A few months before the pandemic hit, I started dating myself.
It was the best thing ever! I got to select where I wanted to go and what I wanted to eat. I was on a mission to find the best ramen/pho/other noodle soup restaurants in Portland. I decided how long I wanted to stay, if I wanted to read a book or listen to a podcast or just sit and people watch. I left myself enough time to enjoy a meal of my choosing before heading to a 12-week mindfulness class I was taking. Thursday evenings were my night.
But, it wasn’t always like this. In fact, up until three years ago, I’m not sure I had ever truly spent any time by myself. Aside from busy work, I didn’t spend time doing things alone and I was definitely not okay just being with my own thoughts.
Back up to January 2019, I went out with my closest girlfriends for a Bamboo sushi dinner followed by round two at Salt and Straw. This is an annual birthday tradition that I’d been doing for years, one that I greatly look forward to. But, if I’m being honest, in 2019 I wasn’t looking forward to it at all. I wasn’t even excited.
In fact I was just kind of feeling nothing.
I am glad that the expectation for me to show up to my own birthday dinner beat out the blah-ness I had been feeling for quite some time. It was that night that my closest girlfriends helped me recognize I was not OK.
The thing is, there was no reason as to why I should have been feeling so glum. I was married, had three healthy children, a thriving business, amazing support systems. I had it all. I did it all. I did so much I rarely paused to breath. Bouncing between work events, kid’s events, keeping a home, doing the things I felt I “should” be doing, winning awards, making money, it wasn’t until that night that I came to terms with the fact that I did not feel like myself. I did not feel consistent love for myself. I was not happy.
It took my friends having the bravery to come together as a group and ask how they could support me. I am so, so, so grateful I have such caring and brave friends. The ones that stick by me even when I’m not my best.
I don’t recall sharing too many details with them that night, but they sensed I was off. I filled my life up with busy at the sacrifice of recognizing my own needs and desires. The pressure I put on myself to “succeed”, or let’s be real, it was the constant pressure to create the illusion that I had all my shit together, was tearing me down. I never felt like enough. Constantly surrounded by people, I was unhappy and lonely.
I was ready for therapy.
A couple days later I texted my best friend who was there that night, who happens to be a psychologist, and asked her if she had any recommendations for a therapist that may be able to help me. I wanted someone who would empathize with me and “give me the homework” so I could move forward and get past these “problems” I was having. I found that up until very recently, my BFF often knew me better than I knew myself, so it was no surprise when she shared the name of a therapist she thought may be a good fit.
And the rest is history.
Just kidding! 😉 I’ve learned life is a constant story in the making. One where I now practice taking time to pause and reflect on who I am, how I feel and I work really hard to fight all the demons in my head who are trying to keep me from being who I want to become.
I am constantly working to better know myself, and at this point am proud to say, I do think I know myself even better than my BFF knows me.
I am unbelievably grateful that at the time I was in need, I was fortunate enough to:
- Find a therapist who was such a good fit
- Said therapist, had space in her schedule to see me and
- That I had the time and means to do this for me.
I recognize this is a privilege that not all have access to. There is so much work to be done.
The real beginning of the road to therapy
My road to therapy really started about six months before that 35th birthday dinner I shared above. (Side note: What is it about having mid-life awakenings at the age of 35?! I’ve talked to more women than I know that 35 was “one of those years” …and yes, to my older friends, I know there are many more of those awakenings to come. 😉)
It was that year leading up to my 35th birthday that I started feeling, like actually feeling feelings.
In the summer of 2018, I flew back east with my kids and we spent some time on Martha’s Vineyard. It was the five-year anniversary of my brother’s death, and I felt I wanted to return to be with him. To begin to process all that was lost. Chris’ home was Martha’s Vineyard.
Following his celebration of life on the island in 2013, we honored his wishes and spread his ashes at Lambert’s Cove at sunset – one of the most beautiful westward-facing beaches I’ve visited, one of Chris’ favorites too. A beach I wish I could have experienced with Chris, rather than for Chris.
The desire to take this trip and the feelings that surfaced made me think I was ready to unlock some of the pain and confusion I felt regarding Chris’ death. I showed up to my therapist’s office for the first time about 10 days after my 35th birthday dinner ready to attack my grief head on.
Well, wasn’t I wrong. It took me another three years to be ready to take a deep dive into processing my own grief. This work has truly only begun this past month when I accepted a spot to run the Boston Marathon with #TeamAFSP this April.
Little did I know, I had a lot of my own shit to work out before being able to process any grief I thought I “should” be dealing with at the time.
What unfolded in those first few therapy sessions was how unhappy I was -
– with myself, my marriage, my job. Most things really. I’m not sure why I was surprised when during a session a few weeks in, I filled out a questionnaire and the results came back as showing I was moderately depressed. “Moderately depressed?!?! WTF?!?! Me? I’m not depressed. I know depression runs in my family, but not me!”
I had so much to be grateful for and wore a peppy positive smile at all times. I’m sure I had most others on this earth fooled – women I worked with would compare me to a “superhero,” not truly understanding how I could “do it all.” Although I appeared to be an Olympic swimmer, on the inside I was slowly drowning. Depression was pushing me down.
My therapist has helped me learn how to recognize my own thoughts and emotions, something I am still working on. We didn’t really dive into any “childhood” stuff, more-so she really helped me begin to recognize where I was, how I got there and the biggest piece — what I wanted. One thing I’ve learned is being able to recognize what you truly want can be a very challenging and scary thing. This is especially true for those of us who have spent so much of our life in the fast lane, rarely taking time to acknowledge our true needs and desires.
The work I put in during weekly sessions, and then in my “homework assignments” outside of sessions, has been life changing.
Those first few months really came down to me working on ME. My first project was working on my own self-understanding and SELF-LOVE so I could better communicate with and relate to my husband. When I showed myself love, my relationship improved. I communicated my needs. I felt heard. I felt love.
Soon after, it was in a therapy session I stated out loud I was ready to move on from over half a decade with FIT4MOM. My therapist helped me not only devise a plan for how I wanted to sell my business, but helped me recognize I could give myself permission to let go of something that was no longer serving me. Although it took me nearly three years to let this “4th baby” of mine go, I recognize now it was a blessing in disguise that it was a long transition. Having my FIT4MOM franchise during the pandemic allowed me to find my true purpose and shift my business in a direction that better serves me, my family and the people I was put on this planet to serve — busy women, who like me, are working to prioritize and better themselves.
All the conversations and time blocked for therapy, made me recognize I needed to get to know ME better, and LOVE ME more, before anything else could change. Before I could love others. Before I could give others my best self. I began journaling. I started dating myself. I began asking for what I needed. I began finding things that bring me joy. I began slowing down. I began being more present with my family. I began asking myself what makes me happy, and I began saying no to things that do not.
I am fortunate that therapy has helped me learn to prioritize my own needs first. It is a constant work in process. I am working to change the story in my head as to what success looks like. I am working to rewire the need for perfectionism. I am working to be brave, listening to my own needs and then acting on them. I try remind myself daily, that no matter what gets done or left undone, I am enough. Over three and a half decades into this journey, I’m learning what my own depression and anxiety look like and how they hinder me, and help me, in being my best self. I am working to shape my own story and share my own story, when I feel the story needs to be shared.
The journey continues...
I took some time off from therapy during the pandemic, using tools I had learned to help me cope. I took breaks. I journaled.
I listened to my intuition when my body and mind were telling me to reach back out to my therapist a few months ago. I currently meet with my therapist monthly, and I’ve learned that it’s often the months where I feel I will have “nothing” to talk about, that I have begun to get into more of the “real” deep work.
A return to therapy has also reminded me how much I enjoy dating myself and it was time to start dating myself again! (Like many things, the pandemic had shut down my noodle dates with myself.)
So here I am, this past week, enjoying some ramen at Kayo’s Ramen Bar before shuffling into my therapist’s office. (You’ve gotta try the Tan Tan Ramen, but know that medium spice is plenty spicy!)
Therapy has allowed me to be unapologetic for the number of matcha selfies and delicious food pics I take. It has allowed me to slow down and be reflective. It has allowed me to recognize it’s okay to not be OK. It has allowed me to connect better with those I love. It has allowed me to LOVE MYSELF MORE.
We each have our own story and I am proud to #bethevoice to help #stopthestigma around #mentalhealth 💙
A Big THANK YOU
Bless my therapist, and really all therapists, social workers and counselors who are SO GOOD at what they do. Helping people like me sort out all the crazy that goes on between to my two ears. I am so, so grateful that I took that leap of faith and made that call to schedule my first appointment. It may have been my greatest gift self-love ever.
Whether you’ve seen a therapist or not, I highly recommend the book Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb. I’m pretty sure my own therapist wrote it about me and my relationship with her. 🤣 Having a non-judgmental person listen to all my jazz and help me work through the demons in my head is life changing. I am also pretty certain my therapist and I are best friends, and she thinks the same. (Reason why you should read the book mentioned above 😉)
I will continue to share my story to help me process and to help #stopthestigma around mental health. We need more resources. We need them for ourselves and we need to help make them more accessible for those who are less fortunate. We need to take care of ourselves so we best support our children, and we need to push and fight for services for our children, as they are our future.
If you have been considering reaching out to someone, here are a couple resources
- Psychology Today — Type in your zip code and find therapists with openings. Can filter by gender, insurance, etc.
- Portland Therapy Center — A collective of mental health professionals in the Portland metro area, ranging from Hillsboro to Gresham
- Portland Psychotherapy — A group of social workers and psychologists, a unique center where it is set up as a B-Corp where a portion of the profit goes to fund scientific research.
- The Children’s Program — My personal recommendation for children’s diagnostic, behavioral and therapeutic services.
- Juniper Psychological Services – My personal recommendation. 😉
If you are interested in learning more or getting involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention please reach out to me or visit their website here.
If you have additional resources for counselors and therapists, please feel free to share them below.