Hello, friends! Here is the next installment of my Therapy Revival Series. (For the full series and other therapy related posted click here ). Full disclosure, this post seems a tad melodramatic to me now. However, it’s still one of my favorites. When I wrote this, I was on the cusp of my thirtieth birthday and still feeling the effects of a pretty devastating breakup. (Ladies, holla if you’ve been there.) Yet, I was still bravely trying to push through the hurt and create some positive change for myself. This post really captures the full spectrum of emotions I was experiencing during that time.
Truthfully, I still have times when I feel this way — frustrated over feeling stalled in my personal growth, uncertain if I’m capable of creating meaningful change in the way that I want to. My therapist was right – the process does get easier over time. That’s not to say that the tough times don’t necessarily feel as tough (because sometimes they do). What I’ve come to realize, though, is that I’m capable of handling more than I think, and I always come out stronger on the other side.
Hope you enjoy reading!
(Originally posted March 9, 2011)
I spent much of the past week in a haze.
I guess I had what could be described as a bad week — the kind of week flooded with an unfortunate cascade of events where each bad turn seemed to beget another. I’ve had weeks like this before, but this one was a doozy. Between a string of sad cases at work and other events not going the way I had hoped or planned, it was difficult not to get caught up in the storm clouds of gloom swirling around me.
Fresh off of a month or so of feeling some really great progress from therapy, I was aware that I could be due for a less exciting week. With a few important and potentially stressful events on the horizon (including a my trip to Miami for my 30th birthday), I already knew that any wayward circumstances I encountered would need to be approached with caution. I managed to keep my head above water for the better part of the week and not get swept away by the undertow. I bobbed along, maintaining a neutral stance as I watched the debris float by. By the end of the week, though, culminating with a particularly sad case at work, I could finally feel the waves rising all around me. I was going under.
When it came time for my session with Peggy I don’t even think she had to ask me how my week had been; it was written all over my face. I was tearful as I talked to her about how, after making so much progress in therapy, to have a week like this felt like a complete failure. I questioned whether therapy could help me and whether I was capable of creating change for myself. I was discouraged and disheartened that, after having experienced feeling so content and confident, it seemed like here I was back at square one.
Peggy pointed out that, not only had I been making great strides with my personal goals, but that my feelings of self-doubt were entirely normal. We also talked about how, when you’re feeling really good, experiencing periods of negative emotion can feel much more intense in contrast. (Although Peggy reassured me that this does get better with time).
I think I realize now more than ever that this process isn’t easy and it really takes strength and courage to persevere and bring about positive change for yourself, especially during the difficult times.
Interestingly, none of the so-called ‘bad’ events of my week was likely responsible for my mood. Taken at a glance, I’ve certainly had weeks just like this, or probably much worse, where I didn’t feel nearly as bad. For whatever reason, or combination of reasons (starting to become more open about therapy, the stress of an upcoming trip, a sad situation at work), I was left in a vulnerable state. I began to doubt myself which clouded my vision, kind of like opening your eyes under water.
In retrospect, I am now able to see a little more clearly some of the triggers behind the intense emotions I experienced. (Only when I’m in the middle of it, it feels more like a hurricane blew through and I’m left to sort out the aftermath).
Looking back (and I only truly came to recognize this after reading through my journal and sitting down to write this post), I realize it wasn’t as bad of a week as I’d made it out to be. I see that my negative feelings did ebb and flow (quite different from the hurricane I’d imagined) and I did have points at which I continued to make significant progress. I’ve certainly experienced a torrent of emotions like this before. What is different now is that I am able to view it almost from an outsider’s perspective, a lifeguard on the shore warning myself not to tread here or there because the tide is too high. I can notice my emotions or recognize that I’m reacting to one event when I’m really upset about something else entirely. In some cases, this actually allows me to keep my reactions in check.
Now, as the fog clears, I’m finding that I’m finally able to regain some perspective. As I head into the next week I’m focusing on relaxing and enjoying my vacation, spending time with family and celebrating my birthday. And as I write this, sitting on a plane flying way above the ocean, I think I’m starting to see the sun again.