This is my tenth week of adjusting to change and I feel like I'm finally able to drag myself out of a hole I dug when all this began.
I don't do well with change.
*Insert reaction from all my loved ones*
I know a lot of us struggle with this and while I can't speak for you, I can at least try to share my own experience of...standing by the large windows in my living room and willing myself to not tear the skin off of my face and arms.
This year started out really well for me and Shane and I'd be lying if I said that it doesn't continue to be so. But the thing with life being good is that people like me inevitably go EXTRA AF and spend sleepless nights making elaborate plans to tidy and polish what is already good. And boy, did I plan!
These past ten weeks have, if anything, proved to me that I have zero control over what happens in my life no matter how orgasmic my spreadsheet is. The formulas, tabs and colour coding in there can do jackshit in the face of our "invisible enemy", as a world-renowned idiot likes to put it. But I'm ashamed to say that it's taken me pretty much all of these past ten weeks to make my peace with this fact and pretend to let go.
I say pretend because there's a very good chance that I've learned jackshit (my new favourite word) from this experience and will go back to my old obsessive ways the minute all this is over. In fact, I know I'm feeling better because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can see things starting to change just enough for all the spreadsheets to be finally put to use.
And this is just one of the many unhealthy things about myself that I'm aware of. For all the rest of them, I go to my therapist.
This Mental Health Awareness Week, I wanted to share my own mental health journey to encourage the act of seeking out help for those of you who, like me, avoided it for years despite knowing fully well that something was not quite right.
You may have avoided it for a multitude of reasons such as the lack of time, denial about your mental state, shame and stigma, or the most common roadblock - a refusal to loosen your purse strings.
That last one was mine. I wouldn't dare consider spending "my hard-earned money" on the biggest investment I could ever make. It amounted to more or less a third of what I spent on eating out, buying clothes, travelling etc. per month but I was convinced that I couldn't possibly afford to get help. It's true that in the past, I have genuinely not been able to afford therapy but there were still options that I simply wouldn't consider.
It took a global pandemic and a downward spiral with deteriorating mental health (a mere eight months after the previous episode) for me to return to my shiny spreadsheets and budgets and tell myself that I was definitely not going to be broke or without savings if I invested in therapy.
It's disgusting how while on holiday, I don't think twice before splurging on a unique experience because that, to me, is enriching my life; but when it comes to speaking to an actual professional about patterns, tendencies, habits, medication, and other things that will also be enriching my life (perhaps more permanently), all the cells in my body revolt with their battle cry resounding, "NO!".
In the past almost two months, I have:
- learned about other people and personality types, why they might be doing what they're doing, and how their actions affect me
- been able to identify my overarching values at this stage of my life and set goals surrounding these to work towards
- understood what resilience means
- recognised that I'm hella resilient
- identified the voice of my inner critic
- told my inner critic that I don't respect her and that she can fuck off (I had to do this considering who the voice belonged to)
- felt extremely uncomfortable doing exercises that forced me to be compassionate to myself
- started to think about the source/base of all the emotions I feel, especially the negative ones
- written a letter to someone who hurt me beyond levels I was willing to acknowledge or accept
- joked with my therapist about this letter-writing exercise
- realised, when my therapist burst out laughing as I was telling a story, that humour does help me cope with the shitty things that have happened in my life
- realised that you start to heal when you can joke about it
- learned techniques to self-soothe in moments of anxiety (I have used some of these almost every single day during this lockdown)
- identified what my ideal life would look like through a writing exercise
- talked about shame and vulnerability
- burst into tears while talking about past experiences
- burst into tears while talking about how much I know Shane loves me
- burst into tears upon learning about a personality trait of mine that has defined my actions and reactions throughout life
- discussed the mental health stigma in India
- learned about neuroplasticity
I found my therapist on betterhelp.com and no, I'm not getting paid to talk about them. They're just that good.
The platform acknowledges that we need to be speaking to professionals who are as close to us in life experiences as possible and allows us to choose what these parameters are. For me, I chose a female, non-religious counsellor who could help with change, self-compassion and growth.
The wonderful thing about this platform is that on top of our weekly one-to-one sessions over a video call, I also get to message my therapist 6 days a week. We sometimes send each other video messages, exchange links and resources, and keep in touch throughout the week. I guess now you can see how we've covered so much in such a short amount of time.
There's flexibility around the session schedule and I'm allowed to pick the day and time for my next session from my counsellor's calendar. We have all our conversations, resources and my goals in one place. I think the structure this platform offers really works for me.
The cherry on top is that it's much more affordable than all the traditional therapy options I considered in my local area - £50/week for all this as opposed to ~£70 for a single 50-minute session.
But all said and done, if it hadn't been for some of the verifiable changes I have been able to make in my life since I started therapy, I doubt if I would have stuck to it. For example, an experience that affected me deeply and negatively at the beginning of my journey is now merely an anecdote in the story of my life. An anecdote filled with resentment, disgust and anger, but a mere anecdote nevertheless. I've gone from thinking about it almost every day to barely remembering it unless it's brought up in conversation.
And without seeing these signs of healing, I truly doubt if I would have been able to continue doing one of the most agitating, sometimes painful, time-consuming and uncomfortable things I've ever done in my life.
And with this post, it is my hope that you do it too. That you feel the profound initial discomfort followed by a well-deserved sense of grounding and stability, both for yourselves and your loved ones.