Do you guys remember how last summer I was a giant ball of anxiety and decided to stop going to school and go to therapy instead?
I’ve been reflecting on the last year of my life and how good therapy has been for me. It was a little slow at the beginning due to my therapist’s maternity leave, but it has been pretty consistent since then. We usually meet every week or every other week depending on scheduling. I specifically do EMDR, a trauma-specific psychotherapy. It has been amazing for me and if you have anxiety or past trauma, I highly recommend looking into it.
As I approached the one-year mark, I started asking myself how I’m doing. How have things changed? How’s my anxiety? How am I coping? Am I better than I was?
I was filled with so much gratitude for how much my life has improved in the last year. It has not been easy, but dang it has been good. Here are some of the things that have improved in my life because I decided to take care of myself.
Last summer, my anxiety was at an all-time high. I was constantly worried about my kids’ safety and how to protect them. That will always be a fear of mine, but it’s a lot better now. I’ll be honest, the last several weeks with so many people talking about child trafficking has been a little hard. So many worries. But, I have better coping skills to acknowledge what’s going on in the world and not spiral into anxiety.
I also feel a lot more confident setting boundaries to protect my mental health. Whether that means muting some group texts for a while, guarding what I watch/listen to, or making sure I allow time in my schedule for exercise, I better recognize what helps me and follow through with it.
Faster anxiety recovery
EMDR sounds kind of hokey, but the science behind it also totally makes sense. As my brain and body process past trauma, it literally moves out of my system. So when I get anxious about one thing, it’s not dragging up all these old anxieties with it anymore and making it feel insurmountable.
Because I’ve been able to release so much of the intensity from past trauma, the anxious peaks feel lower than they used to be. The lessened intensity helps me get over it faster. There are still times when I have get pretty anxious, but I’m able to come down from it much more quickly than before.
You know what a great result of less anxiety is? Not feeling the push to do or be more all the time. Not feeling like I have to do grad school “right now” so I’m prepared for some unknown future that will require it or make my life easier. Even though I do want to earn a masters degree still and will likely need one for further career moves, I am content where I am right now until we’re at a better time for it.
Without my brain constantly thinking about the future (aka anxiety), I am better able to focus on what’s going in my present. So when I’m at work I can focus on work, when I’m with my family I can focus on them, and the times when I’m able to be alone I can focus on my needs. This has helped a lot with prioritizing my time!
Not gonna lie, trauma therapy can really suck sometimes. There are times we’ll talk about stuff that I think will be tough and isn’t, and then there are times we’ll talk about something small, but is more impactful on me than I realized. But the more I work through the trauma, the more my heart lets go, and the more room my soul has for happiness. There’s not a lingering sense of dread tainting the happy moments either.
Surprise, surprise, being less anxious and more happy is good for your marriage! Your marriage is something you’ll always have to be working on and is never perfect, but trauma work has helped reduce a big stressor in mine. I for sure get less irritated with him and feel like I’m much better at talking about things rather than letting feelings fester. Not shooting for or expecting perfection with that, but marriage frustrations are much less frequent.
Do I think I’m a better mom now than I was a year ago? Abso-freaking-lutely. I’m more patient, better at trying to understand what they’re going through, less angry, take things less personally, less focused on life tasks and more focused on quality time with them. My therapist taught me some mindfulness exercises early on that I have used many many times to help me cool it when my kids were being crazy or some other trigger happens. They’ve helped so much and I feel more powerful over my emotions. Again, not every day is roses, but I enjoy motherhood so much more than I was.
My initial instinct is to say something like, “Now these were small changes that add up…” blah blah blah, but the truth is–these are huge! Do we not all want to be happier, less stressed out, and have better relationships with our families?
I think the more correct way to explain it is that these changes came incrementally, but they’ve made a huge impact in my life. We still have a ways to go in therapy. With EMDR, there’s a lot of pre-work to build solid coping strategies before you directly address the traumatic experiences. Right now I’m about halfway through my trauma timeline (that term makes me laugh). My soul feels much lighter than it did last year and for the several years prior to that. I’m excited to see how I feel at the end of this current journey!
I also know that I’ll never be “done.” I really do feel that different life experiences cause us to view our past in new light. Just like I had previously done therapy in college and it was very helpful, having kids and a husband adds new perspective and fears that needed to be addressed. Even during this year of therapy things have happened, so we’ve stopped our plans and addressed it. There are likely other future experiences that will happen and require some help to process as well. Hopefully when that happens, I won’t be so stubborn and wait so long to talk to someone.
Whether you’re in the throes of postpartum depression/anxiety, need to work through some past trauma, or feel like you could use some extra support to work through the stressors of being human in 2020–I can’t recommend therapy enough. Probably every single person in the world could benefit from a good therapist.
And if you’re nervous to go, I hope this helps you see how good it can be!