Untitled, because it's how I feel
I was reading the marketing for this year's Mental Health week (May 3-7, 2021) - their slogan, "name it, don't numb it", really struck a heart string with me. Flashes of last year danced through my mind like a mini movie.
I was on the phone with a friend, we were dipping into my akashic records to discuss my 2019. I was flooded with emotion as she spoke about a situation that happened. My body started to burn on the inside, my eyes welling up with tears, my heart pounding erratically. I noticed I gripped the pen harder and ripped the pages as I wrote, "I am woman, hear me roar". Anger
I was sitting in the basement of my aunt's house with my cousin, it must have been close to midnight. We were just gabbing away like we usually do - talking about life and all the wonderful things we have planned and want to do in the next few years. My throat began to clam up, my palms got sweaty, my chest got heavy. I could feel my voice crack as I began to open up about all the things I had never told her about me - we began to cry. Sadness
I'm sitting at my desk, it's the beginning of the day. We had been back in the office for a few months at this point. Anxiety of being back still hung in the air, I could feel it every time I walked through the doors. My mind was else where that day, I just stared at my email as I could feel myself overrun with emotion and I began to cry and hyper ventilate. Thinking about that moment now makes me take a pause, it still brings some heaviness to my heart. I got up to find my boss, I couldn't be at work in that moment. We chatted and decided that I was going to take the week off. I remember I spent the week on my couch, including the evenings - I mean I wasn't sleeping anyways. I watched movies and whole series that week. I don't really recall looking at my phone much or connecting with people, just taking the time to ”check out”. I felt so overwhlemed that I just shut down. Comatose, unfeeling...numb.
It was one o'clock in the morning and I hadn't heard back yet from the therapist I had emailed regarding a consultation. I mean I could have reached out to anyone else on the list the Mental Health Co-Pilots told me about, but in my guts I knew this was my person. My breathing got more and more shallow as I frantically refreshed my emails to see if they miraculously decided to respond at this ungodly hour. Each time I refreshed and there was nothing new my body began to shake and I began to cry. Vibrating, I emailed her back saying, "I just need to talk to someone". Desperation
At this point I feel like the universe was just throwing so many things at me I didn't know how I was going to function. Not only was I starting my therapy journey, as I lovingly refer to it as, but something else from my past that I thought I had dealt with was coming back up. Once again I found myself back in my boss' "office" (really on a video call because we were working from home). I gave her a very high level over view of what was going on in my life and that I was getting a doctor's note next week to be off work so I could deal with it all. Shame
She stopped me and said, "don't come to work tomorrow and you come back when you're ready." Gratitude.
My last session with my therapist in the program. They showed me the screen of my PTSD score from when I started, 44 to when I finished, 2 (still one more thing to work through - but I got this). Elated
I wanted to take you through this mini movie that I thought about because I've never really put names to how I was feeling before. Those moments helped define some big parts of my previous year(s) and really pushed me to acknowledge that I needed help. That I couldn't do this alone. If you read my mother's letter to me at the age of 3, you know she's described me as independent. I feel like that's a label we've all worn for so long that we've really forgotten that it's ok to ask for support.
Over the last, let's say, five years this idea of mental health as really flourished in our culture. We are open to talk about the concept of mental health and supports that are offered - incase someone else needs them. We share memes about the topic or funny joke posts. I feel like there's this air about those posts that its about someone else and not me - that's what I used to do.
I remember last year when I was, let's be honest, falling apart, I was searching for something to grasp onto to help save me. I went down this winding hole of a project at work on mental health. I remember I kept getting mad because it wasn't right! It didn't have the right tools in place for people to use, we weren't marketing it right, we weren't doing enough. I was getting so angry and frustrated at the product - it wasn’t enough!!! When I now realize it's because I was looking for something to help me. I was drowning and I needed some kind of life support and everything that was in front of me wasn't for me.
We see so many posts about self-care (heck it even has a day #selfcaresunday) and I feel like a pressure to show that we "take care" of ourselves but do we really?! I will admit I fell into this trap: facials, getting into yoga and working out, trying the latest fad diets, meditating (without intention), blackholes of self-help books or webinars and I'm sure this is an incomplete list. I still felt like some thing was missing - it was me.
I was doing all these things because someone had suggested it to me or it worked for them. I was stepping into these activities as a half person trying to find the other half of me. Let me tell you, trying to do the tree pose in yoga as a half person...doesn't work so well. I realized that the methods above help work through in the moment emotions but they don't help me process what happened.
In my consultation session, my therapist described to me beautifully how the brain works. "Sasha, picture your brain like a massive library of filing cabinets. When you have an event or interaction with someone or something, your brain files it in the correct cabinet. When something like a trauma happens, your brain can't file it - it doesn’t have a filing cabinet. It becomes a loose paper (I imagine the paper giving me paper cuts leaving behind pain when I think about the trauma consciously or subconsciously) floating around and you don't know how to deal with it. Or maybe it slips behind a filing cabinet and you forget about it (it's still there to leave papercuts, but you don't know about them until you shuffle the filing cabinets. I discovered this during a session...and so did my phone as it flew across the room) that your brain protecting you because it doesn’t know what to do with the information." In my last session, I thanked my therapist for helping me build a new filing cabinet for all these loose papers - they no longer able to cut me when I think about them.
I am an advocate for therapy, I also realize I am in a privileged place to be able to afford it (the rant about accessibility will have to wait and be given it's own space). I think there's still some shame centered around seeing a Psychologist and I'm here to openly talk about my experience. Once I realized that I needed help, that I needed to be supported and guided to find the other half of me is really when the healing began. I recognized that I wasn't my best self, I knew most of the reasons behind it, but it wasn't until I had the chance to sit down and talk to someone about it that it became apparent how much of me was missing. Taking the time to sit down, talk about something (no matter how big or small), dissect it, learn from it and file it away can be like putting a little bandaid on those papercuts in your filing cabinet library. I want you to add therapy to your list of #selfcare options if you haven’t already thought about it or maybe you have but have never taken any steps towards making it happen. The most important thing to remember is, you do you boo 😉 (emphasis on the do.)
I believe in order to find joy, you have to dig through the shit to plant something truly beautiful.
I am currently compiling a list of resources and building a sub page on here - but I want to leave something here if you do need to talk to someone.
Canada Suicide Prevention Service call 833-456-4566 or text 45645 between 4 pm and midnight ET
Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (sace)
Mental Health Co-Pilots (Alberta only, a great free resource to find a therapist)
Family Violence Info Line 310-1818
If you choose to express yourself this week, don't forget to use the hashtag #getreal to help spread the word. Check out their various articles too found here: Mental Health Week Articles and Info