I like to bury things. Deep inside my head. Behind my heart. I bury the thoughts and the words, trying to stuff them down underground, to forget. Instead, they betray me by growing up and out into weeds. All hope of blossoming is choked out.
I had some hopes for this year. I attended a year-long writing workshop with monthly meetings, focused on writing that first draft. Though it started last August, I had chosen the New Year for that fresh boost to sit down and finally fully bleed onto the page. I felt ready at last.
But as I sat down on the couch for a December session with my long-time therapist, she shared that she had some news to reveal for the next year. She was ready to retire by March. She would reach her 40th year working as a social worker/therapist. It was time. I understood. But I felt my hope, my focus crumble.
I started attending therapy sessions with her back in February 2005. It was nearly a year after my second open heart surgery and roughly three months after an unexpected and questionable break-up. I had been through so much since August of 2002, plus my years of rheumatoid arthritis/rheumatoid disease since 1994. After the break-up, I recognized that I needed help. A person shouldn’t feel so unworthy after surviving so much. Along with that, I also suffered from PTSD, anxiety, and panic issues. I couldn’t cope. I couldn’t process all of the stress, emotions, and trauma of my near death and two surgeries.
In learning of her plans, I felt several emotions. Understanding – a 40 year long career? Especially in social work? You have every right to retire as needed. Sadness – 13 years of regular therapy sessions. She knew my stories. My progress. My fears. My struggles. My anguish. I would need to find a new therapist. Start over. Reveal the scabs all over me, my heart, hidden like my invisible disease. Could I do that again? Happiness – for her to work 40 years in a field that mattered to her and reach retirement. It’s a wonderful accomplishment! I suppose some patients might have felt angry about it. I know I had a seed of that buried somewhere. But I refused to shine any light on it. Let it be picked up by a thought squirrel. If you work for 40 years, again, every right to retire!
Even so, I did share my plan for the New Year with her. Maybe I could write under the guise of “well, I’ll pretend I’m telling my story to my new therapist” as a form of motivation. I still had a little hope. I thought that this news wouldn’t unsettle my focus. But ultimately, it did.
When you’re the patient and there is an end date in sight on that status, things just kind of halt in your mind. You feel that you can’t really go on too much about some new stressor or trigger or drama or anguish. Instead, you have to focus on winding things down. Parting ways. So you might bury stuff down. You might tread water. Waiting. Just waiting. Keep that head above the surface. It’s okay. Just hold on and hope to sort it out later. Convince yourself that you’re okay and this is only temporary.
I’m not really that depressed (lie). I’m okay (lie). And look how far I’ve come with my panic and anxiety (true). Yes, I’ll continue with a therapist. But first, I need some time to grieve this loss. Regain focus. Work on being calm and okay about a new provider (trigger). Maybe a fresh start will help. I can do this. Right?
Meanwhile, depression has ideas of its very own. Sneaky that way. Bubbling up from underneath as you try to float on the murky surface. “Why do I bother? I’m tired of coping with everything” (RA, daily pain, migraines, infertility, work changes, work stress, work bullshit, other people, and last but not least: that festering bog called depression). Appearances can be deceiving.
One beneficial thing about starting therapy with a new provider is the need to open up to someone completely new. The feeling of no judgment. Not that I had any from before. But it’s that illusion of “what the hell, may as well!” I admitted that my depression wasn’t getting better. I had been haunted by a suggestion from my super nice and compassionate primary care doctor: since I was still on a low (starting) dose of my antidepressant, to keep in mind that we could see about increasing it if I felt it was needed. Just to let her know any time. The next check-up appointment was approaching. I kept thinking about increasing the dosage. Did I need it? Maybe it would help? Like an angel whispering in my ear; think about it.
I was to the point where thoughts of self-harm/suicide were bombarding me repeatedly throughout the day. Every fucking day. The only thing I found within me that kept me from following through is the fact that I couldn’t commit to any one way to make it happen. I had ideas. I had imagined doing so in attempts to exorcise the desire from inside me. Burn it out in thought. But I had rules. It couldn’t drag anyone else into it, in the sense of an innocent having to live with being part of it. But then I realized that there are still people being dragged into it, having to live with it. My husband and all the rest of my family. Our dog. My friends. So I struggled in a tug-of-war with my emotions. They were there, but I’d wait to act. Put it off. Just sit there like a tomb sticking out of the ground, weeds wrapping around and pulling tighter while bits of me crumble into dust.
So I admitted to my therapist that I thought I needed more medication to help me and that I was thinking about asking my doctor. She told me how (these will be more of my words/interpretation) basically the brain (neural pathways, etc.) tends to try to go back to its old programming. How it can become necessary to take a higher dose due to that tendency to revert to old pathways/thinking, especially over a period of time. It had been about two years since I’d been on that low starting dose. So little wonder that I was becoming overwhelmed by depressed feelings.
I understood the issue of the programming and pathways due to my previous experience with learning to cope with overwhelming anxiety and panic. It takes a lot of work to change one’s thinking. Very much the forming of a new habit. But there is also the sense that you aren’t good enough if you have to ask for help via medication. As though you are a failure because you can’t make your mind bend willingly to overcome depression. That you are somehow pathetic because you need further treatment.
But you know what? That’s complete bullshit.
You aren’t pathetic.
You’re worth it.
It’s okay to ask for help.
You deserve to live a good life with good feelings within you.
You deserve to have the help and treatment that you need in order to feel better and heal.
It’s okay to adjust or increase treatment until you get to a good place.
It’s time for you to feel better, inside and out.
That is where I’m at right now.
How are you?