Posts Tagged ‘insights’

The power of sharing my own experience.

A conversation with friend from earlier this week:

“You probably haven’t had to deal with stuff like this,” she said, after describing how she’d been feeling lately.

“Depression?”

She nodded. “Well, actually, I have,” I said, and elaborated about my own experience.

Afterward, she thanked me for sharing. She knew then that I could relate to how she was feeling.

This moment allowed me to see how incredibly validating it was for me to share my personal experience — for both my friend and for me.

When I was in the midst of my most severe depressive episode, I know that I often felt very alone and isolated in my experience. I think that affirming for someone that she is not alone may have been a powerful gift. Yes, it required vulnerability. It required me to tread into topics I don’t usually touch on in everyday conversations. It gave me the opportunity to rely on my inner strength and know that I could be — and was — okay to give support in that moment.

I felt cautious with this interaction, both during and afterwards. I know I am not necessarily fragile now, but I see the darkness within myself, the potential for becoming depressed again. These kinds of interactions have the potential to be draining and triggering. But I also realize that in many ways, this gives me an opportunity to establish boundaries when needed while also providing the kind of support that only one who has been through something similar can provide. I won’t offer solutions, but I can offer my own story and share what helped me.

It helped me to share, too. Sometimes I feel like I only give people parts of my story. True, not everyone has earned my trust to hear more. But it was important for me to have a moment where I let my guard down, especially when it seemed appropriate and needed. So perhaps I received a gift in that moment as well.

But it’s free! Reflections on my habit of signing up for online trainings.

I have a habit of signing up for free webinars and workshops, ones that claim to be beneficial, boost my mindset, give me tools for my small business, etc. It is likely that these have value in themselves, and I’m sure they benefit many people.

However, I rarely attend these things. The truth is: I feel bogged down by watching videos online. I have to take webinars in small bites. I get restless. Sometimes I can watch things while doing something else, like taking notes or making jewelry, but after a time, I get overwhelmed by the amount of information and the fact I’ve been watching a computer screen for an extended amount of time. The content adds more noise and clutter to my already full e-mail inbox and internet time. It can add to overstimulation and potentially lead to a sensory shutdown.

I also reached a point where self-help resources became less helpful for me. Part of that was burnout: I spent thousands of dollars and over two years on a live-in empowerment program. In the end, I can say that parts of it were worthwhile and beneficial…and other parts were not helpful and even harmful for me. I am now more cautious and skeptical. While I believe it’s helpful to have a good and hopeful attitude, I don’t believe completely in mind over matter. If someone starts talking about manifestation and the law of attraction, I’ll lose interest quickly. It’s not that I don’t think these things aren’t helpful for some people; I just don’t believe that they are helpful for me.

Also, sometimes something that was meant to encourage me doesn’t have the desired effect. I was watching something (as part of the marketing section of my transcript proofreading course) recently about imposter syndrome and how to overcome it. I recognized it in myself and I’ve actually felt more self-conscious since then. I do have tools for overcoming self-doubt; sometimes, I need to find my own way out.

It’s also that I’m not generally the best person to market to. Yes, I’ve clicked on a link, I’ve signed up for a free class, I get on an e-mail list. I’ll get that far; you’ve sold me on the free parts. But at this point, unless you’re selling a set of skills I want to acquire or a Nia training, I probably won’t buy the product or service that you’re trying to sell. It’s also that I sometimes get annoyed at even well-meaning people who are selling their products and services. No wonder I struggle with the idea of marketing and selling my services — I don’t want people to react to me selling something in a similar way. (Note: This is not to say that I’m invulnerable to marketing and that I don’t get the desire to buy things; I do. I just don’t think I’m the best person to target for an actual sale).

Perhaps the obvious lesson here is to stop signing up for online events I won’t attend, for free services that may turn into sales pitches. I can acknowledge that while I’m curious and would appreciate the insights, it’s often more effective for me to find those in another way. Maybe I can find an article by that person or check out their book. Maybe I’ll reach out and connect with someone who has done something similar to what I’m trying to do. I can write down what kind of support I need and brainstorm ideas on how and where to get it. Alternatively, before I sign up for something, I can look more carefully at what’s being offered. I can then make a more considered decision, and, if I like what they’re offering, make an intentional date with myself to watch it.

I recently signed up for a free training that had multiple videos/webinars about how to overcome overwhelm. I was completely overwhelmed and daunted by the amount of videos. So here is my intention for the future: to sign up for things like this with more intention and not all at once, and to pause before I sign up for another thing, no matter how low (or free!) the cost.

Reflections on a hometown visit and creating home

Returning to my hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, for 10 days in May was wonderful. I got to see friends, take several Nia classes (plus take a weekend training!), and appreciate the beauty of the landscape.

mountains and rivers

The Sandia Mountains and the Rio Grande.

After seven months away, it felt like both a long and short time away. Also, I had things scheduled like a vision therapy follow-up appointment and a session with my occupational therapist, so at moments it almost felt like a chapter out of my life last year.

Being there reminded me how much of a life I built there. When I first moved back, my main goal was to get stable and regain my mental health. I wasn’t expecting to create something that I would be reluctant to leave.

But I realize that creating a life, forming connections, and creating a sense of community for myself was important. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy talks about a “life worth living.” For me, that includes feeling comfortable, at home, and connected. It grew to include Nia, which helped me gradually find my way back to joy. As the months went by, I felt more capable, more alive, more me. All of this was and is important.

During my days there and when I returned to Las Vegas, I felt somewhat unsettled, as though my desires and attention were split between the two places.  I wanted to be here and there. I really like the life I am creating with my love here. I miss people there. I’m gradually meeting and getting to know people here. The landscape here, with deserts and mountains, reminds me somewhat of New Mexico. I appreciate both types of desert beauty.

Las Vegas sunset

Las Vegas, Nevada, late May

While part of me felt distressed by feeling split, I realize that this feeling isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It means that I am building a home here in Las Vegas while still having a strong sense of home in Albuquerque. It means that I can return there and connect with people and stay in touch. It means that I am learning to create and maintain a life for myself wherever I am.

Lessons and observations from my first summer in Las Vegas.

Here’s what I’m finding out during my first summer living in Las Vegas, Nevada(during the latest heat wave, and with the high temperatures in general):

1. In some places, people mostly stay inside in the winter. Other places, they mostly stay inside in the summer.

2. With how dry it is, the “feels like” on the forecast is often at least 4-9 degrees cooler than the actual temperature, e.g. 109 degrees feels like 104.

3. With all the hot air and occasional breeze, sometimes walking outside is like walking through (or into?) a giant hair dryer.

4. It’s still possible to get up early and take walks. It warms up quickly, so it’s best to get out as soon as possible in the morning. My first thought yesterday morning: It will be nice to get out for a short walk this morning while the temperatures are under 100 (it was 89).

5.  If I bring my water bottle with me when I’m out running errands (which is good to do to stay hydrated), I need to put it in my purse and take it with me wherever I go. Even leaving it in the car for a few minutes will heat it up.

6.  Wearing skirts and dresses helps keep me cool(er).

7. Having a pool at our apartment complex is a huge plus.

8. Apparently, outdoor Hot Yoga is a thing. As in outside in the summer heat.  I’m not really interested, but I really hope they wear sunscreen.

9.  Low 100s feel better than 110+ (which it is now during this heat wave).

10. I am gradually acclimating. I wouldn’t want to stay out for long, and the heat wears on me. But it’s starting to feel less oppressive.

Health results, past and present.

I remember when I first found out I had some sort of cyst or tumor, nearly four years ago now. At first, it was tangible — it showed up in X-rays and an ultrasound, and I could feel it when I touched my abdomen — but it wasn’t quite a real thing for me. I was determined. I was determined to be fine aside from that; I said to myself and everyone around me that I was otherwise healthy. I was finishing up a healing and empowerment program and I felt alive and powerful. While I did things to mitigate the occasion sharp pain and continued with the trajectory of making doctors’ appointments, I also pushed forward. I was determined that it was not going to interfere with the goals I had for myself.

I didn’t consider how much energy the mass took up inside me. Nor did I consider the power of denial. Which is not to say that the feeling of empowerment and hope and idealism was not very real for me — it was. But I didn’t even really think about the potential realities of a mass growing on my ovary. I continued as if it were not a factor.

Also, I had not had this experience before. I simply was lacking both experience and information. Phrases like complex cyst and borderline ovarian tumor did not yet have meaning for me, even if and when I heard them. It wasn’t really until after my surgery where those meanings hit me and I understood.

The present:

Saturday, I stared at the letter: my most recent pelvic ultrasound results. I get an ultrasound every six months or so to make sure that I am tumor-free. My results up to this point have been negative — nothing abnormal found. This time, there is a small cyst on my left ovary. The letter said to wait about three months and get another ultrasound and see if it resolves itself or if I need to take further action.

I froze, putting the letter down, motioning for my love to come over. He took the letter away from my shaking hands.

And I realized this weekend: While I am afraid, it’s important to not let my fear paralyze me. I can acknowledge the worst-case scenario while also acknowledging that that may never come to fruition. At the same time, it’s important not to bury myself in denial. I don’t have to present myself as a pillar of strength and push forward and try to make everything okay whether or not it is. I can be vulnerable and strong. I can be scared and concerned while still moving forward with creating my life here. I don’t have to push; I will take one step at a time.

This could be something. It could be insignificant or nothing. Many cysts resolve on their own. I’ve had one that did not. This one is small, just over one centimeter.. The one I had was nearly 13 cm. For now, I will do what I can. I will try natural and herbal remedies, ask for healing thoughts or prayers.

This weekend, I re-felt some of the trauma from that time, where I did not receive the support I needed from my community during my health scare and following crisis. I reminded myself that my support network now is strong: husband,  parents, parents-in-law, other family, friends. I allowed myself to feel the fear and the grief while also holding the reality of my current experience. In the past few years, I have created a safe space within myself to feel what I need to feel and also move through it. I have developed and strengthened relationships.  No matter what happens, I have a strong foundation.

Life: celebrate, honor, live.

Life paintingI posted this on my social media pages along with this caption:  “Painting/drawing in honor of life, of choosing to live, learning to thrive, and being true to myself. On this date three years ago, I was severely depressed and hit rock bottom. Today, I honor my healing and all the choices that led me to where I am today.”

On May 25, 2013, I was hospitalized for severe depression and suicidal ideations.

I’ve been feeling the anniversary energy this month – more strongly than this time last year, but less strongly than the first year. In this energy, there’s an intensity, sadness, grief, determination, and more. In time, that energy will likely change or fade. In any case, I hope that I’ll take many more moments to acknowledge and celebrate my life, to celebrate living.

Year One.

Year Two.

From frustration to acceptance

The experience of being me is challenging sometimes.

It’s challenging after spending a weekend reeling from sensory input and having to slow way down.

It’s experiencing intense overwhelm and heaviness after trying a healing technique — one that others are praising and saying how good they feel afterwards and how much it benefits them.  I try it, and it feels like so much. Too much?

It’s my thoughts that “other people aren’t experiencing this,” and “Why is this happening again?”

And perhaps many people are not, maybe not specifically sensory processing issues or other sensitivities, but, as my Aikido/Tai Chi instructor reminded me on Tuesday night, everyone has limitations of some sort that they have to honor, and also reach their “too much” point at times. He said that being at the edge often means learning, and going over can lead to burnout or injuries.

I sometimes really want things to be easier, simpler, more relaxing for me. Not to get exhausted, even from doing things that I want to do. Not finding it challenging to be in my body at times and stay anywhere close to grounded.

And then, there’s returning to acceptance. There’s softening towards myself. There’s having a vulnerable moment after Aikido that opens up a conversation and other people sharing vulnerabilities.

 I realize that often when I feel overloaded and scattered, I often interpret it as I’ve done something “wrong.” And maybe whatever I did was too much for my system at that particular moment, but it may not need that strong of a label. My nervous system is giving me a signal that I need to slow down, back off. That requires honoring myself, pausing, and resting. It does not require a label or a value judgment. Once in a more grounded place, I can have more perspective about that experience and think about what to consider in the future regarding that activity. Experimenting and finding that that activity was too much at that moment doesn’t require chastising myself for wanting to see what it would be like. It may be an opportunity to give myself space and to learn from that experience.

I have done so much work the past few years around creating a life that more fully honors my sensitivities and limitations. I have so much more respect for myself and what I need. I still have moments where I get frustrated, where I want to do more, be more, and where I want to push through.  I also have more moments of acceptance, of giving myself space to be how, where, and who I am. I’m taking this moment to honor and acknowledge all of this.