Five years since inpatient felt like a big deal. Six… doesn’t feel like much of anything. I didn’t even want to write about it! Like, okay, yay, I did a thing six years ago. What am I doing now, though?
Clearly, there is a part of me that beats myself up for not being “further along” on this whole healing journey (even though I know full well that healing is non-linear). I’m also super aware that I’m not checking the boxes of a typical 30-something: marriage, kids, house, some combination thereof. I try to remind myself that I’ve never been one to do things on the “typical” timeline (hello, driving at age 27!), but I do get there eventually… which I guess means that my forties are gonna be LIT! 😂
In all seriousness, I don’t feel ready to check those big boxes. But that’s not as healthy as it sounds. Rather, I feel like I will crumble under the stress and uncertainty that come with those momentous life changes.
When I was a kid, my anxiety—especially about situations outside of my control—was at times accompanied by big emotional and physical reactions: not eating, not sleeping, crying all the time, obsessive worrying... so I started to avoid anything that would potentially set off that avalanche of symptoms. The only problem is that I’ve learned that coping skill very well over the years. If anxiety makes every one and every thing seem scary, how do you get yourself to do anything? Not to mention that a trigger can show up in all sorts of unexpected ways.
Traditionally, I would only do a “scary” new thing because I was forced into it (by, say, a graduation, or someone else’s life changes). But this past year, I’ve actually chosen the “scarier” option a few times, and although the situations wouldn’t seem like that big a deal to an outsider, they were momentous to me.
In one instance, I initiated a very difficult, emotionally vulnerable conversation with a friend who I would have normally ghosted (so as to not have said difficult conversation). I also started seeing a male therapist, a scenario I typically avoid due to some unresolved guy issues.
These experiences are teaching me that I can handle more than I think I can. Did speaking so honestly with my friend leave me feeling incredibly exposed? Yeah—I felt like I’d ripped off my own skin.
But I survived.
And when I made the initial appointment with the male therapist (a suggestion from a different therapist who was leaving their practice), it was just to cross it off—to confirm my belief that I would be too triggered seeing a male and thus can only see female therapists. But that didn’t happen. (Full disclosure: this particular therapist has a very calm and gentle way about him, and that helps a lot.) Being emotionally vulnerable with a male does freak me out, don’t get me wrong, but it’s giving me a chance to talk about these feelings with a trained professional as I’m experiencing them. That just wouldn’t happen in the same way with a female therapist. It also gives us the chance to try to make sense of what I’m feeling, instead of me just running from the feelings by default.
I guess I need to remind myself that growth and change come in all forms. It’s not always the big box life events or the celebratory moments you’d post about on social media. It’s driving somewhere new when driving isn’t your fave. It’s being your authentic self with someone who loves you… and being brave enough to do it when you’d rather run away screaming. It’s continuing to show up for a situation that scares you. It’s the willingness to look at what is going on in your mind and your life so you can understand it better.
It’s one hell of a ride. The fact that I’m still on it at all, I owe to the girl in the ER six years ago and her very powerful decision. 💜