How therapy helped me discover unconditional self-worth

Mental-Illness-Awareness-21

Prior to entering treatment, I wore a cheerful facade and kept my life busy. I was fearful of slowing down for even a second, because I knew my depression had the power to incapacitate me.People described me as happy, positive, energetic, enthusiastic, spontaneous but, on the inside, I was crumbling. I had years of sobriety, my family was a substantial part of my life, I had lots of friends and an amazing job in which I was helping teenagers in recovery, but I wasnt tending to my inner self.

I love me

Learning to be in my own skin taught me about unconditional self-worth.

by Chelsea Reeves

I love me

Learning to be in my own skin taught me about unconditional self-worth.

by Chelsea Reeves

#MindfulAllies is a weeklong series that highlights real stories from people who experience mental illness. They are speaking out to educate people and end stigma around mental health.

Prior to entering treatment, I wore a cheerful facade and kept my life busy. I was fearful of slowing down for even a second, because I knew my depression had the power to incapacitate me.

People described me as happy, positive, energetic, enthusiastic, spontaneous but, on the inside, I was crumbling. I had years of sobriety, my family was a substantial part of my life, I had lots of friends and an amazing job in which I was helping teenagers in recovery, but I wasnt tending to my inner self.

My facade came crashing down after depression and anxiety took me hostage. After seriously contemplating taking my own life, I knew treatment was the only option.

Each week in therapy, we practiced breath work using breathing techniques as tools to move through our emotions, particularly helpful for survivors of trauma or people who have difficulty articulating their feelings. The therapists placed a mirror in front of each of us and asked us to gaze into our reflection as they guided us through the process, having us perform practices like breath of fire, inhaling and exhaling slowly, and maintaining a steady gaze with ourselves in the mirror. Different types of sounds played in the background, such as drumming, the sound of rain, and musical ballads. The music is to guide the mind to a space of solace from our everyday thoughts.

Hearing the sound of my own breath and being challenged to keep contact with my reflection was excruciating. I didnt want to be alive; I wanted to smash the reflection in the mirror. I was so disgusted with the person staring back at me. Each time I made eye contact with my reflection, Id sob. Id take off my glasses so I could try to escape, even briefly, the sight of myself.

One day, one of the therapists came up behind me and simply placed her hand on my back, where the shoulder blades meet, where you can feel the rise in each breath, and whispered gently in my ear, You can do this. Youre a strong, confident woman powerful beyond your belief.

I sobbed into my hands. Her touch triggered something at my core that felt completely inadequate and unworthy of unconditional love. This therapist stayed with me during the breath work process. The gentle, steady touch of her hand helped guide me to a place of believing I could do this. I wasnt alone. For the first time in my life, I was simply enough.

After this profound exercise, I was left feeling completely vulnerable and raw in front of women I had known for only a few weeks. The old tapes started to replay in my mind: You arent enough. Youre silly to show emotion. Get it together! You have nothing to be depressed about. Be grateful.

The therapist sensed my energy and did something that would forever change my self-perception. She gathered together all the women in treatment with me and they made a circle around me, extending their hands to me as they told me the ways in which I was enough. I was challenged to make eye contact with each woman as she spoke to me. My therapist held my hand while I listened, squeezing it gently when Id start to tremble.

This utterly selfless offering of love and admiration, from these people I barely knew, had a profound impact on me. In that moment, the loving energy I felt from the women and the therapists gave me a sense of empowerment and the realization that I didnt have to hide or fight this battle on my own.

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