I’m the type of person that strongly believes in preventative care. Want to lessen the odds of getting sick? Eat healthy. Exercise. In theory, the more of an effort I make to take care of myself now, the less the chance that I’ll need medications down the road. Proactive, not reactive.
So it only made sense that decided to go back into therapy. I say “go back to therapy” because I’ve sporadically seen therapists throughout my life, starting when I was 7 or 8, and my parents were getting a divorce. Then, again in my teens and early 20s. My close friends were a little surprised by my decision to go to therapy. I’ve got it pretty good. Very happy marriage, happy job. But I decided it was a ‘preemptive strike’ against future strife. There’s a lot of emotional upheaval going on in my life right now – not going to get into all the details here, but you bet that I’m counting having a baby and re-envisioning my role as a worker, wife, and friend in the mix.
As someone who has not only personally experienced depression before (side note: depression blows) but also has a history of depression in the family, I took a look at everything going on in my life and decided that I needed to get my butt to therapy ASAP. I could feel a lot of the same symptoms creeping up on me – excessive worrying, insomnia, stressing out, picking fights. Like I said – preemptive strike. After all, depression has a ridiculously high relapse rate (perhaps 33 – 50%), and women are particularly vulnerable post-childbirth due to lifestyle changes, stress, and hormonal fluctuations.
I decided to seek out a therapist that specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), as I really wanted a therapist who would give me specific coping mechanisms v. just listening to me talk about stuff and saying “Uh huh, uh huh, how does that make you feel?” Although the “uh huh” therapy can be very nice, I’ve got a few people in my life that I can vent to when needed; the problem is that all of these people approach giving me solutions via their own biases. I needed to talk to someone who had no preconceived notions of who I am or how I feel.
One of the best examples of CBT in action was when we talked about my nervousness regarding natural childbirth. Everyone has told me, “Don’t get your heart set on a certain birth plan; if it doesn’t happen, you’ll be so upset and the entire experience will be ruined.” Hearing that only stresses me out more because 1) of course I have a way I want childbirth to go, and 2) people telling me I’m going to be disappointed because I feel the way I feel is upsetting. My therapist and I talked about a time I thought someone would go one way and it ended up going another – actually, I’m using my horrific Wildman Olympic Triathlon lake freak-out as my example – and whenever I feel nervous about childbirth, I remind myself how the triathlon didn’t go exactly as planned, but it was wonderful anyway because I still finished. I do an entire visualization of the triathlon experience while deep breathing. I can’t even tell you how helpful this particular exercise has been for me!
Anyway – I wanted to write this post because I really understand how strong the stigma of mental illness still is in our society, and I think that’s a shame. Going back into therapy and admitting that I’ve struggled with depression doesn’t mean I’m a loser or my life is falling apart. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “You know what? I need a little help,” whether your version of help is a ‘preemptive strike’ or ‘holy hell, I need my head screwed on straight this very instant or I’m going to explode.’ I also wanted to write about it because being proactive instead of reactive has been incredibly empowering for me. I could clearly look at the next few months and see many scenarios in which I would just meltdown – why keep barreling towards that grand finale when I could do something about it right now?
So, all of that being said, it feels good to take care of every bit of me. Not just by eating right and movin’ my bod, but figuring out what’s going on in my head and heart, too. And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing. And a thing worth sharing.