“A bit about me, I am well acquainted with mental health services, and the services in the community- I have helped numerous service members, veterans, and their loved ones gather the courage to seek mental health services. I have walked alongside many of my friends and family members through treatment. I have been their cheerleader when things get undoubtedly tough.
In my work and my personal life, I have coached a countless number of individuals through the Five Signs of Emotional Suffering and Healthy Habits of emotional well-being- I have explained over and over again each of the Five Signs and Healthy Habits. Agitation, Withdrawal, Poor self-care, Personality change, the feeling of hopelessness- any one of these signs or any combination of these signs can indicate that someone you know, someone you love, or you yourself, may be suffering or struggling emotionally. I taught all of these individuals the Healthy Habits- with confidence- Take Care, Engage, Check-in and get Check-ups, Relax and Reduce Stress, and know the Five Signs of Emotional Suffering.
I touted the importance of changing the conversation surrounding mental health and seeking mental health services. I advocated, I connected, I inspired, everyone else, but myself.
Mental Health has been an interest to me since as long as I can remember, I studied health services, psychology, social work, and was always drawn to working clinically- I learned about trauma- it fascinated me.
As a child, I was a victim of sexual assault at age 5. I don’t remember it, in fact, I don’t remember much of my childhood when I try to think back. I remember going to therapy, at school and outside of school. I remember doing play therapy with toys and showing therapists what had happened- but beyond that- I remember nothing. Photos- stories- memories shared with me from my childhood are hard to connect to- It doesn’t seem like I was really there, in that moment, living those experiences. It might be because I wasn’t- not mentally. The more I learned about the trauma the more I wanted to stay away from learning about this experience in my life. The more I wanted to push it aside like it never happened- just like my family did, my friends, the community, the school. It was never talked about- and that’s how I thought it should be.
Fast forward to high school- I was a freshman, dating a junior in high school. He was my first love and my first loss. We dated for over six years, I had it all planned, the wedding, when we would have kids, where we would live when we were old… all of it. Those plans- they didn’t play out. The first two years of that relationship amazing, and all the things they should have been, the last four, I was grasping, begging, holding on, and refusing to let go of what was already gone. When it was over, I was angry, upset, hurt, betrayed, I felt powerless, disappointed, abandoned, isolated, inadequate, worthless. If you would have asked me then I was just plain angry and I may have admitted I was sad.
In college, and after college I entered one bad relationship after another- I never even introduced them to my parents- because even I knew it would never work out.
Then I met this guy, he was charming and funny, and kind, and he fits this image that I had in my head of the “right guy”. I was convinced, once again, that this was going to work. I learned about him and his struggles, I was learning about vulnerability from Brene Brown and I thought that all the things he did were aligning to being vulnerable, open, loving, committed.
After a few months, I started to see some red flags. I started to notice he was acting different, secretive, and irritated. Of course, I blamed myself for all of that- and he started to blame me too. I knew what gaslighting was, and for those of you who don’t- to gaslight is to “manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.” I fell right into that trap, I started to question my actions, my intent, and worst of all my intuition. I fought, and I fought the only way I fight- hard. I couldn’t be the reason that another relationship failed. Through the tears, the pain, and anger, I fought- I showed up with a smile, I made myself little, and I bent until I fit the mold of what I thought he wanted.
After we broke up I told a few of my friends about the whole relationship and how I couldn’t figure out where I went wrong, and how I couldn’t understand what had happened. A few people blamed him- they told me it seemed like might be a psychopath-persistent antisocial behavior, impaired empathy and remorse, and bold, disinhibited, and egotistical traits. I scoffed. Some suggested he had sociopathic tendencies.
One of my friends said, “I dated someone like that once, and landed myself in therapy for four years”. I paused and said but I’m fine, I am living my life, I just don’t get why he did this, I just need to understand.” I pushed back, I didn’t need therapy, it was JUST a breakup. I would be fine. Besides, so many other people need therapy for experiences that were so much worse than what I went through.
She kept pushing. I finally caved, I went to www.giveanhour.org, clicked on “Get Help” as I had instructed so many people to do- and I found one. I called, he answered, I made an appointment.
I was driving to my first therapy appointment with this provider, thinking about how many other people with “real” problems I was taking this man away from, how it was totally normal, to feel the way I was feeling after a breakup.
My worth, my problems, they weren’t as important or as big in my eyes.
He cleared that up for me, two years of therapy and counting, I am learning every single day. I learned that the man I described truly displayed psychopathic and sociopathic tendencies, I learned that in his life, he learned to mimic others behaviors, emotions. I am an empath- the perfect target.
Almost every session, I wanted to know WHY, what did I do, how could I have been different? How could I have made this work? What I was doing was assigning blame- blame to myself because if it was something I could change, I could control it.
In therapy, I learned a lot, but most importantly I learned about my emotions, all of my emotions, how identify them, how sit with them, how to process them. This powerful, this gave me more power in my life than I had ever had. I never had this power because my brain did was it was supposed to do, and it protected me, and taught me incredible coping mechanisms to be successful, and healthy, and to be “happy”.
I was living my life bound coping mechanisms, I never knew this until I met my therapist. Getting past these coping mechanisms, understanding them, man, was that painful. I had to learn to sit with emotions, my feelings, and to process them. It was not easy, but every appointment, I showed up.
As a child, I repressed emotions, this impacted my future relationships.
I avoided conflict, I projected, I compensated, I rationalized every. single. thing.
In therapy, I learned I didn’t have to do all of that, I could trust intuition, I could trust my instincts, I could love, I could be happy, I could feel emotion, I could process emotion, and I could change my life. I did just that, I work every day to delve deeper into the power of therapy with the guidance of my therapist and my own research.
I have Give an Hour and a few of my very persistent friends to thank for that. I can’t thank them enough.” – Give an Hour Client, Colorado