Posts Tagged ‘insight’

Softening the hard edges of self-judgment

I have been hard on myself in the past. Over the past few years, I’ve softened quite a bit. I’m also more aware when I feel the hard edges of self-judgment. I remind myself to step back when that happens. Present-tense, I am softer.

When I look to the past, with this particular situation, I struggle with softening towards myself. In the past, I was sometimes unthinkingly callous, unkind, explosive, etc. towards my now-husband. I still find myself in moments where I apologize for how I behaved then. Sometime,s when he expresses gratitude for something in the present, I realize that I didn’t do that in the past and feel bad. And I realize that I likely behaved this way in the past in other close relationships as well.

My love says that apologies aren’t needed. He acknowledges that my behavior was sometimes unkind in the past, but it isn’t now. He is grateful for the growth we’ve both gone through. We’re both grateful for DBT, which has certainly helped me be more mindful, less reactive, more relational, and what I learned and passed on to him has helped him, too. We’re both so grateful that we know about my sensory processing issues, because they often largely contributed towards my reactivity, my meltdowns, etc. We have a wonderful relationship now. We have more exchange and give-and-take; we talk things through and we actively work on our relationship.

And even acknowledging all that, I find it challenging at times to fully forgive myself for those times where I lashed out, where I critical or unkind. I’m hoping that writing this out will allow me to soften a little bit, or at least accept that that’s where I’m at. I have grown so much. I am still growing. I am learning from my mistakes. I cannot change the past, but I can be mindful in the present and carry that into the future. Hopefully, in time, I can hold my past self with more compassion.

What’s my story? It’s mine.

 Owning our story

Picture of card with text:  “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” Dr. Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection.

For quite a while, when I saw a quote about owning my story, I would cringe. While I knew that Brené Brown and others meant well by this concept and phrase, it would remind me of a time when people asked me, “What can you own in this situation?” or “What’s your story?” (and story as in “what is the story you’re telling yourself about this situation?”)

I realize now that in some ways, these questions and statements from others may have been more about their perspective and their narrative of me, as in “I think you’re not taking ownership” or “I don’t think that’s what really happening,” etc. It wasn’t my narrative, it wasn’t my story.

We are makers of meaning, and sometimes the stories we tell ourselves about a situation or others are narratives based on something else entirely – belief, a past event, a judgment, etc. These kind of stories are informative in their own way. For me, I think the question, “Why do you think that?” provokes more thought, more discussion than a “what’s your story?” I remember reading Brené Brown’s Rising Strong, and she has a chapter where she gets angry at her husband, and realizes that it relates to a dream she had the previous night. She tells her husband, “the story I’m telling myself is…” And in doing so, she opens up, she opens up another level of honesty, part of how she thinks and how it causes her to react. And I recognize that she is the one claiming this, just as much as she claims her vulnerability and her truth in other circumstances that may appear more tangible.

Going back to the time about 3 years ago, when someone asked me the question, “What’s your story?” I felt volatile, vulnerable. I wanted support; I often got invalidating comments back. I was headed towards rock bottom, and it wasn’t a helpful question for me. It wasn’t a “where are you, how are you feeling, what’s happening for you when you say that?” I often grabbed onto sense and it feel through my fingers; communication was challenging, figuring out where I was and where I stood and how to make a coherent decision felt next to impossible. If my self had a narrative it had been wrapped around a goal, and now that I know longer wanted that, I felt like I was unraveling, as though I didn’t have a story.

My narrative of myself then was different: I felt like I had a number of successes, a number of times where I would rise to the occasion, and then I would crash: my energy, self-esteem, sense of self. I often blamed myself. I didn’t fully know what was going on, but every time I fell I got up again and tried harder. Several years ago, I wrote a lot about my personal growth; when I read it now, it doesn’t ring true to me. Nevertheless, I believed that narrative, and there are pieces of it that certainly held value for me.

When sensory processing disorder became part of my narrative, my perspective on the past changed. It wasn’t a story about trying and failing in the same sense anymore, or about my behavior – it was about the underlying cause that I once had no words for. It was about trying to voice what was going on and people labeling it as something else, a narrative based on misunderstanding. I’ve been working my way, on my own terms, towards understanding, and having compassion for the years of not knowing.

I think owning one’s story is about claiming what resonates personally. It’s about telling my story from my own perspective and allowing the details, as nitty gritty as they may be, to come to the surface.

And, of course, other people can say things to me or about me, and give perspective or feedback that can help me tell my own story. But there are ways to do that without wrenching the narrative away.

In the end, perhaps owning my story is taking the reigns of my narrative for myself; shedding the assumptions and projections; finding what is true for me in the moment, deciphering what is not.

What’s my story?
It’s mine. And I’m still in the process of telling it.
 

Letter to self

Dear Self,

I want to tell you never have to go through that exact experience again.  You are brave for having lived through it. You faced severe depression and suicidal thoughts. You had a night where you didn’t care what you took or did. It’s been almost a year. You made it through.

Not everyone understood. They may have given you misguided advice and misinterpreted what you were experiencing. Trust that you know your own experience and your own truth. Others discouraged you from sharing about the one of the most significant health crises of your life with people you care about. That couldn’t have helped anyone, and contributed towards your silence and depression.  You made the courageous choice to leave, even though it was heartbreaking.  It was also the most powerful and supportive choices you could have made at the time.

I know that you want to hear that you will never be in another situation where someone asks you to do something that compromises your values. I can’t guarantee that. I can tell you that if it happens again, you now have the tools to stand up for yourself, to say no with strength and integrity.

You have grown a lot. You have gone from facing a life-sucking depression to embracing your passion. I love seeing you be creative. I know that art has always called to you. I’m glad you are listening. You have re-embraced the steadiness and compassion of a man who loves you for who you are. You are allowing yourself to fully love him in return, and you are dedicated to building and growing your relationship. You are finding community, even though you feared you’d never find one again. You are learning. You are healing.

I want to tell you that you are strong. You are learning how to cope in a society, in a world, that sometimes tells you to be something – someone – you are not. Be you. Trust in yourself. Find your own rhythm. You’ve got this.

Spreading wings with eyes open (poem)

I was sorting through the notes app on my phone, and found this from the Fall of 2013.

Heart hurt
Eyes soft
You motion to me
In my sleep.
I cradle little girl,
Allowing her to rest, to dream
But she also must strengthen and
Spread her wings.

Eyes wide she wakes
Afraid of a world that
Gives and takes,
Afraid of her own
Power.
Who are you to take
My comfort away? she asks.
My hands are empty, she says.
My hands are empty.

Every second counts
I spin tales and
Mix dreams.

I am not here to please you.
I am here to build my own web.
Oh goddess, my patience recedes
With the tide.
I am not small
I am so strong,
And I didn’t see it for so long.

If this is the end,
Please give me a
Bright beginning.

Inspiration from a blog post

“Help us manage our fire, yes, but don’t extinguish us.  The fire that almost killed us is the same we’ll use to light up the world.”

Blog post by Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery. She begins the post with the question, “what do you want the people who love and serve the mentally ill to know?”  Her answer is honest, straightforward, and touching.  In my opinion, it’s worth reading and sharing.  I had tears in my eyes when I finished reading it.  I could quote more of it, but I encourage you to read it for yourself.

What I would tell you – an unsent letter.

This is a letter to someone I know, what I wish I could say to her.

What I would tell you:
When someone is talking and thinking about suicide,
don’t process with with her. Sit with her. Listen to her. Bring her food.
Don’t tell her why she is having this experience,
or that she is acting this way for attention.
Don’t try to solve a problem with her. She isn’t thinking like that.
Help her get help. Dial a helpline. Take her to the hospital if necessary.

You did all of those things for me, both the “dos” and the “don’ts.” I am grateful for all the ways you helped; I feel hurt by all the ways you didn’t.

I want to tell you:
I didn’t leave because of a conflict with another person.
I left because I was struggling with my will to live.
I left because no one should be told, while in crisis,
to “step into her power” or “to believe in possibility.”
My power was in leaving,
Not in staying.

There are many ways to grow, to lead,
to walk on this path of life.
I admire your commitment to yours.
I heard you say you wished different things for my path,
but my path is mine.
I would tell you this, I would tell you all this,
but right now, I know there is more power in writing this.
I cannot go back and wish myself into an empowered place
and stand for myself in those moments.

My strength grows more and more each day.
Perhaps sometime, someday soon,
I will tell you.

My choice to take antidepressants

I have a family history of depression on my mother’s side. My maternal grandmother was on various medications throughout her life. My mother, who has also lived with depression, chose not to take medication. I have grown up on alternative medicine, as my father is a clinical herbalist. Before 2014, I generally used herbs, supplements, and therapy to manage my low moods. Due to these factors and overall mixed feelings about medications (and doctors), I was resistant to try antidepressants.

There have been several times in the past where someone has recommended antidepressants to me:

1) When I was in college, the health center therapist referred me to a psychiatrist. I refused to go.

2) When I received a poor participation grade in a college class, I e-mailed my professor for feedback. She told me that I was a good student and she believed that I could rise as far as I desired academically. However, she recommended that I take antidepressants so I could be more outgoing. She told me it worked for her. I was stunned.

3) Fast forward, years later: I was working long, stressful hours at my job. I was also experiencing mysterious dizzy spells. I went to the doctor, and she told me that the dizzy spells were probably related to anxiety and recommended that I see a psychiatrist. Again, I refused.

4) Last year: Post-surgery, in my surgeon’s office for a twelve week follow-up, I burst into tears and told her how I’d been feeling. She told me that knew I preferred alternative treatments, but antidepressants were an option. I hesitated, and then told her I was willing to try. I remember saying at one point that if I ever was in a crisis situation, I would consider taking antidepressants. This seemed to apply. I took Celexa for six weeks and ended up feeling more agitated and suicidal. I went off that medication and got a prescription for something else. However, I was now terrified of experiencing similar side effects, so I didn’t take it.

In the hospital last May, taking medication wasn’t optional – it was part of the daily routine. What they gave me there (Abilify and Depakote) temporarily stabilized me, but ended up making me feel slow and extremely hungry. In the end, those medications did not decrease my emotional turmoil. When I returned to my hometown and found a new psychiatrist, I switched to Wellbutrin. I’ve now been on it for six months.

I’ve heard that some people describe taking their medication as though it were akin to a miracle: “Wow, I didn’t know how depressed I was until I started taking this. It’s like the clouds have lifted.” For me, the clouds haven’t quite lifted, but I feel like I have more breathing room. My depression and rumination still dominate at times, but they are not always at the forefront. I’m better able to think rationally and to work on deeper issues.

Sometimes, I want that miracle solution, a magic pill, something that infuses a sustainable feeling of hope within me. My conclusion, so far: there is no one solution. I exercise regularly, I eat healthy foods, I take my medication and supplements, and I go to therapy. And in the end, I am no more outgoing for being on antidepressants. No pill is going to change my basic temperament. However, the combination of supportive self-care practices help me maintain my interest in life in general, and to live actively. Am I better off for taking antidepressants at this point in my life? I think so. Do I want to take them long-term? I would prefer not to, but I want – and need – to take one thing at a time.