To The People Who Love Me,
This is a tough one to write. This one stirs up a lot for me as the writer and I’m sure for you as the reader. But that’s okay, I’m here to be honest, to speak my truth even when it’s hard to do so.
To the people who love me, I love you too. I’m grateful for you. Sometimes, I’m unable to love you like you need me to. Other times, you fall short, or at least I perceive you to be falling short. Sometimes I’m left feeling disappointed/confused/angry. I’m sure you’ve felt the same way. I hope we are able to find some peace, together.
So, who is to blame? That’s the question I’ve found myself circling for far too long. Who is at fault for how I feel? Am I at fault for how you feel? Are you enough for me? Am I enough for you? Am I doing enough? Are all of my bases covered? More importantly, have I covered all of your bases for you?
If I feel like I’m drowning with no relief in sight, should I tell you that I can’t be what you need me to be because I’m not even meeting my own expectations?
So much of my identity is wrapped up in being the “strong” one. The one who keeps her shit together in the face of adversity. It’s funny because I work in the mental health field and for so long my idea of strength meant just “pushing through”. I was rudely awakened a few years ago when “pushing through” wasn’t an option anymore. After dad passed away, I should have allowed myself to be HUMAN. I should have put myself and my needs first. Instead, I ran. I booked it. Then when I stopped running, I decided to take care of everyone else, which is still running, by the way.
Lots more happened after that, but ultimately, the loss of dad is what broke me into a million pieces. I’m not sure I’ve ever told any of you that so bluntly, but it destroyed me. My identity, my vision for the future, my goals- all of it came crashing down and I found myself in the midst of a storm that I couldn’t just “push through”.
A part of me felt like I had to take on the role that he left behind. The role of the lover, the caretaker, the friend, the one who does what is asked. I felt a huge void in my life and I didn’t want people to feel that same, unbearable loss. But again, we are HUMAN. We needed to feel that. I needed to acknowledge the pain. I wish I would have told you then what I’m telling you now.
I wish I would have told myself, and you, that it’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to feel broken, lost, scared, alone, hopeless, whatever. I wish I would have given myself, and you, some grace. Part of me thought that if I’m handling it all, why is everyone and everything falling apart around me?
This was a HUGE turning point for me. I’m not in control of anything or anyone but myself. Before this realization, I started to look at being there for people as a chore, which made me question who I was even more. I started to feel like I had some sort of duty to be everything to everyone and it became unbearable. I felt this way for a long time and it did nothing but deplete every last bit of “strength” that I had. This caused me to lash out and push people away. The words “I’m fine”, “It’s not that bad”, “I can do it, no problem” became part of my everyday vocabulary. Down and down I fell.
Fast forward, I’m finding my balance (if anyone figures out a perfect way to balance the everyday demands of life, hit me up). Taking time to work on what I can control helped me realize that I can still be present for others while keeping my sanity. I can still make my dad and myself proud even if I establish boundaries and acknowledge my limitations. I can tell people that I’m hurting, that I’m depressed, anxious, and wanting to crawl into a hole.
So, to the people who love me, I love being here for you. I admire your ability to reach out for guidance- I really wish I would have done that sooner. Maybe I wouldn’t have spiraled like I did, but that’s a conversation for another day. If I seem different or less interested, I’m not. I’m just putting myself first. I’m learning to love myself just as I am. I’m giving myself pep talks in the morning and reframing my thoughts as often as possible. I’m putting on my own oxygen mask first. I suggest you all do the same.
Lastly, THANK YOU. Thank you to the ones who have been my rock through the shit show that is my life. Thank you a million times over to those who have shown me what true patience and love is. I hope we can continue to share in this journey together. I hope we can continue to build each other up by nurturing healthy, balanced relationships. I deserve it and so do you.
All my love and appreciation,
To the People Who Love Me,
There’s no way to not make this sound totally “emo”, but, truth be told, I don’t quite know what you think of me or how many of you truly know me except for maybe five of you. And for the five of you, I am so incredibly grateful for you- there are no words that will ever be able to express how thankful I am for your existence, nor can I imagine what I would do without you. You SEE me, and, for that, I will be forever changed for the better.
To be fair to the rest of you, I haven’t exactly been completely honest or let you in. And to be fair to me, I’ve only just recently begun understanding the larger pieces of myself. It’s been quite a journey.
I either feel everything or nothing. I either fear you will betray/leave me or that we were meant for eachother. I either want nothing to do with you or everything to do with you. It’s not always like this, but sometimes it is. And I know it’s a lot to handle.
To my family, I think you see me as an artist, creative, kind, and (hopefully) dedicated to our family. I think you see me as both shy and daring at the same time. I think you see me as educated, even a little intimidating. I think sometimes you don’t quite know what to do with me. And who can blame you? I have a masters degree and an upper management position, yet also have half my head shaved, the other half dyed bright red, a tattoo, blue eye make-up, and punk-goth garb. I can’t blame you if you’re a little confused.
It’s been a long learning experience trying to understand how I came to be me through you. On one side, silence and stuffing things down and punishing by talking behind each other’s backs is all you know. Maybe even a perceived sign of strength, especially through the hard winters and wilderness. And yet, this strength resulted in so many undiagnosed family members whose lack of knowledge trickled down and down until it found me. On the other side, the immigrant-mentality of hard-work and self-sacrifice is all you know. It’s a cherished value and how you show love for our family. And yet, this also breeds with it repressed trauma and deeply-seated anxiety that went against our cultural values.
I’ve been understanding more and more about us lately and seeing how your behaviors and your beliefs were molded into you and trickled down over the generations. It’s the double-edged sword of being a social worker- we can’t unknow what we know, even when we just want to be ignorant humans who know nothing about generational trauma and familial mental health trends.
To my friends, you see a whole other side of me. You see both grit and gore. Grit in what I do and maybe some of the risks I’ve taken, gore in my constant cursing and chaotic, clumsy boats of “insanity”. I think you see a world of insecurity and neediness. I think you sometimes see selfishness or flakiness. I think you also see beauty that I often don’t.
I know I’ve gone from one extreme to another with you. You see my whiplash shifts, just usually in text form. I’ve gone through many friends in my life, usually freezing out people who bring up even the smallest degree of conflict. I don’t know how to deal with it. I don’t want to deal with it- I get so anxious that panic attacks often ensue.
So I let go.
And I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt you. I’m learning how to-- NOPE, that’s a lie-- I want to learn how to better tolerate disagreement or conflict. And that it does NOT always mean that someone will leave me. There, I said it.
I don’t have the same neurological chemical ratio that some of you do. I can’t go into my head with happy thoughts and make them all go away. I’ve learned that mixing alcohol messes with my meds and makes me go into a psychotic delirium, and that’s why I’ve blacked out in the past. I know I’ve concerned, if not scared- or even frustrated- you for it. I scare and frustrate myself too sometimes. Know that I don’t choose to put myself in danger or choose to get hurt. It’s called mania, and what you’re seeing is a manic episode.
Look it up. Really. It’s real. It’s not made-up.
I encourage you to also look up the reactions of trauma. Look up why survivors remain silent. And why they might act in ways that appear risky or “promiscuous”. While you’re at it, look up the impact of witnessing violence among children and the long-term effects, specifically in relationships. Please think about what you say before you say it.
It doesn’t matter that I’m a “professional”. I am human first. And I never claimed to be perfect, nor excused myself from having problems like everyone else.
I am a social worker, yes. But more often than not, I use my fallibilities as a way to connect with my clients on a different level. Not by using self-disclosure, but by being empathetic and internally connecting to my own pain. I honestly couldn’t do the work I do without that source of pain. If I didn’t have that, I would have no depth.
To my loved ones, I love you. And I’m working on loving me. I want to be honest with you, like right now, but I don’t want to scare or offend you. And that says it all- that I believe my mental state contains scary things that are scary and offensive. But most of all, even more than being scared of your fear, I’m absolutely terrified of the thing that petrifies me the most:
Not knowing what to say or what to do. Not knowing what “it” is or only knowing the false myths about it. Because at the end of the day, I can be an experienced mental health professional with years of psychotherapy experience under my belt, but still be entirely oh-so-human when my social worker hat is off.
To the people who love me who DO understand, I hope you know how much I love you back. That I couldn’t have made it this far without you. That I will occasionally cry after a session with a client because they didn’t have any versions of you in their life and what that has done to them. You are a blessing, and we are forever. I love you all, more than words, printed or spoken, could ever fully express.
To those who love me, forgive me for my fallibilities. For my silence. And, all too often, for my words. I want you to understand who I am, and I want to understand you better too. And when you think you’re seeing a side of me that isn’t “who you thought I was”, please please please know this:
I am me. It’s just that sometimes I can’t get to you from behind the war in my head. But I swear I’m there. And I need you. Even though I don’t want to need anyone.
Can I be a hypocrite? Yes.
Can I be needy? Yes.
Can I be too risky sometimes? Yes.
Because besides the fact that this makes me (and you) so human, that’s also my brain operating from the levels it has. And it’s doing the best it can to function. And sometimes it’s not pretty, but it’s not on purpose. I will ALWAYS feel worse than you when I do something that puts you off. And I hope you can come from a place of loving, nonjudgmental concern and curiosity, rather than a place of judgment. I know I’m asking a lot of you. Know that I hold myself to the same standard.
One last thing. Know that I’m coming to understand that my war is also a gift. Know that I also see beauty and inspiration in most everything. Know that I am a deeply spiritual, passionate, introspective, and protective person. I see my mood swings as what fuel my artistic visions, my obsessive nature as what enables me to do impeccable work, my dissociative qualities as what keep my imagination alive when the world becomes too dark, my anxiety as my protector when things are actually unsafe, and, finally, my traumas as what nurture my ongoing empathy and ability to truly connect with the survivors whom I serve.
I am in recovery, and I am doing my best to deserve the life I have been given. I am a warrior. A goofball. A lover. And a dreamer. Of these identities, I am sure.
So to those who love me, thank you for being my solid ground.
I love you back,
There’s a chance you may have stumbled upon our website. If so, there’s a really good chance that you read our first blog. So, now you know. Maybe you struggle with your own mental health. Do you feel/find yourself thinking/saying “me too” when you read our blog? Maybe we fight for our happiness alongside each other without even being aware of it. That’s the point of all of this- to spread awareness, to sit with our vulnerability, to focus on our connectedness. To call upon what makes us human in order to find comfort in our shared experiences.
There may be a part of you that is unsure of how to interact with me given the knowledge that you have. Maybe a part of you is curious. Maybe a part of you is worried or afraid. Even though we’re in the mental health field, that doesn’t mean that we’re all comfortable with transparency, especially among co-workers. Whatever you’re thinking and feeling about me is okay. As you get to know me, your thoughts and feelings may or may not change. You may even want to engage in a dialogue about my experiences or about your own. I’m fine with whatever you’re comfortable with and I support you.
I want you to know that I hid for long enough. I said I was “fine” and that I was “just tired” over and over again to the point where I started to believe it. Isolation became my specialty along with counting down the minutes until I could rush home and lay in bed. I was driven by fear and uncertainty. Will I lose my job? Will people shy away from engaging with me? Will they understand? The more I engaged with my thoughts, the deeper and deeper I sank.
I now realize that my anguish was anxiety-driven and fueled by insecurities. At this point in my life, my need for transparency and connection outweighs my fear of being ostracized. I’ve come up with a few points that I want to remind you of:
Lastly, I urge you to pay attention. Notice what’s going on within you and around you. If you are struggling, it doesn’t mean your professional career is over. At a certain point, you can harness your experiences in a way that allows you to be a more thorough and empathetic clinician/supervisor/etc. You can use your experiences, thoughts and feelings to guide your practice in a way that inspires not only you but the people around you. You are not alone.
I feel you fighting. When you come out to eat your lunch, you talk about what happened in the news and what this idiot said and how ignorant and wrong it is and how much the world has gone to shit. You talk of fighters and proclaimers and justice-makers. I see you. But I also see pain under your anger. Pain that was never cared for or acknowledged, not in a good way. And although sometimes what you say feels like a blade, I know this is just how you’ve survived in the only way you know how: to fight.
I used to be like you.
I used to think, if I don’t know who to fight, then I don’t know who I am. But fighting takes a toll, and there are only so many battles you can take on before you actually become the thing you hate: hate. And I know you are so much more than that.
I hear you minimizing what you witness in the room. I hear your clients crying during your sessions, breaking their bones so they can re-set them again. And yet, when you’re in our meetings, I hear you talk about cognitive distortions and PCL scores and re-direction. But where is your humanity under your intellectualization? I know it’s there. I want to believe that you are present and kind with your clients, that you honor them and grieve with them. And, above all else, sit in the room unafraid, with their pain palpable in your chest and not try to “fix” it. I hope you know that it’s not weak to care. That it does not make you a bad therapist to weep or feel an ache; it makes you a better one.
I hope you know that empathy is the most powerful intervention you will ever use.
And all the other stuff, the theories, the science, the evidence-based practices- that’s merely a filtering system to ensure that your heart is strong enough to go through all those hoops and make it to the other side just as strong, if not stronger. That way, you will have earned the privilege of even being considered to bare witness to someone’s story. It’s your heart that’s your strongest tool.
I see you struggling. You try to brush it off, but I know it’s there. The way your eyes dart from side to side to keep from crying, the way you have to pause to take an intake of breath between sentences to ease the anxiety, the way you crack a joke so the topic is changed. I know you have a story. I do too. You got into this field either because you’re trying to correct what you didn’t get, to compensate for your lack of power by quantifying symptomology, to save the world with your own two hands and make it right, or, in some cases, simply because you are answering a call that you’ve felt since you were young, to serve those who need love above all else. Whatever your reason is, I see you trying to hold everything together when, inside, everything is falling apart and being held together by a thread.
But you can’t hold on alone. And now you don't have to anymore.
And to all of the people who work around you who don’t ask how you are, with the genuine intent of being present with you, I want to say shame on them, but what it really comes down to is have compassion for them. They can’t see beyond their own world. And that comes from somewhere, but it certainly does not mean you are invisible. I see you. And I’m always here for you. I won’t be scared. And, eventually, you won’t be scared too.
I taste your discomfort on my tongue when someone has the courage in a meeting to disclose their emotions and countertransference with their clients. I know that taste, because it’s the same iron flavor as cortisol. You’re scared. It’s too close to home, and you need to keep things professional, so you respond with you should do some self-care. But is that really what your colleague was asking for? Or was it support? Sit with me, sit with this with me. Tell me you’ve experienced this too and that I’m not alone, and that it’s normal.
Don’t disregard their vulnerability or your feelings with some bullshit band-aid answer that aims to dismiss.
Your soul is something to share. If you’ve forgotten that we ask people to share their deepest fears and darkest secrets with us everyday, let me remind you of something very important: if you aren’t willing to break the barrier between how you view your client and how you view your colleagues or yourself, then you aren’t ready to bare witness at all. We are no different from them. And maybe that’s what unsettles you: sameness.
I smell the waft of microwaved food you’ve heated up that’s sitting in front of you in your closed office. I recognize it because it smells like mine. It’s lunch time, and you only have 27 minutes because you went over with one client and are praying to God the next one doesn’t show up, so that you can go home to numb out on Netflix. The panicked rush that you devour your food with runs at the same frequency of your heart that’s pounding in your chest, doing its best to fight off the panic attack that’s threatening to take over your body. I know you’re hiding, and it’s okay to need space.
Isolation can seem like the lesser of two evils when you fear they will judge you outside your door.
But I can guarantee you that there is at least one person who gets it. Or who is at least willing to admit that they get it. I can now say that I will be one of those people for you, and I know you would be one of those people for me. Because one of the most powerful responses someone can have to our struggle is "me too".
So Dear Co-Workers,
I write this letter to you to beg you to remember to touch, hear, see, taste, and smell the energies around you and acknowledge who they are coming from. If you feel someone’s anger, tell them something kind. If you hear someone trying to speak robotically, point out how powerful it must have been to sit in the room with their client. If you see someone struggling, sit down on the same level with them, look them in the eyes, and ask gently How’re you really doing? If you taste someone’s discomfort in response to someone’s vulnerability, say aloud how much courage it took to admit something we all struggle to do. If you smell a lonely meal in the next room, send that person a text with a simple Wanna come get coffee with me? :) It will change their Entire. Day.
And finally, dear co-workers, please don’t be afraid of people being real. Which includes me, us, this blog. I know what we say here sounds risky, but I also know that you feel it’s brave. So, if that’s true, then that makes you brave too, for even getting to this sentence. For reading something that might go against what you were taught in school. Please be your raw, fallible, beautiful self. Your heartbreak, your traumas, your mental health battles, your mistakes, your undiluted emotions that you’ve packed deeply away- they ALL have a place. You have a place. Here. With us. All those things are what make you have a soul.
And I hope one day you’ll take the risk of sharing it. Because at the end of the day, you have nothing to prove, only to share. Lean into it.
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