Even “Strong” People Need Therapy

My Life is Great — So Why Do I Feel So Shitty?

2018 was an incredible year for me professionally. I had by far and away my most successful year work wise, I got back to a space where I was working on projects that were dope with people I love and respect and for the first time in my life, I wasn’t worried about robbing Peter to pay Paul (read: figuring out how to pay my disgustingly expensive student loans, rent, food etc).

It was a good year in that respect.

2018 was also an incredibly difficult year for me personally. I experienced some challenges that rocked me to my core, and confronted truths that I didn’t even know were truths until I said them out loud — and let me tell you, that was tough.  It was tough for so many reasons, but mainly because up until this point in my life, I’ve never been someone who couldn’t work through my own emotions. I consider myself a reasonably self-aware, self-actualized person and I’ve been able to get through every challenging thing in my life up to this point with a modicum of perspective and a sprinkle of grace.

But 2018 led me to some hard personal truths and one of them is that I am very lonely. It took me months to even put words to the emotion, because quite honestly, I’ve never felt lonely before… ever. I’ve always been surrounded by my family and friends, I’ve been busy with school and work — and I’m admittedly excellent at compartmentalizing things, so the loneliness never crept in.

About mid-way through the year was when I started to recognize that I was struggling with something, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. There was a lingering emptiness that I felt on a semi-regular basis and I just couldn’t shake it. I found myself in a space where I was longing for something I didn’t think I wanted and that was a partner. Now, let me give you some context — remember when we talked about my dating struggles back in May of last year? Well, that one has come full circle because that’s the thing I’ve put a pin in for about a decade (my god the irony here is incredible). I have admittedly not paid attention to my dating life because it just wasn’t as important to me as getting my education and building my career and I make NO APOLOGIES for either of these things.

The Scary Question

For a brief moment in my loneliness though, I admit that I questioned if I made the wrong choice —  I’ve had a one track mind for the better part of a decade and that was to be nothing but excellent in my school and work. I have never taken my eyes off the prize, not even for a second.

But I asked myself if I was wrong to be so ambitious in my career and education and not put a concerted effort into my love life?

That moment was sobering for me because never in my life have I questioned my decision to take the path I’ve taken and it scared me. A swift slap in my own face and a look at my life told me that I without a doubt did not make the wrong choice and more importantly, it’s not just an “either/or” thing. I may be lonely right now, but I know who I am and what I bring to the table. I know what my value is as a woman, as a partner, as a friend, and I know that had I not made the choice to take the path I did, I could never have looked at myself in the mirror. I believe in my heart of hearts that I can have a career, a partner who supports me and a family should I so choose.

The Pin Came Undone

The funny thing about compartmentalizing emotions is that it’s much like putting a pin in something that needs a stitch — eventually the pin will bust open, because it’s not meant to be pinned forever. And let me tell you, that MF pin came all the way out for me and it sucked. My good friend Faiza calls it “the dark night of the soul” and there is no better way to describe the level of emotion that was flowing out of me at certain points. I swear, I cried like 5x last year and that’s more than I’ve cried in the last 15 years — I cry on the inside like a winner in case you didn’t know.

There were days where I would force myself out of bed and sometimes be on the brink of tears for an entire day for no reason whatsoever (*what I thought was no reason). Anywho, I’ll spare you the sobby details, but at a certain point, I realized that I couldn’t exercise control over my emotions, something I am usually very good at doing; I’m probably the most even keeled person you’ll ever meet — my mood is always good and rarely fluctuates, so high highs and low lows are very new to me. But there came a point where I realized that I had no more tools left in my toolbox to make this better on my own and I needed some help. I talked it out, I cried it out, I journalled, I read books, I did all that I could and still felt blah.

Somebody Please Help — But Don’t Make Me Ask

It was so hard for me to say out loud that I needed help, because honestly, I never need help — or rather, I’ve never needed to ask for it because until now I had always had all the things I needed to flourish in the way of support and help. I also do not like asking for help if I’m being totally honest, because I draw power from being independent and strong; it’s a part of my core makeup as a person. Having to ask for help somehow became a thing where it would take my energy, my light.

Another thing that made it really hard to ask for help is that every time I talked about how I felt with certain people, they’d do this thing where they would say something like “Ahh Cleo, don’t worry you’ll figure it out” and it would infuriate me. In my head I would literally say “I f*cking know I’ll figure it out bruh — that’s not the issue”. I made the mistake of expecting that people would give me the same energy I gave them when they were down — one where we could talk about all the things you’re not supposed to say out loud, commiserate, problem solve etc.  Many people weren’t able to reciprocate that energy for me and that made it even harder to ask for help because, quite honestly, I felt like I couldn’t just be a human. I mean that in the sense where if I would have a bad day or be short with someone or get frustrated, they would legit be clutching their pearls like I kicked a dog — they just couldn’t fathom that the ever calm, cool and collected person they know as Cleo, could lose her temper and that really hurt — like a lot.

I. Am. Solutions. Focused. PERIODT

I can’t tell you exactly what the final straw was, but one thing I do know about myself is that I can’t tolerate not finding a solution — I re-f*cking-fuse to stay in a situation where I am unhappy and I am compelled to find a solution to the problem. I decided I needed some help and the one person I wasn’t afraid to ask for help from was Coco. She and I have had many a-conversation about the benefits of therapy and one day I asked her for a referral. Being that she knows me reasonably well, she quickly rattled off a few names and that’s how I found my therapist Dr. Charlotte Brammer. From our very first conversation, I knew she was the one for me because at the end of our first call, she said “okay, so basically, let’s see how quickly you can fire me” LOL. We clicked right off the bat and I couldn’t wait to meet her in person and no lie, if I had the budget I would see her every week.

All of this said, I wanted to leave you with a few things you should know about therapy.

Therapy is like Dating … Sort of

Finding the right therapist is a process much of the time. Meaning that you have to try them out and see if they are right for you. Not everyone finds their therapy match bang on the first try and that’s okay. But you have to give them a chance — that said, you can also move on if the vibe just isn’t right. You should absolutely try out different therapists and see whose vibe is right for you. In my case, I got lucky and Charlotte was the second person I spoke with and we vibed right off the bat.

Think About What You Want

Take some time to consider what you want to get out of therapy. This isn’t necessarily a question you have to answer on your own, you can work through it with your therapist. But it’s really helpful to put words to what you want to achieve.

Keep it One Hundo

Oh my god, please don’t lie to your therapist. If you want to get the most out of therapy, you have to keep it 100 — I know this is sometimes really hard because you have to say things out loud that you might feel are unbecoming or embarrassing. Whatever the case, spill the muthaf*ckin tea to your therapist.

Your Relationships Will Probably Change

I’m not a therapy aficionado just yet, but what I can tell you is that some of your relationships might change. As you learn and practice setting boundaries, you have to be prepared for what comes with that — and that can be challenging. At least it was for me.

You Have to do the Work

Your therapist is a human being, just like you and they can’t force you to do the work. If you’re not willing to do it then you won’t ever get what you want from it. Therapy is hard some days, and you should be prepared for that and you might feel worse before you feel better, but you might not. The point here is that you get out what you put in.

I really hope this blog helps anyone reading to know that it’s okay to ask for help — even if you’re the strong one. It’s okay not to be okay.

Here is a wonderful resource for psychotherapists in Ontario.

xx

Cleo