PERMISSION TO FEEL – WENDY BLANCHARD, M.S., CHHC, CPS

Being trained and educated in many facets of mental health, and having a career as a mental health educator, as well a career as a holistic health practitioner/counselor, I am highly aware of my own symptoms when I am feeling mentally unwell. Yet, even with all of my training and awareness, I was not honest with myself about my inner emotions these past 5 months since my mother passed away in March, 2020.

I wanted to remain strong for my children and never wanted anyone to have to worry about me, or to burden anyone most especially during such difficult times for so many, so I smiled, verbalized my acceptance, said all of the right things to make everyone else, and myself believe that I was absolutely fine, and went full steam ahead…not to mention that my mother’s death took place right at the beginning of lockdown due to COVID-19. Still, I continued to support others, created a Mental Health & Wellness Literacy Professional Development for educators and support staff and have been providing this support all throughout these past 5 months all over 2 counties in my region, virtually, as well as Suicide Safety for School Staff virtual trainings, and taking over a dozen trainings in mental health, social/emotional learning, and trainings related to social injustice, and COVID19 for students and families so that I can provide support to everyone else.

I have been counseling clients in their own grief, and in their recovery from substance use disorder, two of whom have had recent relapses, and…I took care of my own obligations, visited with my children, safely through social distancing, spent quality time with friends, cooked, baked, cleaned, exercised, slept, ate all of my healthy meals each day, sang in the car to my favorite music, smiled, danced, went for mani/pedi’s with my best friend, had heartfelt conversations with friends, and my children about every subject imaginable, all with self assuredness and a smile…

Then…two days ago, crashed into a wall going 90 mph.

You see, all of this “busy-ness”was my attempt to avoid processing the grief that I have been suppressing at the loss of my mother.

Over the past 5 months, I have been feeling physically unwell on and off, and as I teach in my trainings, there is a definite correlation between our mental health, and our physical health…and here it was to hit me over the head. and bring me to my knees. My symptoms ranged from migraines, to a severe sinus infection, stomach virus, and just four days ago as I was getting prepared to teach my professional development, I woke up in the middle of the night with hives, and I lost 50% of my voice (some would say it was because I was not speaking my truth!) But, the show must go on…And it did…flawlessly. I drank lots of water during my 3 hour training, cleared my throat often, and had my essential oils diffusing on the table next to me for relaxation.

And, I was experiencing severe reflux where I was not able to eat. We know that we see gastrointestinal symptoms manifest when we are experiencing anxiety, depression, and ongoing stress.

Although I did have 2 conversations with my own counselor the week of, and the week after my mother’s death, I never allowed myself to experience my emotions, or to allow them to present themselves so that I could process the grief. My history, as a child, adolescent, and all the way up to my 50s when I finally went into treatment for my prescription drug addition and mental health disorders, I was never allowed to speak my truth. My parents were living with their own mental illness and substance use disorders, and they were unable to provide what I needed, or to provide a safe space. I was always told to “shut up,” “get out of my sight.” They gave what they had. Learning this early on, became ingrained, and at age 14, when prescribed Codeine for a physical illness, became my “go to” for my emotional pain.

And, when I got married, I chose partners who also were unable to provide emotional support, as well as subsequent relationships that I chose for myself.

WE LIVE WHAT WE LEARN.

It is so difficult to unlearn unhealthy behaviors, and although I have worked so hard these past 7 plus years, and have provided support, love, and help to countless others, I realized two days ago, that I was reverting back to that unhealthy behavior and mindset of  “I don’t want to be a burden to anyone.” BULLSH-T. I DESERVE TO BE WELL. I DESERVE TO BE HEARD. I DESERVE TO FEEL WHAT I AM FEELING NO MATTER THAT OTHERS MAY BECOME UNCOMFORTABLE.

I walked into a Wellness Center on Friday where a dear friend of mine works, and where a highly respected, highly trained psychiatrist has implemented into her practice an integrative approach. I was going for acupuncture in the hopes that this would alleviate some of my symptoms.

On my way to the Wellness Center, crying all the way on this 35 minute trip, I thought to myself, “I need to talk about my mother. I need to find someone who I can sit with and finally express my emotions.” I received my acupuncture, cried all the way home on my 35 minute trip back, and looked forward to going back yesterday, Saturday, August 22, 2020.

As I drove that trip again on Saturday, I cried all the way down.

Now, as God/Spirit/Universe is so present in my life, I felt an imminent “answer” to my prayer approaching. I am extremely intuitive. I live my life each day guided by my spiritual connection and faith, and this is my most powerful key component of my recovery. Although I have been feeling so unwell, I have never had one single thought of needing a pill to get me through. I am so blessed with a tool belt filled with natural and organic ingredients in the holistic lifestyle that I have created…all of which are at my immediate disposal for free. Meditation, prayer, exercise, music, deep breathing, writing, and yes, even finding someone that I could trust to talk out my emotions…which happened at the Wellness Center, yesterday. Although I had all of these tools, I was lost, and even a bit broken.

This amazing woman, a psychiatrist and who has now turned her practice into a wellness/integrative practice, who I had referred many patients to over the past 3 years, introduced herself when I arrived on Saturday for my acupuncture. We had never met in person, nor spoke on the phone. She suggested we chat after my acupuncture treatment as she is aware of my journey and my practice.

Well, she was sent by Spirit to assist me in this most difficult of times. We talked, for an hour, about collaborating, and then, out of nowhere, I shared with her that my mother had passed in March, and that I believed due to my silence, and even denial, my physical symptoms were a manifestation of my suppressed grief.

W-O-W.

We spent another hour and a half talking about my story. She took me under her wing, allowed me to express what I was feeling, as well as how it related to my past addictions. She encouraged me, and explained that for my health, it was imperative, that I now take time for myself to experience “emotional detoxification.” No truer words were spoken. And I have known this deep down all along.

I am relieved to have had the opportunity to purge, and to have been heard by such a loving and empathetic soul. She brought me into the quiet meditation room afterwards, and allowed me to cry, and to purge, even though, believe it or not, I wanted to “wait until I got home” to let it all out. STILL STUCK IN THAT UNHEALTHY MINDSET. She would not allow me to leave that way. She then instructed me to find an outdoor eating space where I could stop on my way home to nourish my body, to get some Vitamin D, and to just appreciate the beauty outdoors…which I did in my hometown of Nanuet, N.Y. She gave me her personal phone number, and assured me that I am never alone…I have all the support that I want. I just need to ask. HUMILITY.

What…a…day.

There was also an amazing opportunity that presented itself in the wake of this meeting. Divinely guided. To be continued…

You see, we can have all of the tools to provide ourselves with mental wellness, but if we do not feel safe, and don’t feel that we have an “anchor,” just one person that is going to take the time, just to sit as long as it takes, without any judgement, or expectations from us, as I was feeling, whether warranted or not, we may retreat back to unhealthy patterns. I have been feeling so isolated and alone since my mother died, and even as I am writing this, I am having difficulty typing through the tears.

I miss my mom. I cannot believe she gave up. Her prognosis was excellent, and she was given a 100% chance of returning back to her life as she knew it.

I am experiencing so many emotions.

So, as prescribed by this beautiful soul, and professional, I am taking time just for me now, as long as it takes as I allow myself to finally grieve.

I will not be silent. I cry out loud. I scream it out into a pillow. I am going for a brisk walk. I will listen to my music. I will drive along the beautiful scenery on the Palisades Parkway. I will nourish my body, mind and soul with all of my holistic, healthy practices. I will write about it, and offer it as therapy for myself, and a way of helping someone else to give themselves. I will talk about it.

“PERMISSION TO FEEL.”

We are allowed to feel whatever we feel. We must have someone to share with who will support us, and not give us a quick response of  “she’s in a better place,” and then not offer us a space to continue to talk about how we are feeling and progressing. Some of those I had hoped would be a support, I have never heard from again. I understand we are all living in unprecedented times and experiencing so much grief and loss, but no matter what I have been through, I have continued to offer others support. But, that is who I am. I understand we are all different, we all experience grief and loss differently, and we respond differently, so the fact that I prayed for someone who could support me, whom I could trust and who would offer me a safe space, unconditionally, and was brought to me through Spirit, validates for me, that God is ever present in our lives when we allow Him entry.

Healing is personal and there is no time limit, as I told a client last week. “Allow yourself all the time that you need in this process. Let go of any time constraints.” Great advice, and I am now listening to my own wisdom.

I am imperfect. I love the woman, mom, friend, counselor, and teacher that I have morphed into these past 7 plus years. And, sometimes, we need to check in with ourselves, and in fact, it’s a great idea to “check in” daily with ourselves to evaluate where we are, where we would like to go, and how to get there…taking baby steps, especially after experiencing grief and loss.

And…when we allow God/Spirit/Universe to speak to us and we are open to Divine Guidance, we are coming from a humble place of surrender where we admit, we cannot do this alone. We ask for support. We are given the answers. We begin again. We heal.

This loving doctor/soul, shared with me how she loved my energy, my journey, and the way in which I have used my story and experience to provide others with hope and inspiration as I remind us all that “We all have mental health.”

For me, my book, WRITE PRAY RECOVER:A JOURNEY TO WELLNESS THROUGH SPIRITUAL SOLUTIONS AND SELF CARE is a reminder of all that is possible through a strong spiritually based life, and practicing self care…every. single. day.

“Self care are the actions that we take to achieve wellness, and wellness is where we stand in our power.”

Love and blessings,

Wendy