That Next Step

woman walking on pathway under the sun

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Knowing what the next step in life is can be hard. I have been thinking about what my future will look like a little too much lately. I have been extremely anxious as I think about what my career will look like and how my mental and physical health will impact that. I often think about the timeline. Will I need to go back to work full time before I am ready? This is a long term stressor for me, but the stress it causes me hardly compares to the recent discussion I had with my therapist.

My Psychiatrist asked me the other day on a scale from one to ten how close do I feel to dealing with things appropriately and approaching my mental health with clarity and coping skills. I told him I would put myself at a six. While I have been working with my current therapist for one year and have made significant strides in emotion regulation and distress tolerance we have mainly been in triage to decrease depressive symptoms and dangerous coping skills. We have not pursued the next step, dealing with the trauma I have faced.

My therapist and I discussed potential next steps. I can work through trauma using a type of therapy called Cognitive Processing Therapy which typically includes dialogue about the trauma I have faced, identifying stuck points that have kept the trauma as intense as the day it happened, and more. Or, I can work through the trauma using EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. This uses sensory stimulation to decrease the awareness of the body sensations and emotional response while thinking about the trauma. It is meant to help process through the trauma in a less intense way so that one is not constantly reliving the trauma as if it is occurring for the first time each time.

The idea of working through the trauma, reliving it in any way on purpose, with someone else present, is terrifying. The discussion of the next step alone made me shut down in the therapy room, three sessions in a row. How can I take this next step. What will I choose to do? How can I even discuss the next step without shutting down? I feel so much shame even thinking about this process.

It is my goal to find the courage to have a discourse about the next step. Like any life choice this will not be easy, and I do not look forward to the process. I am trying to continue to trust the process at the very least. I do not want to stay stuck, and I do not want to plateau.

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