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Why I'm back in therapy



Recently I started therapy. Not with a new client. Nope, this time I am the client. I’d forgotten just how humbling, vulnerable and wonderfully cathartic it can be on the other side of the relationship.

My little world has undergone transition over the last few months—gratefully nothing earth-shattering, nonetheless quite palpable—adjustments in our household, schedule and responsibilities. Shifts in relationship dynamics, time, work, purpose, and growth.


You know… LIFE….


I am profoundly grateful for the privilege of watching my kids grow into healthy, well-adjusted people AND it is not without the bittersweet growing pains we humans all experience.


My son, heretofore referred to in my writing to as my little guy, is now entering the capricious realm of puberty. Despite our best efforts, middle school necessitates early mornings, late nights, evening practice, homework, and resultant sleep deprivation.


There was the bittersweet see-you-later with my daughter, who left the nest for a two-year graduate program abroad, preceded by the now-familiar-weeks-long anticipatory anxiety build up.


At the airport, after hugging my firstborn goodbye, I walked briskly away, the substantial lump in my throat an inadequate floodgate for the deluge of imminent tears. Reminded that the other humans passing by have all experienced their own personal griefs, I no longer fight the temporary public display of mine. I do, however, save the ugly cry for the car, patiently waiting it out so I can safely begin the quiet drive home.


(As opposed to her previous junior year study abroad, this move feels much more permanent. So permanent, in fact, that my son wasted no time claiming her significantly larger bedroom as his own—with our permission, of course. Intellectually it made sense; emotionally it felt wrong.)


Upon returning from the airport drop-off, my husband and son out for the day, I purposefully, slowly, began the work of packing up what was left in my daughter’s bedroom in preparation for the swap. Intermittently, I gathered and boxed, sat and cried.


I needed to feel it.


In the months leading up to it, I noticed an increased negative worldview and decreased level of tolerance. Less laughter and ease. More self-isolation and tiredness. As is common, this happened gradually, barely perceptively, until one day I recognized something was off and didn’t quite feel like myself. A general sense of languishing had crept into my days.

The kids were just a piece of it. A shift much larger was in play, a period of both discomfort and growth, inextricably linked.


I needed to give it both time and space—to think, feel, and reflect.


Emotions we don’t intentionally acknowledge eventually manifest in the form of physical illness, unhealthy coping, or other unwanted behaviors. Guaranteed.


When we learn to pay attention and allow ourselves to feel rather than unconsciously avoid through any number of habitual escapes—wine, social media, or, my trusty fall-back, busyness (though I employ them all)—it can be downright uncomfortable. When we test it out, however, we discover it is not nearly as scary as imagined. Instead, it is a true act of bravery and self-compassion.


Therapy has repeatedly served me well in times of transition. It is helping me sort out thoughts, process emotions, make sense of it all, and gain clarity around how I want the next phase to take shape.


The energy and enthusiasm is returning. In order to make room for what’s next, I needed to take stock, declutter, and let go of what was no longer useful.


Life routinely throws us off balance. There are countless ways to course correct and grow along the way.

For me, recommitting to a few simple habits has been empowering and invigorating:


  • Following my curiosity with more frequent library visits. In true book nerd fashion I am even more excited than usual when alerted by interlibrary loan request arrivals.

  • Daily writing on the walking treadmill. Loads of sh%$#y first drafts result in a handful of intriguing ideas.

  • Connecting with friends and enlarging my circle of brilliant colleagues. Leads to fascinating conversations that expand my perspective and generate endless possibilities.

  • Changing up how I exercise (lifting heavy weights) and getting consistent outdoor play. Never disappoints.

I am now free to devote time and attention to what I want to foster and grow—and I’m excited to report I’ve got some new projects brewing. More on that soon….


Times of transition and growth are messy, uncomfortable, and often difficult to recognize when we’re smack dab in the muck. If you’re in it, get help, be patient, and keep moving. There is much to be gleaned. Know that whichever phase of life you are in, there is another one right around the corner ready and waiting. It’s up to you how you recalibrate it.


I’m rooting for you,

Shonda


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