I’ve been back in therapy for two years. I say, “Back in” because for the past 20 years, I have found myself on a therapist’s couch on countless occasions. For those new to my story, mental health has long been a challenge for me. Depression was always clear, but as I have navigated through many providers and professionals, labels and diagnosis have followed me like looming shadows. I really hate the labels. Like haaattteeeee them. And it’s not because I don’t believe the labels, it’s that I don’t think anyone can put their finger EXACTLY on what my mind and hormones and chemistry are doing with any concrete knowledge – except me. And there is no amount of 50 min sessions and co-pay filled specialist appointments that can give you a clear picture of the reality of someone’s world. But I show up. In my closet. Or car. And bring my tissue box and journal every week.
This season of work has been excruciatingly hard to navigate. Imagine taking the most “supportive” systems in your life and digging deep into dependence and worth and meaning to find that your stool legs are hollow and many of your well held truths no longer fit. Be it calling, career, parenthood or relationships, asking the question of ‘Is this making me a whole person?” has transformed and wrecked my world. My pegs just don’t fit like they once did.
You know the game. In the 80’s it was wooden and the hammer was, too. We didn’t think about nursery harm and anti-bacterial surfaces back then. Side note, these moments made me tough. But that toughness also made me unaware of the many aspects of that square peg. That peg is tired at 46. That peg has been smacked so hard with that wooden hammer that she (in so many ways) has used the force of the impact to literally try to shave off the corners of the square to try to fit. Decades of this work has created an unfortunate reality. Squares are just squares. They were never meant to fit in any other hole. And the really mind-blowing reality is that WE DON’T HAVE TO.
For me that means that I get to quit trying to manage all the other shapes. They get to be circles and stars and ovals and even pesky triangles. And it’s not my job, or more importantly my responsibility, to pound them into another hole. They are fine. They don’t need my help. And I am ok, too. Just like I am. Because I’m not just a square. I’m some sort of weird shape. One star point. Two 90 degree corners. And of course, a rounded edge, too. I’m weird. I look outwardly bizarre because I don’t fit a mold. And that hurts and heals in the same breath.
This week, we have had many new faces helping at work. It’s Valentine’s week and I work at a florist. We cray. But as we have cleaned 6,000 (not one exaggeration) roses, and prepared for more than 200+ deliveries, we have chatted about life. In a bizarre moment of awakening, one of the women said, “I overheard you the other day and have a question for you as a ‘person of faith’.” A new thing happened in that moment. I realized I wasn’t that shape anymore. Not in the way she meant. She wanted me to use my knowledge of churchy things to defend and back her stance on a human rights issue. One that when I am honest I feel very passionate about. But in that moment, this was not an issue conversation. It was a stake in the ground. *I will not be anyone’s reason for anything.*
So much of my soul exhaustion is communal. I’ve become absolutely depleted in my attempt to make relationships fit and people ok. For some of you that know me, you think this is a facade. Boss bitch is my go-to and warm fuzzy and caring is not my normal mode. But you need to know that for Enneagram 8s, there is nothing that we feel more than someone we love not being loved well. We will fight like we have just been offered a top bill of a MMA fight. And those on the other side of the pain will leave bloody. And while that feels horrific to so many of my empath friends, for those with the scars of abandonment and betrayal, having someone love you enough to go to the mat for us is better than getting a trip to Europe, a new tattoo and a 1967 retro RV all at the same time. (And sure, those are my things, but I’d give up all of those asks for the knowledge that someone is ready to go for the sake of my peace.) All that to say, this kind of fight can exhaust and paralyze. Especially if it is offered too freely.
I’ve spent much of my 2022 hours in therapy revisiting being safe in my own crazy shaped self. With no labels. With no judgment. (I’m trying.) And most importantly with a curiosity to see what my new stool legs might look like. I’ve tried on a few for size. I’ve even learned that good legs hollow if you don’t take care of them. And perhaps, the biggest feat, is that I’ve stopped fighting so hard.
Sleep has been very illusive the last week. I’ve really had to spend some intentional time choosing me. That’s about as counterintuitive as it comes for someone who spent her entire life with the weight of the world’s eternal damnation resting on her shoulders. So when I look back, I give myself credit. I’m not where I want to be yet. Today, I’ll probably still feel like the wolf in sheep’s clothing who is inauthentically present. Because this is new. And terrifying. When you have spent your whole life trying to beat that peg, it is no wonder we feel splintered and ready to quit.
To those that bravely send texts to their people that lovingly admit the hard. Continue.
To those that don’t understand mental health challenges and yet show up in ways that we can’t articulate their worth. You are a blessing.
And to those who find themselves uncomfortably fighting feelings of square-ness, please let your unique shapes be enough. Because we are.