Not too long ago, I wrote about deciding not to continue grad school. Up to the decision, there was a lot of internal dialogue about whether I should or shouldn’t. Two months later, I have no regrets about my decision. Ultimately, it came from my gut. Your gut always tells the truth. Even when it tells you stuff you don’t want to hear.
While in school, I was short-fused and perpetually strapped for time. It was hard to acknowledge this while in the eye of the storm. I told myself other women had done it, and there would be sacrifices to make, and that if I just put my head down I’d be fine. The demands on my time as a mom, wife, employee, and student led me to seek out yet another role – as a therapy patient.
I had limited experience in therapy. I sought treatment a total of four times over 15 years. I never gelled with the doctors, whose names were chosen at random from a long list provided by my insurer. And while I’ve always been fairly anxious, my issues weren’t complicated, deep-seeded, or long-term to the point where therapy felt like the right solution.
This time, my sister recommended I seek someone out. Always the pragmatic New Yorker, she helped destigmatize therapy. I visited my beloved GP who provided a recommendation. I can still envision her face when she entered the room, looking down at my medical chart, not yet associating my name. She looked up at me in disbelief – “What are YOU doing here for anxiety?!” in her Eastern European accent. I thought, Well, I’m anxious. Give me Xanax or get me to a therapist. Preferably both!
So for the span of my semester, I saw a therapist bi-weekly. We talked about demands I put on myself – all the “shoulds” that dominate my inner monologue. We talked about feeling like the tortoise as some younger, single colleagues – the hares – run laps around me professionally. We talked about watching my neighborhood stay-at-home mom friends socialize while I worked from home, feeling excluded even though I knew it wasn’t accurate.
I haven’t seen her in a while. Miraculously, when I stopped grad school, my life became more balanced. I had the the sleep and the space to better manage my emotions and life. Maybe I’ll go back to check in, have a therapeutic tune-up. I admit, it is pretty cathartic. In hindsight, it did help, and I learned some good things from her.
Most importantly, she reflected back to me my sense of the world as a pie. If others get all the slices – if others have successes – then nothing is left over for me. But the pie is big enough. Just because someone at work got accolades or friends hung out without me or my husband ran a marathon and I didn’t, there are still pieces of pie. Maybe they’re a different flavor. Maybe I ordered blueberry but all they had was cherry. Maybe I’ll have pumpkin pie next year instead of this year. Maybe I’ll have to try mince meat. So what?
This is my new mantra – The pie is big enough.