I reached my 60th birthday having lost quite a bit of emotional and psychological baggage yet finding myself still struggling with some nagging neurosis. Do they prevent me from working? No. Do they occupy more than I want of my waking hours? Yes, at times. Have they prevented me from fulfilling my potential? Maybe. Have they helped me fulfil my potential? Sometimes.
I’m not referring to mental health issues that are in the psychosis family, like washing your hand 100 times a day, or are life threatening. I am referring to those annoying attributes that show up at my life water cooler. The ones that surprise me when I am least expecting them.
I don’t want to spend my next millennium, or 20 years, in therapy. I’m over myself. I would like to just be and Get Out OF MY OWN WAY.
Getting Out of My Own Way Takes Work
My therapist has helped me transcend serious abuse, PTSD from post conflict zones, OCD, all of which resulted in addictive behaviors like too much wine, weed, control issues and over exercising. I thought I was high functioning until she put me on a detox regime from these behaviors.
Without any coping mechanisms, I hadflashbacks that felt 24/7 and nightmares all night long; I was ready for the fifth floor – or wherever they take you when you have a nervous breakdown. I called Dr. C, a psychiatrist.
“You’re not going crazy, though it feels like it based on your serious history of traumatic events. Without your usual numbing and detachment mechanisms you’re feeling them and processing them.” Dr. C added that he was intrigued I was using the Bhagavad Gita as a roadmap to my sanity as he rolled his eyes and prescribed Cymbalata.
After many months, I was reborn into a different person san addiction. Perhaps closer to the soul I came into this world with.
I began to find a healthy stride and confidence remembering my best 12-year-old self. Confident, self-possessed… a tom boy who fished for hours in the evening on the Peconic Bay, climbed trees and studied marine biology because I wanted to go to Woods Hole Institute and dive deep deep into the ocean.
I could spend an entire day on a fishing trawler hauling nets off Montauk Point. My 12-year-old self lived without criticism and in the moment with engagement and often joy. A series of very unfortunate events changed that, but I got serious about therapy and mentally, emotionally and physically detoxed.
So, at 57, I bought the best horse of my life, started playing polo, exercised for fitness not obsession and relaxed my eating habits. I cut toxic people, boyfriends, rested, mediated, and stopped going all day on a chocolate donut. I was living a life of peace, little anxiety and contentment.
Then, a college student, texting and driving, slammed into me from behind, sending me into a concrete pillar and accordioning my car and head. I didn’t see it coming. The accident scrambled my brain AND WORSE, the faith I had regained in the universe was shattered. This was concussion number five.
Now, my brain just shuts down randomly, not remembering words, people, or what I did two hours ago. I have to adjust so that I don’t get overstimulated. Too much noise, loud restaurants, a lot of physical exercise, new situations, and backing out of a parking spot at Walmart can tax my brain to tilt. Then I have to sit in the quiet and cool place for an hour or two with no stimulation.
Slowly, I found my footing, again, after two years of being depressed, pissed off and discombobulated. But I yelled at my therapist last week because she brought up a core issue regarding selling my farm. She knows – and I know – that I am always couching existential aloneness. I’ve filled this void with nature and animals since I was five years old, and it’s been my sanctuary for 55 years. It’s all I have left.
“How much navel gazing do I need?! All this therapy is not a good thing!” My mood darkened after our session. I slept poorly and woke cradling my mother’s old sweater.
Like many things, this unwanted navel gazing provided me with space to question. What is it I want? And was I pursing polo, publishing, dating apps out of joy or trauma? Am I crippling, protecting, or freeing myself?
Trauma Needs Support
Trauma results when we go through trauma alone. When we have support we get strong.
Because I do not like to appear weak, I rarely tell anyone what’s going on in my life, but I do tell my therapist, who is like the divine mother. She is understanding but will, on occasion, tell me to buck up. Still, she’s always right, and it forces me to take a hard look at myself.
Because I have periods of self-reflection between our discussions, she facilitates my self-awareness and, ultimately, my strength. Two days after my rant, I had a realization and another chink in my craziness abated. I sold the goats and called a real estate agent, more relieved than sad.
My ultimate goal is to try and leave this mortal coil with the smallest luggage. It hurt to face my core pain, but it is only in facing it that I released it… releasing it… release it.
Go in peace, and be easy on yourself, please.
Let’s Have a Conversation:
Are you in your own way? Have you tried changing direction? What luggage are you carrying that you probably need to get rid of?