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Won’t you give yourself a try?
The 1975, Give Yourself a Try
In Greek Mythology, when Pandora was sent to Earth, Zeus sent with her with a gift: a box that she was forbidden to open. Being human, and therefore fallible, Pandora eventually gave in to temptation and opened the box. The world immediately became a dark and terrifying place as all the evil we know today escaped that small prison that Zeus had so knowingly sent to earth in the hands of a human. Pandora bemoaned her mistake and quickly shut the box, but it was too late. Pain, fear, greed, and all of their dark counterparts were already free. However, unbeknownst to Pandora, something was still trapped in the box. She had sealed it shut before the last being had escaped. Pandora had closed the box before the one thing she needed was freed: hope.
I knew that therapy was what I needed, but it was far from what I’d wanted. Next only to fear, pride had made a comfortable home in my mind and controlled many of my decisions. I was proud that no one had unlocked the inner rooms of my mind that contained my truest identity deep within. I was proud that I had always stood my ground when questioned about my sexuality, happily offering up a lie for silence. It was easier than telling the truth and at one point I’d convinced myself that the lie was the truth.
Like Pandora, in an act of equal desperation, I thought it easier to seal myself off rather than expose the world to what I held within. Pride let me do that. It helped me place a barrier between my emotions and myself. I could distance myself from the fear and the pain by placing other things before them, distracting everyone who I came in contact with. I was proud of my progress at work, of my involvement in my community, and of my growth at church (more on that later, lol). I have always been able to distract myself from my own mind, and I still do it. The truth is, I knew what I was doing. I was not in denial; it was all part of the scheme to just get by, unnoticed, unproblematic. Forgetting that the box existed, that the room where the real Paul lived existed, made life easier. But no single room, not even one created in my own mind, could contain the man I was made to be. He eventually grew restless and demanded to be freed.
For reasons I cannot fully explain, despite how I felt about it, I conceded to trying therapy. And then, just four days after that October run, I had an appointment scheduled for early November. Already a weight began to lift off of me. I felt hope for the first time. You read that right. I had lost hope so long ago that when I felt it wash over me, it was a new sensation. It felt like something I’d never experienced before. It was that lost, stripped away with the rest of my emotional capacity. Once hope slowly crept back into my life, fear began to tremble. You see, fear does not do well with being challenged. Isolation is its only advantage, a single tactic that can so easily be removed. In a sense, my fear was fucked.
In anticipation of my first ever therapy session I began to process what I would say. How does one lay out all of one’s problems, trauma, and fear in such a clinical, lay-on-the-couch kind of way? I have never had a problem talking about myself, but this was something bigger than past conversations. This was not a biblical approach to fixing an issue (me), or someone’s attempt to persuade me that my faith is outdated and I’m “perfect just the way I am.” This was a non-biased, judgment free space where I could finally, for the first time in my life, be honest. I could be honest with my therapist, and honest with myself. And I was terrified, because I didn’t know how to do that.
I showed up to my first therapy appointment late. There had been an accident, and then construction, and then I went down the wrong street. By the time I walked out of the elevator and toward the office I felt like I was being pushed along instead of moving myself forward. Everything in my life was about to change, and I knew it. My body knew it. My fear knew it. Nothing would be the same after walking through that door. For better or for worse, whatever happened, I would never be the same person. In a messed-up kind of way, I would miss who I’d become. Humans are so programmed for comfort. I knew I needed this, but that meant the death of who I currently was. I think I was in mourning. I reached the door, turned the handle, and went in.
I’m not going to write about what happened in those early sessions. It’s too raw, and I won’t sell my story like that. You’ll have to buy me a cup of coffee for that kind of access. I will say, however, that at the end of my first session my therapist closed his notepad and said, unironically but with a slightly perturbed smile, “well, Paul, you really are in a pickle.” We both laughed, because what else does one do? He was right. The beautiful thing was that in that moment, hearing those words, that was the first time I’d ever felt truly heard. No one tried to offer me a way out. I was not given bible verses to read. Instead, my pain and fear were validated. I was seen. My entire life I had wanted for just that, to be understood, and it had finally happened. I left that first session with no answers, but with a relief that sent my fear into a dizzying panic. I had finally begun to climb this mountain that I had so often stood before, unable to fathom the ascent. I was only at the bottom, but I had overcome the fear of lacing my boots, and that’s a start.
In the following months I began to regain a confidence lost long ago. As I grew in my understanding of who I am, why I matter, and how I can live a happy life, I also grew in different ways. This progress occurred parallel to my moving out of my parent’s basement, which, though a blessing it was to be there, leaving helped me grow as an adult and gave me more of the personal space I needed. This space, paired with the tools to grow, was the fertile soil required to bloom. It was a slow process, and although my leaves fought against the light, nature demanded that I crawl out of my cave. There was a beautiful life to be lived and I finally felt I had the right to live it. Upon my return to the surface, so long ago abandoned, my eyes were dazzled by the sun.
Therapy has taught me that I have to discover who I am for myself. No one else can do it for me. Others can give you expectations and prescribe issues in your life, but only you can separate the truth from those expectations. Other people hold a microscope, you see the full picture. You are the full picture.
I had seen tremendous change in half a year. By the spring of 2018 I already felt like a new person. But that didn’t mean my journey was over. In many ways, the biggest battles were just beginning, because I’d finally learned how to put on my armor. If I wanted to regain that hope, I had to let everything come out of my Pandora's Box first. Including myself.
“Coming Out of Fear Installment Three: The Summer” will be released January 27th. Make sure to subscribe here to be notified, or head to my website paulsatchwill.com to read it on my blog. In the meantime you can find my thoughts on Twitter, and on Instagram.