“What you allow is what will continue!”
This was the one life changing piece of advice I got the very first time I met my counselor.
I still remember all the shocked looks and eye-rolling I got from my family and friends when I mentioned about seeing a therapist. Apparently most of them had this notion that I must be suffering from some kind of severe mental health or sexual or marriage problem or disease.
Honestly, even in today’s modern times that’s the stigma associated with counselling and therapy.
Anyway I totally stand to differ from this skewed view.
Seeking therapy has helped me find myself and it has really made me a better mother, wife, sister and friend.
Before I go back to my story let me introduce myself. I am a 36 year old woman, wife of the most amazing man and mother of the most wonderful kid on earth. My son Jonathan, is 6 and I have been married for the past 9 years. Before being a Mom, I used to work full-time at a major bank and currently I work from home, blogging and trying my hand with arts and crafts.
I love waking up every morning to a house that is neatly kept, and take note without the help of a maid. Yes, I just love my privacy - dearly.
I do most of the cooking while Mark, my husband, helps Jo with his school work and teach him a thing or two about tools and gadgets and video games too.
Mark works with his nerdy buddy, Matthew, at their own, self-made IT company. He helps me around the house in his free time. Cleaning, fixing stuff and he works out in the garage. And when he is done with all that I keep him really busy. Well he needs to do a lot of work on this big girl's big appetite - you know what I mean right.
You must be thinking that my life must be great and that I should be grateful for all my blessings. Well, most of the days I am. I really do pray “touchwood” for it all to last.
Still sometimes in life we all come across hardships and difficulties that we really have no clue as how to handle or avoid or bear.
And some days you just tend to overlook all your blessings and be so preoccupied with a certain emotional pain that just blurs everything else in your life.
It was one of those days.
I've been awake for over an hour now and I know I should be heading to the kitchen to prepare breakfast but here I am fighting with the demons in my head.
I feel like I have done something awfully wrong and these feelings of guilt keep washing over me. My chest feels so constricted and heavy and I don’t feel like talking to anybody.
Yet I don’t want to be alone either.
I just heard the toilet flush – Mark must have woken up and I am still sitting here in the living room – I better run and start fixing breakfast or he might get suspicious and start asking unnecessary questions.
Seriously he wouldn’t have a clue as to what I am going through – no, he wouldn’t understand.
“Morning, honey” he hugs me from behind while I am trying hard not to let him notice how jumpy I really am.
“Morning honey” with a quick peck on his cheek I quickly dart towards the fridge keeping myself busy making….now what was I making for breakfast?? Oh yes! Pancakes.
As I laid the ingredients on the worktable he guessed “Hmmm pancakes, Jo's going to love it” I could feel him looking at me and I just hate it when he tries to see right through me. He knows I'm ignoring him.
He said “I’ll go get Jo ready”. He walked away calling out “Wake up sleepy head - it’s time to get ready for school!”.
I made myself busy whipping pancake batter from my family’s ancient book of Recipes. Brings back a lot of fond childhood memories, everytime.
Sadly though, now it comes along with the not so pleasant recent ones too. In fact at this very instant I am fighting my urge to check up on my family’s Whatsapp group messages.
I know I'm feeling guilty and panicky and frustrated because of them messages. I know it for sure because when I'm feeling this way, I keep dropping utensils. I feel anxious and I can feel hot tears streaming down my face and no I am not chopping onions.
I just want to stop cooking and run to the bathroom and hide in there and cry out to my heart’s content. But no – my child and husband needs to be fed and maybe when they have left for school and work, I can sit down alone and cry it out while my cup of tea keeps me company.
I felt tiny loving hands tug my clothes “Morning Mama” hugs from behind.
“Morning my baby” I hugged him back.
“I can smell Yummy pancakes Mama” said Jo, licking his lips.
I told myself to smile and act happy at least for my child’s sake.
“Yes, your favorite!” I smiled and said in my most forced cheerful intonation “And we better hurry or you might be late for school”.
Jo got seated and started jabbering away about school, friends, cousins and cartoon shows.
I went into my robot-mode-autopilot; stacking pancakes, syrup bottle on the table, milk glasses, sanitizing and filling up Jo’s water bottle, pack lunch boxes, fix Mark’s coffee and toast.
I needed to check-up on my husband - he needs me while getting ready and so I help him find his socks, select a tie and finally make the beds.
Everyone’s had breakfast and looks happy.
Smack-smack-bye-bye-I love you- it's routine for both of them.
I waved with a kiss "See you soon guys".
I am standing at the doorway watching the car engine revs up and leave the driveway.
Turning my Robot-mode off, I let out a huge sigh as I welcome back my sorry and miserable self.
I rush inside the house and before the door gets closed behind me I burst into tears. I sat on the floor leaning against the sofa and wept and wept and wept.
All the while my family group messages kept flicking through my mind.
Family members conversing with each other while deliberately ignoring some of us. Posting loads of spiteful passive aggressive shares and quotes which can be quite overwhelming.
Heavy elephants hanging over our heads that no one wants to address – and I just wonder if it’s just me feeling this way. I mean am I being too sensitive? I come from a big extended family of cousins, aunts, uncles and In-laws. The whole crazy bunch practically lives in the whatsapp group.
When I felt like all my tears had run dry, I picked up my purse and pulled out my mobile phone to fix an appointment with my therapist.
He made me find my own answers to what was really going on. Like as if I was an outsider looking in.
I was looking at myself like you do in your dreams; a pathetic picture of a weeping willow.
Or it's like me seeing myself in a video clip; a wounded and bleeding warrior princess still fighting a causeless and useless battle.
Still that wasn't enough to help me out of this misery. I needed more than that - I needed solutions.
I know from experience that talking about my feelings, with my family, would obviously make things worse.
Everyone would either deny or act innocent and eventually I would be labeled the problem or the drama queen of the family.
I am so glad I did the right thing by going for counselling and therapy - it’s given me insights about understanding myself and especially those around me.
What's more I need to stop blaming myself for other people's actions. That I can not control what people say and do and that the only realistic thing that I can do is to create a healthy boundary.
So after the therapy session I went to my favourite coffee cafe' and sat there alone looking at the vast ocean. I gave much thought about what was really happening and how I could set a boundary to stop this toxic cycle that was destroying my peace of mind.
I wrote down a few pointers. Drafted a note to post it in the family group.
I have come to believe that being an active (passive most of the time) participant of this group has become quite detrimental for my peace of mind.
In truth I feel there is an awful lot of unwarranted covert aggressiveness going on in this group by posting stuff that is neither respectful nor kind.
In fact in a group of many individuals such ambiguous posts can be directed at just anybody. And in all honesty it can provoke quite a hurtful response, I am sure most of you would agree.
My intention is not to change anyone’s mind but I am a person who strongly supports the notion that a kind, positive, peaceful and harmonious life is always a happier life.
Moreover I would also like you all to know that I love you all as family and that I can always be reached at my number for chats.
Wishing you all the best in life.
Bowing out gracefully.
Leave and delete.
Left the group.
Aaaaaaaah! Gosh! That felt good.
I felt like I had wings and that I was flying all the way up into the noon sun.
I felt a huge burden off my chest.
I breathed a long sigh of relief and ordered one more coffee with a couple of choc-covered donuts.
When it was almost time Jo got back from school, I called Mark at work.
He sounded busy "Hey Shalom baby I was just gonna call you, can you go get Jo - am a bit tied up in here!"
I said "Sure babe - save some energy for tonight ok coz we've got work to do!"
"Luv ya" I heard his chuckle as he hung up.
As I stepped out into the warm sunshine I was smiling.
I thanked my lucky stars and my therapist for helping me bide through this painful experience.
If I had not seeked help I doubt if I would have been able to handle it myself.
What I am most thankful about it all is how it had helped save confusion and heartache in my marriage and family life.
All the best!