“[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…
I read this three times and I still am not quite sure what to say. I want to say something helpful and witty, like something Dorothy Parker would come up with but less acerbic. So try and imagine that.
In lieu of that. Breaking down isn’t a bad thing. Everything that comes together breaks apart – I think that is a buddhist thing. Maybe breaking down around whatever it is that leaves you with all these whys will get you closer to understanding them, maybe you’ll chip away at the neuroses and get an answer. I dunno. All I can say is that sometimes the most profound things I have realised have been when I’ve broken down.
I think the problem with breaking down is that you have to then pick yourself back up again. It sounds like with the new treatment, you go slowly enough to be able to move through the memories, without the totality of breaking down. Breaking down leaves me a shell. Leaves me insecure and ashamed and then I have to concentrate on becoming secure and proud before I can address that which broke me down. Just my opinion.
As a teacher, no, we wouldn’t tell you to publish just b/c we’re teachers and that is what we do. A good teacher would not encourage you to do that if he/she thought you would fail at it. And i would agree with the teacher also. You’re an amazing writer.
This therapy sounds really good for you. With the trauma that you have experienced in your life, you need to move slowly. There are a lot of layers to get through and they need to be addressed in order, I think.
I wish you the best of luck with it. Though, I don’t think you need luck. Your perseverence and dedication to beating your disease will get push you through.
I still don’t fully understand some of your thoughts and actions on the praise issue, so I don’t know what to say there. You have explained it many times and in great detail, but I still don’t get it………just dense I suppose.
Hi bromac… I think it all comes from this:
“How can I be worthy of the respect of a total stranger when I’m not worthy of the respect of my own father?” So how can I be worthy of praise from others when I’ve never heard praise from my father?
And then there’s this which I wrote not too long ago:
“Compliments, as I wrote in my comment on the post, do feel good. I do encourage them. I have received them in the past and I’m still alive and, without a doubt, better off for them. My problem is not being able to believe them, or to be able to accept them as they’re generally meant… as acknowledgement of having done something well.”
The therapy technique sounds nifty (for lack of a better word). I hope you find it helpful as you move through things.
A life lesson from my children: a key component of learning to walk, is learning how to fall.
No matter how many times they fell, they wanted to walk so bad they just kept persisting. Amazing little people. In some sense, you’re learning to walk again.. which means learning to fall too. Eventually you’ll learn to fall in ways that don’t hurt as much.
You said: “How can I be worthy of the respect of a total stranger when I’m not worthy of the respect of my own father?”
The only way that I can think to respond to this is to relate a bit of my own story. My father made it clear to me from a very young age that I would never be good enough for him. That there was an inherent flaw in me that could not be overcome. As I was a child I attempted to please him anyway and failed every single time. The only time the man ever said anything nice to me was a few days before he took his own life. But that was his way of saying goodbye and I have not been able to accept his words as true even after 16 years.
Hearing this it should come as no surprise that I have difficulties forming intimate relationships because I simply don’t trust the guys that I date. Any negative comment is perceived as a threat.
I also find it hard to believe positive feedback but have been working on this and have made some headway in this area. Generally after I take some time to process what was said I can start to accept it as true. But it’s hard and varies day by day.
Enjoy the journey.
Self-awareness is a precious thing. It’s wonderful you’re starting to see some things in you and that happened to you more clearly. That can really help get past them. Yay for you 🙂
Pingback: Tired Of Only Burning My Candle At Both Ends I Tossed It Into The Fire So Now Look At Me Burn « …salted lithium.
gabe, i’ve owed you an email for forever. please forgive me. but i do always keep an eye on you, despite my helen keller’isms. my intentions are good — it’s my lethargy that gives me a horrible reputation.
as for this post, in particular — well, i’d only be silly to praise it, right? but the familiarities, connections, and recollections put me in my place. you’re not alone, and that makes me feel not alone, and i thank you for that. self worth aint in my vocabulary. and it limits my voice.
thank you for putting this in print, from your heart and soul. i wish i had your courage.
and yeah, you’ve got courage. lots.
again, forgive me for not being in touch, not in a ‘forgive me’ way, but in a ‘i so very much appreciate what you say’ way.
i really admire and appreciate you, buddy. =)
wow. what the above poster said.
i am sometimes so floored by your writing that you leave me speechless on how to respond.
it does take a tremendous amount of courage to not only explore these issues with your psychiatrist but an even greater amount of courage for sharing your thoughts and vulnerabilities with us.
i think it’s safe to say that a lot of us find solace in your work and thank you for having this site running. it gives us a chance to reflect and process things in our own lives that we’re grappling with.
so thank you for that and keep that train runnin’!
(oh yeah – and that poet was spot on)
Pingback: No Post Day | Spirit Guide « …salted lithium.