50 Roads #10 – THE ROAD TO THE THERAPIST
I used to give people with depression or anxiety really bad advice.
Stuff like . . . “Just think positive!” or “Don’t let that get you down, just forget about it…” or “Count your blessings!”
Ugh. I wish I could go back to every person I’ve ever said anything like that to or thought that about. I wish I could take their face in my hands and look them in the eye and say “I am so sorry.” And then just hug them so tight the way I should have when I was giving unhelpful platitudes.
I thought positive thinking could overcome anything.
Then, I became a total expert in depression and the mental illness that can come after a brain injury because of Marq’s accident. His was a frontal lobe brain injury so the mental complications and behaviors were countless. I definitely learned that the ill-informed advice I use to give to others who were suffering with mental complications WAS NOT HELPFUL.
During Marq’s worst years of recovery, his doctors would tell me that I probably needed to see a therapist. That I should probably be on some kind of antidepressant. I was taking care of my 5 small children and a big company and so I just kept saying I don’t have time to go to a therapist. I went to counseling a few times but I never stuck with it. I was too afraid to go on any medication because I thought it would take my creativity away and that was how I earned a living for our family. One doctor told me that if I wasn’t going to go to therapy or take medication, I at the least needed to make sure to get a lot of exercise every day.
So that’s what I did. That and LOTS of caffeine. Energy drinks to be precise. I lived on protein bars, energy drinks and SO MUCH ADRENALINE. And the gym. I used to get up at 4:30am and be there when the doors open at 5am. I’d work out for at least 90 minutes pretty much EVERY DAY and then head home to get my children ready for school and head to the ofifice.
It took about 7 years and I pretty much burnt out my adrenals. That’s a story for another day, but I ended up very sick, inside and outside. I had hives/welts all over my body and everything just shut down. I gained 50 pounds over 3-4 months and I was in bed by 3pm every day. I’d work from my bed . . . making videos and writing courses. At this time, I had a monthly subscription box that I designed beautiful products for, and a monthly subscription to my online Soul School courses. I’d do 7 lessons a month, complete with beautiful lessons and curriculum to download.
I LOVED my work and it kept me going in so many ways. But my body was shutting down and I couldn’t make it past midday before I crashed.
That was the big warning sign that I just pushed through. Those hives/welts showed up in 2011 and they were relentless. I’d break out horribly all over my body whenever I was dealing with a toxic relationship, whenever I felt manipulated, whenever I had to confront something that I didn’t want to confront.
I still didn’t go to therapy. I just went to lots of doctors and healers. And SO MANY OF THEM told me this was an emotional response and my body’s last line of defense to get me to take notice. Your skin is your largest organ after all, and it’s one that you can actually see. My body said…”hey, if you’re not going to listen to the messages on the inside, we are going to send you a big message on the outside.”
So I took a million supplements and did all sorts of things to get those hives/welts to go away, and it took 4 years. But I still didn’t go to therapy. I just didn’t have time.
I kept having retreats and writing curriculum and those women kept me alive. My children kept me alive. My husband kept me alive. Because every day I woke up and wanted to do everything I could for each of them. That was my motivation. And it worked. I loved the women I had the honor to serve. I loved being with and taking care of my children. Marq took exquisite care of me whenever he was well, and when he wasn’t, I went to the ends of the earth to take care of him.
But I was burning the candle at both ends and as our company grew, the pressure grew. As our family grew, the pressure grew.
On a future road, I will tell you about how I started to comfort myself at night with the thought that I could just end my life if it got to be too much. It hurts the whole center of my body to think about that now, but that was the only solution I could think of for a long time. And when everything was just too much, I would put myself to sleep at night making plans for how I could just end it all if I couldn’t take it any longer. I don’t indulge in those fantasies and plans anymore, but it has taken years to get to a place where I want to be alive every day. Like I said, that’s a story for another road.
So then Marq’s relapses started to happen, overlapping with my adrenal sickness. And that was SO MUCH PRESSURE. I again, put my whole self into fixing HIM.
And my dear friend Kolleen, who had been telling me for years that I am codependent and need to get myself to therapy, started REALLY getting on my case about it, in the most loving way . . . that I was not going to make it through all of this without help. I still didn’t go to therapy.
I did start to study CODEPENDENCY though. That was another bitter pill to swallow. I learned that so much of my own suffering was because of my own codependent behavior. I literally could not separate my feelings from the feelings of those I loved. I would get myself all tangled up in everyone else’s stuff, maybe so I didn’t have to face my own. Maybe just because I couldn’t stand to see someone else suffer because it triggered my own suffering. So I would go to the ends of the earth to stop ALL SUFFERING. And I learned that this is just a way of being controlling. I was trying to control Marq’s suffering, my children’s suffering, and anyone else I was in contact with. For someone who values personal freedom as much as I do, I sure had become a controlling person. Ugh.
The definition of codependency that most applied to me was that I could not be okay unless everyone else was okay — so I smothered people in my life with MY NEED for them to heal. Of course out of love, I wanted everyone to be happy and whole, but if I’m honest . . . I NEEDED to see their healing, I needed to feel their wholeness because I was both trying to earn their love through my determined dedication to their healing AND I was trying to heal vicariously through them.
This was all subconscious, of course. But it really was happening. And it’s hard to admit. But so many times when Marq was well he would tell me that he just needs me to sit next to him when he’s sick, not work myself into a frenzy and wear myself out trying to control his sickness.
Another thing that happens when you are codependent is that when you don’t have someone to pour yourself into, you attract people and situations that will put you into that frenzy. Man oh man did I do that. I attracted and created all sorts of unhealthy situations to play out my need to suffer vicariously. Yes, for some odd reason, I believe I also had an addiction to suffering. Again, a story for another road.
For Mental Health America:
What is a codependent behavior?
Co-dependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. … It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive.
-Mental Health America
Many people define codependency by their behaviors which may include :
- always being attracted to alcoholics, drug addicts or other similarly needy and emotionally unavailable people
- feeling as if they must be in a relationship with someone — anyone — for their lives to be worthwhile
- trying to control others behaviors, especially loved ones
- feeling as if they are incapable of ending a relationship that they know is not good for them or that they are unhappy in
- trying to please everyone else and never taking time for themselves, or even forgetting that they need to take care of themselves
Many people experience these situations at one time or another, but for those who find it to be a
recurring, painful theme in their lives, recovery can be a very healing and rewarding way of letting
go of the old behaviors.
When the big revealing of my inner turmoil happened that I spoke of in Road #4, I knew it was time for intensive therapy. I resisted, I made excuses, I waited. I mean, we were living in an RV…with just enough money to get by every month. I couldn’t afford therapy and I didn’t have time what with all of the life-rebuilding we were doing.
Then it just got to a point where my mind started to shut down the way my body had. I had an extraordinary ability to continue to work. I would still write, make videos and curriculum. It’s what kept me going.
But when I wasn’t working, I was falling.
Here’s what Mental Health America suggests if you’re wondering if therapy is what you need:
“If you experience any of the following emotions or feelings to the extent that they interfere with life, therapy may help you reduce their effects. It’s especially important to consider getting help if you feel controlled by symptoms or if they could cause harm to yourself or others.
Overwhelm. You might feel like you have too many things to do or too many issues to cope with. You might feel like you can’t rest or even breathe. Stress and overwhelm can lead to serious physical health concerns.
Fatigue. This physical symptom often results from or accompanies mental health issues. It can indicate depression. Fatigue can cause you to sleep more than usual or have trouble getting out of bed in the morning.
Disproportionate rage, anger, or resentment. Everyone feels angry at times. Even passing rage isn’t necessarily harmful. Seeking support to deal with these feelings may be a good idea when they don’t pass, are extreme compared to the situation, or if they lead you to take violent or potentially harmful actions.
Agoraphobia. People with agoraphobia fear being in places where they might experience panic attacks or become trapped. Some people may become unable to leave their houses.
Anxious or intrusive thoughts. It’s normal to worry about things from time to time, but when worry takes up a significant part of your day or causes physical symptoms, therapy can help you deal with it.
Apathy. Losing interest in usual activities, the world around you, or life in general can indicate mental health issues like depression or anxiety.
Hopelessness. Losing hope or motivation, or feeling as if you have no future, can indicate depression or another mental health condition. Feeling hopeless from time to time, especially after a period of difficulty, isn’t uncommon. But when it persists, it may lead to thoughts of suicide.
Social withdrawal. Many people feel better when they’re able to spend at least some time alone. Introverted people may need even more time alone than others. But if you feel distressed around others or fear being with other people, therapy can help you understand and deal with these feelings.
I had EVERY ONE of these symptoms in multiples.
So just like I said in a previous chapter. When we set off on our nomad adventures, it was because I thought Marq was the sick one. Turns out, he just needed some sunshine, some horses and testosterone therapy.
Turns out, I was the one who needed the healing.
So I started going to therapy. I won’t say much more about it yet, but the road to the therapist was a LOOOONG ONE over many years. And I wish it would have been a short one. I wish I would have done it long ago. But here we are and here I am and I’m just thankful for the string of events that got me there.
Again from Mental Health America
“Here are a few benefits of therapy:
You’ll learn more about yourself. Therapists listen to your story and help you make connections. They might offer guidance or recommendations if you feel lost, but they don’t tell you what to do. Therapy can empower you to take action on your own.
Therapy can help you achieve your goals. If you aren’t sure of what your goals are, therapy can help you clarify them and set realistic steps to meet them.
Therapy can help you have more fulfilling relationships. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, therapy can help you address difficulties with relating to others, such as insecurity in relationships or difficulty trusting your partners.
You’re more likely to have better health. Research supports a link between mind and body wellness. Untreated mental health issues can impact physical wellness. On the other hand, people in good emotional health may be more able to deal with physical health issues that arise.
Therapy can lead to improvement in all areas of life. If you feel like something is holding you back from living life as you envision it, therapy can help you address this. When you aren’t sure what’s keeping you from making change, therapy can help you discover the answer.”
So beautiful soul,
-Is your inner world calling out to you, asking for some of your time?
-In what ways do you try to heal and serve everyone else while ignoring your own need for healing and help?
Tomorrow I will begin a series of 7 letters to my SOUL — 7 roads I had to travel to the inside of my mind and heart- the letters that were my map for what I needed most from therapy.
The first road we will travel tomorrow is The Road To Self-Honesty. I will see you there.
As always, thanks for joining me on this road trip. You’re a wonderful companion.