Last night I finished reading the book “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail”, by Cheryl Strayed. It’s a story written about the author’s own personal experience. Cheryl’s from Minnesota and had experienced some recent tragedies in her life and decided that she was going to solo hike the Pacific crest Trail from California up to Oregon. She had no previous experience backpacking but felt this is something that she needed to help her find herself again. The story goes through her days of living on the trail as she spends three months hiking. The book really resonated with me because I’ve done a lot of my soul-searching when I’ve been on trips away from my family and away from things that are familiar to me. The hard thing about knowing the healing power of being alone is how to fix yourself when you’re no longer alone. All your instincts tell you to run away again.
During my (almost) year of being single and celibate, I did a lot of soul-searching and working on making myself a better person. I realized how much better I liked myself when I wasn’t in a relationship and thought I was “cured” while I was single. Then I met my KISA. We started dating in May and by October I could feel the darkness of depression setting in. I loved him, but I immediately felt like I needed to be alone again to get better. That November we were sitting in our living room, me on the chaise and him on the couch, and I told him I wanted to break up. He was stunned and wanted to understand why. Crying, I explained to him with certainty that I needed to get better and to do that I needed to be alone. I told him that I believed that I had to take care of myself in order to make our relationship work. He refused to see the logic in how being alone would make us better. I think deep down we both knew that if we went our separate ways now we’d never get back together. He could see the pain I was going through and while he loved me he also loved us. He pointed out that I was always fine when I was alone but it was the being in a relationship part I’d always had trouble with. How would I know that I was truly better if I was single again? I knew he was right and he agreed to help me get better, which I was hesitant about it working.
I was seeing a therapist at the time and shortly after my failed attempt to break up with him, my therapist helped me realized that part of my relationship issues stemmed from my daddy issues. He encouraged me to write a letter to my father that I could choose to send or not send. I procrastinated for a couple weeks and then finally found the courage to write it after one of my therapy sessions. When I came home my KISA was in the living room, so I sat at the dining room table and wrote the letter. My KISA listened as I cried my eyes out, coming in from time to time to make sure I was ok. It was obvious that it was painful for him to watch and not be able to console me. Right before Christmas I decided I wanted to share the letter with my father. I had offered for my KISA to read it, which I’m still not sure if he did. However, he discouraged me from sending it. He explained that I had obviously gotten the value out of writing it by getting it off my chest, but that didn’t mean it needed to be delivered. So I didn’t. This was only the beginning of how he was going to help me get better.
The following summer I decided to switch from my therapist to a psychoanalyst. As I started working with her I found she would point things out that my KISA had already pointed out to me, but I was too stubborn or not self-aware enough to notice. Twice a week I would call my KISA on my drives to work from my sessions, crying and letting him know the latest things I’d realized about myself. He would listen patiently and I imagined him nodding as if grateful that somebody was pointing out the same things to me that he had seen all along. He helped me talk through things and assured me that I wasn’t as horrible of a person I believed to be. She broke me down, but he built me back up.
I finally parted ways with my psychoanalyst at the end of January as we were moving out to San Francisco. I lied and promised her that I would reach out to another one out here and she gave me a list of references she suggested I look into it. At that point in time I needed a break from the intensity of the sessions and had realized my KISA’s love and support were equally as valuable at helping me get better. During this time he had also taught me that the burdens I carry are not burdens I have to carry alone. It’s not to say I don’t still do a lot of my self-reflecting in solitude, but I no longer feel that running away is the only solution.