Today I went to my therapist for my third session. I have had difficulty managing my depression and I knew that there were some underlying issues that could be improved by addressing them with a professional. Our initial visit involved my therapist getting to know me a little bit, so that she could get a picture of my life and get a better idea of how to help me. The main thing I took away from our first session was that I was doing better than I thought I was, and although I am not able to get all the things done that I WANT to do, I’m getting the things done that I NEED to do, and I needed to recognize the value in that. She asked me to focus on what was getting done versus what was not getting done. In other words, change to a glass-half-full perspective. It sounds pretty simple, right? But to a person with depression, it is easier said than done. So this was an important task for me to work on (and “thinking positive” isn’t going to cure all my problems, this is simply a place for us to start working on things).
Today we discussed how throughout my life I have sought out affirmation and validation from external sources. We reviewed my emotional needs and environment chronologically through my childhood to adulthood. We got through the years until right before college. The more that I talked, the more that I realized where my personal validation was coming from. It often came from achievement, in one form or another. Especially with another person being able to compliment me on my achievement; even on things that weren’t really “achievements,” such as my weight, how I looked, and how “cool” I was. It seemed to me that the most powerful form of validation was related to academics and talents, from school to sports and art. I felt so important and special when I would be recognized for these things. It seemed like the one time in my emotional world that things were always good and happy, even though there were frustrating parts in the learning process at times. In the end, I always came out victorious in one way or another. I was never the best at anything, but I knew I was good. And I knew I excelled in certain areas. And no one could take that away from me no matter what happened. There was often pressure on me, both external and internal, to achieve. Sometimes it felt like this pressure was a burden, but often it drove me more to excel.
As I left the session, I made the connection that in my current stage of life, I am not “achieving” very much right now. I know my role as a mother is important, but there really is no way to measure how good of a job you are doing or to have anyone recognize your efforts. Children are clueless about everything goes into the everyday tasks, organizing, and upkeep of a home in the physical, financial, and emotional sense. It’s complicated. And children are (usually) shielded from that. They have a mental freedom that I wish I could have back. There are stumbling blocks in the grown up world, and they are frequent. That is where sometimes I fell like I can’t or don’t want to get up after stumbling, because there isn’t a lot of motivation for me to continue on. What am I achieving? What is there for me to feel good about? It isn’t as tangible as the sources I was used to. Feeling accomplished drives me. Even if I do accomplish things that are important or difficult, there isn’t the same type of feedback that you would receive in a traditional job, school, or other environment. And I feel that I need that. I know I can’t depend on it, but that is where I am right now: wanting that, searching for that, and not really finding it. That makes me feel deflated and disappointed most days. It is difficult to overcome those feelings. I really hope that the more sessions I have with my therapist, the more we can find ways for me to work through this and find a balance that is right for me. Overall, I’m feeling hopeful. And feeling hopeful is really great.