Advice From the Trenches

Life Blows: Our advice columnists help a writer at her wits’ end

Dear C & Dr. B; 

It feels like there is a storm raging in my head. My entire life sucks. First, there was my mom who decided she was gay, then dumped my dad for an absolute monster of a woman to whom she devoted the rest of her life, while totally neglecting  her first family. Then there were the raping boyfriends, followed by an absolute horror show of a husband who stole everything I owned and is still trying to screw me post divorce.  

Nothing has been good. School a joke, I lost my job due to husband’s crap, and now, I am almost out of savings. People have just really sucked. I have no joy, nothing has helped. I’ve been through tons of therapists, I’ve been prescribed medications. Nothing made any difference. I don’t know why I don’t just kill myself. Is there anything that can help? I don’t know what to do or where to turn.

Done Donna

Dr. B says: First, since you have mentioned suicide, legally, I have to tell you to go to the ER. But you should know that the medications you’ve tried don’t tend to help when coping skills aren’t there to begin with. Pills alone won’t do it. You need to do what an ice skater or ballerina does when performing spins – find a focus point. Right now, any point that doesn’t center on “you” or “them” will do. You have to try to find something neutral to focus on, since there seems to be nothing neutral in your tool box now. For a starting point, try using a mantra or some repetitive soothing music (Que Sera Sera; Artist Pink Martini) and give it some time – it takes about 5 months for a state of neutrality to sink in.    

The next step is learning to become a witness. Observing from the neutral stance helps understanding and learning. In physics there is a theorem that says: You can’t solve a problem from any information within that problem, for if it could be solved, it would be solved. You have to add something new. Neutrality adds a new element that allows for growth and change to occur. “You” and “them” are part of the problem, there are no solutions there. The vexations and blame, that “storm in your head” are all just noise.

A wise man named Aristotle once said: “You are what you repeatedly do.” You have to be consistent in your efforts. You need to understand that suffering is both addicting and defining; that’s why it is so hard to let go of. You need to re-define yourself, not by what was done to you, but by what you want in your future. This is intent. Carrying out the behaviors that lead to that outcome are what will make it actually happen. The Tao says if there is a rock in front of you, don’t try to bash your way through it, flow around it. Neutrality is what allows flow. It is what medications are used for as well, if you can’t manage it on your own. Find a therapist you can connect with to work this way. Storytelling doesn’t help, but skill-based learning does. Good luck.

C says: Oh, Donna, dear Donna…you are lost in the trenches, sweetie, and a mantra isn’t going to get you out. You are deeply programmed for self-destruction. You can sit and have reasonable talks with a therapist, and learn these steps that are designed to help you focus – but the moment you leave the office, your own programming is going to take over and begin twisting everything that was said. You will soon fall back into the same old familiar patterns with the usual array of negative crap.

First piece of advice: Don’t trust any of your natural instincts right now. The only healthy instinct you’ve got is to reach out before doing something drastic. You have got to find a system, with a support community to help you, or you don’t stand a chance. It is obvious you were taught all the wrong life skills, and they are your default setting. They are as comfortable and familiar as they are destructive. It is nearly impossible to move against them. Every time you do something constructive, it will feel wrong. You will have no points of focus; you will go down. The life you are in and the people around you will pull you back down.

Find a system or group that will teach you new patterns and help you develop healthier habits. Do you drink or take any drugs at all? Quit, and join AA or NarcAnon. Just hearing those people talk will help you to understand what a familiar trap it is that you have fallen into. You need to surround yourself with people who are also working for a better life. You are not going to make it alone. Get help, sweetie.

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