Walking into that quiet waiting room, I suddenly have the urge to turn around and run. I tell myself I don’t belong here. But I made the appointment and the doctor has set aside this hour to see me. Being the person I am, with an irrational fear of being considered a flake, I take a seat. Staring down at the daunting amount of personal questions I have to put a check mark next to, that “White Coat Syndrome” I developed after my father’s hospital stint sets in full force.
A door opens slowly and an older woman with a kind smile calls me back. We make our introductions, I find a seat, and then she asks the dreaded question: why am I here? This is what I’d been practicing for, all the things I thought I wanted to talk about, all of the emotions I’d been experiencing, culminating into this moment. And suddenly I’m speechless, holding back a flood of tears. This is not what I wanted. I wanted to come in strong and put everything out onto the table in a calculated manner and get some direct answer sprinkled with some constructive criticism, maybe a suggested book to read, and then be on my way.
Once I’ve gathered myself, I began with what I considered to be the most catastrophic, emotionally debilitating event thus far; the death of my father. How abrupt and traumatic the events leading up to his death were; how I felt there was no closure, no way of knowing if he heard what I was saying to him or how I felt about him; dealing with the aftermath of his passing; grieving alongside my child who was old enough to understand the gravity of the situation and close enough to my father to feel a significant void. We talk about grief, what a complex process it is, one that can’t be rushed. I tell her I feel that was “the straw that broke the camel’s back”, the event that led to an emotional and mental landslide and a handful of rash decisions.
Naturally, the conversation gravitated toward the next big event, the one I did have control over; the divorce. The guilt pours in. I tell her how difficult it was to have so many people that were once family, turn against me, not knowing both sides of the story that was my marriage. How tough of a pill it was to swallow to be the bad guy, to be cut off completely by people I was invested in for over a decade of my young life. I explain the 180 degree turn my life had taken since then, the overwhelmingly lonely moments of solitude I was faced with when I wasn’t out surrounding myself with strangers in an effort to avoid reality. I tell her why I ran. That relationship wasn’t me. As many times as we’ve heard it said before, I didn’t know who I was. This quote explains it better than I can: “And then she realized she had devoted a whole book to someone who treated her like a footnote. So she put down the pen and stop writing.” ~ Mandy Hale. I stopped writing because I had stopped caring years before. I was slowly worn down with the responsibility, with feeling unappreciated, unexcited, the sting still there deep down from hateful words I had absorbed as a young woman, as well as the embarrassment that came from hiding repeated physical abuse.
In that hour, we covered many of the contributing factors to my current state of anxiety and what some would consider self-destruction. We talked about the unhealthy relationship I was in at the time, the history of dysfunction in the family, my rigorous religious upbringing alongside my immediate family dynamic, and my fears for my children’s future in a split family. We set up another appointment and parted ways.
I realized after that meeting that what we all want: a black-and-white answer, a quick fix, doesn’t usually exist. There is no magical pill that can force us to let go of regret, to teach us how to redirect our thoughts or how to talk to ourselves in a healthy manner, or to be patient in our relationships with others. That part is completely up to us and determines our commitment to cultivating a life worth living. I was reminded of the value in being heard, and sorting through what’s been accumulating in our minds with the intent of understanding it ourselves and being understood. And just as there is no magical pill or magical word to cure the past and what’s hindering us in the present, there also exists no perfect set of circumstances, no ideal environment in which to be raised. We have all seen imperfection at its finest and endured things that have set us back. We though, are solely responsible for our own happiness and we should never feel guilty or apologetic for taking whatever measures necessary to accomplish this.
“I’ve changed. Irrevocably. Permanently. My soul is richer and my heart is fuller in brokenness than it ever was without. I’ve learned true despair, and it’s made me learn to appreciate true joy.” ~ Annonymous