Thursday, 1 November 2012

Time for some therapy



It’s a warm March day and I’m sitting in a doctor’s surgery, waiting to see a psychotherapist. I’ve never done this before. Asked for help, that is.

As a healer, I feel a little anxious being on the other side of the "table". How will the conversation open? “Hi, I’m Hannah, I’m f*cked in the head, I can't even hold down a relationship with a man, can you help?” Wow, I’m in a whole world of new here. I’m asking for help and I don’t even know what to say. A first on two accounts. Right, well, let’s start then…

For years I’ve felt that the way my family and I operate and communicate is highly dysfunctional. We don’t have conversations: we bicker and pick on each other. When it comes to expressing emotions, it’s okay to be angry, aggressive, resentful or mean, but not okay to feel vulnerable, hurt or to cry. To say we swim in an emotional void would be an understatement.

This is all just in my opinion of course.

Thankfully, life has presented me with opportunities to free myself from what I see as genetic bondage. For one, I live 20,000 miles on the other side of the world from the rest of my family. Secondly, I am blessed with an innately positive nature. That’s not to say I haven’t spent my fair share of time languishing in venomous pools of anger, or that I even understand the concept of admitting when I feel hurt. But beneath any natural or learned behaviours, I almost always see rainbows where my family see rain, and the clouds that seem to weigh them down so heavily, are lifted in my eyes by the silver lining that I keep in my pocket.

I am fortunate to nurture a belief that pain and misery are merely vehicles that coach us toward personal evolution, deep understanding, and if we’re lucky, compassion for others; rather than something to talk about to the neighbour when we buy the daily newspaper (which, incidentally, I never read).

But, putting any sanctimonious self-promotion aside, I’m here today, asking a total stranger for help. And although I have no idea where this is leading, it feels right. Mine is a long and winding story, with many potholes, that’s for sure. But my actual being here has come to be thanks to my sister. Who, it turns out, has been hoarding for over a decade.

Discovering that my sister is ‘a hoarder’ has opened a huge door for me. I finally have permission to claim that I see my family life as dysfunctional. It’s a belief that I’ve held for years, yet never allowed myself to freely admit, because despite being ‘perfect’ I do have a tendency to rant and create drama. So until my sister’s problem was defined and became tangible, my belief was something that potentially had no credibility.

But now I have a platform on which to stand: my sister’s issue has a label, which means I can finally get one too. Unlike my sister, however, I’m not a hoarder; in fact I’m more of a thrower-awayer. As a child, I would clear out my room once or twice a year and throw away anything and everything that I considered to be unnecessary; such as an earring holder in the shape of an elephant. What was baffling to me was that soon after discarding my rubbish, some of it would reappear in other parts of the house. I discarded the above-mentioned elephant on at least two occasions: one time it ended up back in the house, in a display cabinet in the lounge room. A work of art it was not. For whatever reason, my parents felt it reasonable and necessary to sift through my bin and reclaim lost 'treasures' that I was reckless enough to throw away.

To this day, I maintain a fairly simple existence, and despite an ex-boyfriend claiming I had too much clutter (a Buddha statue and a couple of cushions), I don’t share my sister’s hoarding gene. But I do share her pain.

And that’s what this story is really about. I spent some time considering what would cause someone to hoard a house full of useless items. I concluded that the only reasonable answer was to fill a hole.  And the more I thought about it, the more I realised I also have a hole that I’ve never been able to fill. It’s a deep hole that sits within the pit of my heart. A hole that no amount of food can fill, (despite my best efforts); a hole that I speculate my sister has unconsciously been trying to fill by surrounding herself with rubbish. A hole that I realised can only be filled with love.

It seems right to clarify, that all of this is simply my story: an account of my life that by nature will include people who I shared an experience with. I have no right to speak on my sister’s behalf, or anyone else’s for that matter. And I have no desire to either. Anything I write is simply my version of events and my intention is to express who I am, in order to free myself from the emotional and social shackles that I have been wearing for as long as I can remember. 

I am not writing this to expose the shortcomings of anyone else, this is simply and honestly just the way I see, hear and feel the world. My family are kind and loving people. They are generous to a fault and have always clothed and fed me when I needed it. But despite all this, I feel empty inside. 

And that’s why I’m in therapy, waiting to reveal some of the inner shame, grief and sadness that sits in a hole where I’m pretty sure love could go. But before I can fill it with love, I need to have a clear out – a bit like my sister has I guess.  Only my clear out will be done through writing.

I have no idea what happens at the end of all this, but I do know I have a whole bunch of tales that I'd like to tell; some of which would make your hair curl, and many that qualify as could-do-with-being-told-to-a-therapist. So despite a decent amount of fear, it feels good to finally be here, telling my story. 

My greatest desire is that by finally revealing my true feelings, I’ll all be able to identify where my holes are, and in turn come to feel more complete. Having read almost every self-help book under the sun and attended countless workshops from Cairo to Rishikesh, one thing I’ve never done is actually fully expose myself (without maintaining some level of control toward the outcome).

So it is with anticipation, trepidation and excitement that I begin to mindfully tread this new path, with no conscious expectation of the outcome and no real goal in mind – other than filling myself (and the world) with love. 

Wish me luck…!