Warrior

When I heard this song for the first time, I couldn’t stop the tears from falling. It felt like all the pain I had been holding deep inside me, just came pouring out. The most agonizing pain. The kind of pain that feels so raw. And like it will never end. This is one of those songs that seems as though it were written for me, or even by me.

You’re a warrior. We’re warriors.

With Her

With her… I feel safe. Like no one and nothing can harm me.
With her… The world around me doesn’t exist. She’s all I can see.
With her… I can be myself. My mask fades away.
With her… I feel seen.
With her… I feel beautiful.

A connection so rare. A connection so intense. So real. So beautiful.

This lost soul has finally found a place to belong.

Nature’s Gentle Healing

I went to my favourite spot on the beach yesterday. After a really bad few weeks, I needed to just get away from everything and everyone, if only for a little while.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I live in a beautiful city with plenty of sandy white beaches, green parks and spectacular mountains. Amazing scenery no matter where you look. Yet, I’ve been neglecting a crucial part of myself. The part that feels content in nature. The soul that draws strength from natural beauty. Despite my best intentions when I moved here to connect to that part of myself more often, I haven’t spent much time outdoors.

I had been feeling especially depressed the whole of last week, but on Thursday morning, it was even worse. I had this intense desire to just stay in bed. To not go into work. But my rational mind told me that it wouldn’t be a smart move, since I’m still new there. So, with great difficulty, and fighting between the emotional and rational mind, I somehow managed to drag myself to work. I found myself wondering how this could be so damn difficult. Even putting one foot in front of the other was a challenge.

As the morning progressed, I felt myself becoming more and more unstable. I even started crying at a harmless comment made by the lady training me. I can’t even remember what she had said. I had no rational reason for crying. It was so embarrassing, but in that moment, I just didn’t give a damn. I couldn’t stop it this time. This lady is in her early 60’s, so I guess it felt a little safer than crying in front of someone younger. But still… A big no-no for me. Crying in public is not acceptable (for me- I don’t see it as a problem when others do it). She came over and hugged me, and I kept apologizing as the tears kept coming. She told me that she’s had plenty of people cry on her shoulder during her lifetime, what with her being an “old lady”. She was really sweet. But I didn’t really want that hug. For some reason, I felt she had crossed a boundary. I wasn’t comfortable. I’m the type of person who craves touch, and hugs are especially important to me. But it can’t just be any type of touch, or by just anyone. I have to feel comfortable with the person.

Anyway, I found myself on the verge of quitting my job. It would have been an impulsive move, which I knew spelled disaster. So instead, I picked up the phone and made an appointment with my doctor for the earliest available appointment, which was an hour after my phone call. I knew if I could just keep myself together until then and not do anything impulsive, I’d be okay. It was a battle, but I did it.

I was a wreck. For the first time in a while, I wanted to just end it all. I thought of all the pills I had, and just how easy it would be. I was close. So close to walking out, going home and going through with it this time. I hadn’t been sleeping (which always makes things seem so much worse) and it was really getting to me. I couldn’t focus, I barely knew what I was doing most of the time. I don’t want to mess up and make stupid mistakes at work. I decided to go to my doctor to get sleeping tablets (she didn’t give me a lot- a good thing), and while I was there, I spent the majority of the appointment in tears. I wasn’t as embarrassed crying in front of her though. I asked her whether she’d write me a note to book me off work for the remainder of that day, as well as for Friday. She knows my diagnosis, and she knows me relatively well, so she agreed. In my state, I just couldn’t work. Even my Clobazam (that she had prescribed me a few weeks before) hadn’t made much of a difference on Thursday. Just as a side note, I don’t take it every day. Just sometimes before bed if I’m feeling particularly anxious and paranoid, or in the day if I feel I need it. Sometimes I’ll only take half. I try to use it as little as possible.

I spent the majority of Friday and Saturday alone in my room. I didn’t want to see anyone, or talk to anyone. I just wanted to read, listen to music, write and daydream. I spent a lot of time daydreaming, which has always been my escape and has helped me cope through the most difficult times of my life. I had stopped daydreaming a while ago, and maybe that’s why everything has become too much again. I realized just how much I need it. It’s my lifeline. Yes, it’s not reality. But reality sucks sometimes. Anything to help us cope, right? At least it’s not destructive, which would have been my other alternative.

I was supposed to meet a couple of friends on Sunday, but that went bust. But I won’t get into that here. It wasn’t a good day and my emotions were all over the place. Before sunset I felt this need to just run away from it all, with a craving for the ocean, so I got into my car and drove down to the closest beach. It was a lovely, warm late afternoon.

As I got out of my car, the gentle smell of the ocean greeted me as if with open arms. There were a lot of people around, and usually that would make me anxious, but not this time. This time all I could think of was the feeling of the sand under my feet, and the big beautiful expanse of water in front of me. As I sat down, the wind wrapped itself around me, like a hug, and in that moment, I felt safe.

On Saturday evening I had experienced one of the loneliest nights I’ve had in months. And usually when I’m lonely, going out and seeing people with their families and friends makes me feel even worse. But not this day. There was no ache in my heart while watching couples and families walking along the beach, laughing and having fun. I was so in tune with nature, that I felt deeply connected to it. It didn’t matter that I was alone. Because I wasn’t truly alone right then.

The sound of the waves filled my ears, like a beautiful song. How could I feel alone when I had all of this? I was connected to something deeper than myself.

The way the setting sun cast shadows on some parts of the sand, leaving other parts bathed in a beautiful soft light. Even the footprints left behind had a certain kind of beauty to it. Did the people those footprints belonged to feel sad, happy, in love? What was going through their minds as they felt the soft, cold, wet sand beneath their feet? Were they so lost in their thoughts or conversation that they didn’t even feel it?

I felt this gentle inner healing. This relief from the intensely dark period I’ve been in. I still feel the sadness, but it’s not crushing. I realized that even this sadness is beautiful. It means I can feel. It means I am human.

The Healing Bond

In my post ‘The Therapeutic Relationship‘, I wrote about my connection with my therapist, and the fear that often accompanies it.

On Monday morning, in preparation for our session later that afternoon, I asked her to open up that post for our session (she has access to my blog). I wasn’t sure whether she had read it, but I thought it was important that she does.

Most of the session revolved around talking about our relationship, my fears and things I had left unsaid for so long. I didn’t run away from it this time. I fully embraced it. And I’m so glad I did.

I got to see a side of her that I’ve never seen before, a more vulnerable side, and it was absolutely beautiful. My heart just softened. I felt this overwhelming love for her, and warmth filled every part of me. That moment right there… That moment is one I’ll never forget. It’s etched in my memory forever.

One of the things I told her, is that I sometimes worry that I’ll be replaced by her other clients. That I won’t be important to her anymore. She put that fear to rest by saying that she’ll always make time for me. That she cares about me. It felt really good to hear that.

I also asked her whether she thought I was still making progress. Because I feel like I’m not. But I spent some time thinking about this since that session. And I reached the conclusion that I am making progress.

I’ll give two examples.

I never really had boundaries with people in my life. In my head yes, but I was unable to communicate and enforce them. Now, thanks to this healing relationship, I’m starting to become better at it. I wasn’t even aware of it at first, it came so gradually. I still have a way to go, but there’s definitely progress.

Since I started seeing her at the beginning of March this year, I had this obsessive attachment to her. I would bombard her with emails. When she went on vacation for about a week, late in April, that didn’t stop me. I even sent her an angry email. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed, and what did I do? More emails. I was in crisis mode.

She always had an open policy, where I could contact her anytime. But I took it too far. I misused it greatly. In the last email she sent me during her vacation, she wrote that she feels strongly that we should have no contact between sessions, or have two sessions a week. But I couldn’t afford two sessions a week, so that was out.

I was devastated. I felt that the connection we had, had just been shattered. She had broken my heart. She had taken something away from me. I felt rejected and abandoned. When we had our next session, she was open to discussing this, and we reached a compromise. I could contact her during working hours. No nights or weekends. I still wasn’t happy with that arrangement, but it was better than absolutely no contact between sessions.

In our session on Monday, we revisited this topic. I told her that I don’t want this boundary anymore. That it hurts. That I’m jealous of all her other clients who don’t have this boundary. As usual, she listened and took to heart what I was telling her. She said that April is long gone, and she’s willing to give it a try and drop the boundary. I asked her whether she thinks I won’t misuse it this time. I liked her answer. She said that we know one another well by now, and she believes I won’t.

And I don’t plan to. I don’t want to use it unless I have to reschedule a session. It’s not about a boundary. It’s about me respecting her time. I want her to have her evenings and weekends to unwind and enjoy. And you know what? I’m actually glad she had set that boundary, because I grew from it. I learned from it. I learned to hold myself between sessions. To sit with my emotions and thoughts. To self soothe. I don’t feel the need to contact her in the evenings and on weekends, even though for some reason those are the hardest times for me. That is progress.

After this session, I feel an even deeper bond, a closer connection.

I want to encourage all of you going through therapy to be open and honest with your therapist about your feelings regarding the relationship. It’s so important for the healing process.

The universe has handed me a lot of shit, but it seems to have made up for it by connecting me to this amazing therapist.

Being My Own Friend

During my therapy session yesterday, I was highly annoyed with myself. I told my therapist that I feel I should be better by now. That I should just get over everything and move on. She told me that I’m very harsh on myself, and set very high expectations. That’s very true. I’m my own worst enemy. My harshest critic.

Then I got to thinking. I’ve read articles before on treating yourself as you would treat a friend. Back then it didn’t make much of an impact on me. But now I get it.

If a friend tells me that she’s a terrible person because of something she’s done, what would I tell her? I’ll tell her something along these lines:

“I can understand that you feel like a terrible person. But you’re human. We all make mistakes. The good thing is that we can fix these things. And those things we can’t mend, we learn from them. Simply by you admitting to what you did and how terrible you feel about it, you’re actually showing me the opposite. If you were truly terrible, you wouldn’t have been feeling this bad about it. That tells me that you have a good heart.”

Now what does it sound like when it’s me that’s done something I’m not proud of? It goes like this:

“You stupid idiot. Once again you fucked up like you always do. You’re the worst person in the world. Can’t you ever do anything right? You deserve to feel terrible about yourself. You shouldn’t even be allowed to live.” Yes, that’s really how I talk to myself. Black and White thinking in full swing. I would never talk to a friend like that, so why shouldn’t I show myself the same courtesy?

I learned a valuable skill from my therapist yesterday, which works great in the context of this post as well. I was going through one of my insecure phases and wondering whether I really can trust her completely. “I don’t want to be here today”. “What if you don’t really want to work with me and you’re only staying because it would be unethical for you to drop me?” Those kinds of things. After 6 months with her, I had hoped those insecurities would be non-existent, but that’s not the case. Just when I feel closer to her than ever before, and am enjoying that wonderful connection, it’s not long until I find myself pulling away and falling into the insecure, negative place again.

Yesterday, instead of reassuring me the way she sometimes does, she made me work this time. I suppose there has to be a balance. She can’t just always reassure me without showing me how to change my own thought patterns and reach conclusions for myself. That being said, she still managed to sneak in reassurances, and didn’t leave me completely alone trying to work through this.

She asked me these kinds of questions for each of the negative thoughts I was having (she encouraged me to look at the facts):

What is the evidence that she’s trustworthy?
What evidence is there that she’s not trustworthy?

What evidence is there that she doesn’t like working with me?
What evidence is there that she does like  working with me?

This ‘little’ exercise took a while. She really makes me work hard, and sometimes it feels like my brain just wants to explode. Not to mention my rage at having to spend so much time on something that seems so trivial at the time. Afterward though, I see just how valuable it really is, and I’m grateful for it. I have so many cognitive distortions, and negative patterns and habits that I’ve developed over the years, so of course it’s going to be hard to train my mind to think differently. I need to be kinder to myself. I need to be my own friend.

I can use this skill to be a better friend to myself. When I start feeling like a failure, a waste of space, or whatever my mind comes up with, I can practice this technique.

“I’m a failure.”

What evidence is there to suggest that I’m a failure?
What’s the evidence that I’m not a failure.

This stuff can be used for anything. Thank you psychology. Thank you therapist.

I’m going to practice being kinder and more gentle with myself, and talk to myself the same way I would to my friends, and other people in my life. If I find myself being harsh, I will re-frame it and ask myself what would I tell someone else if they feeling the same way.

We deserve to be our own best friend.