After a 2-month hiatus (waiting for my insurance matters to get worked out), I was finally able to meet with my therapist. It was a good session, but it left me with as many questions as answers. I was really candid with her about wanting to ‘throw in the towel’ last week. I told her that I hadn’t been that down and desperate since before my surgery, but that I couldn’t seem to shake the depression that had taken a hold of me since just prior to Christmas. I guess Christmas is tough for most people. There are a host of expectations that are attached to it. ‘Merry’, ‘Happy’, and ‘Joyful’ come to mind, but rarely are any of those words used to describe an actual Christmas. It’s a day for many that centers on faith, food, family and festivities. However, more often than not, it’s a big letdown. The whole ‘event’ seems to not only drain our bank accounts, but our emotions as well.
“Your reasons are valid,” my therapist reassured me, “Coupled with the lack of love, attentiveness and bonding that you experienced as a child, it is no wonder that you feel this way.” That’s a relief! Now what? How do I fix ‘me’? I’ve been going to ‘shrinks’ my entire adult life. I’ve been depressed since I was a little kid. Nobody’s been able to ‘fix me’ yet. I’ve shared with all of you that I know where most of it stems from. There is a very clear line of delineation between me ‘before’ my stepdad entered the picture, and me ‘after’. It’s almost as if (as I developed) during my formative years, my heart never filled all the way up. There’s a void there, a void that I cannot seem to fill. For many years, I used food but it just made me feel worse about myself. It filled up my stomach but it never filled up my heart. I looked to my mother to fill the void but I don’t think her heart is full either.
One thing my mother never did when I was growing up was say, “I love you.” It just didn’t happen. Even on the day I left for the Air Force, I don’t remember her saying those words. The standard words used by my mother when someone was leaving were ‘take care’. They still are. When I talk to her now, that is still what she says before she hangs up the phone. Take care? That’s all I get? No. It’s gotten better, I have to admit. Over the years, she has softened somewhat. And she actually started saying ‘I love you’ back (after I said it enough times). She even gives hugs now, which is pretty mind-blowing. But it wasn’t that way when we were growing up. There wasn’t a lot of ‘warmth’ in our home. I guess that’s how she grew up, too. She used to tell me that her parents never told her that they loved her either, but she always knew they did. I guess people show love in different ways.
For my mom, she used food to show her love. We went without a lot, but at least we never went without a meal. And maybe that’s why I’ve struggled with food most of my life. Food = Love. More Food = More Love. Makes sense, right? Feel down and need to feel better? Looks like it’s time for a ‘carb run’! That’s what my mom usually did. After a trip to the dentist, we’d go to Dick’s Drive-In and she’d let me order a large chocolate milkshake. Tough day at school? There’s nothing that two scoops of chocolate chip mint ice cream (on a cone from Baskin & Robbin’s) can’t solve! Ice cream is still my mom’s ‘drug of choice’. When I spoke to her yesterday, she said she was all out and could really use some. That lady can go through the ice cream! I used to buy it all of the time, too. But since I’m trying to stop all of these destructive behaviors, I don’t buy it any more.
What happens when you stop using food to ‘cope’? So many feelings! Give me a break already! In fact, a ‘Fast Break’ candy bar would really hit the spot! NO! It’s impossible to heal if you continually fall back on ‘bad behaviors’. But how I miss the marriage of the chocolate and the peanut butter, the chocolate and the mint, the chocolate and the caramel, the chocolate with the melty center. Ok, ok, I’ll stop (as soon as I wipe the drool off my face). So if I’m not using food to ‘cope’, what do I ‘use’? These feelings are hard to swallow! They are painful and hurt like Hell! And there are so many, more than I can count! Why do they have to hurt so damn bad? That’s what I want to know. They are almost always negative. Shame, regret, guilt, resentment.
I try to think of nice things and force out the ‘bad stuff’. I’ll try and imagine sitting on a tropical beach, soaking up the warm rays of the sun. It’s a beautiful day. Suddenly, a giant wave appears, crashes over me and sweeps me out to sea. I don’t swim well so I end up drowning and eventually become fish food. Maybe I should move inland? Maybe that would help? Alright, let’s try this instead. I ascend one of those massive tree houses with several levels. It’s a warm day, with a slight easterly breeze. After I make it to the top, I notice a hammock suspended between two branches. I’m exhausted. It looks inviting so I climb in and quickly fall asleep. Suddenly, I am awakened by a loud ‘CRACK’! One of the branches that the hammock was attached to breaks and I am sent careening to the ground, three stories below. Vultures finish me off this time.
I’ve tried those ‘visualizations’. They don’t work! I’ve tried meditation. I cannot shut off my brain! Art therapy? I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to do is ‘draw’ when I feel like garbage. It’s hard enough to get off the couch. Music therapy? I often listen to music when I get really depressed but it usually makes me feel worse. Who wants to listen to ‘Uptown Funk’ or ‘Celebrate’ when you’re at the bottom of a well? I’d rather listen to ‘I Wish It Would Rain Down’ by Phil Collins or ‘Comfortably Numb’ by Pink Floyd or ‘Why’ by Annie Lennox or ‘O’ by Coldplay. My therapist works for a faith-based counseling group. She has shared with me that she had a difficult childhood, too. For her, ‘faith’ is what filled the void that was left. Been there, done that, my friends. It didn’t ‘fix’ me either. “For you,” she said, “I’m not exactly sure what to do.” See what I mean? More questions than answers. I am running out of ideas.
All I know is, it’s time to heal. I don’t want another sh*tty Christmas. I’ve had a lifetime of sh*tty Christmases! I don’t want another ‘wish I wasn’t here’ birthday, another ‘why am I still alive?’ New Year, another ‘kill me now’ Fourth of July. Is that asking too much? My therapist did recommend a couple of books, ‘Changes That Heal’ by Henry Cloud and ‘Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Your Life’ by Scott Spradlin. I found a cheap Kindle version of ‘Changes That Heal’ on Amazon so I’m going to try that first. Whether it is going to help is hard to say. I’ve become pretty skeptical. Sometimes I think I’m always going to be a bit ‘broken’. But I am really tired of being on this roller-coaster ride. It’s not like the one at the amusement park that you can deboard when the ride is over. This one never ends!
On and on it goes. Where it stops? Nobody knows! Is it going to end when my heart stops beating and my pupils are fixed? I hope not. I’d like to experience more joy and less pain before this ride ends. Whether that’s in the cards? I wish I knew the answer. But I’m going to keep fighting. I’m getting tired but I still have a little fight left in me. I just have to continue to remind myself that even when things feel so overwhelming that it’s hard to breathe, THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE. Thank you so much for stopping by. For the folks that are ‘following’ me, I am grateful for you and the continued interest you have in reading about the variety of things I talk about each day. I’m no poet laureate or anyone with significant credentials to speak of but I do enjoy the opportunity to share things about my life and family or to just make simple random observations. If all goes well and I haven’t run you off, I trust you will return tomorrow as will I.