Posts Tagged ‘reflections’

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.

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.

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.

My healthcare story and reflections on the American Health Care Act bill.

Okay, I’m going to get personal and political about healthcare coverage.

My story:

Over many years in infrequent doctor’s visits, I omitted the fact that my family has a history of depression. I did this partly in order to avoid receiving a diagnosis, to avoid the stigma of the label, and also to avoid having a “pre-existing condition.” My parents were both self-employed and had to buy private insurance, so any diagnosis (especially one I was not seeking conventional medical treatment for) might put that at risk.

After college, I generally had several jobs that included health insurance benefits. After I got laid off in 2011, I was able to apply for private insurance without much of a hassle. At the time, insurance carriers seemed to look for any reason not to cover people — or at least charge more for their care. I was relieved and grateful that I didn’t fall into this category.

But then something else came up: in the late summer of 2013, I discovered I had a tumor on my right ovary. This discovery, along with the subsequent open abdominal surgery, meant that I would have a pre-existing condition. With the beginning of the Affordable Care Act in 2014, I was able to easily get coverage. And with my recovery from the surgery, I also struggled to recover emotionally and fell into a deep depression. I decided to seek further treatment, which included hospitalization and taking medication and later an intensive therapy program.

When I moved back to New Mexico, I qualified for Centennial Care, their Medicaid Program, under the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. Under this program, I was able to get my Dialectical Behavioral Therapy program covered as well as occupational therapy for my sensory issues. It also covered my preventative care visits, pelvic ultrasounds, and follow-up appointments to make sure the tumor hadn’t returned. I felt so grateful to have these needs met.

These days, I am pretty healthy. I still take antidepressants, and have not had another major episode of depression. So far, my tumor has not returned.

Today, the House of Representatives passed a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. This bill includes changing the current guaranteed protections to pre-existing conditions.

A recent quote from an Alabama congressman: “My understanding is that (the new proposal) will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool. That helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now, those are the people — who’ve done things the right way — that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.”

I see quotes like this and I get frustrated. Honestly, I get frustrated anytime I hear or read something from any side of the political spectrum that implies that people have full control — as if merely being responsible will ensure their good health — whether they’re talking about potential healthcare law changes or holistic healing. In my perspective, yes, there are things I can do (and do do) to help keep myself healthy — but that doesn’t guarantee my continued good health.

Yes, there are people with pre-existing conditions who don’t take care of themselves. There are people out there who have pre-existing conditions because they didn’t take care of themselves. There are also people who can’t afford to take better care of themselves — they do what they can, but they may prioritizing caring for others, and/or need to work two jobs to provide for themselves and their families, etc. And there are people who take care of themselves and do everything “right” and still end up falling ill. And sometimes “pre-existing condition” just means that a person sought out treatment for something they needed medical help with, which resulted in a diagnosis. This can run the gamut of regular, human life experiences, including childbirth. In this so-called healthcare bill, the list of what qualifies as a pre-existing condition goes on. 

Hearing and reading about all these potential changes does scare me on a personal level — it would be a huge financial burden for my husband and me if our healthcare costs went up in order for me to at least get preventative coverage, and that’s not even looking at potential serious health issues in the future. We are currently both covered through his employer, and this bill would likely extend to these benefits as well.

However, I am young and currently healthy. I am concerned for others. There are others whose higher cost or loss of coverage could be the difference between life and death. There are children who are born with pre-existing conditions whose parents might have to make hard decisions. Many people will lose coverage.

The Senate is said to be considering creating another version of the American Health Care Act; in any case, the review of the bill in the Senate is likely to be a longer process. 

If you are concerned about the future of healthcare coverage in the United States, here are some things you can do:
Call, write, or e-mail your Senators.

Write thank-you notes to Congresspeople who voted against the bill.  If your representative voted for it and you disagree with them, let them know (for reference, these are the votes).

Share your story. Write in your social media channels, share in a blog post. Personal stories can make a huge impact.

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.