“[I]t’s something I’m just starting to work out myself, but the manic depression actually feels or seems in retrospect as though it was much easier in comparison to deal with. Maybe it has to do with the bipolar depressions being fake, something forced on us by random chemical hotshots. But the clinical ones… those are the real ones.”
“…It Turns Out Real Depressions Have Reasons And Causes You Actually Have To Work Through”; October 28, 2007
“I’ve never taken responsibility for my Clinical Depression… besides ignoring the things which have happened in my life to my life, my way of dealing with those Things has been to just change direction. I think… maybe… that I’ve been taking responsibility for other peoples faults because I’ve never taken responsibility for treating the faults done to me, or those I’ve done to others.”
“Taking The Razor Blades Out Of My Homemade Cookies…”; June 4, 2007
“[T]he best I’ve been able to do on my own is not to be dead and I think I’m needing a lot more help than feeling like I don’t want to kill myself. I don’t mean taking the pills and the advances I’ve made dealing with the clinical depressions hasn’t been important. Just that, essentially, all of the work I’ve put in so far has brought me to this point… and it’s pretty freaking blunt.”
“Looking Forward To An Intervention Any Day Now”; February 12, 2008
On the last day of Camp in 1986 some of us were wandering around the gathering circle saying our last goodbyes, waiting for the buses to arrive to take the last few campers back to Montreal. A married couple, a counsellor and one of the kitchen staff, approached me. He held out an enormous brown bible and handed it to me.
I’m always asking myself how I should react when people tell me I’m worthy of their respect. A few days after I accepted the bible we were all preparing to leave the weekend Youth Camp — basically just a few extra days for the adults to unwind and celebrate the end of the summer. We were in the same gathering circle only this time I was the only sixteen-year old in a group of adults.
The same man who had offered me his bible came over and gave me a hug. Between his chest and mine my sunglasses, hanging from their string, broke at both hinges. He backed away immediately and apologized and I told him not to worry about a thing. I simply and quickly looked at him right in the eye and I said “don’t worry about it, they were cheap anyway.”
And he said “…that’s what I like about you Gabriel, things go wrong and you just move past it right away.”
But I don’t think I moved past it. I don’t think I’ve moved past any of it.
In August of 1986 Jim E. gave me his prison bible. He was a criminal who had been sent to jail for years, and while he was inside he committed his life to Christ. When he got out he counselled children and worked in the Church. He would stand in front of groups of people and start a conversation with “hello, my name is Jim and I am an ex-con, an alcoholic and an addict.” He worked to make himself and those around him better.
And in August of 1986 he walked up to me, put his hand on my shoulder and gave me the bible he had received in prison and had carried with him ever since.
And now, for the first time, I can see the feelings which come to me from those two images — the broken glasses and the prison bible — are at the very core of my clinical depressions.
This past Friday my psychiatrist and I started using Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) again as part of my therapy.
EMDR is about choosing a memory which causes you distress then, while holding two alternating lights and listening to an alternating sound and concentrating on both, you let your mind push through the memory and and gain some understanding in the feelings associated with the image.
The image I focused on during the appointment was of a Canadian poet named Colin Morton looking at me and telling me I’m worthy to be published. I took a college writing course in 1996 which he taught. During the course he said exactly that, but the problem wasn’t I didn’t believe him, the problem is and has been I don’t believe I’m worthy of any kind of praise or acknowledgement.
Whether it’s coming from Mr. Morton or from Jim E., I’m just not worthy.
So why did they do it? Why would Jim E. hand me something so obviously special to him? Well, obviously, that’s what Evangelicals do. It had nothing to do with me, it had everything to do with him fulfilling a central tenet of Evangelicalism which is to do good while helping someone move closer to accepting Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
And why would Mr. Morton, a multiple award winning poet who once served as writer-in-residence at Montreal’s Concordia College, hand back my poems and write in their margins that I should submit them for publication? Because he was a teacher and that’s what teachers do.
By the end of the EMDR session I had come close to figuring out why I have been so willing to dismiss those people, and all of the others, as being overly charitable by assigning motives to their acknowledgements. But I’m not there yet. At least I’m not able to adequately describe the “why’s” of my dismissals yet. Every time I get a glimpse of what’s there my brain turns away like there’s something lewd or dangerous sitting just beside me.
I think there’s something very telling in the otherwise minor incident with the sunglasses and my unthinking acceptance of their loss, and the surprise, even admiration in Jim’s reaction to my quick acceptance.
How can I react to broken sunglasses when I haven’t reacted to what my father has or hasn’t done to and with me? How am I supposed to get upset at a girl leaving me when I’ve never gotten upset about my father not wanting me in his life?
How can I be worthy of the respect of a total stranger when I’m not worthy of the respect of my own father?
I throw around memories then tell people they mean nothing to me. I’ll tell you all about how my father abandoned me and his two other sons, then ask if you need anything from the store because I’m going there anyway. One equals the other in terms of emotion and even context.
When someone offers me something of value my immediate reaction is to hand it back. My shoes are five years old and have giant cuts worn into the heels. My parents have offered to buy me new ones, I’ve turned them down. My grandfather offers to buy me a leather reclining couch, I talk him down to the $200 steel futon with the busted springs. My brother buys me a PS3 and I give my mother grief because it’s worth a months rent.
I helped a friend while he was kicking a crack addiction, and when he thanked me I told him it was no big deal. I helped another friend build his brewery, and when he came over to tell me how much he appreciated my help I told him I hardly did anything.
But I think what I was really doing was waiting to find out just how thankful they were.
I think some of my resistance to accepting help or even gratitude over so many years has been because by resisting it leaves open the possibility other people, or another person, will have the opportunity to show how much, or how little, they care about me.
For example, I think some of my reluctance to seek treatment for the manic depression during the fourteen years I was untreated came from wanting other people to prove to me either they cared enough to do something, or that I was worthy of someone’s effort.
And all of those years where no one in my family took an interest in the disease, or offered any solutions beyond an occasional bag of groceries, just fed the feelings of not being worthy of anyone’s respect.
And why date? Why haven’t I asked the woman down the street, the photographer, out for dinner? Because dating has only meant bringing more people into my life who will ultimately not respect me enough to offer solutions to my problems.
Why can’t I give a speech without shaking and stammering? Why do I have such a hard time thinking when I’m being confronted? Why does it take me twenty minutes to write a comment on another blog, and why do I delete most of them anyway? Why do I freak out when my blog hits spike?
Why am I so uncomfortable in new groups? Why am I so willing to live with a sink permanently filled with dishes, and wearing dirty clothes, and on and on and on and on…
The idea behind EMDR is to move slowly through these memories, my psychiatrist described the process as taking a train on a route with many stops. It’s important to move slowly so as to not get overwhelmed with the feelings and the memories.
The last time we tried this was last Spring (I think) and we centred it on the relationship I have with my grandfather. Specifically him wanting to spend so much time with my much younger cousin, as well as constantly praising his work habits.
I’m not comfortable in these memories because I always feel like I’m a step or two away from breaking down. Just writing this little piece, for example, took four days and a lot of GTA4 breaks. Working through the train of thoughts and emotion associated with the memories of my grandfather took a lot of energy, and there was a constant feeling of my heart being squeezed. Like it does now.
But I have gained a clarity of thought from the work we did on those memories. At least I have a better understanding of what the lack of emotional connection with him while I was a child has meant to me as an adult. So it’s going to be interesting to see where this train goes…