I told Dr. P today that I think I figured out that I'll know when I don't need to go to therapy every week when I can consistently go to sessions and not cry. Not that crying is bad. It's good to get it out, right? Though exhausting. But clearly if I still have a need to get that much out, I still need to be going. Today I just sat on her couch and sobbed for a little while. No words. Nothing really needs to be said. What is there new to say? She's heard it. I know it. It just hurts. It's just hard. Unfair. Etc. I'm exhausted and alone. Today I was talking with my son's preschool director and another parent, both of whom I've known for years and we were all relating over the challenges of school mornings with kids. And I was talking in a congenial way about such challenges and then I think perhaps I started to sound a little overwhelmed, and she said to me something about how I have a lot of challenges, but I've "got my head above water." And I quipped back that at least I had my nose above water. Laughing as I gave an impression of standing on my tiptoes and trying to keep my nose above the surface. And then she said, very supportively, "and you know how to swim." "Yep," I said. "I do." But it didn't make me feel any better. And later sitting in the therapist's office I realized it's because I'm so tired of treading water or swimming. I just want someone to give me a life raft and pull me for a little bit. And the tears flowed in warm fat rivers down my cheeks and kept flowing for some time.
I'm surrounded by support, but inherently alone, because no one can walk this inner path but me. And sometimes it feels (like when you're sick), that all that support around me isn't all that helpful in keeping me afloat. Like giving encouraging words to someone who is trying to swim across the English channel or something. Encouragement is great for the spirit, but it's not actually going to help me get across. It's not going to get the boys up in the morning and to school. It's not going to get the laundry done or the groceries purchased or anything else. I get that my life lesson here is to let people in more, to learn to ask for help, and I'm going to do that and work on it, but even if I manage to do that, I have to learn to do that on my own. This part of the journey is solo.
And then maybe that's where I'm wrong. Maybe seeing it as solo is just a symptom of my fear of being vulnerable with others. Maybe I have to realize that nothing about this is a solo journey. But then the flip side of my brain says, no, in the end it all comes down to a solo journey. We are born and die individually (usually), and we connect with others throughout our lives, but we connect best with others when we are full and complete in and of ourselves. Hmm.... And maybe it's neither of these. I've always been a fan of the yin yang approach (though I don't usually think of it in Eastern terms). But maybe it's both at the same time. That constant tension between oneness (as in unity with all) and individuality. What does all this have to do with me? I have no idea. Tangent.
I'm trying to remember some highlights from today:
- She recommended to me to not ask my eldest "why" when he's throwing a fit, even in what seems like a nice supportive way. Either he doesn't know why, which can make him feel badly for not knowing, or he knows (at some level) that he's throwing a fit because he's angry and he's partially angry with me, and he feels like he can't say that. Instead, just empathize with him and give him words for it. I do A LOT of this, but in part of those compassionate well-meaning conversations I do say things (albeit lovingly) like, "What do you think is making you so angry. It's ok to be angry. Usually anger is on top of other feelings, hiding something underneath it, can you figure out what's underneath it?" She explained how even for a 9-year-old, parents still have a certain god-like quality to them (certainly for the younger ones). And where they are developmentally, they can't fully wrap their brains around the fact that I can't fix this and make their lives better again. So they're angry. As angry at me as they are at their father. Just because I can't do anything to fix our life, doesn't mean they fully understand that. And I suppose, part of what they've lost (Dr. P didn't say this, I'm just thinking it now), is the sense that they are safe and that parents will keep their world in order. Their parents (from their perspective, there's little distinction between me and their father) have shown that we don't have power to keep their world in order. And that makes them scared, angry, and confused.
- When doing the repair work with my eldest, I should let him know that I'm confident this is a temporary thing we're going through. "I know what we're going through is hard now, but I know that in just a few years, I'm going to be standing up there with you as a bar mitzvah and we're going to realize how far we've come, how much we've made it through." I think that's a good strategy. I want to try and remember to use it.
- It's clear that I'm looking for someone to tell me what to do. I almost wish that the house would sell and fast so that I'd be forced to make a decision. This ambiguity is very difficult. In my constant desire to have a solution to work with for every problem, I am looking for someone to hand me a set of instructions for what to do next. What proposals to make about the settlement. What to do about the house. Etc.