Generally, around this time of year, I write out my reflections and reminisce on all the good that came my way. I’m not going to lie; writing out this post has been a bit of a struggle for me. When I look back on the past 12 months, I am shrouded with disappointment. I wish I could pinpoint the exact reason for feeling this way. The frustration lies with others, our society, and (surprise!) myself. My anxiety has been through the washer many times this year, and the frays are starting to unravel.

2020 has been challenging, and my mental health has been slowly deteriorating. I’ve been withdrawing due to having zero energy to be social, even over video calls. It’s been difficult, it’s been intense, and that’s OK. So many others have gone through significant losses this year: the loss of family, loss of friends, loss of jobs, loss of oneself. We cannot deny the surge of grievance that has presented itself, and we need to appreciate that everyone deals with things differently. Please be understanding if others aren’t present right now, there’s so much that we don’t discuss online, and withdrawals are just a way to recharge. Please keep checking in on those you care about; it will make all the difference in the world in the long run.

All aspects of society have been hit by this pandemic somehow, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and now causing lockdown burnout. It’s hard not to be angry right now; we’re just about to start another lockdown, thanks to those who believe they’re superior to the pandemic. The condescending tones regarding wearing a mask, refusal to keep 6 feet apart and continuous parties over the maximum allowance of individuals… It’s enough to drive one mad. It’s not cute to deny what’s happening because it’s inconvenient for you or doesn’t fit your lifestyle. My perception of many people (including some that I considered ‘friends’) has drastically changed forever. Unfortunately, it took a pandemic to open up my eyes, but I am thankful on some level.

I was still considered on Maternity leave up till the end of June. When I initially booked off my 12-month leave, I was ecstatic to have a full summer with my daughter, galivanting around. I had a lot of activities and visits planned, but none of them came to fruition. We tried to make the best of the situation, but it wasn’t the same. Trying to navigate this pandemic landscape with a toddler is frustrating because you cannot communicate with one another. I feel as if my first summer off was robbed and that my daughter is not getting the social aspects she needs for development. I wish I knew how to fix this, but I don’t think I can. This has caused me to overthink (a LOT), which has not been helpful.
When I went back to work, I was excited to get my old routine/schedule, but even those normalcies didn’t tend to my anxieties. It was challenging to find my groove again in the corporate world, and there were some days where I ended up crying. Even though I was working from home and close to my daughter as I could be, I was still disconnected. It took a month to get back into the swing of things, and I’m still trying to balance my home and work life – which is quite trying when you’re under one roof for all.

My usual stress relievers/coping strategies have been unattainable. I’m not a huge social butterfly, but I enjoy going to a local coffee shop to people watch or have the option. When things seem to be too much, I run to the gym to lash it out for an hour on several machines. Having these removed from my life doesn’t seem like it would cause a huge difference, but it does feel like my issues are worsening because of it. I think the key here is to have a routine and stick to it. I’ve fallen off my wagon a couple of times, and it’s hard to find the motivation to stick to a routine when the only person seeing results is you. Remember that it’s OK, and try to jump back on when you can. After all, we’re trying to get better for ourselves and not others.

During all of this, my husband was still waiting to hear back from the film industry when he could officially start again. It didn’t happen until October, meaning that he was unemployed from August 2019 till October 2020. It caused a severe strain on our finances and relationship – I still tear up just thinking of how much stress we were both under during this unprecedented time. On the one hand, I was elated to have a full-time Dad during my daughter’s milestone year. On the other hand, both of us were going through the motions, not communicating and not fully present. There’s so much more that I want to say on this subject, but I’m going to end it with one thought: If the both of you continue to show up/be present, no matter what was done or said, that’s unconditional love. Unconditional love is bittersweet to me; the last time I ever honestly had that in my life was with my adoptive mother, who passed on in 1998. It’s nice to have that feeling back regardless of the stressors that come with it. It’s hard to fight for a relationship when it’s just one person putting in all the effort; I feel thankful that he was willing to fight for us, too.

With this prolonged quarantine, I’m not surprised that it’s affected me both physically and mentally. Knowing that I tend to hibernate come winter, I decided to be proactive and start therapy once again. It’s been a slow crawl, but I think I have some pretty tangible and attainable goals. Even though I’ve been in therapy multiple times before, I’m still going and treating it like a ‘booster shot.’ I know that my feelings of disappointment can and will dissipate, but it’s been taking too long to do it myself. 

So, this year has come and gone, and what do I have to show for it?

Not much, aside from a sassy daughter who is keeping me on my toes, and that’s OK.

Not every year can be great, and I feel that everyone has been through the wringer more than once this year. Nothing is normal about what we’re going through right now, and I don’t think that we will ever get back to where we were before this all happened. I, for one, accept and welcome this.

If we could stop for one moment during this holiday time and be thankful for the little things, I think that could give us the glimmer of hope that we all need to continue to 2021. I am grateful for the roof over my head, the food in my belly, and the copious amounts of coffee that gets me through the day.

What are you thankful for?

I remember my first group therapy session quite well. It was more of a social gathering at a local community centre with other families who lost an immediate family member. They split us into two groups; all the adults went to a separate room while the ‘kids’ stayed behind. I say ‘kids’ because there was no specific age range, I was roughly twelve years old at the time, yet there were both older and younger people surrounding me.
We all gathered in a circle, and each took turns speaking about our loved ones. The thought of me talking in front of strangers was making me anxious. Still, as we went through the different stories, my anxiety lessened. Knowing that others went through something similar seemed to make my grief manageable. When it came time for me to speak, I wasn’t as ‘squeaky’ as I usually was in situations – I still cried as I reminisced about my mother, but it was a lot softer than usual.

I made a friend that day, who turned out to be so much more. Her name was Jennifer, and she lost her father. We were able to talk openly, and it was welcomed. I was still unable to open up to my adoptive father fully. Little to our surprise, both of our parents hit it off and started dating. When that relationship failed, we lost contact almost immediately. It was a hard blow, especially since I was beginning to consider her like a sister and I never fully understood what happened. Of course, thanks to social media, we recently reconnected, and it was if we never stopped talking. I can’t wait for her to meet my little one once we’re out of this pandemic.

When I look back on the group therapy sessions, she’s the first thing that comes to mind. Of course, the therapy aspect was helpful, but finding someone else who was going through the same thing was priceless.

I’m honoured to say that over the last few weeks, I’ve partnered with Pay What You Can Group Therapy.
Their mission is almost identical to mine, to support others seeking mental health care. The concept is simple – it’s free group therapy that is monitored by licensed professionals. If you enjoyed and/or found value in any of the sessions, they ask you pay what you can!
It’s been a pleasure working with the team, and I hope that you all can take advantage of FREE group therapy starting tonight, July 21st.

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of a nut when it comes to relationship advice columns. I follow a bunch of marital groups on Facebook that share marriage memes that I always relate to and always find articles online that I love reading. Sometimes I stumble across a pickle that people find themselves in, and they go to the internet for advice. The comments are usually filled with two solutions: Break up or go to couples therapy. The issue that I’ve noticed emerging from these posts is one thing: everyone generally waits for a crisis before thinking of getting any sort of help.

As you all know, I’m a huge believer in therapy. I’m not ashamed to admit that my husband and I did seek out advice from a therapist years ago when our communication was severely lacking. We didn’t wait for a life-altering issue to arise before we sought out help, and I believe that us going early was the best decision.

When I discuss this with others, they generally acknowledge how their therapy had a low satisfaction rate (as it does typically in today’s society). However, when I ask how long they waited to seek out help, I would get an average of 3-4 YEARS.

Waiting that long before seeking out help is very detrimental for everyone involved. The foundation that you both built together could already have collapsed, making the advice of breaking up the only sound reason for both of you. (There are exceptions to the rule but trust me when I say issues would be a LOT harder to fix the more you draw it out)

When you’re struggling with the same problems over and over again with your partner, don’t wait for something “bigger” to come along to necessitate a visit to a therapist. The sooner you can get in to talk and communicate about what’s happening, the easier it would be for not only you but the therapist as well. I can understand the reason why people feel shame opening up to a stranger, I’ve crossed that path numerous times before. It’s not easy to communicate what’s going on with you when you can’t even divulge this information to your partner. What you need to realize is that this issue is not just yours alone. Many struggle with this and I am confident that people who are close to you can confirm the same thing.

Admitting that there is an issue that needs to be addressed is an excellent first step. Seeking out a trained coupled therapist should be your second if you feel that both of you cannot communicate what you are feeling or unsure of where your relationship is going. Don’t feel too proud or ashamed, therapists are here to support us and not judge. When my husband and I finished up our sessions, I felt elated and back on track from a derailment I didn’t even notice.

Think of therapy as a booster shot, it may sting at first, but it’s needed for growth!