Health And Wellness

Cleaning Up My Messy Mind: How I Finally Took Control Of My Mental Health

Photo: Stock-Asso / Shutterstock
stressed woman

“Are you seeing anyone?” asked Deirdre, as we sipped wine and dipped fresh-baked bread into a paste of crushed tomato and olive oil. The band was between songs and, for the moment, she didn’t need to raise her voice to be heard.

“Nah,” I said, with a shrug and a faint smile, dismissing the very idea. I knocked back the last of my sauvignon blanc and stared ahead at nothing.

My friend would be moving out of state that weekend, and we had managed to find an evening when we were both free so that we could meet for dinner and say our goodbyes. We’d been there for half an hour at that point, and I’ll be damned if I can remember a single thing she’d said up to that point. It seems I’d been doing most of the talking.

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“You must be so busy,” I said, changing the subject. “Are you just cramming in all the packing and visits and work prep and everything?”

She nodded. “Yeah, it’ll be pretty much nonstop until I leave. I had dinner with my friend, Ellie, last night,” she began, and then paused, straightening up. “You know, come to think of it, Ellie’s a therapist,” she said. “I think you two might mesh together well.” A meaningful look and a pause.

“Yeah?” I shrugged. “Well, talk to her, if you want. See what she thinks. I’m fine, though. Really. I’ll be fine.”

The week before, my husband had been taken by ambulance to the emergency room for an anaphylactic reaction. He’d been tended to by emergency personnel on my living room floor as my children wailed, “I don’t want Daddy to die!” in my ear.

But I was fine.

The week before that, I’d been in a different ER with a postoperative infection, which I’d sustained two days before that during a procedure to remove tissue from a failed pregnancy — my second such operation in just a few months.

But I’d be fine.

I had two young children who, like many children, might desperately need each and every inch of my being at any given moment and without warning.

But I was okay.

I had abandoned my career — or at least that’s how it felt — just as I’d landed my dream job because it was such a burden on everyone else in my life.

But I would be alright.

I had no real sense of identity because every moment of my every day was spent serving everybody but myself.

I’d be fine, though.

I wasn’t against seeing a therapist. In fact, I routinely recommended therapy to friends struggling with mental health challenges. I’d even seen a couple of therapists myself. I just thought that I didn’t need one right now.

I worked myself through all life’s situations and setbacks; I had done so for my entire life. I was strong. I simply couldn’t see how talking about my feelings to another person was going to make me feel any better.

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When Ellie called me to set up an appointment, though, I broke out my calendar and wrote her in, thinking, Well, it couldn’t make things any worse.

A few days later, I ventured into the unknown of my mind for the first time in years.

I’m not even sure Ellie introduced herself before I started in, and I didn’t come up for air until the session had ended. I left the office exhausted — from sobbing and talking for a full fifty minutes without pause — and also with the certainty that I would be back the next week, and the one after that.

I didn’t really have a purpose or a goal in mind when I began working on all this, other than to just get the words and the thoughts and the feelings out of my head and into the air. But, half a year later, I’ve learned a surprising amount about myself, and I’ve been challenged to really rewrite the theory of mind that I unconsciously developed over the last several decades.

The journey to reclaim my mental health, and to form my own identity, starts here.

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Nikki Kay writes fiction, poetry, personal essays about parenting, mental illness, and the intersection of the two. Check out her column at Invisible Illness.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.