Warning: Due to the use of an extended metaphor which include scabs, pus, blood and generally oozing bodily fluids, this post should probably not be read while eating.
A few months ago I found myself feeling like my life had no luster. My stability felt like stagnancy. I had no drive, no ambition. And I was spending more and more time in what felt like a low grade depressive funk. So, being no stranger to mental health professionals, I decided it might be time to get my ass back on the couch. A therapist’s couch, that is.
While I have nothing but gratitude and warm feelings towards my previous therapist, I wanted a different approach this time – a Buddhist approach. Now, anyone who is familiar with Spirit Rock Meditation Center in west Marin county knows you can’t throw a stick there without hitting a psychologist (or a Prius, and chances are good you may even hit a psychologist driving a Prius). And since I didn’t want to see a total stranger, I called H, one of the teachers who lead the week-long retreat I went to last year. He struck me as exceedingly kind and nurturing, which was I felt I needed.
My intention was to simply get unstuck and maybe get some help in clarifying where I wanted to go and perhaps some direction in getting there. The last thing I planned was to pick at old scabs.
Life can really do a number on a soul. But, most of the time we bounce back from our emotional bumps and bruises and are as good as new. Other psychic injuries are a bit deeper and take more work to heal up properly and to leave only a cool scar and a good story.
Some people, however, wear their psychic pain like open, oozing, pustulant sores. Many have developed some sort of secondary or even tertiary infections from keeping their wound so open, raw and unattended. And while outsiders can clearly see these open sores, and think “damn, that’s nasty”, often times the person covered in sores can’t even see them anymore, or have become so identified with them that they wear them like a badge of honor.
In my 20’s I was covered in open, weeping psychic sores – some were from childhood, but many were acquired in my early 20’s when, over the course of three years, I was violently assaulted, and both my parents died (aka “the cluster of trauma”). My 30’s were spent trying heal these sores with the help of a good therapist. When I terminated therapy after nine years, I felt I had pretty well cleaned up most of the wounds and what I had left was simply some scar tissue and some quasi-tragic stories where I end up persevering against the odds. I guess I was wrong.
A couple of weeks ago, my therapy took a turn from dealing with current life issues to rehashing the cluster of trauma. From the tension in my body, I could tell that we weren’t picking at well-healed scar tissue, but rather at a scab – an old, crusty scab, that should have come off years ago if the wound had completely healed. Apparently it wasn’t. H suggested I do a little writing exercise to investigate some of the questions I still had around one particular issue. “How bad could this be?” I thought. “I like to write.” So, one evening I took pen to paper and let loose.
My intention was merely to pick around the edges of the scab and investigate it a bit. Instead, with this little writing exercise, I ended up ripping off the whole damn scab. Shit!
The good news is that I can see that this wound is not gangrenous nor does the pus looked green and infected. But, I can see it needs a bit more tending before it can be healed properly and become just scar tissue. But, the bad news is that I once again have an open, bloody, oozing emotional sore to deal with.
I’m hoping I’ll have the good sense to keep it covered up with a band-aid whilst at work and with friends. God forbid I get any salt in those wounds. But, at home, or on the therapists couch, I’ll need to tend to it, clean out any infected bits, and let it, and myself, finish weeping.