As I sat at my computer desk in December of 2017, I remember an overwhelming feeling of tiredness come over me. No, not tiredness: sheer exhaustion. I felt physically spent and mentally drained. I couldn’t think straight, and it was hard to muster the energy to complete the one of the mounting tasks on my to do list. As I sat, I briefly opened my Facebook app and wrote a quick status update: “Have you ever felt so tired that you just sat down and cry?”
I received 33 comments that day. Many of my Facebook friends stated that they completely understood. Others offered prayer. Some scolded me that I needed to rest. That post marked the last time I was on Facebook in over 6 months. I realized that I needed to step away. I don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs. I have been attempting to eat right and lose weight, so I was no longer using food to numb my pain. I realized at that time that social media had become my drug of choice.
Instead of prayer; instead of picking up the phone and calling my husband; instead of reaching out to a friend; instead of journaling or writing it down; heck, instead of actually just sitting down and crying, I chose Facebook as my outlet when I was feeling despair and anguish. Grieving the loss of my mom, feeling overwhelmed with the day-to-day tasks, and not having a system in place to tackle them, and feeling like I needed to have it all together was an enormous mental and emotional toll.
I remember talking to my husband shortly after, and I mentioned to him that I think it is time to try out therapy. I had been contemplating the idea of therapy for a few years, but never pulled the trigger. Even though I am a physician, the stigma was not lost on me. I, Dr. Kimberly Reynolds, a board-certified pediatrician who has referred hundreds of patients for therapy over the course of my career, had serious second thoughts about attending therapy.
If you’re shaking your head right now, I understand. I’m SMHing myself right now, also. However, I recognized that I was reaching a breaking point and that I needed to get help ASAP. I will do a separate blog post on how I found my therapist, and how to know that the therapist you find is the right fit, so look out for that. For now, let’s just say that I was VERY nervous about my first visit! I walked in with extreme trepidation and dread. There was a bit of excitement that I was finally prioritizing my mental health.
Why in the world did I wait so long to see a therapist?! She got my entire life on the first visit. She just GETS me. She focused in on my lack of prioritizing self-care on the first visit, and now we are focusing on why and how to overcome it. We have also been touching on the grief associated with the death of my mother.
The what of our sessions is probably less important than the how. The best part of meeting with a therapist is that I am able to be vulnerable with her and not feel that her perception of me has any impact on my life. She is a neutral 3rd party. Her entire existence (as far as I am concerned) is to help me be a better version of myself. That probably sounded VERY selfish. It is! And that, my fellow working professional, is the beauty of therapy. It is truly the only time that I get to be selfish. For that entire hour, the agenda is ME. If we are talking about my husband or my kids, it is about them in relation to me, the way I deal with them, etc.
This has been a game changer. The biggest thing my therapist has taught me so far in my time with her is that you cannot pour from an empty cup. If I think about it, almost my entire life is spent pouring into others. Not only my husband and children, but all of the children and parents that I treat at work, as well as the medical students and residents. In fact, I would often feel very guilty about taking time for myself to get my hair done, get a massage, or even to go to the gym! I am still working on this as part of my goals for self-care, but just the concept has been a huge blessing for me. And you know what? My family is better off for it as well.
If you are a working parent like I am, you likely also spend your days pouring into others. Your significant other, your children, your clients, your boss. Everyone demands a piece of you and you happily give it, but find yourself left at the end of the day with an empty cup. Some people then try unhealthy habits to refill their cup. I mentioned my choice refill options were carbohydrates and social media. Now, I utilize healthier options such as exercising and journaling. (I still occasionally eat a donut! But now it is a treat as opposed to a treatment.)
I have no doubt that there is a subset of you who are now thinking something along the lines of “ Only the love of Christ can fill our cup!” I agree 100%. However, my guilt and discomfort with prioritizing myself was hindering me from reading my bible, journaling, and even praying. It felt self-indulgent and wrong to pray to the Almighty about my needs. My therapist has helped to reroute that faulty thinking, and in my prayers I am able to pray for myself and others, including my family. Besides, God gives us people and professionals to help us, so I have decided to use them.
Are you a working mom or dad who is feeling that your cup is running dry? Have you ever considered therapy? Would you like a post on how to select a therapist? If so, please leave a comment below! If this post inspires you to seek out a therapist, I would love to hear from you! Please email me at husbandwifedoctorlife@gmail.
Disclaimer: This post is not geared toward people with depression, anxiety, or any other mental health diagnosis. If that’s you, you SHOULD work with a therapist: There is no probably about it. You may or may not also be on medications. Speak with your physician and healthcare professional about your treatment plan. This post is not a substitute for consulting with your physician and should not be taken as medical advice.
Peace and Love,