Finding Joy in the Journey, Together.
Updated: Jun 27
May is Mental Health Awareness month, so I wanted to share a little bit of my own journey with you all. Vulnerability leads to connection, and connection is something we could all use a little bit more of these days. December 15th 2021, I lost my only, older brother, Jeff. Losing him absolutely shattered me to the core, but I also think it was the final drop of water into an already full cup that just made everything spill over. It was almost like after I realized he was truly gone, all of my emotions, the built up pain, tension, the unprocessed grief of losing our mother, living with chronic pain and illness, years and years of unresolved childhood trauma, All. The. Things. came crashing down on me at once on that day. It was like my heart, my mind, my body...just said enough is enough. I wasn’t able to keep it all up anymore. Being a high-achiever no longer mattered. Instead, it became difficult to get myself out of bed each day. A feeling of darkness washed over me with anxiety that I was unable to shake for months to follow.
Every moment, of every day, my thoughts seemed to go to him...to that day, to the pain he must have felt for so, so long. How I wasn’t there for him, how I didn’t listen enough, I didn’t recognize or believe the signs, how I should have stood up for him, helped him, encouraged him to get the help he needed, and I could have changed the outcome. My dreams each night turned to nightmares, waking in a cold sweat with a racing heart and lump in my throat, unable to speak, limbs completely frozen. Not sleeping escalated the feeling of depression, exhaustion, and just going through the motions each day. I was tired, and it continued getting worse, for months.
For the past 15 years, I’ve been a relentless student of personal and professional development, psychology, wellness, fitness, the mind body connection, yoga and breath work, healing and empowerment…and I felt so hopeless, and stuck. I had the tools. Why wasn’t I using them? But this felt different.
I spiraled even more, having the thought that I should know how to get myself out of feeling like this.
I should know how to push through, how to get back to myself again.
But I couldn’t.
After encouragement by others, and the specific push of a dear friend (with a recommendation of who to maybe reach out to) I picked up the phone and called a therapist. I think of the conversation that day, because I was still hiding, still people pleasing, still not wanting to burden this person of what I was going through. After a few minutes on the phone, I remember her saying "ok, so you're struggling a bit with sleep, maybe feeling a little bit anxious, feeling tired throughout the day...is there anything else?" I was holding my breath, and finally said Yea. My brother killed himself and I was there that day and it's consuming my every thought and I have nightmares every night and constantly wake up in a state of panic and fear every single day and I'm so sad and tired and I just want it all to stop.
It just came out as word vomit all at once.
I burst into tears.
I don't think I even spoke those words out loud until that moment. She let out a soft breath, and said she was sorry, and here to listen and help me work through this, together. Booked out for months, but sensing the urgency, she put me on the waitlist to be seen sooner than later. Thankfully, she had a cancellation the next week that allowed me to get in.
I'm beyond thankful for her.
It's her that I owe my current strength to, as well as myself for having the strength to take the first step to get the help I needed.
I thank her for helping me see things differently. For allowing me to let my guard down and say what's truly on my heart and mind. For being patient with me as we went through the difficult process of EMDR, and it's this process specifically I can credit, for my thoughts no longer being obsessive. For giving me the tools of what to do when I feel them creeping back in. Remember, we don’t have to be the ones to figure this all out on our own. (yes, reminder to myself)
I say this, because now, a year later, I still see my therapist regularly. Many times we laugh in sessions, sometimes (ok still a lot, I cry.) It's become a safer space for me to just, be. In addition, I work with 2 professional coaches, I put in the work day after day with journaling, mindset work, creative exercises, getting outside, moving, nutrition, community. I regularly attend workshops, webinars, retreats, enroll in courses and classes. I’m healing from all angles, because that's what I feel like we all need to do. I'm sharing all of this with you, because now, even while working in a professional role at a mental health organization, I still don’t know all of the answers, and I don’t think I ever will. I don’t know if any of us ever will. I’m not an expert, a clinician, a licensed therapist or counselor, and I encourage you to seek out a professional in this field if you are struggling, just like I was. But, one thing I can say I’m an expert at is not giving up. I’m an expert at trying and trying again, and continuing to learn, to grow, to understand. I’m an expert of continuously trying to figure things out, to explore and try new things. I don’t feel like there’s one thing that will be the one cure-all for us all.
It’s a combination of so many things that will help us feel physically and mentally healthy.
I want to be here for you, and with you, on that journey as one of the pieces of the puzzle.
If I can be just a sliver of light on your path, I would be honored to do so.
And if I can leave you with anything, it’s to never give up.
There’s a world out there of wonderful resources and people, here in your corner.
Let’s find joy in the journey, together.
Buen camino, Steph
If you ever have thoughts of suicide, or harming yourself, please reach out to the resources below:
National crisis line- 988
Emergency line- 911
Text crisis line- Text HOME to 741741
The world is better with you in it. Don't give up. 🤍