Self-Medication

Self-Medication

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago…just in case you are like, “Oh hot dang…I need to send her a text or a coffee or chocolate!” I mean, you can still do that, but my yesterday-yesterday was good! My couple-weeks-ago-yesterday, not so much…

Yesterday was not a good one, ya’ll. It was a tough go. I was angry. I was yelling at ERRRRRRRone. My anxiety was through the roof. 

Today, as I was on my morning run, I realized something: I was using the three things that were stressing me the most to self-medicate. 

What does it mean to self-medicate, you ask? Self-medication is when you attempt to feel better by addressing the symptoms and not the actual issues. In other words, when you feel worthless, sad, anxious, stressed, angry, or hurt, you try to eradicate those feelings instead of uncovering why you are reacting these ways

Self medicating is lazy, temporal. You will feel better for a minute, sure. But self-medication creates an incredibly unhealthy cycle. I will use myself as an example, but you have to promise not to judge. Here are my three main stressors from the other day:

  • Money
  • Chocolate
  • Social Media/TV

You said you wouldn’t judge. I realize mine look benign. Maybe yours are pills, alcohol, pornography, sex, whatever. Our vices are our vices. If it’s keeping us from truly getting healthy, if it’s distracting us from the main issues, it doesn’t matter what it is, it’s deadly. But back to me. 

I have been so obsessed with money. I’ve been obsessed because I haven’t been disciplined and living on a budget. Spending money has always given me a high…I’ve learned this over the years and specifically when I was diagnosed with Borderline (reckless spending is a symptom). So when I’m feeling down, I buy an outfit or something for the house or for the kids and I feel better…for the moment. But then I get upset because I’ve overspent on a budget category and now I’m stressed. So what do I do? You probably guessed it…Hello Amazon!

I really work hard to stay fit and healthy. Chocolate, as you know, does not keep you fit and healthy. On a hard day, I attempt to cheer myself up with something sweet. I’m an all or nothing gal. I can’t just have two or three M&Ms. I have to eat dozens, which doesn’t make me feel well physically and then that affects me mentally and emotionally. So I’m down again and so are the chocolate morsels…down my throat that is (insert hand on head emoji).

When I’m feeling hurt, ignored, or rejected, then I turn to social media, cause like, duh, this seems like a really wise idea. People there will like me. Or I’ll make them like me by producing content that they will enjoy. I fall down the rabbit hole of comparison and jealousy and I end up only feeling worse and empty. So back to shopping on Amazon with a bag of chocolates.

You see, we are all looking for love, acceptance, worth and security. But we are looking to everyone and everything other than Jesus. And this creates unhealed hurts, unresolved issues, and unmet needs that we are trying to heal, resolve and meet…on our own. 

Some of you know exactly what your unhealed hurts, unresolved issues and unmet needs are…but some of you have no idea because you’ve been white knuckling your life and self-medicating for so long, you don’t even see it anymore!

You may have to go back…waaaaay back…to figure out what unhealed hurt, unresolved issue and/or unmet need is making you get angry with your spouse over stupid things, or why you push your kids too hard, or why you work too much, or why you have to have everything just so, or why you are always afraid, or you have no friends, or none of your marriages have worked. You have been looking to other people for love, acceptance, worth and security – and people were never created to give you these things. Only Jesus can.

So you are self-medicating in order to cope…

Through counselling, I’ve been able to recognize my triggers and my coping strategies and I’ve been able to work to rewire my mind to think healthily and to then respond to these fight or flight situations appropriately. Did you know that anxiety and depression are basically adrenaline rushes? You sense danger and you fight or have an anxiety attack, or you take flight and hunker down in depression. 

This is why my Three C’s for Healing (corny, I know), are:

  1. Christ
  2. Community
  3. Counselling

Jesus is the only One Who can truly heal you and put your life back together. He wants to enter into the pain with you (the unhealed hurts, unresolved issues, and unmet needs) and He wants to offer you the love, acceptance, worth and security you need to live a WHOLE, HEALTHY life. 

When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and authentic, we open the door for others to speak into our lives and help us to see our blind spots that have the potential to derail our lives. Scripture says in Proverbs 18:1 that people who isolate themselves are not wise. Let people in…it makes life so much easier and worthwhile.

And finally, some of you just need to get into counseling so that you can get past whatever is holding your life hostage. We were created to live FULL, ABUNDANT lives. If this isn’t characterizing your life right now, then what are you waiting for? Why wouldn’t you want to do whatever it takes to be FREE and FULL?

Be on the lookout with your kids…when we don’t do the hard work of healing and getting healthy, they inherent these wonderful vices and find their own! Healing starts with us, the parents…and then it trickles down! 

So let’s do this! Let’s stop self-medicating and let’s allow Christ, community and counseling do their thing in our lives!

Fighting for Counseling

Fighting for Counseling

Whenever I talk about counseling, I get four different reactions from people:

  1. I don’t need to go.
  2. I’m not ready to go.
  3. I went and it didn’t work.
  4. I love my therapist and have been with him/her for years!

Which reaction do you relate the most with? I’ve been all four at some point in my life, but for the past ten years I’ve been a Number Four. Counselling is such a process…as is the decision to finally go to counselling. I’m a firm believer that we could all benefit from counselling because we are all broken, but not all of us are willing to admit that we need help, and that’s okay. It takes time…but here are a few things to consider when you think you are almost there…

Counseling takes:

  • Humility – Acknowledging our brokenness and choosing to stop deflecting on and blaming others.
  • Acceptance – Accepting our brokenness and no longer overcompensating for or hiding it.
  • Vulnerability – We won’t be able to be vulnerable if we haven’t acknowledged and accepted our brokenness.
  • Perseverance – Counseling is not a quick fix. It took us years to get where we are…it will take time to unwire our brains and to reframe our triggers.
  • Celebration – Celebrating the victories and the days when we do the opposite of what we used to do to cope.

If you went to counseling and it didn’t work, one of two things happened: You either didn’t find the right counselor, or you really didn’t put in the work you needed to (and I’m saying this in SO MUCH LOVE, fam). Let me explain…

  1. Finding the right counselor: You really do need to connect and build trust with your counselor. If you don’t trust and respect your counselor, you will not be able to hear the hard things your counselor will have to say from time to time. And your counselor SHOULD be saying hard things. Counselling is not just a vent session. Yes, we do need to get things off of our chest and counseling is perfect for that. I vent ALL THE TIME in counseling. But I am also self-aware enough to know that my venting originates from my fear and anger, both of which are unhealthy and need addressed. So after I vent, I ask Kevin what needs to change about my perspective of whatever I am venting about. You need to find a counselor that has your best interests in mind and won’t tell you what you want to hear, but will be an advocate for you and your relationships. Not all counselors are equal and all counselors are fallible! So I always suggest that you find a counselor based on a referral from someone you know and trust. This is the best way to get in with someone that’s good. Also, check out my Scar Stories Podcast (also available on SoundCloud and Apple Podcasts) with Megan Richardson for more tips on how to find a counselor and get started in counseling: Scar Stories: Megan Richardson, LFMT (Counseling) – YouTube
  2. Putting in the work: I truly believe that God can redeem any relationship (as long as it is safe – I want to be clear that we need distance and safety from abusive relationships) that we are willing to fight for. Some of us come into counseling looking to be told we are the victims and have the right to walk away. I have to tell you that wherever you go, there you are. In other words, if you don’t deal with YOUR brokenness, even if you walk away, your brokenness will follow you and start to rear its ugly head in your next relationship. You have to be willing to deal with YOURSELF. Nine times out of ten when we are dealing with relational conflicts, the crux of the problem is within us…and if we could humble ourselves and choose to be vulnerable no matter how uncomfortable it is, we will begin to see changes. but you HAVE TO TALK. Don’t go in with an attitude. Tell the counselor what you know the counselor needs to know. Fight the fear – you are safe! Counselors are trained to hear your mess and to help untangle your thoughts and emotions. This is the absolute best gift you can give yourself and your relationships.

I have to tell you, that when I first started in counseling, I was so hurt and angry and scared. But I was at an absolute dead end. This was my last resort and since it was, I was going to give it EVERYTHING I had, no matter what I felt inside. I fought HARD for myself – I knew so much of what I was facing relationally was because of the mess inside of me and if I could just get that sorted out, I would start to understand my relational conflicts better. I chose NOT to be the victim. I chose to OWN my brokenness and the roles I had played. I chose to forgive even when people didn’t ask for it. I chose to trust. I chose to surround myself in community with people who were fighting with me and for me. These were all choices I made. It took everything I had…but fam, I did it! And look at me now! If you only knew…

So…this is a question I ask regularly: What are you waiting for? It’s not enough to just get into counseling. You have to do the WORK. Are you willing? Are you ready? Honestly, what do you have to lose and why wouldn’t you? I’m asking for a friend…and you are THAT friend. Love you.