Where do we find out light in the time of darkness?
This week has been an emotional ride for me as a therapist and a human. My schedule is packed. I start my days at 8 am and often don't leave until after 6:30 pm. But that's ok for now. It will thin out after the Holidays I am sure.
This week I saw a young man whom I hadn't seen for a few months. When he first became my patient, he was seeking insight into how he could improve his well being. He has an extensive trauma history (as do many of my patients) and had isolated himself from relationships other than work related ones.
He appeared on my schedule as an "emergency appointment". When he came in, he looked defeated.
He told me he had tried to commit suicide 2 days previously. There was a long involved story that led to his being so in pain, so tired, so defeated, that he decided to end it all. But in those final seconds, he sought intervention, called a friend who called 911 and got him to the ER where they took over...
He sat before me and I thought of others in my life who had been in his place. I have several friends and family members, past and present, who have attempted to kill themselves. I have never been in that spot so there is much I don't understand, but I do know that there can be pain so deep, that death seems like the only answer. I know I cannot save someone if they choose to end their life. I have learned through experience that choice is theirs alone and I cannot carry the blame for their actions.
I can be angry, sad and grieve but I cannot carry the weight of their personal darkness.
I can listen, be present, try to help them discover reasons to live, try to find healthier ways to ease their pain and sorrow... but I cannot make their choice for them.
Do I feel helpless? Yes, at times I do.
So where do I find my light?
I have a great therapist who helps me find perspective. I have a strong connection with my family. I have great friends. I have my church family and my faith. I have my dogs and cats. I have connections filled with love. And for that I am so grateful.
I have learned to seek the light within myself. I have learned that healing happens.
This is what I sense most of my patients are missing and long for: connection. Finding unconditional love and acceptance from others and from themselves is often the missing piece of the puzzle. Often they have grown up believing they are not worthy of love. They have no role models of healthy relationships. They have no concept of their innate goodness and worth.
I have another patient who hasn't experienced abuse in his family but who was taunted and teased and firmly believes no one will ever love him because he is "fat and ugly". He is a brilliant scholar, wise and insightful and empathetic. "But will anyone see that?" he asks. I can't answer that question for him. I wish I could. I understand, to a degree, his struggle. I have always wished I was prettier, thinner, taller, etc. I have at times focused so much on my physical shortcomings that I failed to see my value as a person. I spent a long time in romantic relationships where I felt "not good enough"; where I felt put down, labeled as a bitch, always lacking in some way... it's taking me a long time to see myself otherwise, but I am getting there. So I am trying to use what I have learned to help others.
I want to be a light in the darkness. I want to share the light that others have shone me. I know that darkness can be overcome. It is not easy, it is not quick, but it can be done.