Tag Archives: depression

Conversation with an X therapist

My apologies in advance for the profanity and cynicism in this post.  I wrote it a long time ago and I post it now because I think others will relate to it and I want them to know that it is possible to move past this.  It’s not a good place to be.


Conversation with an X-therapist:

Me: “I have a hard time with relationships.”

Him: “I guess it all comes down to that ‘T’ word.”

(long pause)

Me: (venturing a guess) “Try harder?”

He laughs.

Him: No not “try harder”. TRUST.

Well that didn’t work out. (He got sued for his counseling “practices” but not by me.   Instead, I wrote scathing journal entries about it and quit therapy.)

May 14, 2001

The “Double Bind”. Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t. How many times have I found myself in that predicament? People put me in this bind. I put myself in it. And I believe God puts me in it. And from there… the bottom line is trust?

I trust no one. I don’t trust what’s said to me and I don’t trust what I hear. I don’t trust what I think and I don’t trust what I know. Nothing and no one can be trusted. Nothing and no one is safe:

Not me.

Not you.

Not God.

I can only do what I know how to do – do it as much and as hard as I can, and that is all I can trust to be “true”. My performance.

And of course it has to be perfect.

Do you hear my anger? It’s there in the words I scream when my performance is challenged. What if what I can do for you is not good enough?

So I rage: “Is it perfect now?! Is it?! Because I want it to be fucking perfect!”

Oh if you could taste the venom behind those words.

It is NEVER perfect.

It is always a struggle.

I am so tired.

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Inside

29

August 2000

INSIDE

(My response to someone commenting on my lack of ability to make eye contact.)


Please don’t look at me.

I’m not what you think you see.

There’s less here than you can believe.

I can’t look at you.

My eyes might not lie…

They might just reveal

that thing my soul needs most

To conceal.

Over there.  Not here.

Here is too close.

Look where I’m looking –

There’s your safe place.

Watch me from a distance

While I guard this space.

I know that you feel like

You’re missing something now –

But there is nothing to miss.

There is nothing where

You would look anyhow.

It is best this way.

Perhaps you will imagine well.

Better, it is, for you to believe

There was something there–

Than to look and see

There was nothing at all!

And if you looked and you saw

There was nothing to see –

Don’t you see?

That is why I hide.

You can pretend there were

Great and Beautiful things–

If you could see them–

Inside.

Harrold’s Horses

“The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

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July 4, 2001

I know an old cowboy. His blue eyes sparkle when he talks to me. “Where’ve you been girl?” I stare at the ground, knowing there are no words to describe the barren places I’ve occupied lately. “Why don’t you come ride with me sometime?” he says. The sun hurts my eyes as we stand outside in the parking lot of the farm supply store. I hesitate and shift a bag of chicken feed from one hip to the other trying to formulate a response. He’s the kind of person that wouldn’t understand not wanting to live, so I agree to go on the pretense of not wanting to have to explain not living.

The next day I am standing next to one of the tallest horses I’ve ever had the privilege to ride. Her name is Cheetah. Running a soft brush over her sleek muscular body I start to anticipate the ride. Harrold and I pass the afternoon on horseback, riding through fields of tall prairie grass, meandering through dry creek beds, galloping up steep embankments. I feel the saddle creaking beneath me and a sheen of sweat darkens the mares’ necks in the summer heat. We pull our horses beneath the shade of a mulberry tree and pause there to pick the ripe sun-warmed fruit. The sweet, sticky juice stains my fingers and lips. From Cheetah’s back I can reach the dark purple berries. They are perfect and delicious.

In the months that follow, I let Harrold’s horses carry me through my own personal “valley of the shadow of death.” Harrold follows me through that valley. I think he knew all along that I needed an escort out of that dark and formidable place. I think he knew I needed a fire lit under me and that Cheetah had it in her to light it.

“Horses get bored just like people” Harrold tells me.

So we drive cattle and take rides down by the river. We go out for long moon-lit walks after dark in the snow or take treks through the hilly pastures, winding our way over fallen trees and splashing through small streams. The older horses get ridden when we need to break the “green” ones as we pony them through plowed fields and knee high lavender blossoms of alfalfa. Our favorite thing to do though, is to let our horses run.

We have raced the mares a time or two before. I can feel Cheetah pulling at the bit of her bridle when Harrold’s mare, Sugar, gets a few paces ahead of her. That’s’ my cue.

“Harrold, this mare sure feels good today.” I hint.

He looks at me with a knowing wink, and tips his head in the direction of the road ahead of us. “What’dya say? From here to that driveway up there?”

I fix my eyes on the spot indicated and reply, “You’re on!” and I swear Cheetah knows what we are talking about because immediately she starts prancing, her body tense and her hind legs coiling up beneath her like springs.

On Harrold’s count of three we “GO!” and our horses bolt like lightening. The mares are neck and neck at first. I never even kick Cheetah in the sides… I just lean forward and let her run. When Sugar starts to pull ahead by about a half of a horse length, I lay on Cheetah’s neck; still not kicking her but gently pulling my legs in tight to her sides. I use my voice to encourage her. “C’mon Cheetah, Come on!” “Let’s go girl- they’re beating us!” She seems to catch the fervency in my voice and I feel her stretch her neck out and her whole body is flattening lower to the ground. We are flying and the thunder of her hooves and surge of muscle beneath me are exhilarating. In a flash she has pulled ahead of Harrold on Sugar and we win our back road derby. We stroke our mares on the neck and walk them to cool down.

On the slow ride back to the ranch Harrold looks at me and Cheetah with admiration and says, “Boy that mare’s got a lotta want. Look how proud she is!”

I know. I can feel how she carries herself. Her head is curled around like a swan and her feet step high and light with this little bounce that wasn’t there before.

“I told you she feels good today,” I remind Harrold.

He nods and smiles. He knows it’s more than that.

“It’s easy to run races when you’ve got the want. Lots of people try to live without that,” he says, “but not me. I can’t live like that.”

He pauses. Then he looks at me squarely in the eyes, like only a cowboy can, and says “and neither will you.”

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grace hitops

“There is nothing so good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse.” ~Ronald Reagan

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“When God wanted to create the horse, He said to the South wind, ‘I want to make a creature of you.  Condense.’ And the Wind condensed.”  ~ Emir Abd-el-Kader

Thoughts on Writing

Journal entry:  Sunday, February 9, 2014

Judging by the scarcity of entries in my journal it appears I have nothing of terrific importance to write about.  Looking back over the past few months I wrack my brain trying to come up with some justification for not devoting any time to this.  Writing – like exercising and cleaning and eating a healthy diet always results in me reaping some kind of satisfaction that I can’t get in any other way.  I think of it often enough (to write things down).  It’s not like I’m too busy.  Especially during the winter.  Especially this winter of unending bitter, biting, cold.  And no snow.  I tell myself a lot that my thoughts are not important enough to write down-  not worth the expenditure of energy.  And moreover who even cares?  Nobody cares what I think and feel.  I caught myself thinking that today and then I had to ask myself “And is that really the point?”  Maybe it was a revelation of thought or maybe it was one of those ‘teachable moments’ where the Holy Spirit gets a quick sneak into my consciousness and helps me see the reason and meaning.  Do I have a motive of wanting someone else to read and care about my words?  Is the significance of my thought life measured in value only by what I think others would think about my thoughts and words?  That’s when I remember a dream that died.  Did it die?  Or just get buried?  I wanted to write stories so badly as a little girl.  I did write stories!  Multi-paged adventures illustrated with painstakingly drawn horses and characters.  I remember my first diary. It was light blue and had a gold clasp with a lock and key.  I don’t recall a single thing I wrote in that diary but I  remember feeling so afraid of what it would mean if anyone read my secret thoughts and desires.  One day when mom asked me to take the garbage out to the burning barrel and burn the trash, I took the journal with me and threw it in the flames.  It is one of very few memories from my youth.  It was winter and there was snow on the ground.  I was a little girl!  What secrets or feelings could I have had that could be so shameful?  Many a time since that day I wished I could undo that decision.  I carried the desire to write into high school and through college (earning a BS in English) hoping something would come to me about how to turn this love of story-telling into a reality.  I’ve made so many people listen to and read things I’ve written.  I mailed a manuscript — actually 2 different ones out to 2 or 3 different publishing houses.  Those are now in a basket under my nightstand and I re-read them and I think they’re really not that good.  So I look back on these events in my life now and I think sometimes I let go of the desire because no one else thought I had anything valuable to say — but it went way deeper than that.  It even went into the core of my person.  It impacted my identity, my passion, the sense of mystery – and most importantly, my faith!  For some reason I took the rejections as a definitive truth that it wasn’t my writing skill that was unacceptable but it was me.  I didn’t really care much for that little girl standing in the snow beside the burning barrel watching the heat and smoke rise as a column of finality pushing flakes of written words up into the cold grey sky as bits of burnt, ashy, charred desire.  The words weren’t the problem.  How they were arranged on the page wasn’t the problem.  It was me.  The way I was thinking – the wildness of my heart – the strangeness of it!  I wasn’t ok how I was.  I made people feel awkward or annoyed.  I started telling myself not to think the way I did.  I quit being so dramatic – so ‘radical’.  I gave myself a warning: Rein it in.  Cap the passion and hunger.  It wasn’t easy “breaking” all that will.

I’m not a fan of domesticity. Now I fear that it has happened to me at last. I know the price I paid for that. The depression I struggled with in my 30’s…. that was me fighting like hell to stay alive. I was begging for validation . Some kind of acknowledgement that I had the divine God-given perogative to laugh and cry and complain and exhult and live those extremes that my heart knew when it was fully alive. It’s no one’s fault that I’ve lost heart. If I couldn’t know what to do with all of that which was inside me, how could I expect anyone else to know how best to respond to it, let alone nurture it.

Mostly I don’t ruminate on my loss of heart but, occassionally, I remember the old passions and I wish I had them still. I wish I could feel what I used to feel passing my hand across the back of a horse, for instance. The thrill of riding at a gallop through pastures and creeks. I wish I still loved congregational ‘worship’ at church and felt that wild stirring in my soul listening to someone preach an excellent sermon. You know? Those moments when you hear something that resonates with your heart and beliefs and you just want to scream out “YES!!”  Well. It’s no more. I remember sometimes I wanted to dance to the radio. I’d go out in the evening when the stars were just coming out and I’d put my headphones in and dance and jump and whirl and laugh. I remember feeling awe. There was also the flip side though. When I hurt, there was so much pain. I have dark memories of closing myself in my room, curtains pulled, head pounding from sobbing so hard for so long. I was never satisfied. I had an insatiable hunger for love and there was never enough.

Maybe I just matured but it doesn’t feel like that. It feels like I went into a coma. Like I am still under some kind of spell– a fairytale induced “sleep”. anesthetized against reality. Is it something I chose? Maybe partly. I liked the passionate me but not the crazy, depressed, non-functioning and “needy” me. Some of my older friends who knew me then… through the cutting and suicidality and mental hospital visits… I tell them I am “better”. Curiously, I believe I am better (ten years without having needed meds or therapeutic interventions) and that I paid the price for this new functional and dutiful self by killing the passionate, hungering, wildly loving, shining self.

And THAT makes it seem like I chose everything. Like I chose to be crazy and then suddenly decided to stop being crazy. Or like I chose to love and feel everything so intensely and passionately and then chose not to. Surely it’s not so uncomplicated as all of that.

And what brings me to this overly long analysis of my loss of heart?

Something new.

A puppy. Small silly thing. In September of 2013 we adopted Sylvie. I set her in the passenger seat next to me in the jeep to bring her home when she was only 7 weeks old. She sat there so quiet and alert, watching me with dark curious eyes. I reached over to try to pet the top of her head and the little babe tipped her tiny black nose up to lay a long, soft pink tongue across my bare arm. One little paw reached up to hook itself over my open hand and I was smitten. She melts me. I get tears in my eyes now simply writing about that day. I can’t remember when my heart felt so… wide. I think when the kids were born. Yes. And now I start to feel a little crazy start to creep back in. I act crazy about everything concerning her well-being. Why does loving immensely have to mean acting crazy? I’m terrified of something happening to her. Today I am watching her a little extra closely because of a minor injury when we were out hiking yesterday. Sarge and Sylvie were running everywhere along the old river like they always do and Sylvie caught her ear on a barbed wire fence. It tore a hole in it large enough to warrant a trip to the vet for stitches. While she was under anaesthesia I started to panic. I envisioned her not waking up. She did and today she is back to herself except for a shaved ear that is crinkled up with stitches. But not me. I’m not back to myself. I’m like her shadow and I am questioning this nagging ache in my heart that follows me everywhere I go. It’s an ache I can’t name until about an hour ago when I was thinking about how love – and the choice of loving – anything can be so terrifying! I am already tired of this fear.. this ..

oh, and the name of that other feeling finally comes to me: Powerlessness.

It is always thus when love fully takes your heart. Try as you might to protect yourself from ever having your heart break for loving, you cannot love and be safe from that pain. If you aren’t powerless, then you aren’t giving your love fully.

There is a position I must try to take in the face of this powerlessness. That position tries to summon the strength to say, “I will love her anyway with all that I have and feel and am. Even if I lose her.” I was always much better at striving then surrendering. So it is no small thing to accept that love and the risk of pain from losing love are out of my control. The point is that I will do all I can in my power to protect her, and at the same time, I have to find that boundary somehow where I am not going so crazy with fears of losing her that I resign myself to that loss before it even comes.

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