Sailing through Life
Today I had a session with a client that struggles with severe depression and suicidal thoughts. For the last two years he has returned to college and in the first semester he falls into a depression. He has done a lot of work on himself and this year, the third year, he was really prepared and ready to return to school and not have depression. However, he has recently been starting to have the same thoughts that bring him down. Now, part of this is trauma that is getting triggered due to being around the same place, situation etc. that can be dealt with (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) … but a big part of this problem is that he is letting himself fall down the rabbit hole. You know when you keep telling yourself you are not good enough, you can’t do this, you are not like everyone else and you can’t trust yourself… Thankfully, he is in treatment for the first time during this time of year so he is able to at least identify negative thinking patterns and get unstuck out of his awful head. As we are speaking, a metaphor starts to emerge from my mind that I thought was very helpful to be descriptive in this way and wanted to share this with you.
He was really stubborn and trying to convince me that nothing will work for him, he’s not normal and it is hopeless. Now, this is a very smart person so it was a challenge at times. I couldn’t get him to see the lies he was telling himself. So, I said, “I feel like we are on a sailboat and you and me are arguing about whether there is a hole on the boat and if we’re sinking.” I was telling him that every time he says a negative thought, he pours a bucket of water inside the boat. As humans, our minds will tell us these negative thoughts and we will just believe it and sink our own boat when, there isn’t a hole and you can see the harbor right in front of you! During the whole session I kept coming up with ideas that he could use to cope with his depression and he kept saying that nothing works. I kept reminding him that he’s sailed these waters before and made it through. The point is that when we learn new ways of being you can’t expect yourself to be perfect. And when you do “slip” it doesn’t mean that you have failed and now start beating yourself up and then you feel so bad you start doing the behaviors that got you in the bad place to begin with. The boat just got a little wet. You can fix this.
Be kind to yourself and try to learn from the behavior rather than “judge it.” It’s not easy I know. Life is not like a train moving in a straight line and then comes the next stop - it’s like a sailboat that flows with the wind and you get off course sometimes but you make your way back on course. The next time a storm comes your way you will be stronger and more prepared to get back on course. You’ve got a compass, GPS navigational instruments, etc. Get comfortable with the mystery of life, my friends. Look at the puzzle and don’t concentrate on the puzzle piece. Life is mostly learning how to stay on course, fighting the wind, rain, waves, etc. to get to the harbor. Once you get to the harbor you have another adventure ahead. But trust that you will be prepared. Happy Sailing 😊!
Riesa Minakan Psychotherapy