Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Which Came First?

I have a Doctor's appointment on Jan. 27th.   In some respects I can't wait to get there, given that I've been waiting since September and haven't seen a doctor in at least a couple years.  When I think of it, there's a small amount of hope - but there's an awful lot of fear and dread. 

I get very scared when I'm experiencing what I assume are heart related issues - coughing, tight chest, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue and exhaustion.  At those moments I pray I just make it to Jan. 27 without having a stroke in the meantime.

Even with these symptoms I continue to soothe my fear (to "comfort" myself) with food and grab for a cigarette when the anxiety and discouragement are high (which is most of the time).

So, there's that fear.

Then there's the fear of who this person will be and their manner.  Will they be a compassionate person and have concern and understanding for mental illness?  Will they consider that the anxiety, depression, discouragement, and other life issues keep me from having the strength to get over the addictions that have led to my poor physical health?  Or will they see me as fat and disgusting, and tell me that they're not going to waste their time if I don't quit smoking and lose weight.

Quit smoking and lose weight is obviously what I need to do.  But how do I do that?  Sometimes I wish there was an AA for smoking and weight loss.  Actually, (I know) there are programs out there.  But what I'm talking about is the level of support given, the recognition of the degree of support needed by some folks, the feelings of powerlessness that some folks experience in feeling capable of doing it themselves.

The AA program is usually recognized by most people as a complete transformation of a person's life - necessary in order to overcome the addiction.  If you've ever read the AA's "Twelve Steps", you know that the first is that the person state/admit/accept that they are an Alcoholic and that they are powerless (have been powerless) to get over it by themselves.  They need help:  Help from a Source beyond themselves - and help from a community - on a day to day basis. 

So they come together at meetings to support each other.  Oftentimes you can attend a meeting somewhere close to you on any given day of the week.  Then they give you a "sponsor" - not just any person - but a person who has been were you are now.   A person that you can call any time of the day or night, wherever you are - and they will be there for you - helping to provide whatever you need at that moment:  motivation, strength, comfort, determination...

I would think that being a sponsor is a daunting task, time consuming, certainly very difficult at times.  I see it as taking a certain caliber of person, one with a huge amount of willingness to help another.

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Let me move in another direction here..... the reason for the name of this post:  "Which Came First"...

The compassion, understanding and support that I talked about relative to the AA is what I long for, have deeply ingrained in me that I need, in order to "heal" - emotionally and physically.  I don't believe that any person can be truly healed of anything without treating the "whole" person.  (The lack of understanding of that is a whole 'nother discussion for another day.)

I need compassion, support, and understanding.  But that's not what I've gotten.... Oooooowwww... that seems like an awful statement - accusatory, self-pitying, laying blame.  That is not what I intend.

I want to talk about what actually has happened in my experience because it leaves me with such confusion, makes my mind swirl, leads to depression and discouragement.  I can't figure it out (obviously) and so here I sit... overweight, "heart"sick, and waiting to die.... Though I don't want to die.....  I just want life to not be like this....  I want to die if this is what life has to be like..  But then I'm told from my Spiritual reading that "death" solves none of it.... because we continue beyond.... and I believe that too....

Anyway, the other side of compassion, support, and understanding feels, to me, to be lack of interest, caring, concern for a person, not desiring to understand, or take the time to understand, not believing in "supporting" another.  I often see this as a "fault finding" attitude, a singularness, a separation and a desire to maintain such manners and actions.  All in all, a critical attitude.

Frank (hubby) and I are both Virgos - a sign known to have the trait of being critical.  We both sure can be at times.  In many ways, we take the same attitudes; in others we are total opposites.  We both have very strong belief structures, deeply seated, that I think are the result of both our persons and our upbringings.

In understanding my needs, and the needs of others, he often seems (to me) to be totally devoid.   This has always led to a huge amount of personal pain for me.  But let me explain.... Frank is not devoid of compassion or love, he just believes very deeply from the perspective of the individual - that it is each individual's responsibility to learn and do for themselves - that to "help" another is to enable them to be less... and to keep them from doing for themselves.  He sees things in a very black and white manner, without emotional attachment.  He can't seem to understand emotional attachment, because it doesn't come in to his realm of thinking.  Deeply seated also, I'm sure, is the old thought that to be emotional is to be weak.  To him, to be a strong person, you must be self-reliant, independent, capable of functioning totally on your own, and not blown away by the attitudes and actions of others.  When you allow emotion to reduce your person, you lose your strength. You don't waste your time "thinking about" anything, not the gray areas of any issue and especially not yourself.  You simply recognize what needs to be done, you make your decision from a singular perspective (yours), you DO IT, and move on...

I, on the other hand, cannot see the world from a singular perspective.  I believe that we are One, in Essence, and that each action we take has the potential of affecting others.  I see it as our responsibility to love and help one another - always.  I cannot take the emotion out of the equation.

So, yes, I am emotional.  And yes, I expect "help" and support from others.  And when I do not receive it, I feel personally rejected and unconsidered - or "considered" unimportant or of no value in the others' eyes.

I also add the connotation of "good" and "bad" to this.  To me it is more important to be a "good" and "considerate" person than to be a "strong, independent" person - inconsiderate of others' needs.

Old manners of thinking, on both our parts, and extreme, on both our parts.

To "have understanding" and "be compassionate" of others, I always strive to "see both sides" of any issue or opinion.  That doesn't mean I always agree with it.... but I do try to listen and educate myself to it.  And so I have tried very hard over the years to understand Frank's view of things.  I can see the value, the importance, and the need for some of it.  I can see how some parts of it are necessary for a person to "be strong".  But to agree fully with his opinion is to see me as weak, and the continued years of "emotional" thinking as the cause for "illness" in my mind and body, the result being the very "poor" individual that will appear in the Doctor's office on the 27th.  Is that the way the Doctor will see it? - Take a hard line that I am a result of my decisions, my thinking, and thus a poor specimen of an individual... unworthy of consideration?

I digress... again...

This afternoon, in actually being able to talk with Frank about all this (that's a new one!), the thought occurred to me that it is not one or the other - perhaps it is both.  There is much validity in Frank's view, and there is much validity in mine.  That is the "Yin and Yang" of the world.  You don't "choose one or the other".  You recognize that there is both.

And perhaps it is only in the extremity of either - the total refusal to consider the other - the extremes of "emotional pain" - that we lose sight of "health".  A belief that I am totally helpless, less than, and weak, does make me weak, and keeps me from seeing and experiencing my capabilities.  However, a belief that in order to be "strong" you must be totally independent, in "need" of no-one, without emotion, leaves a person without the experience of love and compassion and without learning all that can be accomplished together.

There is an idea - in mental health counseling, self-help books and spiritual practices - that advocates to "remove yourself" from certain people and situations that are detrimental to your "growth", emotional state, and overall emotional "health".  All these years I saw Frank's view as such a hard line - a meanness, lack of compassion, love, and understanding.  And I often thought that it greatly contributed to my "illness" and insecurities.  Yet, I refused to believe that God would have me leave this man that I knew to be such a wonderful person in so many other ways.  Eventually I learned to stop laying blame on either side, but to look for the positive aspects of both, without an excess of emotion and extreme thinking.  In refusing to give up, we have learned of each other, softened, and come more to the center of understanding.

Perhaps that is what life is all about.  I don't know.

I started this post from my confusion - am I right? - am I wrong?   (Which came first - the chicken or the egg?)  Is there an answer?  I don't know...

I had wanted to share with you the confusion that comes from trying to consider so much, not find an answer, and the "vicious cycle" of that, that has seemed to contribute to, and keep me in this "mental illness".  And yes, I was looking for your "help" and opinions..


Now I feel a little better... a little less insecure... and a little better able to take a "wait and see" attitude about the Doctor (as Frank suggested)...

But I guess I'll put this post out there anyway... regardless of what the cyber-world's attitude may be (that bothers me also, each time I write)...  as a potential contribution to understanding....

4 comments:

Every Color Of Life said...

well that was a lot off you chest! i wish i had some words of wisdom to offer - i think you are doing great and figuring things out as you go along. i and besides it doesn't matter what others think. their lives continue to go on and so does yours - keep it going!

Jamey said...

I think being able to put your feelings into words regardless of what others think is very healing. I don't know how many times I remained silent... afraid someone would not understand. And now I am writing more about how I feel even if it doesn't resonate with others. And I agree with what Every Color Of Life said!

Pam said...

Thank you, ladies :)
As tortured as this feels sometimes, I'm trying to have the strength to be a voice for others who might be out there, feeling unable to express themselves for fear of stigma, shame, and blame associated with confused or "different" ways of thinking.
I'm trying to keep the dialogue going (or perhaps start it in some cases) when it comes to "mental illness".
For myself, I know it is only me that can move myself past the problems I face. I think this is also helping with that, because it is one place where I can (sometimes) move myself beyond the inertia.

PJ said...

my friend you are so very wise, much more than you give yourself credit for. much love to you...hugz!