Check Up From The Neck Up

I’m going on vacation today. Right now that seems so far away, in the distant haze of a much later today; but by the time you read this I will be zen.

My wife keeps booking me appointments at the dentist. Like, every year. When I was single I could go forever without going to the dentist but of course I would never admit that in a forum such as this. Apparently people go to the doctor, for no apparent reason, just to check in or check up or whatever it’s called. I go to the doctor when I need something fixed, gouged, or medicated. I happen to break allot so why would I go again just to have him take my blood pressure? They don’t even give out candy at my age. My wife seems to think this will keep me alive longer so I asked her, “what makes you think I want to live longer?” So controlling.

One of my writing partners happened to mention they were going to see their therapist (me) for a check up. That really hit me. I have to go see my dentist even if I brush three times a day and use floss on that night before the appointment. If I firmly believe that my mental health is as important as my physical health, and probably a great deal harder to keep from crashing, then why wouldn’t I keep on top of this? Why is it, then, that more people do not drop in on their counselor once in a while, even when things are going well? I’m speaking rhetorically because I haven’t really spent much time thinking about this until today.

It is a fundamental truth that it is easier to learn lessons when I am healthy. When I am nuts the only lessons I take home have to do with not being nuts anymore. I’m drinking the Koolaid and reading like a baked teenager in a candy store, but it’s almost all triage. There are many lessons when I am broken but this gets really old, I don’t want to learn that way anymore. As the old cliche goes, “a check up from the neck up” may be a better idea than some of us realize. How do I move forward if the only time I am serious about this crap is when I am bent and busted and screaming for a quick fix?

Those counseling sessions are way more fun. This may be my job but it is still very enjoyable to dream with someone who is doing much much better, even if it’s only now and then. We talk about philosophy and psychology and deep stuff that is hard to give a damn about when your life is falling apart.

Maybe it’s the fact that I very much need to get in my car and head towards Salmon Arm, or maybe it’s the Swiss Chalet talking, but I might begin recommending that clients not forget about the juicy parts that worked (or didn’t) when they were in bad shape. When I’m doing life and it’s not sucking it’s very easy to forget that the last four times I hit the wall I didn’t see it coming. Just saying.

You are stronger if you once were and we need to affirm that. I also know that it’s been 24 years since I quit cocaine and if you leave it in my office and I know no one will ever know, I still am not sure what I will do. I have never written of this before because it’s a little vulnerable. I don’t want my parents to know.

Don’t get cocky. I would never say it this bluntly to a patient, but I write for the sheer joy of it so I get to be a dick when I feel like it. I mean, let’s be honest, this will probably never end up on the front page of the New York Times and I gave up the need to attract thousands a few hundred installments ago. This is for fun and maybe a little sunshine so take what I’m saying lightly. You’re probably rocking this and that’s a very good thing. I just know that, in spite of my convictions to the contrary, I’m not always as self-aware as I like to believe.

It’s easy for all of us, myself included, to begin to think we have this covered, and then something goes sideways. It can be a death or something equally as heinous, but usually it sneaks up on you after your life has gotten a little twisted and your rhythm is off. The grind starts to really piss you off and then you wonder if those people who lose their mind and end up in a water tower with a bunch of rifles are truly as crazy as that liberal media likes to pretend. Traffic becomes a gladiator sport. It’s not paranoia, you believe, if those tramps at work really are all conspiring against you. Sometimes I hate television so much I want to throw something at my precious. Why won’t he ever shut up? That friggen dentist can’t force you to floss. It’s way too easy to start believing those voices in your head, especially when they sound strangely like you.

I have no idea about your end of the park, but life here feels rushed and filled with events and commitments I don’t care about. What if life can no longer be successfully navigated solo? The world seems faster and louder and instant and shallow and made of plastic. Am I really coping as well as I like to not think about?

I get to do this stuff for money but it still energizes me when someone has a big win or has moved forward or woken up for the very first time. People who consistently make their mental health a priority do markedly better than those who do not. This isn’t rocket science but there is a science to this. We can talk about neural pathways if that turns you on, but we all know that when we are working this thing it really does work. If I didn’t believe that I would get a real job.

So don’t forget about those lessons you learned, or sadly you may find that you get to learn them again. Goody. We all want to move forward and it is way more fun to fix your particular brand of crazy when you are strong and happy and kicking ass.

See you at the lake.

4 thoughts on “Check Up From The Neck Up

  1. Your television as ‘my precious’, lol. Mental health triage is a great description. And an awful place to find yourself revisiting after much effort and progress. I know this. I think the issue with therapy is that we (or at least I) view its ending as a sign of success. Which makes returning, (god forbid!) a failure. I like the check up approach, because it gets rid of that silly success/failure equation.

    When my mom was being treated for cancer, one of her most terrifying moments was being ‘cured’. (she wasn’t unfortunately) She said it felt as if the support that had carried her toward wellness, evaporated. And that she’d almost rather have been in treatment than in remission.

    Ending therapy has some similarities. It’s a bit of a free fall, even when it’s self initiated or timely. I’m not suggesting dragging out therapy forever, but there’s a certain wisdom in checking in occasionally to be reminded of how you became more well in the first place.

    Great post.

  2. We all need a break from thinking, Scott – a feng shui of the mind. If we were computers we could clear cookies and wipe the history or we could just plug in another flash drive to store more stuff to worry about later.
    We can’t clear the history. The cookies are what make us who we are. Anyway, who’d want to be a cold lump of electronic paraphernalia that never gets to actually go anywhere?
    So go make some new memories. Don’t think about it. See what happens.
    I hope you have a great time. I look forward to reading you again when your feng has been shuid.
    Happy Hols!

  3. Amen to that Scott, from someone who had no idea they were crashing until just before I ended up in your office. I’m just listening to the news and some guy in the U.S. also just crashed, but he decided to blast through a movie theatre and take a bunch of people to crazy land with him. What you do is, without a doubt, one of the most important things I, and obviously several others, can do for themselves. I hope you have a great vacation and I’ll be waiting for you when you get back.

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