By the end of July, I’d been dealing with this sudden onset of anxiety for a solid month. I’d been searching for answers, praying, reading the Bible, and making painful but steady progress. However, a little nagging feeling wouldn’t go away. Perhaps I needed more help to “fix” what was ailing me. So, I reached out to my Human Resources department and got the number of our “employee assistance program” – basically free sessions with a counselor or therapist. They’d need a few days to find me someone, but it felt good to have some help on the horizon.
Monday morning, after dropping Sienna off at her summer program, I was driving to work and still contemplating whether a counselor was really needed. Then, I prayed out loud: “Lord, I’m struggling with whether I need some professional help. If there’s some sort of psychological tool or resource that would help, please let that become clear to me.”
That was a rough morning. I felt on the brink of tears at my desk. Not knowing “what was wrong with me” had taken its toll. I decided to call to check on the status of my counselor referral.
On the phone with the kind receptionist, I started to cry when they said they were still working on my placement. I accepted when she asked if I wanted to talk to a counselor over the phone.
Brenda, the counselor who took my call, encouraged me to call her back after driving home (luckily my house is 5 minutes from my office!), since my tears weren’t going to subside anytime soon.
When I had Brenda back on the phone, the whole story came pouring out. How this anxiety started right as my daughter started a new school, so I assume that was partially the catalyst. How I’ve always been an A-type personality, someone who likes to be in control, doesn’t like change, and feels most content when planning. I’d tried living in the moment and it just freaked me out! I told her about my diabetes and how controlling my blood sugar during both pregnancies made me feel so good, that I’d somehow translated that behavior to other areas of my life.
She was amazing! She answered a lot of my concerns with wonderful insight and advice. Then, she told me about a book that she thought would be really helpful to me: The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living. It’s a book based on a relatively new therapy type that’s been very well received in the psychological community called ACT: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. It’s based on mindfulness strategies and this particular book focuses on the fact that avoidance of “negative” feelings, in an attempt to remain happy, is at the root of anxiety and depression.
Yes, I thought. This is just what I need.
Before I got off the phone with Brenda, she said something I’ll always remember. She told me, “I’m so excited for you, I have goose bumps. Because you’re going to figure this out and once you’re able to be in the moment, it’s going to be amazing!”
I wished she could be my counselor, but alas, she lived in the Midwest.
After we hung up, I headed to our local Barnes & Noble in search of The Happiness Trap. Wouldn’t you know it; there was one copy on the shelf.
Looking back, this book was certainly an answer to my prayer. The information and strategies that I learned from this book transformed my inner world. It was the tool I needed to get myself from a place of obsessive planning and controlling my emotions to living in the moment and focusing on what really matters in life.
As I told family and friends about this book over the past several months, I kept getting a similar response: “Sounds like I need to read that book.” So, since I’m a big believer in the adage that the best way to really learn something is to teach it, I’m excited to reread the book and share the lessons here.
Now my prayer is that others get as much out of these lessons as I did.