Three Saturdays ago, just as the beautiful snow started to fall, I made my way to the therapist I have been seeing for the last two years. Due to schedule conflicts and our working together having slowed over the past year we had not connected since August. As I caught her up on the recent challenges that had found their way into our world (Dan’s decreasing lung function, a concerning medical diagnosis in his family, my parents selling our childhood home and moving two hours away, and our future plans that feel on hold), I was happy to report how hard I had worked to roll with the changes and the peaceful home Danny and I had been cultivating, despite the feelings of disarray. For the last 9 years I have worked on and off on my mental health. Struggling with people pleasing, OCD, and anxiety – I was keenly aware of these tendencies and on a journey to improve them. But it was over the last 2 years that I had found a Catholic based therapist and gotten very serious about real change.
For anyone who has been on that sort of journey, it is a lot of work and although it can be uncomfortable to admit and vulnerable to share, when you experience the fruits of the labor its hard to be anything but excited and proud. This sort of thing is life changing and I am so grateful to say that was my experience. This particular visit my therapist congratulated me and it ended up being a bit of a graduation of sorts. Personal growth never really ends…. but this season of needing something on the books regularly had officially come to an end. I know the tools…. I know the habits that work for me… I know what I need to be my healthiest version…. now time needs to be spent on making those things happen.
To learn more about the those habits, I will share a post on what has helped me, but they all come down to one thing: time. Truly it is our greatest commodity. I need time to do the things that keep me healthy and time is also what all the other things that are important to me need: Danny, Quinlan family, friends, the blog, etc. So I started carving out more time for the things that really made me feel good: AM and PM prayer time, reading, writing, getting to dos that eat at the back of my mind, letting go of other things: not saying yes to every social invite, automating errands. Before I knew it there were huge chunks of time in my weekends and even in my weekdays. It was actually really freeing and I felt centered. Plus I was really try to learn kind speech to myself: if there is dog hair on my floor and I choose to read the bible over vacuuming the world would go on. Getting up earlier started to come natural, learning to really think about our social calendar became second nature, and I was at least aware of the instances where I wasn’t being very gently with myself….progress. The interesting part was the chunks of time gave me this feeling that I had “solved” my problems….. and as it turns out, I was starting to think that meant I should be closer to perfect.
Originally when these blocks of time came open I was using them as intended: the gym, to finally read, to write, to learn about my faith, to date my husband…. and I really did feel better. What I was saying in that appointment was all true! The hard part was taking a look at the last few weeks. The holidays, as they do, had thrown off our schedule and added to dos….. but I didn’t take anything off my plate. As the days continued on, I still loved my early AM hours and my times of reading and writing…. but I had elected to add Christmas cards, presents, Danny had gotten sicker…. and I had forgotten the formula of add something to the plate – something has to come off. As it turns out, I still felt good because I had a lot of what had grounded me still happening…. but the things that had come off the plate? Sleep, being gentle with myself, and structured working out, were things that actually can’t come off the plate.
So funny enough the last two weeks the results of these missing pieces found the perfect storm. My ability to talk kind to myself got lost: suddenly not answering every work email meant that I was not worthy of the new projects I was getting to be apart of and really enjoying. Result: I wasn’t having any of the fun at work and staying there later and later each night obsessing over the little things. That coincided with needing to be ready to deal with a stressful medical week, preparing to move out of our house. Result: it fed into my worries and fears about what would happen with Danny, how life would be so hard with my family far away, and that I would never get to writing anything again. And with that the hamster wheel started up….. I had to do it all. Result: staying up until 2AM making sure the kitchen looks perfect, obsessing over all the little to dos that as soon as they are done I can get to the real to dos (paper filing, closet organizing, computer clean out), hint: those to dos actually never end – thus I never get to the big stuff I need to do and I am just tired. The week before my infection, I logged three different days of only 4-5 hours of sleep. And I told myself I was mess every time I made a tired mistake. Not gentle with myself……. not sleeping….. and I had stopped even walking the dog (plus the snow storm), so I wasn’t able to shake myself with endorphins.
Well ladies and gentlemen – we all know how this story ends….. with a rip roaring infection in my bladder that I had been plain ignoring that got into my kidneys and landed me in the ER needing IV antibiotics to get better. Just days before I had said how much better I was doing to my therapist. So you have read the post, we all know the result – does that mean I was oh so wrong about my graduating and needed to sign myself right back in to regular sessions? No – this means I am human and literally I am a few silly choices away from total demise. This means the habits I had shared, the things that had been really helping – those have to stay on the plate and other things have to come off. That means the calendar that had been emptied….. had only been emptied just enough and I have to keep going. The things we had gotten help with ….. yea, we have to get more help. Decision fatigue of not sure what to get done and then picking little annoying things I can obsess over, versus making a plan and ticking things off as best I can – that has to come back. But probably the most important lesson? The itty bitty thing that I admitted to both my therapist and to myself: not being gentle with my words to myself has a HUGE impact. So in a week when emotions are high as expected, thus I am primed for negative thought processes and being unkind to myself – the results will fester and maybe not just in the brain – sprinkle in no sleep……. all that progress can get lost pretty darn quick.
The funniest thing of it all? This post is actually not being very kind to myself – unless I use it. In a lot of ways its a new list of things I am not doing right and messing up….. unless I really clear that calendar, get more sleep, move my body, and STOP being cruel to myself. And since this whole post started with mental health that is also where I will end it. Every little thing that could help I can weave back into my world – but if I don’t weave in grace and hope – NONE of it is going to keep me healthy. I had graduated because I had learned a few key phrases to accept my humanity: “its OK to say no”, “I am allowed to take time for myself”, “being perfect has no path to peace….. giving to God is peace”, and “having hope in all circumstances gives the space for acceptance and life to grow”. Then in accepting that humanity, I commit to the time I need to grow in it. And that time is the greatest tool, because time is what is needed to teach our hearts, bodies and minds how to live in peace while being a broken person in a broken world.
Last weekend was not my favorite….it wasn’t an amazing vacation that has me rethinking my whole life and how I hope to experience the world. It wasn’t a book that spoke such truth to my soul I had found a whole new way to look at my world. It wasn’t one of the many therapy sessions that literally helped to form a new way of thinking in my brain. But it was therapy. It was a reminder that I know how to avoid this…. that I am strong enough and full of the tools to heal and get even stronger. It was a reminder that I can do it all right (I have been drinking kale 90% of all my mornings for weeks…. ) and still my body will fail me and that is something you gotta just accept it. And it was a blessing…… I am forced to move slower, I am forced to sit and be still, I am forced to heal, and I have an actual reason to take time away and reconfigure my sleep schedule, my daily routine, take another whack at food intake. It was strange – Danny seemed to think this is exactly what I needed. A literal manifestation of my worry and stress and negative thoughts into something I have to overcome. My mind got an a-plus….. my bladder hasn’t yet…. but it can and what a weird, unwanted, unexpected gift.
Thank you so much for reading and remember to make it a great day!