This Grateful Season – Therapy

by justine

Boy oh boy did I just get my butt kicked! It started in the first few weeks of October, right after the craziness of running a bunch of events. I felt uneasy, anxious, exhausted and starved. And my logical brain was all, “We totally got this!” but as the days wore on I was sinking fast.

In no order, this is my past 5 weeks:

  • 36 hr trip to Vegas to see my parents, including a flight
  • Week working in Boston, cross-country flight plus 30 degrees and snow
  • Work trip included back-to-back meetings, lots of talking and too many drinks. Also see “no sleep” below
  • Less than 8hrs of sleep per night for more days than I realized
  • Halloween, including my fiance wanting to actually rent costumes and go out
  • Being without a cell phone for 3 weeks
  • Overseeing an event, on a Sunday night, after falling asleep on a couch at someone’s football party
  • 15 day long death cold
  • Panicking about the guest list’s lack of RSVPs for a larger event
  • No exercise, besides walking the dog. See “death cold” above and include foot injury from last month
  • 5th day back into town and running a large event for work. See “lack of RSVPs” above

This isn’t to prove how “productive” I am or play the I’m-busier-than-you game. Instead, it’s a marker for me to see the ridiculous amount of stuff I took on while not allowing myself any rest. WTF?

The same friend who repeatedly suggested for 2 years I try therapy gave me his therapist’s card. (You may remember that my beloved therapist went out on maternity leave in March 2011 and has yet to return to work). A week after coffee with him, I was sitting in my new therapist’s office, having no idea what to DO. (Don’t we always want to do something?)

That session was fine. She’s a petite Asian woman who speaks softly while gesturing with her small, tanned hands. Words came flying out of my mouth, revealing my anxieties and struggle. I could feel her eyes on my hands, moving rapidly with my thoughts, like I was trying to wave down help on the side of a highway.

After, I didn’t feel much. Later, I felt annoyed. She’d commented on my anxiety level and didn’t give me any insight into what I was feeling (or so I thought). Turns out, I was using her comments to beat myself up even more, about how I wasn’t just anxious / stressed, but she was going to diagnose me with some anxiety disorder and fears of being prescribed drugs flooded in. (Not against drugs, just loved talk-therapy with my former therapist so much that I didn’t want to have to deal with someone jumping that solution for a prescription. And I don’t even know if this new therapist can prescribe drugs!)

No matter how that first session went, I made sure to book a second, and show up.

I was in tears from exhaustion, arriving from Boston the night before, not getting to bed until 1AM, but banked on therapy as being some sort of medicine. I made myself go. Thank goodness. Thank goodness. Thank goodness.

In this session I was spent. There was no speed talking to impress, no comments about why this or that. If I could’ve just slept in her comfy chair in the sunlight of the office’s big windows, I would’ve been happy. Bone tired and yet, talking. Crying still, turning the “problem” of “all that I have to do” and “not having the energy for any of it”.

And here is where all the intangible benefits of therapy flood my body and I am OK again.

I cried, I laughed. She said things like, “It seems like you have an inner-taskmaster” and then she drummed her fingers on the arm of her chair to demonstrate my demon. “It all sounds very life or death” in regards to the crazy standards and pressure I’m putting on myself. “You may want to get some sleep before you have that conversation”. And my favorite “You just show up and let me do the work”.

Oh emm gee. There is no place in my life right now where I have someone else saying, “You just show up and let me take care of it”. My body relaxed immediately.

After the session, I walked a few blocks of Westwood, enjoying the sun. Then, I headed home where I let myself lounge on the couch, watch TV and napped the heck out of my afternoon. And guess, what? I finally started to feel better.

The truth is, my funk was driven by all of those events plus being sick plus not sleeping, but it wasn’t until I spoke in therapy that I realized the ridiculousness of how I was treating myself. I wasn’t allowing myself to sleep for God’s sake, worrying that it was a true sign of depression that I wanted to crawl into bed, when I was feeling terrible b/c I wouldn’t let myself go to bed!! It seems insane now, but going through it I just can’t see the trees from the forrest. It’s all one big blur. I’d forgotten my one important lesson I’d already learned via therapy and it was only in going back to therapy that I remembered.

Treating yourself like a precious object will make you stronger.

**For the month of November, I’m posting something each day that I’m grateful for. It may be as long as an intricate post, as short as a quote, as simple as a link or as wordless as a photograph. Join me? #gratefulseason

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