I had a great session with my counsellor today. A productive hour where she made me feel incredibly ‘normal’. But what exactly is that and how do we know if that’s us?!
I’ve been seeing my wonderful counsellor for just over a year now and I always wish I’d started sooner! Years of anxiety and feeling ‘just not right’, turned out to be the consequence of burying emotions and never processing or voicing how I really felt.
Even as a kid, I’d never show when I was upset by something. I kept it to myself and continued with my day. BIG MISTAKE!
As a young adult, I experienced the relationships that perhaps didn’t go to plan, people who hurt me, people who didn’t care like I did. It all adds up!
Fast forward to the age of 29 and I met my counsellor, let’s call her ‘Petunia‘. My wonderful not-husband was due to deploy again and I was struggling with bouts of depression and crippling anxiety. I knew I had to sort something out before he left.
Time to change
I went along to my first session, nervous and apprehensive, not knowing what on earth to expect. Petunia instantly put me at ease with her kind and calm approach. We had a cupa and chatted about why I was there.
My reasons were varied but mainly I was fed up of feeling so low and I’d had enough of panic attacks, nausea and constant worry. It was a couple of months off my birthday and I was determined to ‘be better’ in my thirties.
“Surely I should be able to cope with life by now?” (said almost every adult, ever!)
So Petunia and I spent our first session exploring my history of how I came to be in her room. We identified several boxes of shit I’d pushed into a cupboard inside my head and we knew this would be a long process!
Why am I crying?! How is this normal?!
To begin with we opted for weekly sessions as I definitely had a lot of decluttering to do! We talked about all sorts, she unearthed things I didn’t know I cared about! She’d have me in absolute tears sometimes, crying over things I thought had gone from my mind…how?!
Take my previous relationship, for instance; the one before my amazing not-husband. That ended some 5 years ago. It was over a long time before it was over too, if you know the type of relationship I mean. I hadn’t given it a thought in years!
Well Petunia knows just the right buttons to press. I cried. Hard! Wtf? Why was I crying?! I didn’t care about that stuff any more…???
Petunia had opened a wound. One I’d locked away nicely in a box, packed into a cupboard and secured with a gigantic bolt on the door! She’d opened it and it was all falling out! I’d suppressed all the emotions relating to that person and the way it had ended. I couldn’t even tell her his name!
Revealing hidden emotions
So there I was, balling my eyes out over something five years ago, telling Petunia I was over it! When in fact, I hadn’t dealt with any of those emotions until that point. Here they were surfacing, bringing up feelings I’d fought so hard to crush the first time around!
We went back further…Petunia poked at old wounds to see if they’d bleed and most did! I found myself experiencing emotions I never knew were inside.
This was bizarre, how could someone I barely know provoke such reactions from me? I wasn’t the sort of person to ever cry (unless it involved an animal!) but Petunia had me crying nearly every session to begin with AND in between them.
I wondered what had happened to me, I was always so strong and hid my emotions from everyone. Turns out that’s a really bad idea! There is only so much cupboard space in your mind and if you keep filling it, there’s no room for anything else. So this is where I was at!
Decluttering the past
As we began to unpack the past, I started to feel lighter. Truly over the things that had hurt me before. I was no longer carrying those boxes, weighing me down.
My wonderful not-husband was thousands of miles away and I felt strong (actually strong this time). We talked when we could, which sometimes wasn’t very often; as with any deployment, but every little conversation was precious. When we got a chance to talk for a little longer, I shared with him snippets of my counselling sessions, just so he wasn’t feeling left behind in my journey.
I was feeling good! I was feeling able to take on anything that life could throw at me. Then BANG!
Two months into deployment, my Dad was diagnosed with a terminal illness. My world was blown apart and my best friend was days away and hard to contact. Thank my lucky stars for Petunia!
I was able to voice how I felt, offload how crazy I was feeling, tell her my frustrations of my other half being away from me when I needed him the most! Petunia kept me from going under. Still very low at times and the anxiety had ramped up again, but I felt I could tread water just long enough to get through the last month of this deployment.
I was physically and emotionally exhausted, visiting the hospital daily – which was an hours drive on a good day! The house was slipping as I just didn’t have the energy to deal with that too.
I was struggling without my amazing not-husband to take some of the strain. He was over there feeling guilty that he couldn’t support me fully, but believe me, he was supporting me way more than he knew.
My not-husband returned (eventually – never trust a home coming date, they never go to plan!) and home life settled into some kind of normal again. The blue jobs were being done and I had someone to share the hospital trips with.
As the months went by, Petunia introduced me to the notion of anticipatory grief. Something I never knew about but is absolutely normal! You can read more about the process in my previous article, but simply put, it’s grieving the loss of a loved one before their death.
I had no idea that what I was experiencing was completely normal. No one ever talks about it, but when Petunia explained it all, I felt relatively ‘normal’. However; I was still struggling to understand what ‘normal’ was!
The New Me
Fast forward again to not so long ago and I felt like a new person! The shy, quiet, unconfident person I was before was owning life. At Dad’s send-off, I stood up at the front (with a microphone!) and read out 8 minutes worth of something I had written. I couldn’t believe I was actually doing it! Who was this person?!
I had organised most of the send-off and hosted the ‘after-party’ for over 30 people. I was confident, balanced and being the real me! Someone I’d not been in years!
And why? Because Petunia had taught me to just be myself! Not to care about what others think, not to worry about what I can’t change, to just do what I felt right in my heart. I’d let go of all the dusty boxes packed away in my attic and had room for all kinds of new possibilities.
I had dealt with losing my incredible Dad on a daily basis, rather than pushing it to the back of my mind and hoping it’d go away. If I felt something, I’d say it. If I needed to cry, I’d let it out without worrying I looked silly or feeling guilty for it.
I felt good!!
I decided to keep my monthly sessions going, just to make sure I was doing okay and that brings us to today’s session. Petunia and I met, with did our usual catch up of events over a cupa and she explored all avenues of my mind.
We talked about the ups and downs of grief, about how one day you can be happy and the next you just can’t hold back the tears. She’s told me how normal and natural this was and I believed her.
We discussed the minefield that are the female hormones and the effect they can have on the mind. I had explained to Petunia how one week I can hold one opinion/mindset and two weeks later I can think the complete opposite! This too, she tells me is absolutely the norm. Who knew?!
But how do I know which to believe?!
My mind fuelled by hormones is screaming one thing one week and something else the next! One week something will irritate the life out if me but the next I might not even notice it! How can that be a normal process? How do I cope with those contrasts?!
Do I just see which thoughts screams the loudest and go with that?!
Nope, Petunia tells me these are things to discuss with my amazing not-husband. Because if the past has taught me anything, it’s that NOT sharing problems is where the issues actually start. I could talk to anyone, but the person I spend my life with is the only person sharing the experiences with me so closely.
So here I am, waiting for my not-husband to return on Friday, because whilst video calls are great, they’re not ideal. Some conversations need to be in person.
Life is a roller-coaster!
Everyone has their own issues, whatever they may be and their own ways of coping, which may be unique to them. But the one common denominator is that we’re all normal.
We’re all struggling with something, some more than others, some more serious than others, but we’re all just ‘normal’. Life has its ups and downs and we just flow with it, coping in whatever way we can!
I still have my bad days, seeing a counsellor didn’t ‘cure’ me. I have horrendous days sometimes! In fact, I hate the person I am in those times and I fight hard to dig my way back out. Peaks and troughs are a normal part of life, so don’t lose heart if you dip back down again, remember that’s all part of being ‘normal’.
But for the first time in my adult life, during that session, I felt ‘normal’! I understand that my ‘crazy brain’ isn’t actually crazy and that the doubts I have, the worries, the internal conflicts, are all
Over and Out,
The Not Wife