Letting Go of What Does Not Serve Me

borrowed identity

You know that voice in your head, the “not good enough” voice, the bully?.. Where did that voice come from? Who gifted you the negative messages that you play over and over? Does your truest self actually believe these negative things or are they someone else’s words or actions that you absorbed and have turned into your own personal torture device?

Maybe it is a little bit of both (most things are after all). Our internal bully can be made up of social messaging from society, messages received in close relationships, and things we say to ourselves that have a foundation in one of the first two.

Listening to one of our clients in group yesterday made me think about this. What the client was sharing made me wonder, Where did they first receive that message? As I was processing the day on my way home I was thinking about some of my own messages I have internalized over the years and who they came from. I had some major I show myself love moments on the drive home and have decided it is time to release some of these messages because I no longer believe them and they do not serve me.

I am crazy. That was a gift from a former intimate partner that could not cope with my depression and grief after the death of a loved one. I was in pain, a pain so deep it scared him. I release this message. It is not my truth and it does not serve me.

My body is not good enough. This was also a gift from a former intimate partner. My body belongs to me alone and I know she is worthy of my love. That is my truth. I release this message. It is not my truth and does not serve me.

I am manipulative. There were times when this was other’s truth about me. I recognize times in my life when I was without and did what I needed to make myself feel safe and loved. I am grateful to the pieces of myself that took care of me during that time. I send love and light to those I hurt with my actions when I was trying to take care of myself. I release this message. It is not my truth and does not serve me.

I am not deserving, I am not worthy. I release these messages. They are not my truth and do not serve me.

I am unlovable. This was one of my most painful messages, and one that I have had the longest relationship with. This is not my truth now because I love myself. I am worthy of love and I show all the pieces of myself unconditional love. I receive love from without and within. I RELEASE THIS MESSAGE. IT IS NOT MY TRUTH AND IT DOES NOT SERVE ME.

I know my truth. These messages can no longer hurt me. These words no longer have meaning in my life and no one will ever be able to use them to hurt me again. I am stable and safe, my body belongs to me and I am in love with it just as it is, I have everything I need to take care of myself, I deserve to be here and I am worthy of the goodness of life, I feel love, I give love, I am love.

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Negotiating Us

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When I returned from a temporary hiatus I mentioned one of the reasons for my break was my need to address some familial issues that had surfaced. I am relieved to say the issues I was grappling with were not too serious in nature and I do feel they are getting better now. They were my own issues, things I needed to workout for myself first and then with my family. Now that I feel a corner has been turned I am ready to discuss this part of my journey.

My Mother and I have always had a very close relationship. She has played one of the most instrumental roles in raising me into the self-reliant, free thinking feminist I am today, for better or worse I might add. Part of that was in her words but more often it was through observing her actions. In fairness I cannot hand her all the credit for anything good I have turned out to be, my father is the other half of the equation and I am told all the time that I am my father’s daughter.

Planning my wedding by working side by side with my Mother was difficult at first, and that is being nice. We clashed quite frequently, it felt like we were at odds over every silly little detail. It often came down to issues with her ideas about tradition and my want for simplicity and ease even at the cost of traditional formalities. One example was wedding cocktail napkins, I saw that as a frivolous expense, my Mother disagreed. When we met an impasse like this her response would often be, I’m just going to get them anyway, you don’t have to pay for it. I constantly felt undermined, like my opinion did not matter. For me it wasn’t just I don’t want to spend the money, on a fundamental level I (I am saying I but Todd and I agreed on this) did not agree with spending the money on it.

From the very beginning Todd and I had made it clear that we did not believe in spending a lot of money for one day of festivities. We wanted a small, no frills, family wedding somewhere that we felt connected to. That is exactly what our wedding was and we could not have been happier with how everything turned out. Fortunately at the end of the day (or experience really) my Mother and I were able to see eye to eye. This only happened because half way through the planning process we had a much needed heart to heart. Our relationship, while close, has certainly seen times of strain and planning the wedding brought any cracks to the surface. Things were being to spiral and I saw two choices, have an honest conversation about our feelings and needs or take a break from the relationship all together for a while. The second option wasn’t much of an option, I was getting married, I did not want to miss out on this experience with her.

She came over to my house one day and we talked, for over an hour. We talked about the way we treat each other, we talked about her relationship with her Mother (which I have almost zero concept of because I was 9 when Nana died), we talked about my dreams for a future relationship with my own daughter. We were honest and vulnerable and it was painful and wonderful all mixed up together. In one day we mended years of damage to our relationship. Planning going forward was a breeze and when the big day rolled around we were both elated.

After the wedding, our honeymoon and our trip to Chicago we came home to settle back into our life as husband and wife. With that came some changes. Not to our own relationship but to my relationship with my Mother. It was time for another talk. When I was single and living downtown in my one bedroom apartment my parents came over once or twice a week and would help me with little things around the apartment. I think my living alone like a did during that time unnerved my Mom. When my ex and I broke up and our lease was up my parents tried to get me to move home but I knew that wasn’t an option. I was the office manager at a medical facility and I had recently accepted a position with the hospital, I was making plenty of money and had no intentions of moving home. To me I saw that as back sliding, I was only interested in forward progression. I am glad I made the decision I did because that year I lived on my own was one of the best things I have ever done for myself. My Mother’s way of reconciling her anxiety about my being on my own downtown was to come over and “Mother” me a few times a week. It didn’t bother me at the time, I looked forward to their visits as I did miss them and it was a nice opportunity for my Mom and I to catch up while we folded my laundry together or cooked dinner together.

Fast forward to now. Since Todd and I have lived together I have tried to gently encourage my parents to back off a bit with the “mothering” behaviors as an effort to set boundaries and help them to see me, and us as a couple, as adults. I started becoming more assertive once we moved into our home we bought. This our home to keep as we choose, that was important for them to understand. A few months after the wedding I finally had to break down and have another heart to heart with my Mom. I have been talking about boundaries since last year and she has been surprisingly on board, I have even seen some changes in how she interacts with other people in the family. She definitely seems to see the necessity for boundaries in relationships and how healthy having them is, great. We did have to renegotiate our own relationship though.

I would run into issues with her on things like wanting to help around the house when I did not request the help. For example, Todd and I do not make our bed. We see it as a waste of time and only do it if we are having a gathering at our house where we know our bedroom may be seen. On an average Wednesday though, no way. What’s the point? We are just going to sleep it again in a few hours, complete waste of energy in our opinion. So my Mom would come over and walk right into our room and start making our bed. I would ask her not to but she saw it as her helping and doing us a favor. Another example is if I had a load of clean laundry sitting in a basket in our room to be put away, she would go in and start folding clothes even though I asked her not to. I understand she is just trying to be helpful and probably wants to feel useful but for me, for us, that is a violation of personal space. After a few talks about how we both feel about these things we have finally found common ground.

She explained that she wanted to feel needed and if she sees something that needs to be done she enjoys taking care of it, she likes to feel like she is taking care of us. I explained that I do need her but in a different way now. Todd and I are capable of keeping up with our home, which I know she knows because it is never is disarray, we do not need her to act as our maid. I explained that when I invite her over it is a social visit, I need you as a friend, as a confidant. When she comes over it is to spend time together doing fun things like talking or shopping or baking/cooking together so I can learn her recipes etc. I have not stopped needing her just because I got married but there is a shift that has to take place. She is no longer Mom/Caregiver, she is Mom/Friend. I told her this is really the most exciting time in our relationship as Mother and Daughter because her work for the most part is done and now we get to enjoy the fruits of her labor together by having this awesome friendship. It’s not that I will never need my Mom’s help going forward, I do and I will, but I needed her to understand that I will ask for it when the time comes. I also explained that the same goes in reverse, I know her and my Dad are going to start needing me as well and I will be there when they ask but I will not impose myself on them either.

Things have vastly improved. I enjoy this new version of us so much. I feel like being friends has softened both of us so much and we have a new understanding of each other. I no longer see my Mother as just my Mother, I see her as a woman and I do feel this mutual. I am glad I have the kind of relationship with my family where we are able to talk openly about our feelings and resolve issues in this way. I am also glad that my quest to establish boundaries, in all aspects of my life but in this case with my family, has not only been successful but well received.

Everyday I feel like I am coming into my own, I feel my relationship with Todd growing as well my relationship with my family growing. I am thankful for this continued growth and am hopeful about the future.

Feminist is NOT a Bad Word

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I grew up in a Catholic republican household. I know, for better or worse, I had a sheltered upbringing. With that being said, I do not ever remember hearing about feminism growing up but somehow in my subconscious there was this idea embedded that all feminists were bra-burning-radical-hippies. That idea didn’t come from no where, ya know? I am not blaming my parents in whole because society plays a huge role in that I am sure but I think my parents probably did have something to do with it.

So as you can imagine I have never wanted to associate myself with the feminist movement because I don’t consider myself that radical. Well you know what I realized, I am. If believing that all people should have equal access to pubic facilities (read more about HB 583), or that women should be able to wear whatever they want without being shamed, or that our society is fundamentally broken, makes me radical well then I guess that is just something I will have to live with.

I think I have always been afraid to identify as a feminist because I thought there was something bad or wrong about it. Although recently as I have been working through my feelings on this subject I came to realize I have always been a feminist. Even as a child I was stubborn and willful and unwilling to be controlled.

I remember things from my childhood now that help me own this part of my identity. Like when I watched The Sound of Music for the first time and fell in love with Maria because she was unwavering and stood up to the scary patriarch of the family. She knew who she was and what she stood for and no bully was going to silence her.

I remember watching a commercial for some dumb thing and thinking (as a child) the marketing was ridiculous. I remember asking my mother, “Why won’t they just be honest?” I remember she had no idea what I was talking about at the time because I was too young to express this complex thought eloquently but all I meant was if the product was any good they wouldn’t have to cover it up with all of this other flashy stuff to get you to buy it. I wanted companies to be direct with no frills, I learned in time that is now how it works.

While I have been working this out I have been doing a lot of thinking and a lot of reading and one thing I read really resonated with me. Maya Angelou was quoted saying “I am a feminist. I have been a female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side.” Um Yeah. It would be. Completely stupid in fact. Being a feminist, for me at least, is not just about equality for females, it is about equality across the board. It has to be, otherwise none of this means anything in my opinion.

Getting to this place where I can accept and embrace this, feminism, as a key part of my identity has been difficult and has been a long time coming. It is right up there with finally being able to own that I am an atheist. It is not easy to push through the ideals you were raised with into who you actually are and what you truly believe in. I would say I am a fledgling feminist because I have a pretty good foundation and good intentions but good intentions are dangerous without a better understanding of the issues. I am getting there though, this is big part of the growth I am experiencing right now and it is exciting.

Living in the Uncomfortable Place

growth

This semester has been the most difficult for me thus far. It is not specifically the semester that has been challenging, it is just this moment in time, is that makes sense. The issues I have been struggling with have been building slowing over time and recently it came to a point where I could no longer ignore what I was feeling. I had to take sometime, withdraw and focus on these feelings.

In doing this I set my blog to private for a while. I flirted with the idea of deleting it all together because I was not sure if I could be authentic going forward and that has always been my purpose, if that was no longer possible this blog serves no purpose. I hesitated though and I am glad I did because this place has been therapeutic in way over the years as I have been on this journey and I think it will continue to be now that I have a few things figured out.

I have definitely experienced some major growth in a short period of time, a lot of it is thanks to the social work program. I am excited about this but it also means I have been in this really uncomfortable transition place for a while. That is what growth is though sometimes, painful and awkward but incredibly satisfying once you make it to the other side. To be clear, I am not on the other side yet, I am living in this place of awkward discomfort and doing my best to embrace it and process everything.

Another aspect of my withdraw has been with family. This is where I felt concern about my ability to be authentic so I am going to try this on and see how it fits. I have felt a bit disconnected from my family for a while now. There are multiple reasons for this and it has been gradually building. My concern about being able to be authentic with this is that I do not know how comfortable I feel discussing my family issues on here. I am always reminding myself that I have to own everything I put out here for people to read and that is hard when it is something so personal.

Here is where I landed with my feelings on sharing this; I recognize that it is completely up to me what I choose to share here and what I don’t. This is my experience and I don’t owe anyone anything. This is something I need to process though and this blog has been a place for me to do just that over the years. I think it will be baby steps but there will undoubtedly be some personal posts coming out in the near future.

With that being said, for anyone that has been following my blog from the beginning (THANK YOU) you may notice some changes as I figure myself out. I do not know yet what this changes will look like yet but I feel a need to bring this blog up to date for where I am now instead staying in the place I was when I started it.

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.

Inspiration from fellow INFPs

Todd and I were having a hypothetical conversation this morning and big surprise, it got my wheels turning. I like hypotheticals, I like to think about possibilities. It stemmed from a conversation we had about what I read the night before in one of my texts. I had to take an online exam today so last night I was finishing up the last chapter for the test, it was on relationships. He asked me how I would handle a certain situation that was illustrated in the text, specifically whether I would take offense and find the person in the situation being too critical? My answer was No.

In this particular case with what was being said, if it were me, I would see the situation as an opportunity for growth. I can at times be sensitive to criticism, such is the case with INFP personality types as I understand it, but that is not always true. I am incredibly introspective and take time to process things to see if there is merit in what is being said. This gives me the opportunity to try to look at the criticism objectively to determine whether there is an opportunity for growth.

Todd and I then got into a conversation about our different personality types and how he would perceive the situation. He is much more practical, a problem solver where, as Todd put it, I am much more introspective and philosophical.

Well later in the afternoon I was online.. I have been trying to find an excerpt from literature that can be used as a reading at our wedding. It is hard to choose, there are so many authors and titles to choose from. In my search today I stumbled across this,

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost. 

I knew immediately that it was Tolkien from the first Lord of the Rings novel. I grew up on Tolkien. It is quite lovely when you read out of its intended context and rather just on its own. I proceeded to do a search for other possible options by Tolkien, as we both are fans. What I found in the process of my search is that Tolkien, this amazingly talented writer whom I respect so highly is an INFP.

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It felt like a point for the INFP team! haha. Then suddenly I was curios, Who else?? I was baffled by what I discovered. I have always felt a sense of camaraderie with my fellow INFPs and after reading the findings, feeling connected to people whom I hold in such high regard made me feel so inspired.

So here are some of my favorites from the list..

First, the writers:

George Orwell: What I have most wanted to do … is to make political writing into an art. My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice.

J.R.R. Tolkien: I [am] a mere individual … with intense feelings more than ideas.

C.S. Lewis: [I have] a boorish in-aptitude for formality.

Virginia Woolf: My own brain is to me the most unaccountable of machinery – always buzzing, humming, soaring roaring diving, and then buried in mud. And why? What’s this passion for?

A.A. Milne: Even now when I see my name in the paper, I feel that the world is intruding unduly on my privacy. I ought to be anonymous.

Edgard Allen Poe (squeal!): (James Oppenheim speaking about Poe): Everything about him suggests introversion, self-immersion, mood, mystery. Everything suggests a man seeking his own soul.

Hans Christian Andersen: The whole world is a series of miracles, but we’re so used to them we call them ordinary things.

William Shakespeare: To thine own self be true.

 

The Musicians,

John FREAKING Lennon: If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.

Kurt Cobain: I just can’t believe anyone would start a band just to make the scene and be cool and have chicks. I just can’t believe it.

Florence Welch: [I] always want things to be perfect, magical or exciting. Things can’t be that way all the time so I’m constantly disappointed as well.

Morrissey: It’s so easy to laugh, it’s so easy to hate, it takes guts to be gentle and kind.

 

Finally my three favorites that I am so proud to be in any kind of category with,

Thom Yorke: Generally speaking, if people are prepared to stick their heads above the power pit, like Zinn says, and absorb what’s going on around them, it makes them think.

Andy Warhol: I’ve never met a person I couldn’t call a beauty.

Vincent Van Gogh: If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.

 

It was surreal in a way to see these people whom I have such strong admiration for and then read their words and think, Yeah, I get it. I identify with some more than others, but across the board to feel like I understand one of my idols on a deeper level than just their art or words or music that I have always been so inspired by, is a beautiful thing.

When in doubt, write.

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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.