Thursday, May 29, 2008

My Sincere Thanks

to those who commented below, and others whom I am sure read who did not comment, but stood alongside me, and even stand alongside me, during this time. I'll take this time to update...

I saw my therapist, Sharon, for the last time Tuesday morning. She had been off Monday for the holiday and it was her last week in practice after many years of seeing clients. I know she had a long stack of people, some she had not seen in years, waiting to get in to say goodbye. My heart goes out to her, actually, during this week.

And the parting was wonderful. It really was. I can look back on six years and say that she acted in my best interest at every turn; that she never lied to me or acted in an insidious manner. In short, she did her job as a therapist and a human being. May God, in whatever form she understands God, walk with her the rest of her life. I was lucky to know her. The sad thing is that she was only a therapist, of course, not a family member, can I even say a parent. But history, and the past, and the hell-mess I grew up in cannot be dissolved; it can only be addressed.

As I said, I saw her once a week, most weeks, for six years. That is a long time. In defense, let me say that OCD is a very tricky disorder and that my past abuses in therapy certainly do slow down my ability to progress, tragic as that is. We worked on all of it. My fears in my marriage, my struggle to communicate with my wife, my chronic anxieties, my lingering depression, my family of origin issues, the therapists that betrayed me, and the obsessions. Always, always, retooling my brain in the face of the ocd. I cannot explain ocd, and I'm not at the place where I want to, not yet. That is the better way to put it: I do not want to explain it here yet, describe it in detail. But I will say it is a thought disorder with many components, driven by powerful underlying emotions and always by fear...strong fear. It involves the "loop," that chronic and persistent thought or action that oftentimes disturbs, even torments, the sufferer; but it also involves other things: catastrophic thinking, over focus on some thing that is wrong or out of place, hypervigilance...those patterns run so deep it takes me a long time just to see them. And the very hardest time not to obsess is when faced with the phobic object, whatever that is, and even more so, more importantly, when strong negative emotion is present.

Now I have come a long, long way. And I must say that I accomplished a set of remarkable goals: a master's degree with highest honors (the outstanding graduate in my discipline for my year); and even more remarkable, a tenured community college job...getting one of those in my discipline is incredibly difficult: when I got my job, 175 people applied for 2 positions. A family. A home in the mountains. I did all this while still suffering with my disorder, before I even understand I had it really. I did not start using the term ocd, as I recall, until Sharon. That is rather sad, for knowing my disease has helped me make progress with it. It is not the same thing as depression or other forms of "acting out." It is related, but not identical.

But back to strong negative emotion: the last two days since our goodbye I have been grieving. Genuinely and actively grieving. This is a great accomplishment for me. The fact that I have such a hard time staying in my feelings, purely, should remind me, the rest of my life, of the futility of egotism. I began to lose that center and obsess just a little, get anxious, yesterday afternoon, but I distracted myself, did other things, and continued to feel, just not as intensely. But before that, genuine and normal grief. Writing, here and now, I feel it again. Good for me. When someone has lived with those kinds of feelings shut off, or managed in abnormal ways (better) it is a victory to be in them and not be obsessing. Oh, I've felt pain in the past, plenty, plenty. But it was always controlled, kept at a distance, with powerful obsessions. I felt, at some level I think, that I had to do that to survive. Maybe or maybe not. But I have survived, and healed.

When I began to see Sharon, long ago, I was going through some hard feelings those first couple of years. She let me pick a cuddly, a little stuffed animal, to hold. I have not held that little guy, nor seen him, in at least three years. He is a little striped tiger. But the last time I saw her she said she had a gift for me, and tiger was it (I don't think I have ever named him). What a beautiful memento of our time together. A stuffed animal I can keep for the rest of my life. I am deeply grateful. My thanks, Sharon.

In return I gave her this blog address. She tells me she is not computer literate, does not know how to even go online...it may be she will not check this for years, if ever. But all my major life events, at least, are registered here. If I ever move this, I would post the link here. So I feel this blog has given me another unexpected gift: a chance to let her remain informed, over the years, should she so choose.

I will also note that today, waking up, the pain was much less. The fact that I only see her for an hour a week, that it is one sided and not mutual like a normal relationship...that lessens the intensity of the grief. During those two days I was thinking: dear god, how do people lose spouses and go on? I don't know, though I lost one once and did, I'd note, in a way worse than death. But if one say one's spouse only an hour a week over the years...well, there it is. It is good that I can take so much from Sharon, but in such a safe way. I will continue to grieve. I have to face my future without a therapist (for now, I have names...) and make decisions about my current situation and need, or lack of need, for more therapy at this time. I will miss her. I will be talking, sharing, with those I know more (and likely blogging more, too). But I want to stretch my mental legs a bit...see how I feel, one day and week at a time, without that formal support. If I need to find another one in two weeks, fine. I expect I likely will want to see someone, intermittently, as I continue to recover. As I have said and say again: ocd is an insidious, deeply rooted, powerful thought disorder. It responds to some therapies very quickly, like exposure work; but it has other components, and it has impacts, which take much longer to resolve, in the individual and the family, sadly.

Other than that: my wife graduated with her master's, is now a therapist herself working with kids (how cool is that) and we had a huge party. I am glad that is in the past, for it was very hard for us as a family. She was gone all the time, busy and stressed the rest of the time, for several years. That is done. Now she is working full time (plus, actually, just a bit) and I am playing Mr. Mom, waiting for my summer class to start, and enjoying my own summer break...even if it means laundry, shopping, cooking...at least there are no papers to grade.

My faith again is in a strange place. I do not have time or energy in this post to discuss this, but listening to an excellent teaching company series on religions of the "axial age" (Karl Jasper's term)...learning about the roots of Hinduism and Buddhism...their belief systems...I am not going to convert to either in any full sense; they are utterly diverse, anyway...that is not it. But as someone who does not believe the Christian bible dropped from the sky but is in fact a human record of interactions with the divine (of varying authenticity, I'd add) it is amazing to see the connections. It may well be God is speaking, has spoken, through or to Zarathustra (Zoroaster) or through Hindu practice, for example. And I am ashamed at my own church's history of doctrinal manias, violence, etc. One would think that the presence of the Holy Spirit would make our faith stand out, not leave the church with (some) of the history it has). But then the organizational church is not the church...just because someone holds or has held a position of influence and power in Christianity does not mean that person is in Christ. Jesus talks about that all the time...good trees bear good fruit...the rest of you claiming to work for God, who aren't aligning with the values of God....look out. Anyway, I am reading the gospels again, closely, as a critical academic more than a seeking believer. I am convinced, again, that there is no one single way to understand or experience the gospel: that the Eucharistic Mystery holds more interest to me than any idea or systematic belief set; that the loving gesture, the slow crawl towards love, remains the center of the Christian life, not some special, and of course "correct," distilling of the Biblical books. But that is me. Some find the heart of the gospel in how they understand predestination, say. Fine. I am as far from that as I could ever be. But it seems to me different understandings of Jesus are necessary for different human beings. We continue to try to find the center, sure. But for some, it's individual experience; for others, the Book; for others, the liturgy and mystery...and mixes of all. For some, it is music. If it is true there is a God, and if it is true he loves us, that is the single greatest philosophical, metaphysical, epistemological fact in the universe. The problem of suffering remains. Other problems remain. But I cannot deny the strength of that idea, nor its Christian originality.

But I am drifting again....

Very nice to be here. Thanks for letting me share. I go out into the larger world now...I will keep you all posted. Love to all.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Heavys

Hello to all who read here. This is a personal post, a support post; I am reaching out, even in the blogsphere here where I rarely journal anymore. There are a few things I need to say and I have a prayer request or two. Considering I rarely ask, I figure this is okay :)

One.

I have talked about my therapist retiring at the end of the month. That is a fact I have to accept. My winter and spring have been good, good enough that I would have cut down on my visit frequency, I think, if she were not retiring. My time with S has been very, very helpful, though it was me who brought in Foa's awesome book on OCD two years into my therapy! My therapist had heard of those tools, but I take credit for bringing them exposure work into that relationship. S was very good with seeing the interpersonal, emotional fuel that feeds the OCD fire, my struggles with intimacy and fear or anger and criticism; it has been a good six years.

Yeah, six freaking years.

Today I got up the courage to call my insurance company and say that while I didn't think I needed long term weekly work, I surely still needed some contact with a therapist. I was surprised how cool they were; I was very afraid they'd tell me I couldn't keep going, etc. But in California, land of much regulation and law, there is one truly astounding law; the finest law I can think of at the moment: parity. Parity means that people with mental health issues should have their services covered by insurance just the same as people with bad kidneys or diabetes, etc. It sounds common sensical when I describe it, but in America, the land of the bottom line, it is a remarkable piece of legislation. That law allows me to have weekly therapy visits for my usual office co-pay: currently, ten bucks. I paid for therapy for years and years, to those who deserved to be paid and those who didn't, and that when I had little or no money. What a wonderful benefit of my job to have Healthnet, to have parity. It has completely enriched my life and done much to ease my suffering without putting financial strain on my family.

So, they sort of HAD to help me as OCD is a parity diagnosis. But still, the fears ran high. But after just a few minutes I had the names of five female therapists, all probably closer to my house than my current therapist, and three who say they have experience with OCD. We will see. Tools have changed much since my current therapist came on the scene: EMDR, CBT and specialized therapies for OCD. I know, lots of acronyms, but I am pleased. Five names to begin with is a lot! And none even in the city where S is now, a good half hour from my house. My plan is to phone interview, maybe meet a couple (will have to pay out of pocket for that) and then pick one...see her maybe six week in a row, or a month, and shoot for every other week (but all that I will play by ear).

Heavy thing two.

I mailed a letter to my perpetrator therapist Friday. Finally, after more than a dozen years, I mailed a very direct, descriptive, and clear letter...even an angry letter in places! detailing what I think he did to me.

I don't think I've told that story on this blog. Not in detail. It is the end of the Estella story, and I stalled when I got to this part a long time ago. Considering how depressed, self-blaming, and in pain I was all day Friday, the day I mailed the letter, I know why I have taken to so long to get around to it. S's retirement sort of forced it. It was one of my top goals when I came to S six years ago: I want to send a letter to this guy...it took me six years of work to be strong enough to even do it.

Because here are the facts: the first therapist I really connected with, many years ago, Keith, I had to quit seeing (just after I went back to him after my first Major Depression...suicidal thoughts running over me like mice) because he got sexually involved with a client. That was completely horrifying for me. And so I found another therapist and limped into his office in a completely awful state. I cannot even think back to those days yet to really write about them. They say, and I know, depression is often rage turned inward as a result of self hatred. I KNOW that was my story. And I had LOT of rage and a LOT of self hatred. I was utterly and completely falling apart when I began seeing R, the second therapist. He was as appalled by the Keith fiasco as anybody would be, and I began seeing him twice a week, then once a week, for four and a half years.

But my fledgling marriage to Estella (which I have written about, some) had never been happy. It was surely a trigger for the major depression I had in 90. And so after a couple years of me seeing R, I agreed to let Estella see him too, or meet with him to talk about seeing him. Her last therapist was so incompetent she actually feel asleep during a session. I was very nervous about letting E go into therapy with R...I wonder why so nervous...but I did it, truly, to save my marriage.

Dear. God. In. Heaven.

A few months after she began seeing him she left me. There are more details than that, and I need to write them when I am ready. But she left me with a note on the mirror. And part of her conditions was no contact, phone or face to face...she did not even want me to know where she lived for a long time; ostensibly because she was afraid I would physically hurt her. I have no doubt she was afraid of that, but that is also the most lameass excuse I have heard...I never laid a FINGER on E or any other woman or man (outside martial arts sparring). Well, as months went by, there was no contact; nothing got better. She filed for a legal separation at the six month mark. Still, she would not talk to me. Then I began having crushes where I was working (by this point, I had been separated four or five months; had not made love in quite a bit longer than that). And here is where R, our therapist, comes in. He began to suggest I date. After some time, I went out once. He then suggested I see the same girl again, rather than a rotating set of friendly dates like I had in mind. And then he suggested, both directly and indirectly, that I have sex with the rather crazy girl I was seeing. Then he suggested I ask for a divorce. All that is the bloody truth of it.

And so nearly a year after Estella left me, I did take a lover; reluctantly, but soon the unbelievable relief of having sex, finally, did its work. My lover was not a safe or stable person, but there you go. R even met her. Anyway, I asked for a divorce, E did not fight much over it, and while I think we both had doubts, at least I did, we finally were divorced...about 8 months after my crazy girlfriend left me to hump other guys. That whole relationship lasted about 8 months, I think.

Yes, I asked for a divorce; even told her when she wasn't filing (but was not talking to me about ANY of it either or even trying to talk) that I was in love with said crazy girlfriend. I probably was, or thought I was. I do remember I was very, very conflicted about saying that, but that R said "it was a good letter." Yeah.

Anyway, I tried to get back with Estella before the divorce was final. She said there had been a "window of opportunity" before, but that was past...I have asked myself a lot of times just what that window was, and when, and how was I to know about it. She NEVER ONCE SAID she wanted to get back together. NEVER ONE TIME. In fact, she told me the opposite: she wanted to leave and not come back. But I was the one who had to get his sheets dirty, I guess, to provide the christian legal cause.

Fuck me man.

Anyway, our divorce was final; she called me to say she has quit seeing R, that she was done with therapy. I found that remarkable. Then R told me he had "befriended" Estella and I needed to find another therapist...my divorce was final in December and I was out of his office by July. By that fall, I forget the black month, I found out the truth: they were a couple. They have been married now more than 10 years (according to his website where I had to go to get his address) and have a couple kids that I know of. R has always wanted to be a guru, and continues his extended courtship with the media. The problem is he does not like to work hard at it and his ideas and talent are marginal. But whatever he says, there is some dark personality disorder at work, and guru he believes he is.

To me, he is a weak, lustful predator who showed no concern at all for my well-being, mental health, or even survival.

And I told him that, over and over, in about six pages.

Why did I do that? Why write and stir that enormous wound up again?

Because I did not want him to think my silence was ANY SORT of acquiescence. You know, nothing from me after a dozen and more years, must mean I was okay with it, got over it, understood what he did. NOTHING could be farther from the truth, and my letter lets him know that.

And also because I still do believe, despite all the power of cognitive therapy, exposure work for OCD, that you "feel it to heal it." I really do believe that every time I work through old pain, and sometimes that pain can still be very strong, I grow as a person. My capacity for intimacy and self-care go up just a smidgen each time. I need more of both in my life. So, I went back and wrote the letter and mailed it Friday.

It was much, much harder to do that I thought it would be! Friday was a day almost like the days of years ago. The good thing is, as I was told a long time ago, the time one spends there shortens each time. So I felt like total shit for one day, took care of myself as best I could, but had a decent weekend with my family. Now I can feel myself going back into the pain a bit, but I do not have to be owned by it as I once was; I have a strength I did not have in the 90's, a self, and tools of several varieties to cope. In short, I am going to be okay.

I am going to be okay. I am going to be okay.

But I do request prayer as I seek for another therapist. Did I pray when I was looking for Robert? I don't know. But it can't hurt to pray now. I am not desperate; my ass is not falling off as we used to say in program. I face continued challenges, yes, but I continue to grow. I just don't think I am ready to be without any therapist support at all! And it cannot hurt me to have someone to help me do continued OCD work as well as heal the past. I need to find deeper resources in my life outside of therapy, I know, but I do have some connections and their depth grows.

The story I told here was told without ornament of any kind. I remember a post at Romy's site where she included dialogue, heart wrenching dialogue not far from what I knew with Estella, from the break up of her marriage. But I have not done that. Someday, maybe. But it has been tough to even write this. And this semester I have 3 long days home alone where I work...my wife is still in school some nights. Those long lonely days are hard. I get stuff done, but they are hard anyway. Today was one of those days.

My sincere and heartfelt love to all. It has done me good to write here. I promise to update my new therapist search with you all. I do not expect R to try to contact me (there was no return address, but this is the modern age) nor even Estella if she somehow finds out about the letter (she may well not). Still, I am very afraid he will try to contact me. I will surely write about it here if he does, but I do not expect it.

This world is often far from fair. Times like this I pray for karma, for Christian justice "God is not mocked." All that. But I can control none of that. All I can control is my own continuing improvement as a person. My own growth. It will be tough this summer with S working full time now and me home every day alone, my son home less and less. I will have to find people to hang out with; they do exist, even in the middle of the woods.

Oh, and may I say, the Sierra spring is stunning beyond description. After the long cold winter, it is like recovering from an illness, waking the first day after a fever or bronchitis has cleared; it is like the good feeling that comes after heavy emotional pain moves through.

I am very afraid, of course, I will find another therapist who is insane. I use only women, since Robert. But the odds are very long, and I do not think I would EVER give anyone the power I gave him, and I have two good female therapists since him (D and S...God knows who you are).

Love to all.