I feel shame about a lot of things, but one thing I am not ashamed of is seeking professional help. When Tom has broken bones, we sought out the top orthopaedic doctors to fix him. When Willy vomited for months, we sought out the top gastroenterologists to determine the cause and to fix him.
When cracks started to appear in our outwardly ‘perfect’ marriage, we engaged the help of a marriage counsellor; in this case not to ‘fix’ but to recognise the cracks forming as foundations shifted. Over the years, she has got to know our secrets, heard our pain, our anger, frustrations and given us the tools and mechanics to work through the obvious issues of young families, financial concerns, career objectives and the impact they all have on a loving, romantic relationship and family partnership. And she is now a fundamental part of helping us through the aftermath of a tornado; sifting through the wreckage in a safe, calm environment with a view to rebuilding a new future, a healthy and strong future for us all. She is worth her weight in gold.
Mental health is no longer a taboo subject in this country, thanks to our brave young Royals. And while my brain isn’t broken, it isn’t working as it should. Running or exercise, meditation and mindfulness have been wonderful ways of combating my depression, my sadness, my anger, but from experience, I have learnt that a good therapist is priceless in the events of unexpected, shocking events. Especially in the aftermath of events you didn’t ask for or have any control over.
My therapist today help me see that based on the latest and biggest un-asked for shock, I am living in my prehistoric brain where my body is reacting instinctively from the modern day messages it receives from my prefrontal cortex. My questions of ‘what if’… ‘what if’…. ‘WHAT IF..’ and trying to understand what happened over such a long period of time and apply that to a totally uncertain future to try and make it more ‘certain’, is causing the middle part of my brain (amygdala) to feel. And those feelings of anxiety from a lack of security, anger and disgust about what happened, are driving me into my instinctive prehistoric brain which is trying to determine which survival mode to trigger.
Fight. Flight. Or Freeze.
And that is where the muddle comes. Because in prehistoric times, they didn’t have the feeling part of the brain or the thinking part. They just fought, flew or froze based on their instinct of the best way to survive.
Feelings may drive an action – if angry you fight, for example. But it is the thinking that causes the problems.
What if I fight? I could get hurt or die in battle? Who will look after the kids?
What if I take flight? Where will I go? How will the boys feel? How will I carry them if I am running 100 miles an hour away from danger?
What if I do nothing and freeze? Will everything stay the same? Is that the best thing for me or the boys?
So my head is bouncing all over the place, between my desire to take action, move on, to please all the loud voices in my head telling me to ‘get over it already’ and my fear of the threat of history repeating itself for a third time and being on a larger scale once again.
My therapist reminded me that I also have another voice, the voice of compassion. And yet in comparison to my voice of a call to action and my voice of a cry of warning, it is a whisper. Quieter than that. It is a breath, so small that it is being obliterated.
And that is where good therapy is not shameful, just as a doctor diagnosing and mending a broken arm is not shameful. It is necessary in order to heal the body, mind and soul, all 3, not just the mind.
They are all connected. My mind in turmoil is causing my body to be in turmoil; the anxiety causing tension headaches and IBS. And my soul is dark where it was once the bright yellow of ‘Joy’ and sparkly.
And there is no shame in wanting my Joy back. There is no shame in wanting ‘me’ back. There is no shame in seeking help to find her.