“Addiction!” The second time I heard that word was while sitting in a chair in a little room as a therapist described my own life back to me. She followed it up with “Depression!” Another big word she used to describe my situation. I wanted to argue. But I was also the one who told her only minutes ago that I had been feeling tired with the whole “living” business. I did not get to argue. I did not want to actually die. But I knew I needed help. Positive thoughts were not going to keep me going for too long. I could feel it. So I reached out in secret and, as with all things secret, I paid for it myself. By this time I was very good at keeping secrets. And I had a part time job as a writer. So, I could afford it.
She was a nice lady. My therapist. She listened to everything I said and mirrored it back to me. Then she asked me how I would react if someone I loved talked to themselves the way I talk to myself. I told her I would comfort them. I would make them feel safe. She asked me why I cannot do that for myself. I had never said it out loud before. “I don’t deserve it…” It came out simple and with so much authority that it surprised me. Over the three months I visited her office. Once a week, like clockwork, first thing she asked me was why I didn’t think I deserved my own compassion. Have you ever had someone frantically try to convince you that you are good enough for yourself? She was Sisyphus and I was the rock. But she gave me the tools I needed to ask myself that question. Every day.
I cry sometimes when I am by myself. 20 years of pent up rage. It comes out unexpectedly sometimes. But I also know where the wounds are. So I know what to do about them. Compassion. Ask questions. Take a moment. Write. The tools I was given to cope. I withdraw and take a moment to reconstruct. A moment to breathe. Life gets heavy sometimes. So I need to remind myself that “I can…” I know what is waiting at the end of the alternative train of thought. So, “I can…”
I have a wife now. Friends and family who understand me. A job I am lukewarm about. But who isn’t lukewarm about their job these days? I am good at what I do and I like doing it. I still have my siblings. We lean on each other. Through my wife I have a whole other family too. They are good people. I also, still have my parents. They haven’t changed. They have gotten older which is a whole other world of responsibility. But they are still mine. I can’t abandon them. But I can take care of myself too. I understand that people are just people. They are the way they are. So I let a lot of things just “be”. That’s OK to do. My wife says I am too Zen sometimes. Maybe. But I see the world very differently. I know where the wounds are. I know what happens when I pick at them by reacting to everything too personally. I also know that my shit is my shit. I own it. I deal with it. Every way I can.
But every chance I get, I smile. It makes people feel safe somehow. I don’t know how. But it does.