First Step…

They say the first step to solving a problem is admitting that it exists. Well, I’ve long admitted that I have issues; with anxiety, stress, social anxiety, trust, insecurity, abandonment, need for control, need to fix everything, take care of everyone, etc. Ok in all fairness most of the issues stem from anxiety/social anxiety. I’ve known that ALL people could benefit from therapy while actively avoiding going to therapy. I did try it once, but it was the wrong fit and quite disastrous. Also, being (mostly) self aware I knew a lot of the things I need to change/work on/address so… How would discussing it with a stranger help me, really?

shutterstock_139247051.jpgStill… As the anxiety/stress was leaving my shoulders and stomach in knots, as I was reeling from the emotional fallout of some big decisions, and knowing that I deserve better in life I finally sucked it up and sought out therapy. Again.  I called my insurance stuffs, found a recommendation, and made an appointment. Even making an appointment led to my active mind kicking into overdrive. My therapist treats people in his office or at his home. His home was closer and also better parking options not to mention the day that worked best for me happened to be a day he was working out of his home. Enter active mind: I’m meeting a man I do not know, in his home, and I’ll be alone. Is that really safe?  Is that wise? What if he is creepy? What if he is some weirdo? What if, what if, what if? The two biggest words that roll around in my brain. Ok. STOP. BREATHE. 1. If your health insurance/employment is recommending this person he probably checks out. 2. If he is some psychotic, monster he probably wouldn’t have passed whatever screening was necessary to be recommended by reputable companies. 3. Just hush noisy brain. Hush.

For anyone who has never gone to therapy, the first session mainly revolves around paperwork, dotting the i’s, crossing the t’s, establishing what is bringing you in, in a nutshell. The first appointment we didn’t discuss anything huge. Right away I felt at ease with him. He reminds me of my uncle John that passed away. He has a plant growing in his living room, the same kind of plant that my sisters and I gave to our relatives for Christmas one year as kids. I felt comfortable.  I also realized pretty quickly that he was perceptive and picked up on the things I wasn’t saying. While we didn’t cover anything deep or significant, I felt lighter. He gave me some ideas to consider, a few challenges in how I think about things.

At this point I’m about 5 or 6 sessions in. I can definitely see it helping me. I was right, I know a lot of the things I need to work on but it does help having someone neutral to discuss things with. I’m finding that I am getting better at stopping my mind from spiraling out. My aunt says I am calmer, less nervous. The thing I’m finding, I didn’t fully realize how neurotic I was until I started making positive changes. I was explaining one of those realizations lately to my best friend and told her, “I was so crazy before, the thought process that would have been going through my head over something so insignificant, but now, I am ok with making this inconsequential decision and not analyzing it to death or assuming what the other person could be thinking.” She was very  gracious and told me I wasn’t crazy before but that my brain was definitely very busy and that it must have been exhausting. True dat. 

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Wine

My best friend and I just redrafted our rules on what was reasonable wine consumption for our girls night when I came across an article on Huffington Post Women about a love affair with wine. (Original article can be found here)  It struck a chord.  I read it and sent the link to my friend. Then I sat down at my computer and decided I need to write.

I was a very late bloomer when it came to alcohol. I honestly waited until I was twenty- one to drink. My wild birthday festivities included Chinese take out with my family and some Kahlua Mudslide.  After dinner I poured a small glass, took a few sips and passed it off to my dad. 

For the next couple of years the only thing I found that I liked was Mike’s Hard anything or Smirnoff Ice. I was mocked by friends when we’d go out for drinks, even sometimes teased by bartenders for my choices. Despite the fact Mike’s and Smirnoff were basically sugar water with a splash of alcohol I would have one or two at most.

By the age of twenty four I was working in a hair salon alongside women who were in their thirties and forties. These women drank and they would invite me out for drinks after work on Saturday. They’d have martinis or cosmos, or wine. I remember taking their advice and getting a lemon drop martini. About two sips into it I was clinging to the bar stool. I did not have the tolerance for this sort of thing but I was determined to learn. They seemed so fabulous and cultured, having a drink after work, talking about life and love.

To their credit, these women helped me to embrace ME. To realize that everyone walks their own path in life. Which is why I enjoyed our after work drinks so much. Over time I could have a martini (or maybe two) with them. It felt great to have female friends to go out and have a drink with and vent about everything and anything. While they taught me to drink martinis or other mixed drinks I couldn’t seem to embrace their appreciation for wine. I couldn’t get past the taste of it.

A few years, a couple of career changes, and a freshly broken heart later I started waitressing at an Italian chain restaurant. It was a requirement of all persons of age to sample our signature alcoholic beverages, including the wines. Somehow, having wine at 7am, something clicked. I suddenly liked the taste of it. I felt like I had advanced to womanhood: I liked wine. Granted I started drinking white zinfandel when I’d go out before graduating to Rieslings, Pinot Grigios and then Chardonnay. My girlfriends and I agree wine is typically a journey. Thanks to my best friend I moved over to reds and now mainly drink Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Wine absolutely become a source of bonding. To this day, my best friend and I can’t tell you how we became friends. We worked together and somehow that led to going out for drinks after work. When she left our mutual place of employment to go on to her “big girl job,” we agreed to meet at least once a week for drinks.  

Weekly drinks became a time of bonding. I can agree with complete certainty that alcohol is a social lubricant. After a glass of wine (or several) you find yourself spilling your fears, your deepest darkest secrets, your hopes. I can recall coming home after drinks playing back some of the conversation in my mind thinking, “I can’t believe I admitted to that.” I quickly shrugged it off knowing that confession is good for the soul. 

My story, my growth as a person, is intricately woven through countless hours and bottles of wine between friends. That comforting feeling of having just enough that breaks down inhibitions and frees the speech and mind. There is something so classy about having a glass of wine with friends.. 

When my grandmother passed away last year my best friend was over that night with a couple bottles of wine and a decadent chocolate cake. Every night for probably a week after her death my closest and dearest friends came over with wine and drank with me, allowing me to ramble about my grandmother. The funny stories, the sadness over her death. Wine was a coping mechanism and a bonding tool. 

The combination of girlfriends and wine has been my strength, my tool for growth, my source of comfort. It’s a delicate balance that has helped me to analyze heartbreak, dreams, failures, and realizing my worth. However, like all things in life, too much is never a good thing. Something that my best friend and I have had to draw the line with very recently. Somehow one bottle between friends was easily becoming two and scarily dipping into bottle number three. Honestly at that point I couldn’t even tell you that the wine made me feel good because it made me feel ill. It led to poor decisions. It led to us proclaiming “if it is just the two of drinking our limit MUST be two bottles of wine.” 

Our most recent girl’s night we did follow that rule but decided that is still one bottle too many. Two women, two bottles of wine still equals “I drank a whole bottle of wine on my own,” and that is far too much. The head ache and nausea the next day, the poor decisions, it sickens us both. So our new rule is: two people on girls night = one bottle of wine max. I know we will succeed because while we enjoy drinking wine together it is not a necessity. It’s a want, an enjoyment, a way of relaxing together and reconnecting. Wine may be a delicious indulgence but we all need our limits.