First off, happy New Year and I hope you all surpassed the national average of about 2 weeks of following through on resolutions. I personally don’t make resolutions anymore, but I am choosing a theme word that I hope to implement in my life intentionally this year, “fearless.”
My choice has a simple explanation, I struggle greatly with living my life in fear. Fear of nights alone, fear of the unknown, fear of things out of my control and so on. If 2019 taught me anything, it was that my mind is stronger and capable of much more than I could have ever imagined.
When we moved to Greenville, I had little knowledge of how many night shifts Ben was actually going to be working and how much anxiety I was actually carrying. Ben works roughly 10 night shifts per month give or take, could very likely be more but most of the time never less. Enter left stage: meltdowns and nights of no sleep with a dresser pushed up against our bedroom door. Yep, it was that bad. I would blow up Ben’s phone with texts begging him to come home from work and hours of tears because I thought for sure someone was coming for me. I realize I may seem to be dramatizing for the sake of a point, but trust me, I’m not. It was that bad. It was to the point we sat down and discussed how in the world we were going to get through 3 years of this schedule and then a lifetime career that involves night shifts.
It felt like a mountain I could never climb and an ocean with waves constantly crashing, pushing me farther and farther under water. We discussed the possibility of dropping out of residency, but the hurdle of being in the Air Force knocked that idea out pretty quickly. I wanted out, any way possible so I could breathe, finally, without the looming anxiety of the next night shift constantly hanging over my head.
I hated admitting I had a problem. In my mind it was something that I could somehow magically fix on my own, boy was I wrong. I finally caved and googled a therapist. I picked up my phone and dialed the number on my screen, hanging up as soon as someone on the other end picked up. What was I going to say? Yes, I’m the type of person who rehearses what I’m going to say before dialing so I’m prepared and not embarrassed with the word vomit that finds it’s way up my throat as soon as I’m asked something I wasn’t expecting. I did it. I made an appointment. Probably one of the hardest parts of the whole process, because ultimately I was admitting I needed help.
Alright, before you get bored I’ll skip forward to my first session. The conversation remains a blur, but I remember being nervous about not knowing what to expect. I checked in at the desk and looked around at all the posters on the wall about mental illness and quotes from famous people. Do I really belong here?
I walked back to my therapist’s room, a sound machine in the hallway playing a constant stream of waves crashing against the beach. I sat down in a semi-cozy chair ( pretty much how I pictured it) and was greeted with the dreaded question.
Therapist: “So, what’s going on?”
Me: ” I’m new here, all our family lives 10+ hours away, my husband is an ER resident and I have anxiety when he works night shifts.”
Therapist: “Okayyyy, go on.”
Me: * flood gates open and tears are flowing like a good ole thunderstorm letting lose over my head*
It was something I’ve truly never experienced in my life. I really hate crying in front of people/ am not really a big crier in general. It was uncontrollable. They flowed and I felt so much stress and anxiousness and words to describe it all coming up from places I didn’t know existed. They were hidden in every crack and crevice in my body and with one question there was a giant spotlight on all of them. Alright, maybe there is some stuff going on.
That first hour flew by, but I walked out feeling so embarrassed about balling my eyes out like a toddler in front of a stranger that I was confident I didn’t want to come back.
Somehow, by the hand of the Holy Spirit alone, I made it back a week later to my second appointment. I remember it being a productive session, unfolding more layers of my anxiety like a moldy onion hidden in the bottom of the pantry. I know knew it was real, it was figuring out how it got there and why it was there.
I have now been to a total of 5 therapy sessions. I go every other week (roughly), depending on the availability of my therapist and traveling. My expectations when first started, were that I was going to figure out why I had this anxiety, where it came from and get rid of it. I had a realization last week in my session that has completely transformed my expectation and perspective about the whole thing.
Therapy isn’t meant to get rid of your problems, anxieties, depression. With total honesty and transparency, I am always going to have problems, anxiety and maybe even depression. Therapy is not a cure-all, it’s a tool. It will allow you to sort through feelings and emotions in a healthy and productive way. Ultimately we cannot control our feelings, but we can control our actions and reactions to feelings.
I am probably always going to have anxiety about being home alone at night, but I have the power to re-direct my anxious thoughts to a different place. I have the power to create boundaries that help my anxiety (no technology in bed, reading a book at night, meditation) whatever it may be.
Anxiety, depression and mental illnesses are a very real part of our world. They are like weeds that are going to continue to grow and spread and try and take over all the beautiful things in our life, but we have the power to consistently keep trimming them back.
My main goal of this post is to encourage you. Encourage you to make that appointment, to finally throw your hands up and admit to needing help, however big or small it may be. We all have negative experiences in our life that has shaped how we live, think, react, express, etc.
Now, if you have any specific questions please feel free to email me, comment below or direct message me on any of my social handles located to the right of this post. I take mental illnesses very seriously and am so passionate about therapy and all the good that can come from it. Don’t forget, your path and experience isn’t going to look exactly like mine, but I hope through sharing you feel prompted to take the next step.