After one of my hospitalizations, I was sent to a “partial hospitalization” program that was part 12-step something-or-other and part Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Even though my insurance had booted me out of the hospital, I was still so deeply depressed that my brain just couldn’t follow what the leader was talking about, and when called upon to speak, I said as much.
“Well, let’s just take it one day at a time!” the jovial fellow chortled. I was incensed. Outraged.
“One day at a time…..” I mumbled, forcing the words out, “One day at a time….? One SECOND at a time is too much for me sometimes!!!!!” The words rang in my mind, but they did not manage to make it out of my mouth. I was too exhausted, with the sheer effort of continuing to exist. So I let it go.
But it’s true. Sometimes one day is just too much to expect of oneself. One hour. One minute. One second. A millisecond. Sometimes that’s all it takes, one millisecond, to let the roaring of the demons pass. Those of you who know, will know. Those of you who don’t…please stop a moment and imagine what it might be like, to struggle each millisecond to stay alive, all the while suffering unutterable pain.
Time itself is our ally, in this game of cat-and-mouse we play with our very lives.
The important question is, how? How do we convince ourselves that no matter how terrible the pain, we must continue to live these seconds, minutes, hours? Each one of us must find our own sets of reasons and inscribe them on the insides of our eyelids (figuratively, now!), so that in the dark times we don’t have to work to think about them.
I’ll tell you what mine are: My son, whose life would be destroyed if I were to take mine. My aged parents, who would be devastated and would live in misery till they died. And then I have an ace in the hole, a little helper, for those times when even these enormous deterrents do not seem reason enough.
I have a dog. A very special little dog. She’s my Psychiatric Service Dog, and she knows how to reach me when the whole world turns black. She knows how to sit down when I’m spinning out of control. She doesn’t mind if I hold her and cry into her fur, even if I squeeze her a little too hard. She just looks up into my face and licks the salt off my cheeks. And slowly, time begins to have meaning again. There are seconds, because she’s licking my face. There are minutes, because I’m sitting down stroking her fur. There are hours, because she parks herself at my feet wherever I go, and whenever I look down, there she is.
We all need to find a strategy that works for us, both to keep ourselves oriented in time, and to keep ourselves here on earth for our allotted time. What’s yours?