5 things I have learnt from Therapy.
So today marks an interesting day. It’s the first time in over 6 months I have felt like writing something for this blog that isn’t showing off a brand shoot. Up until February, I was regularly writing posts that I felt could be helpful to my fellow business owners and then I just stopped. I couldn’t write, I felt like I had nothing positive to contribute. The truth is this year I have fallen apart and only had room to keep it together for my clients.
Everything else has been the black hole that suffering from anxiety causes. In fact, I had my first anxiety attack in February over a shaving fork (something you pick up horse shit with) that’s when I started to shut down. People who know me personally know of the trauma and losses I have faced over the past two years and it all came to a head this summer.
I wrote about 2018 in a post at the end of the year and having just read it back I didn’t believe that I could have got into a worse position with my mental health, somehow I managed to. I am also proud that despite everything I have still tried to put my best foot forward and change it. Eating better, traveling more, being more active, getting my teeth fixed. I kept enough of my self-awareness and emotional intelligence to know that I needed to change. I can now see that everything that has happened is pushing me towards a more positive place and I can also see and accept that all that has happened to me has changed me and that in itself causes a different type of grief but I am now excited about where I am going.
After a terrible couple of weeks back in May where my relationship from the past 6yrs came to a catastrophic final closing involving the police, I had breakfast with a friend who recommended a therapist to me. Therapy at this point hadn’t crossed my mind but as I looked the lady up online I realized that actually it was something I desperately needed, at this point I felt nothing just empty and cared about very little, I was totally shut down and I needed someone emotionally unattached from me who was going to have the qualifications to help me sort out the mess in my head and 4 months later while I can’t see myself stopping anytime soon I am starting to feel the benefit.
So I wanted today’s blog to be a few tips on the most helpful aspects of my journey into the new me. Because that’s the thing with the right support we can all take our traumas and pain and turn them on their head to become helpful tools for better decisions in the future and I know for a fact that I am not the only self-employed person with mental health issues, in fact, I sadly know many.
1: Your feelings are valid so stop judging them.
I think this has been the most important thing I have learned in therapy. I didn’t realize that it was something I did until my therapist pointed it out. Our feelings are important and they are always valid even if others disagree with them BUT with a desperation to get better and just feeling all round fed up with me I was judging myself for the feelings I was having around everything that has happened. My impatience was getting in the way because I felt if I was DOING all the right things (therapy, gym, time off, eating better) then my emotional response should be instant, boom everything fixed.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that and the more you suppress and judge the worse the anxiety gets and the longer it takes to heal. At one point I was incapable of sitting with myself, the only time I felt ok was when I was riding or running and while both of those have been helpful tools in getting better I had to face my feelings because I can’t be doing those two things all day every day. Another tactic was to squash them and slap a face on and feedback from close friends has not been positive on that front. Turns out I am not very likeable when I have my walls up and I am pretending I am ok.
So I have been making time recently to sit with my feelings no matter how uncomfortable they make me feel and with that I have felt the healing process progress and I have been able to let go of so much. Acceptance comes from that small allowance of simply being kind to yourself for not being ok.
Oh my, this one has helped me on many occasion over the past few months. Such a simple thing but it really does work. The moment I start to feel that sick anxious feeling rising from my belly I tell myself to breath.
In through my nose for 4, out through my mouth for 4 and repeat 4 times as one continuous action.
It’s like a reconfiguration, my head clears and my body calms. Suddenly I am capable again.
3: Make time for yourself.
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? How many of us does it? I know I wasn’t. Again that need to be doing constantly led me into taking more work and saying yes to everything leaving absolutely no room for myself. It stems back to lesson one where I just didn’t want to face my feelings. Some people turn to drink and drugs I turn to making myself as busy as possible to the point of exhaustion.
I have had to make a change to make this work, I have split everything up so horse, home and work are all in separate places so when I am at home I relax, at work, I focus and at the horse I concentrate on just being without distraction.
An aspect of my anxiety was that there was never enough time to get everything done so I needed to be rushing all the time and while I still have days like this having everything in different places is forcing me to check myself and plan time in that is for me and me alone.
4: Listen to your gut.
I used to listen to my gut before I was in a relationship where I wound up being gaslighted into believing I was wrong about everything and everything was my fault. This literally resulted in me being exceptionally angry and shut down person because I was ignoring the part of me that is there to keep me safe.
Our gut reactions are an ancient tool that kept us safe from physical danger. We now have less physical danger in our lives but our gut is still a tool that can be used to judge situations and make decisions.
We all know that feeling and we can all also pinpoint times in our lives where we have ignored it and wound up in a frustrating or crappy situation.
Over the past couple of months, I have been leveraging it regularly in helping me to make decisions based on how I am feeling and what I want and I am happy to report its working out ok and as a bonus, I am becoming less reactive because my body now knows I am going to listen to it.
5: Cut out the crap.
When your self-esteem is low and confidence on the floor you will often seek out things and situations in order to make yourself feel better. A quick dopamine fix basically. Whether that is drink, caffeine, sugar, toxic people it doesn’t matter, it’s often things that don’t serve you in the long run.
Therapy has helped me take stock of my life and make changes. I have given up caffeine (which has eased my anxiety more than I could have ever imagined) I have got rid of a business collaboration that just wasn’t doing anything for me other than making me feel bad, I have said no to things I don’t want to do and I have eased myself away from relationships that have no positive impact on me.
I feel lighter for it and I also know now that it’s ok to change your mind or say no to things. If you are filling your life with things, people and situations that don’t lift you up then you will only find yourself being dragged down.
So there you go! My 5 biggest lessons so far from therapy. I really hope that it maybe helps someone else and if anyone else is suffering and wants to chat my inbox is always open firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a great weekend.