The Healing Game

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It may not surprise anyone who read my most recent posts, but I was feeling a bit drained on Tuesday. OK, more than a bit. I was pretty much wiped out, to be honest. 

I wrote for nearly nine straight hours to finish the final portion of the first post (I wrote them out of the order in which they take place chronologically; I suspected if I wrote that one first I would be hard-pressed to start the second post, let alone complete it).

I posted them around 4:00 AM, and then lay awake, waiting for my brain to quiet down. I drifted off into a fitful sleep around 6:30, but my alarm woke me at 9:00. I had an appointment with M, my therapist.

Again, I'll be honest: I wanted to skip it. That's not how I usually feel; while I've had several excellent therapists in the past, M is the best. But I felt very raw and worn down, not to mention exhausted (I'd been up writing until 6:00 two nights before as well). But I knew I should go, so I got up, downed some coffee, and made the 45 minute drive.

I'm glad I did.

The first post dominated the session. M asked if I felt the same sense of catharsis that I felt in December after completing the two long posts I'd written back then. 

I told her I didn't, and wasn't sure I ever would. She asked what made these events different. And after a moment I realized what it was.

While those events were painful, in looking back I could say that I had done everything in my power to achieve what I wanted so desperately: a relationship. That didn't happen, but I knew it wasn't because I failed to take action.

This time, though, that wasn't the case. I *did* fail to take action, I told her; even though I knew why that was the case, the thought of what might have been had I been able to overcome my fears (although perhaps terror wouldn't be too strong a word in this case) would stay with me for the rest of my life.

M took a moment, then began to speak in her understated way.

"It's understandable that you when you look back now, you dissect what you think you should have done.

"But L… you were 21 years old. 21. Years. Old. Studies show that our brains don't fully develop cognitively until we're 25. Essentially you were still a teenager. 

"On top of that, you were carrying this secret that scared you to death, that you felt you could never risk sharing with anyone, and that you suspected meant no one would ever love you. 

"And while you've acknowledged and accepted that your parents did the best they could, it's fair to say that you grew up in an environment in which, at a minimum, you were completely on your own in terms of emotional support.

"You had no one to talk to, no one who could help you figure out how to cope with these feelings, or to show you how to form a healthy, loving adult relationship. You had to try to figure it out all on your own. And again… you were only 21.

"You did the very best you could at that time in your life," she said. "That's all you could ask of yourself. That's all any of us could ask."

"What bothers me the most is thinking that if H thinks of me at all, she just thinks that she was wrong about me," I said. "That I *was* another of those guys. The ones who didn't see anything beyond her looks."

"From how you've described her, I doubt very much that's the case," M said. "She certainly seemed to understand how sensitive you were, and how much you cared for her. 

"That's why she thanked you for always looking her in the eye when you spoke to her, rather than looking at her chest, and why she so appreciated how upset you were when she told you too many men *did* do just that. 

"And she not only agreed to go out with you after you didn't go to her Halloween party; she wanted you to come to her dinner party to meet her friends. So they could all meet this boy she'd told them so much about. So I don't believe for a second that she saw you as someone who would ever hurt her intentionally," M said. "Because you don't have a mean bone in your body.

"I strongly suspect she saw you for who you were: a shy, sensitive young man who was frightened by how intensely he felt all of these conflicting emotions, many of which he couldn't share with her, or anyone, and who simply didn't know how to process them, through no fault of his own. 

"And when she thinks of you, that's what she remembers. The kind, caring boy who looked out for her and who made her laugh. And who loved her."

She paused.

"You've talked in great depth with me about this, you've written about this, and now you've put it out into the universe, for all to see," she said. "Each of those things took a tremendous amount of courage. 

"Now, you need to acknowledge that, and to be proud of how far you've come. And you need to begin to forgive yourself. It will take time. But it will happen. I know it will."

And that was the end of the session.

The ride home was considerably easier than the ride to the session an hour earlier. I thought about her words the entire way home. I hoped that I was even half the person she described, and vowed to do my best to live up to her image of me. 

When I reached home I was exhausted… but I no longer felt drained. Instead, I felt blessed to have an ally like M on my side to help me as I move forward on my journey to becoming myself. 

May you all be similarly blessed.


Here's an unbelievably good version of "The Healing Game," one of my very favorite Van Morrison songs, and for my money one of his greatest. This version was recorded live in the studio with his amazing band. (Yes, this is actually live!) It's the title track of his superb 1997 album of the same name.


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