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.