Along with exercise, healthy eating, trendy charcoal face masks, monthly pedicures, and nightly book reading, this therapy helped me take care of myself. It helped me take care of my kids better.
“…I believe functional parenting is the secret to world peace. And the only way to make functional parents is to heal psychological wounds with the same urgency we heal physical wounds.” — Excerpt from The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships by Neil Strauss
I always thought I was just a moody woman. Dark. Difficult. The perfect combination of my stinging astrological sign (Scorpio), my New York upbringing, and my Italian blood. I thought I was high strung, high octane, and tightly wound because I have a Type-A personality. I’m ambitious and a go-getter.
I also thought I liked space and keeping my distance from my partner, friends, family members and even my kids, because I am a product of divorce. I’ve been called “cold” and “aloof” and my personal favorite, “The Ice Queen.”
I believed in all of these old worn out tropes because that’s what got fed to me. People who’ve never felt a goddamn thing in their life other than mundane nothingness had the nerve to dish out their old antiquated advice to me. They told me what was “normal,” and what wasn’t. What was “bad” for me and what was “good” for me. They spoke in platitudes to me, not authenticity. I hung on their every word because that’s all I had.
Until I saw it was all bullshit. Until the anger and the restlessness boiled over so much that it was obvious. Relentless. Destructive. I would get irrationally enraged when a person cut me off in the Starbucks line. HOW DARE YOU GET YOUR LATTE BEFORE ME? I would become a rage monster when a driver didn’t use their blinker. I CAN’T READ MINDS ASSHOLE, GIVE ME THE GODDAMN SIGNAL FOR CHIRSTSAKES. I still hate both, but I don’t see red when it happens.
I couldn’t even take criticism or entertain opinions about my work, which is kind of necessary considering I’m a writer and the whole point of writing is so that people discuss and debate your work. I almost blew a huge career opportunity because I wouldn’t shut my mouth.
I couldn’t connect with my kids in a meaningful way. I would blow up at them over the most benign stuff. I could feel my emotions go from zero to 100 and I would unleash mercilessly. And then I felt shame. And guilt. And it all piled on. I couldn’t regulate my emotions and it felt really out of control.
For the record, I hate therapy. Or, rather, I did hate therapy. My whole life I discounted the validity of it because I thought it was so predictable. Oh, what, we’re going to talk about my childhood now huh? HOW ORIGINAL. Can we not do the childhood bullshit, please? Oh you want to talk about my parent’s divorce…SHOCKER.
I thought I was so above it. So evolved. After all, hadn’t I gotten over all that? I was a functioning adult and had moved on years ago, or so I thought. Turns out, “functioning” doesn’t mean shit. It means you’re still fucked up, but you hide it better than others.
Then there’s the whole societal stigma attached to mental health. Which is ridiculous and just needs to die forever because our minds are just like any other organ in our body we’d take care of.
So after a rather emotional, one-week-booze-bender that ended with my husband pouring bottles of champagne and vodka down the kitchen sink, I put my pride aside and made a call to a therapist. She was recommended to me by a friend. The second I got on the phone, my ego melted and I felt vulnerable. Which was awful and uncomfortable, but also super humbling.
I was lucky enough to really connect with my therapist in the first session. She was the therapist I probably needed in my childhood. I would’ve loved her as an angst-filled teenager.
Immediately, our sessions became part of my self-care routine. Along with exercise, healthy eating, trendy charcoal face masks, monthly pedicures, and nightly book reading, this therapy helped me take care of myself. It helped me take care of my kids better.
I won’t lie, wine is still part of my self-care and helps me sometimes deal with the most Mondayest Mondays ever. You know those ones. Where nothing goes right and your kids ask for snacks five effing thousand times a day and their homework is in some foreign math language and you don’t have any groceries because there was no time to go in between the doctor’s appointments and soccer practices…so, wine. Bleh. I KNOW THAT IS SUCH A CLICHE MOM-LIKE THING TO SAY.
The problem in my hurricane mom days was the wine I clung to as a cultural cliche was actually numbing everything I felt and making me avoid therapy all together. I had no forethought. This is why the “boozy mom” and “mommy needs her wine” and “wine o’clock” jokes are no longer funny to me.
I’m happy to report that with my newfound therapy-induced clarity, my alcohol consumption has dropped. It’s still a part of my life though, I won’t lie about it. So is mint chocolate chip ice cream. And binge-watching Netflix.
Everyone does self-care differently, I just never thought therapy would be part of my routine. I often feel like my trauma is woefully inadequate compared to some of the other people in my life and compared to the people I read books about and see on TV.
But I have to remember that a person doesn’t need to have severe trauma to go to therapy and become a better human, parent, spouse, sibling, or friend. And it’s not just a single traumatic event that can break a person down. It can be a series of little traumas, repeatedly.
The worst part is you pass your traumas onto your kids. It’s inevitable. Unless you get help.
I was no longer willing to hurt my kids and keep them in a trauma cycle. I couldn’t keep immersing myself in my work, or housework, or booze, or whatever I used to keep myself distanced or distracted from them—it needed to end. Some people use other things like shopping, sex, drugs, whatever. You can literally make anything an addiction, amirite? But, once I realized that my kids were the key to filling myself back up, and I to them, the effort to connect came naturally, beautifully, and hopefully…not too late.
I always worry about that. Was I too late? Did I mess them up irreversibly? I can’t know the future, all I can know is that I’m taking care of myself and them now. And I’m trying now. I won’t ever stop trying.
Sarah Hosseini is an introverted urbanite hiding out in the suburbs, wondering where is everybody? But, secretly hoping no one comes out of their house to talk to her. Her work has been featured in Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Huffington Post, Scary Mommy and many more. She lives in Atlanta-ish with her kids and husband. Sarah blogs regularly on her site. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
This originally appeared on SarahHosseini.com. Republished here with permission.