When I was 21 years old, I started a business.
Said business grew very, very quickly and was extremely successful, which was awesome. However, given that I was only 21 at the time, I didn’t know how to deal with all of the newfound stress, attention, time suck, etc. so I did what I could in ways that were not particularly healthy. I worked nineteen hour days, slept for five hours each night, was barely eating, barely drinking any water and was “on” at all times.
At 25, I started getting the feeling that something wasn’t quite “right.” I was feeling like I was spiralling out of control and I filled the chaos with superficial things — shopping sprees mostly. I also spent a lot of money on frivolous things like trips to Europe, a car I didn’t need, etc. I was looking for the next fix to fill the void that existed due to running myself into the ground at all times.
So, I hired a “quarter life crisis” coach and worked with her through a few sessions over the phone. It worked, somewhat, but I still felt slightly crazy. I felt like I was chasing the ever-elusive “goal”, even though most days I had no idea what that goal was. Success and notoriety were my two main driving forces. If I could just make a thousand more dollars one week or land a major media spot, I’d be happy. That happiness, in my work, never came. I chased and chased and chased and chased some more.
Finally, when I realized that I wanted to become a mother and was having a lot of difficulty getting pregnant, I decided to seek professional help. The kind of help you find in stark white offices with couches and a therapist to hand you a box of Kleenex and let you let it all out. The kind of help that wasn’t going to push a prescription on me but one that would let me talk and talk and talk until finally my problems would be solved and I would be a new person.
In November of 2009, I decided to turn to Google and start my search for help. I knew that I wanted a male therapist (I have women trust issues – whole other blog post) and I knew that he had to be middle-aged. Not too young or too old. Right in the middle. After some quick searching, I found my psychotherapist and I shot off an e-mail to him. We scheduled our initial appointment and off to therapy I went.
Every week I would drive downtown and head into his office for a one hour session. I talked about my work habits, my lack of balance, my relationships and friendships, my childhood, my adolescence and everything in between. I talked about the future and what I saw (and hoped) for myself and my business. We talked and talked and talked. I cried a lot too. Every session I would have a really great cry and I always left his office with sunglasses on to hide the puffy eyes. I’m thankful I never ran into anyone I knew.
What I realized about myself, through therapy, was that I was chasing an elusive goal and that I was trying to please everybody but myself. I was trying to impress people because in my mind, impressing them brought on attention and attention equalled love. As I gained this amazing and important insight into myself, things began to shift around me.
I remember sitting in his office one day and I said to him, “I’m upset because I feel like you broke me.” He sort of looked quizzically at me, wondering what I meant by that. I went on to explain that since we had been doing this work, this very important work, that I was losing my drive and motivation. That I didn’t feel the hunger of the chase any longer. That I was slowing down and in some places, checking out altogether.
I also remember feeling frustrated a lot. Frustrated that I felt more confused in some ways about who I was, what I stood for and what my future held. In other ways, I was gaining amazing insight and clarity that I would never have received outside of these sessions. It was six months of rewiring my entire self. Rewiring thought patterns and habits. Retooling the way that my brain worked.
The more I focused on this notion that my psychotherapist had opened me up and “broke” me, the more upset I became and the more disconnected from the world I felt. So, I did what anyone would do in that moment… I ditched him. Even though the best thing for me would have been to continue to use talk therapy to my advantage, I ditched him. Even though I probably still needed it, I ditched him.
In April of 2010, I found out that I was pregnant. The pieces that had felt so shattered during my therapy seemed to be coming back together in the prettiest of puzzles. They seemed to be connected in ways that made sense and my focus was shifting. I felt more at peace than I had in a very long time and I felt like somebody picked me up and set me on the correct path.
In May of 2010, I sent my therapist an e-mail to cancel our sessions indefinitely. He asked me to come in one last time for closure and to wrap things up but I declined.
Looking back, I wish I had gone in for another appointment with him. In fact, there are days when I still wish I had that outlet – someone impartial to talk to that was trained in guiding human beings through this thing called life. It was the best and worst six months of my entire life but I have to give him credit where credit is due. So, with that in mind, let me leave him a note should he ever come across this (or should I ever become brave enough to e-mail it to him):
Dr. Psychotherapist Man,
Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the work we did together. At the time, I thought you had broken me. I thought that the drive and determination that had dissipated was due to you breaking me and shattering my world into a thousand tiny pieces. I thought you were to blame.
The opposite is true. I was to blame. The drive and determination, while others thought admirable, was killing me slowly. Had I continued on that journey, I may never have become pregnant (I had tried for three years to conceive my daughter and I finally conceived her during our work together, which tells me that clearly my body was already feeling the healing and was in a better place). Had I continued on that journey, I may be divorced and may have ruined many of my friendships.
Because of our work together, I am able to see my priorities clearly. I know that hard work is still something that is built in my DNA and I know that I will always strive for success but it’s no longer for unhealthy reasons. Now, I am working on setting up a solid financial future for my daughter and my husband. I don’t care about flash and bling and fancy cars. I care about this exact moment.
So, you didn’t break me. You just broke down the fog, which allowed me to see. See who I am and see life.
Thank you for breaking me.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rachubarama/4041887146/