A Break from the Storm

My mood has improved significantly over the past few days. Maybe, it’s the warmer temperatures. Maybe, it’s the beautiful stormy skies. Maybe, it’s the time I’ve spent outside (when it wasn’t raining) cleaning up the yard a bit. Maybe, it’s simply the “physical” activity of the latter. I don’t know, but I’ll take it — whatever freed my mind and cleared the fog. The ruminating part of me that gets sucked into the void of negativity until I’m neck-deep-stuck-in-the-mud-of-a-hole-of-depression finally relented. She’s not gone; but she released the reins, so to speak. I have no way to explain this. I’m not so sure anyone would take me seriously if I tried. More often than not, I struggle to understand this aspect of my life. Explaining it to another person was never really an option as a result.

Today, my thoughts returned to goals and the two questions my therapist asked me during our final visit. While I had pushed them to the back of my mind before, today, these questions popped up, front and center. Coincidentally, I ran across the Bern Inventory of Treatment Goals checklist as I was glancing through the worksheets from last year’s visit to the crisis unit. I had forgotten about this checklist. Had my therapist given me a copy of this rather than asking the open-ended question, “What are your goals for therapy?,” I doubt I would have become so overwhelmed by the question. I do much better when choices are presented to me clearly, like choose between “a” or “b” rather than “pick a letter of the alphabet.”

Going through this checklist now, I managed to narrow down 5 goals that should have been my goals for therapy to begin with, rather than the open-ended format that got me nowhere and left me feeling unheard and invalidated. Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh; however, it is true in my mind and how I feel.

  • #6 …overcome my suicidal thoughts or regain the desire to live. Granted this first one on my list was never discussed during therapy this last time due to my fears of worsening the suicidal thoughts, fears of forced medication, and fears of involuntary hospitalization; but I really do need to figure out why I keep coming back to feeling so suicidal. Without the desire to live, I just don’t see how anything else is possible.
  • #39 …learn how to be more assertive with others and set appropriate boundaries. I often struggle to be assertive or to set boundaries. My guess is that I need more practice with these skills as much as needing a refresher in learning how to do these things. For example, knowing that I need a certain amount of alone time to feel capable of coping with life in general, I need to be able to assert this and set specific boundaries with others to be sure I get the time I require. I feel like #40 (learn how to handle other people’s reactions to my behavior) as well as #56 (clarify my needs and desires and learn how to express them more effectively) are actually part of this one. I need help with all 3, nonetheless.
  • #50 …come to terms with things that happened in the past. This one was the #1 reason why I returned to therapy to begin with! Flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, etc. were wreaking havoc on my sanity at that time. While these symptoms (for lack of a better word) come and go, they have been a part of my life for more than 17 years. Enough is enough. I NEED help with this one. I seriously don’t know how else to ask for it other than what I’ve already done.
  • #57 …figure out what my limits are and how to act accordingly. This one is fairly self-explanatory. I hate to hear people say, “The only limits you have are the limits you place on yourself,” or similar nonsense. That is such bull-shit! Seriously, would you tell a blind person to drive a car? (No offense intended to the blind, just the first example that popped into my head. Honestly, would you actually want to drive a car?) The point is — everyone has limits. The sooner you admit those to yourself, the better. I need help figuring out exactly what my limits are.
  • #63 …allow myself to experience feelings and express them more effectively. I am emotionally sensitive, so emotionally sensitive that I far too easily dissociate from my emotions without even realizing it. I want to experience my emotions, fully feeling them with the ability to express them through art or music or whatever method works at that moment. Right now, I feel completely detached from my emotions and more often than not, numb. Numb is a miserable feeling. I want a full range of emotions.

I could have added #18 (learn how to cope with my eating problems), but the checklist said choose 5. Since #18 deals with something that isn’t routinely acknowledged as a problem unless the person is severely underweight (and most certainly not at 42 years old), I doubt anyone would ever take my issues with food seriously, either. Well, that’s been my past experience with this issue; and my own avoidance of the issue makes this one much, much harder for me to address.

Yeah, this checklist would have made goal setting in therapy a lot easier. Now, without therapy, I’ll have to attempt to search for answers on my own. Although I’m no stranger to this strategy, I’m feeling particularly stubborn about this right now. Hurt and disappointment are especially triggering emotions for me that generally leave me punishing myself for the faults of others. I don’t know why. I wish I knew. My stubborn refusal to communicate this hurt and disappointment directly to the person who triggered it is further avoidance in admitting vulnerability.

I’ve run out of time to write tonight; so the question of “goals for this year” will have to wait until another time, though at this point, my goal for the year is pretty much simply to survive another year.

“Break In The Storm” by The Great Divide


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