an open apology to anyone on my speed dial

LG has discovered that pushing specific combinations of buttons on the phone frequently has the satisfactory result of connecting to something other than a dial tone. Fortunately his patience doesn't generally extend to dialing all the digits necessary to make a call nor has he learned the combination "911"... yet. The push-talk-and-then-hold-down-a-key-for- two-or-so-seconds combination, however, is riiiiiiight up his alley. So if your caller id alerts you to an incoming call from me and upon answering you hear "ENON PUSHIN' DA BUTTONS, I TALKIN' ON DA TEFAFONE, TURN DA LIGHTS ON, NO TURNIN' DA LIGHTS OFF, I SEE MUCH BETTER", please don't leap to the conclusion that my therapy isn't working and I've finally succumbed and let Lil' Mike take over as my principal personality. Also, don't assume that if you don't get such a call in the near future that you didn't make the speed dial list. It's not like that at all. It just means he hasn't yet moved on from his infatuation with the number 8.

Sorry, Magen!


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dear dr. r,

I'll get right to the point. I don't like this. Oh, you're fine, I suppose. I don't really know you, yet -- we've only had three 50 minute sessions to date. I don't really think it's possible to know someone in such a short amount of time. I'm certain you're well qualified and capable. You come highly recommended from someone whose opinion I've grown to value and trust over the years. And I remain confident (although a little less boldly than on our first meeting) that we will develop a relationship that will lead to success in "curing" me of my crazy. So it's not you that I object to. It's the process. It's all the navel gazing, the "so how are you feeling now as we are talking about this", the "is it possible that...", the endless questioning and redefining of my perspectives. Quite frankly, it's exhausting. And it's turning me into someone that I can't stand. All this introspection has inflated my ego to a point beyond narcissism and now all I see is me. All my flaws, all my boogers, all my secret hypocrisies reflected back at me as if the world has suddenly become my own personal looking-glass. It's all about me. It's all personal. It's all so overwhelming.

You've asked me to explore my inner world, to sit still and analyze my reactions to my perceived neuroses. I told you last week that despite my best efforts, my inner world remained firmly out of reach. "If it's there, the citizens aren't handing me the key to the city," I quipped. At the time I felt so clever. Now I simply feel disingenuous. I think I stumbled upon that inner world rather quickly after you asked me to find it. It's bleakness startled me at the time and I was more than happy to dismiss it. But I've come full circle and I find my self pressed up against these somber, uninviting gates. I'm angry that you made me come to this place. I'm scared of what I will find inside. It sounds so desolate, so quiet in there from this side of the wall. I can't decide if that's because all the boogies silently preparing to attack when that door finally opens or if it's because that inner place has been neglected for so long that it's now little more than a ghost town.

While we're being honest, I'm more than a little frustrated that we haven't broken through that stronghold yet, that we are still in the "exchange a few pleasantries, scrape a little at the top of gunk mountain, sniffle, sniffle, well would you look at that, our time is up" stage. But I also realize that it's my fault we're where we are. I honestly come to each session full to the point of almost exploding with good intentions to let my guard down and spill my guts. 35 seconds it takes for me to lock the car door and walk into your office, entering as a deflated into a "what, me crazy?" all smiles and snappy repartee version of the self I was when I turned off the car. I'd ask if that was normal, but that seems a bit silly given the nature of our relationship. You'd probably just smile that little smile as if to ask me "What is normal?" and then ask me how I was feeling. And I'd sit there, staring alternately at my hands and then at the ceiling, trying to come up with a word to accurately describe my feelings.

There is a positive side to all of this, though. You're probably shaking your head right now, getting ready to reprimand me for not being able to just let things stay icky. "You don't have to fix everything," is on the tip of your tongue. Give me a second; hear me out. As much as I don't like the person I'm seeing, I AM seeing her. And I'm trying so hard not to pick her apart. You asked me to approach this scientifically, to collect all the data to analyze later, and not give into the sometimes overwhelming need to dump the information that I just don't like. I'm working so hard to stifle my inner critic and not let her get in the way of this. She's screaming at me constantly, just so you know. She's really gotten hateful lately. She's hateful and insidious. "What have you got to complain about, " she lashes out at me. "Quit whining. So you've encountered a bunch of lemons. Make some lemonade. Life ain't just a bowl of cherries, you know. Leave the therapy for someone who doesn't have all the support you have. It's all about you, isn't it? Just have to go play drama queen and get everyone all concerned." And her venom wraps itself around and around in my head, writhing and constricting so that I can't separate her voice from my own good sense. That's when I start to wonder if what I'm doing is really worth all the time, all the effort. Maybe I should just suck it up, get up off my privileged butt and just muck through it. What in the world to I have to be down about? That my house is too clean? That I live in a safe, clean, privileged community? That my little boy is curious and inquisitive and keeps me on my toes?

And that's the point when the guilt starts creeping in. Guilt that I sit on your couch every other week talking for a solid 50 minutes about me, me, me. Guilt that I look forward, all weekend, to Tuesday mornings when I get in the car and drive to the next town over to drop off my little boy for the day so that I can "get something done". Guilt that the something I so anxiously want to "get done" could easily be accomplished after he's gone to bed each night if I would just buckle down and work on it instead of watching mindless TV or wandering aimlessly on the internet. Guilt for not being mother enough, for not being woman enough to be able to respond to the needs and desires of my family without that oh-so-familiar bubble of resentment simmering in my throat. Guilt, guilt, guilt. Oh, the insidious guilt. Undermining my every attempt to find balance, tuning my ears to hear nothing save the constant abrading of that vicious critic. But I'm doing it. I'm taking time for myself. I'm chipping away, bit by bit at that putrid pile of self-loathing. I'm asking myself "Does this really need to be done? Can it wait until later?" and if I find myself hesitating, I'm taking note. I spent all day yesterday alternating between "have to's" and "want to's". 45 minutes filing and sorting through paperwork in the office followed by 40 minutes away from the house, running, running, running. For the first time in I don't know how long, I was running because I wanted to. Not because he runs; not because I needed to log the miles for this week. Running because the rhythmic pounding of my feet was soothing to my soul and because every step I took put me farther and farther away from the chores that I had yet to check off my list. Knowing that the longer I went out, the longer it would take me to come back. At some point I actually outran the gravitational pull of my inner chaos and for that moment in time I floated along effortlessly in the silence. My legs broke down before my spirit was ready to return. Which was precisely the opening that hateful voice inside was looking for,"Well, if you had been keeping up with your training, you'd be able to keep this up a lot longer. If you'd just make yourself get out of bed before he leaves for work in the morning, you'd be able to get your miles in everyday and then think how long you'd be able to run. You've still got time, sure, but if you don't start being more responsible, more disciplined, you'll never be ready for that half-marathon." Chastened, I tucked my figurative tail in between my legs and headed for home where I showered at record pace and dutifully grabbed the vacuum so that I could check that off the list before I headed out the door to meet a friend for lunch.

Lunch was a glorious 90 minute affair. The perfect balance of nourishment for the body and sustenance for the soul. We nibbled and chatted, shared and sipped. I was so revitalized I rushed right home to finish the dishes, clean the cat box, and remake the beds. But the point is that I didn't put myself at the bottom of the list. I didn't wait for the end of the day. It wasn't "natural" for me, it wasn't comfortable. But I did something for me. That's progress, isn't it? You're smiling again. Because I'm seeking outside approval. Well, I never said I didn't have a long ways to go. "A long, long ways," she interjects. You did say you were going to help me with some coping skills, didn't you? How 'bout we work on my bitch slap next week?

Sincerely,
Susan - Tuesday 9:00 am


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in which i attempt to catch up on all the non-crazy related events of the past month or so

First, words fail to express how touched and thankful I am to each of you who have made it a point to reach out to me after my last post. The comments, the phone calls, the emails... it's all been so overwhelming. Knowing that you are out there, arms stretched out to brace me as I struggle through something I don't completely understand fills me with a peace that I never expected to find at the beginning of this journey. Thank you.


What have we been up to? LG and I took a trip to my sister's to help her celebrate the culmination of an amazing project that she began nearly a year ago. For several years, she has selflessly given her time and energy and a large portion of her paycheck to raise money for the American Cancer Society. She's done it all -- relayed and rallied; held BBQ's, car washes, and bake sales. This year she took it to a whole new level. A post about the event is in the works... If you are so compelled, you can join the cause here.

We were back less than a week before it was time for a shower. No, not that kind of shower. I do actually do that on a regular enough basis for it to not be blogworthy. This was of the celebratory type -- a bridal shower for one of the most amazing women on the planet (and I don't just say that because she is "making" us take a trip to Maui for the wedding. Sigh. It's a hard life I lead.) My BFF if I were the type to use such an abbreviation. Just typing that makes me feel a little like that mom trying too hard to be cool. And we all know that I'm not cool. This wasn't your standard toilet-paper-dress and "guess the number of condoms in the jar" type bridal shower. We classed it up to a brunch at a nearby bed-and-breakfast and I took full advantage of my matron of honor duties seriously enough to make sure that the bride-to-be got a little pre-shower R&R. Okay, so it was more like dinner and then we stayed up all night talking and the jury is still out as to whether it was for her or just a really, really, really good opportunity for me to take a night off from bath duty and the ever-so-recurrent 4am "Mahhhhhhhh-meeeeeeee" wake-up call. Shit. Come to think of it, I can't honestly remember if I asked if she enjoyed herself...
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One of my sisters has a standard line that she uses when she's telling a story and it's just not getting the reaction that she was expecting. "And then I found five dollars!" she will excitedly interject, pulling the tale to a sudden finish. She's onto something, for sure -- everyone gets excited over a story that ends that way. And it definitely cuts down on the potential awkwardness when you just can't figure out how to back out gracefully. That's how I'm feeling about posting lately. I start out all good-intentioned, carefully selecting my words for the greatest impact and just when I'm getting warmed up, I look out over the faces in my audience and realize that they're all just listening out of politeness. Sorry y'all. I didn't want to dwell on the mind-barf two posts in a row, but that seems to be all I can focus on lately. The Crazy has become my own personal talking stain. The only thing I can focus on, try as I might to pay attention to what it is you're actually saying.

So then I found five dollars. We'll talk about how I spent it next time.


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homework

I finally took the plunge and went to see someone qualified to deal with the mountain of crazy that has recently taken up residence in my head. Or maybe it has always been there and it just took all this time for the fog to clear away to reveal it. Either way, I found myself sitting on the stereotypical couch, plucking at invisible strings on my t-shirt and twisting a wad of soggy tissues in my hand. Good times.

He asked me the standard series of "getting to know you" questions and I fluttered between wanting so badly to bare my black, black soul to this total stranger and wanting to make nice. Nah, life is fine! We kinda like it here in Looneyville! The water's great, the air's clean... it's a trade off for the steaming pile of rot that we walk through on a daily basis, but every place has it's "issues". I wound up staring at the fire alarm thingy up in the corner of the room a lot, searching for the right words that wouldn't make me seem too crazy but still make the point that capital H capital E capital L capital P is what I'm in the market for. Preferably a quick fix. Something that will get the job done by tonight, perhaps? No? Maybe something in a two week trial package? No? Nothing available without a long-term commitment, so it seems. And yes, the word commitment is filled with double meaning. See how very clever I am?

The focus of our conversation kept coming back to my complete inability to face up to what is really bothering me. Any college graduate knows the term for that. But did you also know that "cleaning cat hair off the bed each morning after it has been made with a lint brush, followed by a longish strip of packing tape wrapped around the hand" falls into the "avoidance issues" category? Me neither! Turns out I tap dance from morn 'til night! And I don't even own those fancy clicky shoes! Go me!

The good news is he didn't tell me I'm too crazy to treat. And he didn't tell me I'm completely normal and just need to suck it up and deal with it. The bad news is that he wants me to come back more often than the pre-agreed once every two weeks. Apparently I've got more crazy than his office trashcan can handle bi-monthly. Frequent empty-ings are in order. So until we've managed to shovel of the first layer of insanity, he's going to shift his schedule around to make room for me once a week.

Today he sent me away with this bit of homework. When the crazy (aka obsessive shining of the rims of the bathroom cups. Need a mirror? Grab a goblet!) strikes, I'm supposed to make a note of how I feel. Not stop the behavior. No self-flagellation or penance, just pause and consider how I am feeling in that moment. Take a little time for self-reflection. A moment of zen. Peaceful, no?

No.

Shy of actually pushing LG from my hoo-ha, it's quite possibly the hardest thing I've ever attempted. Not the reflecting part. I had a field day with that. Mopping the kitchen floor? Master of my destiny! Scooping out the kitty litter? Poor, poor pitiful me. Folding the laundry? Bored, a little hungry, and more than slightly irritated that I didn't get that damn pair of pants hung before it wrinkled for the eleventy billionth time.

The part had me quivering like a rabid raccoon was the whole not taking any action part. Here I am recognizing my obsessive behaviors with blinding clarity and all I'm supposed to do is nod blithely in their direction and keep on compulsing. Heh? How's the crazy going to stop if I keep offering it a brownie every time it comes by for a visit?

And the worst part? I failed. One little task, one little non-task, and I failed. Bet you can't guess what comes next, can you. Sure you can. A neat, tidy, carefully bulleted, copied and then re-copied and finally typed out little list. Behavior on the left, Feeling on the right. Did I hear someone say tap-dance? I'm so effed up that I can't even just let my emotions simply exist. No, they've got to be tidied up, categorized and spell-checked. And let's just see if the impact is more forceful in Verdana font. Times New Roman is simply too analytical. Comic Sans? Too playful. This is serious business. But not too serious... wouldn't want the crazy to think we don't have a sense of humor, now would we? Georgia. We'll go with Georgia.

WTF, people? DOUBLE-U TEE EFF?

The one bit of enlightenment I got out of this exercise is that the descriptors appearing most often under Feelings were "anxious" and "purposeful". Any amateur psychologists in the house? Other than probably relating back to some traumatic event in my formative years, blah blah blah, does this somehow seem to underline the before mentioned psychosis re: avoidance behaviors to anyone other than me? My head is full of barf and chaos. I could deal with that or, hey! My floor is covered with macaroni and cheese! Dun-dundle-dun: Super-squeegee Girl to the rescue! It's a spray bottle! It's a microfiber cloth! It's a guaranteed half hour of flicking at little spots on the floor and frantically wiping up any trace of moisture before it has time to dry and leave a streak on the floor that might be visible if someone were to lay down on their stomach and squint at a 35* angle when the sun comes streaming in through the dining room window at precisely 3:53 in the afternoon! See Super-squeegee Girl defeat her archenemy Fingerprints on the Dishwasher and live to avoid her issues another day.

You can only imagine the field day my inner-critic was having. Her billable hours must be through the roof after a day like today! Note to self: Seal up all the really sensitive places with some sort of industrial strength steel. That biotch is probably out shopping for a new pair of shoes right now and she doesn't need an invitation to kick you when you're down.

Aren't you glad you stopped by today? Here, take a plate of crazy with you... I've got more than I'll be able to get through before it spoils. Ooohwhee! Nothing stinks like a rotten pile of crazy!