I have a roommate whose name is Dawn. She is extremely ruthless and I can’t stand it. As a matter of fact, I can’t stand her. I don’t like her but nonetheless she does in fact live with me and there isn’t much I can do about it. She’s always there; always spying on me. For some unknown reason, Dawn seems to think it’s perfectly acceptable to put her two-cents into everything I do or say.
Don’t get me wrong now, sometimes she’s quite helpful, but that’s a rarity. Here’s the kicker: This lady doesn’t pay rent, utilities, or even her fair share of the grocery bill. “Tell her to move out,” you might say. Yeah, that seems like such a simple and obvious solution. Not so simple however when you take into consideration that she lives within my own mind.
No, I don’t have split personality disorder. And no, she doesn’t have a different voice. She has the same exact voice as me. Only hers is bathed in negativity. Our names and living space truly are the only things we have in common.
Dawn has been my roommate my whole life. She has this knack for recording every single negative thing that has ever happened in my life and using it at the most inconvenient times. Dawn has meticulously stacked up all of these ‘not so happy’ memories of mine to a point that my mind is cluttered.
I have this blouse that I really love and absolutely felt beautiful in every time I wore it. That is, until the day when someone thought I was pregnant. I was horrified. They immediately apologized and said that it must be the blouse. But the damage was done and I never wore it again. To this day that blouse hangs in my closet wanting to be worn. Unfortunately, every time I consider wearing it Dawn brings that memory up and pipes right in, “You’ve gained at least ten pounds since you last wore it. You’ll for sure look pregnant now!” Yeah, thanks for the reminder Dawn.
In 2010 I had a stroke. It took me a very long time to be able to drive again. I still suffer from vertigo and bump into walls occasionally while walking. I can drive now, but only around town or on some of the country roads. I try to drive on the freeway and have in fact done it, but it is a nightmare. The entire time I’m driving Dawn will constantly tell me that I’m a danger, that I’m going to kill myself or someone else, and how I can’t do it.
I entered a speech competition once. After hearing a few of the other speeches the other Dawn made it a point to tell me that my speech was horrible in comparison. Well, in spite of all of her negativity, I still said my speech. And although I didn’t actually place, for once I was able to prove her wrong, because the people who heard my speech told me they liked it.
For the longest time Dawn and I lived however she dictated. Until one fine day when I finally got sick and tired of dealing with the consequences of listening to her advice and admonitions; of allowing her to control my life.
I started seeing a therapist about eight months ago. While finding a therapist might not be the most difficult thing to do, finding the ‘right therapist’ can prove to be quite the chore. I did in fact see a different therapist in the past, but for any number of reasons we just didn’t click. One of those reasons was that I’d catch her looking over my shoulder at the clock far too often. Now I fully understood that she had other clients to see, but this was my timeand I felt deserving of her full attention. But none of that really matters anymore, because (thanks to having my insurance with Kaiser, which has its very own Mental Health component) I now have a therapist who truly seems to care. I say this because she remembers what I tell her and offers me viable and realistic advice. And all of this for the bargain basement price of only fifteen dollars per session (the amount of my co-pay).
So now I get to see this very helpful therapist who hasn’t once gazed over my shoulder at the clock (if she does, then she’s really quite subtle about it) about once a month, which seems to be sufficient. During our sessions we do a lot of role playing, which I have found to be quite helpful because it puts me into hypothetical situations while maintaining a safety net. She has taught me some very good techniques for breathing properly when I’m feeling anxious, she listens attentively, and she has an amazing ability to gently guide me along as she teaches me to remain on the path that leads me toward the facts and reality instead of allowing the (other) Dawn to continue leading me astray.
What I’ve come to realize about Dawn is that she is just a scared little girl. And while I can’t actually get rid of her, I can certainly be the adult in the relationship. My therapist pointed out to me how when certain things happen (the event) they trigger the negative thoughts, which then usher in the negative feelings. We have been working on sticking to the facts. So, while my roommate wants to tell me one thing, I have learned to tell her she is feeding me nothing but lies and I refuse to listen to them anymore.
Even though she is the unwanted roommate, I’m beginning to realize that she may in fact prove useful to me at some point along our journey. I figured that since she’s so darn good at organizing events and memories, perhaps I should cross-train her. Therefore, I am currently cross-training Dawn to search out all of the ‘Happy Memories’ of my life, of which there are plenty.
At this point she’s still in the very early stages of her training, so she does have her days when she struggles. And I know this because of how long it takes her to find those elusive happy memories. My assumption is that they’re hiding somewhere in the attic area of her storage room, undoubtedly behind something that’s very difficult to get around.
Oh well, it’s just a learning curve and we all experience those, so I shall remain optimistic.