Here’s how much things can change in six days:
- Tuesday: I have my check-in appointment with Tabitha the psychiatric nurse and tell her I’m doing well. I’ve slept well three nights in a row, my energy is better, and I even rode my bike to her office (maybe seven miles roundtrip). I tell her I’m making progress in therapy and working more. The tingly limbs, morning suicidal thoughts and core muscle contractions are gone. Tabitha is happy, and so am I.
- Wednesday: Having told E in therapy that I want to work on emotions from things that happened in my childhood, instead of things that happened to me as an adult, the next day I see her in therapy and tell her that I don’t think I experienced any sexual abuse as a child, but perhaps we can talk about the stress of my parents’ divorce and my discovery that no one wanted to talk about the truth. She tells me we can certainly talk about that, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t experience abuse as a child.
- Thursday: A part of me stands back and observes the re-emergence of Doubt, amazed that I am repeating this pattern that I thought I had moved beyond, astonished that Doubt can shake me up as much as she has in the past. She is powerful. I am exhausted and unable to get any work done.
- Friday: I am certain I made up the entire story of being abused as a child. How could I ever have thought it was true? How did I get everything so confused? I am too tired to make food, and I drag my husband off to the food carts for dinner. That night, I wake up sick in the middle of the night.
- Saturday: My body is sick. Could it be the fish from the food cart? Or an intestinal flu? Again? I just had one less than three weeks ago. My husband is fine. My head is not fine. Self-loathing is screaming sexist vitriol. I can’t eat. I can’t think.
- Sunday: I sleep until 10 am and wake up quite depressed. I take my morning taurine supplement and sip a little tea, but I feel too sick to stay up or eat anything so I can take the rest of my morning meds. I go back to bed and sleep for four more hours. When I wake, it’s nearly 3:00 in the afternoon, and I am sickened by my dreams. Furthermore, all the tingling and muscle contractions are back.
My dreams were vivid and frightening. In them, I was a 12-year-old in desperate need of money. I allowed a man to touch my breasts for a little bit of money. Somehow, to my horror, this turns into a rape by three men. Then two of them kill the third, and somehow, I know I am the one responsible. This has nothing to do with my real life at age 12, but when I wake up, it feels real. It feels like I just happened. I can still feel the scratchy beard of one of the men.
It’s now nearly 7:00 in the evening, and thanks to some sticky white rice, imodium, and the remainder of my morning meds, I feel well enough to get up and water my houseplants.
It’s hard not to experience all of this as a loss. A loss of a beautiful sunny weekend. A loss of leisure time with my husband. A loss of the promise of more energy and well-being. A loss of my fucking mind, yet again.
Yet it doesn’t help to think like that. I’m blowing it all out of proportion. This is a temporary set-back, provoked by trying to approach the topic of childhood experiences, exacerbated by some virus or bacteria, complicated by not keeping enough food in me to absorb my medications. Right? If I’m gentle with my system, I’ll be able to take my meds, so the nightmares, tingling and muscle spasms will stop. I’ll sleep properly again. My energy will come creeping back.
And I don’t need to blame myself for all of this. There is nothing wrong with bringing up old history in therapy–of course I would want to do that as I’m getting stronger and developing more coping strategies. There is nothing wrong with being overcome with doubt–it doesn’t mean I flunk therapy if I don’t have memory, doubt and belief sorted out. It’s okay that I somehow ended up sick again–I’m not disgustingly dirty and deliberately neglecting to wash my hands or handle food properly. None of this is a reflection on my worth as a human being, contrary to the malicious whisperings of Self-Loathing.
I’ll be kind to myself while I crawl back to stability. That’s what it always comes back to: apply a liberal dose of self-compassion. Rinse. Repeat.