i think we can both agree my full mental health story cannot fit into a blog post, or even two blog posts, or even three. (maybe four?; )) my complete story needs context, time. several hundred pages in a book. so, this is not that.
what this is are some general specifics about my relationship with my therapy, and a birds eye view of my personal recovery.
blaming both my mother and my father for much of my plight is something i still love to do, and for that reason i will start by saying i was raised by parents who were both unavailable to me – both of them swimming in addiction and mental health sicknesses of their own. the neglect i suffered was the core of my subsequent depression, and it is still the wiring i fight the most – the wiring that believes i am not safe, i am not being taken care of, and i must assume evil will sneak up and grab me.
when i was eighteen, i asked, for the first time on my own, to see a therapist. i recognized i was unhappy and not at all functioning. i had spent most of my senior year in high school alone, living in an apartment my dad rented for me and my younger brother, and i was a total mess. i was skipping school, ditching friends, and vanishing into a relationship with my boyfriend, a boyfriend i wanted to be my father, mother, lover, friend, and savior. i ultimately cheated on him to get myself out of it (cheating: my preferred way of trying to escape whatever undesirable situation i find myself in.)
somehow, i got myself to a doctor. he told me i was 100% depressed and needed medication right away, so, naturally, i stopped going. i never wanted meds; medication felt like one giant cop out. i needed someone to actually DEAL with me. i needed to actually figure my shit out, and i knew medication was a distraction from that process.
(please do not misunderstand: while i have never taken antidepressant medication myself, i am absolutely glad it is available to the people it does serve.)
after my senior year, i didn’t sit in a therapist’s office until i was pregnant with edith.
and that is the therapist i still work with today.
motherhood was my catalyst – all of a sudden, i had two reasons to sort through my life and confront what i was so afraid to admit: there were problems i could not manage on my own, and my mental health was poor.
i met that therapist (we will call her j) and slowly, we began a relationship. i began to establish trust, and explore truth, and i showed up as best i could. i didn’t have a ton of breakthough work in that first year, but my sessions with her were helping me feel taken care of, and they kept me out of the deep fog. my work with her continued with regularity until it abruptly ended when we moved to dallas.
what’s funny is that i knew, on some level, ending this relationship with therapy was dangerous. i said it out loud. i said to pat: what about j?
but we moved anyway, and i never found anyone in dallas.
when my life imploded, when my mental health got away from me, when i cheated, lied, coveted, and entered again into a deep fog, i called j. i asked her if she may be willing to work with me over the phone. i told her i trusted her, i told her i needed someone who already knew me, who knew my background, who could meet me where i was.
also, i knew she cared about me.
and so, we started doing our work over the phone. for a while, during that summer and through the fall, it was twice a week, every week. slowly, it changed. once a week, once every other week. we sometimes took breaks for periods of time.
right now we talk roughly once a month – this is mainantence, upkeep, and yet, there are still new and deep wounds being explored.
all of this matters to some degree, but here is what matters the most:
therapy saved my life.
and yes, i did it. i saved my own life – but, therapy is what i used. and there were a lot of supporting actors and spaces – other people who were critical. but the therapeutic relationship with j – the one i held on to and used to find truth – this was necessary.
therapy is what makes me available, it is how i am functional, happy. the tools i have found, learned, stumbled upon – the love i have tapped in to – that love for myself – it was all formed in those sessions.
if you are struggling, if you are suffering, if you are in a deep fog, if you find yourself angry at everyone including yourself. if you are addicted, if you are constantly defending yourself (i find that when i get into a space where i am constantly defending myself, it usually means the problem is me) – if any of those things feels true for you:
you can help yourself.
it is hard. it can take years. it can stop and start.
it can hurt.
you may keep shutting down and drawing back.
but faith in the process – this is all you need.
mental health is the most important thing we can give ourselves, our children, our families, our workplace, our communities.
this is only my story.
but, possibly, it can also be yours.