Friday, November 5, 2010

Sometimes You Gotta Lose Till You Win

Hello to those who may have missed me! Though you can't see, my head is hanging in shame over my month long absence, as I was priding myself on a steady production of monthly blogs. However, recently life for me has been a speeding freight train carrying me away to some glorious horizon I never imagined I'd be chasing. In exchange, it has brought my expressive process to a screeching halt. I am an emotional writer, words flow through tears or flaring anger; happiness is my kryptonite, but I've been feeling the bog of creative constipation and racking my brain for some inspiration. Upon reviewing my previous posts, I've noted the repetitive theme of negativity, whether it be trashing misguided and delusional celebrities, misgivings of world issues, or wagging a scolding finger at royalty. I found this to be reflective not only of my point of view in this world but of my overall personal mood and frustrations, and since things have seemingly fallen into place for me, it appears it's time for a more cheery topic. Though I'm typically not given to outright self-disclosure on this blog, following my preceding post, it seems to be the trend of the moment, and I'm going with it.

Driving home the other day, I had some awesome tunes on the radio, my window down, the sun shining on my face (in case you hadn't noticed, it's blazing in Cali this November), and yes, I'll admit it, I was doing the hand windsurfer thing out of the car when the speed was right. Calmed, joyful from a good moment at work, and relaxed, a wave of peace washed over me and it was at this moment I realized, "I'm going to be okay."

Life for me has been unsure up until this point. The victim of child abuse (emotional, physical, and sexual), the survivor of rape at a very young age, the broken product of a destructive divorce and torn home, and a frequent target for bullying as I grew, I found myself in the clutches of a crippling depression that nearly killed me, twice. The darkness that enveloped me blinded me to any fragment of hope one might find in an eternal night, and I went to bed praying for death in my sleep. In the morning I woke, dismayed to find my wish unfulfilled, but pined for the coming night that would bring a new opportunity to try again. I dragged myself through each day, never expecting much from life, never anticipating surviving this long, just an empty shell wandering aimlessly through, trying to get to the end of this journey as quickly and quietly as possible.

Diagnosed when I was nine, the following ten years of depression yielded fruitless series of anti-depressant cocktails, unwanted therapy sessions (forced upon me by my parents), and frequent run-ins with razor blades and broken glass. After one early suicide attempt and a later meet and greet with the remnant pills in my medicine cabinet, I found myself wringing my hands on a psychiatrist's couch rattling off my symptoms and failed prescriptions. One more. One final slip of paper, written upon it some fancy names shielding the countless chemicals beneath them: Zoloft and Wellbutrin, and a recommendation to see a psychologist. Frequent headaches, dizziness, and nausea pushed me to take myself off the pills after just nine months, but coupled with therapy, it was just enough, and after a year and a half, I was finally balanced.

The road back was shaky and unsure, after spending nearly 12 years wanting to die, how could I learn how to live? Learn to smile, laugh, and love? It may be strange, dear reader, to try and understand how a smile could be a novel concept, but the first time I noticed myself doing it without obvious cause, it truly startled me. To laugh everyday was unknown, to plan for a future, unthinkable. But I went to college and took my first steps on whatever path I fell on. Is it any wonder my spinning wheel of fortune landed on Psychology? However, despite personal experience, I wasn't convinced this was my role. Plagued with doubts, I wondered what if I invested so much time and graduated to find I was a terrible psychologist? After graduation I found myself working with severely emotionally disturbed foster kids. A difficult job that had it's gratifying moments, but it more or less left me exhausted and on a downward spiral back to depression.

I returned to school to get my Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. With this newfound pursuit came new concerns: what if I'm not happy treating couples and families? What if I don't find a job in this tanking economy after graduation? How will I pay my student loans? What if I have to take some crappy cashier's job after all my hard work? Where am I going and will I get there? Depression and hopelessness began to set in again and it was all I could do to claw my way up from the bottom of that familiar pit.

Nearing the end of my program, I began my search for a Practicum site, a pre-graduation internship. Carrying my own personal preferences for specific populations, in my heart I knew I'd be lucky to get any site, given California's non-existent budget and non-profits closing left and right. But, following the helpful tip of a classmate, I landed in a place ironically called Hope. The population? Autistic children. Feeling apprehensive because I had never worked with autism before, I was welcomed with open arms by the staff, and almost immediately hit with wave after wave of positive feedback and praise. "A natural," they said. I'd never been a natural at anything. Loving my work, loving the kids, loving my co-workers, being good at what I do, and feeling a pull to continue working with autism. What more could I ask for? Oh yeah, I was offered a part-time job as an aide, and there's talk of a full-time job as a therapist after I finish school this March (Update: I am now employed as a therapist).

What truly was 17 years of despair, frustration, anxiety, and apprehension seemed completely resolved after a month and a half of discovering Hope. Now still bearing some of that residual pessimism, I've not deluded myself into believing this momentary perfection is forever. Things happen, life happens, and my plans may be derailed. But for the time being, I will bask in the glory of it, because I really do think this is my time to shine, in spite of the current state of the outside world. This is my little sliver of sunshine that finally found it's way to my heart. And I deserve it, don't I? It's my turn for happiness.

The day after my happy drive, I serendipitously stumbled across this fantastic song by Sugarland. Now I don't normally plug anything, products or celebs or their work (except my Renee), but what I love about Sugarland is that in the midst of their bubbly kick ass rock out songs, they plant these little seeds of heart-wrenching truths that apply to us all. Little Miss is that song of their album, The Incredible Machine: "Little Miss you'll go far/Little Miss hide your scars/Little Miss who you are is so much more than you like to talk about". The chorus is hymned with repeating I'm Okay's and It'll be alright again's, soothing us into lullabies of reassurance. The song closes with the optimistic "Little Miss brand new start/Little Miss do your part/Little Miss big ole heart beats wide open, she's ready now for love". Yes, yes she is.

*Photograph above was provided by my friend Helen M., though I never actually asked her permission, I'm sure she won't mind :)


Linda McCartan said...

I am a fellow survivor and therapist. Your creative energy in your Little Miss project is inspiring. Blessings, my friend, IT WILL BE ALRIGHT AGAIN.....

Anonymous said...

I love your little miss meant a lot to me. I watched with my husband. I have had a happy life since I met him 30 years ago but the first 17 were hell. I cry every time I watch your video..I love it.