Yesterday’s therapy visit was tough. I mean really tough.
As with each visit, I try to start out with my strengths: I (my mind) is feeling better. I (my mind) is getting stronger. I (my whole self) have made considerable strides to successfully navigate the world in this new me I’ve become since this latest bout with Anxiety and Depression started months ago.
I was feeling all hunky dory. Except for one thing.
I don’t like this new me I’ve become. I don’t like hanging out with myself. I feel like trash. I feel ineffective, inefficient … I feel less able to make an impact on the many things I try to do and accomplish in my life.
Therapist looks at me: “You are still depressed.”
I stared back for a few moments. I said (and I am paraphrasing here): “But I feel so much better than I did before. I can do so many more things than I was able to do just a few months ago. And I enjoy doing those things.” I then started to tear up and garble my words, “I just don’t feel like that snazzy self I use to feel like. I want the return of snazzy.” (Now I am all out bawling, tears pouring out of my eyes and snot coming out of my nose, bawling … for like a couple minutes.)
Therapist, looking at me with compassion, says (paraphrase): “You don’t like yourself. You are still depressed. You’ve changed because of this most recent bout with Depression and Anxiety. Your “self” has changed. It’s a Michael 3.0 or 4.0 or whatever version this is — because this has happened before. You are still learning who this new you is. And — (her look at me got real serious) — you are not going back to the old self. You can’t; it’s not possible.”
Therapist (paraphrase): “You are getting better. You are getting stronger. But you need to find a way to accept, then to like, then to love this new you. Take care of yourself. Really, take care of yourself. Do the things that you enjoy and find what you like about yourself while you are doing them. Slowly you’ll find parts of yourself that didn’t exist in the prior self that you’ll like too. But it’s going to take time, and it’s going to take work.
Therapist: “And some parts of you you aren’t going to like yet … until you learn how to navigate the world in this new you you’ve become. That’s just work … hard work.”
Another serious stare from the therapist: “Sometimes Anxiety surprises you. But there are some patterns. There are times — like actual days / times — when you know It’s going to hit you. Prepare for that. Don’t fight it. Let Anxiety sit right next to you. Acknowledge It. Live with the experience, because you know Anxiety loves a fight … so don’t fight. … And in those times, don’t do anything important. Just let it happen and rest.”
Therapist: “You are an anxious person. Accept that. This Depression you are still in, seems to be something about a stage of acceptance and work. You can do that.”
Lot’s more was said. More tears. Lot’s of me staring, trying to figure out if I was willing to hear what she was saying.
This morning my head hurts a lot. But what she said makes sense. (And my wife agrees.)
So where does that leave me? I am strong and getting stronger. I am learning to navigate the world in this new self. But before yesterday I guess I didn’t realize the journey I still have to plow through. And I am pretty depressed about all that.
I guess I just thought that with vast improvement I’ve seen in myself over the past couple months, the liking myself would come naturally as certain capabilities returned to my mind and body. But it’s more complicated than that. It’s not something that’s going to happen naturally. A lot of intentional self-care and intentional work will be required in the considerable time ahead.
To accept. To find new parts of myself I like. And then to learn how to navigate the world even better than I currently am because I am not yet operating at anywhere near 100%.
The “new 100% Michael” is not going to be the “old 100% Michael.” And there’s a lot of sadness attached to that … and a lot of fear.
But I am working … I will work … for the return of snazzy.