Since January I’ve been seeing a therapist, which I want to talk about because I don’t think it should be something that’s a stigmatized as it is. Here’s the thing: I mostly feel pretty good day to day, and though I do tend towards anxiety, overall I’ve handled it really well on my own. But I also know that there are days where my body and brain don’t line up, the lines get crossed, so I’ll spend all day with a pressure in my chest, the dread knot, and the feeling in my bones that something bad is happening and I need to get home right away, to hide. Or I’ll worry constantly someone is in my house, even when it’s clear there isn’t. It happens pretty rarely, but as this year began ramping up and I started anticipating all of the change coming my way, those days started to stack up a little more often than I liked. So now once a week I go talk for an hour about how I feel and why I might be feeling that way, and it’s been a really healthy practice for me. Not a super fun one, or an easy one, but a beneficial one.
One of the things that my therapist has pointed out is that I don’t actually seem lazy or like not a hard worker. These are things I’ve always believed about myself—that I don’t work hard, that I avoid work, that I would prefer not to do things. In general, I don’t spend very long working on projects and I wait until the last minute and instead of working on my computer I’d rather go outside for a walk or read a book or listen to music. All things we wouldn’t necessarily call productive. But I realized last week, or maybe the week before, that in fact I was only lazy if the only thing I considered worthy of my time the things I thought of as work: answering emails and writing and lesson planning. But reading and walking and watching birds? That’s worthy of my time. My therapist said that laziness was the collapse of the mind, and I’ve never felt that: my brain is always buzzing, just not always about things we consider useful in this society. And hard work? A definition I’d always reserved for my sister, who would spend hours studying and putting in time to complete tasks. But does taking a long time to do something connotate hard work? I don’t think so, at least not anymore. It still takes effort for me to do in two hours what someone else might do in four. But the result is the same, in the end.
Losing that negative belief about myself was like a breath of fresh air, like taking off a heavy winter coat in a too hot room. I hope that if you too feel a dread knot—or any kind of sense that all is not quite right—you should feel no hesitation in seeking out a listening ear, whatever that looks like for you. And as this winter turns towards spring, I think we should all be taking a hard look at what self-belief we might leave behind as we prepare to bloom.