Handling life … with the help of good therapy.
The life that led me to be the therapist I am today, seems such a distant blur, a different time, a different me – thank goodness and good therapy!
I knew very little of mental illness, until my third year of marriage. I had a little baby boy and another on the way, when, it seemed to me, totally out of the blue, my husband came sobbing to me, literally clinging to my legs, begging me to take him to the doctor. So began my own mental health journey, as I supported my husband (and suffered his abuse) through 21 years of shifting diagnoses that mirrored the ever shifting ground beneath my feet – his depression, bipolar disorder, narcissistic traits with paranoia.
Now that I am an experienced therapist with my own Masters Degree, I think childhood trauma and Adult ADHD best describes the mental health journey we went on together, with 4 children in tow. Too often our lives were ruled by his mental health issues and my desperate efforts to clumsily manage them, as they escalated over time.
My personal therapeutic journey of self exploration and self care, only began once I was free of his chaos, which of course, was a huge traumatic era, in and of itself, involving years of police and protracted court cases.
By this time I was suffering complex post traumatic stress disorder, and through my own therapy, I saw how childhood emotional neglect had played a pivotal role in my emotional challenges. My childhood had been framed by tending to my mother’s anxieties and insecurities in a perfectly codependent way, and had led me to tolerate the intolerable and find the behaviour of ADHD so familiar. I had so much to undo, so much pain and resultant anger, so many limiting beliefs, so much guilt, so many years of not feeling good enough, not to mention a rampant internal critic that demanded perfectionism and a total denial of my own feelings and needs.
It was a long slow journey, that my practiced extroversion and subjugation of feelings, tried to hide from the world. I wish I had known to allow myself more therapy – deeper, kinder, more compassionate somatic therapy. Here I am now, trying to provide that to others treading their own mental health journeys and of course there is the ongoing pain of the trauma my children transgenerationally were burdened with.
It always surprises me when anyone demands their therapist not have had their own mental health journey. I even have psychologist clients who feel ashamed of their own mental health challenges. Do we demand doctors never get sick. That they operate on themselves? That would be plain crazy and dangerous, wouldn’t it? So I would say, only trust a therapist who has done their own therapy and who is willing to continue to seek support as life happens for them too.
My healing therapeutic presence in my client’s lives is the silver lining of my own therapeutic journey. It’s a daily reminder and gift, I get to serendipitously share, as it informs my therapeutic presence.
To all those in the deep midst of their own mental health challenges – keep going, there are many walking beside you, and there are silver linings to be woven.