Posts Tagged ‘life’

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.

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.

Recognizing my experience of depression in the pages of the DSM-V

A few weeks ago, my assignment for my Abnormal Psychology class – choosing a disorder and writing about it from a specific therapeutic perspective – gave me a reason to look through the DSM-V, the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. I went to the local library, sat down with their reference copy, and flipped through the pages. I skimmed the criteria of different disorders, searching for one that might seem intriguing, but not too triggering or something that I have directly experienced.

Major Depressive Disorder did not meet my second requirement; nonetheless, I stopped skimming and read through the criteria. And as I read, I recognized that two and a half to three years ago, I met nearly every point of the criteria, line by line. Part of me suspected this, but I hadn’t looked it up, not even in my old copy of the DSM-IV that I’ve had for years. If the page had been a checklist, it would have been full of check marks.

On one hand, the realization was sobering: I was severely depressed. That’s scary and serious.

On the other hand, I can also say that it’s factual, it’s true, and that reading the criteria simply confirmed what I already knew. I had a depressive episode, the worst I’d ever had. I acknowledge that before I experienced that episode, I likely struggled with mild depression, or dysthymia, on and off for years, perhaps since I was a teenager.

Alternately, I can also look at it like this: I was severely depressed. I went back to my hometown. There, I got the help and support I needed. I don’t know if I can say that I am necessarily better off because of my depression, but the support I got helped me get to where I am today. I like and appreciate my life now.

There is also something validating in seeing what I experienced written in words on a page. It tells me that other people have experienced this, that people have researched it, that treatment continues to be looked at and further developed.

I do recognize that a diagnosis is primarily a measurement used for medical, prescriptive, and insurance reasons. It isn’t consistently a defining factor in my life; at this point, the main thing is that I take two pills each morning. I also keep better track of my moods and I regularly use skills to deal with challenging situations and emotions.

I remind myself that I don’t have to make too much meaning out of the pages of the DSM; it’s a reference manual used in certain contexts. I know that if I experience and recognize the symptoms of depression again, I am more equipped to deal with it. I am therefore less likely to experience another major depressive episode. And that’s what really matters to me.

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.
 

Friday link roundup 3/10

Iceland becomes the first country to make equal pay mandatory.

Slovenia adds the right to drinkable water to their constitution.

An Iranian playwright wrote a play about the refugee detention centers in Australia.

At five years old, a girl from Oklahoma becomes the youngest person to qualify for the National Spelling Bee.

A bookstore decided to demonstrate how sexism affects the publishing industry by flipping books written by men around. The result is eye-opening.

On the Native Nations Rise march for indigenous rights.

Photos and commentary from “A Day without A Woman”/International Women’s Day throughout the United States.

Update.

I have several half-written posts, but they never seem to settle into full entries. So maybe I’ll start with summaries/snapshots of what I’ve been doing. Perhaps I’ll follow up on some of them in the future.

My love and I recently started taking Tai Chi and Aikido classes with an informal dojo. I’m hoping to deepen my perspective on these two martial arts, especially since they are two of the three martial arts forms/energies used in Nia. I’m really enjoying seeing my husband fall in love with the martial arts, which he’s always wanted to do, seeing him get more connected with his body. It’s also nice to have an activity outside our apartment we can do together.

I’m dealing – and sometimes wrestling with – with being a beginner in Tai Chi and Aikido as well as a beginning Nia teacher. I’m working on recognizing that it’s important and necessary to be exactly where I’m at, even though it can feel incredibly intimidating and vulnerable at times. I’m figuring out ways to cheerlead and encourage myself through it. In the end, what’s most important is to keep going.  It seems like I’m doing a lot of personal growth through movement forms. They are teaching me a lot in terms of discipline, confidence, patience, and so much more.

I’m also a beginner at proofreading legal transcripts. I am in the middle of an online course so I can learn how. I’m hoping it can be a way to bring in some income in the near future. While I’ve always been good at catching errors, this is challenging and taking my skills to a new level. It’s also taking a lot of review of rules of punctuation, capitalization, etc.

I’m taking an abnormal psychology class at the local community college. I’m enjoying it, and I’m also appreciating a reason to get out and do things two mornings a week. Grateful that I still had money from my AmeriCorps education award so I could take a class or two.

Since I take evening movement classes two nights a week and sunset is falling around 5:30 or so, I’ve gotten to see some incredible sunsets. Sometimes in the winter, we get actual rainstorms; more often, we get incredible clouds, which often make the sunsets stunning.

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I just had a birthday. I’m now 34. My year of being 33 was very full, and included the major transitions of wrapping up many things in New Mexico, getting married, and moving to Nevada. The day of my birthday was lovely. It included Tai Chi, a walk, a chocolate and vanilla ice cream cake, and dinner at a Persian restaurant.

I am starting to feel more settled here. It’s definitely a process. Some days, I feel more landed; other days, I feel so new. New to this place, new to experiences. I remind myself that feeling new isn’t a bad thing, that there is no rush to feel or be a certain way in my new surroundings. In my quiet moments, when I can ground myself and listen in, I recognize that being where I’m at, here and now, is a good place to be.