Her jaw moved fast. Up and down and up and down. Different than when you’re cold and your teeth chatter, hers clicked like a typewriter, only softer. The clacking stopped when she spoke, then started again as soon as she stopped. I assumed the movement was involuntary.
Dishevelled, she wore layers of clothing, each as tattered as the next. I wondered if maybe she was wearing everything she owned. Her hair, tied back into a ponytail, was mousy-brown and kinked like steel wool. It looked brittle and rough, like the rest of her.
She took the seat across from me motioning to a fella behind her. He sat beside her and I could hear greetings exchanged. She spoke loud enough for me, and most others, to hear. His responses weren’t clear but I caught the odd word. They surprised me. He was articulate. She was smart enough, too, just darkly coloured with psychosis.
Watching them, I found myself thinking about mirror work, a treatment that has gained popularity in the last decade or so. Recommended by psychologists and well-being practitioners, it purports to help build self-esteem. Louise Hay was a great advocate, creating dozens of affirming mantras to use while looking at herself in the mirror. I quickly moved from this use to an off-shoot of the above technique which kind of reverses things. It asks that we see ourselves reflected back in another person. It’s easy enough with pretty, healthy, and “normal” folks, but what about all the others? What about this woman across from me?
I’ve been aware of “other is you” thinking for a very long time but haven’t explored it very deeply. Maybe this encounter was a chance to try. So, when this unkempt and ruffled reflection walked away, I asked myself what on earth she was mirroring to me.
Some of the stuff I decide to do should come with warning labels.
Do NOT attempt self-review/exploration/evaluation without assistance from a certified professional, friend who is thought sane by three people or more, or at the very least, a faithful dog.
Good golly, what a ride the clacker has taken me on! Allowing this mirroring has sent me into a dizzying spin. It’s as if I suddenly realise there is a pressure cooker contained inside me. And it’s not the recollection of any events that matter. The important things are these feelings that are sending me reeling. Emotions, permanently imprinted on me, are remembering what my mind has long forgotten.
These emotional memories rest and wrestle in my blood and bones remaining mostly a silent witness to each and every moment, of course, but the clack-clacking acted like an alarm clock. Dormant emotions suddenly woke in one violent and ugly rush. I went to bed in a “normal” state and awoke to the darkest feelings I’ve had in years. I thought – seriously thought – I had lost the plot.
Consumed by shame and guilt as overwhelming as I have known, I felt at a loss, unable to connect to any good feelings. None of the tricks worked. In a bit of a panic, I wondered if all my hard work had been a waste of time. Have I been kidding myself? It seemed a logical question along with, how am I going to get through this in one piece? All I could do was breathe even though it felt the very air I inhaled was toxic.
One day became three. Four. A week passed. I managed to get to and from work in spite of it all but it was NOT easy. I often felt like my skin was crawling with… what? I had no idea. My stomach rolled and twisted in waves from morning till night. I even tried drinking again. After nearly ten months of sobriety I dove into a bottle of wine. For a split second, I felt okay. Yay! But despair returned with the same intensity the next day.
I was a complete wreck and as each day passed without even a hint of relief, I started considering medicine. Thing is, I wasn’t sure any cures from before would work. What I was experiencing wasn’t a typical bout of depression. I wasn’t suicidal or lacking hope. Instead, I was angry with the world at large and felt frustrated with my inability to wrench my way out of this emotional sewer.
For many years, I considered myself cursed. It was one of my excuse stories. Becoming accountable meant looking at that old story. I didn’t really address it in any grand way, but I did stop telling it. During this bizarre and uncomfortable episode, however, a memory of what I once believed resurfaced and my intuition encouraged me to look at it again.
Do you believe in curses? The suggestion runs contrary to much of what I ‘preach’ nowadays, but maybe I disposed of it too quickly. After all, life is seldom as simple as we think it to be. Myths and legends, fables and folklore, are told and passed down over generations in an effort to explain the unexplained. They continue to direct us in some fashion or other, still. Had I, perhaps, missed a message in the story?
Well, as soon as I decided to reconsider the aspect of curse, the feelings of ick left. As quickly as they came, they were gone, but not without leaving something behind…
I wish you freedom from pain, from the trauma of past hurts, and the worry of your daily concerns. I know the world can be one scary, imbalanced motherfucker. I know that at times you feel powerless and heavily burdened. I know all that and still, what I wish for you is freedom from it all.