Monday, October 26, 2015

"When Are You Going To Get Over It?"

Monday, October 26, 2015

I had a nightmare last night. When compared against the nightmares during my sleep time I have had throughout my life the one I had last night was fairly bad. The dream imagery was interwoven with feelings of dread and fear. The fear I felt in the dream was due in large measure to the visual imagery that surrounded me.

When I awoke this morning I felt all too familiar feelings of sadness and anxiety. And I found myself wondering how I can be a man of forty-two years of age and still be plagued by disturbing dreams. The one I had last night I can easily associate with that summer of 1982. I have previously written about that time in my life here in my blog. It was a very difficult time. I felt a lot of fear then. I was afraid I was going to die. And I had good reason to feel that way. I won't put myself through pain again by once again recounting the details here.

I found myself asking a hard question this morning: "When am I going to decisively 'get over' my early life history?" What will it take for me to no longer sometimes feel haunted by what I endured? As I reflected on the long and painful shadow of my early life history I found myself recalling a small piece of written material in which the same general question is posed. I pulled it out this morning to read it over. The title of it is "The Ten Biggest Myths About Grief". You might expect to see such a piece of literature in a hospital chapel or hospice office. The following is directly quoted from this miniature guidebook on grief:

"The biggest myth about grief is that we 'get over' it. We don't. We absorb our loss and learn from it. We are changed forever after someone we love dies. As poet Paul Irion says, 'Life can be the same after a trinket has been lost, but never after the loss of a treasure.'

The harsh reality of loss brings acute grief, a pain that is all-consuming, overwhelming, and unpredictable. Grief does not follow an orderly path through stages, phases, and tasks, and come to an end that is clearly defined by 'acceptance,' 'closure,' and 'emotional detachment.'"

I believe the aforementioned myth is a convenient little myth that nonetheless can do a lot of damage when we structure our lives around its incorrect core assumption. It's a myth I personally believe is almost essential to cling to as a means of living in the hyper-connected and hyper-busy culture of American society. Or perhaps 'coping' is a better word choice than 'living'. How can you feel that you are truly living in a culture where we are taught to always be moving on to the next thing? Being 'busy' is one of the quintessential American addictions. But what is all the busyness for?

Twenty-eight months of rigorous self-inquiry, writing and dedication to my own personal wellness has taught me a few things. One thing I have learned is recounted elsewhere in this grief guidebook. All losses are not the same. Another powerful piece of wisdom can be found hidden inside another myth that contends that there is only one right way to grieve. There are as many ways to grieve as there are people on the planet. I personally found it helpful to reclaim what I could of the life I had never lived as a way of grieving the years from my earlier life that are now gone forever. We cannot turn back the clock but we can choose to live a better life in the future.

I am inclined to think that an article posted by PTSD recovery advocate Michele Rosenthal somehow ignited the dream I had last night. The topic of that article was shame. I think American culture all too often does something incredibly disempowering and shortsighted to those who are immersed in grief. It shames them. People get shamed for not 'getting over' their grief. Such is the harm that can be inflicted by a culture virtually obsessed with moving faster, being more productive and so on.

As I pondered my own particular life reality in the hours immediately after waking up this morning I asked myself a painful question: 'Do I personally feel ashamed by the fact that I am apparently still not 'over' some of what happened to me more than thirty years ago?' A harsh person lacking compassion might indeed think I am pathetic for not having finally healed from all the uncertainty, violence, corruption and harsh language I was subjected to as a kid. Indeed, shouldn't twenty-eight months of consistently going to therapy on a weekly basis have helped me reach that seemingly magical state of 'being healed'? Not necessarily.

I find myself becoming more and more gentle and patient as time passes. American culture would often conflate such qualities with weakness. But anyone who knows me well knows I am a strong individual. My appreciation of the beauty and fragility of human life has deepened these last two years. I am aware of how the smallest words and gestures can have long enduring impacts, both positive and negative, for those both on the giving and receiving end of such interactions.

I personally would like to reach a point in my own life where I no longer feel so vulnerable to the ravages of vivid nightmares. I would like to have more enduring friendships. I want to be happier. I want to do work that energizes me. And I want a special person to have as my husband. These are my big dreams for my future. Maybe these wishes will manifest in another six months. Maybe it will take another year. I don't know. I continue to do the work to move in the direction of a bigger, brighter, bolder and more enjoyable future. I hope one day I will finally awaken...and actually be in my much dreamed about reality.

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I invite you to accompany me as I document my own journey of healing. My blog is designed to offer inspiration and solace to others. If you find it of value I welcome you to share it with others. Aloha!