Song of the Day: Our Fight Song (by many of my favorite people)
Today, as I pass my 6 months of being a legal resident alien of the United States of America, I finished my 8 session stint visiting my therapist Christine. There’s a pause, and I look up smile gently, calmly, making eye contact. I laugh as her we’re out of time buzzer goes off. She looks at her phone, and says very nonchalantly “so our time is up… good luck!” She hands me a list of books on Assertiveness (something I need to work on). She smiles honestly and says “keep working on your strengths and coping mechanisms- things that you came in with from the beginning”. I look at her, feeling grounded and grateful, and say to her, as much as to myself: “Thank you. I’m okay. I’m going to be okay”.
Walking over today knowing that it was our last session, I reflected on how this all started. In April, I decided I wanted to go to therapy to help me deal with culture shock (yes, even for us Canadians). I had noticed how hard it was adjusting to Philadelphia and this new life. I thought I had the tools, awareness, experience, and education- resiliency, community awareness, open communication, etc, etc- so why was I struggling? Why wasn’t I adjusting faster, and more successfully? Why was I blacking out for hours at a time where I couldn’t remember what I was doing and when I snapped out of it, felt guilty about how unproductive my day was? I was excited to have the time to “find myself”… but how can I find myself, if I have no idea where to look? How could such an optimistic person feel so lonely and lost?
I have always believed in the idea of therapy and counseling. We all have mental health, much like physical health. If we feel ill or break a bone, we see a doctor. So if I’m feeling off mentally, I should seek support just the same. I’ve felt content with my ability to communicate my feelings, and with being honest and open, but sometimes having someone who can act as an insightful mirror to my thoughts provides the needed reflection to move forward. Peeta (my cat) has been a huge emotional support, but I needed someone a little more… qualified :).
As I sat in the waiting room for my first session, I still questioned myself and my reason for being there. Do I look sad enough, am I smiling too much, was I too friendly with the receptionist, what if my reason isn’t valid enough, is the counsellor judging me and thinking that I’m wasting her time? Questions that only serve as excuses, but filled my mind all the same. I needed to let these questions go.
At the end of that first session, after spilling my vulnerable guts, Christine looked at me and said “well, this stuff takes time”. Ugh. That’s not the answer I was looking for.
After that first session, I still struggled with my internal voice on if I should keep going or not. I decided to trust the process, and to stop worrying about my worth. Our discussions started to move from adjusting to Philly, to getting to know why and how I am the person I am today. It turned out the reason I started going was not the reason I ended up staying.
Today, I understand that I was trying to fight time all of this time. I thought I could be stronger, smarter, faster… better than time. I wanted to adjust faster than I was. But the reality, even for the seemingly best prepared, is that it takes time.
As I walk out of the counseling services office, I note that our busy summer months have ended. We’ve been on trips to Toronto, India, and the Bahamas. We’ve been blessed with many visitors, who have stayed anywhere from a quick dinner, to 8 days. I’ve loved being so busy, because I naturally thrive being busy. But today, I am back to where I was in February. Just me and Philly, with no new plans. I’m grateful that I kept going to therapy, because now I’m feeling better equipped to thrive in this new city. It’s been 6 months and I am just realizing how much I have accomplished. And the best part, I believe that I’m a better more authentic me than I’ve ever been before. I’m happy to say that today I’m okay being okay.
Thank you all for reading this with an open mind, and remember that you too need to take care of your mental health, and each other. Listen without judgment, and share without fear. If you need that extra push, talk to me!