“I do my thing, and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you and I am I,
And if by chance we find each other,
Frederick S. Perls
The image of my Aunt Natalie would be one of my first childhood memories…I remember being in the kitchen with the sunlight beaming through the window and her eyes, with dark circles, so heavy with sadness. As an impressionable 4-year-old child I would stare into her eyes and inquisitively ask her what was wrong with her eyes? She replied it’s just the glare of the sunlight that was bothering them. What we do and say to protect children from the realities of life, but I knew the truth even at that very innocent age. Something was terribly wrong and I FELT IT!
She was the spitting image of Jane Russell young vibrant with her whole life ahead of her but she was suffering a very private and deep pain for which the details will remain privileged. But our family and world would lose a remarkable woman to the devastating grips of depression and mental illness.
My Aunt would take her life on January 6 th , Little Christmas her namesake, and would be buried on my 5 th birthday. There would be many stories, rumors, and innuendos surrounding the cause of her death which always intrigued me. I thought why is the truth so difficult to embrace? What would have happened if the truth were spoken? This devastating tragedy could have been an opportunity for us to unite and come together to discuss and educate ourselves about mental illness. What did we fear? These questions and many more remain with me today. But, as I come to terms with my own internal reconciliation I realize that I rather bear witness to the truth no matter how painful it is to own.
There is no doubt that my brief, but impactful, interactions with my Aunt had infiltrated my unconscious thus steering my personal and professional career in directions that I never imagined nor could I have ever predicted. Nothing fuels my rage more then when I flippantly hear people say, “children adjust, they will be fine” after they have endured devastation and trauma. Just wait until they become adults and they are questioning why they can’t get out of bed, why they are suicidal, why they are numbing themselves with drugs and alcohol, and why they are spiraling into the depths of despair. Then tell me these children will be fine! I think people feel the need to convince themselves that everything will be fine…what is that about? What are we trying to avoid?
We compromise our physical and emotional wellbeing when we create toxic distractions and immerse ourselves into the very private and personal affairs of others. This is just one of the perilous defense mechanisms that one employs to avoid examining their own psyche and familial demons. Manicuring and maintaining one’s own garden is critical for self-preservation, a healthier mental state, and a more authentic existence.
I am now in the prime of my life and the age my Aunt Natalie was when she took her life and one year shy of the age my father was when his life was taken in a blink. Needless to say this reality is surreal and sobering and makes me question the next chapter of my life and how I want to live it. With that, I have come to accept that our time on this planet is brief so be mindful how you choose to occupy your time and where to exert your energy. Think carefully and ask yourself, is this really how and who you want to spend your valuable time with?
My hope is that my Aunt Natalie’s death was not in vein and that we can learn from this senseless tragedy and emerge from familial, ancestral, and tribal denial because the consequences of ignorance is not bliss but catastrophic.
As I reflect on my career I find myself deeply humbled by the trust my clients bestow onto me. To cast a spotlight and expose one’s vulnerabilities, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors to another takes courage, grit, will, and fortitude…if it was easy everyone would be on the “couch”.
It is an arduous but gratifying path if one chooses to examine their unconscious thoughts in order to facilitate behavioral changes rather than stay the course of denial and self-sabotaging behaviors which has created paralysis in one’s life. Letting go is such an internal process that only the individual experiencing it truly comprehends how empowering and surreal the sensation feels. It is the healthiest vitamin that one can digest, and once it is achieved in one aspect of your life it begins to grow tentacles spreading and morphing into various facets of your life. Thus, letting go develops into an innate organic mechanism, like a flame ignited deep within your core, becoming as natural as the breath we take and the air we breathe.
Letting go is a gift you give to yourself; but it can be both joyful and uncomfortable, and it comes with a mixed bag of consequences and results. Sometimes letting go is more emotive in nature and sometimes it is more concrete; i.e. letting go of unhealthy relationships that may have been avoided do to primal and imbedded psychological issues, possibly stemming from unresolved childhood experiences, interactions, and traumas, now becomes attainable and an undeniable reality.
The therapeutic process also encapsulates traveling deep within the psyche for the search of one’s truth, facing long plagued demons, being accountable, and embracing acceptance. This is characterized by analyzing a situation from all perspectives then compartmentalizing which results in owning responsibility for your function and awareness of each person’s role and the wisdom to know the difference.
There is no doubt that it is comfortable to grasp onto the past and what is familiar and navigating new terrain can be a balancing act of sorts, but once you gain your footing there is no turning back.
So, to future clients yet unknown to me, and to my clients who have committed themselves to the psychotherapeutic process, it is important to recognize that you are in exceptional company and you should be proud that you choose to take the step toward internal revolution rather than remain in a state of stasis. You are organic creatures permeating and pollinating the earth with your choices, actions, and reactions; so, remember to take pause, think, and continue to act with presence of thought.
Respect & gratitude,
To read more about Deirdre click here