Did last year’s birthday hope come true?

Exactly one year ago, I shared a post on my birthday declaring that I would be seeking professional help to manage my mental and emotional well-being.

I ended the article saying that it was a birthday present to myself – hope of better mental health.

One year later, how am I? Has therapy helped, is life all peachy now?

Well, here’s telling it like it is.

In short, my hope for better mental health came true.

I might have thought I was a very self-aware person who knew how to manage my extreme emotions and moments of depression, but I had just been superficially surviving.

Therapy opened me up to a deeper understanding of how my childhood, my parents and growing up with a mentally ill sibling has left me with deep scars that I am still nursing.

Therapy validated my feelings.

Mental illness in a family is catastrophic. That is not an exaggeration. It has been referenced as such in official psychology publications.

Therapy gave that “confirmation” that mental illness in the family is a serious thing that impacts not just the sufferer but the entire family.

Ironically, all these years, no one in my family, immediate or extended or inherited understood the impact of mental illness on the well sibling.

Until I started speaking out via this blog, I’d say only my hubby and a couple of good friends truly understood this.

Therapy gave me the insights and tools I needed.

I was encouraged to understand how I had been impacted and then, to work on my well-being.

I suppose the running joke about blaming one’s parents for all the issues later in life has some veracity. We spoke about parents “modelling” negative behaviours to children, maladaptive coping mechanisms in childhood that are brought into adulthood, and the most important concept of all to me, Childhood Emotional Neglect.

We explored aspects of various therapeutic modalities and used whatever we felt was beneficial for me to better understand and manage myself.

Therapy was the initial eye-opener I needed, but frankly, it’s a lot of working on my own.

I saw my therapist for only around 3 months. After that, I told her that I’d just continue learning and working on my own.

I read the books she sent me, learned about various types of therapy, and picked and packaged the most relevant bits to form my own “therapy playbook” to help me deal with the different types of challenges that I face.

Managing and maintaining is how I’d describe the rest.

While it’s much less now, I still react, instead of respond when I am faced with certain challenging people.

And I still let thoughts of those challenges occupy too much headspace at times, which causes me to lose focus or just get into a funk at times.

That’s where my daily practice of a short morning meditation helps. Sets me up for the day, even if I get waylaid later, I try to bring myself back to my intention that I set in the morning.

I also practice relaxing my “unrelenting standards” when it comes to the work I do – less of the perfect plan and Plan Bs are more accepted now.

But no, it’s not all peachy. It’s very much a work-in-progress.

Not going to lie. One year later, and it’s not all sorted.

The main reason I went for therapy was to manage my feelings of anger / hate / resentment / sadness / guilt towards the situation with my family.

Well, the guilt is sorted but unfortunately, the rest still crop up.

Finding the balance between boundaries and expectations is still a work in progress. Especially when my intentions are misunderstood and my pain is not understood.

I have no answer yet. My fantasy scenario is extreme. I’d like very much to disappear into the far reaches of the Arctic circle and be left in peace.

Desolate it may seem, but this exact scene is what I imagine when I am asked to think of my happy place. I now understand why. A place as far away as possible from my problems, with the one person who loves me and asks nothing of me.
Abisko Husky Sled Ride
That feeling of freedom, as you speed through the tundra and the Arctic winds whoosh around you.

Of course, that is just fantasy, I have complex feelings about the whole situation, and so, internal conflict ensues.

I think my approach is ever-changing. I don’t think I can find a formula for this. All I can do is take it one day at a time, prioritise my needs and live according to my values.

So while there has been much improvement in the way I process things, there are some areas that are still a challenge. But, c’est la vie, and I am happy for the past year of growth that I have had.

Cheers to another year of mental well-being, personal growth and finding balance!

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