dariaphoebe: (redhead)
"You are empowered," she said. It was the second time in the last few sessions she'd said it to me. The context this time was a little different, though.

After voting, I'd bicycled to therapy, tracing my own river valley downstream before cutting across the triangular peninsula and heading up the other. My new-found red locks fluttered behind me in the breeze. I started as I usually did, covering the things which had happened since my last visit that I thought might be of note. I dwelt on one, in particular, musing that I needed to work on what the answer might be. She concurred, but I continued, elaborating what was on my mind. "The answer is exactly that. You don't need my help."

Minutes later, though, she informed me it was her turn as I finished. "This is the first time I've done this," she started, before explaining she'd resigned. I was the first client she'd told. When she pointed out that her suggestion of who might best replace her for my care might be ignored, I pointed out my willingness to be assertive on my own behalf. So perhaps it should have come as no great surprise when she asked if I even needed to be seeing anyone at all.

"Maybe I'm done." "I think you're done."

Just shy of 2 years since stepping into her office in the previous building, I'd gone from a confused, boyish-looking person still trying to flesh out who I was, to a woman she again described as empowered. It was especially true when it came to executing items required to simply be the person I find myself to be, but I could hardly take sole credit for getting to that point.

There were friends buttressing me in my moments of weakness. There was the community of peers I'd found, both local and remote, who shared details of their similar journeys -- successes, failures, and mundanities. There was the spouse who continued to find ways to redefine who we are together as the ground shifted under her, and the two families who offered support free of judgement. And of course, her, my therapist, who had always found things to say that motivated me to acknowledge and address shortcomings when I might have otherwise tried to just kick them under the rug.

In a world of possibilities, I'd considered the previous evening what limits mine might have. Like a car that did not need to be refueled, sitting at the entrance to a coursing, flowing freeway, I felt like the answer might be bounded in a manner I wasn't capable of comprehending. Of all the courses possible, I'll be taking just one. I'm not sure where it will end up, what detours it will require, what hazards it will entail. But it is a trip I undertake with the intent to pay forward the support that got me this far.
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
Somewhat reluctantly, I skipped my bicycle due to impending rain, and drove myself to the still fortnightly visit to the therapist. After some flailing by the person substituting at the front desk, we started, a few minutes late. She asked what was new. What? Everything, and nothing. I told her of my recent successes, of my failures. A weekend away, a weekend at home, family celebrations, arguments. Doing things wrong, doing things right, and fully realizing aspects of myself. I told her of my plans for the next day - today - and confessed my fears.

When I concluded, she asked what other goals I had for therapy. The implication wasn't quite clear, but she continued on to clarify the point. What if ... what if I was finished?

I didn't brush off her statement, something which had often happened in the past when she pointed to progress I'd made. Indeed, I embraced it. Upon inquiry, I told her I wasn't without regret for things that had happened in the process of getting to this point, but it wasn't something I was willing to let taint my life. After prolonged thought, joy and pain, exploration and growth, I felt ready. I had not and would not be doing it alone: it's only with the support of others that we can fully come into our own, but I was there.

Our evening included an outdoor concert, and while biking the brief distance back to the car along a trail barely lit by the city behind me to conclude a wonderful night, I remembered the other thing I told her. This needed to be the new baseline. Nothing can ever be perfectly stable, but I now had my goal. This was my chance. This IS my chance.
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
We sat on facing chairs in her office, and I shared my state of mind. "I am a f*king goddess," I said in almost-protest, while stifling tears, after recounting the things I felt I was doing right. But how do you own that when it seems that all about you is disdain? No one would ever lust after my body, I said, even as I hated myself for merely wanting such a thing.

My body, even as it increasingly converges with the one I was sure right along I belonged in, feels as though it's creating a palpable tension around me. And so even as I am offered both love and acceptance, I feel hurt, raw, exposed, ripped off, alone. And the recognition of the pure selfishness of those feelings merely compounds the pain. For all my progress, I am still excessively fragile. I am still damaged goods.
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
As I'd driven up the hill, I saw the traffic and shuddered at the idea of the trip back down. But the time had come, and I pedaled out into the street when a hole in traffic appeared. I had little doubt that none of the morning commuters on that first part of my route had ever seen a cyclist in a brilliantly-red dress and heels holding their lane ahead of them, and it gave me no small bit of pride to know it. Further along, I slipped through stopped traffic to make my left and climb over the ridge separating me from downtown while the drivers waited for the light that would admit them to the much more direct tunnel.

Therapy was hardly an hour after I'd clambered on the bike. I arrived with minutes to spare, paying my bill before waiting to be collected for my session. I caught her up since I'd last seen her two weeks ago, recounting lack of progress on some fronts. We segued into a discussion of what else was up in my life, delving into how I was feeling at the moment. She'd chided me many times for failing to own my successes, but for a bare minute, I did. I let myself cry, too, an occurrence uncommon enough to be countable on the fingers of one hand.

Was it really that surprising that I'd be unable to hold on to positive feelings about myself in a world which tried sometimes even unconsciously to make me feel like a freak? I couldn't promise it would work, but I swore I would try to hold on to those emotions. After all, I'd just made biking an unlikely route in an improbable outfit look like a fun, even sexy, thing to do to hundreds of random strangers. Why the heck should I be letting anything else based on the prejudices of others stand in my way?
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
"Those that succeed are those that keep going," she told me. I conceded her point. What was weighing on me wasn't quite so simple as that anyway.

It would probably be accurate to say that I (like many of us) am my own worst enemy. Regardless of my progress and my successes, I demanded more of myself. There was nothing wrong with that. The problem stemmed from how I applied my expectations. I was, after all, a professional adult who had achieved much to this point in life. It's hard to square that with finding yourself basically an adolescent at the same time. The contrast of growing up (again) at the same point it's time to start thinking about things like midlife cancer screenings is jarring. There were plenty of facets of life where I felt what I know wasn't all that I'd be expected to. Maybe that's true. Perhaps not. But when even simple things like presenting a proper, professional adult appearance were hard at times, it was an easy conclusion. You'd think someone my age would have it down, right?

Certainly I've never been renowned for my patience. This, though, was more than impatience: a lamentation of progress I hadn't made yet, the things in my life that I felt like I should have already done. Patience is surely part of it, but pushing myself to the edge of, and occasionally beyond, my ability to deal is also.
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
I hadn't seen her for two weeks, but we sat there shredding my life. That was the point. In the 14 months since I'd started seeing her, though, we deemed my life stable enough for me to drop to fortnightly, and despite being after a long eventful week, we still had time to delve into ongoing life issues.

She asked what I got from the moments where I got argumentative. Did I need to be right? What was it? We wandered about a bit. Finally, I paused before exclaiming what was surely the answer. It came back to resentment of authority, of having been told that things I could prove were wrong were how it was, and that had flavored me. "You have no authority figures in your life now, though," she said. "And I'm sure you're not trying to make people feel how you felt." I conceded all of that. "What would it be like if you just had someone telling you anything you suggested was wrong, and then devaluing you?" I knew she was exaggerating for a point, and at the same time, I pointed out I knew: it would be like college. Regardless, there was no reason I'd want anyone, especially a friend, to feel that way either.

We elaborated a new set of 3 month goals for me, ambitious but not impossible, and I headed out for tea. As I drank, I reflected on how far I'd come; We weren't focusing on issues of being more fully myself at all. Instead, we had focused almost entirely at simply being a better version of who I already am. How far we'd come in a year... HEY!

And then I remembered. I checked the calendar again. A year ago, 12 months to the day, after visiting my doctor, I got a prescription filled, applied a patch to myself, and then walked out of the coffeeshop I was in that day for a picture. I stood against a mural on the wall a couple feet from where I had been a moment before, a mural I had watched the renowned artist place when he randomly showed up nearly 5 years earlier. I'd spent that weekend reflecting on and confirming to myself the answer to a question, and so after carefully composing a picture, I shared it with a short message sharing that answer: "Say hi to Daria."
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
I was a couple minutes late for my session after hoofing it from the bus over snow-covered sidewalks. I regretted missing the exercise from a bike ride, but the odds of injury were too high to risk. We quickly got on track, and I recounted my progress at the goals I'd set for myself. She offered that perhaps I'd reached a point of stability, that maybe I was ready to switch to every other week. It was a far cry from the beginning, when I felt lost and in need of being led around at all times... even if, in hindsight, I was doing better than I thought.

The thing that stands out now was that getting here was easier than I expected, and the difficulties I encountered were mostly not the ones I thought I'd have. Being surrounded by supportive people, that is, you, is without a doubt the number one factor I can cite, but I can't neglect my circumstances. I have insurance even if it's not ideal. I have a job which lets me have the flexibility I need to have done these appointments for over a year strictly during business hours. And I have the possibility of having the time and opportunities to *be* surrounded by you, to have you in my life.

As I stood by just about 24 hours before that, following a moment of tragedy in some friends' lives, I had an opportunity to talk with their neighbor. She lamented that often we aren't there for people when they need it, and folks are more disconnected from those around them than ever before. In spite of seeing counterexamples around me, I know there are those who are isolated and hurting, in some cases in self-imposed isolation because of the pain they are in. If you are inspired by what I did, if you want to celebrate my success, remember your part in it, and promise you'll try to connect, to help the people who need it and don't know how to ask or brusquely push you away. I'd like to tell you the circumstances will be obvious or the help they need will be easy. I can't. But if you are reading this, I know you have it in you, and I hope I do, too.
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
I cried as I talked. "I killed the goose that laid the golden eggs," I told her. "It's gone, and so all I can do now is cook up some goose and eat well so it wasn't completely in vain". I'd pushed myself up the hill in absolutely gorgeous weather, making reasonable time on the bike after first fearing that I'd left too late to make my session on time. The burdens holding me back that morning weren't the ones I'd hauled up the hill on my bicycle, they were the ones inside me.

She asked how I was handling things. After letting me describe my withered coping skills, she asked how it was working out for me. "I got up this morning and am living my life," I told her. But my failure to cope with my own anxiety was doing me no favors, and was exacerbated by my failure to be able to self-validate. We plotted a course to examine the former and address the latter, but it would fall to me alone to stay that course. She did suggest I look for external checks, something to help me on the path, but I conceded that self-validation when I already felt beat-down would not be easy. "You don't seem like someone who'd give up easily," she said. Realizing where I was, though, she pushed me to at least try to recognize the validation I needed, even if I didn't feel ready to offer it to myself.

Step 85: The limitations in your ability to self-care mustn't stop you from trying.
dariaphoebe: (redhead)
"There's no recipe for this. It's not like baking a cake," she told me. Getting here at all was hard for me. I hate talking on the phone, but email hadn't worked, and an attempt to arrange this appointment in person resulted in being handed a business card and told to call. For this, I gained the privilege of spilling intensely personal details of my life to a stranger. Still, she sensed something on my mind and waited for my reply.

"So much of my life has been spent studying science. I know I can't have it, but yes, a recipe is precisely what I want. An exact path that will work." We proceeded to have a discussion where I shared many details, found that my life has many more common elements than I expected, and tabulated a list of questions I hoped to discover the answers to. Not derive, not compute, but unearth.

Step 21: Sometimes the answers cannot be proven, only surmised. Adjust to the possibility that sometimes facts will simply not be available to you, especially when humanity is involved.

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