Congratulations! You have reached Level 3. I bet you didn't think you would make it this far. Buckle up, we aren't done, yet.
If you just jumped in. You die, start over with a new life here.
Natalie was in the kitchen when I got home. It was earlier than normal lately, because I just left the counselor’s office. She thinks I game too much, and had divorce papers drafted, ready to be filed if I didn’t make some serious change.
“How was it?”
“Better than expected, actually.”
“Oh, nice. Do you think you will go back?” She’s so sweet. She truly makes it sound like a choice. I know now, it’s not. That is, if I want to stay married. I could always choose not to change and just lose my life. The counselor was real, definitely not what I expected. She called me out on my bullshit, but in a way that made me just face it, she never actually said it. She made me say it. More than that, she made me feel it. I’ve never been someone who could see themselves going to see a therapist. I can’t lie, feelings aren’t really my thing. I don’t really like to talk about them, because that means I can’t just push them away. Talking about them makes it real, and my negative thoughts could be proven wrong. I like my imagination to be Reigning Champion Unchallenged.
Have you ever seen MegaMind? The cartoon where the blue-skinned Villain was so horrible at being a villain, the only way he could win was when the Hero decided being a hero was too hard and “retired”. Yeah, that, except reversed. My Villain is the badass one, and my Hero has to run the rat race. This counselor, the different one, the real one. She helped me realize the Villain doesn’t have to fight the Hero. Your enemy’s enemy is your friend. The Villain could work with the Hero to fight the enemy of depression, anxiety, and avoidance together. All I had to do was stop trying to outrun it and face it. If I accepted the hard parts of me, my past as having shaped me, changed me, but that I could choose to grow rather than be the victim. Sounds so blissful and easy when she put it like that. Haha. I’m so fucking scared. This is going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. She’s worth it.
“Yeah, I think I will go back. She was cool. She’s a metal-head nerd, too. She actually got me to see your side a little more.”
“Oh?” So patient. I don’t deserve her.
“Yeah. I mean, I can’t say I will give up gaming, like you were hoping,” my heart almost falls out of my chest as I see her face fall. The therapist warned me this might happen. “I really want to compromise, though. What are you needing and wanting to change most?” I didn’t get to see how she reacted. All I witnessed was my shoelaces jiggling with my anxious leg as I awaited her response. We sat there silently. I was terrified of looking up and seeing what lay on her face. She was probably getting ready to get up and grab the papers, now.
“I really miss eating dinner with you.” I almost didn’t hear her over my own self-deprecating thoughts. The softness of her voice, it was almost childlike. It threw me off. Dinner was definitely something I could do.
“I have a lot of projects coming up, and I really need to work the extra hours that I have been working, but none of it is anything I have to be in the office for. If you can help me get back on track after dinner, I can make sure to leave the office by 5 every day. I can game whenever I get done with work, and it will be like a reward for a long day. Would that help?”
“It would really make me feel loved to get to spend that time with you every night again. I miss the conversations we would have while you sat with me while I cooked. After your projects clear up, can we start a date night? I want to get to know you again.”
“Milady, I would be honored.”
Getting more confidence and seeing this as her opportunity to actually be heard, she said, “I also need more help around the house. I work full-time, too. It’s so hard to keep up on, and I get so stressed when things don’t get done. Could you clean the bathroom every other week? It would really take a lot off my shoulders.”
“Hell yes, I’m sorry I haven’t been pulling my weight when it comes to chores around here. That was one of the things the counselor and I discussed. I’ve really been putting my comfort, and avoidance above everything else and that isn’t fair. I will clean the bathroom every other week, and I will change the sheets weekly. You always talk about it making a difference for your skin, and I’m sure it’s something that you’d rather not have to think about.” I finally got the courage to look up. She was crying. Relieved, comforted. It was like a knife to the gut. I can’t believe I had brought us this far down this line. I can’t believe I came so close to losing her when all she wanted was dinner, and a couple chores? For the love of my life, the one who I promised “In sickness and in health” to? It wouldn’t be easy, but this is a change I actually believe I can make. Is it really about the gaming? Or have I just had my priorities messed up for awhile? Reporiotizing is surmountable.
Well, fuck. You tried, you failed, and you don’t know what to do now.
Continue on to try your best, even if it isn’t pretty or perfect.
Level 3: Preparation Transtheoretical Model of Change.
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