It’s a hard day today, the last day of my three-month leave from work.
I know, I know, I am incredibly fortunate to have had this leave. The non-profit I work for has been nothing but accommodating and patient. I even got paid for the time (thanks to having not taken much of my paid leave for years). I got to rest, to take care of physical and emotional needs, to take a wonderful trip. My job in varied and interesting, and I have a lot of committed, smart colleagues.. What do I have to complain about?
Yet the cloud of dread billowing around me today is so smothering that I hide under the covers in bed until noon. I’m sure it’s mostly the return to work and a worry that all my emotional gains are too precarious to withstand the fast-paced demands of the job. I’ll be able to do the job, but at what personal cost?
I missed a dose of my Effexor-Wellbutrin cocktail yesterday, and that doesn’t help, of course. Without the daily dose of Effexor, I have psychedelic dreams. The colors are deep and vibrant, constantly evolving with the shifting shapes in front of my eyes. Even when I’m not asleep, I can close my eyes and see them. The images aren’t frightening at all, but they are intense, and my sleep isn’t restful.
And when I’m awake, my thoughts are compelled to revisit–again–painful, shameful memories. I remember allowing myself to be assaulted. I remember humiliations from my ex-husband. Why am I doing this? Is this just my go-to mental place whenever I have a bad feeling? Or is this anticipation of tomorrow evening’s session with E., when we will continue our processing of the assault?
The urge to hurt myself is stronger than it’s been in months. I wonder if burning myself will give me relief. But what a step backward. Besides, I’d still have to go back to work tomorrow. And the unresolved shame will still be waiting for me.
At any rate, it’s a hard day. Some days are going to be hard. I remind myself that it’s okay to feel whatever I feel. I take a deep breath and pull myself out of the bed. I take a shower, style my hair, make the bed. I make a cup of hot chocolate, spicing it up with cinnamon, chili powder and a cap of tequila. I go out and throw the ball for my puppies to chase in the snow.
These sensory pleasures open the door to calming my mind. I decide to re-read a series of Buddhist quotes to see if something feels fitting. At first I’m looking for something too specific, something that will speak to all the disparate pieces that disturb my peace today. Nothing seems to fit. I suspect I am expecting too much. Maybe I am too ashamed, too worldly, too distracted, for quiet wisdom.
And then I find the one that speaks to me today:
Hatred does not cease through hatred at any time. Hatred ceases through love. This is an unalterable law.
Then I remember that, long-term, I’m learning not to hate myself. I’m learning to bring love and compassion to myself, no matter what I’ve done or experienced. That is a long-term journey, and the lessons are things I will need to learn again and again. Returning to work, facing some of my deepest shame, or whatever I’m afraid of doing, these are all just different opportunities to practice replacing hate with love.