Going back to school has been simultaneously the greatest blessing and the most heinous curse. That may sound like dramatic hyperbole, but after everything that’s happened to me since going back, you can humor me.
School has given me a hope that I might one day truly be free the control of my abusive ex-husband and his family. And it has pushed me up the edge of a cliff that some days I’ve wondered if I will be able to keep myself from going over.
Such was my mind in late January and early February of this year. That was when I finally started to read a book a friend had recommended to me, The Body Keeps the Score. As I’ve mentioned many times before, that book began something in my mind that set me on a path of mental freedom, if nothing else.
The problem with tasting the beginnings of freedom was that I knew that I could never actually achieve it because I lack the funds to pay for good therapy. (If you wish to dig through the archives for my stories of my experience with “affordable” therapy for the poor, please, do. I do not.) At one point, I was so desperate, I was about to quit school and work two jobs again in hopes that the expensive therapies the author proposed would help me and my kids.
But there was the one I’ve mentioned quite often lately, Internal Family Systems, that as soon as I heard of it, I knew instinctively that it would work. Then I started to look into it and found that, unlike most forms of therapy, there is a ton of free information about it and how to use it online. Then, because I cannot leave well-enough alone and must research the hell out of everything I find, I tripped over a book written by a certified IFS therapist and endorsed by Dick Schwarz, the creator of IFS, called Self-Therapy. I realized then that, maybe, finally, there might be some hope.
I’ve been “self-therapy-ing” for several months now. I tried to start it when school was still in session, and I did have some success, but I still had the specter of school and grades and people, and, finally, the lock-down, hanging over me. I spent a month fighting a terrible bout of depression that I am sure would have ended me if I hadn’t been doing so much work since January. Then, I had to make up for all that laying around. By the time the term was done, I was spent psychologically.
But then, I did some more work. And the more work I did, the better things got, until one day I woke up and realized it had been weeks since a suicidal thought had entered my mind. That’s kind of a big deal for a person who has been suicidal since they were 11. Later, I would have a session after a bout of anxiety and I would realize that, though I’d had the anxiety, I never even considered wondering why I hadn’t thought about suicide. It just was not a part of my thinking process at all anymore.
I have hesitated to share that particular part in public for fear that people will think this is some easy cure. It was not easy to get here. It has been a struggle. My theme song still stands and I’m still bleeding to get to where I can say I am truly healed.
But during the break, there was a calm outwardly that enabled me to develop one inwardly using IFS. Still, I was not so stupid as to think that I could get up on the first day of school this summer and just expect that to continue.
So, I want to chronicle what is happening now that I am back in school because I think it will give a more realistic perspective to the difficulties of self-therapy. Self-therapy is not ideal. It is doable, but it takes longer, and you must be 100% committed to it at all times. In short, you better be as stubborn as hell or you will not do it. You cannot shirk and, while you don’t have to be perfect, you must have your mind constantly referring you back to the therapy.
This struggle is not as necessary when you have a good therapist. With a good therapist, you have a reprieve coming up in your week. Sure, you are working at home and at work, but at the end of seven days, you’ll see the therapist again, get some feedback and some encouragement. When you are doing self-therapy, you are your only cheerleader.
As for school…
The first day of classes started out fine. In fact, everything was pure bliss until, as I like to tell it, Donald Trump showed up 15 minutes into my history class.
My history prof is a hardcore Capitalist and made us watch a movie about how cut-throat capitalism is really awesome because Marc Cuban, Donald Trump, and some former hedge-fund manager say so. I nearly lost my mind. Here I went from reading about the protests over police brutality, a thing Trump absolutely adores, to being forced to watch Donald Trump in my history class? Gotta give it to Capitalists, they are certainly the least in touch with reality of anyone, including people with dementia.
It took me a good 24 hours to come down off the ceiling.
But I did.
And that’s unusual.
In fact, even though I describe it in such drastic terms, compared to other times spent on the ceiling, this was relatively mild. Yes, it was stressful, but it was stressful in the way I imagine normal people experience stress. It was not the all consuming terror it would have been a year ago.
Each day has been something, and never something small. I was reminded, again, today that, just because I am finally experiencing calm and clarity in my mind, that doesn’t mean my ex has somehow become human.
But, it isn’t like it was.
It isn’t all consuming.
I didn’t go into my room and shut the door and not come out.
I helped my son with his online summer school.
I made dinner (not Wednesday, it was too hot Wednesday. lol), I watched the series with my daughter we’ve been watching an episode of each night for a week. (Expedition on PBS, if you’re wondering. We love Aldo, sorry Steve.)
I got up each day. I did my Spanish. I forced myself to do my history. I moved. I did laundry. I held it together and not just by a frazzled thread.
Tomorrow will prove to possibly be worse than today.
It’s possible that my ex’s actions are going to lead me to be fined.
At some point I have to turn in a bunch of opinion papers to history. It’s like writing a personal narrative essay for a grade. It’s a living nightmare.
But somehow, and maybe just because my mind is so happy to have experienced its first ever bout of true peace and quiet ever in its 50 years, I get back to center and I settle myself down and I go on calmly.
I’ll be checking in at the half-way point each week. Writing at the end of Wednesday and posting it on Thursday.
Going back into the real world has proven difficult, but not impossible. For pretty much the first time ever.