2022, therapy is self-care

Towards the end of last year, I learnt the valuable lesson in self-care by staying firm with my boundaries, even at the risk of conflict and saying goodbye to a few people in my life. This year seems to be a fight and a test of strength, but if it’s taught me anything, it’s that I can heal and celebrate my inner child.

One of my biggest struggles in life is that I put others before myself. I fear making people upset, or worse, losing them entirely, and so the logical part of me seeks compromises to appease those around me; though it’s usually myself that ends up settling. If I make others happy, who is making sure I end up happy too?

It is my role to curate my own happiness, and the way I will achieve this is by using boundaries and learning to get comfortable with the word, ‘no’. Balance the scales. I know that it’s hard to please everyone in an equation, there will always be a few that don’t like what’s happening; but that doesn’t mean that I can’t express myself and head down my own path, it is my life after all. I had to remember that.

I began my quest for an equilibrium by falling in love with adventuring again. Filling my phone with cheesy grins from gigs, trips to places I’d never been before (like Glastonbury and Liverpool), birthdays, and even a trip to a zoo. It’s hard to pick a highlight, each photo holds a different memory – like running for cover from the rain and hiding with the giraffes in their hut, or carving my first ever pumpkin.

There was a lot of really great memories this year, and thankfully, they did not come at the cost of my health either. I did manage to take better care of myself, learn where the limit was and most importantly when it was time to rest and recuperate. The scales slowly started to balance, as I learnt when to say enough was enough – even if that was just to myself at times.

I continue to work on myself through therapy too, by working on my boundaries and expressing my feelings in a healthier manner. This also meant addressing some unhealthy coping mechanisms and learning how to treat myself with kindness. A feeling I don’t often allow as if I don’t deserve it when I do.

By addressing the skeletons in my closet this year, taking time to dust cobwebs, that it could be a kind of cathartic release; yet healing is not always so linear. It is complicated and messy. There are breakthroughs and days when you cry more in a session than you ever thought you could. How can I still be crying over something that happened to me as a child?

It’s difficult to sit and discuss that in the sanctuary of therapy session, especially when the resolution is ambiguous at best. I am learning to unpick years of unhealthy thoughts and coping mechanisms, challenge beliefs I have of myself and focus on boundaries. Just so I don’t have to be a passenger in my life.

That is no mean feat either, no quick solution to taking better care of yourself; and I do still put my foot in it, but it no longer feels like a world-ending disaster. Not like it used to. I no longer feel the walls pressing in around me because I know there’s a way out.

I still don’t believe that therapy has saved me. It’s not a one-stop-shop of solutions and diagnoses that help you navigate the distractions and hurdles of life (and believe there’s been more than enough of those this year). Therapy is what everyone should have in a ‘fuck-it’ tin. It should sit with plasters, painkillers and condoms at the bottom of your bag waiting on that proverbial rainy day.

A toolkit to learn that mistakes are just mistakes, and not mountains or atomic bombs in our lives. It’s a way to hold yourself accountable, but offer that inner child forgiveness too; and it’s also homework, something to keep doing so that you can cope better. A way to battle of gremlins when they start to tangle your thoughts.

Of course, it’s not foolproof. We are only human and life has this funny way of throwing you a curveball (read several there). I decided that this year I would work on myself, for myself. Life intervened.

I lost my granddad this year. His long standing battle with bone cancer was no more. My sister’s partner had a stroke at forty and began his long recovery. I became homeless. All of that while having therapy, and none of it was easy.

It was a fine line to walk, and yet, I would do it all again because it was tough. I got to prove just how tough I am too, as I stood up for myself, cared and laughed with others (as well as cried); and I stopped my walls from closing in on me because I know there’s a way out. There always has been, so there always will be.

Until then, I have my ‘fuck-it’ tin and I am ready to face the rain.

~ Emily

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