Once upon a time a man who could no longer function at work. He was severely depressed on permanent disability. He said for years he would get up in the morning, put on his ‘Monkey Suit’ and go to work. Then one morning, after a particularly bad day the day before, he could not get out of bed. “I just could not face putting on my ‘Monkey Suit’ one more time.
He had all the symptoms of severe depression: no energy, sad all the time, lost confidence in himself, lack of interest in anything, felt flat or numb, felt like a failure, felt like he was being punished, highly critical of himself, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, thoughts of suicide, difficulty making the smallest decisions, highly irritable, difficulty concentrating, very pessimistic about his future and total loss of interest in sex.
He stayed at home and did nothing. He would stay up late at night and into the early hours playing video games or watching TV. That time of the night he felt no expectations, from himself or others, to be working. Also, he had time to himself as the rest of his family slept. Then he would sleep late in the mornings or nap in the afternoons. His doctor had referred him for therapy and finally, after six months, he went.
In therapy he talked about how he had never liked his work because it did not fit who he was. He had to act like someone else to be able to do it. He thought about changing careers but was not sure what he wanted to do. He got caught up in the usual phases of life and needed to earn a living to support his family. He felt trapped, so just kept on going – that is until he could no longer do it. His life was at a crossroads.
As he talked over many sessions, it became clear to me that he was very angry on some level, although he did not sound angry or act angry. He said he did not feel angry. I believed him. I knew he was out of touch with his own emotions. Every time he put on his ‘Monkey Suit’ he had to disconnect from himself and what he felt.
One day I gave him some homework. I suggested that he make a ‘bat’ out of newspaper – roll up a newspaper, wrap duct tape around it. Then find a place in his home where he could hit with the ‘bat’. I told him the ‘rules’ of doing attacking type motions.
When he came to the next session he looked different. His face had changed. He was animated. He told me what he’d done. He said he made five of the newspaper bats and took them down to his basement. He hit on a pole with each ‘bat’ until it was in shreds. He said after all 5 ‘bats’ were in shreds he lay in an exhausted heap on top of them. He had accessed his rage and channeled it onto the pole.
As a result, he came alive, reconnecting to his emotions. His emotions let him know what he liked and what he did not like. Gradually he started making changes. Over the next weeks and months he found a new meaning for his life which gave him direction. This led to a new career which was congruent with who he was as a person. No more “Monkey Suit’!
Sometimes, when we over ride our wants and needs, when we procrastinate in taking action to make the changes we need to make, our body shuts down and forces us to take stock.
With care and concern,
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