Yesterday I hit a milestone I didn’t even realize I was approaching. Yes, it was May the Fourth for all of you Star Wars fans out there but that wasn’t it. So, what was it?
I reached a year of regularly seeing my current therapist.
A few years back now before we had started trying to conceive, I regularly worked with a therapist and a psychiatrist when I was actively having panic attacks. It took about two years of constant work to get to a point where I felt good again and we could back off on both the appointments and the medication I was on. That was about 6-9 months before we started trying to conceive.
Even before the pregnancy was over in April last year, I reached out to find a new therapist. We had moved to our house in the middle of nowhere and my insurance had also changed so my last therapist (who I absolutely adored since we could bond over “Doctor Who” but also for the hurdles she helped me overcome during regression therapy) was no longer covered but it also was more than an hour-long drive one-way to see her. I knew I was going to need therapy after this kind of experience (what they refer to as a “traumatic event” in the medical terminology in my case-file) and I didn’t want to go back to the really dark place that I was in a few years back.
We had to update paperwork yesterday so that’s how it came up that I had reached this particular “milestone.” I go see my therapist about every two weeks or so. I’ve gradually been able to stretch it some times to a month.
It’s been hard. Let me tell you. But, at the same time, it helps being able to have someone who’s not a family member or a friend be there to listen to me vent but who can provide me constructive feedback and techniques about how to re-frame how I look at people, experiences and emotions.
Our big goals of therapy are to:
- Process my grief emotions after losing Emmett
- Dive into my feelings of guilt surrounding his loss
- Improve how I look at myself personally
Nos. 1 and 2 on the list were the big focus of 2016 and the first part of 2017. We have by no means successfully reached those goals but we’ve come a long way in finding the root causes and triggers. Now, I’ve been struggling more recently with No. 3 and how I view myself personally.
Trying to change your self-perspective is difficult. I’ve struggled with it since I started seeing a mental health professional. To be honest, I’ve probably struggled with my perception since puberty.
Let’s take a step back in the time machine…
I would say I was “bullied” in middle school, mostly sixth grade. I had a major afro (you can’t particularly see in this picture), which culminated in pubescent kids calling me names and picking on me because I looked just a little bit different. I was a half-Filipino tomboy who wore “Star Trek” and “X-Files” t-shirts and wore my nerdom and sports fanaticism proudly. But, underneath it all, the name calling hurt, and back in the early 90’s, adults (parents and teachers alike) turned a blind eye, unlike in today’s environment and anti-bullying culture. I put on a big smile and played through it like it didn’t bother me.
It immensely hurt me.
I begged my mom to let me get my hair chemically relaxed. She obliged and took me to a really kind African-American stylist named Bernard, who I remember wore a Kangol hat before Samuel L. Jackson made it cool. The chemicals burned the hell out of my scalp and around my ears. I started to grow my hair out. I haven’t had my hair short since seventh grade. I’m terrified of what people think when they see my “natural” uber-curly hair. Deep down, that little girl is still there worried people are calling her names and pointing out her flaws. That’s the basis of it all. An insecure young girl who just wanted to be like the rest of the white kids in her suburban middle-American junior high school.
Flash forward to college…
I first saw a mental health counselor in college. It was my sophomore year in 2001. My Spanish professor noticed that I was missing classes, not participating as much and the quality of my work was down. She recommended that I go to the campus health center to speak with someone since she knew that my mom recently passed away. I went to see a counselor once. Being the proud, bull-headed college-aged person that I was, I thought: “I don’t need this. There’s nothing wrong with me.” I stopped going to visit the counselor.
Things mentally were going well for years. I thought I had grieved my mom’s death. I lived on my own in grad school, I got married. Things were good.
But then, shortly after Brett and I were married, I started having a lot of health problems that the doctors couldn’t figure out. I developed migraines, asthma, lots of fatigue (later I found out it was fibromyalgia and a chronic form of anemia). It wore on me that I couldn’t do as much as I once had done. Brett had to carry a lot of the housework on his own. Then, I lost my job and we moved cross-country for a new job and a fresh-start.
Moving 1,500 miles from my dad and brother was hard on everyone. My dad’s health started deteriorating and I had to become his power of attorney. My brother’s health, both physical and mental, also rapidly declined. But, there was nothing I could do to fix it. Work was also very stressful for me at this time. I was spear-heading a huge web project for the organization I was with and we had limited staff resources. I felt so much was riding on my shoulders alone and I didn’t know how to ask for help for anything.
There would be nights that I would sit alone on the floor of our apartment’s bathroom, clutching a bottle of pills and crying, and seriously contemplated ending it all because I couldn’t be what I thought I needed to be for everyone else in my life. It took a lot of mental fortitude not to just end everything, but that would be the easy way out and it also, I thought, would be a let-down to everyone in my life for whom I’d been trying so hard to remain faultless.
That’s when I finally asked for help.
I told Brett how I was feeling and what I was thinking, we hid all the medicine in the house. I didn’t truly know how low my self-esteem was until seeing myself on that bathroom floor, and it led me to the realization that there’s more to all of this. There’s a root cause and I need to find out what it is and find out who I am. I’ve been in therapy ever since and on medication.
I tried so hard to get off all the medication before we tried to conceive but I just didn’t feel right. The panic attacks and bad thoughts crept up in my mind. I needed that little bit of Prozac to keep me level and above water.
Which gets me back to No. 3 on the list…I’m really struggling right now with how people view me again, especially Brett. I’ve always had doubts about this ever since we started dating but it’s been exacerbated 1000% since Emmett’s loss. I’m convinced my husband is going to leave me because I couldn’t save our son. I’m convinced he doesn’t love me anymore. How could he after the last year?
I know deep-down that’s all untrue. A man who sings a “Frozen” duet with me every time “Love is an Open Door” comes on in our car is not going to leave me. A man who makes the stuffed animals all speak in different voices is not going to leave me.
But, there I am. Me…self-sabotaging our relationship. It’s me trying to end the relationship before he even has a chance. It’s me trying to save myself from the rejection of so many other relationships in my life. Eventually, these damaging thoughts are going to hurt our relationship. I try so hard to fix these catastrophic thoughts in my head but they won’t go away. There are days when I just look at him and I feel he’s so disappointed in me. It just gets the better of me.
No matter how much he tells me he loves me, I don’t believe him 100 percent. There’s that little piece of me that just says, “No, that’s not true. How can he love you?”
My worst fear is losing Brett. We’re awesome together. I think one day that we’d make some pretty damn cool parents to another child, too. I know it’s a harmful thought process and that’s why I’m seeking help. After all these years, I’ve realized that I can’t do everything on my own. I need to know my limitations and when to ask for help. This is one of them.