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When a Therapist Told Me Life Is Like a Bank Account

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The 18-month time period between May 2010 and November 2011 were the most difficult months of my life. Without going into details (that would be an entire blog post in itself), I will tell you that I experienced tremendous loss. I had lost a few people throughout my life at various times, but nothing like this. The deaths during this time frame of my grandmother, baby granddaughter, father, sister and mother changed my life forever. These were several of the most important people in my life, and they were gone. How did I get through that particular period of time without going “off the deep end?” I had a positive balance in my life’s bank account.

Maybe that last line did not make sense to you, but I’m going to explain:

All of my life, I have made a point of trying to remain positive, no matter what the situation. Sure, I’ve had a lot of crappy days, but I believe there is something good to be found in each and every day. In a world full of negativity, I’ve tried to find positives. In my opinion, laughter and a positive outlook are essential for a person’s mental well-being. When my family members passed away, I struggled to understand why this was happening. I struggled to find something good to cling onto in each day. I missed them terribly and still do. I’ve never been an emotionally expressive person, but I cried. I cried a lot. Luckily, my other sister lives nearby and we talk often. Day by day, we got through it.

So many well-meaning people asked me how I was handling the situation so well, and many urged me to see a therapist in order to “talk it out.” I had heard of a good therapist in town, so I made an appointment. I only met with her twice. She released me after two visits because she felt that I was dealing with my grief and didn’t need to continue with therapy. Although I only saw her twice, she gave me an explanation for why I handled the devastation in the way that I did. I will never forget her words and have passed them on to others through the years:

Imagine your bank account. If you keep making deposits into your account without withdrawing much, the balance continues to grow. After some time, you’ve acquired a large balance. Then something happens. Maybe your car breaks down and it needs significant repairs. You are upset, but have plenty of money in your account to cover the repairs and still have a positive balance. You spend a few days angry at the situation, but continue to move forward and start rebuilding your balance.

But imagine if you had been making continuous withdrawals without ever making deposits into your account. Your balance would be very small, or perhaps even negative. There would not be enough for the needed repairs to your car. You’ve lost your transportation, which could cause you to lose your job. If only you had saved some money and made some deposits instead of continuous withdrawals!

Life is like a bank account. Every time you take care of yourself and do good for yourself or others, you are making deposits in your life account. When something minor happens in your day-to-day life, you realize it isn’t the end of the world, work through it and move forward. Your life account balance grows. Without even realizing it, you’ve “put away” a substantial amount. Suddenly, something devastating happens in your life. Your account drops dramatically, but because you have spent your life making “deposits,” you still have enough strength to sustain you through the difficult times. If you had spent your life dwelling on every negative aspect and depriving yourself of your needs, you would have been depleting your life’s bank account and your energy, and a devastating event would be enough to throw you into a tailspin. You had no reserve built up to sustain you.

My therapist told me that I had spent my entire life making deposits by finding the good and taking care of myself. When my life received such devastating events, I took the hit, but I had enough in my reserves to keep me going.

Some people would have handled it differently. We all handle grief differently. There is no timeline for grief. We can’t just “get over it.” We all deal with it in the best way that we know how, and there is no right or wrong. It has been seven years and I still cry from time to time. I still think of something and reach for the phone to call my mom. I still see them in my dreams, not as much as before, but I welcome those chances to visit with them again.

The point that I’m trying to make is a simple one. Do whatever it takes to make those deposits into your life’s bank account. Laugh. Do something good for others or for yourself. Be a listening ear. Ask for help if you need it. Appreciate every moment spent with those that you love. Take pictures. Be proud of your own accomplishments. Be true to yourself. Smile at yourself and at others. A simple smile can make a person’s day. Have fun. Be silly. If you do fall down, get back up (I am very experienced at that). This list could go on and on, but these are all ways that you can assure a positive balance in your life’s bank account.

Oh, one more thing: never give up.

Follow this journey on Cookies and Cursewords.

Unsplash via Aditya Saxena

Originally published: November 26, 2018
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