“I am too old to be this broken.” The words were even more real as I wrote them down. “I have worked too long and too hard on myself to still be having setbacks. When will I see an end to all my problems?”
I wrote the words, or rather I typed them, and I sent them to a therapist. I was having a rough couple of months and I thought it unusual for me to cope so poorly, so I reached out for help. “I am stronger than this.” I tried to tell myself, but the words were lies and I had never felt more weak. The anxiety, the panic attacks, the irritability, the outbursts, and worst, the feeling like maybe my life was not worth living, were becoming burdens too heavy to bear. It’s clear to me now that those thoughts were a symptom of depression, but at that time I was still in denial. “This is temporary.” I told myself, hoping there was a light at the end of my tunnel even though I could not see it. “But what if”, I worried, “at the end of this tunnel is another tunnel, and the light is something I will never reach?” These were my thoughts spiraling, and I was past the point of controlling them.
What started out as feeling broken, but possibly mend-able, had turned into feeling hopeless. I put my phone down and wondered why I was talking to a stranger hoping she could fix me, even though she knew nothing, except for what I chose to tell her. Initially, I chose therapy for a quick-fix because I felt like I didn’t have the time it takes to feel better. I needed to feel better now, but it doesn’t work that way. I was just another person looking for a simple solution and, at the time, too stubborn to admit that my issues might take actual time to work through. At the time, I decided to try therapy because I thought that I could get one or two tools to survive. A couple helpful tips to get me through a difficult time in my life. My delusions led me to believe that I could get these “tools” from this professional quickly, as if I were checking out at a convenience store. Like she would hand me a pretty little box with all the solutions inside that would make me instantaneously happy. I was wrong. Instead, she responded to my message without tools, simple solutions, or, to my greatest dismay, a pretty little box filled with answers. She didn’t respond with the magic two-week express wellness plan that I desperately wanted. She simply told me that I am not “too old” and that healing takes time. “You are healing, still healing”, she said, “not broken.”
I humored the idea and mulled the words over in my head. “Still healing.” The words felt new and interesting to me, a concept so simple, how could I have not thought of it before. The words were neutral enough to be believable and encompassed a level of progress I was willing to accept. It felt active, like progress was being made and will be made, and like there was hope for me yet. The words weren’t what I thought I was going to get, but they did shift my perspective, something I have found to be more important to my healing than tangible solutions to my “problems”. As long as I was moving forward and being active in taking care of my mental health, I could start to change the thoughts in my head and let go of feeling hopeless.
I am aware that I have the tendency to be hard on myself. The talk in my head is often negative, the therapist pointed this out to me on the first day and it did not surprise me, but it did bum me out. Negative self talk is dangerous. Remember that five letter word we keep talking about? Shame? It’s the same thing. The shame is you telling yourself you’re not good enough, even though you are. The shame is you telling yourself you are stupid for making a mistake even though you aren’t. You aren’t stupid, you are good enough. This is important. If you don’t take away anything else, please remember that you are worthy and yes, you do have a purpose on this earth.
At first, the positive self talk felt impossible. The words felt like lies and I try to be anything but fake, especially to myself. It is easy for me to tell myself I am not good enough, and hard for me to tell myself that I am good, liked, or enough. The therapist told me that it takes time and practice. “First, try staying neutral,” she said. “Telling yourself you are super great right away is of course going to feel false.” She recommended starting with something like, “I’m okay”, or, “sometimes people like me.” Keeping it neutral, or not pulling a complete 180, will make the transition from negative to positive a little easier. If you hear someone talking negatively about themselves challenge them to be kinder and more gentle to their mind, body, and soul. There is so much power in even the tiniest amount of encouragement.
Changing the thoughts in my head took months. I haven’t spoken to a counselor in almost a year but the words she wrote stay with me, and if I spoke to her again I would say, “thanks for the answer, even though it took time.” While I still don’t look in the mirror and say to myself, “you’re the best!” I can at least look in the mirror with a more positive outlook on myself. “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, people like me…generally.” Nobody is good at everything, nobody is liked by everyone, stop beating yourself up for not being what YOU think everyone else thinks you should be. Put in the work it takes even if it sounds ridiculous. Because now, there are moments where I find myself saying, “you know what? I’m pretty great.” And it doesn’t feel false, it doesn’t feel fake, it feels real because I have changed the thoughts in my head and I have let myself believe their positively.
Nothing has resonated with me more than those two words from the mind of a lady I never really knew. Those two words had the ability to shift my mindset and give me a whole new outlook on my personal growth. I am never going to be magically fixed. There will be good days when I feel fantastic and there will be bad days when I feel inadequate, but I now have hope that every broken thing can be fixed, it just takes time.
The words, “Still healing” changed the thoughts in my head. These words gave me hope, these words saved me.
The power of words is why we are here. Why Self Love Coffee started. We know that with a little vulnerability we can do our part to change the world, or at least maybe a few people in it. We want to bare our souls so that maybe we can all see that we are more alike than we are different. Have you ever felt like you were not enough, stupid, or broken? Me too.
You are not broken, you’re still healing. You can handle that.