When a call to help, helps me

I find it hard to blog nowadays, as my therapy inches along. For the first time ever, I’ve struggled to speak about the issue we’re dealing with, whether in therapy or to my long-suffering wife. In therapy, I force the words out while clenching on to my plush toy. To my wife, I’ve tried to speak, but failed miserably, staring at the laptop to avoid looking at her because the words just would not come out.

I changed therapists again recently, as my therapist resigned from the institution. I didn’t ask where she’s going because even if she’s going into private practice, that’s not something I can afford. My new therapist and I have had some growing pains, but she told me something I struggle to agree with. Even turning up for therapy – despite being scared, despite feeling like this might be more trouble than it’s worth, no matter how tired I am, was something that she said was brave and worth acknowledging.

I struggle with this concept.

I’m not working, or able to work. I spend a lot of time simply trying to engage in activities to stay safe, or to give myself some hope that I might be able to get back in touch with my rusty enjoyment receptors. I don’t aim to be happy or try, because that’s way out of my reach. Being content is easy, feeling guilty is also very easy. I clean my guinea pigs’ cage to make sure I get out of bed every day, and I take photos of them because others seem to like seeing them and I want to share the little bits of smiles they give me with their cuteness of being.

So in no way have I ever accepted that I needed to be courageous or strong, or that it is any credit to me to continue to persist in treatment. In fact, my own mother has questioned, on many occasions, whether or not I continue with treatment. She sees me as, and knows, that I am someone who doesn’t always push through with things to the end. I do, because I see no other choice. I must. I don’t have anything else to do that makes sense enough to put all my efforts into, because anything I put my efforts into, would make no sense if I am still a broken mess, struggling not to end my miserable, useless mess of a life.

So when I called my friend today, I didn’t expect anything. She’s someone I truly love as a friend, and look up to, even if she refuses to see that she’s someone worth looking up to. I didn’t expect her to pick up as she had been in a crisis lately, and if I had been through what she’d been through, I’d refuse all calls, and hide in as small a corner as I’d find.

She picked up the call. We talked. And I told her things.

I told her how proud I was that she was alive. That despite everything, she chose not to pass on the pain. She was now in a safer place, and she was going forward with treatment. She would go for her therapy, and I told her, she was brave to. It would hurt, and it hurts, and yet she was choosing to take this step, difficult as it was. I was proud of her for even picking up the phone. She was worried about how much she was burdening others, and I told her, no, you going for treatment, you staying safe, that is already a huge burden OFF others, so that they can focus on other important things, while she got on with the business of getting better. And she lives to care for others. So I told her, the first step back to caring for others, was to take care of herself first. To heal. To get better. And then she could step back into that business, more whole again, so that she could do that work better.

And I cried as I said all this, because, as I told her between sobs, I knew, that I needed to hear all this too.

We ended the call with dryer faces, I think. But as my wife stepped to my side, after overhearing part of the conversation, I cried. I mourned for the pain my friend and I are going through, different, yet the same. I reminded myself, as I cried in my wife’s arms, that I don’t bemoan the change in therapist, because even therapy is but a tool to get well with, but I must trust that God has His purpose in changing my therapist at this time. And even if it sucks, my new therapist is willing to work with me.

But just as importantly, I now need to remember what I said to my friend, as a reminder to myself. The tears still threaten to fall, but as I type this out on my blog instead of a forgotten post on Facebook, I record all this for two reasons.

The first, is a reminder to myself. That turning up to therapy takes effort. It may be easy for some people to say, suicide is not an option. But it is a constant, active choice on my part, even if I know that I must not make that move. Just because I say I mustn’t, doesn’t remove it as a choice. Removing it as a choice, is an action that I must repeat every day. And that is something tiring, even if I say I have no choice but to do it. The counterpoint of that choice is to choose to turn up for treatment. To actively take a part, to choose and say, I choose to do this. And then actually do the work of trying to understand myself, through the tears and through the searing pain that feels like I’m burping tears sometimes. Or breathing pain, in and out, inhale and exhale. And returning the week after to do it again.

In this choice, sometimes I take actions that I really cannot choose, that induce a lot of guilt. I struggle to meet people, and I struggle to attend church, or even small group gatherings. I struggle with talking to my children at times, and I keep apologising for my moods to my wife. But it’s still my choice to seek treatment. I must repeat to myself that this is the alternative that I am taking to the choice of death or harm by my own hand. While I undergo this phase of treatment – even life! – I may end up hurting others temporarily. The alternative though, is to hurt them massively, permanently, in a way that I can never make up for.

My second reason to record this is to tell anyone who turns up to treatment, that you are not alone. You are brave, to seek to heal in ways that others may never understand. You know for yourself that something is very broken, regardless of what others say. Turning up for treatment – therapy or meds or other forms of treatment – is your way of being responsible. And it is the best way to thumb your nose at the other options you can make, which will harm you, and harm those around you, in ways that you can’t control or fathom. So please, stick with your treatment. Continue to fight this fight. It seems stupid, and small sometimes. But it is important because this is the equivalent of re-laying the groundwork for the rest of your mental health.

I guess what I’m trying to say is… even just turning up for treatment, with the mindset of wanting to work to heal…

That is something worth being proud of.

I’m tired for now, and still fighting tears. But I’m trying hard to say it to myself.

Be proud. You’re working hard to heal.

So if you need to hear that too… I’m proud of you.

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