hideously lit and infused with soul-killing muzak or corporate pop and it’s pretty much the last place you want to be but you can’t just get in and quickly out; you have to wander all over the huge, over-lit store’s confusing aisles to find the stuff you want and you have to maneuver your junky cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts (et cetera, et cetera, cutting stuff out because this is a long ceremony) and eventually you get all your supper supplies, except now it turns out there aren’t enough check-out lanes open even though it’s the end-of-the-day rush. So the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating. But you can’t take your frustration out on the frantic lady working the register, who is overworked at a job whose daily tedium and meaninglessness surpasses the imagination of any of us here at a prestigious college.

But anyway, you finally get to the checkout line’s front, and you pay for your food, and you get told to “have a nice day” in a voice that is the absolute voice of death. [THAT VOICE. You wanna get under my skin? Tell me to have a nice day in the most cheerful way possible when I’m having the worst fucking day EVER! A death stare, you will get.] Then you have to take your creepy, flimsy, plastic bags of groceries in your cart with the one crazy wheel that pulls maddeningly to the left, all the way out through the crowded, bumpy, littery parking lot, and then you have to drive all the way home through slow, heavy, SUV-intensive, rush-hour traffic, et cetera et cetera.

Everyone here has done this, of course. But it hasn’t yet been part of your graduates’ actual life routine, day after week after month after year. [I don’t think I count because I’ve graduated and I TOTALLY get what he’s saying…boring…mundane…routine.]

But it will be. And many more dreary, annoying, seemingly meaningless routines besides. But that is not the point. The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing is gonna come in. [Lord Jesus issa fire…] Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don’t make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I’m gonna be pissed and miserable every time I have to shop. [OH…MY…GOD. RIGHT?! If I don’t shift my thinking and I stay “stuck” and focused on how miserable I am standing in this fucking long ass line, I’m GOING to be miserable…but if I think about, perhaps, a really cute cat who is anxiously awaiting my return home…maybe I can NOT be so miserable standing in that fucking long ass line.] Because my natural default setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me. About MY hungriness and MY fatigue and MY desire to just get home, and it’s going to seem for all the world like everybody else is just in my way. And who are all these people in my way? And look at how repulsive most of them are, and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem in the checkout line, or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line. And look at how deeply and personally unfair this is.

Or, of course, if I’m in a more socially conscious liberal arts form of my default setting, I can spend time in the end-of-the-day traffic being disgusted about all the huge, stupid, lane-blocking SUV’s and Hummers and V-12 pickup trucks, burning their wasteful, selfish, 40-gallon tanks of gas, and I can dwell on the fact that the patriotic or religious bumper-stickers always seem to be on the biggest, most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest (this is an example of how NOT to think, though) most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest, most inconsiderate and aggressive drivers. And I can think about how our children’s children will despise us for wasting all the future’s fuel, and probably screwing up the climate, and how spoiled and stupid and selfish and disgusting we all are, and how modern consumer society just sucks, and so forth and so on.

You get the idea.

If I choose to think this way in a store and on the freeway, fine. Lots of us do. Except thinking this way tends to be so easy and automatic that it doesn’t have to be a choice. It is my natural default setting. It’s the automatic way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I’m operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the centre of the world, and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priorities. [I prefer to think of this as “auto-pilot”.]

The thing is that, of course, there are totally different ways [TAKE NOTES HERE!] to think about these kinds of situations. In this traffic, all these vehicles stopped and idling in my way, it’s not impossible that some of these people in SUV’s have been in horrible auto accidents in the past, and now find driving so terrifying that their therapist has all but ordered them to get a huge, heavy SUV so they can feel safe enough to drive. [Empathy. The dialectic…the other side of the coin.] Or that the Hummer that just cut me off is maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him, and he’s trying to get this kid to the hospital, and he’s in a bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am: it is actually I who am in HIS way. [Would you like “The Other Side Of The Coin” for $800?]

Or I can choose to force myself to consider the likelihood that everyone else in the supermarket’s checkout line is just as bored and frustrated as I am, and that some of these people probably have harder, more tedious and painful lives than I do. [Very possible.]

Again, please don’t think that I’m giving you moral advice, or that I’m saying you are supposed to think this way, or that anyone expects you to just automatically do it. Because it’s hard. [Yes it is.] It takes will and effort, and if you are like me, some days you won’t be able to do it, or you just flat out won’t want to. [Amen.]

But most days, if you’re aware enough [“Mindfulness” for $200?] to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she’s not usually like this. Maybe she’s been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it’s also not impossible. It just depends what you want to consider. If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. [There are so many options/possibilities, you can’t even begin to count them.] It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down. [Pretty deep stuff, huh?]

Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re gonna try to see it. [Boom.]

This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship. [And guess what else? You don’t need a degree to be able to do it.]

Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshiping Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship–be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles – is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. [Whether you are aware of that fact or not, you DO know all this already.] It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness. [I get it, M. I. GET. IT. Working on it… And chances are, I will ALWAYS be working on it. I don’t think it will ever be automatic.]

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.

They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing. [Ever heard that phrase about people only seeing what they want to see?]

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving… The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. [I couldn’t have said it better if I tried.]

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

I know that this stuff probably doesn’t sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational the way a commencement speech is supposed to sound. What it is, as far as I can see, is the capital-T Truth, with a whole lot of rhetorical niceties stripped away. You are, of course, free to think of it whatever you wish. [Captial-T True.] But please don’t just dismiss it as just some finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon. None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death.

The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death. [A. M. E. N.]

It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge [Yes!], and everything to do with simple awareness [Mindfulness.]; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:

“This is water.”

“This is water.”

[It is neither hot nor cold…there is neither a lot nor a little…it is just there. It…is…just…water.]

It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Which means yet another grand cliché turns out to be true: your education really IS the job of a lifetime. [True knowledge comes from being aware…mindful…not from knowing that 1+1=2. Anyone can be taught that 1+1=2…not everyone can be taught how to just observe and describe and be aware of themselves, others, thoughts and surroundings…to just be in the moment. And even then, you CAN be taught HOW to be mindful, but to actually be able to do it and become a master of it is the true test…the dissertation of a lifetime. When you figure out how to do it ALL the time without fail, please e-mail me.] And it commences: now.

I wish you way more than luck.

Voodoo Magic

Today’s edition of “Voodoo Therapy” has been brought to you by the letter M…the first initial of my therapist’s name. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that my therapist and I mesh like no other two people I have ever met. I still don’t know if it’s because we’ve just each invested so much time into each other and I have had to be completely vulnerable and honest with her in order to get the best treatment…or if she possesses some weird sort of voodoo magic because this chick is cray-cray, y’all. (And I realize how funny that statement must sound coming from the true crazy person calling her therapist crazy…but hear me out…) And I don’t mean crazy like me crazy, but crazy because she possesses voodoo magic and she “unleashes” it upon me when I am least expecting it (and yes, I do expect it now…but she uses voodoo magic to catch me when I’m least expecting it). Let me give you some examples so you can better understand.

I see M every week, usually twice (one-on-one and in group therapy). We usually don’t talk on the phone during our time away from each other unless I’m in a crisis or have a need to get something off my chest. Sometimes, I even hold off on calling her even when I really should because I am about to lose my marbles. M somehow gets this message telepathically and will call me on those days. And I’m like, “Really, M? Really?!” Of course I’m glad she called but there’s that voodoo magic. For the next example, I was texting my BFF on the east coast and I was in the middle of typing out a text message saying M hadn’t called me yet (because she had been out sick and I left her a voicemail asking her to call me once she was back in the office). I wasn’t even finished typing out the message and M called me AS I WAS TYPING THE TEXT SAYING SHE HADN’T CALLED ME.

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(I used to refer to this as just really good ESP/telepathy and chalked it up to us just knowing each other so well but now I am totally convinced she’s into voodoo magic because I CANNOT make this shit up.) Last Friday, for another example, I was having a really hard day and I was talking about it with my across-the-country friend via text message. She “listened” to me as she always does but then she told me to call M because I was clearly in distress and I needed someone local. I didn’t call M for a few reasons. 1) The day before, during group, M said she wasn’t feeling well and so I didn’t even know if she was working on Friday. 2) M works in a different office on Fridays and I cannot call her. I have to send her an e-mail through the healthcare website that says, “Call me.” And she will when and if she can (and she always does, even if she only has a minute or two). 3) Because I didn’t know if M was working or not, I didn’t know if her e-mail inbox would be covered by another therapist and the coverage is for safety and such and I get that…but if you know anything about me AT ALL, you know it’s a huge step for me to call M voluntarily and talk, it’s another huge step for me to let K (M’s “partner in crime” and my backup therapist…they’re totally double-teaming me) into my world and allow her to be a suitable substitute for M when she is on vacation or out of the office. If M was gone, I didn’t want to talk to anyone else…safety was/is irrelevant…I wanted somebody who knew me and my shit without me having to explain everything and why I am the way that I am. (I can see some of the regular followers questioning why I didn’t e-mail or call K…and I have an answer: K doesn’t work on Friday’s…so if M is also out on a Friday, I’m pretty much SOL.) Back to the story…so my friend is telling me to call M and I didn’t even know if M would get my message that day so I didn’t even try (my bad)…BUT…cue voodoo magic. I recounted this day to M the following week and I shit you not, people…the woman told me that she picked up the phone TWICE on that Friday to call me. She hung up the first time because she “didn’t want to bug me” (and I chastised her for thinking that because she knows I won’t answer the damn phone if I don’t want to talk) and the second time she picked up the phone to call me, she hung up because someone walked into her office. I am 100% totally telling the truth. It’s voodoo magic. There have been other things too…just thinking about each other at the same time, having the same thought at the same time, saying the exact same thing at the exact same time, or just feeling that feeling you feel when someone is talking about you or thinking about you but you don’t know that someone is talking/thinking about you so you just file it away and never say anything about it. M can also accurately guess/speculate/predict how I will react to a situation/event/person. She also has a “knack” for knowing when I really need to hear something…a kind word or some form encouragement (when I haven’t even said anything that would communicate that that’s what I need). And sometimes she’ll give me a quote or a really pertinent metaphor or warm fuzzy without even realizing just how pertinent it is. I’m sure I could fill this entire blog with all her voodoo magic displays but let’s get back to my point and why I’m writing this…

M, at the beginning of group yesterday, told me we were going to play a game (just me and her)…but she didn’t tell me what the game was…until today, Friday…the day after group. M knows I am neurotically observant about the most stupid, irrelevant things (I can tell if a chair has been moved an inch or if K got a really subtle haircut…I also notice band-aids). M had a band-aid on during group and I didn’t know we were playing “Find The Band-aid” but we were. (Note here that I have previously found two of K’s band-aids which is why/how M knew I knew the game even if I didn’t know I was playing.) She called me this afternoon and gave me three chances to pinpoint something I noticed about her (M) yesterday. I said her nails – she got them done. True but not the answer M was looking for. I said her shoes – I hate it when she wears those shoes (even though they’re cute) because they leave red marks on her feet and it looks like they hurt even though she’s adamant they don’t hurt her feet. Nope. My last and final guess (I was holding back because I didn’t want to offend her or make her self-conscious because of what I observed) was her hair – it’s naturally curly like mine and it looked a little more frazzled yesterday than it normally does. While that was true, that wasn’t the answer M was looking for either. Three strikes, I’m out…or in this case, called out. M then told me that she had a band-aid on the inside of her right ankle and the game was to see if I would find it/notice it. And when she told me that, I said that she cheated because, during group, I always sit on her right, thus the inside of her right ankle is always facing away from me…I wouldn’t have ever gotten the “opportunity” to notice the band-aid. That was her whole point. I sit in the same seat, next to K, by the door every time I go to group. (Without fail, people! You could set your watch by me.) It wasn’t always this way as I had sat ACROSS from K for the first 10 months…in a position that, had I stayed in/revisited every now and then, I would have seen M’s band-aid yesterday. M knows I’m shutting down in group and I chastise myself for thinking she wouldn’t notice/see it. She mouthed the word “please” to me yesterday in group when I didn’t really want to add my two cents on whatever it was that we were talking about. I even sighed heavily (and audibly) at the beginning of our 2-minute mindfulness exercise and K nudged me…her way of telling me to “just shut up and do it” (in that sweet, nice K tone). I laugh at this now, but there are two types of chairs in the group room…one has arms on it, the other doesn’t. I prefer the one with arms (much easier to *facepalm* that way). “My” chair yesterday was one that didn’t have arms and I had time to exchange chairs. My “old seat” was a chair with arms…so I switched chairs…NOT position…chairs. (See? More voodoo magic. I was this |__| close to blowing M’s cover…sitting/moving somewhere else and winning a game I didn’t even know I was playing.)

Let me back up the truck just a tad and tell y’all that I am being “kicked out” of group therapy. I’m sure the therapists would like to say it’s more like “graduating” but it doesn’t feel so pomp and circumstance to me. At the beginning of the year, M and K (and this particular healthcare organization as a whole) started tightening the reigns on all the groups…more structure…less tangents…making sure we cover all we need to cover. One of these changes came when they announced that it takes 6 months to go through one round of DBT therapy and all its modules. (This, apparently, isn’t a new revelation/rule but is just one we’ve been letting slide.) At that 6-month point, you will have a conversation with your therapist/a therapist on the DBT team and then that therapist checks in with the team and it is then decided if you need another round/6 months of group or if you are ready to “graduate” and set loose to try all the skills on your own (while still following the DBT modules and being held accountable for using them in your own individual therapy appointments). The maximum time in group is 2 rounds/1 year. I’ve been doing this group thing since November 2011. More than a year. When I first heard of this new “change,” I point-blank asked M if her and K were going to kick me out of group and at the time, M said no…if I wanted to stay, she would support that and advocate for me. A couple weeks ago, M and I sat down to commence an individual therapy appointment and she asked me how I felt about group. I was caught off-guard because I’m like…we just had this conversation…and before I even lifted my eyes to meet M’s eyes…I said, “ohmygod, you’re kicking me out of group, aren’t you?” M said she wasn’t, but her boss was…my time is up…I need to be kicked out of the nest now. I didn’t fully comprehend the magnitude of the situation until later…because I didn’t flip out until later. This group has been part of my therapy and routine for over a year…it’s comfortable…I don’t take it lightly…I still participate and learn (and I even talk now!)…and it’s scary as fuck to think I won’t be going to group anymore. What the hell am I going to do on Thursdays?! I already have a lot of time on my hands and now you want to give me MORE time? Y’all are nuts. And after I calmed down and made my pros and cons list…I saw the dialectic…both sides of the coin. I have been doing this for a long time and can regurgitate the DBT manual word for word…but it doesn’t mean I’m great with the execution. I understand why I need to be kicked out of the nest but that nest is so damn comfortable. And what about K?! She was so patient and kind and never gave up on me and now I’ve finally let her cross my moat, slay my fire-breathing dragon and enter my fortress…enough to even consider her a suitable backup to my M…and you want me to give her up cold turkey?! Ha…um…no. But I’m out-numbered. I told M earlier this week that I don’t like the idea of leaving group, but the decision has been made and communicated and I will comply…I may comply while kicking and screaming…but then I said that’s probably appropriate because I went INTO group kicking and screaming and it only seems fitting to go OUT kicking and screaming. Full circle. BUT…it still doesn’t mean I like it…hence all the kicking and screaming. I asked M when my “termination” date was and she said I could finish out the current emotion regulation module but that when we are done with that, my time is up. I said okay to this at first, then I started to get so irritated and upset in group that I was like, “What’s the fucking point of me continuing/finishing out this module?” I asked M if she wanted me to stay and finish out the module and she said yes…and please…and because she said please, I said, “Fine.” Over the last couple weeks, I have slowly started to distance myself from the group…not being so active and talkative…so that when my last day comes, it doesn’t hurt so bad. OMFG…LIIIIGHHTTTBUUULLBBBB…you try to tear a band-aid off slowly so it won’t hurt…but what you really need to do is just (wo)man up and rip the fucker off because you know it will hurt like a bitch…for a nanosecond…and then you’ll feel so much better once you get it “over and done with.” Holy shit. VOODOO MAGIC! I’m so totally not kidding…damn…mid blog post epiphany…I think that’s a first. I won’t edit that part and hopefully, whatever scene you envision will bring a smile to your face. M and K love the look on my face when my “lightbulb” goes off in the middle of group. Totally just happened…

ANYYYYWAAAYYY…M’s entire point/metaphor: If I never change…I miss out. If I don’t change my point of view…I miss out on other perspectives. I’m sure I’ll have more to add to this later but all I can say now is, “Touché.” And cry…but…”Touché.” Damn her and her voodoo magic for being so fucking right.

(And after recounting this week’s episode of “Voodoo Therapy” to my BFF across the country, this happened:

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She has my phone #, my license and registration, my e-mail, my home address, my license plate #, my social security #, my library card, my iTunes password, my Blockbuster card, my birth certificate, my passport, my bank account #, my debit card pin #…)