For Sehnsucht (Pt. 1) – See here.
“Psychologists have worked to capture the essence of Sehnsucht by identifying its six core characteristics: ‘(a) utopian conceptions of ideal development; (b) sense of incompleteness and imperfection of life; (c) conjoint time focus on the past, present, and future; (d) ambivalent (bittersweet) emotions; (e) reflection and evaluation of one’s life; and (f) symbolic richness.’
Some researchers posit that Sehnsucht has a developmental function that involves life management. By imagining overarching and possibly unachievable goals, individuals may be able to create direction in their life by developing more tangible goals, or ‘stepping stones’ that will aid them on their path toward their ideal self. ‘[Sehnsucht has] important developmental functions, including giving directionality for life planning and helping to cope with loss and important, yet unattainable wishes by pursuing them in one’s imagination. ‘It can also operate as a self-regulatory mechanism.”
“Living is a process of developing oneself. Without experiencing pain from disconcerting periods of our lives, we would be different person, perhaps a lesser person.”
― Kilroy J. Oldster
Today, I am officially 39 months sober.
Today, I am feeling anything but celebratory of such a monumental feat.
Today, I think… no, I know… I’m on the verge of a full collapse.
This morning I could feel the inside of me beginning to crumble, pain seeping through the slowly forming cracks, fat tears silently slid down my face; a heart in the early stages of breaking wide open, a rebirth in the making.
There’s an achingly familiar vortex swirling inside of me, encased by an overwhelming indifference, two eyes frantically searching for their sparkle. I’m not even going to try to make this sound poetic: my mental health feels like a total fucking dumpster fire right now. I feel consumed with shame, guilt, and am becoming increasingly despondent. None of this is new: I keep grieving for for the life I never got to live, the people I never got to become, the friends I lost, and just… I have nothing positive or glimmering or optimistic to offer, and I have no choice but to accept these things as they are, because I can’t force the process of my progress.
I want to sit in/with my sadness.
I want to feel these feelings.
I want to mourn. I want to move on.
Why can’t I move on?
I’m coming upon the 15 year “anniversary” of when I was committed to my first intensive outpatient program at a psychiatric/behavioral health hospital, at the tender age of 19 (a few weeks shy of my 20th birthday). A supremely lost and angry girl, who had only just begun. It would be less than two and half years until she’d find herself pregnant, and as I sit here approaching my 35th birthday, I still look back with a drowning sense of discontent; full of such anger, and sorrow, and selfishness.
In late 2004 I went through the most painful breakup I’d ever experienced, had just moved out of my house for the first time, and had known nothing short of a repressive childhood and adolescence, so you know that I rebelled like only a bat out of hell could. I think I went out of my way to act upon every one of parents worst nightmares, and it really only hurt me more in the process. Point in case: me deciding that my bipolar and anti-anxiety medications were contributing to my problems, so I took myself off of them cold turkey, and didn’t tell a soul until it became quiet apparent one night when I am 110% positive I became the devil reincarnated.
At this point, I’d already developed obvious problems with alcohol and codependency, but neither had even come close to reaching their full “potential” until I became of legal drinking age in 2006.
I believe in order to heal, you have to allow yourself to responsibly hurt. To mourn, to grieve, to uncover, discover, and ultimately recover. Unfortunately, there are no self-help manuals or timelines or shortcuts; no emergency exit or ejection seat, no definitive or foreseeable finish line. And much like any emotionally heavy or physically intensive endeavors I take on, I never quite know what I’m getting into until I step into the metaphorical quicksand, and then I’m left to my own devices. Just like any other journey, literal or figurative, each individual will have their own unique experience. No triumph, defeat, success, setback or sideline will look or feel the same, and despite the best efforts of others, it will ultimately be up to us: what we choose to do, and the avenues we opt to take in order to make it from our starting to point to our final destination, whatever that may be.
All of this reminds me of one of my favorite series of artworks, if not my all-time favorite series, Francisco de Goya’s etchings, Los Caprichos— specifically, plate 43/80, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters. “The print reflects the world of nightmares: Goya does not convert reason into truth, and he refrains from judging the monsters. He simply shows them, presenting the world of the night that characterizes all of the Caprichos: a reversal of the day.” (Museo del Prado website)
There’s a lot more to that print and its respective series, but for all intents and purposes, I believe in order for me to (hopefully, and finally) grieve this long-since past period in my life and successfully move on for it (and leave it in the past, with the exception of my takeaway lessons learned)… I must rely on my light to help guide me through my night.
I can’t figure out or understand why I haven’t been able to forgive myself in all the ways I’m deserving of, I believe this to be a flaw in my healing process and residual damage carried over from my childhood. I’m coming face-to-face with a lot of the latter, but I have to learn to keep pressing forward, not shutting off or turning away like I’ve seemingly done in the past. Because of much of this, I’ve been noticing lately how much pain I’ve been (sub)consciously suppressing, and it’s quite cyclical and wholly exhausting.
I am not inspired.
The news continues to depress me.
Social media seems simultaneously overwhelming and depleting.
I feel like both a walking void and hurricane of emotions.
Alas, I feel this is part of my process, the one I intentionally set out to endeavor upon little more than a month ago, when I decided I wanted to heal in areas I kept shying away from, because of how scared I knew I would be/am becoming due to the intensity of the shame, anger, and remorse I knew to be inevitable. I’m also going to pursue PSYCH-K as my next carefully selected step on my recovery journey. None of the variables in my life have changed, but I keep finding myself back within this same familiar pain, and I can’t help but think this… weight/void and back/forth… are due to my heavily internalized core beliefs. I know I’m capable of healing and going above and beyond doing great things, but I’ve got to find a way to set myself free from all the untrue things I’ve come to believe about myself over the past 30+ years, first.
So far I’ve survived 100% of my worst days though, and my hardest days spent sober are infinitely better than my “easiest” days spent in active addiction.
I can’t think of an eloquent, uplifting, or witty way to bring this post to an end, so I’ll just respectfully express gratitude to anyone who cared enough to read this.
P.S. – I lied. I do have a positive note (because we sure love the fuck outta positivity) to add on… I designed a personal holiday greeting card earlier this week, that are currently being professionally produced, and I plan to start mailing out next week. I’ll have a handful of leftovers looking for a mirror to line or mood board to be tacked up on! Just as some festive, colorful + inspirational ephemera. Comment below or DM me on Instagram if you’d like one!