I am sitting across from myself. I am visualizing it now.
I am the therapist, and I am the client.
I am happy to invite you to sit down with me and observe.
(Words in italics are input by me, the therapist.)
Hey! Guess what? I have the privilege of resting in my own home. It’s so exciting! Right out of my sixth and final month of mental health treatment and with the support of my last treatment center, the Veterans Administration (VA) and United Way of Broward County, I now have my own one bedroom, one bath apartment. There’s certainly more nuance to this.
So let me just say that a lot of mind work and heart work were necessary—still is necessary. But the most important element was surrendering my life and will to God and asking for help. It’s paying off! :)
And there’s more to this! The process of surrender, I’ve found, is fueled and measured by my personal inventory of gratitude for what I do have and what is being provided. Gratitude has been the antidote to my selfish ambition, my fear, my self-hatred, and so much more. Gratitude is awesome and I’m stickin’ to it. (lol)
Okay, Wow! I hear you, David. That’s really great to hear! deep breath May I have the pleasure of getting to know more? :)
Yes! Sorry. My excitement’s got me in overdrive. (lol)
Okay. So as of today I am six months and two days sober.
So clearly, you’re very excited. Tell me more…
Do you know who my daddy is?
I’m sorry. What?
My Heavenly Father has shown me himself, and through him and in him, his love for me. I like, understand his love better!
(LOL) That caught me way off guard. You’re hilarious!
What’s even more exciting is that I feel his love for the first time in my life. His love woos me and compels me to respond in praise and thanksgiving. Most importantly, his love moves me to be courageous. I’m ‘bout to have a ratchet attack up in here with a dance break out like Beyonce at Coachella…I mean Beychella… speakin’ in tongues. Have Erbody mad!
Oh my gosh (SMH, LOL)…Very nice, …I guess!
Now you’ve got me really intrigued and curious. What does courage look like for you?
Well, I think courage is being vulnerable. It’s being open—transparent even. It means living authentically and to be seen, flaws and all, and without apology. Because of this, I am delighted and encouraged to run to my Father without fear. Instead I run into the throne room of grace with boldness to ask him for his help. And to believe that I already have it. So I asked for a home and an entirely new direction for my life. He granted my request!
That’s great, David! But so I’m clear, do you find it more comfortable to just be with people and not hide in plain sight, without feeling the need to measure up and be someone else.
Yeah. It’s getting better. Finding my identity in Christ has been met with a sense of belonging to the Father, especially since having unlocked the mystery of his deeds throughout the old testament.
I’m going to take a semi-long parenthetical note…
There’s a profound emphasis on mercy teaming in the pages of the old testament. Once I spent time reading to understand the ancient world and the mode of thought an ancient people group had of God and how God needed to reveal himself to a primative people, the Father’s actions make sense. A world of utter barbarism and far less sophisticated by modern conceit; miraculous celestial feats were necessary to compel primitive minds to see and trust in the deeds of God, if not by faith alone. And with these miracles, there were grave consequences for seeing God, but to then back out of a freely chosen vow (covenant) of marriage to him.
I was so caught up in how harsh God was in the millenia leading up the ministry Christ. I didn’t realize the promises of God through a covenant of mutual consent or monogamous creator-creation relationship. A divine romance. Under this premise, Israel’s betrayal, then the wrath of God, and the subsequent punishment highlight an immense point: God’s role as husbandman to ancient Israel reveals his just response, his unquenchable love, and his passion to forgive if only Israel would just stop cheating on him and turn back to him. To see his lover (Israel) walking back promises while knowing the consequences to which she freely consented in her vows, should she flirt or defile herself with false gods.
My point? This goes to show how modern minds (mine included) are stumbling over the harshness of the old testament. So seeing the scarlet thread of God’s love and mercy from Genesis to Revelation has, as I said earlier, propelled me over an intellectual wall and into a paradigm of freedom.
So acting justly toward the people I’ve grown with while in treatment, extending mercy because I long for mercy in my brokenness, and subsequently humbling myself before God moment by moment, has…. What’s a way to put it? It’s what is said in Galatians. I was blessed with greater ease to walk in forbearance, self-control, kindness, and love, to name key fruits.
Hence, the blessing with which I started our conversation today.
For all the months of my treatment I was effectively homeless, despite being in a partial hospitalization program (PHP) for the majority of the six months. In that time I was with a tight community of people—-addicts and mental health issues. Let me tell you that it was hard in the beginning. But in the final months I learned courage in the active engagement with my peers in treatment.
Wait. Help me understand. What do you mean when you say “effectively homeless”?
Oh! At any point I could have left treatment and lived with my parent, again—the very place I nearly made an irreversible and fatal decision for my life. I could have returned to the same place of employment; to run in the hamster wheel that hasn’t provided me with a sustainable way of life for two-thirds of my time as a public school teacher. (This isn’t me feeling entitled. I’m just describing the lack of payment to me for services rendered.) I could have continue the status quo as I was falling deeper in to hopelessness, post-traumatic stress, listlessness, mood swings, and paranoia. It was a very disparaging lifestyle.
So I came to a fork in the road. I either respond to what my mind, heart, soul, and body are screaming for, which is my health and healing. Or I continue live to work and chase money; money that the present local economy (South Florida) swallows whole month after month. As an aside, modern life has become a place with a crippling triad of death-inducing stress: A lack of control, a lack of predictability, and a lack of social support. The modern hurricanes of stress have fueled the opioid epidemic, drug overdose, and suicide. For me, it was the latter. And all three are forms of death by despair. This is not to elicit pity. It’s an observation of the net effect in our present time and my place within the storms of my life.
The yearly storms of life were getting worse and worse. They made their impact and I was wiped out and found wanting of a sure foundation. This was on me. I drifted from solid ground in Christ Jesus. Now I see in hindsight how I put myself in a position to be hurt by a sheet of paper cover with the word “liar.” A thousand gradual little lies. A thousand cuts to my own soul. A fatal misstep of infinite consequence. Yes. My claims of spiritual practice were false, and more so religious chicanery. I knew how to look the part, but inwardly dead man’s bones. You know what I mean?
long sigh That’s…that’s a lot to take in, bro.
David, I hear what you’re saying. And yeah, I get it. I mean it’s good that you’re seeing your way through the tunnel. But…you don’t think that perhaps you’re being a little too hard on yourself?
Uh…um, I’m not really sure….? Could you clarify for me?
Well, I think you’re beating yourself up, to be honest. I mean, you are human and we all make mistakes, both large and small. And today you have so much going for you. Most importantly, you are loved by people more than I think you know—more than I think you even believe before, during and after others come to learn of your faults and flaws! :) …because you’re very easy to love, David. Allowing yourself to be loved—especially by you—and not judge yourself, but improve at the same time is what authenticity looks like. It’s in the process of living life in the arena with and among people. It’s allowing God to do the heavy lifting and you simply follow his voice, because his burden light. Of course. Easier said than done. But I think you see where I’m going.
breathing deep I do. I really do.
Perhaps I am beating myself up. Looks like I have one more thing to work on. (lol)
One more thing?? Ay, dios mio! (lol) Fair enough.
Also, you have accomplished more than most other people. Soldier, public school teacher, musician, logistician, logician, leader, incredibly intelligent, humble, and extremely wise. Now, this isn’t to diminish your taking responsibility for past harms as you just expressed. I commend you for being honest and your earnestness to change. But I want you to see that you’re not alone in your struggle in this world, filled with people who also have made mistakes as well—in many cases, far worse, as I note my own.
It’s as they say, something like the dangers of throwing stones in a glass house. It’s sobering for accusers to find themselves vexed by shards of glass reigning down upon them too! In the age of call out culture via social media, we seem to later find the “righteous” being publicly shamed and de-platformed because of a past indiscretion.
So David, you have to begin to forgive yourself and reframe your life by, of course, looking at your past, but with compassion. Then you can hear your thoughts and not run from them as well as take captive those thoughts that are of our spiritual enemy. You are not your thoughts. You are not your feelings. Your Heavenly Father already knows your every decision, mistake, victory and more. His grace is sufficient. So you don’t have to stress yourself to prove to me, or anyone, for the matter, your contriteness of heart. Your Heavenly Father sees your efforts. God loves you just the-way you-are.
Keep being kind to yourself.
Wowza! Where’d all that come from? (LOL) Now, That’s a lot to take in and allow to simply reside with me.
(LOL) You’re so right. I can get taken away at times too. (lol) See we’re all not so different. But you understand and feel my point, right?
sigh Hmm. :) Yeah. And I definitely agree. …about God’s grace being sufficient especially. I appreciate you helping me to see that.
I guess although I am not overstating the severity of my past. I think I am still very much struggling with my habit of disproportionate response to things and situations that don’t warrant my intense reactions to prove or be understood. I am really struggling with it. Within the last four months or so, two qualified clinicians that I’ve been seeing brought up borderline personality disorder as a real explanation for my mood swings, feelings of emptiness, and identity issues.
Have you done any research of your own about it? I just want to know if you have at least a basic understanding of that potential diagnosis. I mean, I don’t want to alarm you. But BPD really requires a confirmed and definitive diagnosis because it often presents as a severe impediment to personal growth, as well as emotional health and maturity!
Yes, I have. And yeah, I’ve gotten the sense that real work must be done with a psychiatrist on a long-term basis, if it’s what I’m saddled with.
At first I was pleased to be able to name what was hurting me. But after looking into what it is and means for me, I felt embarrassed and ashamed. It really brought to light how I would behave around people.
Ashamed? Whatever for?
Well, it explains why I abruptly and repeatedly ended a lot of my relationships and why people ghosted on me. I didn’t know what I was doing. I just didn’t know what was wrong with me. But now I see that I was severely afraid of being abandoned. I still get overwhelming fear of abandonment, but less intense. Then it would seem to happen anyway. I latch onto people so hard. Then they cut ties and run…I guess?
Sorry… that’s not entirely true. I’d like a person one day and hate the person the next. I’d blow up or shut down about the silliest things out of nowhere.
I didn’t know that I was emotionally unhealthy and that it was toxic to my relationships. So I blamed other people and the world for my problems, well into my late 30s. I had my nervous breakdown about eight and a half months after I broke things off with my then fiance. It was absolutely horrific, particularly for her. …just awful.
Ugh! Sorry. Reset. I need to catch myself on this fresh downward spiral just now. Sheesh…
Mm… I see. I’m sorry to hear that, David. I believe I can feel where you’re coming from. But… believe it or not, the past is in the past. And when you get to your step to make amends, you and your sponsor can decide together how to make amends. However, comma! (lol) David, I do want to emphasize that because of the nature of your relationship with your ex and how things transpired over the years between you and her, I’d strongly advise against making a direct amends to her. It is in your best interest to let bygones be bygones. Write a letter of apology to her in proxy, for example. Then keep the letter to yourself as a means of closure for you. Piercing her blue sky with your shared past is likely... No. Highly likely to be incredibly hurtful. You need to let go and keep moving forward…for you.
In the meantime, the insight you just demonstrated in this session today is a victory in itself! You now have eyes on the problem. And as you said yourself, you now can name the problem, learn about it and begin to do the work of healing—becoming emotionally healthy by feeling your feelings. Not running from them.
I’m very proud of the courage you’re showing, right here, right this moment. You’re standing strong and keep moving forward. Okay? How’s that sound to you?
Um…I think you helped me to reframe the diagnosis and how I feel about myself, that is, if the diagnosis is legit. Your caveat about make amends is duly noted and overstood! (LOL)
Ha! WELL, of course. Touch not. Taste not. Handle not. Also name or no name for your struggles, you still have a grasp on what you are experiencing. You have insight and tools you’ve gained in treatment. You’d need to use them either way.
That is true. I mean, my psychiatrist encouraged me to learn about it until our next session. So I guess I could say that at least I feel empowered to take responsibility for my health and pray for the next right step, diagnosis or not.
Exactly! And please don’t get me wrong. I understand the importance and sense of hope you probably feel to name what ails you. :) Please be encouraged by that. I have so much hope for your, David! Truly!
Thank you for saying that. :) I see that things aren’t so black and white in my life. They just are, I think. Yeah. :) I will remember that this is all a process and to have compassion for myself in the gray. Gray as just so happens to be the terms on which life prescribes that I come correct. The rule and not the exception.
Agreed! You are doing the work, David. Allow your head and your heart to dwell richly with the Lord. And allow him to help you mix your head and your heart. You’re more ahead of the game than you might think. Keep going and keep being courageous. Just remember that you are not alone and that you don’t have to do the work of recovery alone. Many people try to lonewolf their way through. So few of them find joy and happiness though, despite their seeming outward success. You are so precious to God and made rich by what he’s doing in you. He loves you unspeakably. Please know that and keep your eyes on him.
Amen! Thank you! It’s been really great talking with you, and evaluating where my head is. I feel like this was a fruitful one-on-one session. :)
It has been a pleasure meeting with you today.
‘Til next time. See you later. :)
Okay. Enjoy your afternoon! See you next week.