Ripping off scabs


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.

5 responses »

  1. sounds like the real deal to me ~ just avoid the other extreme of over picking. ya oftens don’t knead that much scar tissue.

  2. I wish that I had the emotional strength right now even to think about seeing a therapist. I just don’t think that I have the energy to talk about my problems. Lazy though it may be, I just want to visit a shrink, and be given a pill to make everything all better.

    I’m glad that you are making progress, though!

  3. Chuck (my head doctor) and I have a real “on again off again” relationship. I’m pretty sure the “off again” portion is all me. He would much prefer an “on all the time” relationship.

    However, I do know what it takes to actually get one’s self in to see the head doctor, and the virtual assault of excuses and reasons to procrastinate that accompany such an endeavor.

    I suppose, in the end, its all about the fact that you actually are there and on the couch. And its always a bonus to be able to talk to someone who understands your point of view.

    I can’t tell you how many times I have told Chuck, “The guys at work don’t want to sit in a circle and talk about how their job has effected them. We just don’t do that.”

  4. BBG – I was not all that keen to start picking at these scabs in the first place. But as they tend to get a bit itchy during this time of year when all three anniversaries hit within one month, and I have support to stave off the bleeding, if need be, I’m ready to do a little pickin’. I hope not to bleed all over my blog.

    Apropos to nothing – Damn! This Trader Joe’s new chocolate non-fat yogurt is tasty!

    AnotherQ – Thank you. And thank you for all the support you’ve given me now and in the past. I appreciate it.

    Petrichoric – From my own experience, I know that a pill won’t make it all better, but it sure as hell can help get a floor under your feet. It’s hard to pick at scabs when it feels like you’re sinking in quicksand.

    Adam – I’ve always thought that fact that you willingly put yourself on the couch was quite brave, considering your line of work and the level of macho bravado you’re probably surrounded by. So, yeah, I totally get why you would be resistant. But, if you’re not willing or interested in doing the work, you could sit on Dr. Chuck’s couch for years and it wouldn’t help. But, it’s good to know that when you’re ready, Dr. Chuck will be there.

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