When I started my outpatient therapy program, I didn't know what to expect. I thought it would help me learn some coping skills (which I have), and I hoped it might bring me some peace (which it has, as well), but I didn't expect to find something that I haven't felt in a long time: joy. Overwhelming joy.
Every day in our group therapy sessions, we're asked to rate our mood and level of hope for the day (go ahead...try it yourself, too) and yesterday, for the first time, I rated myself a 10 out of 10 for both. For the first time, the "feeling word" that I put down for myself was "happy". Happy. Not anxious or low or tired, but happy. I'm finally in the place I want to be and beyond.
But it didn't happen overnight. I've been working hard at this program, dragging myself to group therapy sessions when I really didn't want to go, and getting into a pattern of self-care. To help describe how I got here, I picture my life and well-being as a house. Last week, I talked about the "basics" that we use in the program to help ourselves with self-care, and the positive impact that medication had in treating my anxiety. Those are the foundation of my house. They keep me grounded, planted firmly, and allow myself to build walls and windows and stories of a beautiful house that is me. If there are ever any cracks or weaknesses in the foundation, I know how to repair them. I know to look at my basics and find where my weak spots are, and then work on those.
Some areas that were hardest for me in this program were mindfulness, exercise, and affirmations/positive self-talk. They were the weakest (cracks) in my foundation. I truly believe that repairing them (along with doing the other basics that were easier for me to do) made all the difference in turning the corner into joy. For one thing, I started dancing again to fulfill the "exercise" requirement...something that I haven't done in several years. And, let me tell you, it feels so good to know that my body is still capable of moving like that. It has given me a newfound strength in so many ways.
With this joy, of course, comes a bit of apprehension. How long will this last? What happens if I have another depressive or anxious episode? In a little over a week, I'll be at the end of my program, and I'll have to figure things out on my own, without the safety net of group therapy. But, this time, if something comes up, I know how to repair those "cracks" in the foundation of my house. I'll have a plan to get back on track to feeling joy again. And it doesn't mean that I'll never have other feelings. Joy does not mean that sadness does not exist, and that I'll never feel it again. But now I'm in a place where I'm able to hold both joy and sadness together...one in each hand...and be okay.