My stomach hurts. I’m trying to relax but I feel anxiety welling up mile by mile. It really isn’t that far between our house and hers but it feels like an eternity. To break the deafening silence I turn on the radio. “It is well with my soul.” I try to sing along, but can’t find the words. My mind cannot quit replaying the previous week. The blow-up. The angry accusation. The sobbing silently while he is inside on an inspection. The cold silent shoulder. The quiet moments where he takes my hand and tells me he loves me. He doesn’t want me to leave. He is sorry for what he did to contribute to my pain. The early morning plane trip across the country to see our son. The moments where life felt right for 24 hours. And then back to reality—we are driving to talk to Katie because I’ve decided to be prosecutor, jury and judge and condemned myself to a life alone if not death.
Seeing Katie is like seeing the sun shine after months of clouds and rain.
Katie always begins with prayer, something I’m still trying to get used to. I like it, it’s just a gentle reminder that Katie is a different kind of counselor and there’s no hiding from her gifts. She breaks the ice, “There’s a weird energy between you two, what’s going on?” So, I speak up. And I tell her I’m honestly not sure what happened and that’s why I made the husband come with me. He explains that he’s not really sure why he’s with me and then he begins to tell the tale.
It’s not pretty. And hearing it logically I realize just how ridiculous it must have looked to him. I know Katie is giving me no passes and I brace myself for the work. She starts giving the husband tools to deal with my anger.
Do not engage her. Tell her you will not tolerate her treating you with disrespect. Walk away if she is out of control. When she breaks the cycle then pray together. Only after she’s back in reality do you discuss the issue.
I feel so small. I know she is right. When my anger flares up, it’s out of control. And even though she is honest, there’s something merciful and kind about Katie’s instructions to the husband. There’s no judgment. I don’t hear her tell him to leave unless there is a pattern and no change.
We talk about my suicidal episodes and how the husband is afraid to say anything that will send me over the edge. “STOP.” That’s what she says to him. Don’t get involved with her drama. WHAT? This is drama? Now my anger is coming out and the husband tells Katie, “She’s ramping up, this is what she does.”
And Katie tells the husband what to do. “Stop rewarding her behavior.”
The side of me that loves to stay in this crazy drama-induced nightmare is fighting Katie with everything I have. But inside is me. The real me in my beautiful Imago Dei. The one who loves her husband and her Abba and who wants to be whole. She’s fighting to hear what Katie is saying.
I feel crazy.
She looks at me. “Do you want to continue with this?”
Sigh. No. If I did, I wouldn’t come here and do this work.
“I want you to show me what you see right now. Something negative and something positive.”
I look at her. “You mean from the closet?” We all laugh. Yep, I’m not getting past the closet this time.
Pick out an image that represents my anger. Is there anything that says death. She needs a damn volcano. Strangely I’m drawn to the shark. “Fish are friends not food” I think.
I want a dove. Because what I want is my strength to be peaceful as a dove. The closest I can find is a seagull. I laugh, because I think of my “Today I will be happier than a seagull with a French fry” picture from Angie. I can just imagine the conversation about a seagull.
It’s funny how two little plastic figurines can get me to talk.
She makes me explain. I tell her how I feel like the shark, “Fish are friends, not food.” How I feel like I’m supposed to be this nice, good girl and I’m sick of being that. That I can’t be good at anything. That if I act in the fact that I’m talented at what I do, I’m being prideful and that God doesn’t like that. How I have to be nice to people who I don’t want to be friends with. How I have to pretend I’m something I’m not. How I spent years giving up who I was, what I wanted, my dreams, for others…because that was what was right. As soon as I thought I knew anything, I was wrong.
“Who told you that?”
“My church did. That’s my theology. I’m constantly judging to prove myself righteous.”
“They were wrong.”
Of course they were.
Katie gets me to focus, something which is impossible when I start ramping up. She walks me through the exercise. The one that gets the front part of my brain and back part of my brain communicating. I can answer yes to everything, but this. “Can you give up your right to judge yourself?”
No. No I cannot. Because if I was God I wouldn’t let me get away with what I do. I wouldn’t just say, “All is forgiven.”
She moves on. There’s no getting through to me on this matter. We talk about specifically what is causing the current issue. Can I let go of my right to judge it. But then we get back to me.
Why? Why do I have to give this up? I’ve been taught my whole life how to judge myself. And I’m good at it. It’s how I know where I fit and what I’m supposed to do and what I should say. And she want’s me to give this up?
“Taunya, you don’t make a good God.”
Um. Yes I do. I make a good God, thank you very much. God doesn’t make a good God…because he loves me.
I just sit there a minute. He loves me. Even in my mess. He loves me. I can’t deny the impact of those words.
“Yes. I’d like to do that now.”
So we do more prayer and work. I’m feeling more calm. Centered. And now we can have a reasonable conversation about the issue.
I ask how many times I have to do this with her. “Until you learn it.”
Well, that means she’ll have a job at least for the next decade.
We leave there with another appointment and hugs. I’m silent on the way home, not because I don’t want to talk, but because I don’t want to disrupt what I feel. The husband and I talk a little about what she said about judgment and our wonky theology, but mostly I stay silent.
It’s been 4 days since I talked to Katie. The anxiety has, for the most part, remained silent. I’ve worked on not judging one part of me good and one part of me bad. I’ve tried to not let irritation get to me. I’ve told myself “STOP” when I feel like I’m going to ramp up. I’ve tried to not focus on all the bad things I’ve done and focus on just what is right in the moment. I’ve tried to be merciful and kind to myself.
And wouldn’t you know it? Today our church started a series on mercy. Instead of condemning myself for not being a merciful person, I recognized what Katie told me is true. Until I start accepting and living in my image, I’m going to live in my fear, anxiety, pain and anger. Until I can be merciful and compassionate toward myself, I’m going to avoid being merciful and compassionate to others. Jesus said to “Treat your neighbor as yourself.” No wonder I treat others horribly, because I treat myself horribly.
And for once, I am finally moving past bad theology that told me it was a sin to love and treat myself right.
Healing is a journey. I sometimes forget and it causes me so much pain. Abba may you constantly remind me to take this step by step.