Posts Tagged ‘reflections’

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.

Aikido life lessons.

Me, after my Aikido instructor complimented me on a specific technique:  “I get that I got that, I just don’t know if I can do it like that again.”

Him: “Hopefully, you never will, because every attack and every partner will be different. Even if any of us [gestures around the room] attack at another point, it could be totally different, and you’d need to react differently.”

Me: “Oh…”

So, sure, there’s repetition and technique.

And there’s also knowing that, in this case (and perhaps many others), it’s not about being exact. It’s mainly about knowing how to respond appropriately — and recognizing that that may never look the same.

Perspectives on being a beginner

I wrote this a few weeks ago. It’s still relevant to my process, and a great reminder.

My Tai Chi and Aikido instructor said this to one of my classmates recently (paraphrased): “I’m kind of envious of the beginner space you’re in. I love being new at something. When I realized, at age 50, that I was basically good at everything I had been striving for, I decided to learn an instrument. I chose bagpipes. After four years, I still suck at it. And I still love it.”

Perhaps there is – or can be – a certain joy in beginning, in being new at something. Yes, it’s raw and vulnerable and full of mistakes. It’s also, for someone who loves learning, a chance to gain new knowledge, experiment, do something in a new way. My instructor practically beams when someone asks him about an inconsistency in his own form; it becomes a learning moment for him and also helps him be a better teacher.

As a recovering perfectionist, there is still part of me that wants to “get it right” in my recent pursuits, from Nia to Tai Chi and Aikido to proofreading legal transcripts. But perhaps the way to get there is through not getting it right, through stumbling, correcting, modifying. Maybe someday my form and movements will be more precise and closer to the original. But the only way to get there is to be new, to practice, to feel how repetition makes my muscles remember. To throw out concepts of good or bad, and learn so I can improve. And most of all, to enjoy how it feels when I begin to feel more at ease, and take that into my practice.

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.