Thursday, May 24, 2007

having one's atoms rearranged is not always a pleasant thing

I've mentioned Dialectical Behavioral Therapy in previous posts; the once-weekly two hour group sessions and then an individual therapy session are making a huge difference in my life -- I can see the positive changes. It's all very solid and skills based -- practical skills to help sensitive people transform into sturdy sensitive people. I've held for many years that insights -- even brilliant, life-changing ones -- are only so helpful without a plan of action.

My last big moment o'truth came when my therapist and I were talking about how hard it is for me to hang on to positive emotions -- I finish something I'm proud of, or have a good day -- and then I come home and want to avoid how I'm feeling by eating something yucky or wandering around to WalMart (only if it's late and nothing else is open -- still, it feels gross).

So N (that's my therapist) gently suggests that one of the reasons I might be afraid of holding on to positive feelings is because in the past, I had trouble distinguishing between positive feelings and mania.

It was a huge moment. YES. This weird avoidance thing (I mean, why would anyone want to avoid feeling good) wasn't just about self-esteem, or the manic cycles that occur when I work my heart out getting something done (and don't get enough sleep) and then crash into a deep depression (boy, howdy, that's a lot of fun).

But the REALLY AMAZING part of the revelation was that I knew that I am learning the observational skills to discern:

oh, this is what happy feels like.
oh, this is what mania feel like.

I can check in with my body -- happiness feels very flowy, and even excitement feels like it's coming inside and flowing outward. I feel very certain when I'm happy. I feel grateful.

Mania feels like it's coming at me -- and I breathe funny.

So I've got these mad skills to put my brilliant moments of self-reflection (and the trusted observations of those around me) to work.

I'm learning, slowly, to bear all kinds of emotions. I remember the first time I watched "sad" get born, then crest and fall. And I survived without distracting myself with some kind of not-so-helpful behavior.

Some people may be born with the ability to exist with their emotions quite naturally. I spent years fighting them, and with good reason -- sometimes, they were way scary, and out of control.

I'd like to say I'm gracefully accepting these good, positive changes in my life, but I am sometimes scared. Between Tuesday's therapy and Wednesday's group session, I'm a often a wreck by Wednesday night. And then there is this _life_ that I'm supposed to lead. Your life is the laboratory, N said to me last night, as I sat clutching my cell phone, weeping in my car in the WalMart parking lot (that's a whole 'nother story).

Basically, I feel these shifts happening at the atomic level in my being, but feel like I have to keep the outside looking pretty much the same -- all right folks, keep moving, nothing is going on over here!

Sometimes I just get tired.

Sometimes even the good changes are exhausting.

In this moment, however, I feel hopeful.

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