Saturday, November 26, 2022

If I Could Turn Back Time

Do you ever think to yourself: “Geez, if I could turn back time…” or “If I could have a do-over knowing then what I know now…”? What would you change and why? How would your life look? Would you be who you are today if you went back and made changes? 

 

If I could turn back time, I would definitely have a different life than I do today.

 

I would’ve had the same parents, but they would be more emotionally available and speak my love languages. Maybe I would listen to them more. Maybe I wouldn’t have given my dad the phone when his mistress called our house. Then, my mom wouldn’t have gotten mad at me even though I was just a kid and had no idea my family was being torn apart.

 

I would’ve visited my grandmother when she asked me to instead of choosing to cheer instead. Had I known I’d never get the chance to see her again, I would’ve gone to visit and not put it off. Losing her definitely hurt more than not cheering at a football game would have.

 

I would’ve paid more attention and asked more questions when my parents were getting divorced. Then, I would’ve known that my dad loved me and fought for me to be with him. And had I known that, I wouldn’t have been so promiscuous. I wouldn’t have had the need because I wouldn’t have had the void to fill. Growing up, I almost always based my worth on how my dad saw me, or what he thought of me, until I learned better.  But knowing how much my dad loved me would’ve helped me love myself and demand the same from others. I wouldn’t have become a rescuer or an emotional chaser. I probably would’ve been more focused on school & trying to be as smart and successful as my dad. Perhaps I wouldn’t have felt the need to sacrifice so much to prove that I am lovable only to get hurt time & time again.

 

If I could turn back time, I would have put much more time & effort into playing soccer [competitively]; at least for a scholarship. Not that I’d have forfeited my academic scholarships but maybe I’d have had both.

 

I would’ve gone to the University of Alaska like I wanted so I wouldn’t have had to come home and deal with life. I would have majored in nursing perhaps or maybe stayed on the pre-med course. I definitely still think I’d have ended up in health care. Had I not gone to Simmons, though, I never would’ve met my friend Leah or my mentor, Francine. I never would have met Pam or Ellie while running a “lifers” group at Framingham WCI. I doubt if I would’ve embraced my power as a woman as I did at Simmons. Or maybe I would’ve chosen Barnard or Wellesley. Things would’ve been different, most definitely, but not necessarily better.

 

Had I chosen a  different college, maybe I wouldn’t have been raped the 1st time at that abandoned house after riding the T (Boston public transportation) alone. Then, maybe I’d never have had to move home and go to UGA where I was raped [again] by two bastards who claimed to be my friends. Maybe I would be able to enjoy sex without being afraid or anxious. Maybe I wouldn’t believe that men feel entitled to fuck me, suck me, and touch me just because I’m “fine as hell” or “beautiful” or “sexy;” and hate them for it. I don’t know but maybe. I know I wouldn’t be able to replay that night in my head 33 years later because it would never have happened.

 

If I’d gotten an actual usable degree, maybe I wouldn’t have had a nervous breakdown because I hated myself, my life, and my first job so damn much. Maybe I wouldn’t have ended up spending 30 days in the mental hospital after trying to kill myself for the 3rd time. But then again, that’s where I found my worth & my purpose – on that [East] Indian nurse’s lap one night as she rocked me and told me “everything is going to be okay.”

 

If I could do life over, I hope that I would learn my worth a lot earlier in life. I hope I would’ve learned to value myself even when no one else did. Then, I wouldn’t have settled for all the schmucks I’ve dated in my life – the cheaters, liars, freaks, abusers, emotionally immature & unavailable. Maybe I would’ve picked a good man and had a happy 20+ year marriage. I definitely would’ve been more cognizant of character over looks. Money over minds. Reality over potential. 

 

I doubt if I’d be self-employed if I did life over again. It’s just too hard as much as it is freeing. You really need a solid support system to maintain a comfortable, secure self-employed life; a second income [with benefits] wouldn’t hurt.

 

I definitely would’ve learned a helluva lot more about money & credit!! I would’ve been a penny-pinching miser and held onto every dime I made or received. I would’ve paid cash for everything or maybe gotten ONE credit card, used it ONE time, and then paid it off just so I could have perfect credit [as an adult]. But I would have plenty in the bank for a rainy day. I would’ve saved up until I could buy a house built from the ground up to all my “short girl” specifications.

 

I would not have children. I would not get married [to the two men I chose]. I would work out more so I could still be sexy at 52 and full of energy. I would find my own spiritual path as well. The older I get, the more I question this “God” in whom we believe. The teachings don’t make sense when you really think about it. We signed up to suffer [here on Earth] and have abundant life [in Heaven]. Is that the reward for living in Hell on Earth? Abundant life when you are no longer alive? I’m still wrestling with that one daily. If I could turn back time, I would read about and study different religions and different forms of spirituality to see what made sense and what felt right in my spirit instead of just accepting what I was taught without questioning any of it.

 

At first, I thought I would’ve wanted my parents to stay together so as not to face the trauma of my dad walking out. But then, I realized, I just would’ve wanted things to have happened a different way. My parents would not have had a happy marriage if they were still together. So it wouldn’t have been the best thing. 

 

There are so many things I would do differently if I had it to do over again. I can’t say that any of it would make me happy though. The two most important things that would make me happy, I either cannot have or are out of my control. So, even if I went back in time, I couldn’t change those things.

 

I would marry my soulmate, my twin flame, the love of my life [if he was who he is today]. I would love him to life and live happily ever after for the rest of our days. Had he been my husband all along, my daughter would not be strung out on drugs because she actually listened to him. But, again, I would not choose to have children if I had a chance to do life over again. I would prefer being free and wealthy! Back then, however, my soulmate may have destroyed me because of who he was and what he was going through. I couldn’t change him going back to do my life over again – he would be the same. I may have believed I could love him enough to make his life great but that is never the truth for anyone. I probably would have died trying though.  So, maybe that wouldn’t be the best thing ether. 

 

So many things I wish were different. Different family. Different experiences. Different financial structure and knowledge. Different level of street sense and practical knowledge. Different spiritual base. Different friends. Different men. Different life. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my life as it is for the most part. It is what it is. I can’t go back in time. I can’t unring any bells. I can’t take away any pain I’ve suffered. I can’t change any bad decisions or regrets. I cannot change what I was taught as a child. I cannot change the bad or the good because it is in the past. It’s done.

 

All those things have made me who I am today. And yet, as proud as I am of my journey and the woman I have become, I am still haunted by the whispers of:

·      never being chosen

·      never being good enough

·      never finding anyone to love me as deeply & selflessly as I love them

·      never being more than financially secure but comfortable

·      never being debt free [again]

·      never being carefree and happy-go-lucky with nothing about which to stress

 

And in the darkest places of my soul, despite how hard I work to create joy and have peace in my life, I still think to myself:

If I could turn back time, if I could have a do-over, I would have made damn sure to cut my wrists vertically rather than horizontally to make damn sure my first suicide attempt had been successful. Then I wouldn’t have to think of any it because the last 36 years would not have happened. The only pain I would have suffered would have been my father leaving. No other pain, sorrow, sadness, or letdowns would have happened.

 

But I know that is not really an option. I cannot go back; only forward. So, what am I going to do differently to make my life better for me? How am I going to breathe life into myself? How am I going to get financially comfortable? How am I going to love myself [more] and [continue to] create joy in my life on a daily basis? For what am I going to hold myself accountable? How am I going to be truly okay with being alone and not being chosen? It’s all up to me because I am responsible for creating my legacy and fulfilling my destiny! Just me! There is no one at whom I can point fingers or on whom I can place blame for my life circumstances. I can have better if I put in the effort. The choice is mine. There is no failure unless I QUIT!

Monday, April 11, 2022

My Therapist’s Cape Is at the Cleaners

“… From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” Luke 12:48 (AMP) 

“You don’t lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault not leadership.” Dwight D. Eisenhower 


Being a therapist comes with much responsibility. It is a duty in which people entrust you with their most vulnerable thoughts and feelings. Our clients look to us to lead them through darkness and confusion into the light of knowing. At times, I believe our clients think we just sit around waiting to do therapy all day – ready to answer at their beck and call. Or maybe that is the expectation I have created for my clients – because I genuinely care about them, their feelings, and their lives. Unfortunately, I think our clients forget that we are human and have lives of our own. And our lives are not perfect because we are therapists. 


We don’t really wear a superhero cape. We don’t have all the answers. We don’t know everything. We try our best to guide our clients in the best way for them. But sometimes, our lives have us living in chaos, hurt, fear, anxiety, confusion, and impostor syndrome too. Sometimes we feel unlovable, defeated, broken, tired, emotionally drained, and hopeless too. We go to therapy for our personal issues so that we have room in our psyche to help our clients process theirs. Some have a foundation of faith on which we rely to comfort us through some of the roughest times. But just like I tell my clients, “The Teacher is always silent during a test.” So, we pray and search for answers just like you. We cry. We hurt. We quit. We yell. We cuss. We fuss. We get angry. We get overwhelmed. Just like you. 


Unlike you, however, we have to deal with our shit WHILE continuing to see clients. Because those of us in private practice, don’t earn a living when we don’t see clients. While money is not the motivator for me, I have come to learn that it is necessary to survive here on Earth. And I have also tried to explain this concept to God. We need money, not manna, on which to live down here. So, imagine this: 


You are the one that all your friends and family come to in order to “run something by you” or “get your opinion” or “just vent.” And they start talking before ever asking how you’re doing or if you even have time to talk. They have no idea that: 

  • your paycheck has been jacked up over the last few pay periods, 
  • you have no significant savings because you’ve been trying to make ends meet, 
  • your significant other, whom you help in any way you can, just told you they don’t really love you but have fallen in love with someone else & want to have an open relationship, 
  • your youngest child just got diagnosed with asthma & will need daily breathing treatments, 
  • your oldest child was caught lighting fires in the school bathroom and has been suspended pending a psychological evaluation, 
  • your father is battling cancer, 
  • your kitchen floor is buckling for some unknown reason, 
  • your dog had to have emergency surgery that cost you $2500, 
  • your wages may be garnished by the IRS, 
  • you haven’t been able to work out for your normal stress relief because of a knee injury, 
  • you can’t get a doctor’s appointment until next month and even then, you still must meet your deductible, 
  • your car needs to be washed from when your friend got sick out the window on the way to urgent care, 
  • your bills are due for both your house AND your office, and
  • you have no available sick leave or vacation time to just take a break from it all. 

And after you finish running through this list in your head, the person, to whom you are supposed to be listening, is STILL TALKING. So, you try to stay present with a smile on your face, hear them out, offer what you can, and head home. To what? More chaos. More problems. After you’ve put out the fires at home, you are dead tired. There’s no time to even think about how you are going to pay the bills with no more money coming in for weeks. There is no time to figure out how you feel about your significant other, much less, having an open relationship. You try to sleep but your knee keeps you from getting really comfortable. Your significant other is not next to you so there’s that thought again. 


What do you do? It’s almost 2:00AM and you forgot to call your therapist to make an appointment. Your friends are all asleep at this hour. You try to pray but it’s the same prayer you’ve prayed a thousand times, “I need help, Lord. I need a financial blessing. I need healing. I need peace in my life. I need a vacation. I feel like I’m drowning. Help me, Lord.” So, you cry into your pillow until you fall asleep only to hear the damn alarm clock go off four hours later. It's 6:00AM and you’ve got to face another day. 


Now put yourself in the role of your therapist. Have you ever stopped to think that maybe they didn’t return your call because their kid was having an asthma attack? Have you ever thought maybe the reason they didn’t get your paperwork out early was because they had to bury a family member? Have you ever thought that the reason they cannot “fit you in this week” is because they are already booked and need to have time to eat at some point during the day? What are your therapist’s off days? Do you know? If you know them, why would you text, call, or email them on those days, much less, expect a response? If you don’t know them, you should find out because we need our personal time too. Have you ever thought to yourself, “Gee, I hope my therapist is okay” when they are late, don’t show, or have to cancel an appointment? Or do you just get annoyed or angry? 


What I’m saying is going to be hard for some people to hear but I always speak my truth from a place of love and respect for what I do. All my clients know, and love, that about me. Here it is with no sugar coating: 


LIFE IS NOT ALWAYS ABOUT YOU EVEN WHEN IT IS YOUR SCHEDULED APPOINTMENT TIME! 


Anything could be going on. Your therapist could’ve gotten sick or fallen and hit their head. They could be talking to a suicidal client or their father’s oncologist. Their dog may have just pooped right in the middle of the floor. Their significant other could’ve just walked out. Maybe they were taking some Tylenol to combat a headache so they could go ahead and talk to you. Maybe they were taking a breathing treatment for their own asthma. Maybe their kid didn’t get off the bus. Maybe they had a flat tire. Maybe they stopped to help a neighbor. Or, maybe, they are just human and running late or forgot or fell asleep from exhaustion. Shit happens – even to your therapist. So, here is my challenge to you: 


Care about your therapist as much as you want them to care about you – human being to human being - and realize that sometimes our capes are at the cleaners. 


Thank you to all my clients who check on me, show me grace, give me the benefit of the doubt, send cards, pray for me, and encourage me to take time off. Thank you for your forgiveness when I fall short and for reminding me that it is okay for me to be human too sometimes. You may never know how much your caring gestures mean to me. Many a time a message from a client – “just checking on you,” “I appreciate you,” “praying for you, Dr. G,” etc. – has kept me from walking away from private practice to go get a job as a night stocker at Kroger. 😉

Sunday, October 10, 2021

A Suicide Note Like No Other

People who lose a loved one to suicide are often left in shock and wondering, "What were they thinking?!" As a suicide survivor, I try to help people understand the darkness in which we live when are at the point of wanting to end it all. More often than not, there is no suicide note left. And if there is a note, it can often leave more questions than answers. I wanted to share this suicide note because I felt it explains the nuances, and misperceptions, of a depressed person's thoughts and feelings. It also debunks the myth that, as therapists, we do not have issues of our own. It also speaks, compassionately, to the family members and friends left behind, in an attempt to genuinely ease their pain. Typically, when we have gone that deep into the vortex, we are not thinking about anyone but ourselves. So, this is definitely a note like no other. I have done my absolute best to remove all identifying elements out of compassion for both the victim and the family. 
THIS IS NOT TO CONDONE OR ENCOURAGE SUICIDE BUT TO OFFER A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER OF THIS TRAGIC DECISION.
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Today is Saturday, October 9th at 7:21PM. I am writing the following memo/letter under NO DURESS of any kind. I am not under the influence of alcohol, recreational drugs, or prescription medications. I have thought about my decision constantly over the last 4-5 days. In fact, I have thought of nothing else really. I am not making an emotionally warped or overly sensitive decision. I know that suicide is a “permanent solution to a temporary problem.” But that is what I want: a permanent solution. I have suffered from depression since my teens and have survived multiple previous suicide attempts. So, I know, clearly, what I am doing and why I am doing it. At no point, following a failed suicide attempt, did everything become okay. I was never happy to still be alive; I simply conceded that living in Hell on Earth was my fate. I believe in God and His almighty power. I pray daily and I try to be obedient to God’s calling on my life. But in my humanness, it has simply become too much; I am exhausted. I am tired of giving all I have to other people and rarely feeling like my tank is full. I am not a disciple; I am not Job. I cannot live on the bare minimum and continue to follow God. I would lose the very house with which He blessed me. I live on Earth; I have bills to pay. I’m tired of working hours on end only to still be wondering, at the end of the month, if I will have enough money to pay my bills. I’m tired of not having a sincere life partner who can uplift, encourage, and pour into me the way I do for others. 

I have asked God for His help, His mercy, His grace, and for some reprieve in both these areas and have been met with nothing. So, it’s not that I irrationally felt like there were no other options to solve my problems. I did everything I could humanly do to keep going and keep giving. I tried to get a full-time job, with benefits, to supplement my income. I have worked extra part-time jobs to sustain my income – never asking for a free handout. God said NO. I’ve dated. I have loved and not been loved back. I’ve married. I’ve divorced. Ultimately, God said NO to a life partner – leaving me to walk this journey alone. Please know that I have tried other options. I even went back to school again to boost the earning potential for my business. Couldn’t get that done either. So, all options, including continued suffering, have been addressed and/or attempted. I am just beyond tired of living life like this. Therefore, this is a conscious, intentional decision on my part. This was not an accident. This was not foul play. I made the decision this morning. I ordered the cinder blocks, rope, and zip ties. I paid for the order. I picked up the order. I tied the knots. I restrained myself. And I slid under the water in the deep end of the pool. No one pushed me. No one saw me – I made sure of that. This was all my doing. 

I am sorry for the pain this has caused all of you. It could not be avoided. So many times, I have sacrificed my feelings for others. This time, I want PEACE; so, today I choose myself. I’m sorry if that means that others must hurt. You will heal and, eventually, go on with your lives. It may sound callous, but it is true. I’m not doing this, well, I didn’t do this, to be spiteful or vengeful. I didn’t do this looking for attention. It wasn’t just one thing that made me choose death. It’s been years and years of shit piling up inside. Don’t get me wrong – I have a GOOD life overall – if you base it on success, education, and material things. But the internal pain never seems to end – the pain of failure, the pain of hitting the wall and never getting any further, the pain of abandonment, the pain of dreams that never came to fruition, the pain of faith met with silence and broken promises, the pain of never feeling like you’re doing enough to deserve to “stop treading water and get in the boat.” 

I can’t help but think that if I’d succeeded in my last suicide attempt, a few decades ago, so much bullshit could’ve been avoided:
    • I would not have struggled for the past few decades.
    • I would not have experienced so many heartbreaks.
    • I would not have had a kid in the streets doing God knows what. 
    • I would not have had grandchildren suffering the trauma of abandonment.
    • I would not have experienced any more sadness. 
    • I would not feel like I sacrifice everything for no equal return of time or effort. 
    • I would not be exhausted from answering God’s calling – which requires you to give all you have and        then some [expecting nothing in return].
    • I would not have more than one ex-husband who didn’t appreciate anything about me except what I           could do for him. 
    • I would not have had any financial stress. 
    • I would have had no more hopes dashed or prayers unanswered. 
    • I would not feel like I will never be good enough for God to cut me some slack. 
    • I would not have had to hear my mother admit that she doesn’t like me. 
    • I would not have wasted time believing that God might reward me for being obedient. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am no saint! I’m the first to admit that I was mean, hateful, judgmental, immoral, pottymouthed, and just plain cold at times throughout my life. I smoked weed and drank alcohol. I was not a criminal and I did not violate anyone’s civil rights, but I was no saint. On the same token, I am not an awful person for choosing suicide either. While you have every right to be angry, you do not have the right to judge me and how I chose to deal with my pain. You have not lived my experience, do not know my struggle or the battles I’ve fought; you certainly do not know how hard it is to choose to die. If you think that’s an easy, or cowardly, decision, you are very wrong. I’m grateful that you do not know how it feels to want to die. It’s a dark, empty, hollow space where, no matter how loud you scream, no one can hear you. And you feel like no one would care if they did hear you. I cried out, constantly, to God; begging Him to just let me “get in the boat,” to “stop treading water,” to rest for just a little while – not forever but just for a little while. And His answer was always NO. I loved God. I believed in His almighty power. I saw Him breathe life into an infant who was born dead. I know He can work miracles. My relationship with Him was extremely personal and I could hear Him as though He was sitting right next to me. I heard His calling on my life and I answered – not knowing that it would require me to sacrifice everything I had inside for the sake of others. I believed God would keep my tank full so I could pour out freely to feed His sheep. I believed God would calm my greatest fear – being broke – so I could focus on my work for Him. But he did neither. I felt like God wanted me to follow Him like a disciple – walking away from everything, and everyone, I knew and depending solely on Him. I’m not built that way. That’s just not me and I always reminded Him that I couldn’t stand up to the tests which Job endured. Whereas the widow’s flour and oil never ran out, my money often did – or I would have just enough to pay the bills, but nothing left over for self-care. I kept reminding God that I felt like I was dying from the inside out. I kept warning Him that I was reaching my breaking point – that I was running on fumes – and that I needed His help in a critical, and miraculous, way. I loved my work, and the work God did through me. I would have done therapy for free if I could have. I did do pro bono work and volunteered my time through my non-profit to give back. But one cannot live on good vibes and fulfillment alone. On Earth, it requires money, safety, security, and good credit. It wore on me - giving my all, but still having no guarantee that I would be able to pay my bills each month, being unable to afford health insurance, and having no financial cushion for emergencies. I was tired of “just getting by.” I worked for nearly 40 years and saw no way I’d ever be able to retire. Because I wasn't a fast enough runner, my military career was cut short less than five years shy of retirement. And yes, I even played the lottery too. I just wanted to feel the stability and confidence of financial security. 

This is no one’s fault. None of you are responsible for my choice. You are not responsible for my depression. You are not responsible for my suicide in any way, shape, or form. I promise. I am not blaming anyone for my life experiences. Like I said before, I had a good life, but it was never great; I just got tired of mediocre - especially as I watched misogynistic narcissists, like Donald Trump, make more and more money and achieve more and more success. That was a slap in the face to all us veterans who risked our lives for these United States and our motto – E Pluribus Unum (out of many, ONE). And that bastard is staging his comeback! So, if I didn’t end things today, I would have done it on election day when Trump gets back in office! I could not live through that nightmarish buffoonery again! 

You didn’t see this coming because I didn’t allow you to see it coming. I didn’t say anything before I did it because I didn’t want to be stopped. Nor did I want to have to try to justify my actions. There is nothing you could, or should, have done to change this outcome. So, don’t woulda, shoulda, coulda yourselves to death. There is nothing you could have, would have, or should have done to change my mind. Even if you’d found a way to stop me, I would not have been okay. Each unsuccessful attempt left me sad and angry that I would have to continue to live. I was not grateful to be alive; I simply conceded defeat as I said earlier. I begrudgingly kept moving forward because, as Andy Dufresne said, in The Shawshank Redemption, I had to “get busy living or get busy dying.” I chose the former as long as I could; now, I choose the latter. 

I know this would not be the choice any of you would make; it is the choice, however, I’m making. And even through “understanding,” I know this will be hard to accept. You may hear, or read, things like, “the primary goal of suicide is not to end life but to end the pain.” That is not what this was. I have never been able to end the pain – not completely – but I can end my life and that is what I have chosen to do. I know you will be angry. Again, you have every right to be. I, admittedly, made this decision knowing the incredible pain it would cause. But I did not make it to cause you pain. I made it to stop my own. Often, people feel guilty after a loved one has completed suicide; guilt is often misplaced anger or anger inappropriately directed inward. I would not ever tell you how to feel or what not to feel. However, try not to place your anger where it doesn’t belong. Place it all on me because I am the one with whom you are angry. It’s my decision at which you are angry. You would’ve wanted, or even expected me to make a different choice. I know; I’m sorry. I accept your anger and I understand. Your anger is normal, and it does not mean that you love me any less. And even if you don’t feel bad, or are relieved somehow, that’s okay too. Not everybody liked me, and I know that. I was okay with it then and still am now. 

I am truly, truly sorry for the time it will take you to grieve and to heal. I have tried to answer all the questions you might have so you can at least skip the confusion, misdirected guilt, and anger. Your life MUST go on!!! You are still here and still enjoying your life! And I am happy for you. I find comfort in knowing that you all have people on whom you can lean for support and love during this time. I want you to live your best life! I am no longer hurting so I got what I wanted. And as crazy as it may sound, I hope, one day, you can forgive me and be happy for me that I finally found peace. How do you know, concretely, that I didn’t? I know forgiveness and joy may be a long time coming; I hope, eventually, you will be able to accept that I did what I believed was the best decision for me – whether you agree or not. 

Let me reiterate, one more time: I AM THE ONLY ONE RESPONSIBLE FOR MY DEATH – JUST ME – IT WAS MY CHOICE – MY DECISION – MY ACTIONS – THAT ENDED MY LIFE. THERE IS NOTHING ANYONE COULD HAVE DONE TO CHANGE THE OUTCOME EXCEPT MAYBE GOD. 

But don’t be mad at Him either. I had a good therapist. I was a good therapist. I took my medications as prescribed. This was not a fluke or a rash decision. I thought about it for days before executing. I made the final decision; ordered, paid for, and picked up all the necessary supplies. I restrained myself and I slid under the water. I realize mental health and suicide are still stigmatized in our community. And it may have an even deeper meaning, to some, because of my profession. I encourage you to avoid negative, ignorant people who don’t understand or are insensitive. People will always have their opinions. But as they say, “Opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one and some of them stink.” You do not have to give any asinine people, or comments, the power to upset you, especially if they did not know me or our family. There is nothing wrong with our family because of what I did. Nobody failed me. I hope my colleagues, and my clients, will realize that therapists are HUMAN. We hurt. We break. We cry. We struggle to think positively. We battle the volume of the same gremlins in our head that our clients do sometimes. We reach our limits and our capacity too. We are not supernatural beings nor superheroes. We are certainly not perfect. Nor were we granted a counseling license because we had all our shit together and had figured out all the answers to the test. People are people before they are any title or role. As much as I loved what I did, I got tired of people always needing me and rarely respecting the fact that I needed rest, love, quiet time, and space to deal with my own shit. That may have been partially my fault, though, for caring so much; and therefore, making myself available more than I probably should have. I always tried to be the kind of therapist I would have wanted to have though. I was proud of that. I still advocate for every therapist to have a therapist by the way. 

Speaking of therapy, I have left you all with some therapeutic resources that I hope will be helpful to you. I have left for you: 
    • a guide for surviving the suicide of a loved one from the Academy of Suicidology, 
    • a list of local support groups and other organizations available to help you, from SOSGA, as well as, 
    • a guide for how to tell children and teens about the suicide of a loved one from NAMI 
because I know I have a niece, nephews, and grandchildren that must be told of my death. I am terribly, terribly sorry to my brother and sister-in-love, for leaving you with this tragedy to explain. I wish it could’ve been avoided. I really do. And while I believe heaven is real, I don’t know where I’ll be in the afterlife. But if I can find a way to let you know, I will.  

I love you guys!
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There will be a Part 2, and maybe a Part 3, to this post as I share the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of the next day. We often get stuck in the grief and offering our condolences - not realizing that those left behind experience many different, confusing emotions. What a gift you can give them if you can learn to provide a safe space in which they can talk about the things they are feeling. Because they do have to figure out how to go on with their lives at some point.
THIS IS NOT TO CONDONE OR ENCOURAGE SUICIDE BUT TO OFFER A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER OF THIS TRAGIC DECISION.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Triggering the Inner Child

Picture this:

A 13-year-old girl, whom we will call Lynda, is in her bedroom doing homework on a rainy night in Georgia. She hears her parents arguing loudly, which is not something she has heard before. She doesn’t know what they are saying but she can tell that her mother is crying. Finally, Lynda opens her door only to see her mom on the floor holding on to her dad’s ankle begging, “Please don’t do this,” as he drags her along the hardwood floors; continuing to walk towards the front of the house. Lynda closes her bedroom door and tries to go back to doing her homework despite being confused and a little nervous about what she’d witnessed with her parents. Her parents had been together 15 years and had never argued like this. So, life was good, wasn’t it? Grownups argue. It’s okay. They eventually make up, right? The next sound she hears is the carport door slamming shut. Lynda knows it’s the carport door because the blinds slammed against the window in the door when it was slammed. There’s no more arguing but her mother is wailing. Lynda runs to the window in time to see her daddy sling a garment bag over his shoulder, walk down the driveway, turn left, and go up the street a little way. He throws his bag in the trunk of a black BMW parked on the curb, gets into the passenger seat, and rides away. Lynda was a “Daddy’s Girl” to her heart. Her daddy was her hero, her safe place, her first true love. Lynda’s daddy had just abandoned their family; more importantly, her daddy had just abandoned her. What had she done to make him go away? Why did he not love her anymore? Lynda sat by that window all night waiting for her daddy to return. He had to be coming back, right? He didn’t say goodbye.

Now, picture that same little girl, 37 years later:

At 50, Lynda is a twice-divorced, successful mental health professional in private practice. She is living out her purpose daily, feels fulfilled, and has a delightful life overall. No real complaints. Business is booming. Bills are paid. She’s got a fabulous house and plenty of friends. And about 4 months ago, the absolute love of her life, whom she had set free 8 years earlier, returned to her life. So, as the saying goes, “If you love someone, set them free. If they come back to you, they were meant to be yours.” So, life is good, right? One rainy weekend, Lynda and her significant other, whom we will call “Walker,” are excited about a new project they’ve decided to do together. They’re discussing logistics, equipment, and exchanging ideas. Then, a loud argument ensues, seemingly out of nowhere, between she and Walker. He walks out of the room “because he needs to cool off,” Lynda thinks to herself. She continues to brainstorm about the project on which they were working. The next sound she hears is a door [to the outside] slamming. She is slightly startled, because slamming doors have haunted her since she was 13; but she goes back to working on the project. About an hour later, she goes downstairs to check on Walker and he is gone. She checks the bedroom and realizes that his duffle bag is gone too. And her first thought is: “He didn’t say goodbye.” In the subconscious recesses of her psyche, she has learned that when people don’t say goodbye, they are never coming back – they’ve abandoned you. So, 47 years later, the love of her life had slung a bag over his shoulder, slammed the door, and walked out of her life without saying goodbye. Her anger quickly turns into deep hurt. What had she done to make him go away? Why did he not love her anymore? So, Lynda sits down to write an email – apologizing for anything and everything she could think of that she could have possibly done wrong to make Walker leave. She apologized for her expectations. She apologized for pressuring him [if she had]. She apologized for causing him stress, for making him angry, for loving him, for not being enough for him, for asking for too much attention, and the list went on. Lynda reconciled herself to the fact that Walker was out of her life again; and she heard her inner child wailing.

The mind may compartmentalize memories, but the body remembers trauma. Trauma is defined as the response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope, causes feelings of helplessness, diminishes their sense of self and their ability to feel a full range of emotions and experiences. While there are no objective criteria to determine which events will affect whom, circumstances typically involve the loss of control, betrayal, abuse of power, helplessness, pain, confusion and/or loss. The event need not rise to the level of war, natural disaster, nor personal assault to affect a person profoundly and alter their experiences. Traumatic situations, and their effects, vary quite dramatically from person to person. The experience of trauma is very subjective; it is defined more by its response than its trigger.

And a few nights ago, I was Lynda, and my body remembered the stabbing pain of abandonment again. You see, I felt empowered when I divorced my two husbands [for egregious behaviors I could not forgive and would never forget]. As I always say, when you know your worth, you stop giving discounts. And as Maya Angelou suggested, “when people show you who they are, believe them.” So, knowing I deserved better than the men my exes had shown themselves to be, it was not hard to let go and move on. It was not hard because I knew their choices were not about me but rather their lack of conscience; and, admittedly, I was not in love with them. When you are in love with someone, you are them and they are you in a sense – there is no end or beginning – just an incredible existence of connected souls. People often ask me, “Is there really a difference between loving someone and being in love with someone?” And the answer is: Absolutely, yes!!! 

Loving someone is a choice; being in love is not. Loving someone means wanting the best for them; being in love means being intentional about putting them first. Love can end; being in love cannot. Loving a person means always needing them; being in love means there is equality and reciprocity. Loving is a fantastical rush; being in love is figuring things out together and being there for each other. Loving someone is about how the person makes you feel; being in love is about how you make them feel. Loving someone is ownership; being in love is partnership. Loving someone is an uphill battle; being in love is effortless. Loving someone can be affected by circumstances; being in love defies circumstances. Loving someone can be verbally explained; being in love is deeper than words can express.

My significant other and I have been in love with each other for almost a decade and we’re finally together again. He holds my heart in his hands. I am like a little schoolgirl around him. I don’t feel the need to protect my heart from him because there is mutual love and respect and a renewed commitment to forever. And I did not believe he would ever hurt me again. But a few rainy nights ago, my significant other, like my daddy, had argued loudly, grabbed his bag, slammed the door, and driven away without saying goodbye. And the heartache seemed just as deep as it had 37 years earlier. My inner child was triggered, and I didn’t even realize it.

We all have an inner child. They helped us get through all the bullshit when we were growing up. They are not malicious; they are not adults either. No, I am not saying that you have multiple personalities. Your inner child is just another part of you. Our inner child represents our emotional age. And biological age and emotional age do not always match. Our emotional growth gets stunted, or stagnated, when we experience trauma whether mild or severe. So, your inner child ends up running your “emotional” life into adulthood quite often. My friends have said to me, “Geez! When you get your feelings hurt, you are like a different person.” To which I respond, “Yeah, she’s six-years-old, has a real quick temper, and sharp tongue. Let me put her back in her room and come back and give you a 51-year-old response.” LOL. My inner child is a pistol – she’s a little bitty thing who stands there with her hands on her hips, ready to roll her eyes [and her neck] as she proceeds to tell you how you are not going to speak to her a certain way or treat her a certain way. The problem is, she says it in such a nasty, biting tone that people may be too offended to hear the message of “stop disrespecting me” or “stop hurting me.”

Our inner child will jump out and take over, in order to “protect” us, when they feel we are being hurt or are in emotional danger. That is exactly what happened to me. My inner child went into panic mode thinking, “Oh no, we are being abandoned! He grabbed his bag! He slammed the door! He didn’t say goodbye! He’s never coming back! You’ve got to make this right!” Then, I started typing. I hit send on the email and exhaled. I had thrown a Hail Mary in order to get my significant other to see that I could be good, quiet, obedient, not ask for anything, whatever I needed to do for him to love me and not leave me. Are you getting the picture yet?

Have you done, or said, something only to ask yourself later, “Why did I do/say that?” Ever feel like you could hear yourself saying something, or see yourself doing something, that you knew was out of character, immature, or just plain wrong; but you couldn’t stop? Ever feel like you overreacted when you didn’t mean to – coming out the gate like a racehorse and doing a whole lap around the track, only to realize that that people around you are confused because there was no real race or competition? These are all moments when your inner child has said, “Aw hell, here we go again! Somebody is about to hurt us again. So, let me take over before your adult brain can step in and try to handle all this drama.” Afterwards, you’re left feeling bad about how “you” handled the situation. Well, you didn’t. Your inner child did because they do not understand that grownups argue and make up. They do not understand that there can be resolution and apologies or even agreements to disagree at the end. And that is where many of us live every day we exist – with an emotionally scarred, slightly dysfunctional, but strong and courageous inner child who will allow us to live but will be damned if anyone is going to traumatize us in any way ever again. God love the inner child. Their intentions are admirable, but their execution typically leaves you shaking your head.

Once you recognize that your inner child is the one who has shown up in a situation, you must shut them down immediately; so, your adult self can get back in control of the situation. Ultimately, you must fire your inner child but that is a three-part process that I will have to address in a separate post.


Monday, December 7, 2020

A Letter to God

Dear God,

Today, while rested, I still feel tired physically. But my spirit is light and full of joy. I am so amazingly blessed to have everything I both need and want. I live in my dream house. I have a career I absolutely love – working towards having my dream job. I have friends and family who love and support me. I have an amazing dog who wants absolutely nothing from me but love. I have no more leeches, cheaters, liars, or users in my life. I have no need for completion. I am not lonely in, or afraid of, my life as a twice divorced woman. The only thing that would be more freeing is to debt free again; if I win the lottery, I’ll make sure that happens.

I guess my only question, God, is: if you truly have someone for me, how do I say “NO?” It’s not that I don’t believe in, or trust, You. I do. I do not, however, think anyone in my life would, or even could, love me to the depths, or with the fervor, which I love them. No one will ever be as thoughtful s I am – always thinking of me, wanting the best for me, wanting to ease my burden, or just wanting me to be happy for no other reason than to see me smile. And I’m tired of that – always being the one who is more invested in him and in us – always being the one sacrificing, going out of my way, or being inconvenienced. I give to SO MANY PEOPLE – so many. I just think my focus, my energy, my love, and my care is better in those that need me. That way, I stay responsible for filling my own tank. I don’t get let down or disappointed ever. And I don’t even have to care all the time – only when I’m working. I think that is all the capacity I have right now. 

I don’t need sex or money. I would have to have someone willing to work hard for me – to get my attention – to make me feel loved so that I want to love back. And he doesn’t exist.

Everyone and anyone can appear selfless in the beginning; it’s rarely, if ever, consistent. And it never lasts – especially if they are not getting anything in return. I just don’t have it to give. I’m thoughtful and kind by nature. I love to laugh. But most of all, I just like to BE – hearing another’s soothing heartbeat, feeling safe enough to let go and relax in his arms, breathing in his scent, feeling the warmth of his skin, feeling his breath on my neck or his fingers in my hair. Feeling like he would never let go if he didn’t have to – being able to just share space with me because I bring him the same wonderfulness he brings me. He would have to be a studied romantic – meaning he would read & research about different, unique ways to be romantic – not just do the easiest or the obvious. He would have to put in EFFORT to make sure I knew the depth of his love for me and not just assume I did. He would have to have passion for more than my body! Don’t get me wrong, he would need to be passionate and adventurous, while also gentle, compassionate, and dominant, during sex. But sex cannot always be the go to! Because what happens if one of us can no longer perform sexually? There MUST be intimacy like no other – where nothing has to held back.

I used to say my husband did NOT have to be my best friend. After being married & divorced twice and ending up wishing I could talk to my husband, or immediately knowing I would never talk to him about something, I have come to realize that I want, maybe even need, my husband to be my very best friend. And I’m just honestly not sure that men are even capable, anymore, of being good friends first & foremost. Eventually, they all seem to start thinking with their dicks and that becomes their most important damn need – no matter what else is happening in the world.

Nobody talks anymore. Nobody shares their deepest, most authentic, true self anymore. We’re too afraid that it won’t be good enough. I’m not eye candy to one guy [to whom I would’ve given my whole heart, albeit undeservedly] and I’m hot as hell to another guy because I do “have meat on my bones,” and get this, was NOT wearing heels or being frilly. 

But would either of them know that I miss my daughter and that I am terrified that the next time I see her, she’ll be in a coffin? Would either of them know that I work so hard because I feel the weight of God’s calling on me 24/7/365? Would either of them honor that and bring me dinner or appreciate having a quick cup of coffee with me instead of adding more pressure to my fear of failure by constantly saying, “You never have time for me”? Would either of them know that I feel imposter syndrome just like everybody else at times? Would they realize that I get tired of hearing, “That’s what happens when you’re good at what you do”? Which one would be willing to lay in bed and watch Marvel movies – allowing me to doze off and on and not be frustrated? Some will play golf. Some will not. But none of that matters if they neither know nor understand me.

Lord, I just don’t see that happening. I don’t believe they genuinely have the desire to know, the willingness to learn, the energy to try, or the selflessness to look outside themselves. I can feel the depths of other people’s souls – the good, the bad, the ugly, and the amazing. But men NEVER EVER seem to see, or feel, that I am an incredible gift from You, Lord, to so many – but to the one with whom You would have me. So, we can move on to something else. Please. I’ve had my fill. I know I’m loved by MANY. I know I am EASY to love. But the risks no longer outweigh the benefits I’m afraid. Can we please just focus on my dream job and making sure that I am always financially secure and able to pay my bills with a cushion left over each month? I don’t need any more trips [currently]. I don’t need anyone to share my space. I just need a steady check (and benefits), from an NFL team, that truly represents my professional value, a beach in my backyard, and a consistent five figure balance in my bank account. You’ve prepared me, as best You can, for Your will in Zari’s life and my Daddy’s life. Somehow I will survive those losses, whenever they come, because I know You will carry me through.

Thank You, Lord, for all the blessings You have bestowed on me. Thank You for my spiritual gifts. Thank You for trusting me to feed Your sheep. Thank You for allowing me to experience marriage and childbirth. If You never bless me again, Father, I have enough and I am enough simply because I exist. I love You, Lord; and I thank You for loving me too. Thank You for always reminding me that even broken crayons still color!