NF Types Managing Conflict: Part I

I got back from my girls weekend yesterday afternoon and I have a few posts I would like to share. I am starting here because I have not uploaded any of my photos yet for the other posts I plan to write. There is a lot for me to process so this post will be broken into multiple parts.

The trip had it’s ups and downs. I guess that is just reality because all things do but I was not expecting there to be as many downs as there were. I mean we were on vacation, you don’t go into it expecting issues.

This first post will give context for the second by giving background information leading up to the trip.

It all began a week before the trip. I was getting ready for the Stevie Nicks concert, my Mom and Aunt were on their way to my house and then one of my friends who was going on the trip texted me and was in major crisis. We are friends but she is not one of my people who I share any parts of my own personal struggle with, I was surprised she was reaching out to me. My surprise quickly changed into concern based on what she was saying in the texts, they were dark. I kept encouraging her to reach out to her therapist or at least her Mom or boyfriend. Whoever her people are they needed to know what was happening. She finally agreed to reach out to her boyfriend and we left it at that. It did not sit right with me though so the next day I followed up.

When I spoke with her the next day she tried to minimize the whole thing. I wasn’t comfortable with that. She had a plan, that is all I will say. I was pretty assertive about her needing to speak with her therapist so finally she agreed. I did  not ask to be involved in this but if she was going to involve me I was going to cover my own butt and hold her accountable for taking care of herself.

As our trip grew closer my anxiety began to grow..

What if she has another emotional crisis while we are 4 hours away? What will I do? I don’t want to feel responsible for her. I don’t know what her triggers are. Is it fair to the other girls going that they are in the dark about all of this?

I called two of my own trusted people to process what happened and ask for advice. How do I get through this trip now that this has happened?

My people both advised me to call the two other girls coming on the trip and fill them in so that way we are all prepared if the one goes into crisis while we are away. I did not feel good about this. It felt like I would be breaking the first friend’s confidence if I told the other two. My people convinced me though that it was necessary because it was a safety issue and it was to not only keep our first friend safe but to give the others a chance to consider what they will want their boundaries to be on this trip knowing this information.

I called both of the girls a few days before we were scheduled to leave and I shared just enough information so they had a heads up without actually sharing anything that was said. The first friend was understanding and we agreed that this trip was supposed to be a relaxing trip and that we would both do our part to keep things light and positive while away. The other friend dropped a bomb on me when we spoke.

After I briefly filled her in she said that she was glad I called because she had something to tell me. Apparently she is in the process of being diagnosed with a severe mental health condition and would actually be starting a new anti-psychotic med while we were away on our trip. She assured me that she was stable and was not concerned that any of this would be an issue for the trip. Her assurances did little to ease my anxiety however.

I was not worried about the diagnosis. I believe all things are manageable with the right interventions. My concern was that she would be starting a very heavy medicine that she has never been on before while we are out of town. What if she has a negative reaction? The possible side effects are extensive.

This was just another layer of anxiety to add to the trip for me. I felt responsible for these girls in a way because I was driving. I would be their only mode of transport while out of town. If something were to happen I might have to be taking people to the hospital etc. etc.

This bomb was dropped one day before we were scheduled to leave. This friend explained that she planned to tell the other two so I felt no obligation to warn anyone like I did with the first friend’s issue. I was becoming less and less excited about the trip itself though. This was not shaping up to be the relaxing trip I had hoped for.

The morning of departure arrived and I woke up early still riddled with anxiety. After weighing all my options with hubs I decided to book a second room at our hotel so I could have my own space. One of my big concerns was that it is so a long drive and I was going to need to be relaxed and well rested for our return trip. Having my own room would help with that. It was not an easy decision to make though. We had chosen a nice hotel for this trip. While the rooms were affordable split between four people it was a small fortune when I was paying for it myself. I kept telling myself that I am worth it and that my sanity and self-care is worth it.

I was right. That room saved the entire trip. If I had it all to do over I would pay twice what I paid for the room because having my own room was priceless.

I Have Found My People

A year and a half ago I remember sitting in my therapists office asking Where are my people? It was in reference to a specific aspect of my story we were talking about which I will not disclose here because of the stigma attached. I share this piece though because I know I am not the only person that feels this way due to stigma.

This past weekend was a big weekend for me in many ways. First was the women’s march, which I already shared some about. That was certainly a moment for me that answered that question. I rounded that corner downtown and felt my soul sing, Oh here they are.

Attending that rally and being physically and energetically part of this piece of history was so important for me, not just as a woman and a feminist, but as a survivor, as someone in recovery from a lifetime of trauma that is uniquely female, and as a possible future mother to a daughter.

We went back and forth that day about whether or not to go. Our introversion almost talked us out of it because the crowd was going to be so large and that is a nightmare for us. I knew though, deep down in my gut, that I would not be right with myself if I did not do this. I did not just want to be there, I needed it for my own personal healing. As my husband and I talked about it after we left one of things we discussed was how this is something we will be able to tell our children one day we did. We were part of history and before they were even born we were thinking of them.

The next day I woke up early. I was set with nerves because I had plans to go to a spiritual service with a friend from school. I felt good about the spiritual community I found for us to visit but the idea of entering any kind of religious/spiritual building and attending a service made me feel torn between wanting to cry and vomit.

I am taking a spirituality in social work class this semester. I decided on this class because of my own personal need for growth in this area and because I want to be a well rounded therapist who is able to discuss all aspects of a person’s identity with them when working together.

If you have been following my writing for a while then you know I have only started walking down my path towards spiritual awakening in the last year or two. Before that I identified as atheist, and before that I was suffering under the burden of Catholicism being forced down my throat by my well-meaning family.

My friend from class, who come to find out is also a recovering Catholic, felt as terrified about this task as I did. One of this assignments from this class is to attend a religious/spiritual service that is outside of your own religion and then report about what you learned.

Well in a way this assignment is easy for the two f us, because when you do not believe in anything specific all the doors are open as far as where you can go to learn about something new. The part that made it difficult and a bit terrifying is that both of us have the same aversion to religion/church as a result of the heavy handed judgement we experienced at the hands of the Catholic church growing up.

So in order for us to feel safe to do this assignment I did research, a lot of research. After a week of lots of digging I found something that not only did not feel icky but actually sounded kind of good, Unitarian Universalists. The website spoke of their commitment to inclusion, and social action, and love, and community.. They have seven principles that are directly in line with the social work code of ethics that we practice by. When I saw that I thought, this is a church for social workers!

So plans were made and Sunday morning at 9:30 am my girlfriend met me at my house and we set off together in my SUV to go see about a church. We got there early and sat in the car for 15 minutes working up the courage to go in, we were scared, both of us. We finally decided it was time to make the leap and we both got out of the car. We started walking towards the building and an older woman with short silver hair walked by us wearing a I Stand With Planned Parenthood shirt. She welcomed us as she walked by. My friend and I looked at each other after she passed and agreed that that was a good sign. I have that exact same shirt but I would have never dreamed of wearing it to a church service! That was pretty cool.

We walked in the front doors which were wide open letting the fresh air in and we were greeted by two more women. They gave us name tags and we explained that we were social work grad students from the University that were here to visit and observe a service. They were over the moon to hear this! Something that happened immediately after introducing ourselves that my friend really appreciated is that one of the women explained that one of the leaders of their group is a retired psychologist and this woman is also a retired LMHC.

My friend appreciated this woman saying this because it proved to my friend that this woman understood what we do. So many people still think that social workers are all DCF case workers who remove children. The field is so vast and this woman identified us as mental health professionals which was nice.

She walked us into their facility explained a little but about the service so we knew what to expect and then offered to give us a tour after and talk a bit more if we were willing to hang around, we willingly agreed and thanked her for her gracious hospitality.

The service started, we sat in the last row trying to be inconspicuous, it didn’t work. It is a small group (not too small but much smaller than the hundreds that we are accustomed to at a Catholic mass) and it is clearly tight knit so new comers stick out. The thing is though, that was okay. We stuck out but we did not feel like outsiders at any point. Everyone was so welcoming and accepting, it was a wonderful feeling.

The service started with the lighting of a candle by a child and only got better from there. This group does not worship a specific deity, they do not follow any specific religious scriptures. All faiths and belief systems are welcome. They do not pretend to have any answers, it is more about asking questions and bringing in multiple perspectives and philosophizing together. There is no right, or wrong, or good, or bad. It is all GRAY.

I was home. For the second day in a raw after years and years of searching.. I had found my people.

The woman who gave us a tour after shared that she too was a recovering Catholic, and she agreed that she was called to this group of people because for the first time in her life she felt safe to experience her spirituality her own way without losing that sense of connectedness and community. Everything about this service spoke to me. I am not going to go into further detail because this post is long enough, if you are still reading send me your address and I will mail you a sticker of appreciation.

I could not edit this down though because it was too important. The last 6 months, starting at soul camp and my monumental shift that took place there, have brought so much clarity to an area of my life that for so long has left me feeling lost and alone. I have found connection in ways I never thought possible. This past weekend was a huge jump forward in my work and my healing and I am profoundly grateful.

My friend and I were so excited and comforted after our experience with this group that we have decided to go back next Sunday. We want to go a few times together still just she and I before we bring both of our significant others in to check it out. I think because of our past experiences with organized anything in terms of religion/spirituality we are afraid and hugely skeptical of anything that feels remotely related to a church. We need to make sure this feels right on all levels before we make any decisions.

It is hard not to get ahead of myself though and keep from jumping in with a both feet. They have a social action committee that plans activism opportunities for the group.. I mean, how do more social workers not know about this?

Did You Hear That?

ptsd

One last post tonight to put myself at ease and to experience my own unburdening with the hopes of then falling into a restful sleep.

I have been sitting alone in the living room for the last hour writing. Normally I enjoy this quiet time; just me and the house and my tea and my thoughts. Normally. Sometimes though when I sit alone at night in my living room my PTSD creeps up on me, an unwelcome guest crashing my party, here to terrify me until I can barely breathe.

It started with a noise.

Was that a knock at the door? It can’t be, what time is it? No it’s much too late.. Then what was that noise?

Get up, heart pounding, stomach has already dropped out, adrenaline pumping. Walk into the bedroom;

Babe? Was that you?..
Oh it wasn’t? Then did you hear that?..
Oh you didn’t?.. Well I am sure I heard a knocking..
No but you don’t understand, I am sure I heard a knocking..
Okay, you’re probably right..

Return to my nest on the couch. Continue writing, but not without first enlisting the company of my trusty guard dog.

It was nothing. It was nothing.

Check to make sure the doors are locked..

It was nothing. You are safe. You are alone. You are safe. It was nothing.

Sit back on the couch continue writing.

Hear a knocking. Look at the dog. She didn’t react.

It was nothing. She would have reacted. She would have barked. It was nothing. You are safe. You are alone. You are safe.

You are alone. You are alone. You are alone. It is dark. You are alone.

You are okay. You are okay.

Continue writing.

Feel a bump on the couch. All systems on red alert. Heightened sense of hearing and touch. Aware of every inch of your surroundings. Listen… Listen…. Listen… Nothing.
Look at the dog. She didn’t react.

What was that? I am sure I felt something. Is there a monster under the couch?

You are not a child. Monsters are not real.

How do you know?

Try to convince the dog to come sit on the couch by you.

Come here baby.. C’mon.. Come here honey.

Give up. She is not moving. Continue writing.

No more noises. Heart rate back to normal. Menacing thoughts silence. Ability to focus restored. Sense of safety restored.

Normally I enjoy this quiet time; just me and the house and my tea and my thoughts.

Normally.

 

 

The Double Standard

therapy

Last summer when I started my journey back into myself through therapy one of the last questions I asked my therapist before hiring her was, are you currently in therapy? Her answer to that question had a huge weight on my decision to work with her or not. Her answer was yes.

During one of our first sessions the topic of therapists in therapy came up. I believe that if a person wants to do therapeutic counseling as a career they should either be seeing a therapist at the same time or have seen one in the past (I prefer the former though personally). The bottom line is we all have emotional work to do and I think some therapists try to ignore that fact. They try to put themselves in higher position than their clients, they are the expert, they do not need help themselves. I call that denial.

My therapist during this session I referenced was saying how she was impressed that I asked about her being in therapy when we first talked. She said that when people in her personal life come to her for advice about choosing a therapist that is the very question she tells them to ask. She says that she would never see a therapist who is not doing their own work, I agree.

Even in the program right now, so many of us are in therapy doing our own work and you can almost pick out those who are not. You can feel the difference.

The thing that has always been baffling to me is the double standard that exists in this field as well as many other helping professions about seeking out therapy. There is something kind of shamey about it, like this feeling of, you have no business being a therapist because you are just as screwed up as the people you are wanting to help. News flash: WE ARE ALL SCREWED UP. Get off your high horse, no one makes it through life with out emotional bruising, and scarring, and worse. That IS the human condition. I want a therapist who is not in denial and who is making them self a priority, we all need to be modeling that behavior for our clients.

Side note: this rant has classist undertones and I know it. There are many clinicians and aspiring future clinicians who are not in an economic position that allows them to spend the money on their own therapy. I am not trying to shame anyone here, I am just saying that for me this piece is important. Really important. And some clinicians who can afford it still do not do it because of the double standard.

So let’s get back to that double standard for a moment.. How is it that a person can go through all the energy of becoming a therapist and not actually believe in therapy themselves? I want to be a therapist but I do not believe in going to therapy. OR worse:.I think therapists who go to therapy are broken in some way and should not be practicing.

I am putting a lot of words in a lot people’s mouths right now, I see that. I making broad generalizations about attitudes felt towards clinicians who are in therapy themselves. Let’s be real, there is a whole middle area. In that middle area there are therapists who do not go to therapy but think no less of those who do. There are therapists in therapy that judge other therapists for doing exactly what they are doing themselves. This, like everything, exists on a spectrum. (If there is only one thing you ever take away from my blog it will be the idea of the gray area).

My truth is though that I have experienced some weird energy around my admission to being in therapy. I am not at all in any way in the closet about being in therapy. It is the best gift I have ever given myself and I refuse to feel shame about this amazing thing that is changing my life and helping me in a way I have never ever been helped before. Still, when someone says, Hey can you get together this day at this time to go over this project, and I say Sorry I have therapy at that time, I can do this time. I have definitely seen the other person squirm. And when in class we talk about self-care and I share that this is part of how I do self-care the class go silent like I just admitted I am a leper or something.

It is time for this to be normalized, for it not only to be acceptable but expected and encouraged. Some of my professors have straight up told me that when they were in college they had to go therapy, it was expected of them because counter transference is real and you need to work your stuff out before you go out and try to work with vulnerable populations, especially if the work you want to do is therapeutic in nature.

What I can tell you is that sense being in therapy and being so open about it I have noticed a shift at school. For example, the class where I disclosed that therapy is part of my self-care – the next week two more students disclosed the same thing – the week after, three more shared they were in therapy as well. In these classes we are there to learn from our professors but we are also there to support each other while we are on this last leg of our schooling. I am glad that we as a cohort are able to be more open with each other, and in turn decrease the stigma around asking for help.

There is so much stigma around mental health issues, how is that going to change if the clinicians who should be advocating for their clients are partially responsible creating that stigma. If we are judging our colleagues for seeking out help we are feeding the flame of stigma around mental health issues, because our colleagues are clients as well. If we cannot advocate for ourselves, for our colleagues, how can we do it for our clients?

On an airplane they tell you before take off that in case of emergency put on your own oxygen mask before helping your neighbor with theirs. That is all this is. Trauma, and conflict, and family issues, and relationship issues, and mental health issues are all part of the human experience. So we, as clinicians, need to be modeling the behavior for our clients. We need to be putting on our masks before we try to help them with theirs. AND we need to stop doing it in the shadows. My openness about being in therapy is one small step I take in my commitment to break down the stigma around mental health and seeking out help in general.

A Case for Personal Therapy in Counselor Education

Owning My Life

gift

 

Todd and I had our annual check up right before we left for Chicago and while we there our doctor pointed something out to me I did not realize. We were finishing up my exam, checking the ears etc and she said So it has been two years since we weened you off the Lexapro, how have you been feeling? I told her I have been great, she was already aware of some of the life style changes I have made in regards to having an exercise routine, healthy eating habits and having a bedtime routine so I did not go into great detail. She said she was glad to hear it and that was that.

When I was leaving the office I was thinking about the last two years, has it really been that long? Yeah, I guess so. I was diagnosed and prescribed the Lexapro by a doctor that was not directly involved in my counseling at the time, it was about a 5 minute visit. I saw my counselor a few days later and he said that while the Lexapro will help short term he did not feel I would need it long term and continuing to work on myself would be what ultimately makes things better. He was right.

In the last 4 years, since first being diagnosed with anxiety and depression I have made a lot of important changes. The exercising and eating definitely play a role in my over all well being. When I first started counseling I was absolutely someone who would numb my emotions with food. I did not realize at first and once I did it was very intimidating because that is how I had been dealing with things for so long I did not even know where to begin my work on that area. It was gradual, we started (I say we because this change impacted Todd as well) by eating better. This made me feel better physically. I felt less tired and lethargic after eating, which really helped with my initial motivation to work out, I actually started to enjoy it. Once I was more active and eating less processed food I felt so good the need/want to emotional eat really wasn’t there. To really drive the new routine home and help prevent any back sliding we stopped keeping the food in the house that I would go to for comfort. Now it is not even something I crave. That was a huge hurdle to overcome, that alone would be enough to be proud of but I didn’t stop there.

Taking more time for myself, time to be quiet and reflective, time to write down my thoughts and feelings.. This has all be a integral part of my growth as well. Before, during my dark time I was very reactionary. I think part of that was because I was hurting so much at the time that everything was spilling over but I also think it is because I was not paying attention to what was really going on in side of me. It is not that I don’t still experience frustration and anger and other negative emotions occasionally, I just do not immediately react. I take time to reflect, figure out why I am feeling this way, what exactly is causing me to feel the way I do. Since being diagnosed and being in counseling I have not had a single episode where I allowed my negative emotions to get the best of me. No hysterical crying, no fury driven lashing out. I have been completely collected and calm in situations that would have previously sent me into a tailspin.

On that same note Todd and I have been together going on four years, he has been with me through the entire growth process, sometimes involved and actively cheering me on but more often watching proudly from the side lines. In that time we have never fought. For a while I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, because inevitably, in every other relationship I had been in it would. I finally realized I was different, this was different and I was doing things right this time which meant that other shoe was never going to drop. It is not that we never disagree. We are both fiercely independent people, who believe in autonomy and have our own outlook on life. It helps that our values are in line but nevertheless we do not always see eye to eye. That has never been a problem though. we discuss our differences, we discuss ways in which we can improve, nothing in our relationship has ever been taboo. We do not ignore issues that arise, we do not leave anything unsaid. And if a discussion begins to feel tense or emotional we take a break and shelf it for a while. It has worked every time. It allows us time to cool off and it also allows time to really reflect on what the other person was saying. Sometimes in a discussion you get so stuck on your own point you aren’t really allowing the other side in. We have a pretty great communication style if I do say so myself.

One of the biggest healthy changes I have made is learning how to say No. It goes back to what I was talking about yesterday with boundaries. I think flimsy boundaries may have had a lot to do with why I would experience anxiety earlier on in life. In other relationships, at work, in social situations.. I think I had boundary issues which can absolutely be a huge source of anxiety. I always had my values, what I didn’t always have was conviction. Saying No isn’t easy. It was something I had to learn how to do, it also helped that I cut ties with some of the people that continually tested my boundaries. I think first and foremost it is important to have healthy relationships with people who also believe in healthy boundaries therefore yours are rarely being tested. In cases where that is not possible, like with family who maybe don’t have good boundaries you just have to learn how to protect your own. Having boundaries does not mean always saying No either, I like to be able to say Yes as well. For me it is knowing that I have the right to say No and if I choose to say Yes I have the right to define my Yes. Someone asks me for a favor I am not comfortable granting? I have the right to say No, if I would like to help though I have the right to define what kind of help I am comfortable giving.

Having strong boundaries and a partner who supports them as well I think has made the biggest difference. I feel strong, healthy and unafraid. I really could not say any of those things a few years ago. I am owning my life and my decisions, I need no validation now from the outside world. I know I am actively and mindfully living my life and I have never felt so good.

If there was anything you were ever meant to do, this is it.

negative self talk

Those were some of the last words Todd said to me before bed last night and it was exactly what I needed to hear. Yesterday was not one of my best days in recent history.

I woke up early with Todd as usual and we both got ready for the day. When he left for work I left for campus to go buy one of my books. I arrived on campus around 9:45 and went to the bookstore to buy my book. Then I walked over to the Starbucks that is attached to my building, bought a chai tea and settled into a leather chair to read. I have a tendency to block everything out when I am reading, so it was not until a crack of thunder broke my concentration that I realized how long I had been sitting there reading. My empty tea-cup sat beside me, the last sip long ago swallowed and I looked at my watch, 2:00.

My gut reaction, Shit 2:00! Where did the day go?! Then I looked outside to see nothing but ominous storms clouds closing in. Double shit! I have to get home to Lucy.

I packed all my belongings back into my bag, threw away my tea-cup and headed for the car. As I approached my car I saw a piece of paper on the wind shield, when I got closer I saw the words parking citation (or maybe it said ticket, honestly now I cannot remember).

Triple shit. what is this for? I have a sticker and I am in the appropriate lot.. Then I realized this was not my car. Oh thank goodness. The car looked just like mine but in fact my car was parked one more row back.

So I get in my car and head home hoping to beat the storm. I was hoping to be able to let Lucy out without her having to get all wet but also I hate driving in the rain. Driving in the rain, especially a bad storm is a huge anxiety trigger for me. I am able to do it but it puts me hugely on edge.

I get to the toll road and merge into traffic and after a minute or two I notice there seems to be an unusually high number of police cars on the road. I assume something must be going on, maybe an accident or something and keep driving. After I paid the first toll I am trying to merge into traffic and notice there is a police car on the shoulder near where I need to merge. I am able to merge and try to switch lanes again to be in a middle lane but am unable because there is a car right next to me.

I don’t think much else about it and continue driving. As I am going along all I am thinking is how I am such a bad puppy mother leaving Lucy in the crate all day and how it is probably already storming downtown. In the middle of me mentally kicking myself my phone starts to ring, interrupting the Pandora station streaming through my car’s stereo. I reach over and send the call to voice mail and continue on.

Suddenly I notice red and blue flashing lights in my rear-view mirror. I assume I am in the way of this police car and move one lane to the right in order to let it pass me. The car follows me into the right lane. Crap. So I switch lanes again even further to the right, follows me again. Oh yeah, I am definitely getting pulled over. Crum. I pull over to the shoulder, park, turn off my music, roll down my window and wait to be approached. While I am sitting there my mind is racing trying to figure out why I am getting pulled over. There is no way I was speeding, I never speed and if it was about to storm I was probably going 5 under out of fear. The only thing I could think is maybe he saw me pick up my phone to send the call to voice mail and thought I was texting? Wouldn’t that be ironic. Little miss anti-technology gets a ticket for “texting while driving”. I would have argued that one to the end.

The officer walks up and identifies himself and asks for my information. I hand over my license and relevant paperwork, he then proceeds to explain my transgression. He pulled me over because of what happened when I merged into traffic after paying my toll. He informed me that because there was a police car stopped on the shoulder of the road I should have removed myself from the right lane for the safety of the officer. He then said he did see that there was a car next to me making it impossible for me to switch lanes but in that case what I should have done was reduce my speed to half speed when passing the officer.

That makes total sense but the truth is I did not know that was the law. I thanked him for the information and apologized saying I was unaware. I was technically going under the speed limit at the time because I was in the acceleration process at the time trying to merge but my speed was not low enough to keep me out of trouble unfortunately. He walked back to his car for a few minutes and returned with my ticket.

I thanked him for the information again and apologized again and we parted ways. As soon as he walked away I started to cry. I have never cried when being pulled over before. The few times I have been pulled over either I had done nothing wrong therefore had nothing to worry about or I have known what I did wrong and was not upset about being pulled over because I knew I was wrong and the cop was right to pull me over. This to me felt unfair though, which I already know is ridiculous so please save your judgement. My anxiety was stirred up before the officer ever got to me so that is what brought me to tears. Being pulled over was just a physical confirmation of what I was already feeling, you suck Jill. The ride home was awful. I was mad at myself for losing track of time, my anxiety was stirred up by the threatening weather, I felt like a terrible puppy mother and imagined Lucy just sitting there miserable and having to pee. Then I put an officer’s life in danger (in the eyes of the law). I suck. My pity party was brief though because almost as soon as I pulled away from the shoulder it began to down pour.

It was the torrential type of rain that causes a complete white out making it near impossible to see a foot in front of your face. Great, this is my nightmare, I thought. It got me to stop crying though because now I had to be hyper focused on what I was doing. I ended up exiting sooner than I needed to just to be off such a busy road in bad weather. 10 minutes later I was home and amazingly Lucy still loved me and was happy to see me. Dogs are sweet that way.

I let her out and toweled her off when she came back in. Then I set up a blanket and pillow fort. Lucy and I spent the rest of the afternoon cuddling and studying until Todd came home. That helped my mood quite a bit.

When Todd called to let me know he was on his way home later I told him my story. I did my best not to cry but towards the end I couldn’t help myself. I spent most of the afternoon berating myself and I was feeling pretty low. He consoled me and admitted he familiar with that law either. It made me feel a little better to know I wasn’t the only one in the dark but ultimately I know that ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it.

Todd arrived home about twenty minutes later. We ate dinner and then the three of us laid in the blanket fort on our pillows and watched New Girl. At the end of the night I had my textbook open but I wasn’t actually reading it, my mind was wandering. I was thinking about the day and still not feeling great about myself and self-doubt was starting to creep in from all sides. Todd was laying next to me starting t0 fall asleep and I asked him if he ever doubted himself when he was in the engineering program. He said Yes and that it was hard work at times but that he knew he would do well. I told him how I was feeling and that the “not good enoughs” were starting to creep back in. Then he looked at me and said If there was anything you were ever meant to do I know for a fact this is it.

That’s all I needed. A little reassurance. A vote of confidence. I am not perfect and sometimes I am really hard on myself. I am just thankful I have someone to remind I am OK when I forget. Another blogger once commented on one of my posts saying that all she could do is try her best everyday and be OK with that. She is right. I knew it then and I know it now. I have to allow myself to make mistakes and be imperfect. I care so much and do my best everyday, that is all I can ask of myself.

 

When in doubt, write.

writing2

In one of my early posts entitled Anxiety is a Layer Cake I shared my struggle to overcome a compulsive behavior. In the post I was hesitant to divulge too much as I was still in the thick of it and did not want further scrutiny while working on my issues. Now that I have been able to successfully manage this compulsion for sometime I do not mind sharing that I struggled with emotional eating for sometime. Food for me, like so many others, was a means for immediate gratification when feeling down or anxious. Thankfully even at my worst I always had a certain degree of control over the situation. I knew when to stop, the fact that I was allowing food to be a crutch in first place was an issue though. In the earlier posting, towards the end of the entry, I mentioned that it was my hope that writing could possibly take the place of this crutch as a positive coping tool. I do believe that is exactly what has taken place.

I was reflecting on the last five years the other day as Todd and I are coming up on our three-year anniversary next month. Looking back and holding my former life up against my current reality I feel strong and proud. The amount of change my life has undergone in a relatively short span of time is really remarkable. I have set goals for myself and worked to meet each one.

Writing has absolutely played a huge role in all of this positive change. I feel more centered and sure of myself thanks to the quiet time for introspection and growth that writing allows. Now when things come up in life I find that instead of being reactionary the opposite is true for me. I take time to process everything. I think before I speak. I am acutely aware of everything I am feeling and have a better handle on what to do with those feelings whether they be good or bad.

Further, being with someone of similar ideals who genuinely understands me has made all the difference as well. All in  all I find myself in a very healthy place. Spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. My road towards all around personal growth was a long one and one I will continue to travel down. My initial epiphany that started me down this road came in 2007 after a crushing but much-needed end to a relationship. 7 years later all I can say is I am pleased with my progress.

Having a platform where I have allowed myself to be vulnerable and honest and truly feel things as I work through whatever is banging around in my head has been invaluable. I may have started this blog as a way to keep a record of my experiences as an adult student but it has become so much more than that. I am grateful I have had somewhere to just be me. I read back through my entries and it is all me, raw and uncensored, for better or for worse. I am so glad I decided to do this, unaware back then what it would mean to me. It does though, it means so much.