My first day of counseling was a disaster. I still wasn’t convinced this was something I really wanted to do, and the day continued to point me in that direction. I brought baby girl with me. Up to this point, she had never been great in the car and this morning was no exception. She screamed the ENTIRE. WAY. My frayed nerves were struggling to keep the car on the road rather than pull over and scream with her. But we finally arrived and when I went back to get her out, I realized the little hood on her sweatshirt had come over her eyes, which was probably why she was so frustrated. Awesome.
The day wasn’t extremely warm but I always sweat, and that only gets worse in stressful situations, like having a screaming baby. So even before my session started, I was feeling hot and uncomfortable. I was wearing a light yoga skirt - one of the only items of clothing that really fit me at the time - which meant my bare legs kept sticking to the leather chair in the therapist’s office. Baby girl had calmed down some but was awake, even though it was “technically” nap time (more on that later). As the therapist and I talked, I was trying to keep her calm and hoping that she would fall asleep. In a very generous manner, the therapist insisted that she hold her, giving me a break and a chance to just talk. But little did she know that this stressed me even more, since I really wanted her to be sleeping and she wasn’t sleeping and that was going to ruin the rest of the day and ruin the rest of the night and on and on. And the sweat kept coming.
My attitude going into this first session was that coming here was the right thing to do - reaching out for help - but it still wasn’t something I really needed. I was strong, and strong women don’t have depression. I just needed to talk it through quickly, get a little advice, and mostly just have someone tell me how I could get a newborn to be an automatically great sleeper. Because that was the whole problem right? Most of this was not really about me; it was about my circumstances. For this one hour, I wasn’t going to cry because that would show I was weak and prove that I needed to be there. My answers to all of the therapist’s questions came out in a very clipped, matter of fact tone. I needed to sound in control because that was definitely not how I was feeling inside.
And then the question came - “Why are you here?” So I went into the whole spiel - it wasn’t fair to my husband that I was crying all the time and not happy, my kids needed someone stronger to take care of them, I have a business to run that I can’t do if I’m weak. “No.” What? Did she just tell me my answer was wrong? So I tried again, and this time the tears came. I just wanted to be able to love my baby girl, and get back to the old me who had the energy to play with my big boy, and show my husband I loved him by enjoying the things we do together. “No.” Again. What better answer did she want from me? “If you want to get better, if you want to be all of these things for your family, you need to do this for YOU. You need to put yourself first - help yourself get healthy - and then you will be able to help your family. But the first step is doing this for YOU. And you won’t get better until that becomes your mindset.”
Never in my life had I thought of my own mental health as a priority. My line of thinking over the past few weeks had been that I just needed to get stronger so I could be better for my family. My feelings and my health and my sanity were not really in the equation. What did this mean? How could I shift my thinking to put me first? And before that, acknowledge that I really did have a problem that needed to be addressed? As I left the office that day, I realized this journey had taken a completely different direction than I thought it would. I came in thinking I was doing something selfless for my family, but for the first time I realized I might have to be SELFISH for my family.
To be continued...