Therapy can be hit or miss - for each piece of good advice it seems to me that there are moments when your doctor just isn't getting it, isn't into it, or forgot what you said last time. It's a hazard in any profession; some days are better than others. My doctor asking me repeatedly over the course of three sessions if I had tried marijuana to manage my symptoms, not remembering my (increasingly emphatic) no? That was a miss.
A hit, however, was a recent session in which I spoke about some of my typical reactions to emotional stimuli. Everything from resentment to guilt to shame - I talked about my relationships with family and with my disorder. My doctor reminded me that all of those reactions are habits - like smoking or drinking, they're something one can fall back on to deal with new or repeated stressors. And they're breakable; she suggested that I could quit - quit the guilt, quit the shame, by altering myself rather than that which surrounds me.
Good advice. But also very difficult.
I try to follow this advice. Deep breaths are helpful, as it positive self-talk. What I love about the "quitting a habit" metaphor is that it doesn't place blame on anyone, and it doesn't require me to stop feeling what I feel. It is okay when I am upset, and I can say so - but I don't need to rely on guilt to handle my sadness. I don't have to feel shame when I am confronted with something ugly in myself or in others.
Old habits die hard, as they say, and negativity is terribly challenging to shake. And, to be clear, this kind of negativity comes from within me when I respond to events - and it doesn't make me a bad person. Again, it isn't being upset which is the problem; it is blaming myself. It is taking on a load too heavy to bear. It is swallowing my feelings because I think I shouldn't have them.
Today was a day in which I stopped trying to swallow my feelings. Honestly, I thought I would vomit - all of it bubbling out of me at once, a tide of the at-last, not hiding it, not trying to fix it, not trying to smile. Not pretending that I am okay because I think that I must. And it was hard. And I feel, unexpectedly, purged.
None of it is my fault. I don't have to put up with anything, from anyone. I can say no.
Not being able to say no, too, is a bad habit. I've been getting better and better at it - I pick up the phone when I feel prepared to answer. I give to others only what I can spare. Loving is easier when I can say no, because I don't end up soul-sick with resentment. My life is on my terms and no one else's. And I have incredible support in this endeavor, the breaking of this habit, from family and friends. As with any illness or difficulty, having people to turn to makes it better.
My stepmother sent me words of encouragement this morning about this very topic - she actually sent me a link to the tumblr, skeletorislove (which is hilarious and very, very true). It perfectly addressed my feelings, and in general, my stepmom deserves a very hearty shout-out today. As I attempt to heal and conquer my own demons, so does she. We shore each other up, filling in the holes, laying beams across the pitfalls of adulthood. We have found ourselves closer than we have been in years, and I am so, so grateful for that gift of family.
Habits. Aren't we all trying to get rid of a few?
I have good habits and bad; I play the piano when I'm stuck on a story, and I wait 'til I get home to cry rather than speaking my mind. And, my goodness, neither of those happened today.
Sometimes breaking a habit can feel just as terrible as relying on it. But it's worth it.
It is always worth exploring who we are and how we feel. It is a good thing to acknowledge things we are not good at and try to change them or try to get help. Without that kind of introspection and assistance, we cannot change our lives or ourselves. I'm always going to have a lot of feelings and, perhaps more because of my creativity than because of my disorder, I am always going to study them. I must be critical of myself so that I may improve. I must break the habits and can only do it by understanding them, by understanding their hold on me and why I feel I need them.
Why should I ever, ever feel shame?
Why should I feel guilt?
Why should I say yes, when I need to say no?
Why do I lie?
I refuse to do those things - never again will I lie, hide, feel obligation beyond reason, feel shame for my self-preservation, feel guilt for actions which are not, at the end of the day, my responsibility. Tonight I am purged of it, and while I realize that recovery from bad habits is a continuing process, I also realize that recovery is more valuable than the quick comfort which is established patterns of psychological self-harm. Recovery is something I can maintain. It's not crash dieting or cold turkey - it is a fundamental change in how I see myself and how I interact with others. Getting better is every day, every hour, every minute that I choose to love myself.
And I do. I will! My feelings are valid, I have support, I can call my stepmom and hug my husband and have the kindness of friends or family and I can get better. And no part of me is wrong.
I am a good person. And nothing - not bipolar disorder, not being a housewife, not childhood trauma, not adult expectations, not my sexuality, not my anger, not the damned price of my pills - can alter the fact that I am worthy of respect, compassion, and that I will return it tenfold.
Tonight is a lazy night - we have a bunch of recorded shows on the DVR, we are going to order a pizza, I'm going to pull on my comfiest pajamas. Though I feel wrung out and hungover from shedding my problems and my fair share of tears today, I am going to enjoy this life with my husband who expects nothing more than my love, respect, companionship, and honesty. He gives it to me in turn.
I will lie no more, and I will feel shame and guilt no longer.
I am finished with my bad habits.