Sunday, August 31, 2014

being skillful

just because i can be skillful doesn't mean i always choose to be skillful.

yesterday while driving home from a birthday celebration i was flooded with negative emotions. i have yet to recover from the impact it has had on me. i did what i do best, which is write, and wrote a long, rambling letter to s. 

i feel stress, confusion, anxiety, envy, fear, jealousy, and sadness coming from many different directions. i'm working with a body that is not hormonally balanced at the moment and that is really difficult for me. i do not recall a time when i have been so aware of my body being so off hormonally and the impact it has on my diet, mood, thinking, and actions.

i hear thoughts in my mind try to surface of opposite action skills or problem solving skills i could use, but i'm not into it right now. i don't feel depressed, just really sad. and for now i'm content to lay with my sadness and let it wash over me.

i wish i was seeing susan tomorrow as i usually do each monday, but it's labor day, so i don't get to see her until thursday. i will try to not call her - counselors deserve days off too - but i know she's there if i get in a bad way/place. perhaps tomorrow will be better. until then, i'm staying in bed.

and maybe, in its own way, that is skillful.

listening to my mind and body - and taking a break.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

it wasn't roaring

this is the only song i listen to right now. it's not new or anything, it's just really pulling on my heart strings.

i have felt the way the man is described in this song many times. overwhelmed and confused by fear. and so i have built huge walls to cover up my fear and armed them with guns and fire to try and keep people back. i remember a time during my journey when i was so full of anger that i literally broke glass and left it by my front door in my apartment. it was a visually reminder that i wanted people to stay away from me because i felt so explosive.

really, though, i was hurting, and didn't know what to do with the great amount of pain i felt. in the song it talks about how when the night came the sound that comes from within the walls that this man built wasn't roaring as one might expect because of all the fierce things he built, but rather it was weeping. and that's how i felt. i spent many nights weeping. in so much pain, weeping because i didn't know what to do or where to go for help.

i look back on that girl with compassion. she had so much valid pain - and still does which she works through each week in counseling - but she has come such a long long way from breaking glass, self injury, screaming anger outbursts, daily crying spells, suicidal thinking, sleeping all day to escape, watching tv when she was awake to escape, etc. 

there is a need for greater kindness and compassion extended towards the people we meet on our journies in life. i hope we have all heard some form of the quote, "be kind, you never know what battle someone is fighting." it is so true. behind every smile there is a tear we don't know about. people put on brave faces because society says we 'have' to, but i say, we don't have to. when you ask someone how they are, have the time and the decency to really mean it and listen to their answer. every story is worth telling.

maybe what you think is roaring is actually weeping.

Monday, August 25, 2014

dog doo-doo

today in my individual session susan and i were chatting and she said, "you know it's like the dog doo-doo analogy." at first i wanted to play along like i had a clue what she was talking about but then i realized this wouldn't be skillful or helpful if we were going to have a conversation about 'the dog doo-doo analogy' because i would be totally lost. so i just looked at her confused and she said, "have i told you that one before?" me, "i don't think so..." (i'm pretty sure i'd remember something about dog poop coming from my therapist! lol) so she proceeded to tell me this :

you go out to walk your dog and let her use the bathroom. you come in and are walking around the living room and go "on no! what's that smell??" well somewhere along your walked you stepped in dog doo-doo and dragged it all around the carpet in your living room and now you have to clean it up. the next night you're coming in from walking your dog but you go "oh! i smell it this time! i'm going to take my shoes off at the door so i don't spread it all around the carpet." night three you decide that your pattern of stepping in dog doo-doo on your walk seems pretty consistent so you're going to take a flashlight with you and really be vigilant about watching where you walk that night so that you don't step in it.

she related this to me learning how to set boundaries. this is something i struggle with. what we did in our session today was what she called "cleaning up the crime scene" or "cleaning up the living room" from all the dog doo-doo. i set a boundary and then let someone walk all over it with dog doo-ed shoes last week. so we went over how to keep them and their shoes outside my boundary. next is realizing in the moment that you've set a boundary and that someone is pushing it and practicing your skills as best you can to not let them come over the limit. it may not be perfect, but at least you can keep it contained (at the front door) instead of all over the living. and the last is once you've mastered setting limits and others respect you and the limits you set you are vigilant in keeping them (taking your flashlight with you on walks so you don't step in it!).

susan said that part of the reason i have a hard time setting boundaries is because of the religious culture i was brought up in. i agree with her. i was taught to respect my elders, which isn't a bad thing, but makes setting boundaries with them difficult. and then there is another factor of different personalities. some people are not going to read me as well as others. i'm going to have to set boundaries with them over and over and over again because of them, not because of me.

boundaries are good, healthy, and appropriate. let's all try to listen to what people are saying when they speak and respect what they are saying to us. and speak up for ourselves when we feel we need space.

Friday, August 22, 2014

counting the positives

this week in group therapy we got a homework assignment to 'count the positive' things that happen in our lives each day for the next week. at first i was overwhelmed by the assignment, thinking i wouldn't be able to keep the number in my head, and then i decided it wouldn't be too bad since i probably wouldn't get more than 10 positive things a day.

susan gave us examples of things to count such as, "the dog didn't have an accident by the front door; that stranger held the door open for me; the shoes i wanted to wear were in my closet; the shirt i wanted to wear was clean; a co-worker cleaned out the coffee maker" etc and we all started laughing at how little these things seemed - and then complaining "we have to count EVERY LITTLE POSITIVE THING that happens to us??!!" yep!

for whatever reason - maybe some biological (survival), maybe some environmental (we were taught it) - we tend to focus on the negative things that happen during our day and that's the only thing we can see. it completely clouds the positive things - and at least for me - consumes our/my thoughts. focusing on the positive reminds us that good things frequently happen throughout our days if only we will tune in to them.

so today i counted and my grand total came to 27 positive things and my negative things came to 2! can you believe that?! look at what a HUGE difference that is! i really felt the negative emotions of those two things, but when i was in the middle of those situations, i reminded myself of what my homework was and started reflecting on what some of the positive things were that had happened to me that day were. here are some of them :

1 - i drove past 3 accidents - none of which i was in.
2 - i got a free mailing envelope at wal-mart after pointing out the mistake to the cashier and he thanked me for my honesty.
3 - i played 'mannequins' with some of the girls i nanny and brought joy and smiles to other shoppers' faces!
4 - i mailed gifts to my aunt, grandpa and cousin.
5 - i talked to my counselor and got some phone coaching from her tonight.
6 - i bought darling picture frames and they were one sale!
7 - i got up on time to take family pictures and got to wear my owl scarf.
8 - i ordered my favorite lemon water from sonic.
9 - i was paid today :)
10 - i ate out with my family.

these are just 10 of the 27 positive things that happened to me today! can you believe that 17 more great things happened?? in just one day! doesn't mean i didn't have rough moments - because i spent 2-3 hours using a lot of skills dealing with the negative situations that came up. but look at all the positives :) sure, i remember the negatives - well, at least one of them - but it's not what is stuck in my memory. the positives are.

so my invitation to you, dear reader, is to JOIN ME! count the positives in your day with me! come on, let's do this together :) write it down on a post-it note each night and next friday i think you'll be amazed to find how many positive things have happened during your week.

happy counting!

Monday, August 18, 2014

time marches on

sadness is playing a huge role in my life once again. it is a powerful emotion, one that causes me reflection and makes me pause and think about my life.

b is moving saturday. this makes me very sad. i can't find it in me at this moment to be happy for her and how her life is progressing and unfolding and that her career is advancing. i can only think of me and the sadness her absence in my life will bring. my brother c has an interview for a job in alaska which they are flying him down for. this too brings me sadness. he wants it so badly and often in life we get what we want. he deserves an adventure but here too i cannot see past the sadness the absence his presence in my life will bring. my sister s is going on a mission trip like the one i did when i went to az. she could possibly leave as soon as december and i don't want her to go.

when did my younger siblings grow up? when did they become adults and start making adult decisions? when did thanksgiving and christmas really become family holidays instead of every weekend being a mini family reunion? ah, these questions burden me. and sting my eyes with tears.

there are deeper fears that lie under each of them leaving - fears of marriage, safety, disappointment, rejection - things i want to protect them from and/or don't want them to experience either before me or ever. but it's part of life. something i have to radically accept. and know that they'll be ok. even if they do get hurt.

i am also sad from my recent trip to kentucky. though i had an absolutely wonderful time seeing my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandpa, the absence of my grandma, mamaw, was so apparent this time, and the reality of her death so much more real, that i left feeling sad. i did ok visiting her grave but found myself uncomfortable in her home and wanting to spend less time there than i usually do. i stayed with my aunt e this time and was more comfortable staying there and away from mamaw's home. i didn't walk around the inside of mamaw's home or explore it like i usually do just to see it all again. i knew she was missing and i didn't want to walk around and not see her there.

i'm just going to be really frank in this next paragraph about pcos and hormones so if that makes you uncomfortable - jump ahead! pcos has thrown my cycle off and it has made my hormones do a loopity-loop. i can't track my cycle and only get clued in to when it may be coming when i start to notice that i'm grumpy, moody, or extra emotional. even at that, it's taken susan cluing me in to it for the past two months for me to catch it this month. and still my little visitor hasn't arrived. so i may have to do a little more work and take matters into my own hands and get some extra help from my obgyn so that i know when my cycle is coming. pcos is hard in a lot of ways.

if i didn't have the skills that dbt teaches i would not have been able to do my day today. i have been moody and grumpy all day. but i got up and showed up at work with my lemon water - reinforcement for going to work. then went on my walk (which is a PLEASE skill) with the promise of a cupcake if i did it - more reinforcement. and saw susan - and asked for what i needed, which is a skill i added and wrote marsha linehan about (the person who created dbt :). and then i came home and am working on laundry, writing, and doing low key things to stay calm. i would be lost without dbt. it has saved my life in so many ways. i am grateful god led me to it. grateful beyond words.

here are some pictures from kentucky that my cousin j took :) i will treasure them forever <3

me and Topper front porch sittin'

us on his trusty ol' truck

love this one! tractor time!

my favorite out of all of them - j said ok now one real close and Topper put his arm right up there around my neck and said how about one like this? :) precious!

such a great moment captured :)

one of my favorites!

LOVE the lighting in this one!

this angel is in the last garden of mamaw's - j said no editing needed to be done, it was like mamaw wanted to be there and part of the picture - i totally think she did <3
me and w, my iron man girl! she tweeted this to rdj ;)

we know - amazing!

love this one of us!

too cute!


my fav! me and my sweet cousin :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

vampire hours

i guess i'm keeping vampire hours tonight. i haven't pulled this for a while. i don't know why i'm doing it tonight. after doing a body check and making sure i wasn't in any physical pain or discomfort i decided something must be on my mind.

so i turned to my blog. what could it be, i thought? there has been a lot of talk about the recent passing of robin williams. i remember the first movie i ever saw him in was flubber. i wouldn't say he was my favorite funny man, but he did make me laugh and brought joy to my life, so how could i not appreciate him and feel sadness at his passing?

then i started to see posts on facebook about the cause of his passing. so i did a little googling and found an article by fox news that says the "coroner suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia." it also reported that he was "battling severe depression."

all of this got me thinking about my life and my time of deep despair and depression. oh how i remember those sinking months in my apartment leading up to my time in inpatient. i didn't recognize the signs of depression then because i had never been through such an episode before and i was living alone so i didn't have anyone to help me recognize signs that weren't normal. by all accounts i was 'functioning' but really i wasn't. i stopped taking my trash out regularly. i stopped folding and putting away my laundry. i stopped fixing good food for myself. i began sleeping more. i showered only because i worked in some FILTHY homes with smoke and unclean floors. i was tired and drank more soda. i went to counseling but began to realize that i needed something more to do. i began to self injure. 

and then - the week of darkness - it was like my mind wasn't my own, thoughts that had never been so persistent suddenly became all i could think about - and those were ending my life. instead of desperate - like i had felt in the months previous - i felt calm and certain that this was the only way to make my life work. i accepted that in order for my life to make sense, i had to end the suffering. it was too much for me to bear. my mind was constantly working on a plan to end my pain. there was a little light dimly burning in the back of my mind that kept saying "something's not right about this, you need to tell someone" and that kept me aware enough to tell a and dr queenan but not until the entire week had passed. i had speech sessions with my kiddos where i couldn't focus because my mind was elsewhere, and i didn't know what to do. 

a stayed with my thursday night and i know that was god stepping in protecting my life because i saw dr queenan friday morning at 9 or 10 and he put me right in the hospital. a was my angel. she cleaned my apartment and went shopping for me. i will never forget that.

inpatient was hard, but it was the intervention i needed. then intensive outpatient program was hard but i needed it too. chloe, our social worker there, was amazing. she is now our co-leader in dbt group therapy so i still get to see her each week which is really great and i'm happy she gets to see all the progress i have made. from pjs and slippers to make-up and hair fixed (most thursdays :)! and then getting in to see susan and having specialized treatment from her in dbt has been the most helpful, life saving, rewarding, best, amazing thing i have done for my life. it has saved me.

depression is a big deal. suicide is a big deal. people's stories matter. we never know what suffering goes on behind the jokes or the smiles or the laughter. every life has suffering. my mom always says, every person has a story that will make you cry.

i created this blog to share my journey, but also in the hopes that others would feel comfortable enough to share piece of their journey in the comments. we can encourage each other.

life is worth living, even when it's hard.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

i see god's hand

i have been incredibly stressed today : full of anxiety, fear, i have a headache, my jaw is numb from clenching it, my chest is tight, my eyes are filled with tears that may soon spill over, and i feel a slight disconnect from my body.

there are recent situations in my life i haven't recovered from emotionally, there was a situation that came up today that i'm processing as skillfully as i can but it's still hard, and there are medication changes i'm adjusting to in regards to my seizures that are causing me extreme fatigue/sedation. all of these things leave me feeling emotionally vulnerable. without the dbt skills i know i would be in my bed, depressed, sleeping, with netflix running.

but because of dbt i am able to get up, walk at the gym, go to work, take a rest, interact with people, reinforce myself (give myself a prize), reach out to friends, face problems head on and skillfully, communicate with people directly, set up doctor appointments, go to doctor appointments and breathe through them, have open and willing hands to try new things, go to parties, go to church, be around crowds, express my limits, make repairs/apologize, balance little questions/bumps in the middle of my daily routine (something i wasn't able to do before), and plan/think of my future.

i am grateful beyond words for dbt and what it has taught me.

and so as my opposite action to stress tonight, i'm going to do as bing crosby sings about and count my blessings by naming all the ways i've seen god's hand in my life recently :

i've seen god's hand in helping me get baby clothes for a friend.
i've seen god's hand lead me to a new dermatologist.
i've seen god's hand calm my anxiety while i talked about money (a trigger subject for me).
i've seen god's hand remind me of a skill to use in responding to an anger provoking situation.
i've seen god's hand provide enough money for me to pay my bills.
i've seen god's hand help me think about my future.
i've seen god's hand remind me of the good i did in my past work as a speech therapist.
i've seen god's hand in finding the humor in situations.
i've seen god's hand in providing insurance for me.
i've seen god's hand giving me friends who support me.
i've seen god's hand as friends have shared their children with me.
i've seen god's hand as i have been led to dbt.
i've seen god's hand in loosing weight.
i've seen god's hand in providing shoes that fit my feet.
i've seen god's hand bless me with patience.

i feel my heart changing, from anxious to grateful. i am so thankful for god's goodness to me. he has done so much for me. 

"be not afraid"
i feel just like this girl in the picture - i have fallen and the Savior is reaching down, patiently extending his arm, and lifting me up to safer shores.