What makes you think you’re crazy? I find myself looking her in the eyes for the first time in the five minutes I’ve been in her office. I expect her to start laughing and tell me she’s just kidding. She doesn’t. I find myself questioning her credibility if she can’t smell the crazy on me like a wolf smells fear in the sheep. I shrug. Silence. I’ve picked anxiously enough at my lips to start bleeding, and so I resort to biting my lip anxiously, using my tongue to cauterize the wound rather than answer her question. Still, silence. I know it’s only been seconds, but it feels as though it’s been pressing down for days, and I find myself struggling to breathe. I realize I’m staring off into space- my mind, perfectly tuned dissociation machine that it is, going into power saving mode because I don’t have the spoons to allocate to go down that rabbit hole. I can almost feel the fuses burning out in my brain as I desperately wait for her to move on from the topic. She doesn’t. I exhale, not even sure where to begin.
“I don’t know… I just feel like I’ve got a square block and I’m trying to cram it in a round hole. It just doesn’t fit. I don’t fit… I don’t fit in anywhere…” Well why does it matter? Do you want to fit in? I laugh, firmly exclaiming, “No, absolutely not…” So what’s wrong with being different? Silence again. Checkmate.
Growing is painful. I remember being probably 9 years old, visiting my Grandma in Florida, and having this awful pain in my shins. She told me they were called growing pains. She didn’t warn me that they don’t stop once you reach the 5 feet 6 and 3/4 inches that you’ll top out at. Sure, the pain sucked, but it was unavoidable, and it was all part of growing big and strong. Just like eating your vegetables. (I guess that’s why Grandpa insisted we eat corn on the cob with every meal.* True story.) Yesterday when I walked in the door to the “Recovery Center” to meet my new (read: 9th) therapist, I could feel myself shrink away like a child refusing to let the brussel sprout choo-choo train enter the station. Barf.
The moment I walked up to the counter I wanted to turn on my heel and leave. But I urge surfed,** (ride out urges since they are temporary). And I checked in. And I sat down. And I fought the impulse to freak out and start throwing things, just to get her to call me back sooner so I wouldn’t have a chance to run away. Because I wanted to. The growing pains were back, but I wasn’t growing up this time. I was growing out. Filling up with thoughts and fears and feelings and expectations and all these different sensations flooding me all at once. So I rode it out the only way I knew how. I wrote. I grabbed my journal and I wrote.
“I’m so frazzled, I don’t even have words (…) I don’t want to waste my time on this woman (…) this woman next to me (…) of course lives on Lathrop. And has to keep saying “Lathrop” again and again (…) triggering the fuck out of me. (…) I’m leaving and asking who I have to fight to have Carolyn back (…) I can’t handle this shit right now (…) Trying to have an open mind. Trying to trust the process. But every muscle and fiber of my being is urging me to run the fuck out the door.”
It was at this point the woman next to me, who kept mentioning the name of the street I lived on with a sociopath and a TBI and left behind (physically, at least) five years ago this month, looked over to me. “Are you nervous, or you just shake your leg like that all the time?” I told her through cracked nervous laughter that I had anxiety, and realized I was scratching at myself, as I do when I feel a panic attack coming on. Way to go, Angela. I started packing my things away, ready to lea– “Angela, you can come on back”. Or not.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. My fight vs. flight gears are pretty much constantly turning, and in the end it’s generally flight that wins out. It’s easier to hide under the covers than crawl under the bed and drag the monsters out and beat their bitch asses yourself. But at the end of the day, and by the end of our session, it was clear that was exactly what I was going to have to do if I wanted to get better. You can’t live in a bubble, Carolyn would say later during DBT. Bubbles exist for a period of time, and then they pop. That bubble popped as I was walking out of Cheri’s office. When she said to me, “I’m always here. You’re not bothering me”. As I wrote in my journal as I reflected on the appointment before DBT began, “this from a woman who, just an hour ago, I wanted nothing to do with. From a woman who I was ready to walk out on.”
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a battle to attend to…
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*Having it with spaghetti stands out in particular..
**Urge surf is #8 of 39 coping skills that are listed on the back of the DBT diary card. It falls under the mindfulness category (the others being distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation, and middle path).