Thankful November Day 22

Thankful November Day 22

“I’m not making a decision until I talk to Theresa,” I stated definitively to my husband as I stood in the kitchen, feet firmly planted on the ground, arms tightly crossed against my body.

“You can’t let your therapist make decisions for you,” he told me.

We had an argument and I wasn’t quite sure how to proceed. There’s no marriage manual and when you are raised in chaos, you learn to not trust your gut. I needed guidance from a professional.

Enter Theresa, my therapist.

I see her twice a month and it’s quite possibly the smartest thing I’ve done so far in my life.

I’m no stranger to therapy. I’ve been in and out of a therapist’s office since I was 15. I never really found a good fit with a therapist, never really opening myself up enough to heal. I was too worried about being judged. I had preserved a façade of “normalcy” for so many years that I didn’t want to disrupt that.

By 2016, I had had enough.

I researched therapists in my area and found one that dealt with women’s issues and anxiety.

By the second session, I had spilled my guts to my therapist. A huge wave of relief washed over me. For a moment, though, I thought maybe I had shared too much, breaking down that protective wall that had supported me for so long.  That went away when she described what I was feeling and why I was feeling that way. I felt validated for the first time in a long time. Also, I was 33. I was older, a littler wiser and tired mentally. Jim and I were working on starting a family and I wanted to take care of my mental health before bringing in babies.

A few months ago, I told her I was really into the Mary Tyler Moore Show after watching a few episodes on Hulu. I loved the concept and the 1970s culture that was presented. She enjoyed the fact that I was interested in an era that she grew up in.  I would ask her questions and we started talking about women’s issues that arose during that era and how they affect women today, especially in my age group. Gradually, I started to connect how I grew up and how I am today due to the issues of the past. I became fascinated with learning about the feminist movements throughout the past 100 years. Once I learned what a feminist actually was (someone who wanted men and women to be equal) and not what I thought they were (flannel wearing man haters), my world view opened up. Feelings of shame and guilt were replaced with empowerment and open mindedness.  I still struggle with shame, guilt and negative feelings, but it’s to a lesser extent.

Currently in therapy, I am working on finding out who I am.  Trying to come to terms with my PTSD diagnosis and how to heal. I honestly wish that I was “fixed” already but I know it doesn’t happen like that. It takes time and effort on my part. Two weeks ago, she gave me a homework assignment. My eyes lit up. Not because I enjoy homework (I do!) but because it was going to help me on my journey of self-discovery. The assignment: come up with 25 qualities to describe myself.

And I was not allowed to use the words “kind” or “caring”.

Women always use these words to describe themselves. And yes, women generally are kind and caring, but they are so much more. I could ask Jim for help, but most of the qualities had to be from me. As soon as I arrived home from that meeting, I started. I enjoyed this task, but it was a little daunting. After I created the list, I felt good about myself. I was happy to present my list to her this evening at my session.  She liked the words I used to describe myself and told me to keep adding to the list.

She also encouraged me to continue to recognize my triggers and rely on my coping skills to help. Medicine does not help me, but naps do. I’m not trying to oversimplify this or to say that medicine is bad. I know many people who benefit from medicine and I am all for it.  I’ve tried different medications in my twenties and they did nothing for me. This was because these medicines weren’t treating what was really going on with me.  Last year when I was finally diagnosed with PTSD, my therapist asked me to list what I do to make myself feel better. Journaling, listening to music and napping were the big 3. Tonight, I realized that these things are my medicine.  When I go a day without my form of treatment, it shows.

When I have time to myself to recover from a day at work or a busy weekend, I feel better. When I come home from school, Jim knows that I need some time alone to recuperate from the stress of the day. I read, write or take a nap. I don’t sleep well at night, so another thing I am really going to focus on is meditating and yoga, especially before bed.

Learning what to do to help heal is the greatest gift I can give to myself.  I’m truly thankful for this realization and for my therapist, who not only shares my name, but also an enjoyment of 70’s culture, an astrological sign, feminist issues and making sure I realize my strengths and my worthiness.

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