Wow, am I ever in a fighting mood today. Thankfully, I’m alone today with the exception of my mom, and fighting with her is a bad idea. She can land a right hook that’s almost deadly — and that’s just with her eyes. You don’t want to know what happens when she get physical. Just pray you’ve paid off the burial plot.
It’s not anyone else that I’m aiming the flurry of punches at. It’s just me. And I can be the most accommodating punching bag you’ve ever seen. I have to learn how not to be that punching bag. I need to learn how to fight that negative thinking and how to stop beating myself up.
Oh, of course, self-flagellation is a dismal, painful business. But being pummeled by your internal narrative is de rigueur for almost everyone that is bipolar or depressed, and that ridiculous and infernal racket that goes on and on in your brain packs a wallop of nastiness and smacks it dead-on into your brain’s jaw, as it were.
When I come home from therapy (like today, for example), I try to spend as little time thinking about what was discussed as I possibly can. Often that’s good. I’m alight with mixed emotions, I’ve got too many things to think about and I’m somewhat ashamed. It’s shame that I don’t want. Shame that is a major reason I’m in therapy.
That’s right. I feel shame. Shame that I haven’t made it to being completely healthy, shame that others have to see me go though some painful therapy, shame that I can’t be who I used to be. Shame that I beat myself up over what I cannot immediately be.
I should be grateful that I can’t go back in time to the person I used to be and it’s true that sometimes I miss that person, but then I stop and think: if I miss that person, then what the hell was so damn good about being that person? What was so marvelous, so attractive, so beautiful about that person?
But that person, the one I used to be — that person was sick. That person was incapable, misdiagnosed and often unable to separate facts from realities. That person was running headlong into walls again and again and again. That person is the person from which I had to emerge, and once you emerge, you can’t go back.
Tell you the truth, I guess I don’t miss that person a whole hell of a lot.
In my book Devolving in Eden, I wrote a poem about burying the past and making peace with what’s to come. Not that then I knew what was coming because had I a perfectly clear vision of the future, I would have run for the hills.
But I have instead found myself fighting against that old man that inhabited me. That old man was for all intents and purposes a whirling dervish on steroids. He was a freight train run amok,.
I’m transitioning from the old. I’m giving myself time to recreate myself in ways I could never have dreamed. For example, when I feel shame (or guilt, or anger, or any other intense and unrealistically amplified emotion), I have to come to terms with it. I have to learn how to allow those feelings to pass and then using the prescripts of Radical Acceptance let them dwindle as I turn my mind toward acceptance of a new truth, new concepts, new stances, new tools and other help-meets. Making my old self get out of the way so that this new creature can take over and make things better.
Think of therapy as the spinning wheel to which our lovely assistant is unfortunately strapped. When life throws knives at us, we have to hope that the wheel is spinning fast enough that the knife misses. That makes for great showmanship.
But what if the knife should hit instead of miss? Being on the Wheel of Therapy gets us through most of the show without being shredded. But sometimes, you just can’t avoid being hurt. Sometimes you can’t avoid feeling shame, guilt or any other nasty emotion. Sometimes you have to take what life throws at you.
Therapy can only go so far. It’s a tremendous help, an invaluable help. But then again, so is the work that you put into the momentum of your therapy. And every once in a while there’s a slip. But you put on a bandage and get back on the Therapy Wheel again because the show must go on.
Now you might think me foolish for using a knife thrower as a metaphor for life but I think it a good metaphor. I certainly feel those knives from time to time but because I have a great therapist that I trust and medication that works, the number of knife hits has thankfully become lower over time.
And while I don’t like using knives as an image, then how about clubs? Flaming arrows? Face punches? Cinder blocks over the head? No matter what you want to use as an image, the intent is clear: life smacks the crap out of you like nobody’s business, and it may be that the only way I can stay on the straight and narrow path toward dropping guilt and shame is to accept and embrace the changes I am making because I sure as hell don’t want to be that screwed up old man anymore. This new man doesn’t want knives or anything else aimed at his person, thank you.
Oh, to be at one with the universe. Given the fact that I am human and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future this is an unlikely outcome. But if our friend Siddhartha can become the Buddha, then why can’t I do the same?
I’d be happy to settle for being a Yogi. Studying life is enough for me and perhaps total enlightenment might just get in the way of learning the path. I don’t want the struggle to end and that, my friends, is the real difference between me and that old guy that used to be me. The old me would have welcomed the end of things, the end of pain. The newer, more resilient person that is me realizes that while you must accept the past pain you need not allow pain to infect your future. Enlightenment might give me all the answers, but being a Yogi allows me to ask unending questions.
When a duck is ass over teakettle, it’s a fairly safe bet that duck is upside down and feeding in the pond. Enlightenment is rather like that. When you look at being without shame, without fear, you’re looking at a result of enlightenment. Once you think you know the answer as to how to get there, you realize – your ass is in the air. At least for now.
You can’t escape from displaying your rump if you need to dig down on the bottom of the pond for some answers, and shame is one of the many emotions to which the answer lies deep below. You have to dig, swim, whatever it takes to learn how to stop these anxiety-riddled emotions from drowning you.
Therapy is the path toward enlightenment. It’s the compass. It’s the direction that you need to consider in order to find the real, honest truth about yourself and how you deal with the world, but it’s up to you to feed yourself.
Therapy is the first thing on which to feed and when you’re stronger you might move up toward other foods to fill you, foods to supplement your therapy. Foods that don’t require your exposed ass in the air, perhaps. Now, that would be enlightening.