This is not a calm, wise post demonstrating how I’m learning to integrate everything I’m learning from therapy into my life. This is a post to demonstrate that you can be making a lot of progress in managing your depression and PTSD but still get pushed off balance. If you want calm wisdom, please back up to the previous post.
I used to be a master (mistress?) of chaos. I ran the household with three teenage boys, volunteered at the library, worked a professional job with management responsibilities and quite a bit of travel, and more or less kept the house clean. (Emphasis on the less side of more or less.) My youngest would come downstairs in the morning, ten minutes before we had to leave for school, and he’d say something like, “Oh, and I need $15 for xyz school fee and a lunch I can take on my field trip today and where are my immunization records?” And somehow I’d manage that and still get him to eat a bowl of cereal.
That was then. Now if I go to therapy and to the grocery store on the same day, I think I’m doing well. I need so much time, space and quiet to manage anything. Everything tires me out.
But these few days I have to try to rouse my old self, or at least remnants of it. My son is visiting. This is my dear son with autism and various other challenges (anxiety, ADD and I am suspecting some OCD??). His girlfriend came too, a very sweet girl who pulls a trailer-load of fears with her anywhere she goes. They are loving and demanding guests. My son is supposed to be on Ritalin but is resisting it. That means he talks extra loudly and repeats himself, and then he repeats himself. And he says the same things over and over. And then he checks whether I really got it by saying it again. And he wants attention all the time.
Meanwhile, I have just finished a proposal to do some work with a former colleague of mine. I like her a lot, and I definitely need to earn some money. But putting the proposal together has felt stressful. And I don’t know where I’ll find the energy to do the work.
And for whatever reason, stubbornness or impatience, I push myself to keep going forward in therapy this week, despite everything else that is going on. So on Monday, E and I have an amazing session with an experiential exercise about shame and then an interpretation of it that helps pull even more pieces together. I’m eager to write about that, try to make some sense of it, and hear your thoughts. But there’s no time for that.
“Mom, mom, what are we going to do today? Can we go to the donut shop? Mom?”
And after the therapy session, two of my son’s friends arrive, unexpectedly, for dinner. My husband and I scramble to pull together a big meal. One of the young men talks about the radio station he listens to. He describes it as a “conspiracy theory” station and says it’s great. I am shocked and strangely fascinated that you can recognize something as a conspiracy theory and think it is great.
I also agreed to go and visit my sisters and cousins in California tomorrow. That means I will go straight from this noisy busy-ness into four days of intense family reunion. I’ll be sharing a hotel room with my sisters, together with my CPAP machine. Which by the way I have only been using for three weeks and which, to be honest, I hate and dread every single night. And it’s not helping. And I am not sleeping more than four hours at a stretch, so I’m tired.
“Can we play a board game, Mom? I brought Monopoly. Can we play now? And when are we going to eat?”
On Wednesday, I am back in therapy. E asks, “Where do you want to focus today?”
“Shall we talk about the one who takes over for me during sex?” I ask. What am I thinking? Is this the time for this? Do I want to go here?
E has been waiting for me to get here. She’s ready, even if I’m not sure I am. She’s ready to figure out the contributions that this part has made to the system. We can thank her for that and then suggest maybe we don’t need her to do that as much anymore…
Suddenly I’m as close to tears as I’ve ever been in a therapy session. “Wait,” I say, “she thinks we want to get rid of her. Are we sending her away?”
E says we aren’t. I don’t know. It’s confusing. More than that, it’s getting at something that has been deeply hidden in me, so it’s threatening, even though E is a safe and accepting person.
“Mom, can I show you a video on YouTube? It’s so funny…”
I haven’t done laundry in ages and don’t have clean clothes to take to California. I start a couple of loads this evening, much of the time thinking about therapy session. But I can’t get far in my thoughts because
“Mom, look at my glasses; they are scratched here. I am going to need a new pair. And can you make me an appointment with my primary care doctor?”
I can do this, I’m telling myself. I can hold the fragility of my newly exposed part, the neediness of my son, the uncertainty about my professional future, and the distractions. Not everything needs to be figured out right this minute. Breathe, I remind myself.