Oh Therapist, My Therapist

I don’t even know where to start today because my mind is full. There are so many things I want to tell you and yet, I cannot pick a window and stick with it. In one is my therapy appointment with Sarah. In another is my birthday tomorrow, and in another is the guy who literally thought I was stalking him at Starbucks and I thought we were going to have some trouble. The fight in me raised its ugly head, because flight has receded. I won’t back down.

I guess let’s start there. The guy came up to me and looked at my backpack and said, “is that Swiss Gear?” I looked at the red logo and said, “yes… I guess it is.” He said, “are you stalking me?” I said, “not yet…” thinking that the guy was joking so I joked back. I was sitting down and he was standing up, although he did not look in any way threatening. He was only a little taller than me, and just as thin. In a different life, we could have been twins. Except that he had wavy hair and I have straight, we really did look like brother and sister. The true difference between us was that even though we were both wearing nerd glasses, but he was hearing voices in his head and I do not.

I exude “don’t mess with me” now. I have had enough time around mental patients from being in government mental health care that it’s like a type of armor of “just try me.” I don’t know where I got it. I think most of it is thinking to myself “what would Jeffrey do?” The aforementioned insane nerd went over to another table and asked another girl if she was stalking him as well. I stood up and said, “dude, WHAT IS YOUR ANGLE?” I was hoping that someone from downstairs would hear there was trouble and call the police. As I was trying to calm mental nerd into a state of “I’m going to get my ass kicked if I keep this thing going,” the boy next to me at the computer table went downstairs and told them to call the police and get him out of here. Mental nerd saw the boy next to me going downstairs and starting heading out the door on his own before the fuzz arrived.

Good man.

So that’s what hardcore looks like… another version from my sweet Apple Sister, but hardcore nonetheless. Another reminder of the horrible things mental health can do and how I need to take care of myself so that hardcore for me keeps itself at bay.

Which leads me right into my session with Sarah, who I think is the therapist for me. She told me it was so brave of me to show up even though the last four therapists had wounded me to the core. She told me it was brave of me to check myself into the hospital when I told her what Argo said (“Leslie, why do you think it’s everyone else’s job to fix you?) and how it had beget action instead of just continuing to get worse. I told her that Argo’s words had reinforced that it was my mental illness making me think my suicidal thoughts and not my authentic personality, and all of the sudden I was able to take control of it. Own it. Get myself better instead of waiting for someone to magically show up and wave a wand. I was able to tell the difference between my personality and my illness, possibly for the first time in my life.

I just thought my illness was me, and it’s not. It’s like letting my diabetes get out of hand and refusing to go to the doctor until my leg is about to fall off. I didn’t continue to find a therapist that would work for me. I didn’t realize how bad my anxiety had gotten so that I felt the fight or flight physical response all the time instead of just when I needed it. I put all my faith in my ability to help myself, and didn’t realize until Argo said her magic words that I was wrong. I needed help, and quickly, or an illness that needed to be managed was going to kill me because what I believed about myself wasn’t real. It was a mirage I was chasing through the desert, or the road looking wet on a dry day from the sun right up until you drive near that patch.

There is a difference between me and my disease, and it took two things to convince me of it. The first was The Mental Illness Happy Hour. Paul Gilmartin repeated over and over how our negative thoughts are apart from what we are, that they are not a reflection of personality, but of illness…. Thus the title of the podcast, I’m sure.

The second was getting the right medication and the right cohort at the hospital. I couldn’t have had a better environment with which to tell the difference between who I am when I am sick and who I am when I am well.

Sarah listened to all of this, and asked me about early childhood trauma. I told her about my house burning down when I was 12, and six months later meeting Diane in the face of losing my home and my city (we’d just packed up and moved from a city of 2,000 people to Houston).

But I also told her my plans for St. James, and how I didn’t want all of our sessions to be about bitching about my problems, that I was a visionary and I needed help finding my own path, my own staircase to wholeness in terms of being a pastor and creating the church I know I’m here to, in a sense, own. I told her that nothing extraordinary, except perhaps The Bible, was ever created by committee. I told her that I wanted to be able to vision by getting people to follow me and what I want to create, not a group of people who are there to say, “I think we should do it THIS WAY.” My theory is this: if you want a pastor who’s spent all that money to become ordained and learn how to be a professional pastor, why are you hiring me if all you want to do is create the church you want? You could do that without me. The congregation is important to the life of a church, but “where there is no vision, the people perish.”

It took me a long time to learn that visioning wasn’t ego. It can be, if left unchecked, but at its core, visioning is the idea that what lives in one person’s brain cannot possibly live in several people’s at once.

So I talked to Sarah about the staircase and how to get me ready to take it. I told her that I’d been an INFJ since birth, and that this idea had lived in me a long time. That St. James was already started online and that I needed a vision in order to raise close to 15 million dollars- not for myself. It’s because real estate big enough to hold all of us in DC isn’t cheap.

I also told her that the first book I’d ever been given in terms of homework for therapy was before it was even a thing was The Four Agreements. She wrote in her notebook that I liked bibliotherapy, and I liked it. It has a title. I said, ‘as an aside, I am sure as a therapist you’ve run across Codependent No More” once or twice. That author has written a book called “The New Codependency” if you want to check it out.’ She laughed and said, “yeah. I think I’ve heard of it…” All therapists know about Codependent No More. It’s like some sort of textbook, you know, like Intern or One L.

I set therapy for Wednesday at 4:00 every week, because as I told Sarah, I go to church every week and this seems like a good mid-week check-in. She agreed. I think I have finally found someone who can help that won’t dump me. We’re probably the same age. If she tells me she’s close to retirement, I’m going to ask her to marry me, because obviously she’s independently wealthy. :P~~~~

My birthday is choir practice. I don’t know how I feel about that. On one hand, it will be great to be lost in the music. On the other, I’ll go home alone. It’s not the first time I’ve spent a birthday alone. I will probably write it out, because this is the first year in a long time in which I can truly say I feel a year older. Perhaps an accelerated five.

And on that note, it’s time to go home.

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