The Other Me

The Other Me

‘Life’s Short Interruption: Part II’

Dr Matusik was a good reality-check. I’d see her monthly and she’d challenge my thinking. When I’d compare myself to somebody – like the speakers from the publishing industry who’d come to school to talk to us – and make myself feel inferior she would ask why I’d compare myself with people who were leaders in their fields.

I couldn’t help it. Whether it was my own sense of inferiority, or drilled into me by Allie constantly comparing me to others (or possibly even a combination of both), I would look at these people and see that some of them were younger than me, yet had accomplished so much more. Dr Matusik said I needed to see how far I’d come in my own personal journey and look at where I wanted to go in the future.

I’d wonder if I’d get anywhere, given the bad luck I’d had in the past, and my life, and world, inexperience. You get trapped sometimes in self-flagellation. As maudlin as it is, there’s greater comfort in letting that embrace you – regardless of what it means for your frame of mind – because of its familiarity.

Dr Matusik recommended a book, Change Your Thinking, by psychologist Sarah Edelman, which looked at the practises of faulty thinking, how to recognise when you’re committing them, and how to redefine your perceptions and responses. It was a very helpful book but sometimes it’s hard to be logical when over three decades of negativity and self-destructiveness kick in.

Like Dr Jarasinghe, Dr Matusik tried to teach me breathing exercises, but still these things didn’t work. Whenever I tried them, within days I’d have shortness of breath. Dr Matusik was surprised, but didn’t push it. Another friend who’d also been taught the same exercises by her own psychologist told me she had the same problem.

One time, Dr Matusik tried to hypnotise and regress me to see if there was a cause that led to my problems. I waited, immersed in the eerie quiet of my mind, waiting for some narrative to unfurl, or some dramatic event to flash before me which would explain why I was like this.

But nothing happened.

Nothing but the eerie quiet.

Dr Matusik asked me if I felt I was being blocked, or if there was nothing there. I told her it was more like the latter. She said things might arise later, like when I was lying in bed, and if that happened, not to be concerned. I remained edgy throughout the evening, but still nothing.

As Dr Matusik learned more about me, about my upbringing, she concluded the problem was that I’d grown up without a real mentor figure in my life and that the dominant monologue in my head was this mega-critical voice of my parents. So even when something good happened, I looked at the bad side.

Later, she would use the metaphor that this big worry tree had grown on my shoulder, whereas on the other shoulder there was very little – if any – self-support. She urged me to challenge the worry when it threatened to take control.

By now, I also had a context for what I was going through. Insanity didn’t threaten, as I’d thought for years. It was like when Dr Jarasinghe told me, Neurotics build castles in their heads. Psychotics live in them. I repeated this to Dr Matusik, and she added a final line: And psychiatrists collect the rent.

More often than not, I ranted to Dr Matusik about Allie. Dr Matusik asked me whether I could accept who Allie was, her ground rules, and to try and work within those parameters. I did. But those parameters shifted. They loosened towards my ideals just after reconciliation, and tightened as Allie grew secure in the relationship.

Conversely, did Allie accept me as I was?

She refused to acknowledge me to her family (although they knew of my existence), because I wasn’t of a credible standing, so accepting me was provisional.

It seemed, as with everything else, I was the one with something to prove.