I still go to therapy.
If you’re surprised by this, you must be new here, so welcome. But yes, I go to therapy.
What I used to be so ardently against, for myself, I now have come to look forward too. It’s like a mental health accountability partner. And I need all the accountability partners I can get.
You see, I’m no longer at the bottom of the well. My anxiety is largely under control. In fact the other day I thought, you know that feeling in the pit of your stomach that something is going wrong? I haven’t had that in a long time. And that’s weird because that feeling has been a constant companion for probably my whole life. Sometimes I would push through that feeling and do the thing and sometimes I would be paralyzed by it, but it was always there. So it freaks me out a little to notice it’s gone. But it also makes me grateful.
Last week I went to therapy, where I attend once a month unless life calls for extra (for example holidays and October). She starts off asking about where I am and how I’m doing with keeping the crazy brain under control. (She doesn’t call it crazy brain, that’s me, and I’d probably get told not to call it that but…ya). When all checks out there, sometimes she starts asking about things that have bothered me before. Usually she hits on at least one thing that I was hoping not to talk about, struggles with a friend, etc. and when she brings it up, internally I’m like dang it! One day I will find the therapy crystal ball.
This time after we got past the thing I didn’t want to talk about much, but did, she says: how about caffeine intake? Wait what? Who told you I was supposed to cut down on that? Oh, right. Probably me at some point. Dang she listens good.
Um…I cut down on soda intake so that’s good….but I probably doubled my coffee intake so there’s that. She has an opinion about that. I tell her it’s probably fine.
“Don’t you have heart issues?” I mean technically but they’re fine. I mean I haven’t had an issue in a while. Of course they’ve been calling me for over a month to make that follow up appointment at the heart doctor but it’s probably fine.
She makes me babble and I end up telling her all the things. In my babble she find something that interests her.
“Why haven’t you made that appointment?”
I mean…my heart hasn’t acted up in a while so it’s fine.
“Did they say it’s fine or do you say it’s fine?”
I say it’s fine. I mean I successfully avoided them for 6 years….well until I ended up in the ER.
I laugh. She laughs too because I’m pretty sure she thinks I’m as ridiculous as I know I sound.
“Is there a reason you don’t want to go? Are you avoiding something?”
Ya I’m avoiding going. It’s a waste of time. I have to take off work and come all the way down here…I mean sometimes I work here…but still. It’s a long way…ok it’s not that far. But I still have to get off work. I work every day you know?
“A lot of people work every day.”
I need to go to the knee doctor too. She just looks at me. Okay okay. I probably need to go to the heart doctor first.
“That’s probably better priorities.”
Remind me why I pay you to pick on me again? Just kidding I didn’t say that part.
I don’t think there’s any sinister ulterior motive in avoiding cardiology, not consciously anyway. It really might just be busyness. Could there be? I mean I guess. I’m not very self-aware sometimes. I also prescribe a little to the it’ll be fine until it’s not philosophy which has served me mostly ok.
I mean I’m still alive anyway.
Then I start to question my life. What if I am avoiding it? What if I do need to take care of myself better? What if I just think it takes too long? What if my heart tried to explode again while I was avoiding cardiology? I mean…
I’m learning through my people, through therapy, through time and the school of hard knocks that I need to prioritize myself sometimes.
“Stop being a martyr” is a phrase I heard a lot. And I was always a little offended. I’m not being a martyr! I just care!
But if we get down to it, people like me easily become martyrs without realizing. I love to take care of other people. I feel happy when your needs are met. If it’s at the expense of my needs, that’s ok for a while.
But then eventually I start to resent you without telling you. And eventually I am worn down and beaten up and I don’t really like you anymore because I’ve turned myself inside out to serve you. You didn’t ask me to. But I did because when my personality is unhealthy that’s what I do.
I find my worth in the worth you find in me. If you don’t need me, I don’t know who I am anymore. No isn’t a word I like. In fact, if I say no, who in the world is going to do the thing. I need to be that important to you. Otherwise you might leave me.
I’ve only recently (in the last year) understood that is actually in my thought process somewhere. And it’s not healthy. And it’s not good for me or you.
I tell you that because if you live your life like me, if your personality waxes toward the helpers, I want to save you heartache and damage to relationships and ask you to look at your motivations. Look at how other people perceive you. Do they always ask for your help? Is it because you’re actually the best guy for the job or is it because they know you never say no?
Make a conscious effort to say no sometimes. Your first no will be completely strange. You’ll second guess yourself. You’ll want to apologize and say yes. You’ll fret that whatever it is won’t get done. You won’t enjoy it at all.
But guess what? Whatever it is will get done and it will be an epiphany for you. You’ll realize you aren’t the only one capable. You’ll realize that you, my dear, are not actually that important. It sounds scary, but you’ll find it liberating.
You’ll say no a few more times just to see what happens. You’ll relax into it more each time. Then you’ll say no to everything because you can and it’s fun. Sometimes you’ll say, “just kidding. I’ll do it” and sometimes you’ll let the no ride. You’ll discover and enjoy freedom.
Once the novelty of saying no wears off, you’ll relax into the ability to choose the best yeses and know when to say no. And then you’ll achieve balance.
And in those no’s, you’ll find spaces where you can care for yourself. Go get your hair cut. Take a nap. Even make your cardiology appointment if you run out of other things to do.
By the way on Tuesday I made my cardiology follow up. It’s a month late but it’s probably fine. Maybe eventually I’ll even switch to decaf…don’t hold your breath. That sounds terrible.