These are the words that saved my life. Literally. I’m sure you are scratching your head, your mouse perhaps hovering over the ‘Next Blog’ button, but it’s true. Now if I were a certain unnamed scientist that I know, I would leave it at that and smile at you expectantly, assuming you knew just what I meant. But his mind works a little differently than most of us. It has to in order to make sense of the very small wonders of this universe. Let me elaborate.
Almost 8 years ago, 2 years before I met my scientist, I had just come back from Africa and found myself working in secured treatment center for teenage boys. These kids were in a lot of trouble, out of control, their last stop before juvenile hall. It is a very tough job, burnout rate is usually around 5 – 7 months for frontline workers. I lasted a year. Every week the house had group therapy, kids and staff. That was a rough hour, there’s nothing like having very disturbed teenage boys emotionally vomit all around you. After, there was quiet time in their rooms and we had our staff meetings. I had a really hard time with group. In part because I’m a very sensitive person and pick up on people’s emotional states quite quickly without them actually spewing it in my direction so group was major overload, and in part because I was not that stable myself, just highly functioning. (Not to mention a ton of stuff stemming from my time in Africa that I had not been able to fully process) Our house therapist suggested I seek some professional help, in the form of psychoanalysis. It just so happened that he knew and was able to write me a referral to the best Dr. in the city. I was so there, willing to try anything but especially interested in the idea of therapy that wasn’t goal based or pushing drugs.
I found a great definition of psychoanalysis:
“Psychoanalytic treatment demonstrates how unconscious factors affect current relationships and patterns of behavior, traces them back to their historical origins, shows how they have changed and developed over time, and helps the individual to deal better with the realities of adult life.”
Let me give you an idea of how this works. They were 1/2 hour sessions (I was 3 times a week at first, ya, a little messed up) and I just talked. There was a couch, but I took the comfy chair by the window. That was it, I just talked. For the first, oh, I would say year and a half at least (by that time I was down to 2 sessions a week), all my Dr. said was, “And what are you thinking now.” That’s it. I’m not even joking. So instead of someone telling me what was wrong with me and how they wanted me to try and act instead, I was given free reign to explore my own thoughts and feelings and discover on my own what thoughts and feelings and events from my past that they led to and make connections myself about why I was reacting to things in certain ways. Knowing why something affects you is very powerful and takes away a lot of the intensity of emotion, makes it manageable.
After a while, he did begin to say more than just that sentence. I kept waiting to feel judged, (especially since I can’t talk about my life and what I’m going through without talking about God and I wasn’t sure how that would be received) I kept waiting for him to tell me what was wrong with me or what I should or shouldn’t be doing. It never came. I know God put him in my life to work out stuff that needed to be taken care of, and I’m convinced he saved my life.
When the Rocket Scientist and I started going out, I had been seeing my Dr. for two years. He had a really hard time understanding why I was seeing a shrink, I wasn’t crazy (at least not in a bad way). But he didn’t understand (at the time) that I wouldn’t have been able to be part of a healthy relationship 6 months before, I might not have even been alive. I had gone through a period of suicidal thoughts during my last few months of working at the boy’s home. It was not my first time, but this time was different. I recognized what was happening and was able to call out for help. I remember calling my mom one night after I got home from work. In tears because I had been unable to think of anything on the entire drive but killing myself. It didn’t even feel like me, it was like having an out-of-body experience. She stayed on the phone with me and prayed with me for what felt like hours. I don’t think it was. I fell asleep there on the couch that night, not wanting to move in case the thoughts came back. The last time that had happened though, no one knew until years later. I had gotten as far as taking the knife out of the drawer and testing it’s sharpness. This time, I was able to recognize that what was going on and understood that I didn’t have to succumb to how I was feeling or the directions my thoughts were taking.
I was not intending this blog to take the turn it has. My original thought was simply that there are times when I miss that comfy chair by the window. The ability to vent stream of consciousness without worrying about hurting someone’s feelings or having them think less of you. I think everyone should go through psychoanalysis. I was with my Dr. for 4 years, right up until we left Alberta for Chicago. By then I was seeing him every other week and it was no big deal if I missed one. It’s funny, but as I think of how this became different from what I intended, so did many of my sessions with him. I would mull over what I was going to say on my drive to his office and often sit down and talk about something completely different.
I was very sad to hear of his passing about a year and a half ago now. He was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer and given 6 months to live. Instead of going through treatment and spending that time sick and hospitalized, he told almost no one and took the time to spend with his family and do some of the things he’d always meant to do. I was especially heartbroken because I was 6 months pregnant and looking forward to sending him a birth announcement. I know he would have been pleased to know we were doing well.
I’m going to take a page from one of the bloggers I follow and ask you: What would you do with your half hour in the comfy chair by the window.
Feel free to write about it in your blog instead of the comments and let your readers know where the idea started.