A year ago, my life felt harder than it ever had before. Having a therapist at the time to talk it over with made it easier for me to recognize what I needed. I was taking on too many responsibilities while running on empty. I was always “mature for my age”, but I needed a break. I needed to stop being everything for everybody; I needed to be an individual. I needed to be me. To do that, I started prioritizing my own needs, which meant distancing myself from toxic family members, starting therapy, changing jobs, and pursuing new hobbies.
My relationship with my family has always been complicated. I’ve felt most affected by my relationship with my dad. My dad was my best friend until I was about 12 years old, when I started to recognize toxic behaviors, like his tendency to be verbally and emotionally abusive and his consistent overconsumption of alcohol. It was difficult for me because my mom and paternal grandparents enabled my dad’s unhealthy behaviors. They asked me to keep it secret from everyone else. It weighed on me heavily, and when I was about 15, a good friend of mine noticed that I avoided being home a lot. When I confessed why, she convinced me to talk to one of our high school counselors. They helped me learn that even though I cared about my dad, he was the only person who could change his ways. I’ve since asked him to be accountable for himself, and I’ve directed him toward helpful resources like therapy and Alcoholics Anonymous. Until my dad decides to make efforts toward getting better, distancing myself from him has been the healthiest choice for my well-being. It’s hard, but it helps decrease the weight of responsibility I feel to be his “perfect” daughter, and I’ve experienced a lot of growth. Building healthy boundaries with my father and other family members made me recognize other areas of my life that I needed to reduce responsibility in.
Last year, I also found myself working a job that required more from me than I was ready for. I was self-employed as a life insurance agent – which meant that I was responsible for my own schedule. I spent every day preparing families for the deaths of their loved ones. The responsibilities of this job combined with trying to financially provide for me, my girlfriend, and our two cats weighed on me a ton. My anxiety about failing made completing tasks extremely difficult. My worries about not being good enough left me depressed, and getting out of bed became the hardest part of my day. I wasn’t sure that living was worth it anymore. I wish I’d gone to therapy before that point, but this urged me to finally go.
I wound up finding my therapist on Psychology Today’s website because my cousin recommended it to me. I was able to find a local therapist who specializes in areas that are important to me and works openly with LGBTQ+ clients like myself. Having their continued support through this season of healing has made a world of difference for me. They explore therapy types with me, help me identify my needs in all areas, and connect me to other resources as needed. They definitely helped me recognize that my job was detrimental to my mental health. Before I knew it, I was replacing life insurance sales with running the register at a local hobby store. My new coworkers were quick to support me in my healing journey and I’m so glad to have met them. The customers I see on a daily basis are almost always a pleasure to work with because they’re so excited about their hobbies!
Now, I’m taking advantage of my consistent work schedule and access to fun resources to take up new hobbies for myself! I’ve been enjoying learning new skills online, like crafting pillows and making paper snowflakes. I like going for walks and hanging out at the park now. I’ve taken up birding, as well. I never thought something could be so relaxing and exciting at the same time. I’ve even been checking out books from the library and journaling a ton. When my girlfriend is home, we hang out with our two cats.
Sometimes change can be scary, but the changes I’ve been making in my life recently have been for the better. We all deserve to give ourselves everything we need – not only to survive, but to thrive. I think that distancing myself from toxic family members, starting therapy, changing jobs, and exploring new hobbies have all improved my mental health. I’m still learning who I am and who I want to be, but if I continue prioritizing my needs I’m confident that it will come naturally. It‘s already started to! I hope my story helps you remember to put yourself first, and reminds you that it is always okay to reach out for help and support.
Here’s to a season of growth!