7 weeks / What comes next
Categories: Mental Health
I just recently got back from a trauma treatment center, in which I spent 7 weeks and 2 weeks in a hospital prior. It was a long time coming, despite the progress I’ve made, which is evidenced well by the fact that in the post prior to this one, I likened my mental illnesses to a terminal disease.
Obviously too much happened in those 7 weeks to be covered in one single post, so my intention is to succinctly list the major breakthroughs I had there, then expound upon them later.
- Addressing Suicidal Ideation for the first time
- Practicing emotional intimacy with men
- Rediscovering my true self
- Learning to ask for what I need
- Discovering my Inner Child & his needs
- Rediscovering why I hate myself: shame
- Uncovered self-destructive tendencies (self-sabotage, wallowing, reinforcing learned helplessness)
- Learned DBT & other skills
- Discovering Sexual/Intimacy Anorexia
- Discovering myself as a Sexual/Sensual being
- Setting up plans & warnings for my return
- Spiritual Reawakening. Radical Acceptance, baby!
This is an abbreviated list, actually. I kept a journal my entire time there and came out with 150 pages. But above are the bits that are particularly relevant in my journey.
I’ve now been back in the real world for almost 10 days, and without getting into any of the above things too much, my time thus far has been very, very challenging.
When I first arrived at the treatment center, I thought that I was mostly there for one-on-one sessions with a therapist. But not too far along, I discovered that the community there was truly going to be one of the most helpful experiences during my stay. I discovered many friends and mentors, and even with the people that I did not regularly engage with, I felt that I was understood. I could say anything to anyone. Then, I came home, and I was literally surrounded by thousands of strangers who did not understand. Even to those close to me -family, friends, colleagues- I felt utterly exposed. I spent 7 weeks tearing down walls, but I was never told that I’d have to build them back up again. Suddenly, I was alone. Emotionally. And it was terrifying.
But I was able to manage it, for the most part, with Radical Acceptance. I accepted it as a part of the process, and I felt as if I was standing in the surf, bracing myself against the waves. If I could just survive the big initial wave, slowly it would die down. I did all that I knew to handle it: I meditated, I told family members of all my warnings signs, and I pushed myself to keep from isolating without it being destructive. All in all, I felt pretty good. Little did I know that the big wave was yet to come.
For a multitude of reasons, all of which are pretty dang objectively valid, I was extremely anxious about going back to my apartment for the first time. I knew that I needed someone else there with me, just for a little while. But the day that was supposed to happen, I was having such intense anxiety that I felt myself giving up, a very serious warning sign I had identified for myself. I was so proud of myself for identifying it, and I shared it with a family member. I said “I feel this coming on.” But their response was, ultimately, nothing. They let me go back to my apartment alone, where I’d discover several panic-inducing situations & less-than-healthy coping skills yet to be removed from the vicinity.
I tell this story not to garner sympathy, but because ultimately, it yielded a positive result: I got mad. I got mad at that family member for letting me go. For not appreciating the warning signs that I made a specific point to state. For not noticing when I was unstable when people who knew me for less than 2 months could. Basically, for not caring. Not in any way I could feel.
Then, I had a wonderful, glorious thought that got my therapist very excited when I told her: I deserve better. I had spent 7 weeks in a place where I’d developed many friendships, and even more than that, love. Concern. Care. And, coming back from that, I knew that I deserved better than having to lead people every step when I need help. I felt betrayed initially, but I wasn’t; I was just depending on people to meet my needs when they couldn’t. And my reaction was “Fine. I’ll go find people who will.”
And I have, to an extent. I’ve been much more proactive in seeking intimacy (in any form), but to the point that it’s become detrimental. I’ve become so well acquainted with this feeling of being alone, of longing for companionship, that I’ve been seriously neglecting myself. Instead of doing things that I know that I need, mostly meditation, I find myself putting it off. I cling to the list of things I’ve made to do upon my return. When that feeling of loneliness, or hopelessness, or any of the other mental demons arises, instead of meeting them as I know I should, I think “I need to not be alone.” Which is not a bad thought, by any means, but after the social engagement, the feeling quickly returns, and I sit waiting for the next opportunity to be with another person.
It’s very easy to meditate when you literally have nothing else to do. Now, it feels like I’m falling behind with every minute I meditate, even though a mere 15 minutes a day would do wonders. I find myself repeatedly looking at my todo list as if it were a lottery ticket. Watching Netflix, as if it’s time sensitive. Browsing Facebook, for god’s sake.
It only compounds itself. Meditation requires sitting with unpleasant sensations and emotions. That’s part of the reason I’ve been avoiding it, because it’s really unpleasant when I give it my full attention, at least initially. But no meditation means being less centered & present, which means higher anxiety, which means more intense sensations. Which means a larger urge to not meditate.
So really, that’s been by far my biggest stressor. Despite the very valid reasons to be anxious I’ve had to meet head on, I’ve made a decision to carry them around with me by not meeting them mindfully. It needs to change, now. I’m both proud of myself that I’ve recognized this behavior pattern in a short amount of time and also ashamed that I’ve let it happen, but both are irrelevant. Carrying either of them with me is just as much as distraction as Facebook.
When it comes down to it, the answer for “What next?” for me is simple, and it’s one I’ve run into countless other times: meditate.