Summing up today’s visit with Dr. Awesomesauce, I am reminded of the old MasterCard commercials:
Psychiatric Visit: $349.00
Gas to get to office: $3.19/gal.
Validation of your worth as a human being: Priceless.
I hate it when people blame their parents for everything that’s wrong with them, but I wish to high heaven that mine had made me feel I was worth something when I was growing up. Maybe I wouldn’t have to pay someone to do it if there hadn’t always been conditions attached to their love for me, and I learned early in life that their goals would remain unfailingly out of my reach (hence, my lifelong fear of other peoples’ expectations). That was why I didn’t recognize the kind of love and acceptance Will offered me when we got together; it took me literally years to allow for the possibility of it, and even longer to understand it a little.
Even so, I don’t think I’ll ever grasp the concept of unconditional love entirely, despite the fact that I love my kids that way. They never had to do anything to “earn” my love, it was theirs from the first breath they breathed; and with the possible exception of that oldest boy of mine, they knew it. No matter how rotten I could be (during a mood swing or otherwise), no matter how angry or selfish or petty I got—and sometimes I was pretty bad—they never questioned whether or not I loved them. They have told me this, and I believe them.
So with all this love surrounding me, how is it that I need a mental health professional to tell me that I myself am loved that way—by more people than I realize—and what’s more, that I’m worthy of it, even though I have this condition that frustrates me endlessly and makes me hard to live with?
Because I’m sick. Because I’m a mess. Because I’m rotten at my core and I have this stinking cesspool at the bottom of my soul.
On an intellectual level, I know that’s bullshit. I used to NOT know that on any level, so understanding it with my brain is progress of a sort. I only wish my heart didn’t still believe it a little, and that I could stop confusing my psychiatric issues with a deficiency of personal integrity. I mean, I know right from wrong, I’ve always had a strong sense of morality, and of course as a clinician I don’t judge anyone else for having a disease that they didn’t cause and didn’t ask for. So why do I judge myself?
Today, however, I may have taken the first baby steps toward wholeness. I was discussing my exasperation with losing bits and pieces of me to the illness when Dr. A smiled sympathetically and said in the most sincere tone I’ve ever heard: “I’m sorry”. My immediate reaction was to say “It’s not your fault”……and then it occurred to me that it wasn’t mine either. And I even admitted as much.
That’s when he told me that my mood swings were becoming less extreme and that I was actually making good progress. “Well, I’m glad you think so because I’m so OVER this I could scream,” I protested. “I can’t keep living like this—I’m sick and tired of it, and I wish I wasn’t like this.”
Ever the realist, Dr. A gave my shoulder a squeeze and said “I know…but then, you wouldn’t be you, and we LOVE you!” Uh-oh—there’s that unconditional acceptance thing again! But as he walked me to the desk to check out, I realized that it was the very same kind of acceptance I get right in my own backyard for free……the kind that’s available to me every single day of my life because of the people in it.