Goodbyes

I had my last appointment with my therapist last week. She gave me the head’s up a couple of months prior. She had been offered a wonderful opportunity and was working out the details with the powers that be. I was (and still am) thrilled for her because this seemed like exactly what she needed. I was also pretty bummed that after 6 years I would be alone in dealing with “the shit” life has thrown my way. Saying goodbye was not something I was looking forward to. I despise goodbyes! But I started thinking about how this is a goodbye to the psychologist but not to my friend. Dr. M has been more than just a psychologist. She has been my friend. 

Dr. M has helped me to recover the tools I need to deal with the shit that has been thrown at me and any future shit coming my way. I had the tools all along but I forgot how to use them. She has helped me to realize that any guilt or shame that I carried (from certain events) were not mine to carry. She helped me to identify the toxic relationships in my life and gave me the courage to set boundaries and let go of those who weren’t respectful of those boundaries. I’ve learned many things from Dr. M and I am so grateful to have had her guidance for 6 years. It was awesome to share a few laughs along the way, too.

Someone asked me recently, “Are you ok? Do you feel abandoned?” The answer is, “Yes, I’m ok,” and an absolute “No, I don’t feel abandoned at all.” Dr. M will give me a referral if I need one. I know I’ll still be in touch with her because she’s my friend. I have her cell phone number and her email. I know I am stronger now and I have the tools to deal with the shit that flies in my direction. I’m not worried about my mental health anymore. I’m going to be just fine. 

Before leaving my last appointment, (which began with so much laughter that my Dad heard us from the waiting area) Dr. M and I talked about having lunch sometime since we are no longer therapist/client. The appointment ended with a hug…and more laughter! It’s been great but now it’s on to bigger and better things for her… and I’m making some plans of my own. 

10 Things I Have Learned With My Therapist’s Help

I’ve been seeing a therapist for the last 6 years. I never thought I would do this, not in a million years but I was tied up in knots, grief, sadness, depression, anger, and a whole lot of other detrimental emotions. I had to do something because I was sinking deeper and deeper.

I always thought, “Why do I need a therapist when I have friends and family to talk to about my problems?” The problem was that my friends and family were too close to the situation. I needed someone who was unbiased and professional. I needed guidance and I needed perspective from an outsider. I needed someone who would be honest with me but wouldn’t judge me, no matter what I told her.

That’s exactly what I got. The first therapist I saw is the same therapist I am seeing now. She has helped me more than I can even express in words. After just 1 year I was in a much better place emotionally and mentally. With each passing year, I have become much stronger and able to cope with the emotions I must deal with on a day to day basis. The issues now are of my pain and mobility, which are just as detrimental as the issues of 6 years ago but I’m strong enough now to handle it. Thanks to my therapist, I have learned a lot of things to help me on my journey and I think I will always hear her voice in the back of my mind guiding me and challenging me. I’d like to share with you those things in hopes of encouraging others to seek therapy if needed because it certainly does help!

  1. I am able to identify and handle my triggers, those things that cause me anxiety or sadness. I now know how to refocus my attention on other things or prepare myself emotionally beforehand.
  2. I have learned several different methods of breathing to help me to relax or calm down when I become anxious or even when I need to fall asleep.
  3. I learned that I do not have to engage with people who are being belligerent or unpleasant in some way. I do not have to participate in confrontational conversations, nor do I have to take someone else’s abuse or accusations.  I hold the power to walk away or not respond. I end conversations that are rude and condescending. Why perpetuate the problem?
  4. I have learned that I am my own worst enemy! I am always second-guessing myself, making unrealistic demands of myself, comparing myself to others, over-thinking, and I’m very critical of everything I do. I have learned to curtail the urge to do these things! It’s hard sometimes, but I realize that I don’t have to be perfect.
  5. I have always known that you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves. But what I didn’t realize was that it was ok to NOT be someone’s go-to person for help and advice. I learned that those people sucked the energy right out of me and that I had the right to take care of me and say, “NO.” I let go of toxic people and made my life easier.
  6. I learned that my grief and sadness were valid. I had been through the wringer, as they say, and I had been carrying so much guilt and shame for things that #1) I didn’t do and #2) that were beyond my control. My therapist validated my feelings and helped me to realize that I could let go of those emotions because the guilt and shame were not mine to bear. Validation and a new perspective on things really do help!
  7. I have always been a people-pleaser. I’ve neglected myself for so many years in the past because I felt that others’ needs were more important. I always considered my children’s needs to be of more importance than my own needs when they were growing up, but there were still times I could have put my needs higher on the list. I have since stopped making everyone else a priority and am focusing on taking care of me! I am not responsible for anyone other than myself. My kids are grown and can take care of themselves. It’s time for me to take care of me. Of course, I still look out for my Dad. He’s almost 82 years old and needs a watchful eye at times, but for the most part, he takes care of himself.
  8. I’m an analytical thinker. I use information and evidence, as well as my own personal experiences to solve problems and form my own opinions. I am a logical thinker, so when people do stupid things it blows my freakin’ mind! I try to see both sides of an issue, which most people refuse to do – they believe what they believe and there is no room in their minds for any other position or way of thinking. I learned with the help of my therapist, that having an analytical mind creates conflict in that I can’t bond with others who don’t think as I do. Does that make sense? It’s very difficult for me to create friendships with people who don’t see things the same way I do. And that’s OK. I don’t dislike those people, I just can’t bond with them in the way that I would with someone of like-minded thinking.
  9. I have learned that it’s ok to cry. I grew up being ridiculed for being sensitive and for crying. Thanks, Mom. To this day, I avoid movies, songs, situations (like funerals, even weddings) because I feel ashamed to cry, especially in front of others. My feelings are just as important as anyone else’s and if I feel like crying then so be it. At least I can show sympathy and empathy for others, which is more than I can say for some people.
  10. Throw away the “should have, would have, could have” mentality. I’ve had this thought many times when I was dealing with past issues. It does nothing but waste time. This is a negative, unproductive way of thinking. The past is the past. It’s best to look forward and focus on the here and now. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck in a place you don’t want to be. My therapist is a wise woman. She brought me out of that place and I’m not going back. EVER.

~~~

So, these are just some of the things I’ve learned seeing my therapist. Of course, most of them I already knew (and I don’t know if this will make sense to you) but I was unaware. I was unaware of what I was doing and not doing in regards to my own mental health. Now I am more mindful of what I’m doing and thinking, and I am committed to myself.

Because I’m worth it. And so are you. If you are struggling, please don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to seek out help. You are worth it!

 

Hope, In Times of Darkness

Some time ago, I had gone through something that nearly pushed me over the edge. It was something that I never expected, nor had any idea how to deal with. Someone very close to my heart made some bad decisions and threw her own life into a chaotic whirlpool, at the same time turning my life upside down. This post is not about that person or the events that took place but rather the effect it had on me and my own life.

I had never in my life been so depressed. Not many people knew, just family and very close friends. I couldn’t talk about it without crying. I couldn’t go anywhere without crying. I couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t focus. I wasn’t able to sleep. I couldn’t eat. I was up at 5am every morning and didn’t go to bed until 1am. I was in a daze. I was barely living, just going through the motions. I felt dead inside. I felt lost. I felt shame and guilt, and I couldn’t pull myself out of this deep abyss I had been thrown into. I wasn’t suicidal, but I remember thinking it wouldn’t be a bad thing if I just fell over dead.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The events that took place had absolutely nothing to do with me, but when bad things happen to someone you love dearly, it will do things to you that you never thought possible. It didn’t help that “certain people” insinuated that I did something wrong. I was treated as if I did do something wrong. It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t do anything wrong. It was not my actions that caused the events.

I carried guilt and shame for a few years. I was depressed and saw no end in sight. I had never even considered seeing a therapist. I mean, that’s what family and friends are for right? You have a problem, you talk it out with someone you know and trust. Right? Well, when I was referred to a specific therapist, I thought, “How am I suppose to talk to someone I don’t even know, about these things?” Also, “How can I trust a total stranger with my innermost, deepest feelings?” I knew I had to do something so I made the appointment.

Never in a million years did I think I would be seeing a therapist! I cannot tell you how much it helped me to talk to someone unbiased, someone who was not there to judge or tell me how to feel. It was a slow process. It took an entire year to get in a better place. I saw light, after a long time of being in such a dark place!

My therapist helped me realize that the events that took place were not my fault. My head knew this, but my heart didn’t. She helped me to understand that the shame I carried was not mine to carry. I didn’t do anything wrong and now I could stand tall in my words with “certain people” who insinuated otherwise. My therapist gave me the tools I needed to set boundaries, and walk my own truth. She pretty much gave me the strength to go public with my blog not too long ago. I still see my therapist at least once a month. I used to see her weekly, but she still helps me and I don’t see an end to my visits with her anytime soon.

I guess my point in writing this is just to let others know that there IS light at the end of the tunnel. If you’re depressed, please reach out for help. I know that’s hard as hell, but others may not reach out to you. They may want to help but may not know how or even what to say. They may keep their distance because it’s uncomfortable for them. People just don’t know what to do to help. If you have the opportunity, see a therapist. If you don’t feel comfortable with one then find another. If you can’t do that, then find someone who will listen, not judge, and try to help you find a solution. Please, please, please do whatever you can to help yourself. YOU are important!

There’s hope in times of darkness. You just may have to look a little harder to find it. Just please look and keep looking until you find it.

 

Learning & Moving Forward

The last 5 years have been extremely trying. I’ve had to deal with more than I ever imagined I would, and at times thought it would never get better. I spent hours upon hours upon hours crying my eyes out. I have felt helpless, and hopeless. I’ve felt anger and sadness. I’ve suffered through many panic attacks and raging depression. After a couple years trying to pull myself up with not much success, I began seeing a therapist. With her help, I learned a lot about myself, and other people.

My therapist has helped me make sense of much of what I was feeling. With her guidance, and my hard work to meet her challenges, I can finally say that my life is getting back on track. I don’t think I could have done it without her help. You may think these things are a “no brainer” but when you have been raised a certain way, treated a certain way, and had to deal with so many issues, it tends to overwhelm a person!! You sometimes lose yourself while trying to process things, and some things are shoved under the rug because they are too hard to deal with.

Some of the things I have learned along the way are:

*I have learned that the guilt and shame that I carried for so long, was NOT mine to carry. I am not responsible for the actions of others, and I have made peace with events of the past.

*I have learned to set limits and create boundaries. Just as I don’t allow just anyone to come into my house, I cannot allow just anyone to enter my mind, and my life and drain me of my energy or place unwanted expectations on me. I do not have to allow negativity from others to bring me down. I do NOT have to engage in their drama.

*I have been a caregiver for all of my adult life. I have always put everyone else’s needs above my own. I put my needs on the back burner, thinking they were not important. I have learned that it’s not selfish for me to take care of ME! My needs are just as important as anyone else’s!

*I am a logical thinker. I’ve learned that if I can’t make sense of something, in my mind it’s hogwash. I get along with those who are like-minded. I don’t mix well with people who do not think for themselves. I don’t understand people who follow anything blindly.

*I’ve learned that there are certain people whom I cannot help simply because they won’t help themselves. I can’t keep throwing them a rope and letting them pull ME under! Some people are emotional vampires, draining you of all the energy you have. It’s ok to take a step back (or several) and protect yourself! I know I don’t have to let them drain me anymore! (This goes back to setting limits and creating boundaries, as mentioned earlier in this post.)

*I’ve learned that my thoughts, my opinions are just as important as anyone else’s. All through my childhood, my mother stifled me. I was ridiculed for voicing my opinion, for asking questions, and for asking for what I needed for ME. I may still keep my mouth shut at times (because even though I have the right to say it, doesn’t mean I should) but I no longer let the fear of what others think, keep me from using my voice.

*I’ve learned that I can forgive myself for the mistakes I’ve made in my life. We aren’t handed an instruction book when we first venture out on our own, when we enter a new relationship, or when we begin having children. We have no clue how to do it, but yet we figure it out along the way! We make mistakes. Sometimes the mistakes are small and sometimes they are huge, but we learn as we go and we have to forgive ourselves for the mistakes we have made or we will drown in the “shoulda-woulda-coulda” mentality.

*I’ve learned that others will never understand my chronic pain if they have never experienced chronic pain themselves. I can explain until my head explodes but they won’t understand that I can’t do the things they think I should be able to do. They don’t SEE anything wrong with me, so they think I’m just lazy. They can’t see how tired I am, how much I hurt, or that I’d just like to crawl in a cave and never come out again. I don’t have to explain anymore. I’m good with whatever they think about me. I just pray that they never have to experience chronic pain themselves! (If you need to understand chronic pain, a good place to start is with “The Spoon Theory.” Google it. There is no better way to understand than this.)

And last, and I am definitely not finished learning….

*I’ve learned that you just can’t fix stupid!! I get so irritated with people doing stupid and inconsiderate things that I could just pull my hair out! I am still working on this one, but I’m getting better at just letting it go!! I let things get to me too easily sometimes. It seriously affects my mood when someone pulls out in front of me on a busy road, or when someone zips through a parking lot right behind me, even though I’m already half way out of my parking spot, or when a group of people are having a “reunion” of sorts in the store blocking the entire width of the aisle. When you approach, they turn and see you but still make no effort to move over so you can pass through! UGH. I could go on and on….. These things aggravate me to no end. I always try to be courteous and watch for others around me when I’m out and about. I know they have things to do just as I do. So, why don’t they behave the same way?

All in all, my life may be a bit difficult but I am moving forward. I continue to see my therapist and work on my issues. I use to think “I will never see a shrink because I can’t talk to a stranger about personal things! That’s what friends and family are for!” Well, I was wrong for thinking this way. Yes, it’s good to talk to friends and family but some things are too deep and personal to share with them! Sometimes, a complete stranger can see things more clearly. A trained therapist can actually help you figure things out!