Yesterday I posted Part One of an interview with Sunday Jesse (who had a very, very hard day) and, unexpectedly, Another Past Jesse, who sneakily joined us and said some harsh things but also posed some very hard questions. Actually, both Jesses posed some difficult questions, and I had to pause the interview so I could think more about the whole thing.
How do I take care of myself when I am in pain and having trouble managing my mental health and still have to take care of a child?
Furthermore, how do I do that when that mental health state comes along with the hard-to-shake belief that I am unworthy of help?
After thinking about these all night, and most of today, I had some thoughts to bring back to the cozy interview we left yesterday…
Me: Hi guys, I’m back. I did some thinking about your questions.
Sunday Jesse: Good, because I really don’t know what to do. Or what I should have done on Sunday. Whatever, you know what I mean.
Another Past Jesse: Yeah. And keep in mind…shutting me up is not an option.
Me: Oh, I know that. Past Jesse, I want you to know that I value what you say, even when it’s harsh or hard to hear.
APJ: (a little shocked) Really?
Me: Really! Because your words and feelings are important clues that tell me about my past self and past experiences. But most importantly, I know that they are not the whole truth about me.
APJ: You got me there. True.
SJ: Let me just say, this is a relief to hear! Because if it’s not true that I don’t deserve help, then I could have asked for some on Sunday!
Me: Exactly so. We have to listen to Past Jesse (otherwise she will get more and more vocal and demanding) and then ask her what she needs. That is the only way to let those feelings rest.
SJ: That sounds suspiciously like mindfulness.
Me: Well, yeah.
SJ: See, I tried that on Sunday. It didn’t work. I still felt awful.
Me: I know, I was there, remember? But tell me this — when did you try mindfulness?
SJ: It was later in the afternoon, I guess.
Me: Right, after we had spent the entire morning and early afternoon feeling like dirt. And being in pain. And specifically trying to ignore that past self who didn’t feel worthy of help and therefore wouldn’t take any pain medication or call for someone to help out.
SJ: Are you saying this is all my fault? I knew it!
Me: No, no, that’s not it at all. This happened because this is our old pattern. It’s okay that it’s there. We can’t ignore it, because it will keep trying to make itself heard, but we also don’t want to follow it. The fact that your defenses were down isn’t your fault at all.
SJ: Well, thank you. That makes me feel a little better. But what can I do with that sense of guilt and unworthiness when it happens?
Me: Looking back to Sunday, I wish I could send you the message that you only had to last until 3:30pm. You thought you’d have to wait until 6pm for relief but it ended a little early. But I think something we need to think about is that when we wake up in that terrible mood, we need to take extra pain medication.
SJ: Interesting. You know, now that I think about it, I only took one pill and I could have taken two. It would have helped!
Me: I agree, two would have been better. Let’s agree to take two pills next time when that bad mood appears. Even if we are tired and even if we are trying to believe the pain isn’t so bad. It’s more important to relieve the stress of the pain before it gets worse. Remember what we learned in pain class: you’ll get used to the pain is not really relevant with a chronic pain condition.
The most important thing here is that we’ve learned how much mood can alter our coping skills. That is not a minor thing, this is big. This is something we need to use to help us, especially since there is a small human being to take care of at home.
SJ: Stupid pain management class! Why is it so smart?
Me: You’re funny — don’t worry, you don’t have to go. All you have to do is stay in this spa and relax. And Past Jesse…
APJ: Yeah, I’m still here. I feel kind of ghostly, though.
Me: I hope you know that’s not because you’re not relevant. You are. I need you. You know important things that I forget about sometimes.
APJ: I want to believe I can save you (me?) if I remind you.
Me: Sometimes you will save me. But probably not in the way you think. And I think perhaps your role is to become the benevolent spirit, not the angry ghost, you know?
APJ: I can do that. Maybe not right now, but in the future.
Me: Excellent. After all, this stuff takes time. And thinking. I’m glad we could get together and talk about all this. I couldn’t have learned these things without your help!
Okay, so maybe that was unbearably cheesy. Too bad, this is my blog. And these are my lessons:
The past wants to teach me, even if sometimes it feels like it is trying to trick and insult and sabotage me;
And: while I can’t prevent these kinds of situations from happening, I can learn from this one and add a new item to the Book of Me: bad moods require more pain management.
This feels like yet another revelation on the continuum of Learning To Put My Body and Brain Together, you know? It is my constant struggle, to try to listen to what my body’s saying and not mute its messages by over-intellectualizing (or disappearing into an overflow of past sadness that wells up).
Until I sat down to write Part One of this interview, I didn’t really know why Sunday was so important, but I learned it had hard questions that I needed to answer. And until I sat down to write the second half of this interview, I didn’t know how to answer those hard questions.
And isn’t it interesting how the answers are often compassion, compassion, and more compassion?