In another life in Findlay, Ohio, I was married and a young mother of three children when my earlier bouts with depression, anxiety and panic attacks returned with a force that I could no longer deny or ignore. I was consumed with scary thoughts predicting all sorts of imaginative and negative outcomes. I remember my father warning me, with well-meaning intentions, that if I did not "snap out of it," I could lose my family. The year was 1968 when I picked up the phone and called my local mental health clinic for help.

Little did I know then that my first therapeutic experience would be the beginning of a transcendent journey out of darkness and into the light of self-understanding.

Now, looking back, it's all so very clear to me as to why it was necessary for the old Norma to be broken in order to put this humpty-dumpty writer back together again. My 3½ years of group therapy gave me validation and a new voice to replace the old one that had taken up full-time residency in my head and heart.

Now, I have a coherent answer to the self-imposed question, "Who do you think you are?" As a young female growing up in the '50s and '60s, I lacked confidence in my judgment and coped by becoming a "people pleaser." Consequently, I lived my life from the outside-in (appeasing others at the expense of my own feelings), when I needed to live my life from the inside-out (speaking up for myself instead of worrying about what other people thought).

It is not easy making course corrections at any age, but the painful process of renewing our minds can bring clarity and purpose to our mental, physical and spiritual health. Emotional healing requires insight and hard work.

I learned that my biggest challenge was to find out who I was and how I felt. Today, I feel fortunate for the skilled therapist who mentored me, for anxiety that got my attention, and for depression that became my teacher.

In the mid '70s, after my therapy, I served on the Hancock County Mental Health Board for five years as secretary. It was during this time that I wrote the following Christmas letter:

"Christmas bells are ringing, the tinsel is shining bright, the mistletoe is hanging and all with the world seems right.

The snow is falling to the ground, the fireplaces are lighted, the smell of pine is all around and the children are excited. But what about you my friend? Has Christmas touched your soul, or has the season played a trick and left you feeling cold?

It is a time of make-believe and like magic, it has cast a spell. For some, it will be a wonderland, but for others, it will be a hell. It's not the yuletide logs that make our Christmas warm. It's who we are inside and the happiness that we have found.

If I only had one gift to give, I would wrap it in an angel's wing, and instead of a bow, I would use a star because it's the gift of love that I would bring. Then, I would pluck a pearl from heaven's gate to hang upon the tree, reminding us of how very much our Creator cares for you and me."

Now that I know who I am and how I feel, I ask myself, "What did I come to Earth to do?"

Today, the new voice in this writer's head says, "I am here to learn and to teach." However, sometimes it is easy to become disoriented and distracted by the glitter and glow of this busy holiday season.

May this last week of 2017, between Christmas and New Year's, bring you peace, joy, and a respite from all the negative noise.

___

Bowling Green resident Norma Davenport is a former mental health worker and advocate with the Family Service Counseling Center of Wood County. She contributes to the Sentinel-Tribune monthly.

Opinions expressed in "Norma Unleashed" are the writer's own.

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