Welcome to the first episode of Therapy Thought Thursdays… on a Friday! (If you need to know why, check out yesterday’s post).
I’ve been going to therapy for a few weeks now. Guys, this woman is amazing. I still have a lot of progress I need to make, but even in this short time I have been learning so much. I want to share some of these life-changing discoveries with all of you!
Of course, I acknowledge that most of you won’t have the same problems that I have. Some major roadblocks in my life are common sense to others. BUT I know there are at least a handful of people out there, struggling with the same things I have. I hope to find those people. Probably at 4am in a tearful, insomniatic attempt to solve all their problems via Google (I’ve been there ya’ll).
Further disclaimer: I am not, nor do I claim to be, a liscenced therapist or medical professional of any kind. I am in no way trying to diagnose anyone or claim you MUST do or not do something. I am simply sharing my experiences in the hopes it will help others struggling, just as the shared experiences of others have helped me.
But should you go to Therapy? Yes. Yes you should. Everyone should. Is it prohibitivaly expensive? Unfortunately yes. I’m only going now (should have gone years ago) because I maxed out my medical insurance deductible. Yay?
Enough rambling. ONTO THE EPIPHANIES!
I am not responsible for other people’s problems.
This is the part where you’d think common sense would come in. And on a surface level, I believed it. If you asked me, “Hey Jessica, do you need to fix all of the problems around you?” I’d say, “Lol, of course not, Silly. Why’d you ask such a ridiculous question?”
But did that knowledge stop me from trying to fix all the problems around me? Absolutely not.
Everything from household chores to my parent’s messy separation to the Border Crisis down south, I was convinced it was my job to get things done. My friends would listen to me talk about the things stressing me out and tell me, “That’s not your responsibility.” I would nod in agreement, but in my head I’d be thnking, “If I don’t do it, who else will?”
This thinking is unfair. It’s unfair to myself, becuase I’m giving myself undue stress. It’s unfair to those around me, whose responsibility it actually is, by not giving them enough credit. And as a Christian, it’s unfair to God, becuase I’m trying to retain control and minimize His role.
I was carrying a lot of mental and emotional weight. It’s ultimately the reason why I reached out to a therapist in the first place. I was constantly overwhelmed and started having days-long panic attacks on top of my usual depression symptoms. After our first session, she told me I was putting on a lot of responsibility that wasn’t mine. It took a LOT of convincing that it didn’t belong to me.
I was the oldest of 3 siblings (after my cousins moved in, I was essentially the oldest of seven). I had to take on a lot of responsibility from a young age. Or rather, a lot of responsibility was PUT ON ME from a young age. I got so used to it, that I started taking on more responsibility than I needed, becuase that was the role I knew.
I remember being thirteen, convinced that it was MY job to save my parent’s marriage. Besides the fact that I totally sucked at the job, it was never mine to begin with.
Does that mean I should never reach out and help fix a problem that doesn’t belong to me? Of course not. At least, that will never be who I am. I am still going to support my friends and family to the best of my ability. I am still going to do what I can to help those affected in the Border Crisis (to learn more about what I’m doing, and to see if you’d like to join in, click here).
But there is a big cognitive difference between “I’ll help if I can” and “If this doesn’t get fixed, it’s my fault.” Because the important realization to make is that you will help if you can. It allows you to take care of yourself and be realistic with your expectations and capabilites by allowing the option of saying “No.”
Here’s an example of a small victory:
Recently my husband and I were in North Dakota with our four-year-old for a friend’s wedding. We had rehomed our two cats to this friend when Josh’s (husband) allergies became too much. The cats had previously belonged to my mom. Now our friend needed to rehome these cats because HER husband to be is super allergic to cats.
We knew she needed to rehome them, but it wasn’t until the week of the wedding that we realized she had not lined up a place for them yet (she was going to keep them at her apartment until the lease ran out in December, so she did have a few more months to find someone). My mom decides she wants to take them in, rather than have them go to a shelter. Noble, right?
The problem arises when we are trying to find a way to get the cats from North Dakota to our home in Chicago (Important to note I live with my mom at this time). It is soon assumed that Josh and I will take the two cats home. 10 hours. In a small sedan. With our kid and a week’s worth of our stuff (and the cat’s stuff, including an open kitty litter bin). I’m sick. Husband is allergic, as in, lungs start to close up allergic. But we are going to take them home, becuase as my mom put it, “They’re going to your house, so that makes it your responsibility.”
I don’t blame my mom for expecting us to do it. It’s the role I’ve been in most of my life. My therapist warned that when you start making changes in your life, even positive ones, anything that changes your role or dynamic in the relationships around you WILL cause friction. This is to be expected. Even Josh resigned himself to taking the cats home before I even brought us up as an option. I’m panicking. Josh is angry. Four-year-old is oblivious.
Until, finally, I realized that none of this was my responsibility. My friend needed to rehome the cats. My mom wanted to take them in. Although I used to own the cats, I gave up ownership (and thus responsibility of them) years ago. Even though it would be convenient for other people for us to take them home, it would be INCREDIBLEY INCONVENIENT for us to do so.
So I said no.
People were upset. Texts were flying. But I delegated as best I could. I told my friend the situation. Her parents (who are not allergic, by the way) took them home.
Crisis averted! It was so freeing. I felt like a physical weight had been lifted off my chest. My therapist was so proud 🙂