The Tired You Can't Shake12:00 PM
So this post is slightly off-topic, in that it mostly has to do with the fact I'm back in mental health counseling for what I suspect is post-traumatic stress disorder (or, at the very least, trauma.) But I wanted to talk about it here because I feel like physical health and mental health go hand-in-hand. Well, I know it does. I have a lot of experience in both of these areas.
Anyway, I came to the realization I needed to go back to therapy a few weeks ago. I'd been thinking about it for a while, but given that I'm a generally happy person and didn't feel as though I was being sucked into a soul-crushing abyss like I did when I had depression, I thought I didn't need it.
But around this time last year, I started having nightmares. An event came up in my life when I would be forced to see my abusive ex-boyfriend (easiest way to explain our complicated relationship), and he made a few attempts to contact me. And although I considered myself "over" the situation as much as one could be, and even though the event came and went without incident, the nightmares lingered, hovering over me all day and prodding me with guilty feelings and self-doubt. The particularly elaborate nightmares would also tie in an incident of harassment I experienced in college - a situation I never really came to terms with.
I have particularly vivid dreams, so in coming out of them, it would take a while to get my bearings. I thought I was still in my college dorm and that I'd be forced to face these people again. But I'd roll into my sleeping husband and nudge our dog at my feet and remember. "I'm 26 years old. I'm married. I graduated college four years ago. I have a job. I'm fine."
You'd think that would be enough to calm my nerves, but unfortunately, it really wasn't. The nightmares always filled me with a mix of emotions - the same ones I felt when these situations were happening to me. And as much as I tried to push these thoughts away, they'd stay.
I tried to keep this inside and downplay it as much as possible. Until one night, I burst into tears and told Andrew that I was too afraid to go to sleep.
With chronic pain and endometriosis, sleep has always been one of my few respites. Even before I knew what was wrong with me and crippling, blistering pain would shake my entire body, I could always find peace in sleep. Now, I woke up in pain and in distress. My fitful sleep was probably contributing to my worsening fatigue, which I'm currently undergoing tests to solve. (I'm pessimistic about my treatment options.)
Even still, I didn't think I needed therapy. For god's sake, these incidents happen six to eight years ago. I'm an adult. I'm married to a man I love. None of this should matter anymore, and yet, it did.
I think that I thought "growing up," and getting a job, and finding a husband would make everything that hurt me go away. Rather than learning to confront my feelings of abandonment, betrayal, self-doubt and everything in between, I simply buried them under introspective essays and lots of music. I confused my willingness to talk about the abuse I endured as coming to terms with what had happened. But as soon as I had to look my abuser in the eye or hear his name pass my friends' lips, my mind just completely shut down. And I returned to that place where every "what if" and "why didn't you" and "how could you, Tracy" swam around me.
As I continue to battle physical fatigue that fluctuates from "pretty bad" to "I'm not leaving my house today," my mental fatigue deserves its own treatment. I realized that I could never fully fight my physical symptoms, if my mind wasn't even at a place to do it. Regardless of how happy I am or how little I think about these incidents on a daily basis, the fact is that they're still there.
Even when I walked into my therapist's office, I felt stupid. I wasn't a college student anymore, and my doubt about my emotional maturity and ability to cope with life crept up. But I know in my heart that I should never doubt those aspects of myself. I know who I am. And honestly, it's a sign of "being a damn adult" that I booked a therapy appointment to begin with.
It's always been easy for me to admit to a doctor that I don't know what I'm doing and need help. But even though this is my third time talking with a therapist, I still had trouble finally throwing up my hands and passing the torch to someone who knows what they're doing. I even said to my therapist, "I'll do whatever you think is best. You're the professional."
So I guess I wanted to say all this because I know mental health is a tough thing to talk about. Even in writing this, I'm like, "Should I really publish this?" But why? If I'm so open talking about my physical health, why not my mental health?
And I know that conditions like endometriosis come with their own emotional burdens. And maybe my therapist will want to talk to me about those things I carry.
And I hope you know it's okay to admit that you feel defeated or sad or tired or worn to pieces by your disease. It doesn't make you less of a fighter. It doesn't invalidate all the times people told you that you're "inspiring" or "brave." You still are. And nothing can take that from you.
I'm still happy. I'm still competent. I'm still in love with my husband. I'm still a capable adult. I just have one more responsibility to manage.