This time last year, I was not well. I had spent the last 6 months in a depression, had started gaining weight, and had generally not been taking care of myself. Seeing my new therapist was promising, though we were still in the beginning stages of what I wanted to work on. I like to think of the first few months of therapy as like throwing balls of paint at a canvas and watching them explode. It’s messy, nothing looks like anything concrete, and the colors all bleed together. Having all of that stuff just out there can feel awful. But then, eventually, you somehow find a way to make sense of one of the paint splatters, then another, then another, until you can make something out of the mess. This can take months, years, or a lifetime.
For me, this process has taken two different approaches: the emotional, internal work, and the physical, external work. I began with the internal stuff. Since the issues I tend to deal with are a combination of depression and anxiety, I have to look at both and how they affect one another. One of the first things that helped me was reading a book called “The Highly Sensitive Person.” After first taking the little quiz to see if you might be a highly sensitive personality (and scoring a definitive, yes, yes this is exactly what you are) I immediately felt a sense of relief knowing that everything that I struggle with that makes me feel as if there is something wrong with me actually has a reason behind it.
This book was the first thing that sparked not only a sense of relief but something even better: acceptance. Being a Highly Sensitive Person does not mean that you are going to cry at the drop of a hat for no reason, or that people need to walk on eggshells around you, but that you react to social situations and certain stimuli in a different way than people who are not HSPs. For example, I used to wonder why I had such a difficult time letting people down. Even with something benign, like canceling casual plans would send me into a guilt spiral that the person on the other end would most likely feel. I beat myself up over this; wondering what was so wrong with me that I couldn’t do something that I see people doing everyday without the onslaught of self-deprecation. But now it made sense, it’s not that anything is wrong with me, it’s as simple as me perceiving the plans being cancelled as something that will make the other person upset with me, and it’s harder for me to let go of the idea that I may have hurt someone’s feelings than it might be for others. The realization and acceptance of being an HSP also made other things much clearer: why I jump at sudden noises (even ones that I make myself), why a sudden change in plans makes me incredibly anxious, why being late is the worst possible thing, and why too much stimulation overwhelms me.
Along with finding a sense of relief with identifying as a Highly Sensitive Person, I also decided to take responsibility for my own mental health. Instead of blaming the people and circumstances around me, I decided that nobody would be able to change anything for me except me. That sounds way too simple right? Yeah it kind of is. This is not to say that I don’t rely on certain things like medication and therapy (which I completed last month), but the majority of the work is on me. Just like I can’t blame anyone for my weight, I can’t blame anyone for my anxiety. It’s just simply who I am. What I can control is how I view myself, which in turn will help shape how I interact with others. One year after starting this process, I hardly recognize the person I was back then. It’s not to stay that I don’t still struggle with anxiety and depression, but now I have the tools to help myself out of it, and sometimes it is so reflexive that I hardly realize I’ve done any work.
The second part of my self healing deals with the physical, which I will write about in a separate post. Believe me, I don’t like reading super long blog posts either 😉