Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Corners Report or I Turned One

After mourning the loss of my still-living former therapist for a day and a half, I was surprised to find that I had begun to experience a rebirth, of sorts.

Saying good-bye to Clay was a horribly sad event for me, resembling a much smaller-scale death than the death of Chris. I left his office that evening, went home, fell apart and remained in pieces on my bedroom floor for a day and a half.

Then something remarkable happened.

I began to feel better -- not just better than I felt since bidding him farewell – better than I have felt in three years. My mood lifted. The sun came out in my overcast sub-cortex. Letting go of Clay was like the “big” letting go, in training. I knew I would still miss seeing and talking with him, but I felt as though I was going to be okay.

Then I found out my insurance still covers his services, and although I called him under the pretense of wanting to gain retro-coverage for that last session for which I am being charged his full, uninsured fee, the truth (as much as I hate to admit it) is that my call served as a means of letting him know that the possibility of my returning for therapy exists, or at least it did when I made the call.

I didn’t know that a simple return phone call from Clay was going to have such a profound effect on my grieving progress. He called and we talked a bit about my returning to him and agreed that he should call me when he returns from vacation.

That was the start of a whole new world for me.

Saying goodbye to Chris was devastating. Saying goodbye to Clay was small-scale devastating, but devastating, no less. Hearing Clay on the other end of the phone, after I had let him go, filled me with joy, celebration, euphoria and nearly brought me to tears. It was so nice to hear his voice and know that he was still around.

I experienced a very powerful epiphany, realizing that for the past three years, the term “good-bye” has meant “death” and “finality” in my life, which is why “breaking up” with Clay was so painful. What I also realized is that most good-byes are not final. Hearing Clay’s voice and walking away with the knowledge that he is still here and I can still talk to him if I need him has armed me with a still greater euphoria than that which I felt after hanging up the phone, last week. I haven’t cried since the occurrence of that phone call. He’s here. He’s not gone, and at the moment, I’m not feeling an urgency to grab hold of him and pull him back into my world.

Death is final. Good bye is a whole other thing.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Warming Up to Goodbye

My first session with the new therapist was this past Monday evening. I gave him a brief overview of my experiences and their aftermath. One thing I mentioned to him was how much I miss the me I used to be, before I met Chris and even during the initial stages of our relationship.

I told him I used to be able to stay home on a weekend night, pour myself a glass of wine, put on music and rehearse showtunes for the sheer joy of knowing I would be prepared, come the next audition. I loved those evenings, getting tipsy all alone, singing and just being nice to myself. I haven’t had one of those evenings for the past seven years, or so, since Chris and I moved to Los Angeles.

Tonight is one of those nights. I’m feeling light and happy. I had a glass of wine with my friend, Robby, after work (after much coercing on my part -- he was “too tired to come out”, but guess what...he did!) and then hopped back on the train, rode one stop to Porter Square, ordered the delicious super carnitas burrito from Anna’s Tacqueria that I had been craving since I woke up this morning, hopped back on the train to Harvard Square and rode home on a bus. I changed into jeans and a t-shirt, planted myself on my living room sofa and devoured my regale.

I began to become aware of my natural high on my walk from the bus stop to my apartment, when the thought occured to me that tonight is a celebration, a gala of sorts.

Saying goodbye to Clay, last night, devastated me...for a day and a half. A day and a half is a substsantial amount of time to grieve a loss when the person being grieved is alive and well.

The real deal is that, tonight, I stepped outside of my past, and Clay is one of the last shreds of that past. In letting him go, I released myself from the grip of last night’s anguish. I didn’t become aware of the positive aspects of my having mustered up the courage to release him until this evening.

I am sitting on my sofa digesting my burrito, which is nicely absorbing some of the wine from my system. I feel happy.

I don’t know whether this feeling will last, or not, but I know that I am not going to take the gift for granted. If there’s one thing I have learned in the past four years, it's that grief has a way of seeming linear at times, but that a grief-surge can ambush a person from behind when she’s least expecting the attack.

I never thought I could say goodbye to Clay. I never thought I, all by myself, could ask for a raise, be refused, and kick off a nine-month job search that would result in my getting a better job, where I fit in completely, love the work and can wear jeans anytime I choose. I never thought I could afford to live in Cambridge by myself. I never thought I could recapture the eurphoria of being home alone, enjoying myself, drinking wine and eating delectible food in the complete absense of anxiety...but tonight I am doing just that.

Just four hours ago, I was not able to think about Clay without becoming teary-eyed and choked-up, and now I feel quietly serene. Letting go of Clay was my launching pad, and I am overwhemled with thoughts of everything else I can accomplish.

I feel good, tonight. I feel free, happy and -- although I hesitate to speak so soon -- I feel peaceful.


A Sad Parting of Minds

I said goodbye to Clay, last night, after two and a half years of working with him to combat the after-effects of my tragedy. I brought him a small gift and we talked about my reasons for moving on and about my feelings toward him, in general. I told him I feel like I love him. I do feel like I love him, but I know those feelings aren’t true. Clay knows just about everything there is to know about me and I know next-to-nothing about him, which is the way of the psychotherapy world.

Clay sat in his chair and listened to everything I had to say, providing me with patience and understanding and a simulated friendship I have grown to love and which I already miss tremendously. Without him, I would be lost, navigating the lanes of Devastation Highway with no GPS to guide me along my way.

I cried and told him I didn’t want to leave, but that I have to if I’m going to prevail over the dragon that continues to breathe fire in my direction on a daily basis. I could continue to visit Clay and talk to him week after week, but the truth is that I wish we were friends. I like Clay. He’s a nice man (I think…again, I don’t really know him.). I miss him, already. I had an all-out Clay-meltdown when I arrived home, last night, crying, falling apart and curling up on the couch to cry some more. When I was finished, I felt as though I had completed a rite of passage from the world of asking for help into the world of helping myself.

So I began working with another man, and I think this partnership in mental health is going to be most beneficial to me. We will be working on relaxation techniques and thought and behavior modification, which is really what I need now. I have talked about what happened, ad nauseam, and my work with Clay has been extremely helpful, but now it’s time to begin changing the thoughts and eliminating the painful and intrusive image flashbacks I have been experiencing (PTSD?), and begin to try letting go of the guilt I feel each time I find myself feeling happy.

So my plan is in place. Whether I succeed, or not, is yet to be seen.

Clay said I can come back anytime I want to, and I suppose the notion brings me comfort, but this phase in my life is over and letting go of Clay, in some ways, is going to help me let go of many other things in my life. This year is about saying goodbye; goodbye to a company for which I hated working, goodbye to a city in which I hated living, goodbye to a therapist (and a friend) whom I feel as though I love.

Life is a series of goodbyes.