February 21, 2017

Authenticity

How desperately difficult it is to be honest with oneself. It is much easier to be honest with other people.What is true is invisible to the eye. It is only with the heart that one can see clearly.
- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

After my last post, I realized how much this authentic self can resonate with others. It's freaking terrifying (desperately difficult indeed), and often I need to sit on things before I can feel "brave" enough to put them out there. Maybe this bravery isn't the same kind of bravery that you see on the battlefield, but it's bravery nonetheless.

The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.
- C.G. Jung
So I guess I'm going to keep on keeping on being honest, authentic, and real. This is good for me, for my head and my heart... and if it helps someone else, awesome. Even if it doesn't though - even if this is my barbaric yawp over the rooftops and no one cares or hears... it's important work.

Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free.
- Eckhart Tolle
With that, I wanted to share something I wrote. Often, it's hard for me to articulate until I've had a chance to think, write, and ground myself. In this current life of tiny urgent beings, that's hard time and space to come by. But this was truly important, and I'm thankful that I not only prioritized this, but that my partner in this life is truly listening. He is able to hear my heart, even when it's hard for me to hear him.


written feb 13, 2017 

I’m sorry to have yelled at you this morning. I heard you say you don’t want “I’m sorrys”, but there are still a couple inside of me that need to come out. Bear with me.

I also need to write to express some of the hard stuff inside my head and heart right now. No obligation to read this right this minute - but hoping it helps you understand a bit more.

Thank you for your text this morning. I hear you, and I hear your frustration.

I’m kind of thinking about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs - you mentioned not being as considerate as you could be, which I appreciate hearing. But at the same time, if your basic needs of being listened to and being able to trust me aren’t being met - some of those higher level functions might not be as easy to access. Like being considerate.

So while I’ve heard you every time we've talked, and wholeheartedly want to do/be better in every possible way - my anxiety and avoidance behaviors have been louder/stronger. I’m fighting within myself, repeatedly.

More often than not, my mind feels like a wind tunnel where I have to pluck thoughts out of my head. Like that silly activity at Chuck E Cheese where kids try to grab tickets. It’s disorienting, distracting, stressful, frustrating, loud, and I’m rarely successful. I’ll have brief moments where I feel accomplished, like I’m making progress, and I’m trying hard to be kind to myself and remind myself that even if it’s not ALL done, or not done PERFECTLY, it’s okay - because I can try again.

Focusing on the lack/gap of what I have achieved without acknowledging/encouraging all that was done successfully or well is incredibly challenging and demoralizing for me. It makes me want to give up altogether - that all of the effort and struggles I went through to get to this point have meant nothing and are worthless.

I’ve started keeping a bullet journal that seems to be helping me manage the wind tunnel a bit. I was really excited to learn about it, because it seems like just what I was looking for (I just didn’t know how to get it started on my own). I’d love to share it with you, and I’m working to make it a living part of my life - not just something that I start and abandon. It will take time to cultivate this new habit, but I’m trying to be mindful of the fact that even if I fall off the wagon, so to speak - it’s okay to pick it back up and keep going. Not just shame myself out of trying again. Habits and routines take time, encouragement, and persistence to develop - it's unrealistic to expect immediate, accurate, consistent change from myself.

I’ve been working over the last several years to be less sensitive or knee-jerk when we talk about tough things - because I want to hear from you, and I want to have productive, meaningful conversations.

But did you know that my internal dialogue is pretty terrible? I will get disappointed with myself, but instead of being able to be disappointed, assess, and adjust behaviors - I jump immediately into shame-based thoughts and it’s a very steep/quick slope from “doing okay” to “hating myself” and kind of wondering if I should even be around - if you deserve someone/something better. Because deep down inside, I'm pretty sure I'm not worthy during these hard moments.

Here are some examples I’ve been working on with Gretchen.

“I never follow through on anything, and that means I’m a failure/don’t deserve to be loved.”
“I should look a certain way to keep up appearances with society, and when I don’t it means I’m too stupid, doing something wrong, and I’m a failure.”
“I need to have this all figured out, and I don’t, so I’m letting everyone down and shouldn’t even try.”
“I can’t get or stay caught up, because I’m too stupid to figure it out.”
“If you’re not going to get it all done right, you shouldn’t even try doing it at all because you’re worthless.”
“This is not hard for everyone else, why are you struggling with this?”

Along with these thoughts come paralyzing emotions of anxiety, fear, overwhelm, despair.

So while my intentions are solid and true and positive - I’m fighting against these massive concepts, and I’m desperately trying to dig out from under. I’m not trying to disregard you. Or hurt you. Or not listen.

I’m trying not to drown.

Gretchen is helping me be able to identify these moments and work through the triggers and how to balance them and then reframe. So instead of shaming myself and sinking into those thoughts (which lead to those frustrating behaviors), I can attempt to step back from the catastrophic edge, acknowledge and normalize my thoughts and feelings so that I can put in place those behaviors to take positive action.

This is fucking hard. I’ve never done this before. It’s not something I’m able to shake off and snap out of. I can’t just get over it - these feelings/thoughts are so deeply embedded that I’m finding myself well into avoiding and it just feels like getting carried away in a strong river current.

So it’s kind of like now - I’m waking up to it sooner - more quickly after the current starts carrying me. I’m taking this as an accomplishment - a win. I’m still struggling, but I’m not just giving up. I’m awake. I’m realizing and saying out loud what I’m struggling with, seeking answers. I’m fighting. I’m trying to ask for help, even if I don’t know what I need. I know I need something, but I don’t know what it is. I’m not trying to not let you in - I just don’t even know how. I barely even know how to articulate to myself what I want and need because of the wind tunnel.

I think there’s more inside, but I don’t have the energy or ability to figure it out right now. I’ll keep working on it, and I'll come to you as soon as I can. I hope that's okay.

Please know that I believe I am capable. And I think I’m worthy. I know for certain that this life of ours is a gift, and I’m grateful beyond words to have you as my partner. I’m fighting hard right now, and I think it will be a fight I’ll be working on for a while. Please continue to let me know what you need, because you deserve to feel safe, trusted, confident, worthy, and loved.


Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.
- Mother Theresa

February 10, 2017

Update: Mental health is health.


This morning I had my second appointment. Again, I felt nothing but profound relief and a sense of eagerness approaching my appointment.

In the 10 days since my last appointment, I’ve started to feel more like myself. There are many factors at play to this, and while I’m not “healed” or “fixed” or “all better”,  I certainly feel more capable and confident - and like I have a partner to help me think through some of my current stumbling blocks/hurdles.

In our previous meeting, we talked a bit about what was weighing most heavily on me (and to be frank - that first appointment was a little rough and colored by exhaustion). We narrowed it down to four major things, and turns out - those thoughts were riddled with shame and fear. She helped me talk through reframing those thoughts to unload those paralyzing emotions - and when I look back - it seems so simple… but I couldn’t do it myself.

I wrote the reframed versions in my bullet journal to refer back to. It’s going to take some practice and revisiting, because I have nearly 33 years of practice shaming the hell out of myself - thinking differently is certainly a challenge.

During the week, I wrote down ideas for things I specifically wanted to work on and address. Like noticing when anxiety and avoidance behaviors begin - what can I do to address them and start working through them? We worked through three particular scenarios that have been particularly triggering - thinking through the feelings/thoughts/behaviors/and situation… and then reframing those thoughts. Again, reading back what we worked on - it seems SO simple… but it’s damn hard to see the forest for the trees when you’ve been berating the trees for how much they suck for decades.

I’m very thankful to have an objective, knowledgeable, licensed partner to help me tackle these intense, unhelpful feelings and behaviors. While the insights I’m gaining don’t equal immediate change… they position me well for change. For being more mindful and aware and better able to take care of myself (and better care of my family).

There is much to think through during the next week, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity.


February 1, 2017

Month 1: 2017 365 Project

This year, I'm doing my first 365 project - committing to taking (at least) one picture a day with my big camera.

It's tough - especially with some of these short days, long work hours, and general craziness. But I also love being more mindful and nimble with my camera. I'm capturing moments I wouldn't have captured last year, and trying new things that I wouldn't have tried.

Folks have said that their 365 projects have helped them improve their photography, and I never understood how that could be. Okay, take a picture once a day - big whoop. But it's only been a month, and I totally get it now. It forces you to think differently and more intentionally, and even more... it's the old adage. "Practice makes perfect." And while I'm not in it for perfection, the practice is making me even more familiar with my camera, with light, with the art itself.

While I might not be able to share the final edited image every day, I'm shooting every day.

Here's January, all wrapped up. So happy to have completed my first month, and looking forward to the rest of the year.


 
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