You might be saying, “Ah, yes, of course – exactly what a woman in her early 30s would be talking to her therapist about: babies.” Wrong! This “baby talk” was something completely different. As an abused child, I was forced to care for myself from a very early age. I was essentially an adult since the day I was born. This meant that I didn’t go through many of the developmental steps that children typically experience.
As we progress through the healing process, I am moving through variety of stages. Recently, I have been discussing my existential awakening and exploring my anger towards the shittiness of life (at least up until recently). (Yay! Happy fun times! – not!) So this week, we began discussing how this process is like being reborn as a complete person, which means going back and trying to correct the damage done through the first half of life by redeveloping. Right now, apparently, I am in my “baby stage” where all I want to do is eat, shit and sleep – which pretty much describes my last week. It’s been a tough fight to even get out of bed long enough to eat. You might say this sounds like depression, which it kind of is, but not in the same way that I’ve felt depression before (which I have – a lot!). I’m calling this “progressive depression”. It is a necessary side-effect of the therapeutic process.
There is a perception that you go to therapy, blame all your issues on your parents, tell off your parents and then you walk away feeling great. At least that was my perception for a long time – or that therapy is for really crazy people. Neither perception is actually true, though we do deal with issues regarding my parents (see Daddy Issues), it is not about blame, it is about recognizing the root of your emotions so as to acknowledge them and free yourself of the hold they have on you. Yelling at your parents, exes, friends, siblings, etc. won’t fix any of the issues that haunt your daily life, but facing these issues and breaking their grasp will. In my case, I would be pretty doomed if the only solution was to tell off my parents; my father is dead and my mother wouldn’t hear me, even if I tired.
No, the only way out is through; through all the shitty emotions: pain, anger, sadness, suffering, hate, frustration… I’ll think of more, but you get the point. It sucks! And more importantly, it’s scary!!! I don’t like feeling like crap all the time, I don’t want to knowingly walk towards depression, but I do. And I continue to do so even though for the past week my most comforting thought was “wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could just sleep forever and never face the world again?!” Before you call the suicide hotline, don’t worry, I’m not even close to that (again, lots of experience feeling suicidal). This depression has a grain of hope within it, which is something my previous bouts of depression never contained. This is why I call it “progressive depression”; it is a stop on the journey to something better. Something that needs to be experienced in order to get to that grain of hope on the other side. There is order and focus to it, where regular depression is aimless. It is also the first time I feel like I’m really alive. I can feel, which you don’t normally do during depression.
Regular depression, you feel dead inside. Everything is just shit and you don’t know why. You can’t care about anything, especially yourself; you cry all the time, but don’t really know what for (the fact that you can’t really feel anything is my guess, looking back now). You stop eating, you stop getting dressed. Even when you smile or laugh, it is external. It is like you can see yourself laughing and having fun, but it doesn’t ever really touch you inside. It sits on the surface, for the public, and inside you wish you could feel as happy as you appear, but there is nothing. You don’t connect. That is real depression.
“Progressive Depression” (not a real medical term) is the opposite: you feel everything!!! (Possibly, for the first time in your life.) To use my therapist’s analogy, it is like your armour is crumbling and the skin beneath is being exposed for the first time. There are a lot of amazing sensations, but also a lot of very shitty ones (I know I’m using that word a lot in the post, please excuse the vulgarity, the feelings are pretty vulgar feelings, so it is the most apt descriptor). It is a lot to take in and even more to deal with. Hence, my therapist makes the comparison to being a new born baby. It is sensory overload and takes some time to process all these new feelings; it may seem really shitty for a while. Think of what babies must think once they are born. Up to that point, they lived comfortably in their mother’s womb: always warm, food whenever necessary, no need to chew or swallow, no pooping or pissing, if you have a craving, a signal gets sent to your mom’s brain and she fulfills it; no expectations, no demands – in short, life is pretty awesome! Then, you get expelled into this world where there are lots of new and amazing things and it is all shiny and things happen that are beyond your wildest conception, BUT… it is cold and you have to rely on other people for food and sometimes it is too hot and you can fall and cut your face or get your nails trimmed or take a bath or any number of other awful things that can happen simply by being alive. So, it takes them a while to become comfortable and grow into this new environment and they get tired. Every time a baby wakes up there is something new to process and that takes a lot of energy, so they need to sleep and eat a lot. That is what is happening in life now. I’m a baby in the new world of feelings and it is a tiring process. All I want to do is sleep and eat – much like a baby.
I wasn’t entirely on board with this whole philosophy (which is generally my response to most of what she says, until the lightbulb goes off and suddenly it all makes sense and I remember why I do everything she tells me). As I write this, I’m getting more and more on board with this idea. Not because the “homework” she assigned this week was to “nurse the baby” aka eat and sleep as much as I want, but because the analogy is beginning to make sense. It has been a really hard journey to this point and I am facing a whole new world of emotion and it is TIRING! I have the time this week, so I’m taking her advice and taking a break.
I have spent my whole life running. Trying to move beyond the world I was born into. Trying to “make something” of myself. I have feared that if I slow down, I die. It’s time to pause. I am continually trying to accomplish more and more, but now, I need to acknowledge my emotional accomplishments and take care of that aspect of my being. The world is saying slow down and I need to listen.