People are suffering.
Just in time for Mental Health Awareness Month, I am realizing every single person I have come into contact with is operating at half capacity, maximum. People are struggling. Therapists are burnt out, clients, family, friends, strangers, community members. I am seeing us collectively grind to a halt in so many ways. Numbness, anger, confusion, exhaustion, fatigue…sorrow, fear, despair…
Honor your burnout. It’s okay to feel the way you are feeling. Everyone is feeling this way. At least everyone I know. There are always a few outliers who are afraid to admit this, so they nail a smile on their face and insist they are okay and look baffled and confused when someone else admits to being done with everything.
Sometimes at the end of a session, I will ask my clients what their takeaway is for this week (some insight gained, a new challenge they want to take on, something they want to give thought to over the next 7 days, etc.). Lately, most people look wearily back up at me and say, “I don’t know, I was hoping you could tell me?”. Because I have gotten this question so often this season, I decided to share my top 2 takeaways I have gotten myself:
I haven’t the foggiest idea if this is helping anyone or not, but it’s helping me. Sitting here typing and listening to my sad songs playlist (because sometimes tears need some encouragement). Grief is a part of life. We don’t talk about it much, but it is a part of the process. Sometimes we sift through the ashes and rubble and find little glimmers of hope. I keep them, too. Like the recent Humans of New York story. Or lines from my favorite TV shows. Or my clients that show up every week, no matter how challenging and painful the work is that we are doing. They are amazing people.
I hope you are feeling safe enough to let yourself grieve. Take time to notice the things that don’t suck amongst your tears. Honor your energy levels and adjust your plans to your needs accordingly.
I just did a small Yoga with Adrienne session. It's the first time in weeks I've been able to focus enough to do this. My mind is constantly jittery, even when I am relaxing...
It wasn't always like this, but it has been like this. The weeks (months, years) after 9/11. The weeks (months, years) after my daughter was born. Uncertainty, change, lack of familiarity even in a familiar environment. I remember that I have been here before to ground myself and send a reminder: I have been here before and I have survived. Thrived, even.
This reminder doesn't necessarily make me feel differently in the moment. Not at all. But it does remind me that it won't be forever. Things may be forever changed, but this phase of change does not last. It morphs into a new normal, a new familiar, and eventually, a new routine that I will eventually not think of as new. It will just be...how it is.
I know how much I enjoy Yoga with Adrienne and it was frustrating that I couldn't allow myself to participate in what I knew was good and helpful to me. Maybe there is something you used to enjoy that your brain and body will not let you fully participate in right now. That's okay. Just be in this moment. Eventually it will pass and morph into a different one.
Here's how: allow yourself to move through it. Feel all the feelings, check in with yourself to see what you need, and then do the thing you need to do for yourself. For me, that thing has been a lot of naps. And eventually, a Yoga with Adrienne episode.
What's the thing you are looking forward to getting back to? How are you meeting your needs until then?
The first time I went to see a therapist, I was in college. I hadn't thought to do any research to find someone other than what was available at the counseling center. I didn't understand her credentials (she was an LCSW-C, which meant she was a licensed social worker... I wanted to see a counselor, not a social worker!), and to be honest, I am not even sure what I was looking to get out of the whole process. Allegedly, she was adept at managing all things related to surviving college and everything that goes along with it. But the only thing I really remember about her was that she had 2 party size bags of Doritos sitting in her office as though she was on her way out the door to a super fun get together with friends. Either that, or she brought her groceries into her office, instead of her house. I could never be sure.
Every week I sat there, resentment building, annoyed that she was clearly having a better time in her life than I was, since she was leading a life that required party sized bags of Doritos while my life had been split in two. It didn't help that her approach was not a match for my shell-shocked self. All in all, she was probably a very nice person, but her no nonsense approach and reactions to the few things I disclosed did not make me feel at ease (to say the least) and I was equally relieved and sad when she pointed out that this was not a good fit.
Seriously, she fired me! I didn't know therapists could even do that!
Side note: we can, and we do, but some of us are more gentle about it that others. But I digress…
Was this all there was? Where was the nurturing, comforting, ‘I get it’ lady I had been hoping for?
Here’s the point. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re contemplating finding a therapist. Or maybe you have found a therapist but aren't sure if they are the right one for you...remember that thing they said the other week that made you so mad? Or the time they gave you that look and you had no idea what it meant? Or maybe you are staring down a list of names from your insurance company, everyone with different alphabet letters after their names (do they even matter?). And then there is that one friend who suggested you try their life coach...
Wherever you are in the process, there is only One Thing that matters:
The journey of healing from a dysfunctional family (that has stayed that way) is a lifelong path. Most people who come to me are at a point in their lives where they cannot take it any more and are overcome with fear that there is nothing to be done.
I am here to tell you there is plenty that can be done.
Breaking it down into manageable pieces is key. And that is exactly what we are going to talk about today.
Feeling angry and frustrated a lot? Annoyed that people aren't living up to their end of the deal? Most of the time, there is a fairly logical explaination for this. You are expecting too much. Of others and of yourself. This is what happens when Reality and Expectations collide.
Every day when I wake up, it seems like a fresh crop of stuff of stress about begins to seep into my brain and threaten to take over. And when I am feeling particularly vulnerable due to a difficult life circumstance or pending event, it threatens in double-time. None of us are immune to anxiety. And some of us have a predisposition to be more anxious more of the time than others. Have you noticed that when you are in the throes of an anxiety attack, it seems like Nothing will work? Maybe you have researched or read about techniques in the past, but at this very moment when you need it the most, the options elude you? I am willing to bet that half of the time, you don’t even remember how to breathe.
Fortunately, I can help. The techniques outlined below actually involve using your anxiety, the material you have in that moment, to find relief. Sound counterintuitive? It is. But it can also be a lifesaver. Many times we are told to roll our shoulders back a few times and take some deep breaths but I have heard more often than not, there needs to be more. So grab a hot cup of tea or cold glass of water (are you even drinking enough water? No? Great, we can start with worrying about that for the purposes of this article) and take a moment to read some effective ways of managing the Anxiety Monster that is lurking inside of you. Want something you can use starting today without having to buy anything or even go anywhere? Take a nice deep breath….and read on...
Cindy Goeller is a licensed therapist who loves listening to others, eating Maryland steamed crabs, and exploring the Finger Lakes of New York. When she is not in session with her clients, she can be found writing, baking, or spending time with her family.