I've been in therapy (off and on) for nearly three decades. Depression and anxiety run in the family, so my grandmother — the woman I spent most of my time with — proactively put me on the path to mental wellness. I understood the role therapy would play in my life, and how it might be harder for me to cope with basic life things thanks to omnipresent roadblocks. When I'm actively involved, it doesn't always feel like I'm making progress, but there are definitive ways going to therapy has benefited my toddler, whether I realized it at the time or not.
The last round of intensive therapy sessions, I had a near 3 and 8 year old. I worked part-time at a running store, was a full-time writer, I was training for a marathon, and my marriage had experienced some bumps (as it had often over the years). I was severely stressed out, and knew it, but continued pushing through the barriers. It's what I've always done, however ineffective. I'm the type of person who thrives on being busy, even to my detriment, so while I didn't realize the damage I was causing my emotional state, it soon became clear I'd have to dive back into therapy (and soon).
In the summer of 2014, I had an actual breakdown and, honestly, the therapeutic journey this time around was different than all the others. I wasn't preventing a slip, I was inside of it. With a small support system in place, I made great progress through Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), group therapy, and a slew of techniques I practiced. One therapist at the time (I had several) even offered me a worry stone to rub instead of my bare knuckles (something I'd been doing as an obsessive compulsive disorder tic). It seemed like that time, more than others, I was on the right path to feeling alright and on the path to becoming the person my grandmother always believed me to be.
Then, just as I felt on top of the world with my mental health, my grandmother died. I'd like to say therapy helped me through that grieving period but, at the time, it didn't. Seemingly all I'd learned disappeared into a well of sadness, and I wondered if I'd ever find it again. It took some time after she passed, but with my kids looking to me with these big, doe eyes full of hope, I remember all the lessons I learned through those different therapists, channeling them when dealing with my kids and particularly my toddler. Here are some of the ways therapy is essential to parenting, and really, in being alive.