There’s not much more to say about Dr. C. except that at our last session he gave me life-saving advice. I was leaving Dayton to attend graduate school at the University of Minnesota, and he knew my penchant for seeking perfection so as to win approval. He also, I think, knew what graduate school would demand of me.
And so he said, “Dee, do you understand the term psychic energy?”
“No. I’ve never heard it before.”
“It means the energy that comes from your spirit. A Catholic would say ‘from your soul.’”
“Psychic energy is the deep-down source of your response to life. It’s the force that keeps you going.”
“Like drawing water from the well when you need it?”
“Yes. Something like that.”
I looked at him, not knowing where he was going with this new information.
“Dee, let’s say that we have this much psychic energy for each decade of our lives.” He spread his arms far apart.
“We use up our psychic energy throughout the decade. Then we start another decade and use that psychic energy. Sometimes we have some left over from one decade for another.”
“The thing is, Dee, I believe you not only used up all your psychic energy for your twenties when you were in the convent, but that you’ve already used up all your psychic energy for your thirties. You’re only thirty-three now and you’ve used up everything for this decade. You’ve asked too much of yourself.”
“What do you mean?
“I mean you don’t have any psychic energy in reserve for the rest of your thirties. And you have several years to go. You’re living on the edge of your own resources. You not only have no psychic energy for the thirties, you have no reserves from the twenties.”
“So what do I do?”
“Be gracious to yourself.”
“Be gracious to yourself.”
I didn’t truly understand the import of what he was trying to tell me, but as the years passed I realized what being gracious to myself meant. I needed to cut myself some slack. To be kinder to myself. Less demanding.
Those realizations spanned years. During the years between 1969 and 1975 I became increasingly suicidal. Then, in 1975—when I was thirty-nine—I began to see a St. Paul psychiatrist and finally talked about hallucinating and suicide. She prescribed an anti-psychotic mood enhancer. That medication changed my life dramatically.
Thirty years later—when I was seventy years old—Meniere’s entered my life. It was then that I truly learned what “being gracious” to myself meant.
In her comment on my posting last Thursday, Friko noted that I seem to have lived with a lifelong loneliness and neediness. I think her assessment is accurate. But because of the help I’ve received during this journey and because I’ve worked hard to grow emotionally, I now cherish my friends but I also know—deep down in the marrow of my bones—that my acceptance of myself is more important than winning anyone else’s approval. This has led to contentment, pressed down and overflowing.
Postscript: Would you like me to continue with those early days in Dayton after I left the convent? Or would you like me to continue to post stories about other psychiatrists and counselors I saw—in New Hampshire and Minnesota?
At some point in the next months and years, I’ll cover all of this. But perhaps you’d prefer that I stick with a single subject—like re-entering the world after the convent or like the counseling that helped me on my life’s journey. Please let me know your druthers. Peace.
Well photo from Wikipedia.