Posted by: emjb | January 1, 2008

Ritual of relinquishment

By chance, I ended up visiting the Unitarian church I sometimes go to on Sunday–mostly to get Nathan out of the house and to let Matt sleep in. And maybe because I was feeling a little spiritually battered.

Since it was the last Sunday of 2007, they had a little pseudo-Oriental ritual of writing whatever you wanted to reliquish for the next year on a slip of paper and burning it in a big dish. Kind of cheesy, but what I like about Unitarians is that they never try to put any more meaning on a given act than they should. No one claimed burning a piece of paper was going to make your life magically better, but at the same time, there was value in stopping to think about what you needed to let go of. And stepping out of your everday business to consider your life and what you truly need is what ritual is really for anyway.

New years are such hopeful things, if you have the courage to have any hope–and I haven’t always. I recently saw some video of me taken last Christmas, it was sad to see how tired and ill I still looked. And I’m not really all the way well yet, just better. It’s been a hard haul, physically and emotionally, and I’m starting to understand that many of the difficulties I’m in now predate Nathan’s birth and my PPD. They are the things that made me more vulnerable to those who hurt me, the things that kept me from defending or believing in myself.

I’ve got a lot of anger. Not just about stuff I blog here, like Nathan’s birth, but in general. There are a lot of things I resent or feel helpless about, in the past, and recently. And I’ve started to feel that I’m losing my ability to keep them nicely stowed away in the Big Closet of my subconscious.

I started thinking about all this yesterday, which was a rough day that just suddenly became too much, and I fell apart. Outwardly I’m the calmest person you may know, 99% of the time, but all that means is when I do fall to pieces, it’s a lot more devastating.

Ironically, I have the control that I do because my natural state is Extreme Drama. When I was little, before I learned how to deal with my outsize emotions, I cried. All the time. About everything. Or yelled. Or fought, or screamed, or roared. I was not calm, unless I’d just had an outburst. But I was also super-sensitive to what other people thought or told me, and so I developed a paranoia about infringing on others, learning to be super calm, super considerate, super thoughtful instead. But it’s a strain. My particular emotional volume was always turned up to 11–the persona I have now is largely a way of channelling and suppressing that noise.

And it’s worked, really well. I like who I am, in a lot of ways, and I’m not sorry to be considered calm, or reliable, or thoughtful. Those are good things to be. I don’t want to go back to bursting into tears every five minutes, or screaming in rage. I can’t live like that.

But it’s not working as well as it should. Maybe it’s the equivalent of needing an emotional tuneup; maybe I’m not seeing a better way to function. Maybe I need meds, though I still tend to think, if so many of us need meds to function in our society…maybe we should be taking a harder look at how we set up our society. But since that revolution won’t happen in my lifetime, I’ll try meds if that’s the only thing that works.

I don’t want to go to a therapist, in the most basic sense. Do not. Want. To go. I don’t like talking about my problems, maybe because whenever I have, people tend to get wide-eyed and back away. Which I know therapists don’t do, but still. I don’t want to go in the same way I don’t want to clean the cat’s litter box–it takes too long, it’s unpleasant, and I have to deal with a lot of shit. I resent my psyche failing me in this way, and wish it would simply do what I think it should, which is keep me happy and healthy without requiring outside assistance.

At church, the word I wrote on my slip of paper was “fear.” And there isn’t much I could fear more than asking a stranger to help me sort out my soul.



  1. I really identify with this post.

    I find if I really start to visualize myself in a particular way (warm, funny, caring, smart, fearless)…it makes it a lot easier to be so in real life. Kinda of a “fake it, until you make it” approach.

    I think the best therapy is that which I give myself – being true, being honest, being kind, and asking for help. I am (and I believe you are too) an intelligent, rational, well-adjusted adult woman – I don’t need a therapist to pry and tease out my thoughts or feelings. I know those – I just sometimes have trouble with how I file them away.

    However – I have tried therapy a time (or six) and the most productive were those where I was able to use them mostly as a sounding board – where I could say “Am I being unreasonable, etc.? Am I just making excuses?” When I get down/depressed, etc…I have a hard time being objective about myself – and a good therapist is able to help me with that. I work through it (at times w/meds) and I move on.

    And lastly, I always found some hope in this quote by Anais Nin: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” Sometimes the only solace I have is the knowledge that eventually something will have to give.

  2. Thanks for your comment Leah–sorry I took so long to approve it, I haven’t been on my blog much this week.

    Yeah, I’m a lot like you in that I tend to be my own therapist, and sometimes that works fine. It’s just stopped working–the problem with being intelligent sometimes is that it just allows you to tie yourself in bigger knots. And I’ve gotten to the point where I am constantly having a hard time making even simple decisions, or following through on my responsibilities–I can’t seem to pull myself out of it. Don’t know if the therapist I picked will help, but the funny part was, just knowing I’m going has helped a tiny bit this week. Weird.

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