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While taking a walk with Thomas (a dog I’m looking after for the weekend) this evening, I had a brief chat with a fellow who was walking along the road carrying what looked like a saxophone case. Turns out it was, as he put it, “the briefcase from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” It held a Play Station and five games he was hoping to sell. The Play Station was for his sister.
We talked for a few minutes as I rounded the street toward the house I’m staying at for the night. He was going to go straight but he said he’d walk with me. He told me that his AA sponsor lived nearby. He shared that he sometimes has a hard time and has a tendency to drive his friends away every now and then. I understood. At least, I think I did. I was listening. He visited his mom for Easter. He asked how my day was and what did I do for Easter, an egg hunt, perhaps?
“Nothing. I slept in till 2pm…”
“Oh wow, a day off. That sounds nice!”
I shrugged my shoulders, “Nah. I’ve been sleeping a lot the past week, my depression and anxiety are acting up.” I looked at him.
He looked back, “Oh. Yeah. I get that.”
“But we’re both standing and out and about, so that’s good,” I responded.
“Yep.” I knew he appreciated the privilege it is to be out of bed when the depression cloud is looming. As we parted ways, he pointed to a house with a red door, “Is that where you’re going?”
“That’s my sponsor’s house.”
“Oh.” We exchanged our good evenings. The night was falling as we headed in perpendicular directions. I heard him yell something.
“What?!” I turned but only caught glimpses of him as he walked behind the trees lining the road. He yelled, “You should sleep in till 2pm tomorrow!”
“Oh!” I hollered. “No! I have to go to work!”
I felt a lightness as I unlocked the front door. I wore a slight smile as I removed Thomas’ leash. (After which, Thomas nuzzled his face between my thighs. Something he does at the end of our walks. I giggle every time.) I thought to myself, “What a lovely little connection. That felt good. I’m glad the stars aligned in the way that they did to allow for that interaction.”
We were two strangers sharing a bit about ourselves. The things that came up aren’t usual small talk. We went straight to the rawness of our experiences. Oh, you feel like you sometimes push your friends away, too? I have depression and anxiety.
Sometimes talking about uncomfortable or socially stigmatized things is easier with a stranger. Sometimes these tiny connections with strangers are intimate in a way that only strangers can create. Wearing our hearts firmly on our sleeves. Sharing little moments of humanity.
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In December, I decided to take a break from my counseling internship to focus on me, my health. I want to be a therapist. I want to be as present and supportive and attentive to people as possible. When meeting with clients last quarter (my first quarter of internship), I realized that I had so much going on personally. (And on top of everything, I have depression and anxiety, so those were being triggered big time). Too much going on. When my clients talked about their thoughts, emotions, frustrations, dreams, fears…I thought about mine.
With one client, I wanted to commiserate. “Yes! I feel that way too!” She would say, “I feel like I’m not worthy, like I don’t deserve what I’ve been given.” My intent ‘therapist’ self would counter with questions and reflections to assist in guiding her to see that she has earned, (and was not simply given), the admirable and hard-won things in her life. She is worthy. She doesn’t believe she does, but she has so much value.
All the while, my non-therapist voice would say, “Fraud. You know exactly what she’s feeling and you feel that way too.” I just wanted to talk to her as a friend. Share my struggles so she didn’t feel so alone. I wanted to vent and get things off my chest. Share a bottle of wine with her. But that’s not what therapists are trained to do. That’s not what therapists are paid to do.
So I chose to take a step back. Figure things out a bit more and build patterned behaviors and skills to better position myself to be the most effective and supportive therapist I can be. Because every person deserves that. Myself included. I deserve to treat myself well so that I can be with others when I am at my best, or at least, when I know I am more ready and capable than I was. Because I’m capable. I’m definitely capable. That’s not a question. I’m just human. And I have things to work on. And that takes time. And I’m taking it. For me. And for whomever else ends up on the other end of the sessions I can’t wait to have with people. They deserve the best of me. I deserve the best of me.
Well, 2015. This is it. It’s been a year, hasn’t it? I’m not gonna lie. You’ve been difficult. A real bitch at times. Cancelled wedding. Death of a friend. Moving away from Meowster Thumbs McGee. Endings of relationships in so many ways… and tumbled and tangled betwixt all of that, depression and anxiety visited. They’re good at that – visiting. Those loyal old friends.
2015, as you bid your farewells, I realize how suffocated I’ve felt throughout the year. Looking back, it seems like I spent the year gasping for air and grasping for respite in deep, calming breaths. Some days, it felt as though, with each step, I sank steadily into a sandpit sludge of shame, guilt, insecurity, disappointment, fear, and quadruple-guessing. (Though, this unsettling swirl of emotions also loomed on the many days I lay supine – taking actual steps not necessary.)
But, as time ticks on, 2015. I am thankful. Thank you for kicking my ass when I needed it. Thank you for encouraging me to continue to learn and to grow. Thank you for putting me first.
You never invited in hopelessness. You offered up pain as a platter of opportunity for gaining wisdom. You inspired me to seek alternate perspectives. You told me to trust my gut, especially when it felt ‘wrong’ (translation: unfamiliar or different, not wrong or right). You inspired me to seek out more of myself and to honor the process of seeking. You reminded me that you are a friend and that you want the best for me, as each year does. I trust your friendship. Thank you for trusting mine.
I’ll give 2016 your regards and we’ll talk about you fondly over a bubbly, sparkling flute of champagne. Thank you, 2015. And Happy New Year.