On day 1, I tried to be fully present. To not expect too much of myself other than to engage, be attentive to the others in the program and to understand this new place and routine.
Day 2 brought some frustration. "I'm not engaging fully," I admitted in group therapy. "I know I'm unwell and I want to get better but I feel like I'm not ready to expose my pain. I'm not even sure I know what it is."
I asked to meet the chaplain on day 3. For the Holy Spirit inside me knows what breaks through to the Katie-core I so desperately protect. And it's those who know God - who engage with grace and mercy, faith and light. I was both eager for and dreading the chaplain's arrival though. My head ached. I was tired. I just wanted to sleep. So I left an hour early, proud I'd attended at all when I could have let them know I wasn't feeling well and a bit gleeful that I'd escaped without really achieving my goals.
I was given a large envelope this morning and I nodded at the post-it upon it. The chaplain had visited yesterday after my departure and would return this morning to meet me. There were four booklets inside the envelope - their glossy pages offering soothing pictures and hopeful text encouraging prayer and perseverance.
He arrived around 10AM on Day 4, removing me from one of our sessions about community support and we sat in a small room I'd not noticed before.
"I prayed on my drive in," I confessed, "and I thought I had a different topic for you. That it was my impatience - my tendency to be either all-in or completely-out of any given situation. But..." I pressed my lips together, shook my head and accepted I was going to cry. I'd known this person - whomever God had sent - would crack my wall of self-preservation but there was still a sharp pang when it happened.
"I think I'm angry. No, disappointed. I don't know - something..." I stopped again, pulled a Kleenex from my pocket to dab at tears while I gathered the right words.
"I'm so blessed," I started again and he nodded kindly. "I have a great job. More money than I need. Colleagues who like and respect me. My mom lives with me and she's amazing. I have friends I don't deserve - I don't put enough energy into keeping in touch. And I know God."
"And where is your pain?" he asked when I fell silent again.
"I've always thought - well, I used to think - that I'd find someone to love. Romantically. To know and be known intimately and meaningfully. To share all of myself with someone. And I've failed every time. God hasn't given that to me and I'm so sad about it sometimes."
He quoted Genesis and the Psalms. He advised that God knows my pain already - that it's my task to expose it (to myself and others in therapy), to walk with it, understand it and begin to heal it. He reminded me that God loves me - knows me intimately and meaningfully - and that when I find my person (I was polite enough not to roll my eyes at "when") - I would meet him as my whole-hearted self. Someone who knew pain and joy, hope and disappointment. And who valued being the version of myself that God wanted - spiritually, mentally and physically.
I went to the bathroom and cried alone after we prayed. I mopped myself up and then shared at group therapy - did some more crying there. Asked if it were possible that my professional unreliability could be related to my oft-ignored romantic-failures and that the sadness over the latter became overwhelming yet unhonored, causing me to escape into sleep, hiding where no one can find me.
After group, our therapist played The Power of Vulnerability for those interested while we had lunch. I watched and took notes, retreated into knowledge rather than my messy emotions. I asked about mindfulness and how to do it when I'm so painfully bad at it. After the program, I went to the gym and worked out with my trainer, trying to focus on my breath as it sped up. My muscles as they warmed and worked.
It feels significant - the progress today. And uncomfortable and tenuous. So I'm trying to sit with it. Allow it to be.
"Keep a journal," the chaplain advised and I thought of my little place on the internet. "Focus on the is-ness. Not what was. Not what might be or what you want to be. But what is. Describe it. Honor it. Revise it so it's authentic. Then share it."