Mental Health

My Therapist Asked Me to Spend Two Weeks Focused Solely On Myself

Photo by Bekky Bekks on Unsplash

I’m a woman of action, and incapable of doing nothing while others are suffering. I’ve repeatedly proven this to myself throughout adulthood by joining the Army, earning a degree in Advanced Behavioral Science and investing almost two decades of fieldwork in violence prevention.

Battered by defeat, I forced myself to accept that the world doesn’t want to be saved and threw in the towel.

I grew tired of fighting, but I’m riddled with anxiety sitting here on the sidelines. It’s a moral instinct I can’t shake, regardless of promising myself that I’d learn to let it go. There’s a significant part of me that feels pride over the failure that I can’t.

Now retired from my previous life, I indirectly chose another career role where I bear witness to injustices. This time, as a newspaper reporter.

It’s as if the universe keeps subjecting me with purpose.

My therapist is good at reminding me I’ll burn all of my energy chasing every crisis. He feels it’s detrimental to my health to want to find a solution for each problem, and that if I don’t process the trauma of my past life, I’ll be sacrificing my wellbeing.

“I’m not ready to transition back to mass shootings. Coronavirus isn’t even done with us yet,” I informed him during our weekly virtual session.

“You’re not a sponge,” he told me, followed with, “What do you gain by absorbing trauma?”

I need these nightmares to remind me of my why.”

“What would it take for you to focus on yourself for two weeks?” He probed.

“What do I need to do for myself to take it up the ass regarding our quality of life?” I quipped.

“Detach from it for two weeks. Turn it off and be with yourself.”

I agreed. We said our goodbyes and then he disconnected the session. It was only 15 minutes later when it occurred to me I have no clue what to do with myself other than cancel my weekend plans to camp in front of my state senator’s house in protest.

It was 30 minutes later when news made its way to me via text message that a house in Cedar Rapids was spray painted with a racial slur. Of course, the racism shocked the white neighbors. Their denial is a huge part of the problem, but as Ture Morrow, advocate with We Are CR, stated, “all of Iowa has got to do better.”

To pretend we’re surprised by something that takes place in front of our faces every day is truly ignorant. This is what my therapist asked me to do, to be ignorant, at least for a short time.

60 minutes later, I sent a video message to a friend. “My therapist wants me to focus on myself,” I stated, adding, “it feels morally wrong, and boring.”

I have a great deal of respect for my therapist. Although it’s never my intention to make it hard, I know how challenging it must be to deal with me. He’s trying to help someone who has been around the block too many times.

Each lap, I gained skills and strength to hold the line once I’ve drawn a boundary.

I have resistance in my blood and farming, a public library card, petting cats and spending afternoons photographing birds will not mask it.

If the 64th U.S. Attorney General and Senator from New York, Bobby Kennedy, taught us anything, it’s that as long as the system is designed to shut us up, we need to keep shouting.

Kennedy’s vision of empowering the people died on June 6, 1968, when a male in his twenties assassinated him, the same shooter demographic that’s trending today.

And here we are now, over a year into a global pandemic, enough time to prove that money is more valuable than our lives. We’re just cogs in a wheel.

It’s made clear by elected officials that the “essential workers” who show up to make sure the rest of us have what we need to survive aren’t worth the increase in wage.

Despite Kennedy’s efforts, nothing has changed. Republicans labeled him radical and declared his hope for our future as our enemy.

Alongside Kennedy was the Civil Rights Movement. It’s been over 50 years and we’re still not treated equally.

These are the thoughts I attempt to redirect my attention from.

I understand there is a lesson to this exercise. I need to make a choice. I’m all in, or I’m all out. It can’t be both, and I can’t turn back.

Am I the problem for believing we deserve a better quality of life? Or is our poor quality of life the problem? Is it because I’m affected by it? Or is it because I allow it to affect me?

I spent much of day four pacing because Coronavirus is the only thing that’s curved school shootings, positive case numbers are trending up again and the real border crisis is our general lack of empathy.

3,882 steps in, I asked the same question my therapist did: What will it take for me to focus on myself?

It sounds easy enough to do, but it’s not. I don’t know that answer.

In this moment, there’s only two things I’m certain of; I need to find a balance where I can heal as I serve others and that I’ll be spending election night jailed in Georgia after giving water to voters waiting in polling lines.

Behavioral Science ed/ reporter in Eastern Iowa. Informed and opinionated. My hobbies include petting cats, research and farming.

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