Quality of life.
When Carol the therapist first threw that word and concept at me my outer reaction was an eye-roll. My inner, something on the order of, Oh give me a break.
Quality of life was jargon-speak in my world. I was alive. Period. Single mother of a teenage son, I lived paycheck to paycheck and my credit was not exemplary — no child support from my son’s father for the first 14 years. (They couldn’t catch him.) I didn’t even own a car — could not afford one — for the first dozen years of my child’s life.
“No no, you’re confusing quality of life with income,” this hopeless Pollyanna said. (She’s not a hopeless Pollyanna but 20 years ago when I found & started seeing her, I was a pretty hopeless cynic.)
“Well, I live in The Real World and quite frankly, okay, I have no idea what you mean,” I told her.
I was seeing her from a point of desperation: I had just pretty much experienced what they euphemistically call, “a nervous breakdown.” (I had always wondered, What exactly IS a “nervous breakdown?” I sort of visualized someone nervously twitching all over and then, I don’t know, making sounds akin to when you move a finger horizontally up & down against your lips as you speak? After which, dissembling in a pile on the floor, perhaps. That is not what happened to me.)
Following my breakdown — more like an emotional collapse or dissolution — I actually continued my slow unraveling, but having had emphatically crappy success with the therapy community in the past, I was at a loss where to turn.
So I spent a goodly amount of time researching my personal array of symptoms on my own, arriving at the conclusion that, by golly, I was experiencing post traumatic stress symptoms. (All these years later?!) This was such a moment of revelation & Aha! for me. And also irritation: for crimineys sake, if I could figure this out, why the hey had none of the three thousand five hundred seventy-six psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and/or therapists I’d seen? 😡
Well, this was a relatively new field [we’re back in 1993 here], I was to learn. Oh. (Well, still!) This sort of floored me — I think of the county psychiatrist years back [1960s… dark ages yet where such as this was concerned] who actually dismissed a 13-year-old me after a brief 10 minutes with, “You handled all this really well,” “all this” being the abuse; then shaking my hand, smiling at me like I had handed in extra credit and earned an A+ on it, and that was it. Goodbye. — but, okay. Oh.
So I called a national incest helpline number several states away — listed in one of my research books — asked about childhood trauma therapists in my area and, here I was. In Carol the therapist’s office.
“Look, I don’t want to talk in meaningless psychological jargon-speak. I need real help here.” If I wasn’t such a polite person I might have snapped my fingers at her.)
That was 20 years ago. I have since learned firsthand, that, there is just plain living — drudge-like, a, just-make-it-through-another-day sort of living, and there is that hard to describe concretely, yet, vital thing, “quality of” life, living where one actually experiences moments of, yes, joy.
Quality of life and joy rolled into one: a view of an area adjacent to my apartment patio that I made into a garden, giving me joy every minute working in it & also, all those spent just sitting near it…
Long walks outdoors? — calm inner demons, are good exercise plus fill me with joy.
Here is to joy and to “quality of life,” not just jargon-speak after all, but more importantly? — here’s to the healing they promote. As difficult as healing from abuse is, it’s worth every painful moment to be even one small bit less at the mercy of your abuser(s) and of those who would keep the secret.