Monday Morning Pages: Progress Made

by Rebecca A. Watson on March 3, 2014

in Monday Morning Pages, reflection

Last night, after a good six hours of traveling via boat, airplane, bus and tram, I settled into bed with my book. Sante wasn’t too far behind me. We were both exhausted, and I had a not-so-secret wish to sleep in the following morning.

I looked at my calendar and saw that I had an appointment with my therapist, so my wish would have to wait until next weekend. As I thought a little about what we might chat about, something dawned on me.

“I’ve noticed recently,” I said to Sante, “that I haven’t been as depressed lately. Actually for awhile now, aside from the little stint in January, which had more to do with moving than anything.”

The reason I noticed this is because after five visits to my therapist, the insurance company must determine whether you’re a viable candidate for therapy. To do that, lots of forms are filled out and I was asked what I wanted to get out of my sessions.

Aside from a few small issues I wanted to process, as well as dealing with transitioning into a new culture, there wasn’t much I thought I needed her help with.

light tunnel

You see that light?

I felt this once before while I was working with Tanya, but unfortunately, Tanya doesn’t accept German medical insurance.

(Let me just take a moment to praise the Germans for this. Not only is mental health coverage included in public health care, there isn’t any special copay or out-of-pocket expenses you have to come up with.

Even when I was  insured in the states, I was paying $30/session. That adds up fast. And I know I was one of the lucky ones.

Mental health is a real problem and the Germans treat it like one. Spending the money on treatment can eliminate many economical and environmental costs later in life.)

When I started these morning pages, a lot of what I was doing was comparing my years and seeing if I could find patterns. I was looking for problems. Issues. Things to work on.

After my realization last night, I sat down to read my journals for 2012 and 2013 during this time. What I found instead were striking contrasts.

In 2012, I spent most of the week feeling pretty down:

I’m just over it all. I want to crawl under the covers and cry and not do anything.

Well you know you can do that.

But then I have to get up, pull myself together and “do life.” … Wowza, depression sucks. I’m amazed at how much better I’ve been for so long that this is kinda taking my breath away.

And in 2013, things got a little more serious:

I’ve been pretty mean to myself lately, screaming at myself in my head and imagining a gun blowing my brains out. That image concerns me and I’m not sure what to do about it. … I feel like I can’t really do anything for myself. I feel trapped and isolated and useless and tired and over it all.

And a word on suicidal thoughts … at least how they exist in my mind and a few other brave souls who have talked about theirs with me:

Isn’t it strange how suicidal thoughts have this air of shock around them? I mean, I guess I always thought they’d be this dramatic, Oh, I should just kill myself, but they’re much sneakier than that.

It’s continually crossing a train track and thinking, Maybe a train’ll just come by one day and smash into me. It’s having a mental image of me holding a pistol to my head and pulling the trigger. It’s watching a movie where people are dying from ebola or some other strange virus and thinking, I don’t know what everyone’s so upset about.

Now, to the one thinking these things, they don’t appear to be suicidal thoughts but rather random images or patterns of the brain. They aren’t forced. They just come up. So I guess I’m wondering what the big deal is. I guess they’re like a warning sign.

It was right around this time that I talked to my therapist about all of this and then decided to stop drinking. Think I made the right call? God, I didn’t realize how hard things were for me until I read these old entries.

help

At first I was shocked by how sad and low I seemed. Those were tough days. But after a minute I felt grateful. If I hadn’t gotten to that point, I don’t know if I would’ve had the audacity to make such a big change.

And if I hadn’t made that change, I don’t think I would’ve made the observation last night that things are good, mostly because they probably wouldn’t have been that way. I saw a pin on another blog that really struck me today. It said:  Do something today that your future self will thank you for.

I’m stoked about this for the obvious reason, which is that my life is infinitely less sad, depressed and lonely. I no longer feel that emptiness or desire to hide under the blankets and cry. I like doing life most days.

The other reason I’m in love with this realization is that I’ve not come up with another thing these morning pages can  help me with and that’s measuring my progress.

measuring

Ask anyone who gets into self-improvement, seeing progress is what we live for. Of course there is hardly a scientific way to do it all. Yes, pounds lost or miles run, but how do the amateurs (meaning non-science types) measure more general, abstract things, like well-being or my goal to process my money issues?

The answer, at least for me, for now, is in these journals. It’s writing them. And then reading them. Comparing and contrasting.

Yes, that takes some time and requires patience, and no, it’s certainly not fool-proof, but I think it’s worth it. And I know my future self will thank me for it.

Wondering what this Monday Morning Pages thing is all about? Read how it started. Or check out all the archives.

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