There was a frost last night, but the day promises to be glorious. I went out to feed the birds, but I no longer have to haul water. The overnight freezes are minor, and it’s safe to run the hoses. The snow is nearly gone, and I’ll be able to hang laundry on the line outside again.
Today I had tea instead of coffee, and I will be taking Bruce home. He is the cat who has been visiting us. I know he will be very happy to be with his people again, and they have missed him terribly. Although he has frequently been a pain in the backside, we are going to miss Bruce, too. He may be a disturber of the peace, but he has his charms.
This also marks the last week of taking sertraline. It did seem to help for a while, during the darkest times last year. But over the course of the winter, I began experiencing disturbing symptoms. Memory loss (yes, worse than the usual for an aging brain), spells of disorientation and confusion. Some days I couldn’t get out of bed, the lethargy was so bad. One day I realized that I hadn’t felt genuine happiness for weeks. Like the Paul Simon song, I felt like I was slip-sliding away; a good day had no pain, and a bad day I would lie in bed and think of things that might have been.
When I went to my counselor, her solution was to increase the dosage. Take more of what wasn’t working? That made no sense. She also had all kinds of advice about what I could do to solve my problems, getting job training from some state department. She talked about the success some of her other clients had doing this. Then very thought made me even more tired. Like she hadn’t heard my pain at all. Like she was running off a script: This is what I tell clients who are in this situation. I left feeling miserable and guilty because I couldn’t follow her advice. I didn’t want to fight my way through yet another government bureaucracy and force myself to learn new skills that might or might not get me a job. But if her other clients can do it, some even older than I, I should be able to do it, too. If I don’t, it’s my own fault, my own weakness, I have no one to blame but myself.
I was laying in bed one morning after a week of obediently taking the increased dosage. I was to see my counselor again in two weeks. That was the soonest she could schedule an appointment for me. She has a very full schedule and only works four days a week. Two more weeks of feeling bloody awful. Then a mere 45 minutes of trying to explain, probably doing it badly, and leaving feeling inadequate. Being told I really had nothing to worry about, and here’s what I needed to do.
A defiant, angry voice somewhere in the back of my head, shouted “This is bullshit!”
I had a flash of insight: I don’t have to do this.
All that day I thought about it. I was falling into an old pattern, trying to live up to my counselor’s expectations the way I had struggled to live up to my ex-husband’s expectations. Why was I putting myself through it? Why was I continuing to do something that made me miserable? I though of the old joke about the person who goes to see the doctor and says, “Doc, it hurts when I do this.” And the doctor replies, “So stop doing that.”
When you break your leg, you need to have a cast. The cast is a perfectly appropriate treatment. But then the time comes to take the cast off and start using the limb again. It was time for me to take the cast off.
Hence the blog journaling, canceling my counselor appointment, and weaning myself off the sertraline. I’ve been writing about the changes I’m making, the self-therapy I am going through. I have spent years learning about myself and how I think. I went back and reread my accounts of MBCT (Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy) and my adventures in meditation. It was all there. I had all the pieces. And now that the major toxic element that was clouding my thinking is gone, I can put them together. I can rebuild my self-confidence now that I don’t have someone constantly undermining me, gas-lighting, trying to convince me that they know me better than I do, that I am deluding myself and I need to listen to them and do what they say.
Yes, it is spring, and the real test will be when winter comes again. But damn, it is good to feel joy again!