Sunday, April 13, 2008

Late Night Blah Blah

Big changes are on the way for me; well, one at least. My therapist of the last six years is retiring. Yes, that does rather suck, though I am glad she is moving on with a new phase of her life, I have just weeks to figure out whether I want to contact my insurance company and look for someone else to continue work.

Mostly, I've been thinking that I wanted a break. I beat serious depression years ago, and with S (short for my current therapist) have made enormous strides with my anxiety/panic/OCD. The latter, surely, a tenacious and clingy monster to fight. A true mental illness, in my view (and I guess just about everyone else's). This last year or so has been especially good for me, even the last 9 months. The long, at times imperceptible climb out has finally appeared to be just that: a climb, OUT, not a walk through more thick woods. I have greater insight, meaning (clinically) I can sense an obsession more often than not...of late at least. For quite some time I had only a vague, half sense that what was tormenting me was in fact another obsession, like those that have controlled me most of my life (putting it that way, it does sound serious; all true, however). Now, after six years with S, my marriage is stronger, I am stronger, my OCD is much smaller. I would not be going every week, still, if I had not known for some time that she was retiring. Since I knew our time was limited, I have continued to go as often as always.

And I have been thinking, actually: I can use a break from therapy. I have great tools. My wife and I have grown so much in the last six years...all this is true. Then today came. Today. Not a hellish day. On the old 100 point anxiety scale, maybe cruising in the 30's; oddly, aware of the relational triggers (I never used to know why I was getting anxious or obsessive...it really felt like it "just began happening." I stayed up past my wife, grading papers, and now, approaching 11 and time for me to be in bed too, I write here. And I thank God for this place, as neglected as it has been. I am one of those who journals when he hurts, is scared or confused. Welcome back, that part of me.

I am so, so, so sensitive to anger. I cannot stress this enough. An angry comment, a single critical word or glance when I am in the wrong place, and I begin pulling inside, withdrawing, getting anxious and usually, along with that, obsessive. Obsession is like the surface, albeit a forceful and miserable surface, of the anxiety river beneath. A comment by my wife last night where I felt controlled, a small noise made this morning when I knew she did not see many clean socks in her drawer (or so I assumed, waking up) one or two other little things...no huge conflict or fight even, just small things, and I have been wrestling with the fear, the mental, what is the word, hyper vivisection of the relationship, catastrophization. That. The encouraging thing is that I have been able to SEE all of it as it has unfolded, see the trigger, my reaction, the anxiety and obsession (though not bad obsession, just a bit...a bit is enough, trust me...it is like having a little bleach spilled on your floor while you're eating dinner). I have seen it all unspool. And I do not feel utterly distant emotionally, not fully estranged, from my wife. I still have felt some closeness, some moments of warmth. Anxiety, driven by relational issues, is the opposite of warmth.

Writing tonight I am thinking: I really should hook up a back up therapist, so to speak, with my insurance company. Someone I see twice a month, maybe, to transition. I do not even know how it will feel when things end with S and I after six long years. I have never seen anyone that long, and I am more aware of her personality, able to know I am close in some special way. Well, at least I have an insurance company, and a parity diagnosis, so that I can proceed if I need to with finding someone else. But this is very much on my mind, sitting here, reading shitty papers (some) about novels I have discussed to bloody death in the classroom.

What else?

Oh, my faith is once again under a bit of siege: the problem of suffering, again. The Great Issue with any benevolent theism. I don't have time or energy to address my thoughts on that now (though a post, or series, seems to be building in my mind) but I will say the Teaching Company series on Faith and Reason in the Middle Ages (professor escapes my mind atm) is extraordinarily good. Christians have almost always felt the need for some combination of both, but it is amazing to see how many Christians have simply believed reason by itself could never convert a person. Sure, Aquinas' work...a remarkable project....Scotus....but when someone like Ockham comes along and simply says...I don't feel the force of these arguments, there is not much one can say. It reminds me, it is related to, the believe in Platonic type universals. Some people believe in such non-material entities, some simply do not. I know what Plato would say: they lack intelligence, the proper faculty, or reflective experience. But even P knew things were not that clear. The point I am making is that reason can only take me so far towards God, or so it seems. There are times I think it can take me pretty close, and times I think I believe in the face of an apparently random and horrific universe. I think of my dear friend's example below, Alison's: let us assume God did in fact heal her wrist; as she herself notes, what about those dying of cancer every day? Would God heal a wrist and let children die of cancer, or starvation, or be beaten to death? That is an ethical problem I cannot even bend my mind around right now.

Though I joke I am still half Platonist, the truth is I share Plato's passion for ethical and reflective living (or hope I do). I appreciate his belief in something beyond this world. I am impressed by some of the arguments for his Forms. But at heart, really, I have always been at least as much like Ockham, even Hume. Skeptical, doubting the existence of anything non-empirical, a nominalist (denying any abstract relational entities or Forms). These two patterns war in me. I'd note with some mirth that they have been warring with each other in all philosophy since at least the time of Socrates. I guess, then, I am in good company.

But if Aquinas could look at the visible world and see it as an Effect of the Creator, I do not know what he said about the problem of suffering. For surely, though Jesus' mission seemed connected to suffering, as well as atonement and reconciliation, apart from that (and that is one VERY large apart from) the world of human experience is a mix of great pleasure, insight, beauty, elevation, love, and dismay and horror. Religion can certainly increase our sense of meaning and purpose; it can provide some notion of final justice, even of life after the death of the body. Christianity does this explicitly. I know this. But even with the wonders and comfort of spirituality (in its broadest sense) bracketed to one side, the world, just as we see it, is both utterly beautiful, remarkable, full of wonder and human closeness and pleasure, and all that stands opposite to those things. For me, the hardest thing is never natural disaster (though those surely suck) nor even human evil, as unbelievably gruesome as that can be (especially when directed at children or the weak) but disease, especially in kids or the young. I always say: leukemia in children. That, to me, is the hardest of all things to reconcile with theism.

I am curious what we see in Jesus attitudes towards suffering, and must look again. I know the relationship of God to his creation is likely one so complex, human reason cannot approach it, not from God's view. To paraphrase something I read years ago in Lewis, what does my dog think I am doing while I sit here and type? Almost EVERY piece of my experience right now is not open to his dog brain. And the gap between dog and man may well be much, much smaller than man and god. Even that, we do not really know.

Well, it is getting late indeed. I have to get up. Works is awfully busy right now, and I need my energy for tomorrow's long day. May God find me in the thick of it, and remind me that Love lies beyond the shimmering molecular wall, the space and time block-set we know to be the universe. This is the great truth, as absurd as it sometimes seems to me. God, acting uniquely through one human person, an ancient Jew butchered by Rome...what madness it seems; until I read a few chapters of any gospel. This does not always work, but often, I once again hear the Voice...promise after promise made on my behalf. "I am the good shepherd..." That entire passage in John is exquisite. The claims of my faith may be astounding, perhaps absurd, but I have not walked away from them yet. Oh, may the answers, or at least the peace, one day come.

Must go now though. Quite tired. Thank you so much for posting Alison. I do not have a counter, and have no idea who reads this blog, especially now that the once active community is long disbanded and irregular. Myself part of that, of course, as I so rarely post.

But oh! How good it felt to write here tonight!

Love to all, including me :)