There’s officially no hope for me.
My therapist recently explained that those who are happiest in life have this crazy amount of faith – faith that things will turn out okay, faith that not only is there a heaven but also that they and everyone they know/love are going there. When someone dear passes they’re fine with waiting out their remaining time on earth until they’re reunited, etc., etc. It’s not the minimum requirement mustard-seed type of faith, like it’s a faith in the form of virtual certainty.
He explained to me that very few of these people, these faithful ones, actually exist – like he’s only ever encountered like two, one being a woman from his neighborhood whose husband was fighting a terminal illness. Apparently one night he ran into her as she walked her dog, and they had this great conversation, and then, when she arrived home, her husband had died without her.
And then, only a few days later on another dog walk, this woman informed my therapist that she had missed her husband take his last breath because she was basically talking to him instead, and he was like, “Oh my God I am SO sorry.” And she gave him the biggest smile and was like, “No worries! He is in a much better place now, and I am SO happy about it!!” And I get that when someone passes after being terminally ill there’s probably some sense of relief that comes from it, but even my therapist seemed shocked by her enthusiasm.
This makes me kind of lose hope, because I am sure these people with this faith are indeed the happiest, especially in the face of adversity, but I will never remotely be one of these people, as much as I (only sometimes) wish I could be. Like it isn’t in my DNA. So like, what am I supposed to do? It feels like my life is an Olympic balance beam competition, and not only have I already fallen off the beam, but my routine had a low start value to begin with…
Do normal people have these thoughts?
I recently asked my therapist about whether the tough stuff about which he regularly hears scares him. You know, because if he doesn’t keep me under control, I’ll start to psychoanalyze him. (Maybe there’s a reason therapy is challenging for me…) But I genuinely wanted to know, because not only do my own tragedies/problems affect me but sometimes others’ do too. So I asked, “Like, do you meet someone like me and then wonder if one of your kids could die too?” (I’m definitely his favorite client.)
And I appreciated his honest answer – that sometimes, others’ problems do make him think, and sometimes they even affect his behavior.
“How so?” I asked for him to elaborate.
“Well, after years of dealing with combat veterans, I now find sometimes, actually, more often than not, when I dine out, I make sure I sit facing the entrance. But it’s not only this… I also look to identify the closest weapon of opportunity, like in this situation a steak knife…”
“I do this too…” I whispered, as he looked at me like, “Da fuq?”
So there’s a 50 percent chance my, or anyone’s, life will be total shit. And this is supposed to be encouraging?
As I mentioned in another post, my therapist and I have possibly identified the key to my ability to function on a regular basis – I must be able to better deal with life’s ambiguity. We agreed that I take much of the meaningless nonsense that occurs on a daily basis and attempt to make meaning out of it – like I’ll take a Joel smile to mean he’s happy/healthy or a Joel cough to mean he’s dying.
I’m constantly looking for signs that things are either going to be relatively okay/not okay (from here forward, because clearly not everything in my life will be totally okay ever again), and I seek reassurance like a drug addict seeks heroin. When I get the reassurance I think I need, it only fuels my desire for more, and when I don’t get it, I’m left crying and shaking in my bed.
“You need to learn to stop seeking reassurance, which in the long-term fuels your anxiety, and accept life for the crapshoot that it is… For any of us, whether life turns out relatively okay with loved ones dying in order and of old age, or whether life turns terribly tragic is a complete crapshoot. You could say it’s 50/50. But you need to acknowledge this and put equal weight on the 50 percent chance that things could go okay for you from here forward.”
“But what if I do put equal weight on it?” I asked, “What if this is precisely my problem? What if I do acknowledge this 50/50 crapshoot of which you speak, and I decide that 50 percent is just not very good – not something I can easily live with? After all, I’m thinking that it isn’t. I’m thinking the majority of people can get through life on their perceived 98 percent chance that things will go fine for them…”
“This is an interesting point you make…” he pondered.
And we debated it for a while, and I wondered for the rest of the day whether 50 percent is reassuring. I thought back to an old friend with whom we’ve lost touch. His mother died from Huntington’s disease. There’s a 50 percent chance that he has it. A coin’s flip. Heads or tails. A life involving normalcy or one involving him becoming a prisoner in his own body years before he meets his premature, bitter end.
My therapist guestimates life is a 50/50 crapshoot for anyone, but in a very ambiguous way. Our old friend’s life is absolutely a 50/50 crapshoot in a defined way. There’s a test he could take to find out his future. Extensive psychological counselling is required beforehand because of the percentage of positives that result in suicide attempts. Some take the test, some don’t.
And I think this is because 50/50 isn’t that good.
On a side note, I think it should be a thing that after one horrible tragedy, we’re guaranteed a relatively struggle-free life into perpetuity… But no, I guess the crapshoot-o-meter gets reset.
So how do I learn to live with 50/50 not being that good and also the knowledge that my crapshoot-o-meter has been reset? Like is it even possible to acknowledge these truths, as my therapist does, AND also be happy?
If only these things (like preventing stillbirths and infant deaths) were so simple…
So this conversation happened last week… (Conversation is simplified.)
Me – I need to get into more of a routine. This living day-to-day isn’t really working for me.
Therapist – You could start by going to bed at a set time, setting an alarm to wake up…
Me – It will be difficult for me to motivate myself… I feel like even if I’m well rested my anxiety will take over and exhaust me.
Therapist – But more sleep can’t possibly make you feel WORSE than you already do.
Me – Okay… Then I will try it… But in a few weeks, when I’m later into my pregnancy, this will all go out the window. Because I’ll feel the need to stay up all night to monitor this baby. Because most babies who die go into distress at night – they die at night.
Therapist – Really? Do they know why?
Me – I’m not sure. I can’t remember… There are different hypotheses about it – something about the combination of melatonin levels, drops in blood pressure that can occur during maternal sleep, sometimes the positioning of the baby – maybe baby’s in a bad position he/she can’t get out of… Bad things in general happen disproportionately at night, and I’m not sure anyone knows why – it’s when the majority of code blues in hospitals occur… It’s estimated that 75 to 80 percent of babies who die during pregnancy die at night.
Therapist – But wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that if your baby goes into distress during the night, there will be some kind of natural mechanism to alert you – like the baby will be able to wake you up?
Me – Actually, in many cases, no.
Therapist – Oh.
(NOTE – I can forgive his question, and I still consider him to be very smart (or I would have dumped his ass long ago), because maternal fetal medicine isn’t his area of study, though his question does make me wonder how many people out there might think I’m just this idiot who slept through Matthew’s distress as he tried to alert me to it, which my therapist in no way implied, but STILL.)
God how I wish things in life (anything in life) could be this cut and dry.