This month on Build Your Foundations, we will shift our focus from our Financials of Divorce Series and take this month to take a Mental Health Pause.
If you have been paying any attention to the Olympics or the world news in general, Simone Biles has been in the headlines in recent weeks because she has dropped out of several events due to mental health reasons. Many people are wondering why she is dropping out at this point in her career as a world-class athlete instead of just pressing through. Naomi Osaka also made headlines a few months ago when she withdrew from the French Open and skipped Wimbledon due to mental health reasons. You may have even seen Michael Phelps in the commercials for Talkspace, a company that provides online therapy while we have all been on lockdown during the Covid Pandemic. Mental health struggles are real and they are not just for world-class Olympians. Mental health struggles affect all of us.
Build Your Foundations is going to take this month to encourage our subscribers and clients to take a moment to pause, assess, and have moments of self-care and kindness to themselves. We believe firmly in the need to attune to our minds, bodies, and hearts in a holistic manner. For those of us who have spent any time working on our past traumas, you know that once you take the brave steps towards opening the door to uncovering, learning, understanding, and healing your past, there is no going back. There is no more shoving the thoughts and emotions back into what an acquaintance called “The Hurt Locker”, the place where all things one does not want to think about get compartmentalized into and be forgotten. But once you open the door to “The Hurt Locker” and start acknowledging the memories and thoughts you placed in there, the journey has begun. And sometimes, it doesn’t matter if you want to deal or not, your body tells you that things need to be dealt with and that the door to the Hurt Locker must be broken down.
Let’s be honest, from the moment we were born, most of us have been conditioned to ignore any pain, any hurt, any signal from our mind or body letting us know that something isn’t right. Even if you did not realize this was what was happening when you are told to behave, not to cry, not make a fuss, not bring up something which does not seem right, be easy going, and low maintenance, from early childhood, we have been told and conditioned that what we are feeling and what our spidey senses tell us just doesn’t seem right, should be ignored and let things be as they are.
I was listening to The Daily Podcast about Simone Biles the other day and realized that Simone in recent years was forced to open her own Hurt Locker, as she came to the realization that she was sexually abused by Larry Nassar. As soon as she opened the door, turned on the light to the Hurt Locker and spoke the words, and gave oxygen to the truth, her journey began. As the memories started to fill her mind and heart, as the acknowledgment of the Trauma was recognized, her entire life was turned upside down. In the podcast, they said that at the age of 6, Simone Biles just had an innate sense of where the ground was in relation to the air, and she was able to land flips in a manner most people are unable to due to not being able to recognize which way the ground was. In recent days, news has come out that she has not been able to rely on this sense and that she was having a hard time figuring out which way was up or down. They mentioned she was working with a special trainer to retrain her senses. Because she had placed all the bad memories in her hurt locker, now all the memories, good and bad, have flooded her mind and nothing seems as they were, and nothing seems clear like they once were.
MY PERSONAL JOURNEY
I wasn’t always this way. I thought I knew. I thought I understood mental health and needing the help of a therapist or a counselor. That therapy was needed but only for people who REALLY NEEDED help because they were way on the deep end and were basically crazy. One day several years ago, I realized that I was in the deep end myself. In a matter of a week, my aunt was hit by a van while walking and landed on her head leaving her brain dead and on life support and a few days later, the man I was dating at the time, who was going through his own divorce, the man I thought was the love of my life, in the middle of divorce mediation, decided to stay in his marriage and break up with me. In this week, I felt like my world had fallen apart. The grief I was feeling was deep and strong and seemingly never-ending. I’m not one to cry much but during this time, the tears would not stop. I cried all the time. I cried at my desk at work. I cried at home. I cried myself to sleep. I cried when I woke up.
I’m sharing this moment of my life because I was broken. I felt irretrievably broken and did not know what to do. I talked to a friend of mine who had started doing some trauma work and I asked her for some help and direction. I realized that I was grieving but I also realized that I was repeating some patterns in my life, and I had no control over why I was making these choices that were not serving me but I also knew that I would do everything I could in order to stop these cycles.
These two tragedies brought me to a point where I started to see a therapist for the first time in my life, at the age of 44. I’m not talking about Biblical counseling or a life coach nor was I meeting with a psychiatrist. My diagnosis was depression because I was working through some trauma that did not require medication, which a psychiatrist could prescribe. There are many who will benefit from the help of a psychiatrist and from medication.
For me, when I started my therapy journey, it brought me to a year of meeting with my therapist once a week and going on a deep journey into my past, I never knew I needed so desperately. I learned so much about myself and the traumas I had endured over the decades and never spent time reflecting and healing from them. In these sessions, I was finally able to recognize and name my traumas and start the healing journey. Part of the healing truly has been giving voice and validation to what I had experienced. Instead of being “low maintenance” about it, I was able to speak it and affirm that what I experienced was traumatic to me and helped shape me into the person I am today. And by acknowledging the trauma and working through them, I am now able to break some patterns in my life which have not been serving me positively in my life.
Though I have not experienced trauma with a capital T, such as sexual abuse, I have faced many traumas with a lowercase t over the years. I truly believe that every one of us has experienced trauma with a small t and some of us have experienced trauma with a capital T. No matter the trauma, we can only choose to ignore them for so long before the trauma finds a way to be acknowledged and healed. As much as our minds guard us against some of the memories, these traumas come out in different ways. Sometimes, it comes out in the patterns we repeat. Other times, our traumas want to get our attention and our bodies start to respond with various illnesses with the most common being autoimmune diseases.
For my clients who are considering or in the process of going through a divorce, they are in the middle of their own trauma. Part of the reason why I try and connect my clients with therapists as well as divorce coaches are that they each have a purpose. As we mentioned in our Divorce Coach series, a divorce coach helps the client in the present and helps them start looking towards the future. They help encourage you and help give you the endurance you need during the divorce process. A therapist on the other hand may be able to work with you as an individual or with you and your spouse, as a couple, to help work through some patterns which have not served the marriage or the individual positively. As mentioned earlier in my own story, I was repeating patterns in my own life that I could not explain. Working with a therapist helped me see why I was unconsciously choosing some of the patterns. Clients who are on the brink of divorce have come to set their own patterns as a couple and have also brought their own individual past traumas and unconscious patterns and now merging them into this union. When the individuals choose to pause and acknowledge that some of these patterns feel outside of their control, bringing a therapist in to help them work through these patterns and find the source cause, may help bring healing to the individual and to the couple.
Next week on Build Your Foundations, we will review the differences between trauma with a capital T and trauma with a lower case t. We hope you will join us and be a part of the conversation. If you would like to speak to someone or get connected with a therapist, who may be able to help guide you and open dialogue towards breaking patterns or acknowledging any trauma you may have faced, please reach out to us. We want to create a safe and inviting space for all who would like to take brave steps towards healing.