I had to share this gem since I’ve never seen a “Hey, girl…” meme that’s mental health themed before.
You can lie on my couch any time, Mr. Gosling.
I had to share this gem since I’ve never seen a “Hey, girl…” meme that’s mental health themed before.
You can lie on my couch any time, Mr. Gosling.
Before becoming a mom, I used to know how to relax.
I was good at it.
I could curl up with a book for hours on the weekends. I could go to Starbucks and lose myself in sugary caffeinated heaven. We took vacations and unplugged and were carefree. At work, when things got particularly stressful or when I was getting a headache, I would carve out 10 minutes, set the alarm on my phone, shut my office door, and I’d lay on my therapy couch (and even on the floor before I had a couch) and just focus on my breath. It did wonders for me, some days, or at the very least it allowed me to get through the day.
Even when I get a break, it doesn’t feel like a break. My kid takes one nap a day now, maaaaaybe two. Maybe. And I don’t know when the nap is coming. Today, it came early. Tomorrow will be different. I also never know how long it’s going to last. 19.5 minutes? 30 minutes? Once in a blue moon, it’s been 1.5 hours. And each time he goes down, I ask myself, How do I want to spend this time?
Sometimes I clean, do laundry, or otherwise get stuff done. Other times I try to relax – watch TV, drink iced coffee, read my book, write a blog post, garden, etc. Note the word try in that last sentence.
I’ve noticed that even when I try to relax, I just can’t. My posture is rigid, my breathing is shallow, my ears are perked. My son might wake up at any moment. Right now, my son is doubled over in the most uncomfortable yoga sleeping position not 10 feet away and I am trying to type as quietly and as quickly as I can and I am trying to pull words out of me even though I don’t feel totally motivated to write in this moment. But right now, this moment is all I have.
Let me be clear that, for me, this is not a guilt thing. I do not feel guilty for wanting to relax or for trying. And when I am successful at shutting the world out for a bit (including my son) I give myself a little pat on the back. Because everyone needs that, especially moms. And as an introvert mom, I need quiet shut-out time to recharge my batteries so I can be a better mom to my little snot machine when he wakes up, whenever he wakes up. At least I know guilt isn’t getting in my way.
It’s very tempting to use things to induce relaxation. I know it’s cool for moms to joke about wine and coffee, but I can totally see the dangerously slippery slope that is self-medicating when one is no longer in charge of one’s daily schedule. Ugh, I have to wake up now?! Better use some coffee. Poopsticks, today was tough and I only have two hours before I crash in bed, so if I want to relax RIGHT NOW, I’d better use some wine, because wine. Amirite?!
Sometimes I do this. Sometimes it’s TV or food. But I try not to. And I am also trying to feel okay knowing that I can’t just magically make myself feel relaxed when I want to feel that way, especially when someone else is calling the shots.
I want to remind myself that, sometimes, I end up feeling relaxed when I hadn’t planned on it, and wasn’t even trying. Which means…I don’t want to keep feeling like I am chasing relaxation, some feeling of peace that I may or may not get from a barista or a bottle of pinot. Chasing things always takes me out of the present, where I’m more likely able to create peace for myself. And that it’s okay when I can’t hurry up and settle down RIGHT NOW and for exactly 19.5 minutes.
With that said, he’s awake and screaming. This time I was given about 45 minutes.
Someone once told me that becoming a mother had ripped her open, both emotionally and physically.
At the time, I had an idea of what she meant, but now I have a much clearer sense.
Never have I felt so wide-open, so vulnerable. It’s exhilarating and exhausting.
I cry much more easily. I cry at diaper commercials. Sometimes I cry when my son cries. There is also such joy. Pure, radiant bursts of joy. My son’s smiles. Watching my husband lovingly change a diaper for the first time. Crying at diaper commercials.
The lows are lower and the highs are so much higher.
For me, becoming a parent has slammed me into the present like nothing else. I am so overwhelmed, and my son’s needs are so immediate, that I am forced to focus on right now and little else. Right now, he needs to eat. Right now, I am going to sleep. Right now, I am changing a diaper. While I wipe his butt, we’re the only two people in the entire world. He stares up at me and watches my face as I concentrate and hurry to finish the job. I catch him looking at me and we share a smile. Then we’re on to the next right now.
At the same time, becoming a parent stirred up my past. I am remembering how I was raised. Brian and I have discussions over how we were parented and how we want to parent. I hear my mom’s voice, and even my grandma’s voice, come out of my mouth. The past has been unearthed and laid over the present for me to walk through again.
Also at the same time, the beginning of life has catapulted me towards the future. Since Dylan is our first child, and the first grandchild for both sides of the family, his existence has shifted everyone into a new life stage – a couple to parents, parents to grandparents. It makes us all think of end-of-life issues. With luck, Dylan will live to see us die. He’ll see a world that I will never see. It’s a concept that is very hard for me to wrap my brain around, and it’s both comforting and terrifying.
It seems odd to me, but the times my son just rips my heart out aren’t when he’s screaming bloody murder. It’s when he seems bored or has this dejected look on his face. Up here in my brain, I know that this is me projecting my stuff onto him and that he’s probably just content, or at the very worst, he’s just trying to process the world around him. But here in my chest, my heart breaks for him, and I am not quite sure why.
Many, many parents say that they can’t imagine their lives without their kids. I know this will happen for me at some point, but it hasn’t yet. There are times, sometimes multiple times a day, when I wish for my old life back. I wish to feel productive in a way that I am accustomed to. I wish to have more free time. I wish to have more sleep. I wish for more predictability in my day.
When I find myself making these wishes, I reframe my frustration and ask myself what I can learn from this. Again and again, the answer is patience and acceptance. When I was working as a therapist, a supervisor of mine once said that we are given the clients we need. So far, I think the same goes for kids. My son is going to teach me, even force me, how to be more patient and how to accept that I am not in control (and I never was to begin with).
So, thanks, my baby Dylan, for ripping me open.
You’re going to teach me how to be a better person.
And I’m going to let you.
Unsolicited advice really doesn’t help.
In fact, it’s always made me feel worse.
A lot of people refer to my job as a professional advice-giver, which really misses the mark. I’ve often had clients come in and expect direct advice – they’ve even asked me straight up what I think they should do. I get that with some cultures, this is the expectation of coming to see an expert. Others just desperately want “the answers” (whatever those are), they want a quick solution, and they are afraid or not ready to put in the work to get there on their own.
I always pull back and slow down when a client asks me for advice. Sometimes I’ll ask why they are wanting to be told what to do, because often their answer reveals a lot about their world view.
And then I lay it right out for them. I explain that, while I’ve gone through training and I am qualified to help, I don’t know all the answers. And I certainly don’t know what’s best for one particular person from Adam. Sure, I have my own opinions, but I see clients for typically only one hour per week, and each client is really the expert on their life – they know better than anyone what may help and what won’t. Most importantly, a client has to live with whatever consequences their decisions bring, and that’s why they should be making these decisions – not me. My job is simply to help them make that decision, whatever it is.
And all that is just for advice that was actually invited.
I got onto this topic because 1) It’s one of my biggest pet peeves ever, and 2) Being pregnant seems to invite unsolicited advice, like a lot, and 3) I revisited a comment I made on a similar post, Tolerating Sadness:
I hadn’t really thought about it before, but I do hesitate to post sadder things on Facebook, mostly because I don’t want unsolicited advice or the other unwanted phrases I mentioned in the post. I don’t want to feel judged, dismissed when my sadness makes people uncomfortable. What a shame.
Number 1 is just me, and I tend to not like to be told what to do, unless I am specifically asking for help.
Number 2 is, in my opinion, an example of the (horrible) concept that a woman’s body and sexuality is everyone’s business and is to be regulated. Do we ask men how their erectile dysfunction is going today? No. Do we inquire about the state of their prostate? No. Do we give random advice about how to get their sperm count up? I seriously doubt it. I could be wrong about this, since I am not a man, but I do know that women’s bodies are more regulated than men’s due to the fact that men have no trouble getting Viagra and penis pumps covered by their insurance, while women have trouble getting birth control and access to safe abortions without unnecessary ultrasounds in some states. But I digress – this could be a whole other string of ranty posts.
Pregnancy, once a woman starts showing, is also a very obvious, visible condition, and I think this contributes to women getting unsolicited advice from strangers, not to mention getting their personal space violated. (By the way, always ask a pregnant lady if you can touch her belly BEFORE you touch it. And if she says no, then don’t. Please.)
Back to the advice-giving. It all boils down to the fact that advice serves to help the advice giver, not the recipient. I’ve found that when I am expressing some aspect of my life and feelings that is less than optimal, (sadness, frustration, fear, some icky pregnancy side effect, etc.) that sometimes creates feelings of discomfort in the listener. One way people try to alleviate that discomfort is to give advice as a means of maybe fixing the problem, or at the very least, feeling like they’ve helped and thus the uncomfortable-feelings-burden has been passed back to me.
Let me be clear. When I am expressing discomfort, it is not my intention to pass a burden onto the listener to fix my problem. If you feel discomfort while listening to me, please know that means that you care, you’re tuned into me, and that’s awesome. Seriously. But please, don’t take on my discomfort as your own. It’s not yours to carry. And it hurts my feelings when you try to deflect the discomfort with advice. My feelings are not yours to fix.
What I would like instead is empathy. I know you already feel it for me, hence the advice-giving. So, instead of covering up empathy with advice, try to give a voice to it.
I’m so sorry you had to go through that.
My heart aches for you.
I wish I could make your pain go away.
Let me know if there’s anything I can do.
These sound wonderful to me. They are vulnerable. They keep the two people on the same plane, as equals, as opposed to one who is suffering and one who gives advice as an expert. I think they are harder to say than advice is.
I’d much rather have someone come join me in empathy than try to slap a bandaid on my feelings.
So please, I invite you to pause the next time you feel the urge to give someone advice. Why do you feel like giving it? How are you feeling in relation to this person’s news/problems? What would it be like to refrain from trying to fix, and instead try to feel?
It might feel uncomfortable, and that’s ok.
Because my feelings (and yours) are not to be fixed.
I’m feeling all the feelings, you guys.
I had a mommy friend ask me if I wanted advice. She had written a list of things she wished she had known before giving birth. I said yes, and I read it.
Then I cried.
This thing really has to come out of me. And it’s going to hurt. Like, a lot. Breastfeeding might be hard. And painful. Projectile poop really does exist. All this responsibility…
Even though I’m the type of person who always wants to know all the good and the bad stuff, it was still pretty overwhelming.
I asked myself, how am I going to handle all this?
That voice inside me shrugged and said, one day at a time.
I’m also having some feelings around body image.
My body hasn’t changed much throughout my life, with the exception of cancer and the resulting surgery. This week marks the highest weight I have ever been. I knew it was coming, of course, and I know it’s healthy and it’s supposed to happen. And I’m cool with it; it means that Little Duck is growing and my body is growing with fe. At the same time, I felt a pang when I saw the number on the scale. I’ve never been one to weigh myself, like ever, because I’ve never seen the point. But with the pregnancy, I’ve wanted to track my changes and so I’ve been weighing myself once a week.
It’s not just the number on the scale, but a combination of that plus how I look and how I feel. I’ve always been fairly petite, and sometimes it’s tough for me to see my waistline disappear. Honestly, it depends on the day. When I first started showing, I was so happy and excited. This is real! Look at me, how cute I look! I feel so special! And sometimes, a lot of the time, I still feel like that. But on the days when I feel achy and bloated, I wonder how big I’m going to get. Where is my limit? What will my body do? It’s the not knowing that can be unsettling.
What I’ve concluded is that my body is changing faster than my thoughts and emotions can catch up. And I have to keep telling myself what I already know to be true – that my body knows what it’s doing. Trust it.
Even when cancer invaded my body and I felt like it [my body] had betrayed me, it still let me know what was going on. And when I stop to think about my progress during this pregnancy so far, I realize that my body has done all the work unaided. All the medical procedures I’ve had have been purely for screening purposes. Of course, if my body needs medical help along the way, that’s all well and good, but overall, my body’s in charge. And she knows what she’s doing.
Lastly, I’ve been feeling all pent up. I really need a project (besides growing life) and what I’d really like to be doing is decorating and organizing a house, but we’re just not there yet. Not only are we not there, but we’re crammed into a one bedroom apartment with boxes stacked everywhere. I feel closed in, it feels cluttered in here, and I have no idea how we’re going to fit a baby in here, let alone all the baby crap.
I know this situation is only temporary, and our next move, if it’s not a house, will definitely be someplace bigger and quieter. We’ll only have to have the baby here for one month max, if at all.
It also doesn’t help that I am not currently working, or otherwise have something to do with my time. I’ve been looking for work half-assedly, mostly because, while I do want to be productive and useful, I don’t want the added stress of having to learn a new job, and I certainly don’t want to have to sell my soul to any job – and that’s even if anyone offers this 5 month pregnant lady a position in the first place.
I hate how the American work force – and the social service professions specifically – expect you to bend over backwords just to work. The job openings I’ve seen aren’t only full time, but the descriptions are peppered with lines like: must be able to work evenings and Saturdays, shifts subject to change with little notice, must be able to drive to multiple locations, may be exposed to clients with violent tendencies, must give up first born child to Satan, etc. I’d be hesitant to take jobs like this even if I wasn’t pregnant, and forget it now. I’m not even sure I’d want to keep a full time job after I have the baby, anyway, so that adds to my lack of enthusiasm. Don’t employers want healthy, happy, well-rounded workers who have lives outside of work? Sheesh. Jobs are just jobs, and I want one that I don’t have to be married to.
That said, I do feel incredibly fortunate that I am being supported by my husband right now. I have the privilege of having the choice to work or not, and for that I am very thankful. I also feel a bit guilty about not contributing financially to the household, and a part of me really does want to get out there and do the profession I love, but Brian totally understands my priorities and he’s supportive. I’ll keep looking for work, and if I find something that fits our needs, then awesome. If not, we’ll adjust and get by together.
So. It seems as though my theme for the moment is transition.
But, now that I think about it, am I ever really not transitioning?
I wrote the following post several weeks ago, shortly after moving to the Portland area. I hesitated in posting it, mainly because of the reaction I was afraid it might get. But after reading Charlotte’s brave post on her blog Momaste about her own depression, I figured I should go ahead and post, too, regardless of what others thought.
It’s time to get up, Melissa.
You need to get up now.
Not yet. I don’t think I can.
Take off the covers, swing your legs over the side of the bed and sit up.
Now take some deep breaths. One thing at a time.
I am doing my best to listen to the voice inside my head. The good voice. That voice who can see the other side. That therapist voice who always knows that things are going to be ok, even when I seriously doubt it.
It’s so hard to take my own advice. I can’t count how many times I have told clients to try and provide themselves with reminders about how it feels to climb out of a depression, or how it feels after you’ve just left an abusive partner, how it feels when you’re loving life and you actually have hope.
We need those reminders of what hope feels like, and now I am needing them, because depression lies to us.
Let me say that again: depression lies.
Some of my clients remind themselves by journaling. When they feel themselves slipping, I’ll remind them to go back and read the entries they made when they felt good about themselves.
Some of my clients use artwork they’ve made as reminders. Others use music. Or dancing. It’s about whatever works.
Step one is to get yourself to actually make the reminder. Step two, which is the harder one, is to get yourself to pull out the reminder when you need it most.
I actually got this idea from one of my very first clients who used this technique naturally. She recognized that the abuse in her relationship ran in cycles, that her manipulative ex changed his tactics from time to time, and that she needed a reminder as to why she left him, especially when he was beginning to turn the charm back on, or when things got particularly hard on her own.
She knew just how strong her denial could be, and so she knew that she needed a real, tangible reminder. Something she couldn’t ignore or explain away. So she cleared out a drawer in her house, and she filled it with things her ex had broken. Picture frames, phones, even pieces of a dining room chair. Every time she needed reminding, she would open that drawer and touch all the broken pieces of a life she had left behind.
I used her amazing example with many clients, and right now I’m needing to use it for myself.
Because sometimes I feel like my hope has leaked out of my drawer.
Now I need you to brush your teeth.
I don’t feel like it.
You’ll feel better afterwards.
…will I feel better, ever?
How do you know?
Because you’re still listening to me.
Tell me, what do you use as a reminder of hope?
Since we’re moving in a few weeks, we’ve been saying goodbye to things and people.
I still need to say goodbye to my favorite burrito. I’ve been told they only have burrito-like things in Portland, so I had better stock up now.
Therapists get to say goodbye a lot. Working with the population I do, often times I don’t get to say goodbye because I never know that this session will be the last time I’ll see a particular client.
When I first started this work, each time a client stopped coming or stopped returning phone calls was really jarring to me. I worried about the client.
Was she ok? Why wasn’t she coming?
I also found that my feelings were hurt, even though I knew it had nothing to do with me.
Was I a horrible therapist? Did I offend the client? Was it something I said or didn’t say?
Lastly, I realized just how strongly I adhered to the value of expecting people to keep the appointments they make, to have a sense of accountability (even though I get now that, for my clients, the issue is much more complicated than that).
Eventually, with practice, I got used to it. Clients come to our agency in crisis with many priorities other than therapy. Clients are allowed to stop therapy for whatever reason at whatever time, and they don’t have to inform me if they don’t want to. Ok, I can understand that. Fair enough.
Under ideal circumstances, I get to plan out my goodbyes with clients. A central theme in therapy is that I am supposed to model what a healthy relationship looks like, and a huge part of that is in saying goodbye.
Goodbyes are hard. They suck. They’re sad, they’re emotional, they’re bittersweet. I’ve spent the past week and a half saying goodbye to a good many clients and it’s exhausting. I feel horrible, and I’ve even apologized to some. It’s true that I am used to saying goodbye to clients, but I’m rarely the one doing the leaving. That’s what feels different here, and that’s what is adding an extra layer of yuck and guilt to these goodbyes.
I’ve often said that the good and the bad part about being a therapist is that when I go on vacation or leave the job, I am not just leaving a desk and a computer – I am leaving people.
People handle goodbyes in different ways. I’ve had several clients stop contacting me after I let them know I was leaving, and while I understand that sometimes goodbyes are just too painful to face, I still feel sad and somewhat hurt. In those cases, I feel like we’ve lost an opportunity for growth.
I try to honor the different parts of saying goodbye. Yes, it’s an ending, but in therapy (like many things), it’s also a beginning. It marks the beginning of the client going out into the world to use the skills she learned in therapy. It marks independence. It celebrates the hard work the client has done by attending sessions with me. It’s a graduation of sorts, since my job is one that seeks to put itself out of business. My goal, in that sense, is to get to the goodbye point, to make it so that my clients no longer need me.
One thing I like to do when ending therapy is to tell the client to take me with them. After therapy is over, and you’re facing a situation that we talked about in therapy, if I was there with you, what would I say? Would I have judgement for you? Would I be your cheerleader?
Clients often take me with them without any prompting. Some have reported facing a particularly hard scenario, or they’ve felt triggered, or they’d had to go to court, and they’ll come back and told me that they heard my voice in their head. Not in a creepy, you need to be locked up kinda way, but in a very sweet and touching way. In such a way that lets me know that this client is really working in therapy and is going to be just fine.
One time I asked a client, “When you heard my voice, what was I telling you?”
She rolled her eyes and adopted a semi-mocking tone. “You told me to think about it differently.”
And I beamed. So I really was doing a good job. And I don’t really have to say goodbye. Because my clients take me with them, and they stay with me as well.
Like Psychobabble on Facebook, so that we’ll never have to say goodbye. And so you’ll also hear my voice in your head.
I have a big announcement, you guys.
Guess what, Psychos?!
Portland, Oregon is about to get a little bit crazier, folks.
The story is that Brian got his dream job, and this is our time to pick up and move to seek new adventures!
You hear that, World?!
This is our time!
I can’t wait to sign up for clown school and sit around eating vegan muffins on my days off.
But, in all seriousness, I am excited, but I am also scared and sad and anxious.
We’ve been living in the same place for the past 5 years, and this has been the longest time we’ve been in once place since leaving our childhood homes to go to college. We can’t believe our luck in how our lives just fell into place here in Northern California. We both found jobs in our fields, we found a town and an apartment we both love, and we were close to our families. Even though we’ve been complaining about living in an apartment, living in a college town with noisy shitheads, complaining that we’ve learned all we can from our current jobs…I’m scared that we won’t have such good luck again. This had to be a fluke, right? Couldn’t have possibly been from hard work and compromise…that would just make too much sense.
This is also the first time I’ll be moving and not have something waiting for me on the other side – either a job or school or family. That’s scary for me. I’ll be supported by my husband, and while we both accept that and it’s what we signed up for, I’m still used to pulling my own weight. For the past 5 years, I’ve been 100% financially independent for the first time in my life, and it’s felt pretty damn fantastic. I know I won’t be giving up freedom, but I feel like I’ll be giving up a little bit of pride…at least temporarily.
There’s also the logistical aspect of this freakshow in getting all our shizz up to Razorblade City. I never moved as a kid. When I was 3, my parents moved us into the house that they continue to live in to this day. My soul will shrivel up and die if they ever sell it. Seriously, I’ll chain myself to the front door.
Anyways, the point is that I don’t really know how to move. I hate moving. I also hate feeling like my stuff owns me, and right about now I am finding out that I have a crapton of stuff. The stuff outnumbers me; it could totally bury me and claim my life and make it look like a freak accident. We’ve made the hard decision to have movers pack our stuff for us, because there’s no other way we’re taming this domestic jungle.
And then there’s the cat. She’s only been in a car 4 times, and each of those times, she’s howled like a banshee going through a meth withdrawal, save for when we’re stopped at red lights. I don’t know why, but I love this furry poosack like nothing else, and those screeches just cut straight through my heart. The only solution – she’s getting doped up. That’s right, Poopstick, you’re going to get high and you’re going to pass out so I can drive you in peace for 10+ hours. You are not going to piss in my car. You’re not going to throw up the meds. Don’t make me regret signing up to be your human mother.
So there you have it. I know the excitement will grow on me once I get past the hairy logistics. I have a feeling we’re going to jive really well in the land of evergreen trees and unicycling hipsters – where composting is mandatory, where food is delicious and organic and plentiful, and where people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (named SAD for a reason) and will desperately need my services.
Please hire me, Portland.
Please also like Psychobabble on Facebook. It’s where young people go to retire.
In my experience, sadness is not tolerated well or at all. It is not given much room, and it is not given nearly enough time. It is shamed. It is seen as weak. It is hidden and dealt with privately, or not at all. Often times, it’s covered up and comes out disguised as another feeling altogether.
Has anyone ever told you to: Cheer up! Look on the bright side! Everything will be ok. Don’t cry. You need to move on. Get over it.
I don’t know about you, but when I feel sad and someone tells me something like what I listed above, it makes me feel even worse. It makes me feel like there is no room for my sadness. My feelings are not ok. Not only that, but that you (the person invalidating my feelings) cannot tolerate my sadness for some reason. A person’s reaction to another’s feelings says a lot about how Person 1 deals (or doesn’t deal) with strong emotions. I see, so you need me to be ok, or at least appear to be ok, because you can’t handle your own tough feelings and thus can’t help me by bearing witness to mine. I get that. I get that you can’t help another person until you’ve processed through your own stuff to some degree.
Because when I share my sadness with you, I am not asking you to fix it. I am not asking you to cheer me up. I am asking you to bear witness. I am asking you to join me in empathy, just for a little bit. And yeah, that can be uncomfortable. Sadness isn’t easy. It’s extremely vulnerable and humbling. But it also takes courage.
Have you ever cried in front of another person? And I mean outright balling. The Ugly Cry. Sure, sometimes it just happens and we can’t help it, but for the most part, that takes huge amounts of courage. If I am showing my delicate, fragile underbelly of sadness to you, it means I trust you. I’m hoping you’ll understand me, but even if you don’t, my hope is that you respect the feeling and don’t push it away.
Sometimes I find myself get swept up in the urge to fix, especially when I’m the “expert” at work and it’s my job to help people feel better. With one client, the one positive thing she identified in her life was her dog, so I started asking questions about him. What was his name? What breed? How old was he? And my client stopped me, her face dripping with fresh tears.
I know what you’re doing, she said, And I want you to stop it.
What am I doing? I asked.
You’re trying to make me feel better, and it won’t work.
And you know what? She was right. At least for that moment, she just needed to sit there and cry, and she wanted me to just sit there with her. And so she told me to back off, and I did. We just sat. Because even for me, the “expert,” I can’t magically fix things if the client isn’t there yet. She wasn’t done feeling sad, simple as that.
Looking back on that session, I realized that, at least initially, I was feeling uncomfortable with her sadness. And this wasn’t just sadness, it was despair. It was dark and heavy and…scary. I was afraid for her, and also for my professional self. Was she going to be ok? Was she feeling suicidal? Was I doing my job to help keep her safe? All these things were going through my mind. It would be great if I just reminded her about all the glorious things in this world and she’d snap out of it. That would certainly make me feel like a miracle worker. It would make me feel good about myself and my abilities as a therapist. It would stop reminding me that life is often very hard and scary. But it also wouldn’t help.
My client reminded me, not so subtly, about my training: You have to start where the client is. You just have to, or it won’t work. I had to join her in her despair. I had to put myself in her shoes and think to myself, if I had been through everything that she had been through, would I feel the same way? Hell yes I would.
This reminds me of one of my most favorite sad movies ever. You know those times when you want to cry, but can’t? You need a catalyst, something to open the flood gates. When I feel that way, I put on What Dreams May Come. (SPOILER ALERT) It’s about love and family and death and suffering. A man dies and his wife then commits suicide. He goes to heaven and she goes to hell. The man travels to hell to find her and bring her to heaven. Against all odds, he finds her in hell, but she doesn’t know him. She’s suffering tremendously, and she’s lost. Unable to get her to recognize him or come with him, the man decides to join her. He decides to give up everything to be with her, even in hell. And only by joining her does he help to save her in the end.
Even though this example is rather dramatic, the core concept is true. I am reminded of this again and again when I forget.
How do you express your sadness? How do you express your sadness to others? How do you let people know that it’s ok for them to share their sadness with you?
I brought the crazy to Facebook, folks. Please like my page – it’s better than a Valium milkshake.
Last Thursday, Brian and I got to have a mini wedding redo, and it was pretty amazing.
But first – a HUGE shout-out and THANK YOU to everyone who read my Freshly Pressed post, new followers (henceforth called Psychos), and especially everyone who left a supportive comment. It really meant a lot to know that I wasn’t alone in my post-wedding grief.
During our wedding, as soon as my photographer realized how sick I was, she told me not to worry, that we would come back and take pictures at some later date, and I am so thankful she told me that right away, because then I could focus on just getting through the wedding knowing we’d (Brian and I) have a bit of a second chance.
I took a few hours off work so that I could get myself all pretty and ready for the photo shoot. Soon after the wedding, I had chopped all my hair off, and it was fun for me to play around with my new ‘do and get all dolled up.
I pinned the same ivory lace that had been in my hair for the wedding up under my curls so that it peeked out. I wore the same pearl earrings my parents gave me for Christmas. I affixed the same fake eyelashes, with some difficulty and perhaps a few swear words.
I was worried about how I would feel once I got my dress back on. First of all, I was a tiny bit worried that my dress wouldn’t zip – it was tight to begin with and I didn’t hold back on those cruise buffets and dessert menus – but mostly I was worried that I would just burst into tears and cry my eyelashes off.
The whole process of getting ready was actually very sweet. Brian and I didn’t see each other on our wedding day until I was actually walking down the aisle, and for this redo we got to be with each other and help each other get ready. Brian had to help me step into my dress and hook me up in the back, and while this was the reverse of what our wedding night should have been, I enjoyed the experience.
And don’t worry, cuz the dress fit just fine, and I didn’t burst into tears. I was actually…excited. I was happy to get to wear my dress again, I was happy to get my picture taken again, and I was so relieved that it was just going to be us. No family, no vendors, no pressure, no distractions.
We drove back out into the country to the wedding venue, and we commented on how much we love those surroundings, and how freaking beautiful our wedding venue is. My dress was stuffed into the car all around me, and we had the AC blasting up my skirt. It was like sitting on a fluffy, scratchy, but beautiful cloud.
We had a lot of fun during the quick photo shoot. We got driven to the hilltop in a red convertible Cadillac and had our picture taken under the oak tree as the sun grazed the top of the surrounding hills. We brought ice cream and sprinkles in a cooler and had the photographer get shots of us feeding each other ice cream. We were just going to dance to our first dance song playing on my iphone when a staff person offered to plug it into their sound system. As soon as “Come Away With Me” by Norah Jones came on, tears filled my eyes. Those few moments we twirled around in circles really meant a lot to me, and to Brian. That song was the first song to which we ever danced, back on our 3rd date 10 years ago.
After the shoot was finished, we decided to continue our mini celebration and we went out for drinks in a local restaurant. Between the car and the restaurant, we heard no fewer than 10 cries of “Congratulations!” yelled from cars, passers by, and other diners. That recognition and joy made me feel so good. It reminded me how captivated I am by weddings in general, that I can’t help but stop and stare when I see two people starting the rest of their lives with such love, joy, and hope for the future. I wonder if these people felt the same way towards us?
We ordered our drinks and sat down outside near the live band that was playing, and we just chatted and took in the scenery, beaming at each other like…two kids in love with alcohol in their systems.
The band was awesome, by the way. They played some current covers, and some originals, and they played all the music to Super Mario Bros on electric guitar. FTW. And then I heard the beginnings of “At Last,” and the lead singer said, “This one’s for you two” looking straight at us. We did what any normal, intoxicated, in-love couple would do and we got up and danced. It was so lovely, I can’t even describe it. I do remember whispering to Brian, “This is what therapists call a corrective experience!” and he laughed because I am a huge nerd…and he’s stuck with me now.
After a while, we got up to leave – it was a school night, after all – and after we made our way between all the tables, applause broke out amongst most of the restaurant-goers. I broke into a smile and gave a curtsy before we left and headed to the car.
I am very, very thankful we got to have that little redo. It did wonders for my mood and how I feel about the wedding overall. It gave me some closure and now we get to move on to much more important and happier things.