I have seen quite a few therapists and psychiatrists in my life, some of my own volition and some at the volition of my family and the state. The only one that I thought was any good was a woman i saw several times when I was in school at Portland State.
I can’t remember what kind of therapy she practiced, but it was based on spirituality and I found her very intuitive and empathetic in her approach. She told me a couple of things that stuck with me and turned about to be true. I was off lithium at the time and she said I may go back on it again at some point, which I did for a time after I got divorced. Those seven years on the streets left me emotionally stable enough that I have felt no need for lithium or other pharmaceuticals since.
The other thing she told me was that some people take a full lifetime to do their emotional work. Well, that has turned out to be the case for me. I was reading an adolescent novel called Touching Spirit Bear in bed last night. Something in the book triggered a memory of being kicked by Apache, one of three horses, we owned in Weippe, Idaho. Along with the memory came some pretty deep sadness. I spent much of last night and today sort of drifting around memories of that period of my life which consisted of three summers starting when I was six.
One thought that surfaced was that my parents hated each other. As a kid you feel things like that, things too scary to put into words. I do remember trying to will them to get along and to distract them from arguing so much, then collapsing onto my stomach in bed hoping tomorrow, with its never ending tension, would never come.
It was a sad time overall but I do have some very good memories as well. The area was so beautiful, lots of fields surrounded by timber and forest. Picking and eating, berries, apples and sweet peas at harvest time. Watching deer romp and play in the fields, going for walks in the woods with the very faithful 1/2 German Shepard Badger. I was half scared of the woods back then and Badger’s calm presence would put me at ease.
We had some hired hands that were always good to me including some Johnson cousins, Steve and Bruce, who were probably teenagers at the time. Another hand was a friend of my dad named Bart. Hamm’s Beer cans are another in-bedded memory. Dad always had some in a cooler on ice and he and Bart could put away their fair share during the work day.
I remember my brother and I laughing until we cried one morning listening to Bart snore loudly in the other room. Looking back I understand my dad must have been deeply stressed. He was farming two properties, the other one being across the river on the Nez Perce Prairie, using very expensive equipment that seemed to break down a lot, married to a woman he did not get along with. No one explains those things to you as a kid and the world ends up being a fairly scary place, where you never quite trust what you are seeing and what you are feeling.
What I remember then was a man I was half afraid of, who was impatient with me, who set me to doing tasks that were beyond my ability, and screaming at me when I failed. I remember popping the clutch on the hay truck and rolling over a bail. After an ass chewing, that got me demoted back to rolling hay bails close to the truck so the hired help could lift them onto the trailer,
Emotional work, if done with compassion for yourself and those who were involved in the pain at the time, can lead to joy. We as a culture don’t understand emotional work or its benefits for the most part. It can leave of feeling vulnerable as all hell. Plus many memories, at first feel, seem too painful to even investigate. I ask my mom about the farm last night and if she remembered me being kicked by Apache. She said, “It was a sad time.” Then she refused to say another word about it.
Looking at my mom at the time, she was a bright, college educated woman who maybe has some ambition to be a writer. Here she was struggling to take care of a couple of young kids, feed a bunch of farm people she barely knew, and had no friends around with similar interests she could talk to. Add to that a husband she did not understand, and who made little effort to understand her.
As kid I remember being leaned on too hard by her for emotional support she was not getting from my dad. I also remember being over protected and smothered at times which dampened my natural assertive tendencies, and made risk adverse in may areas.
I encourage you all to explore your memories and emotions. Find someone who listens well to talk with or, if that is too scary, write things down in a journal. Once you let go of a few things, understand others have been through many of the same things; Well you can lose your shame and isolation a little. You are not such a freak after all, just a lovely human being working it out as best you can.
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