Healing The Soul

It’s hard continuing this project without painting the entire picture of my healing journey.

I began seeing improvements in my mood after making the decision to create a wholesome and holistic healthcare plan. Therapy alone wasn’t so effective. Medication suppressed my emotions and had me seeing the world in grey. The emptiness in my heart was still ever so present. You know that painful hole we often feel in our heart? Or that cup we either fill up or empty out? Well, that’s the immaterial aspect of our existence and it is hurting. I wanted to tend to this wound. So, I chose to add spirituality to my plan. My counselor at the time was already encouraging me to take daily walks and get back to my yoga practice in order to incorporate exercise into the plan. Getting back into yoga was very hard and I was unsuccessful with that, but I managed to take daily walks. I have a close connection to the Divine– I’m going to use this term, along with Source, to refer to God– but back then, the relationship was dwindling because, for the past couple of years, my life seemed to constantly be falling apart. I was always depressed, closed-off, and lost. But because I had gone through surprising spiritual experiences in the past, I felt that the Divine was real and that without tending to my soul’s growth and its re-connection to Source, I’d continue feeling unfulfilled. Some may dismiss the existence of spirit because what we don’t see with the physical eye is hard to prove. I’m not trying to convince anyone, I’m only sharing my reality.

Soul’s Gotta Eat

The saying, “you can’t pour out of an empty cup” is a metaphor for one’s life-force, or soul. Giving time and energy to jobs, things we may not care for, worries, and people, drains our life force. If it doesn’t get replenished, one feels a sense of lack. It feels like a hole in the chest which we then try to desperately fill with material things and self-harming habits– even less obvious things sometimes. As you know, it doesn’t work long-term. Sometimes, it doesn’t work at all. For me, filling my cup looked like getting back into meditation, which I used to do on a daily basis as a teen. While meditation is now a trend sold as a tool to unwind, its real purpose is to meet the self and develop it. If a meditation practice is done on a regular basis despite one’s goal, spiritual self-development is the inevitable outcome.

As a teen, I had developed an energy healing meditation practice out of curiosity. It was fun, soothing, and it made me happy. I returned to it with stronger intentions this time. My intentions were set on overcoming specific problems within myself and healing from past hurt. I’d ask a question and wait for an answer. The scenario would replay, I’d react (usually tears), then the answer would come. Sometimes, it took a few sessions to heal one issue.

I also prayed. I wrote in a journal I called my prayer book and spoke to Source before going to sleep.
I asked for my depression and anxiety to lift, to find answers to
why this was happening, and I asked for solutions. I also wrote how I felt about the extra 30+ pounds on my body, shame, feeling like a loser, and reaching milestones later than others. I prayed for all those things to go away. Some of it was superficial, sure, but no matter. No one was going to judge me in the privacy of my pages.

When talk therapy began feeling like U-turns from my counselor’s hope-filled sessions back to depression, I switched to spiritual psychotherapy. Spiritual psychotherapy is still given by a licensed mental health professional, and they can combine traditional methods, like CBT. Toronto Psychotherapy Group states that spiritual psychotherapy:

“… incorporates a psychospiritual dimension also emphasizes the journey of the soul, or spirit – which may include the wish to strengthen a connection with a higher power… For some, the focus is not on a higher power or deity, but rather on accessing the wisdom of a higher self, the gifts of transpersonal awareness, or the power of intuition. Others seek to learn more about something that is currently sensed or felt but is as yet unworded or undefined. ”

Toronto Psychotherapy Group

We still talked, the new therapist and I, but we also did other things to connect to the Divine. If therapy isn’t affordable, there’s a plethora of self-help material online and in books!

Traditional therapies and medication aren’t the only ways to get better. If you find they aren’t giving you what you need, I suggest creating a plan that incorporates a mind-body-soul connection. It probably shouldn’t involve everything that I’ve done in my own plan. The plan should cater to your own soul’s needs. It can include exploration of new modalities, an open mind, and something you already love doing.

A Realistic Way to Set Goals for Mental Health

It’s after the new year, just about that time where people drop their resolutions. It may be hard to keep up with what you set out for yourself if the resolution is too big, too vague, too strict, or without a plan. But maybe you’re still going strong. Go you! And if not, that’s ok.

I don’t set a resolution in January, but throughout the year, I set goals with month-long deadlines. It really depends on where I wish to be with something, if it will cost me money, and how long I think it will take. For example, if I want to take a course in the summer, I look up the cost, note the start and end date, and save up the appropriate amount. Very simple example.

Sometimes, things don’t go as planned, but that’s all right. Still, if you think this way of structuring goals is a good idea, here are some examples geared toward managing your mental health that you can make:

  • Start therapy on March 2, once a month. Cost: $100/month.
  • Write a daily log of my feelings for a year.
  • Save $80 for anxiety management workshop on July 1.

For me, big goals don’t have deadlines. That’s important for me because it reduces stress around meeting that goal at a certain time, and eliminates the possibility of disappointment if it isn’t met. It also gives me the proper time to transform and heal because life is not a race. But also, sometimes it’s just a life-long lifestyle change I want to make. Here are some examples (inspired by my own):

  • Go to Reiki 2x/month and do inner child work in between. (Specific but no deadline)
  • Manage stress with exercise. (Lifestyle change)
  • Watch the sunrise every morning before work. (Lifestyle change)

So, I hope this gave you some clear ideas of how you can manage your mental health in an achievable way! Don’t let the new year be a reason to start something you really want to do; begin anytime!

How to Make The Best Out of Therapy

If we attend therapy, how can we help ourselves get the best out of it? Here are some methods:

Listening with an open heart.

Take it in. Take it ALL in! Silencing our thoughts; not thinking about a reply until we’ve (briefly) considered what the therapist has just said.

Thinking about a detailed answer before responding.

For example, if asked, “how long have you felt this way?” it wouldn’t be helpful to reply with a vague answer that beats around the bush, such as, “Well, I’ve been this way for a very long time.” This answer provides a shield, keeping us from opening up to someone. Personally, I feel my chest tightening and my back curling when I’m asked a personal question like this.  But being as specific as possible, like thinking about approximately what age our symptoms started to appear, after which incident or phase, and how frequent our symptoms have been since then. So, a better answer is: “I remember feeling upset very often as a child, probably around 10 years old. I just started distancing myself from friends and family. I remember being bullied by a few kids at school because of my weight.” The professional with whom you’re working can then ask you more questions that will uncover the reason behind your emotions and behaviors.

Recording sessions with permission.

Asking to record an audio version of  sessions on our phone or bringing a notebook. The best counselors/therapists don’t let us leave without session notes that further treatment. We can write them ourselves or ask for a copy of notes and strategies discussed during the appointment.

Suggesting homework if none is given.

This applies to when your therapist/counselor is helping you achieve something, or getting you to do something you used to love doing again. We can ask if they have any suggestions on how to get back into the groove of things. Self-development happens mostly outside of therapy.

Keeping session notes where we can see them.

Single sheets of paper can be hung on the wall of our bedroom, office, a private space, or a closet. We can also keep them in a folder or binder on the desk, or next to bed. The point is for our notes to be easily accessible. We may review them a few times a week, once a day, or whenever we need to.

Maybe it’s not the right fit.

We may explain our issues to a therapist and all they say is something like, “What do you think you can do about that?” or, “You tell me what to do about that.” I’ve even gotten, “So how can I help you?” and that can be frustrating. I mean, we don’t go to therapy to have someone help us think, and we certainly don’t go in knowing exactly how the therapist can help us. But we go to gain someone else’s (positive) perspective on our matters and to gain new ideas on how to deal. So, if we have no idea what we think we can do for ourselves, or how they can help us, we must kindly reply that we don’t know, which is the reason we’re seeking help.

If we don’t feel a connection, or if talk therapy no longer works, then it’s best to seek help from someone who specializes in the exact area we need healing. For example, the help of an eating disorder specialist for disordered eating, an intuitive counselor if we are interested in developing intuition, a pastoral therapist if Christian faith is important to us. Even a life coach! The goal is just to find someone who understands where you’re coming from.