One of the prompts from Cricket’s Slice Of Life this week is a necessary evil. Oh, those necessary evils of life, the things we don’t like but know must happen, like work or taxes or interfering in-laws. We all endure them, those unpleasant necessities, but do you think that sometimes a necessary evil can transform itself and become a necessary good?
Here is my story……
My Mum sent me to therapy for the first time when I was 17 because she thought my outlook on life was too dark. She was also worried about my neatness. My bedroom was very orderly. I used to arrange the clothes in my wardrobe according to colour and season. My books were in alphabetical order. Everything in my room had its rightful place. My mum had seen a show about a serial killer who had a tendency to neatness coupled with a tendency to quote from the Book of Revelation. I think she thought it was a growing trend among teenagers. What she didn’t realise was that order, cleanliness, neatness, was my way of coping with the growing disorder in my mind.
I’m not mad, bad or dangerous to know but I do suffer from a significant anxiety disorder. Sometimes things are so bleak I can’t break free from the bonds of it and I don’t want to get out of bed. Due to a kind of freaky metabolism I cannot stomach antidepressants, so I go it alone, the Lone Wolf on Depression Highway. But don’t feel bad for me because I have learned a lot from therapy. Invaluable stuff that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. And it helps. Life is tough enough, stressful enough for most of the people I know without me dumping my shit on them. It helps to have an objective party to confide in.
When I was younger I changed therapists like a swinging voter changes his mind. Like any doctor, or hairdresser or the guy who makes your morning coffee – it takes a while to find the perfect fit.
For the past few years I have been seeing Sarah who is a psychologist. I see her infrequently which most psychologists recommend against but Sarah knows if I have to commit to a weekly therapy session then I just won’t go at all. So she indulges me in my need to feel I am a person who doesn’t need therapy.
I don’t like to open up too much. I have a lot of dark recesses, unexplored corridors in my psyche that even I would be reluctant to delve into. When people ask me to tell them about myself I generally pause like a chessplayer pondering his next move and try, usually quite deftly, I might add, to change the subject.
Sarah and I paced around each other when we first met as if we were boxers in a ring, waiting for the other to throw the first punch. I was surprised by how much she didn’t badger me, how she let a silence rise and settle between us that was unforced and calming.
At first I was quite belligerent. I tend to take the path of most resistance when going to therapy. Sarah sat in her floral prints with her sensible shoes and birdlike face, completely prepared to let the session lapse into silence while I thought: ‘Could this be more of a necessary evil?’
After the first session I was really pissed off. I went on a fully-fledged rant driving home in the car, mocking Sarah and her concerned tone.
So tell me how you’re feeling.
You can say anything you want here.
Tell me how you really feel…..
By the time I got home I had worked myself up into a state, vowing to never set foot in Sarah’s office again. But the session had cost me nearly two hundred dollars, so I thought I might as well try and incorporate some of Sarah’s suggestions for dealing with my anxiety into my everyday life.
There were many wonderful suggestions – the mood journal, the gratitude list, ways to recognize anxiety triggers, and other methods for actively engaging in life.
It is easy to fall into a negative view of your life, as if you are caught in a terrible film you can’t help but watch. It is more difficult, but possible, to view your life in a positive light. It is a matter of perspective.
Two of Sarah’s methods have helped me achieve this. The first is a technique she calls looking out the window. We play a game. I have to look out the window and find one thing – it can be anything I like – but it must be one thing that makes me feel better for having seen it.
You would think this is a relatively easy thing to do but when you are mad at the world and everything in it, it becomes difficult to put on the rose-coloured glasses. Now I can look out the window and see a tree with leaves the colour of the green velvet dress my grandmother made for me one Christmas. It was so soft I felt like I was wrapped in a cloud. Or I can see two young boys walking along the street, making funny noises and laughing so hard they have to clutch their sides.
Or a petrolhead with a pimped up Subaru Impreza and a number plate that says SexC 1. Or a girl throwing a stick for her dog who attempts to catch it with such enthusiasm that he splatters and slides in the dirt.
There are hundreds of things every day I am better off for seeing. I am grateful that I finally realise that.
The other exercise Sarah gets me to do is the I Am list. It is quite a metaphysical exercise. I have to imagine myself free of all possessions, all ties, all expectations and then I have to make a list of who I am, of the essence of me that is left when each of those things is taken out of the equation.
I am kindness. I am joy. I am colour. I am a sigh that splits the wind. I am light at the edges of the dark. I am good news, bad news, sorrow, sadness. I am hope.
Sarah’s methods have helped me to see the poetry in everyday life. To see that even in the darkness, the bleakness, the mire, there can be one little thing that gives you a boost. It was Sarah who told me to start this blog. She knew I had grown frustrated with my attempts at getting my novels published and suggested I blog as a way of allowing myself to develop as a writer. I will always be grateful to her for that suggestion.
So you see, sometimes what starts off as a necessary evil, can actually end up being a necessary good. Like a life half full or a life half empty; it’s all in the way you look at it.
i liked the premise of this exercise.. i have been doing a lot of thinking lately about perhaps talking to a professional,, as i feel i am in a dark little hole,, and may actually need something outside myself to coax me out… it made me feel good to know there is someone else in the world that has dark holes too….
I had to laugh when I realized your necessary evil was therapy because I have often thought the same. And like you, I have come to learn this necessary evil can become a necessary good. At different times of crisis in my life, I have been blessed with a good therapist. I have experienced a few not so enlightened ones, but I guess they were not the right fit for me. I have been writing a slice of life, for the past 4 weeks, about my greatest heartbreak, which became even more difficult because of the involvement of a physchiatrist. This has been difficult for me to write and I only work on it until the pain becomes too much. I wait a few days then I am able to write a few more paragraphs. Writing these slice of life stories has been very theraputic for me. I plan to try your second exercise today and I am guessing it will take much concentration to get to the point of releasing all that is attached to me to get to the ” Iam ” part. Thank you for sharing a slice of your life. I hope your day goes well and you see many things that brighten your life while looking out your window.
This was a great post, Selma. I think I will borrow the looking out the window technique. Lately, since I have been having all the medical issues that affect my mood, my focus has been completely inward and it is tiresome.
I can see how that technique has benefitted your writing (or maybe you have always been this way?), because you have a great eye for detail in everything that you write.
I would personally like to add my thanks to Sarah for getting you to start this blog. Without it we would have been robbed of your beautiful writing and your sweet nature, both of which have certainly added something special to my life. Keep looking out of your window Selma, I enjoy all the things you see through your words.
Gypsy, my sentiments exactly.
Selma, does Sarah read your blog? Just curious.
I like the ‘looking out the window’ – there’s always something to see if we have the eyes to truly see it.
Again, there’s far too much here to go into in any detail. Let me say that, first of all, I can easily understand why you’ve been reluctant to talk to people about yourself. This is a self-preservation instinct at work. Most people really don’t want to hear about the dark side, and if you have one, or are well in touch with it, they’ll become uncomfortable when you try to tell them about it. Another common reaction is to secretly look down on you and consider you a looney because you’ve admitted your problems. This is why I usually project a phony, happy front when people ask how I’m doing when I’m feeling down – a behavior I used to hold in great contempt.
Second of all, I have to say that I think your refusal to project your problems onto others is likely one of the main reasons your marriage is a good one. So many people take their bad feelings out on their significant others that it boggles the mind. It’s much easier to blame someone else or the big bad world than try to take responsibility for yourself.
You’re showing evidence of a true inner honesty here.
Sounds like you’ve got a keeper, in terms of a good therapist. I like those exercises a lot. Think Ill give them a whirl myself.
I have been in therapy myself and it was very helpful. We (Joe and I) don’t take drugs of any kind so for me, talking it out, ranting,venting etc….was always the way to go. It also is easier on the people around us, that we don’t want to burden, with our burdens.
Chalk up another thing we have in common dear Selma. I am a neat freak and proud of it!!! Wasn’t always the case but I like things tidy and orderly and in turn I feel better myself. Clutter makes me feel clausterphobic, go figure!!!
Hugs, G 🙂
Talking to professionals = Check
Overly Neat / Organized House/Computer & Work Area = Check
“order, cleanliness, neatness, was my way of coping with the growing disorder in my mind.” = CHECK CHECK CHECK
“I do suffer from a significant anxiety disorder. Sometimes things are so bleak I can’t break free from the bonds of it and I don’t want to get out of bed” Quadruple Check.
“At first I was quite belligerent. I tend to take the path of most resistance when going to therapy.” DITTO
Thank you for posting all of Sarah’s advice. I will be hijacking at least 50% of these methods.
I’m with Gypsy and employee No.699. Your blog is a source of gems I find throughout my week and make my days brighter. Thanks to Sarah for suggesting you blog, and my gratitude to you for taking her advice!
Thanks Selma for this blog, It always makes me feel better and to know that there is someone else out there who has experienced some of the same stuff that i have. Your blog always puts a smile on my face… I sent you an e-mail hopefully you’ll get it.
Sara sounds like a good therapist and I think I’ll be looking out the window too.
Selma, I had no idea it was so bleak for you. Your hope and light shines through even your darkest posts that I tend to think of you as an optimist who observes the darkness. I’ll be holding you in my thoughts and hoping that more and more brightness shines in for you so that you can see what’s in the darkness and write about it without feeling the pain anymore. *hugs*
Um, what Sagacious Woman, Employee No. 699, and Gypsy said: THANK YOU, SARA!
This is the highlight of my day (not to put pressure on you, or anything, I’m just saying). I do like the open window technique and I may have to try it the next time I get to dance with the dark breast.
Oh, crap! BEAST, not breast… sorry about that, Selma.
Another excellent post. I remember when I came down with chronic fatigue back in 1982. It was not known then, really – certainly not in the armed forces – and I was diagnosed with an anxiety state and sent off for therapy – mainly relaxtion.
The diagnosis may have been wrong, but the therapy taught me a lot, about managing the condition, and my life. And during my stay I mixed with anorexics, bi-polars, clinical depressives, alcoholics, self-harmers …
They taught me so much about life and mind – one of the major turning points of my life.
PAISLEY – you would be surprised how much it helps – getting coaxed out of that dark hole. I am in there more often than I would like but talking to someone has been invaluable. I thoroughly recommend it.
CRICKET- the Slices of Life have been very therapeutic for me too. I am so glad you started them. Awww, I feel for you writing about something so painful. I know how hard it is. Moments like this one, where I connect with someone like you in the blogosphere make me feel better every time. Thank you.
INGRID – I would recommend the window technique. And I agree, looking inward can be tiresome. The technique has benefitted my writing in so many ways. It’s been brilliant.
GYPSY – awwww. Now you’re making me cry. You are so kind to me. XXXXX
LINDA – she does on occasion. I think it makes her feel good to know she has helped me in such a beneficial way. However, it does feel weird knowing she reads it. Sometimes I wonder what she really thinks about it.
GERALDINE – I think we are twins separated at birth or something. We have so much in common. And I agree a good therapist really can make a difference. They just put things into perspective, you know?
MELEAH – that’s why I love you, you always make me laugh, even when discussing the more difficult subjects. You cheer me up more than you know on a regular basis. You are an awesome person.
SAGACIOUS WOMAN – Wow. How lovely of you to say so. If I can make your day brighter in any way then I just feel marvellous. That, to me, is what writing is all about. Thank you.
TBALL – I got your email. Sorry I didn’t reply sooner, I was at work all day. Thinking of you. XX
DAOINE – you are a true blue sweetie. Mostly, I think I am an optimist who observes the darkness but occasionally things switch. Your well wishes mean so much to me. I can’t thank you enough.
KAREN – I knew what you meant. Not that there’s anything wrong with dark breasts. LOL. Well, I certainly feel the same way about your blog. I love hearing about your family. You have such a warm, humorous outlook on life that makes me feel glad to have met you. Sometimes you make me giggle all day long. 😀
ANTHONY – Oh, I agree completely. I have been involved in some group sessions and because of my teaching background have helped a few people write down their experiences. It’s been invaluable for me. I never thought that feeling this way would turn out to be such a positive experience.
My replies went awry there for a minute…..
KATE – how wise you are. Definitely. There is always something to see. Knowing that has kept me going for a long time.
RICHARD – awww, you are so kind. I take that as a great compliment because I do value honesty as a trait and it’s important to me to be honest with myself. I also try as much as possible to be responsible for my actions and state of mind. I really appreciate your comment.
I look out my window and see my un-pimped up Subaru Impreza… with an almost empty gas tank. Oh, that’s too depressing to think about. At least, it’s clean and shiny! 🙂
Outside my window the children are playing a game I don’t understand. I love it when they hide in their own little word. Inside this window is one of my favourite blogs… Life is pretty damned good.
CHRIS – it’s funny how things have changed, isn’t it? Practically everyone I know just keeps the gas tank half full. No one can afford to say :’Fill the tank’ anymore. Hey, but at least you’ve got a clean and shiny Impreza. Very cool!
NAT – I love those imaginary games they play too. And thank you for the compliment. I feel the same way about yours. Those things do make life worth living!
Hey Selma! I was sent to therapy also as a teen, but I didn’t have the experience you did. I learned the gratitude list from a book “The Ultimate Gift”, and I’ve always written my moods in a journal. I love the looking through the window excercise – that sounds like a great idea! I appreciate you opening up even if it’s difficult. There are tons I don’t share on my blog because people can twist things out of proportion. I love your candor.
🙂 Great Slice of Life prompt, wasn’t it?
TEXASBLU – I know only too well how things can be blown out of proportion but I do believe that sharing experiences can help other people, so I’m all for that. It was a great prompt, indeed. Cricket has a knack for such things!