This was a really tough weekend. I learned a lot in a really short period of time, and it was the equivalent of a therapy cram session. My therapist is a wizard. I’m not sure it’s suitable to call her that, because she’s a woman. But I consider her a wizard anyway, because she works arcane magic on me. When we started this collaboration of healing my thoroughly fucked up mind and soul, she told me the way we were going to do it was to dip a toe in a little bit at a time, pull it out, let me clean my toe, and then do it all over again. And again. And again. Until I was all better.
I thought she was plumb crazy and it would never in my life work, and it was all hoo-hoo, and we would end up wasting mega amounts of time doing this woowoo, which would only make me feel like TEN THOUSAND SACKS OF STINKING SHIT. It would send me straight back to the loony bin, by way of hours of sobbing on the floor of my closet after I sliced neat rows into my skin, and she had told me she was wrong and I was the most fucked up basket case she had ever seen.
BUT THE EMPATHY PART OF ME SAID GO FOR IT.
And so I did, and it has been the best thing for me. I can’t see her as regularly as I need to, and she understands that, and works with me. Our relationship has evolved over the years just like any other relationship, and that is how a patient/therapist relationship is supposed to work. I’m not all better and I might never be, but I am MUCH better right now, and that’s important. The job of the therapist is hard, but so is the job of the patient. If you are broken inside, and you want to get better, you can’t do that unless you are perfectly candid with the person you go to for healing. The people who make a living healing those of us who are broken inside are GIFTS. But they are just people. And not every person is going to be a good fit for every other person. It’s a statistical impossibility. So when I sought out a healer for myself, I took the superb advice of that tiny woman I talked about earlier and got myself a transpersonal therapist. If you are eager to learn what the difference between transpersonal therapy and “regular” therapy is, go forth and consult the almighty google because this post is not about that. Later, probably. The point is I took the advice of a wiser head and she was spot on.
Along the way my therapist taught me wise stuff. I learned a lot from her, and I in turn applied her teachings to my life. Amazingly, it worked. And it worked not just on my traumas, but it helped me stay sober. And it helped me understand my illnesses. And the reasons my parents did what they did. I gained greater compassion for others. My anger and bitterness and resentments faded and grew less. The horrors and tortures of my past slowly fell from me. They did not disappear overnight, oh dear gods no. What a silly idea. No, it was like slowly waking up from a nightmare. Like I had been sitting on the bottom of a murky lake my whole life, tied up in rotten ropes, holding onto this stupid boulder, and suddenly I was no longer tied up, no longer holding anything, and was floating effortlessly up to a surface I hadn’t even realised was there.
I WANT EVERYONE TO KNOW THIS BLISSFUL FREEDOM.
That link right there takes you to a black man’s blog, writing a poignant message to all the white friends he had to ditch because they simply could not understand his pain. And I could have written every single word in this post. Substitute the language of his race and sex and replace it with language of mental illness and my own gender and it’s my fucking story. I get resistance all the time, from every degree of my sphere of influence and comfort, regarding the story of my life. I get attacked constantly, constantly, for comparing myself to others like the daughter in the picture at the top of this page, or the black man in the post linked at the top of this paragraph.
AND I GET JUSTIFIABLY PISSED OFF.
Because these people are human beings, letting other human beings know about bad things in the human condition. Bad things that have been present in the human condition for an awfully long time now, that humans have let slide, gotten *close* to really doing something about, but then let slide back into complacent acceptance. And the ones doing the complacent acceptance are MY PEOPLE. The white guys. The nice guys. The wealthy or well-off, up-and-coming, go-getter-type you betcha real winner FELLAS. The ones patting themselves on the back for being such great PALS and ADVOCATES and SUPPORTERS and BREADWINNERS. The ones who you would look at on the street and say, “Well, he sure isn’t an abuser, or a nasty guy, or racist, or not progressive, because he’s so CHARISMATIC, and he goes to CHURCH, and BY GOLLY HE HAS A BLACK FRIEND. He was in the WAR. He gives to CHARITY. Why, just look at him hold his wife’s hand and pat his daughter on the cheek. I hear he even helped out at the food bank last Saturday. And his lawn sure is a helluva green, isn’t it, Hal? Pass me another IPA, will you?”
This weekend I spent being my husband’s therapist. You should never have to be your husband’s therapist. It is unfair to both of you. I have tried for four years to get my husband to go see a therapist because I have known for longer than that that he desperately needs one. My husband and I met each other during a MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation) volunteer base production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show for one of the two off-site bases where we were stationed in La Maddalena Italy. Our actual station was the USS Simon Lake AS-33, which is right now as I speak being scrapped in Texas. All of us Simon Lake alumni have been waiting a long time for this. We have a FB group and this weekend one of us posted her farewell cruise photo. So long, Simon Lake. I love you. We were pretty much instant best friends, but didn’t become lovers until almost a year later. I had to think three days after his proposal, and he had forgotten the question when I said “yes”. I knew right then I was going to have to keep an eye on his wandering brain, because I loved him desperately and when you love your partner desperately you need to make sure all their parts stay in working order.
Twenty-three years and a metric fuckload of disasters later, I still love my husband desperately. Even more fiercely and ridiculously than ever. Because he is my person. He is my best friend. I swore an oath to him when I married him. They were not traditional oaths, our vows, because we are not traditional people. But they were powerful. We are witches, my husband and I, and we invested those vows with magic. When we renewed our vows at our ten year anniversary, we swore NEW vows. Vows our one of our two best friends at the time wrote for us, who while not a witch is very much a magic guy. We also wrote new vows ourselves, that were very much of the magical sort, and we did all of this inside a sacred circle cast by our closest friends, all of whom are witchy types. It was witnessed by all our friends and family. Good grief, even my sperm donor was there. It was the last time he set foot on my ground. I will NEVER renege on my oaths to my person unless I must protect myself or my children. And I will never do that unless I have to protect HIM, my person. And I will never do that unless it is a last resort, and I have given him ample warnings and opportunities to correct his behaviour. I just get stuck on what “ample warning” constitutes. Because he is always trying so hard to be better.
This weekend was just treading awfully close to too much warning before I had reached my limits. Because it’s not just me telling him to take care of himself and listen to allies and the people who know best anymore. It is his family; his kids. It is us showing him scientific articles and journals that say he might have some physical problems that are slowing him down and contributing to his inability to hear us. In his case, it literally is an inability to hear us. My husband and I both worked with inordinately loud power and pneumatic tools while we were in the Navy. And I did have an audiogram about seven or eight years ago when I noticed I couldn’t hear people around me well anymore, and she told me my hearing loss was exactly in the range of military personnel using those tools, just not enough to need help…yet. Maybe in about ten years she said. Get another audiogram then, she said, because you’ll probably need assistance then. Guess what? It’s time for another audiogram because I’m fucking deaf and that’s why my daughter is teaching me sign language bless her beautiful forethought (also teaching my husband, but he consistently fails to get the point; the only sign he seems to remember is the British Sign for “cunt”). Getting my husband to admit HE needs to go to the doctor is like pulling hen’s teeth while simultaneously herding wet cats into a burlap sack with snakes in it. I have been trying for a year. Or more.
And then I showed him the picture above, and he said, “That’s so sweet!”
My daughter and I shared a look and tried to explain how that is toxic masculinity, and he got extremely defensive. After about two hours of discussion, he conceded. He agreed it was the LANGUAGE of the post that was completely wrong, and that it is language like this that typically covers the abusers that hide in plain sight. And that it is men like him, not realising the toxicity of the language and being defensive about it, that is the problem. I am not sure if he will remember this, because his brain is wonky and he thinks he might have ADD or ADHD but he is scared to death of going to the doctor because he doesn’t understand how evidence-based medicine works and he is impatient with the system and wants me to do it all for him. And I won’t anymore because I am not his mother or his therapist, and I am too sick to be his personal assistant 100% of the time for absolutely everything. He is an adult and he can take care of himself. I am perfectly willing to do the household budget and tend to emergencies that crop up like running down a new tire for the two vehicles that popped them in the cold and navigating the legal stuff that is extremely imperative right now, but because I am very ill and need to rest a lot, I LITERALLY cannot do the amount of work a normal person does.
I lost two whole days being a therapist. And while, at the end of them, I think my person is better for it, and I am better for it, and I definitely know our children are better for it, I am sicker for it today. Physically sicker. And we did not get past his inability to see that his troubles caused me to become that way. In fact, he feels that me pointing this out is an injustice to him and that I am doing it to deliberately make him feel guilty because he thinks it is scientifically untrue. In spite of me providing him with reams and reams of data to the contrary.
I understand that I have been asking him to drink from the fire hose for four years, and that it has been his own disability that has prevented him from stepping up. And he had quite a few epiphanies yesterday, such as confessing that for some reason he sees positive reinforcement as manipulation. I could tell him I know exactly why he has that cognitive distortion, and how to fix it, but I can’t, because it would be too much too fast, and I simply don’t know if his broken, sick brain will retain the information he acquired over the weekend much less more. He also asked me if I understand him so well because we have been together so long or because blah blah (I don’t even remember what the blah blah was, it was such a stupid crazy thing, the kind of thing that scared little boys tell themselves to avoid commitment and trust, a textbook avoidance cliche that it immediately fell out of my brain, I was so busy saying to myself “DID HE REALLY SAY THAT CLASSIC PHRASE?!?!”), and he looked confused when I told him the honest truth. I have hurt my husband deeply with my mental illness and my alcoholism, and I know this. When I went through my steps and made my amends to him, he dismissed them and I told him it was wrong of him to accept my amends and forgive me instantly because it dismissed what I did, and how much effort and work it took for me to truly examine my wrongs and offer them to him as such. And he dismissed them again. I knew he didn’t forgive me, that he was just pretending so I would feel better. And so years later when I brought that up, as I was reworking my steps, I offered again, and this time he told me how angry he was. And I let him unburden himself. And he said he forgave me again, but this time I did not ACCEPT it, because I know he is still angry. And that is when I told him to go to a therapist, because he will never heal himself until he releases that bitterness and resentment.
I am still waiting. But this time I don’t think I have to wait too much longer. My heart has been eclipsed, but there are other people who see, who notice. I have made them see. My husband thinks he has to do everything on his own. That he has to figure out everything by himself. That for some reason, no-one wants to help him, even though there are hands grasping him with love and empathy, and hands reaching out to him with the same. Depressed and anxious and sick people isolate themselves. It is a symptom of the illnesses.
DO NOT LET THEM.
Reach out to your loved ones, and make them help themselves. Reach out to their friends, their coworkers, whatever. Set your boundaries. Talk to your children about the signs you notice in other loved ones. Physical problems can be contributing to bigger problems. Some people have many very valid reasons for not wanting to talk, and it is our duty as their loved ones to make them talk about it. Life is messy and complicated and full of foolish reasons people don’t want to share. But we all make social contracts with each other. Emotions are there to tell us when something is either right, or wrong. Listen to those signals, and let them guide you. Because when you love someone, you are bound to them by those emotional ties that obligate you to do right by them.
Even if it hurts your precious heart a little. Better your precious heart hurt than your precious loved one’s physical body is harmed. Communicating with our loved ones is not easy, but painful communications can be done less painfully by learning to adapt communication methods. Constantly. For each individual, and during each conversation. My husband is learning this too. Talking to our son takes way different communication methods than talking to our daughter, or even each other. And the emotional currents are way different for each conversation. He is learning his empathy senses are almost dull to nonexistent and he needs to wake them up.
A lot of people tell me I am high and mighty and stuck up, and always have. What they are missing is that I am an empath, and always have been. In the 70s they called us Indigo Children. It just means that I have a highly tuned sense of empathy. I think someday science is going to be able to transfer this into actual telepathy or something. Because it is just another way of being observant of others. My husband for the first time yesterday admitted I was more observant than him or most people. I was kind of surprised. We were discussing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I have never boasted about this ability of mine; it’s just a fact. My daughter has this ability in spades. When she learns how to use it to the best of her ability she is going to read people like nothing I can imagine. Scary like. She will be spooky, but nice spooky because she is an awesome nice person. Humans all have the ability to be empaths, and when humans use their empathic abilities to help each other then we make amazing progress for all of humanity.
I prefer to help people, even if they don’t want help. But I will never force it. Because free will is precious. Respect my free will and I will respect yours. Always.