“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” – Brené Brown
I’ve been a mental health therapist for over three years now; a licensed one for over a year. I love what I do. I find that people thrive the most when they are validated and their feelings are met with kindness. Over and over again, I’ve seen someone visibly change when their story gets met with love and a simple “that must have been very hard for you”. It’s like they just learned how to breathe.
I’m not perfect. I’ve never pretended that I was. But for some reason, every time I ever thought about finding a therapist, I never did. It’s happened several times in my life – during a bout of depression while in graduate school, when I was feeling burned out from working too much, etc. But I always pushed it down. I’m a therapist, what can they say to me or tell me to practice that I don’t already know?
Ha! – that was very naive of me to think. I had a professor in grad school who said “the best therapists in the world have their own therapists”. I think he might have been right. (He was right. He was very right.)
I’ve always been outspoken about changing the stigma of mental health. I’ve always advocated to my friends and family that they seek help when they need it, and that there is nothing wrong with it. But when it came to my own mental health? Nah, I got this. (I don’t got this.)
Last year in my yoga teacher training, we were working through the chakras. I was very triggered in my sacral chakra and my solar chakra. I know why I was, but instead of facing the problem head on like I should have by getting a therapist, I pushed it down. And I ate junk food. And I became lethargic and anxious. (Part of that was my job situation, which I’ve written about here.) I was miserable.
I’ve talked about this on my blog before, but I’m pretty sure I have a food addiction. I definitely have body image issues (like every other human being on this planet). My emotions are tied in to my eating patterns and while I’ve been aware of it for a long time, I’m just now finally starting to address it.
My goal for 2017 was to reclaim my health and develop more mindfulness. That was it. I didn’t want to “lose 20 pounds” or become enlightened or whatever. I just want to be the healthiest version of me possible. And a big part of that includes my mental health.
So, I bit the bullet. I signed up for therapy.
It was a nerve wracking experience. I was full of butterflies in my stomach and my hands were sweaty. I was hesitant to fully engage with my therapist but know deep down that only successful therapeutic relationships are built on total honesty and vulnerability. So, I forced myself to be open and honest.
I was ashamed of being in therapy. Writing that now is really hard for me, because I tell my clients all the time there is nothing wrong with seeking help. Or seeking someone to listen to you that isn’t involved emotionally in your life. So why did I feel so guilty seeking someone out myself? I didn’t even tell my husband I had started therapy until a full week had gone by. And even then, I was afraid to tell him. I cried when we talked about it. It seems so silly, but there it is.
I’m afraid of being judged. Of seeming like I don’t have it all together. Or appearing “weak”.
I hear this all of the time as a therapist. It’s mind-boggling. Where did this idea come from?! Having feelings and needing to work through some intense and ingrained thoughts is nothing to be ashamed of. It makes us human.
I’ve been in therapy for a little over a month now. And we’re really starting to peel back layers on some deep rooted stuff. It’s intense. But it’s also super freeing. Intellectually, I know that we hold on tight to our traumas and the experiences that shaped us, good and bad. But I kept pushing mine down. It would come up, and I would say nope, not today. By doing this, I was continuing to let “it” have power over me.
I want my power back, dammit.
My therapist suggested I write a letter to a person who did something to me that really hurt me. (Side note: if you’re reading this and you’re in my life as a family member or a friend, know that this person is NOT you. Seriously. I’m not even just saying that. It really is not you. If you want to talk to me about this, you can. But please respect if I don’t fully want to share that part of my story with you yet. It’s hard.) I often have my clients do this, too. I put it off for about a week. And I finally did it. And it was so eye opening to me. I feel like a weight has been lifted off of me. It’s not all the way gone, but a layer is gone. And underneath I’m feeling raw and emotional. But it’s honest. It’s real.
My story is not necessarily unique, but it’s unique to me. It’s there. I’m facing it. I’m dealing with it. Comparing myself to other people only hurts me; it in no way makes my feelings less real or valid.
I’m unraveling the ties it has to my body image and my eating habits. And I’m crying and I’m tired and I’m happy and I’m all of the things in between.
This is my life, and I’m happy to have a little piece of me back.
I don’t know that I would have fully gotten here on my own. We often think we have to do things on our own. But we are creatures who need connection to survive. It’s totally ok – and healthy – to have someone guiding you down your path. It’s still your journey, you’re just not alone. And that’s a nice feeling.