A Tiny, Drifting Family

When I am on retreats, each afternoon I walk and wring my hands, saying to all the mental health patients of the world, “You don’t have to wring your hands today. I am doing it for you.”

– Marsha Linehan, DBT Skills Training Second Edition

I was driving to work this morning, thinking about nothing, just letting memories come and go. I thought about a young man I met six years ago, when we were in an intensive outpatient program together. He was sweet and very quiet. I remembered the way he would suddenly start talking, calmly and softly, about how badly he wanted to die.

That’s how it always goes. I’m minding my current business and suddenly there they are: the people I’ve met in hospitals, therapy groups, and recovery meetings. Mostly people I haven’t spoken to in years. That’s the bizarre thing about such settings. You gather daily or weekly to discuss your worst memories, share your triumphs, untangle the knot of your neuroses together, and then it’s over. And then you just…drift.

Whenever they pop up in my head, I let the memory sit for awhile. It seems important to hold on to that one time, that connection. In full magical thinking mode, I imagine that my concern can help them stay afloat, stay clean, stay safe.

To the kind, witty woman who was the first to befriend me when I flirted with AA. To the only other atheist in my rehab program, with whom I could vent about all the “It’s not religious, it’s spiritual” bullshit. The young girl in the hospital who cried about her mother, the fellow queer who took me under his wing, the woman who saw so much of herself in me, and on and on, I remember all of you. I think about you often.

I will wring my hands for you today.

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