How my psychologist set me straight
Updated: Apr 22, 2019
First point I want to get across - I see my psychologist even when I'm feeling well and doing great. In fact it's a great time to touch base, when I'm thinking clearly and can put things in perspective without feeling clouded. I highly recommend finding a good psychologist you click with, even if you've never experienced a mental illness. Of course after having lived through mental illness for years, I particularly value my good mental health these days, but I think anyone can benefit from the wise counsel of a qualified person to speak to.
My exceptionally wise and qualified person showed me that she is worth her weight in gold this week. Of course she says I came to my own conclusions because I was ready for it - but that's just her humility speaking.
We were discussing a recent period of overwhelm I'd gone through, how I had been feeling that too many people were wanting too much from me, and how I felt inadequate for not being able to give and provide enough. Then she said something I had to ask her to repeat, because the words were so foreign to me I didn't understand what she meant at all. Those words were something along the lines of "The problem isn't that you're unable to give, the problem is that you're full and you can't take in any more - and that is perfectly reasonable". (Of course this is totally paraphrased because I was too stunned to even understand the words at the time, let alone recall them perfectly later!)
When I asked her to "please explain" she pointed out that when somebody asks me for help, advice, a resource or some kind of output, the giving part is not immediate. First I take in the information, the need or the request, process (digest it) and then offer something back. So my moments of overwhelm are not because my giving is limited - it's because I can only process so much at any one time. And the huge shift - the revelation that made me weep tears of relief - is that this is normal, human, and ok!
So you might think - duh! Makes sense, right? Well yes - but let me give you some context. Over the past few years I have found it very positive and helpful to engage in meditation practices, cultivating compassion and loving kindness and following schools of thought that emphasise giving. So when I thought that I was failing at giving, I started berating myself and believing that I just wasn't trying hard enough. Being told that the taking in - not the giving - is actually the limitation has changed my outlook entirely!
It makes me so much more excited to interact with and give to others! I've realised how much I have avoided certain things in my life because of the fear of getting overwhelmed. In fact it's been months since I've written a blog post because of the fear that people would reach out and "want something" from me, a fear that has now dissolved! My psychologist setting me straight this week means I can set boundaries far more clearly. If I'm feeling overloaded it gives me language and permission to say "sorry, I don't have the capacity to process anything else right now". It means I can be more compassionate towards myself as well as others. It means I can recognise more easily my human limits, but also give more freely and without feeling like I need to hold back.
Look out world! The most common word people use to describe me is "enthusiastic", and that was with the lid on... what will happen now?!
Bek Smith is a fitness professional and educator in psychological wellbeing. She would like to send a shout out to her friend Josh who gives generously - such as the Reebok dance shoes pictured above that he gifted her! Bek hopes her thoughts and experiences will inspire others to make small positive shifts in their lives so we can all co-create a better world.