Some years are better than others. Some of the “others” you’ll never forget because they change the course of your life forever. Last year was that year for me, and I’m still paying the price for it.
The year started off hopeful, but quickly dissolved into worry as I dealt with some physical health issues that required tests, follow-ups, and more appointments. As soon as that issue seemed to be under control, my depression, anxiety and OCD — all of which I’ve battled for half of my life — flared to levels I’d never experienced. Many days I could hardly get out bed, and I had a general sense of doom.
On top of all this, my business was in transition and — apparently — so was my relationship. In August of last year, after five months of couples counseling, my partner of nine years and I split.
It seemed like every aspect of my life had been hit: physical, mental, personal, and professional. Nothing felt safe and I felt unstable to say the least.
Though my relationship had ended, I kept our therapist and started seeing her individually which helped me keep it together. Here’s how therapy got me through the worst year of my life.
Therapy as a Routine
Last year every part of my life was in flux. My relationship, which provided so much safety and security, had dissolved. My physical health was uncertain and my mental health was precarious at best. Any sense of routine or stability I had vanished.
The good news was that I could rely on therapy. Every Wednesday at 4 p.m., I knew I had just short of an hour to try to get my life back on track. Having that dedicated time and space — and more importantly, stability, played an important role in my life when everything else was so uncertain and unknown.
An Unbiased Perspective
I love my family and friends. I’m sure you do too. But let’s face it: They’re not always the best people to go to when you need advice. You know, the advice you need when making life-changing, future-altering decisions which will affect more people than just yourself.
Having a therapist who was not a friend or family, giving me advice from a third-party perspective, was much-needed. She didn’t have an agenda. She wasn’t biased. She was able to look at the situations that occured and give me her impartial perspective.
New Ways of Thinking
A great thing about having a dedicated therapist is they get to know you and how you operate. You also get to understand some of your thought patterns and behaviors.
For example, through therapy I realized just how negative my self-talk could be. I could understand how obsessive my thinking could be and how anxiety clouded everything. My therapist offered me new pathways of thinking and novel solutions.
Sometimes I actually say out loud, “Wow, I would have never thought that.” And I mean it. We’ve been conditioned in certain ways, and have particular mental health histories that can make it hard to deviate from what we’re used to. Instead of being on a one-way street with my thinking, my therapist offered several roads to consider. Ones that I would never have seen on my own.
Learning About Myself
I’m a fairly intuitive person and tend to overthink and analyze a lot. But sometimes when you’re in it you can’t really see how you are affecting your own problems. Though there were many things outside of my control that happened, my therapist helped me see the role I played in certain outcomes.
It was how I reacted that made things worse. Going to therapy helped me take more responsibility for my behavior, thoughts, and actions instead of blaming everything else for my problems.
The Art of Forgiveness
I’m a perfectionist and control freak, so when everything was in disarray, I hated myself for everything. I felt pathetic for needing outside help in the form of therapy and medication.
I was filled with shame, guilt and anxiety for my thoughts and actions. My therapist helped me stop the broken record in my mind. She helped me stop the negative self-talk — as I was actually saying the words — and rewriting the script. It’s been a tough journey, but I’ve been able to forgive myself, offer myself grace, and learn to love myself above anything and anyone else.
If you’re going through a tough time, therapy can be so much more than just “getting help.” For me, it was about re-establishing routine, finding guidance and pathways to healing and understanding. It was a solid structure when everything else was falling apart.
Though I’ve come out of the storm, I still look forward to therapy every Wednesday at 4 p.m.. It helps me get through the week and address any lingering issues head on, while I find my new normal.