Friday, December 30, 2011

It's Not Good-bye, Just See You Soon

Many years ago I worked in an estate planning department at a law firm and during those years it became apparent that there were more deaths during the holidays.  I'm not sure why, the colder weather, family issues during the holidays, etc.  What I do know, is that the death of a loved one is not easy.  Even years later we still mourn their company and sometimes wonder how we have gone on without them. 

Death isn't an easy thing for any of us to experience.  Logically, for those of us who believe that there is life after death, we know that our loved ones are in a wonderful place and not that far away from us.  But emotionally, it seems more difficult for our hearts to understand.  This week was difficult watching a family I care about trying to deal with the death of a beloved son, brother and uncle.  I felt so helpless as I spent time with them and wished there was more that I could do for them.  I know it isn't much, but I did share the following poem that I wrote for my Aunt when my Uncle died with them:
 Heart Pieces
Like a quilt with its many pieces
My heart has many too
I’ve shared small pieces with others
But the biggest piece I shared with you

Our lives and heart pieces
became stitched together
Just as quilt pieces do
Joined completely to each other

We shared our heart pieces
As our little family grew
Yet our heart pieces never emptied
They increased and grew and grew

Time has passed too quickly and
My Father has called me away from you
My heart I take Home with me
But pieces I leave with you

Keep my heart pieces close to yours
To remind you that I am near
That I’m watching over you
And soon everything will be clear

Our heart pieces will join again
Never more to separate
In Heaven where I wait for you
Our hearts will celebrate

 
Last night I went to the funeral and saw so many people who loved this young man, it was truly touching.  One precious moment that I was witness to was seeing a young family with the parents kneeling next to their children in front of the young man's coffin.  The parents were holding their children, loving them and trying to help them understand what was going on.  I wished I had had a way to silently freeze that moment in time along with the feeling of love that was in the room despite the sadness.  I stood in the doorway with tears flowing as I watched this sweet family trying to come to terms with the death of someone they love. 

How do we come to terms with the death of a loved one?  I truly don't know.  How do we go on without them?  One step at a time.  One of my sisters had told me, "you do the dishes."  At first I thought she was crazy, but then I realized she meant that you face each day just doing the little things until you can start doing bigger things and until you feel like you can breathe and live again. 

I don't like the thought of saying "good-bye," I prefer "see you soon" instead.  To say good-bye implies a permanence and I know we will all be together again someday.  To me saying "see you soon" just makes more sense.  So to my Grandma and Grandpa Petersen, Grandma Zimmer, Uncle Keith, Aunt Nina, Sheela and many more, see you soon!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Be Like the Wind

When I read this quote from Marie Osmond, I just had to write it down:
For women, depression often means that we can no longer rise to the occasion of making it look easy, cope with the struggles, or use any of our energy for keeping peace.

It's so true isn't it, life is not easy, but before my emotional issues rose to the surface and demanded to be dealt with I could handle things.  I don't know if I made it look easy, but I do know that often these days I think about how I could get so much done before this.  I could power through my days accomplishing a huge list of things to do.  I had two small children, worked a full-time job and a part-time job, kept the house clean, the bills paid, etc.  Now, I'm lucky if I get the dishes done.

Earlier this week I was talking to someone I hadn't seen in a really long time and I ended up sharing with her some of my story of the past few years.  She said she had experience with it and understood.  It is interesting how as you first start dealing with buried emotions, anxiety and/or depression, you feel so alone, you honestly feel like no one else in the world is with you.  Your world feels so small, then as you reach out you find many who have been there or are there.

Yesterday my visiting teachers came over and we had a great conversation.  We were talking about experiencing our emotions.  As I was trying to describe how we need to feel our emotions, I ended up describing it as feeling like the wind.  We must acknowledge them and let them go through us in order for them to move on otherwise they stay stuck in our body.

As I was thinking about it this morning, the Patrick Swayze song, She's Like the Wind, kept running through my mind:

She's like the wind through my tree
She rides the night next to me
She leads me through moonlight
Only to burn me with the sun
She's taken my heart
But she doesn't know what she's done

Feel her breath on my face
Her body close to me
Can't look in her eyes
She's out of my league
Just a fool to believe
I have anything she needs
She's like the wind
I don't think it's quite what he meant, but we really do need to be the tree and let our emotions be like the wind and let them move through us.  During the summer as I was working in the yard, as a breeze would touch my skin, I would stop, close my eyes and feel it.  I would pause and thank my Heavenly Father for that cool blessing.  Sometimes our emotions can be very scary because they are intense, but if we could just pause and feel them, then like the breeze (or sometimes the wind for stronger emotions) they will move past us (just don't be like the hurricane, it leaves destruction in its path).
One of my visiting teachers was giving an example of going out into the garden to work when trying to deal with her emotions.  I asked her if she was going out and feeling the emotions as she pulled weeds, or was she just doing something to avoid feeling the emotions.  In the past, I was definitely the person who did other things to avoid feeling emotions.  How much better it would have been for me if as I did things I expressed how I was feeling instead of blocking them.

Taking control of my life has required me to stop trying to control my emotions.  It is true that we may need to let our emotions out in a controlled way to make sure that we don't hurt ourselves or others, but that is very different from trying to control them completely.  I love this quote by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf:

It isn't until you come to a spiritual understanding of who you are that you can begin to take control of yourself, you will get control of your life.  If you want to move the world, you first have to move yourself.

I have learned that controlling myself means acknowledging me, my wants, needs and feelings.  It means allowing myself to be human and that means good moments and bad moments.  It means making mistakes and learning from them.  I was stuck and I didn't even see it, but now I feel the wind on my face and I pause and I really feel it and it feels amazing!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Trapped

Trapped is another one of my therapy boxes that I have been working on.  I don't think I realized until I started working on feeling my emotions how trapped I felt.  I had trapped all my feelings inside from a very young age.  I felt like I had to lock up my emotions and not let them out.  My mom had a way of letting her emotions out too freely and it was scary for me as a child so I felt like it was safer for everyone if I held mine in.  She was one extreme and I was the other.

I remember only feeling real anger once, I was probably around the age of 10.  I was at a friend's house and her cousin was there and he was being mean to us and hitting us.  I don't know to this day what happened, but the next thing I knew I was standing there with his shoe prints on my thighs (I was wearing shorts and I could literally see all the lines from the bottom of his tennis shoes imprinted in my skin) and he was yelling that I was crazy.  My friend told me that I just started screaming, yelling and hitting him.  That was such a scary moment for me to not even remember what I had done that I decided to never let myself get angry again.  I don't know if that is what my mom went through when her anger was unleashed, but as a child I imagined that it was and I never wanted to feel like that again.

As a teenager, I would find myself being angry with my little sisters when I would find them in my nail polish with it spilled every where, or some other situation, and I didn't like the feeling of yelling at them so I made a goal to tickle them instead when I felt anger toward them.  I suppose it was a good plan in many respects, I wasn't yelling at them and was turning my anger into an action, but I still wasn't finding a way to face the anger and then release it.  I had felt like it was safer to not feel my feelings or voice them as I didn't want to hurt anyone or make anyone feel the way I did when my mom was upset.

I had such a desire for peace and calm growing up, I sought it every where I could, but I felt like I couldn't get it, physically or emotionally, anywhere at home.  With a large family, lots of kids and a worn out mom, our house was usually a huge mess.  At the age of 17 I finally got my own room which, as a neat freak and previously sharing rooms with different sisters who didn't share my same senses of neatness, was a huge deal for me.  Even though I finally had a room to myself, my sisters kept going into my room and messing with my stuff and messing my room up so I still didn't feel like I had a space to feel the peace I craved.  Then one day my dad gave me one of the best gifts I have ever received, a door knob with a key.  I would lock up my room and none of my family could get in there and mess it up while I was gone.  When I would come home, I would unlock my door, go into my clean room only to turn around and find my family right behind me.  One day my mom said that it just felt so good in my room.  I agreed, I felt so trapped in the rest of the house with all the mess, but I didn't feel that way in my room.

Another way I trapped myself, was by feeling like I had to solve all my family's problems.  Many years ago one of my sisters told me that they all thought I was judging them.  I told her that wasn't it at all, I felt responsible for them, I felt like I had to help them, to save them.  In my head, I was the "2nd mom" and I needed to take care of them.  This was a role I had adopted at a very young age.  I remember in my early 20's telling my current bishop that I felt like I was hanging off a cliff and my whole family was holding onto my feet and that I was their only hope.  I realize now that that was just my co-dependent thinking, but at the time, it felt very real and very exhausting.  Many of them did reach out to me to help them with lots of problems, but it wasn't until one day a few years ago when my Dad called about helping one of my sisters and I was up all night with worry about how to help that I realized how co-dependent I was being with them.  I talked with my Dad the next day and we worked out a way to help without me being co-dependent about it which was a huge relief for me.  Admitting to my Dad what I was doing and him understanding was a huge freeing experience for me.
I continued trapping my emotions through my marriage and with my children because I believed that I was protecting them from me, I thought I would hurt them if I let my emotions loose.  I didn't realize that I was making things worse for all of us, because you can only trap things inside for so long and then the body refuses to do it any longer.  My body started showing signs of anxiety through panic attacks and later depression.  If I had had the skills to let my emotions out in an appropriate way as I felt them, my body would have had no need to shut down.  It is entirely possible that the last few years of therapy and health issues could have been avoided if I had known how to properly feel my emotions.

I have learned that emotions need to be released, to be set free.  I have learned that when I feel anger, I can let it out by hitting our punching bag and saying how I feel.  When I feel sadness, I can cry and talk to someone or write in my journal, I know I will feel better when I am done.  When I feel fear, I can write it down and then imagine the opposite.  And when I feel happy, I don't need to feel guilty, I can recognize it and relish it.  Emotions don't have to be wild and extreme, they just need to be felt, acknowledged and allowed to move through me and then I can move on.  I know I don't have to trap them inside any more, I can set them free and freedom feels good!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

With Thoughtless and Impatient hands...


With thoughtless and impatient hands
We tangle up the plans
The Lord hath wrought
And when we cry in pain He saith
Be quiet man while I untie the knot

-- Anon.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Recovery

This morning I was watching "Good Morning America" and Tracy Gold was on talking about her new show "Starving Secrets."  In her interview she brought up that she believes that she is "recovered" from Anorexia.  Then she said that she believes recovery is when you aren't using your crutch any more, that when things go wrong in life, you don't fall back on that crutch.

I've wondered during the past several years of therapy when I would be "done" and some people have said you are never done.  That may be true in the the sense that we are always learning, growing and changing, but I think there is a lot to be said for being done in the recovery sense of the word, not using whatever your crutch was any more. 

Several months ago, I was watching the TV show Necessary Roughness and the lead character, Dr. Dani, said:

The thing about habits is that you have to disrupt them gently, in steps, until one day you have a whole new routine. Old habits do die, you just have to want it bad enough.

I feel like that is how it has been for me, changes made slowly.  As I write this I realize I haven't used a co-dependent behavior in a really long time.  I feel like I have the skills now to make better choices and that I listen more to my inner self and see a more whole me.  Judith Viorst said it beautifully in her book Necessary Losses:

For healthy growth involves being able to give up our need for approval when the price of that approval is our true self. What we call our sense of identity is our sense that our truest, strongest, deepest self persists over time in spite of constant change. It is a sense of self-sameness that is deeper than any differences a true self on which all ourselves converge. This steadying sameness includes both what we are and what we are not. It includes our identifications and distinctiveness. And it also includes both our private, inner "I am I" experiences and the recognition by others that "yes, you are you."

So, what does recovery really mean?  In the "Co-Dependent's Guide to the 12 Steps" by Melodie Beattie, she puts it simply that recovery means:

We are safe now.  We are cared for.  We are protected. 
We are free now to live our lives and love ourselves.

I have come a long way in the last four years and I feel like I can really say that I am in recovery.  I do not fall into co-dependent behaviors when things in life go wrong.  I now have the skills to act appropriately when challenges come my way.  I believe that I am worth things like rest, nourishment and so much more.  I love who I am becoming, a more complete self.  I believe in me and in my dreams.  As Melody Beattie says in her book:

Recovery is accepting yourself for who you are,
no longer waiting for others to define you or to approve you.

Before all of this, I would hope that others would say and believe good things about me.  My level of belief in myself would ebb and flow with what others thought of me.  I have learned how to define me by my own terms, not by what others may think and say.  I have learned how to feel my pain and embrace it.  I have learned how to feel love for myself and embrace that.  I can accept all of me.  I do the things that bring me joy and are a part of me.  And yes, I can finally say, "I am I."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Losing Weight - Month 3

On The Biggest Loser they always have that "dreaded week 2" where the contestants don't seem to lose hardly anything.  I didn't have a "dreaded week 2" but I did have a dreaded month 2.   I did so well the first month, then the second month it was my birthday month and I had a lot of celebrations and opportunities to cheat.  At the end of the month 2 I ended up not losing any weight (but I didn't gain any either so that was good), my body fat percentage went up 1%, but I did lose just over 2 inches.

Originally I thought that I could allow myself one cheat a week, but I realized that I was cheating more than once a week.  I decided to not cheat again until Thanksgiving, which is tomorrow - yippie!  My exercise is still hit and miss, but I did great with my food in month 3.  Again, I'm doing the plate method (divide your plate in half, one half is fruit or vegetable then the other half is divided again and one-fourth is a protein and the other one-fourth is a carb).

In my last Losing Weight blog entry I had a picture of an average breakfast for me, this time I'm including a picture of an average lunch.  For lunch I usually do a protein shake for my protein, for the carb I will usually do another small cup of cereal (I like my cereal) or something similar like this muffin (it is a large muffin, so I will only eat half of it) and, of course, I have my half a plate of fruit.

So at the end of Month 3 I have lost 9 lbs., 6 inches and 2% body fat.  After 3 months of my "Losing Weight" plan, I have lost a total of 20 lbs., 21 inches and 8% body fat.  I am down several sizes in my clothing too which is really cool!  After Thanksgiving, I'm planning on not cheating again until Christmas.  I can't wait to see how well I have done at the end of the next month!
 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Spiritual Living - If . . .

We were talking about sacrifice in Sunday School this morning and the teacher asked for examples of what we sacrifice today.  I immediately thought of time, but then I remembered a quote from Elder Neal Maxwell that I had read this week that made me think of something even greater that we can sacrifice.  This is what Elder Maxwell said:

"The submission of one's will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God's altar. . . .  The many other things we give to God . . . are actually things He has already given us, and He has loaned them to us.  But when we begin to submit ourselves by letting our wills be swallowed up in God's will, then we are really giving something to Him. . . .  There is a part of us that is ultimately sovereign, the mind and heart. . .  And when we submit to His will, then we've really given Him the one thing He asks of us."

In our lesson, we talked about various things we sacrifice like money when we pay our tithing, time when we do our callings and so on, but our will is the ultimate sacrifice we can make to our Heavenly Father.  I think the bottom line really is making the choice to put the Kingdom of God first.  This isn't always an easy thing to do, but if we are willing to do that He willingly rewards us and as Elder Maxwell said, if we let our will be swallowed up in God's will then we are really giving him something.

As church went on today, in Relief Society we talked about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and our teacher brought up some quotes from President Boyd K. Packer's recent General Conference talk "Counsel to Youth" that really inspired me, he said:

The gift of the Holy Ghost, if you consent, will guide and protect you and even correct your actions.  It is a spiritual voice that comes into the mind as a thought or a feeling put into your heart. . . .  It is not expected that you go through life without making mistakes, but you will not make a major mistake without first being warned by the promptings of the Spirit.  This promise applies to all members of the Church. . . .  I say again that youth today are being raised in enemy territory with a declining standard of morality.  But as a servant of the Lord, I promise that you will be protected and shielded from the attacks of the adversary if you will heed the promptings that come from the Holy Spirit.

There it was, the word "if" that seemed to be the key.  If we consent, the Holy Ghost will protect us and even help us correct our actions.  If we will heed the promptings, we will be protected and so on.  It really is our choice as to what we will do and how we will be blessed based on those choices.  I have always felt strongly about choosing to live the standards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I just have known what I wanted in the end, so it was never really a hard choice for me, but I do know others who have struggled with this choice.  If is a small, yet powerful word, it denotes our ability to make choices.  Making choices always yields us something, either blessings or consequences. 

There has been so much talk lately about the Mayan Calendar and the year 2012 and it really bothers my daughter.  You see, she is from the graduating class of 2012 and to hear all this talk about "the end" just as she graduates can feel like there are no choices, no if's ahead of her.  But she knows that "only the Father knows" when the end will come and just knowing that makes it more encouraging to move forward in her life and to make good choices.  President Packer also said something in his talk that I thought was very encouraging to the youth of our day, to those that might worry about the state the world is in right now, he said:

Sometimes you might be tempted to think as I did from time to time in my youth:  "the way things are going, the world's going to be over with.  The end of the world is going to come before I get to where I should be."  Not so!  You can look forward to doing it right -- getting married, having a family, seeing your children and grandchildren, maybe even great-grandchildren.

My children have so much to look forward too, as do I.  I pray that we will all make good choices and know that in the end, that if we make good choices we will be blessed greatly by a Father in Heaven who loves each one of us dearly.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Breathe Strategy - Positive Imagination

I have been extremely tired the last few months and the other day I decided to do some research to see if there was something I could do for the fatigue.  I know that fatigue is one of the major symptoms of depression but I just didn't know how much sleep a depressed person should be getting or if that even matters.  In my research I came across a website with some really interesting ideas.  The website is hgi.org.uk.  This is the part that I found most interesting:

People sink into a depressed mood when their innate physical or emotional needs are not being met and, instead of dealing with this situation, they begin to worry about it - misuing their imagination.  All depressed people worry.  This increases the amount of dreaming they do, upsetting the balance between slow-wave, recuperative sleep and dream sleep.  Consequently they start to develop an imbalance between energy burning dream sleep and refreshing slow-wave sleep.  Soon they start to wak up feeling tired and unmotivated.  (Depressed an anxious people dream far more intensely than non-depressed people.)

This really made sense to me because my dreams have been intense and seemed to go on all night long.  In wondering what to do next, I decided just this paragraph alone addressed several things I could work on.  First of all, was making sure my "innate needs" are being met which the website listed as the following:

  • Security-safe territory in the home and outside where we can live without experiencing excessive fear and anxiety
  • Volition-a sense of autonomy and control over what is happening around and to us
  • Attention-receiving it, but also giving it-an essential nutrition that fuels the development of each individual, family and culture
  • Emotional connection to other people, both indvidually (friendship, love, intimacy) and in the wider community (respect, status)
  • Privacy-time to reflect and consolidate our experineces
  • A sense of competence and achievement (ensuring we don't feel low self-esteem)
  • The need for meaning and purpose that comes from being stretched mentally or physically (or both)
I can see in my past where those needs weren't met, but I have really been doing well at making sure that they are now.  One other thing that I noticed in the quoted paragraph above is the line about how depressed people "misuse their imagination."  That part really caught my attention because it was something my therapist and I had talked about.  She said that I have a really good imagination, I just use it negatively and I had to agree with her.  I always imagine the worse in everything so I decided I needed to figure out how to use my imagination in a more positive way, but I didn't know how.  In Beyond Co-Dependency there is this line:

"How do we nurture ourselves? . . .  If we've never seen, touched, tasted or felt it, how could we know what nurturing is?"

I felt like I could apply that to my problem with positive imagination, if I've never seen, touched, tasted or felt it, how could I know what positive imagination was.  After reading the hgi website, I made a list of  positive imagination ideas that it suggested such as noticing good things (I think my blog renaemcbarron365.blogspot.com is helping me to do that), deep breathing exercises (I have been doing this for years using the Bodyflex program), exercise (I'm working on this one), harness imagination to solve problems instead of worrying about them and imagine dealing with problems positively. 

These last two suggestions were definitely difficult for me, but I came up with an idea.  I have been doing my "morning pages" (the morning pages idea is from the book The Artists Way where you write whatever comes out of your head filling three pages) for several years and I decided as part of my morning pages I would take one of my worries and write the opposite of the worry.

On the hgi website, it said, "when patients know that their negative ruminations are causing their poor nights sleep and their exhausted days, they are quickly motivated to work to break the cycle of depression."  After reading all this, I was motivated too.  I really wanted to feel better so I started my positive imagination writing as part of my daily morning pages the day after I found the website.  A week has gone by and I'm feeling so much better.  I'm not as fatigued and my dreams are slowly lessening in intensity.  I think I still have a long way to go as "positive imagination" is a challenge for me, it definitely does not come naturally.  But practice makes perfect, right?!  At least that's what I imagine. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Broken

Before I begin each of my blog entries, I say a prayer and ask for guidance on what to write.  Today before I finished my prayer "broken" was so strong in my mind that I knew that it was time to address this topic.  As I have mentioned in the past I have been working on what I call my "therapy boxes."  In my blog entry "Hiding" I addressed one of the them.  "Broken" is another one of my boxes.  I have quite a few "broken" things addressed in this box, but I'm only going to write about the ones that made the biggest impact on my life.

When I was around the age of 12 my sisters and I were all sitting in the living room watching tv.  My mom came in and started yelling then picked up the tv and threw it.  I remember quickly getting my sisters out the front door telling them to go down to the neighbor's house.  I went back through the house looking for my mom.  I found her sitting on the kitchen floor crying and surrounded by broken dishes.  There I was standing in the kitchen doorway looking at broken dishes and a broken mom and I broke.  It wasn't until over 30 years later that I would realize what a defining moment this was for me in my life.  As I stepped through that doorway to help my mom I left the 12 year old behind and a grown-up walked through.  Luckily for my mom and most of my sisters they don't really remember that day.  But I remembered and my older sister remembered, but we never talked about it.  I never had an opportunity to deal with how I felt that day until I started talk therapy. 

Around this same time I had another "broken" experience, but this one was physical.  I was at gymnastics and a bunch of us older girls were alone in the gym jumping on the trampoline.  I was doing a triple back somersault and on the last one I didn't throw my arms enough and ended up coming down half-way through the flip landing on my face with my neck bent and my body on the wrong side of my head before it flopped to where it should have been.  I don't remember much after the initial impact, it was just black.  Then I felt movement on the trampoline as one of my classmates walked over to me, she poked me and then ran away screaming.  They thought I was dead (in fact, they called me "rubber neck" for a long time after this accident).  I lay there not moving, not breathing.  Then finally I could feel my body start to work again as I began gasping for breath.  Little by little I began breathing again.  Eventually I crawled off the trampoline and just sat on the side.  I don't remember much else after that.  I probably should have gone to the doctor, but I didn't.  I don't think I realized then what a bad fall that was.  I didn't even tell my parents about it.  It wasn't until recently working with my Cranial Sacral Therapist that I was able to work through this experience and finally deal with both the emotional and physical pain of that moment.

This last experience I'm going to mention happened just a few years ago after starting therapy, after realizing that I was co-dependent.  I wanted to figure out when the co-dependency started.  I finally realized that it was the day in the kitchen doorway.  I walked through that door as a co-dependent person and I left my 12 year old self behind.  This thought devastated me, if I left myself behind at the moment, who was I?  Had I just become a co-dependent robot?  I left myself behind over 30 years ago and I didn't know who I was.  It is hard to describe what happened to me with these thoughts, it was the deepest, darkest moment of my life.  I honestly didn't know who I was.  I spent almost a week in this black hole trying to get out and hide it from my family.  Strangely enough it was a moment in the grocery store that helped me to begin seeing some light.

I was pretty much on auto-pilot as I went through that week.  At one point I had to go and pick up a prescription for my son.  The attendant at the counter said that they didn't have what I needed and she asked me what I wanted to do.  I honestly didn't know, I just stood there and looked at her and said, "I don't know."  She made some phone calls and helped me to find what I needed at another pharmacy.  I really didn't understand what had happened, I was usually the "adult" and could handle anything, but at that moment I really didn't know what to do.  As I thought about it, an idea started to form, so I called my parents (I really have to give my parents a huge thank you here because they have really done everything they can to help me heal) to talk to them about it.  I asked my dad if it was possible that the "I don't know" moment I experienced in the store could have been my 12 year old self that I thought I had left behind in the kitchen doorway and he said yes.  At that moment the darkness of the past week started to lift and I realized that I had always been me, the 12 year old me was still inside.  I was still all of me, I just had been denying my feelings and emotions for years.  I know now when I can't seem to make a decision, when I just "don't know," it is the 12 year old in me that is frightened and unsure and I just need to embrace that feeling instead of burying it deep inside, then assure myself that everything is okay and to trust myself, I do know what to do.

It has taken years of various forms of therapy and finally addressing all my emotions to not feel "broken" and what a feeling it is to feel whole and complete.  It is amazing to feel and acknowledge all of me, it feels light and bright and wonderful!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dreams

I don't believe that all dreams mean something, but I do believe that many dreams do have a message.  Generally, when I remember a dream I feel like that dream is trying to tell me something.  Also, I have had instances of recurring themed dreams such as the one I described in my blog entry "Dream Come True" which is in my blog renaecreates.blogspot.com.  In those recurring dreams I always found myself in my home (the house always looked different) and I would come upon an unused room or hidden room and I would say to myself, "I could use this room as my scrapbook room."  I knew this dream was telling me that I was craving a creative space for myself.  Incidentally, I quit having these dreams when we moved and I did get a scrapbook room.

Lately, I have been having another recurring themed dream where I am work.  I worked for over 15 years as a legal secretary and in these dreams I find myself working at one of these past jobs.  The situation is different in each dream, either I'm wanting to quit, getting fired, or just working.  I checked online at Dreammoods.com about what the possibility of a dream about work might mean.  Here are a few of the suggestions that I felt like might be possibilities:

To  dream that you are at work indicates that you are experiencing some anxiety about a current project or task. The dream may also be telling you that you need to "get back to work".  To  dream that you are at your former work suggests that there is an old lesson that you need to learn and apply to your current situation.

I'm still working on what these dreams might be telling me, but I have figured out other past dream.  During the first few months of therapy I had the recurring themed dreams of clogged toilets, my blog entry "Plugged Up Emotions" describes these particular dreams and what I learned from them.
Several years ago when we were preparing to move, I had been spending many hours every day at our new home fixing all the problems it had.  It was very frustrating and exhausting work.  During this time I had a dream that we had a foster baby, a little girl and she was so happy and easy going, so much so that I forgot she was in the living room in a baby swing.  Then an adult, probably from DSHS or something came by to check on us.  The baby looked fine and so the lady left.  But I knew I hadn't taken care of her like I should have.  I hadn't changed her diaper in all the time I had her or done anything else she needed, but she didn't cry, she didn't complain in any way.  I hugged her and held her and she felt good in my arms.  I knew from that point forward I would take better care of her as long as I had her.  I started a bath for her and then I woke up.  It wasn't until I started writing the dream down that I knew that my dream was telling me that the baby was me, my inner child and I had been neglecting her all these years to get things done but now I was committing to love her and remember her and to take care of her needs.  It was funny as I was describing this dream to my therapist, she just smiled and I said, "you know don't you, you know that the baby is me."  She just smiled and said, "yes."  Here are a few lines from Dreammoods.com describing what forgetting about a baby in your dreams could mean:

[F]orgetting about a baby represents an aspect of yourself that you have abandoned or put aside due to life's changing circumstances. The dream may serve as a reminder that it is time for you to pick up that old interest, hobby, or project again.

I have only had a few similar dreams since then, but I know when I have a dream where I realize I have been neglecting a baby, I know that I have been neglecting my own self-care.

It was my birthday this week and the night before I had a dream that I had a baby.  I was sharing the dream with some friends and one mentioned how interesting it was that I would dream about a birth on the eve of my birthday.  Dreammoods.com says:

To dream that you or someone is having a baby suggests that you are giving birth to a new idea or project. It also represents new beginnings or some upcoming event.

What a great message, a rebirth of my life, even my name means "reborn."  It is so exciting to listen to these inner messages that have been guiding me for years.  I love the thought that I am now having a new beginning and redefining my life.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Affirmations are My New Truth

I pulled out Louise Hay's book You Can Heal Your Life again the other day because I was really struggling with fatigue and my weight loss had stalled for several weeks and I was looking for answers.  The reason why I thought of this book in particular is because I was talking to a friend who had been suffering and through an affirmation was finding relief.  I had forgotten about affirmations, it seems like I learn things that are so important to my well-being and then I get busy with life and forget about them.  I had learned in the past that affirmations are the positive statement that counter acts the negative false belief we have been telling ourselves (see my blog entry "Mistaken Beliefs").

I decided to start with my Problem of fatigue and I looked it up.  I was a little surprised that the Probable Cause said, "Resistance, boredom.  Lack of love for what one does."  The Affirmation suggested for this Problem is, "I am enthusiastic about life and filled with energy and enthusiasm."  Wow, this really was just what I needed.  I have spent so much of my life working, taking care of kids and home and then the last few years working through my emotional and physical issues that I didn't see how I now have more free time.  My time required as a mother and house-wife has been reduced considerably since my son left on his mission and my daughter is on her last year of high school.  The home projects I have been working on the last several years have mostly been completed.  The time required for me to heal my past pain, anxiety and depression is very little now than when I first started the process.  I have more time than I was used to, but I didn't see it, I was still seeing my schedule in terms of the past.  When I saw the word "boredom" I realized that it was true, it was time to redefine my days which I have and doing so has given me more energy than I have felt in quite awhile.

As I was also struggling with my body not letting go of weight, I looked up the Problem of "fat" and as I had mentioned in my blog entry "Losing Weight," the Probable Cause is connected to anger, but there was one line I hadn't paid attention to, it says, ". . . a resistance to forgive."  This brought to mind a conversation I had with my mom last week where she had mentioned that I need to learn how to forgive myself.  I had been releasing anger, but I had not made that extra step of forgiveness.  A couple of the Affirmations in this category say, "I nourish myself with spiritual food, and I am satisfied and free.  I am willing to forgive the past.  It is safe for me to go beyond my parents' limitations." 

The forgiveness portion of this affirmation isn't always an easy thing to do, but I knew this had to be part of the whole equation the moment I read it.  I also realized that as I hit the punching bag I don't always have to have a specific thing to be angry about, I can just release anger that has built up in my body.  Sometimes I can have something specific, sometimes I can just punch and if something comes up, I will address it, otherwise just the motion of punching can release any built up anger.

After I am finished punching I do some breathing and stretching exercises and the last few days as I have been doing these exercises, I keep in mind forgiveness for others and for myself.  At first I had held in all my anger, then I was letting out the anger in an appropriate way, but not finding the peace I needed after the release of the anger.  By forgiving (if only partially), I am finding balance.  I found that on the one side of the teeter-totter is anger and the other side is forgiveness, once again bouncing back and forth between the two, that is balance (see blog entry "Joy is in the Bouncing").

Writing down, re-reading and saying these affirmations has provided more energy and peace for me over the last several days.  I am so grateful to have been reminded about how helpful affirmations can be.  Living with a new truth is much healthier than living with an old mistaken belief.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Do Something!

I told my husband a few days ago that I was having a problem with motivation.  He reminded me that having no motivation is part of the disease of depression.  His comment reminded me of something I read recently in the book Reaching for Hope An LDS Perspective on Recovering from Depression by Meghan Decker and Betsy Chatlin:

I like to remind myself of the eternal perspective spoken by Elder Neal A. Maxwell: "God, who knows our capacity perfectly, placed us here to succeed."  I think that by "doing" I am becoming.  On those days when your depression seems most insurmountable, there is a small, even thirty-second "do" within your grasp.  The smallest step you can manage is one more claim upon eternity where a loving Savior welcomes every effort -- even baby steps.

Small steps slogging through molasses.  Do something small, but do something.  The operative word for you who are suffering is do.  President Kimball said, "Do it."  If you are struggling with clinical depression, do something -- take a baby step.

The phrase "do something" has been running around in my head for a few days now along with a couple of other thoughts.  One of the other thoughts was from a conversation I had with a friend who told me that she has an idea book that she takes with her everywhere to write down her ideas and thoughts throughout the day.  I love having notebooks and writing things down so, of course, I loved the idea.  Lately I have been writing down thoughts and notes on all different pieces of paper, appointments on different calendars and just generally feeling like I was all over the place.  So I was trying to think about how to incorporate my friend's "idea book" into my life.

The other thought was from a goal training class I took online recently.  One of the first things said in the class was that if you don't have a goal first thing in the morning then nothing will get done.  When I heard that I thought that was exactly my problem lately.  I have plenty of things to do and goals to accomplish, but I couldn't decide which ones to do first and when.

Yesterday morning before I climbed out of bed, these thoughts all combined into one complete idea.  I got up and pulled out a new notebook and titled it "Do Something."  I then wrote the date and my goal for the day which was to do the dishes and go to the store.  It wasn't a huge goal, but that wasn't really the point, the point was to just do something

The last few weeks have been challenging in that my motivation level has been really low.  Some days I haven't even done my basic Breathe Strategies, the items I have put in my Basket A (see blog entry Basketful of Blessings).  But once I wrote down my goal and other thoughts in my notebook I was pretty excited about my day.  Then I actually got up and did something.  I went to the grocery store and the local craft store.  I got some fun new craft ideas and then went home and did the dishes.  The next thing I knew I was outside doing some weeding.  I felt more energized than I had in weeks.

I'm going to keep writing in my "do something" notebook and see how it works.  Some days my "do something" might be very small and some days it may be big.  I'm not exactly sure how will it go, but I do know that I'm looking forward to just doing something!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Losing Weight

I have known for years that I was overweight, but now after dealing with emotional therapy and depression the weight has compounded.  I was realistic though, I knew I couldn't deal with both emotional and physical so I chose emotional.  I have been working through emotional, anxiety, co-dependency and depression issues for over three years and am now feeling so much better.  I could feel that the time was coming to start working on the outside, but I was still struggling with the how.

My Inspiration Outfit
Last month I took my daughter and friend on a vacation.  We decided to go shopping and found ourselves in a clothing store with really cute, modest clothes.  My daughter was finding all kinds of stuff to try on, but our friend and I weren't so lucky as the store didn't carry clothes for us bigger girls.  So I decided that we were going to find inspiration outfits.  We had fun going around in the store finding one outfit that inspired us the most.  I bought those outfits for us so that we could hang them up and use them as inspiration to lose weight.  I told our friend that we were going to start the day after we got back from our trip.

During the rest of the trip I kept thinking about our goal to lose weight and wondering how I was going to do it and then it just popped into my head - the plate method.  If you know anyone who is diabetic, the plate method is a quick and easy way to watch your food and make sure that it is balanced.  I really hadn't been eating balanced meals, in fact, I wasn't even sure why I had been gaining weight because I really didn't eat much.  I ate a bowl of cereal for breakfast, a bowl of cereal for lunch and sometimes even for dinner (another sign of depression, you don't want to eat).  It was the only thing that even sounded good.

Plate Method - Breakfast
When "the plate method" popped into my head with it came a picture of a plate divided in half with fruit on one half, the other half was divided in half again on one-fourth was a container of yogurt and the other fourth was a small cup of cereal (I love my cereal).  I was so excited, I told our friend we were going to do the plate method and exercise every day.

The day after we got home I started, I weighed and measured myself, I even took pictures.  I cut out all the sweets, added lots of water, I would have a handful of almonds twice a day as snacks and started using the plate method for all three meals.  I did allow myself one cheat-treat a week, sometimes it was a shake, sometimes a piece of cheesecake, just something really yummy!  I was hit and miss on the exercise, but got at least three days a week in.  I was amazed because it was working!  Reducing the quick burning carbs to the size of one-fourth of a plate and adding in the fruit and protein has made all the difference.

Another component that I added was "Releasing Anger."  In the book You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay under the category "Fat" it has individual categories which say, "Arms - Anger at being denied love; Belly - Anger at being denied nourishment; Hips - Lumps of stubborn anger at the parents; Thighs - packed childhood anger" so I decided releasing my anger had to be part of the weight loss plan.

The punching bag
Earlier this year I had given my husband a punching bag as a gift and I have found myself using it to release anger.  I stand by the punching bag and say, "I'm angry that . . ." and then I fill in the blank.  I put in things from my childhood to the present.  Sometimes I have a hard time coming up with stuff, but then I'll get going and suddenly find myself yelling out things and hitting the punching bag with all I have.  Then when I'm worn out I do some breathing exercises that help me center myself again.  I'm not sure how much of this component is helping with the weight loss, but I know it is helping emotionally.  Anger was something I was always afraid of, now I know I can let it out in a controlled way and then it isn't being stuck in my body.

  I have been following this plan now for over a month and I have lost 11 lbs., 12 inches and 7% body fat.  I still have a long way to go, but this is definitely something I can do for the long haul!  I still can't zip up the skirt in my inspiration outfit, but I can get it on, so I'm moving in the right direction!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Recognition

If you have ever been a part of a multi-level marketing type business you will have heard the phrase "what is your why?"  I have been part of one of these companies for over 16 years (see my renaecreates.blogspot.com to see some of my work).  I love the company and I love the products, it helps me tap into my creative self.  Over the years my "why" for doing this business has changed from time to time.  At one time I lost my "why" altogether.  It was at this time that I found myself at the annual company convention waiting in line to get a book from one of our speakers who inspired me. 

By a series of interesting events I ended up having a long talk with this speaker.  I told her how I was feeling and what had been going on in my life.  She listened and was very supportive.  Then she gave me an assignment to do that night in my hotel room and told me to return the next day to meet with her.  I did what she asked and the next day she was generous enough to meet with me again.  We talked for quite awhile as she tried to help me figure out my "why."  Finally, she came to a conclusion and she said, "I think your 'why' is recognition, you want something to call your own, but doing it for yourself hasn't been enough to get you to do it."  I was so shocked, I had to ask her to repeat herself. Not once had I ever considered that whatever my "why's" had been over the years, that I didn't feel it enough to do it for myself, that no matter what my "why" was, doing it for me wasn't motivating enough. I truly was shocked.  No wonder I was struggling, but it wasn't only with my business, it was the same with all I was doing at that time in my life.  I didn't believe in myself enough for any "why" to be effective.

Years later as I started therapy and working through my issues of co-dependency I could see why doing anything for myself wasn't enough to keep me motivated.  I didn't think I deserved more of anything.  It was really hard for me to work through those feelings of worthlessness.  I could do things for other people, no problem.  They were worth my time and efforts, but to do something that would some how benefit me seemed so wrong.  I could also see how wanting recognition was just part of my overall desire to be seen, but yet I didn't dare make myself be seen.  I just hoped that someone would notice me on their own, if I was seen without my having to draw attention to myself, then I would be worth something.

I have come to realize that the first person that needs to show recognition to me is me.  I need to acknowledge my worth, that I have value, that I can do something for myself and it not be selfish or bad.  I was waiting for everyone else to recognize me believing that somehow that would make me of worth, not realizing that the only person I needed to recognize me and give me my worth was myself.  I needed to be my own "why."

What is my "why" in my business now?  It is still recognition, but it has a different meaning.  I recognize my customers when they come to my workshops, I love hearing about their lives, laughing and/or crying with them.  I recognize how good I feel when they like the projects I have for them to make.  I recognize that those few hours they spend with me and the friends they have made at my workshops brings joy to them.  I recognize that when the workshop is over I am filled with joy too.  I no longer need others to recognize me, I can do that for myself.  I recognize that my business and creations are important to me because it brings me joy through those I share it with.

What is my "why" in life?  Again, recognition, I can see myself in the mirror and I am finally liking who I see.  I recognize the person I am now which is a culmination of years of challenges and triumphs.  I can give myself credit for being a person who is worth something, who does have something to share, I have talents, I have knowledge, I have joy, I have love and I finally recognize it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Weakness

I was talking to one of my sisters last week about a very difficult challenge she is going through right now in her life and she said how we all have our own personal challenges to go through.  It is true, isn't it, we all have trials that our especially our own.  One of my dear friends just found out that she has cancer and is having surgery this week, she is very nervous about the surgery and what they are going to find.  I was feeling so bad that my sister and friend have these difficult challenges and I thought, "and here I am with stupid depression."  But as I thought about my challenge of depression, I realize it hasn't been easy.  I have always thought of myself as a very strong person, but depression doesn't let you be strong, depression shows you how weak you are.  When I was talking to my sister, this scripture in the Book of Mormon came to mind:

Ether 12:27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

I have come to realize that my weakness is "weakness."  Trying to care for everyone and everything started when I was quite young and as my family would come to me for help, I thought I was a strong person and could handle it all.  The first sign I saw of my weakness was after I was married and had just delivered my second child.  My husband had left the room with our new daughter and the doctor was sewing me up as I had external and internal tears.  It was not an easy delivery and the epidural had gone into a vein so they had to stop it and were just using local anesthesia.  The local wasn't helping much and I could feel everything as they were stitching me up, but I thought I could endure it.  I laid there silently thinking, "it's almost done, it's almost done."  Then my husband came back into the O.R. and asked if I could feel it.  Tears rolled down my check as I nodded my head yes.  I had been strong through it all, but as soon as my husband came back into the room I knew I could let go and let him take over.  Over the years I have realized that I can be strong all on my own, but when my husband is there I can hand over the reigns of strength and let him help me if I need to. 

Not long after I received my co-dependent diagnosis I had someone in my family call me about another member of our family wondering how we were going to help them.  I worried all night long about what to do, I got very little sleep and in the morning realized I was being co-dependent with the situation.  I realized I wasn't strong enough to help nor even strong enough at that moment to even know what was going on.  This was a turning point for me, learning that I didn't have to be strong for everyone all the time and that I personally didn't have to fix everything.  I learned that I could let someone else help for a change, I could let others and even my Heavenly Father take over.  In fact, I found a song that said exactly how I was feeling.  It is Which Part is Mine by Michael McLean, at the end of the song it says:

"Which part is mine, God? Which part is yours?  Could you tell me one more time, I'm never quite sure.  And I won't cross the line like I have before.  But it gets so confusing sometimes; should I do more, or trust the Divine?  Please, just help me define which part's mine and which part is yours. . . .  After I've done my best I know you'll do the rest."

I know that co-dependents think that they have to fix everything, but we don't, we can trust others to help.  I understand now that it is okay to be weak, being weak for a while, then strong for awhile and that bouncing back and forth between the two is balance.  One of my favorite books is Forgiving Ourselves by Wendy Ulrich and this is my favorite quote:

"Instead of a never-satisfied God shaking His finger at my selfishness, I felt God reaching out His hand to me, asking me to give Him everything - my children, my parents, my worries - and to trust that He would both give me back the portion that would be for my blessing and tenderly care for the rest.  I realized that when we hold back from God, something in us will start to die.  We do not just struggle to give Him our assets; we also struggle to give Him our deficits.  His request that we give Him everything - holding nothing back - can be a great blessing."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

12 Steps

Learning how to break the co-dependent cycle is not an easy thing, but following the Co-Dependents Anonymous ("CoDA") 12 steps can really help.  There are even CoDA meetings that you can attend.  I got the book Co-Dependents Guide to the Twelve Steps by Melodie Beattie and really found it helpful.  In the book it says to "practice daily recovery behaviors" which includes the CoDA 12 Steps, such as:

  • Tell the truth about ourselves to ourselves, to another person and to God in an attitude of self-responsibility, acceptance and forgiveness 
  • Reconnect with ourselves, God and others 
  • Recognize needs and bring it to people 
  • Tell God about ourselves - who I am, what I want, need, feel, going through, worried about, fears, hopes, old beliefs, what I can't deal with, what I can't do and what I need help with 
  • Let go, give to God and start your day 
  • Focus on right not wrong 
  • Meditate and center yourself, be balanced 
  • Pray for knowledge of God's will for me and the power to carry that through, then let go 
  • Set goals 
  • Use affirmations 
  • Feel our feelings when they arise, love and nurture ourselves as many times each day and each our as we need loving, nurturing and accepting, say thank you for everything, ask for what we want and need, then complete the process buy saying, "thy will be done" and trust what happens 
  • Be still, be quiet, ask for guidance, ask what do I need to do to take care of myself, then listen and trust what you hear 
  • We never have to do anything we can't, we never have to do anything before its time, and when its time, we will do it 
 In the beginning, it took a lot of effort to follow these guides.  I would constantly have to remind myself to follow them.  It's a wonderful feeling when these steps start to come naturally!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Letting Him Go - A Story of Sacrifice & Tears

Letting my son leave for a 2 year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was one of the hardest things I have ever done.  It has now been 4 months since he left and most days it is better, but some days I miss him terribly.  I am part of an email group for other mothers who children are in the same area of Brazil that my son is in and today I received an email with a story in it that really touched me.  Even though I didn't have the problems this mom did with her son, I was still touched and wanted to share it.  The sacrifice my son is making is huge and I love him so much and I am so proud of him!  Here is the email story:

My sister gave a lesson in church today, blending LDS missionary work and motherhood together. She asked for my feelings on the subject, and so we begin—

It was a brilliant summer day, and we were both busy at work in the kitchen~I was kneading bread while Ashton hammered the pegs into the little playschool workbench. Hammer, bam, crash, crack, bang.

“Mom, when I go on a mission...” he lisped—and we spoke of when and where and what it would be like. Then I heard the telltale break in his baby boy voice as he realized what he was saying—the weight behind the future plans. Suddenly it was more than he could bear. “Mom! I don’t want to go! I don’t want to leave you! I want to stay here and be little! Do I have to go? Do I?” And he bowed his head over his knees and wept. I scooped him up into my mother’s arms and told him a lie...but I knew better. I knew that there would come a day when he would want to go...when he did want to leave me...when he would move away from home as a young man, to be about his Father’s business.

The boy turned 14. He had just finished building and detonating a bomb. He had his cell phone taken away weekly. He refused to floss between his braces and had eye boogers and mouth corner mustard on a consistent basis. We weren’t sure if he was going to live past the age of 15—it was iffy at best. We walked up a dirt trail on our way to Youth Conference testimony meeting—I was there as a leader, and I didn’t know it at the time, but he was there as a leader, too. He spoke of Joseph Smith~his same age~being willing to die for this Gospel and his God. Then he fervently declared that, if it were asked of him, he would do the very. same. thing. And he bowed his head over his folded arms, and wept.

He grew strong and handsome—became a slave to fashion and an admirer of beautiful women. He was elected Student Body President, lettered in Debate, tutored special needs peers and figured out just in time, how to be a friend to his siblings. All of this was intermixed with Come To Jesus scoldings, “What in tarnation were you THINKING?” and a heavy dose of believing the Earth’s axis went directly through him.

We raised the bar. And he ducked under it.

We raised the bar. And he tripped over it.

We raised the bar. And he backed up, gathered up his noble spirit and running with all his might, flung himself to the heavens and catapulted over the bar, soaring to the highest heights! We stood on the sidelines and watched with mouths gaping. And we bowed our heads on each other’s shoulders and wept.

He was called to Florianopolis, Brazil, leaving one week before Christmas. He and his very best friends strengthened and brought each other unto Christ, and then departed within months of each other, to bring even more souls unto Christ. Stripling Warriors, these young men. I received the long awaited letter the very first week he lived at the Missionary Training Center. “Mother, I love you so much...you have no idea. And you were right. About everything. I am just now beginning to see it all. Thank you.”

I’ve placed him in his own little section of my heart as a necessity. I only check in every week, and only for a short while, as I read his letter and write him mine. It’s the only way to survive the gaping hole that is exactly his shape and size. But just last week, I was checking through my wallet during sacrament meeting, and pulled out Ashton’s missionary picture. I touched the one dimensional face, then handed it to my husband whispering, “Remember him?” He poignantly stared at the image, then whispered back, “He’s still ours, you know. We get him back.” And we looked into each others eyes and smiled.

And I know that within a few short months, there will be a young man, sweltering in the brilliant Brazilian sunlight, hammering away at the work. Scriptures in his hand, a tool in the Lord’s. Hammer, bam, crash, crack, bang. The letter will arrive and his voice will crack and echos from the past will take on a different meaning, “Lord! I don’t want to go! I don’t want to leave these people! I want to stay here and continue to grow big! Do I have to go? Do I?” And he will bow his head over his two year sacrifice and weep.

But the work will go on. Because some other courageous mother stands at her kitchen counter, kneading bread and talking of when...and where...and what...in preparation for her own Stripling Warrior to go to battle—to be about his Father’s business.

And he will not doubt it, because his mother tells him it is so.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Holding My Breath

Holding my breath, instead of breathing through my pain, emotional and physical, has been one of my major problems.  I have definitely improved, especially compared to this entry that I found recently in my therapy notes:
"2/8/09 - . . . I am running on an endless treadmill of a project or stress thinking that if I just put all my efforts into it I will get it done and then I can move on with my life.  I keep thinking "get this done, then I can live."  What I need to do is live, breathe, love and do the project in between breaths, not the other way around.  I try to focus on the stress thinking by "doing" so I can make the stress go away, but I see now life doesn't work that way.  I have got to quit holding my breath through the trial and just breathe.  Breathe life and live it and let the stress pass through me instead of consume me, but how?  I only know how to just hold my breath and take the pain and hope that it ends soon. . . .  I don't know how to put the concept into practice. . . .  When I am faced with a stresser I push harder at it and what I need to do is walk away, breathe deeply, let go of thoughts, allow peace and healing to enter my body and stay with that as long as I need to. . . .  I keep pushing at the problem even though every ounce of my energy is gone.  Instead of re-grouping, eating, breathing, recuperating and coming back with more energy, I try to do it depleted. . . .  The more I push the harder it gets, but I don't want to give up.  I'll take any amount of pain if in the end it will be better.  I'll take it all, I'll sacrifice everything, every bit of me, if in the end it will be better. . . .  [H]ere I am realizing I was pushing hard hoping on the other side would be the happiness . . . the happiness is before the pushing. . . .  I pushed when I needed to breathe (like in labor) I never stopped to breathe, I just pushed.  Eventually you have no energy if you don't stop to breathe."

Finally realizing that holding my breath wasn't helping me made a huge difference.  It is awareness that gave me the strength to change.  Now I can stop, think things through, take a deep breath and then make a better decision.  I can say to myself, "I really have been working a lot, I need to take some time to recuperate" and do it without feeling guilty.  I couldn't do that before, I didn't have the skills nor did I even realize what the problem was.  All I knew was that I was exhausted, but I just had to keep "doing" as it was all I knew.  "Do" and you get acknowledgment, "do" and you feel worthwhile, "do" and you are a good person and so on. 

Now when I am working on a project or feel stressed, anxious or overwhelmed, I don't keep pushing, I pause and breathe.  I take a minute to determine the problem then decide on a reasonable solution.  Sometimes that solution is to take a break, deal with the emotions, finish the project later, get help, etc.  I know that I don't have to do it all on my own anymore or all at that moment.  Life is definitely better when you don't hold your breath!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hiding

One of my favorite games as a child was "kick the can."  All the kids in my neighborhood would gather at night and we would put an empty can in the middle of our cul de sac (we called it the circle).  One of us would be "it" and would start counting while the others would run and hide in the darkness.  As the game would go on you could hear the attempts of others running from the darkness to try and kick the can before getting caught.  Eventually, you would hear the sound of the can getting kicked and falling on the road and it would all begin again.

Hiding has it's moments, like in kick the can, but as an adult it hasn't helped me much.  For years, hiding emotionally was how I survived.  To tell you the truth, I didn't really even realize I was doing it until I started therapy a few years ago.  "Hidden" is the name of one of my therapy boxes because I know that hiding is one of my unhealthy emotional habits.  I have hidden physically as well, especially when I first started dealing with a lot of these emotions, I withdrew and hid from my life in many ways.  When I was young I would often hide behind the couch and I would lay as still as I could and wait, wait to hear my name, wait to see if I was important enough for anyone to notice I was missing.  It is sad to say, but in those moments of hiding, I never did hear my name.

I didn't really think about the hiding that was going on at home, I guess because it didn't seem like hiding.  I always knew where to find my mom, in her room on her bed reading.  When my dad was home from work, I knew where to find him too, in his room on his bed reading.  It occurred to me the other day that even my older sister did this, in her room on her bed reading.
 
In my early 20's I had gone to a therapist once and talked about a relationship that hadn't gone well.  She encouraged me to share my pain with those closest to me. I couldn't do it. I couldn't even tell my best friend how badly this guy had hurt me.  I didn't see the therapist again, I just couldn't bring myself to tell her that I couldn't face my own pain, let alone share it with others (little did I know at the time how much more pain was yet inside me needing to come out).

When I started dating my husband he would ask me what I was thinking and so often I couldn't tell him.  We laugh about it now, but one night he literally sat on me until I finally shared the pain from that relationship.  Once I let it out, I cried and cried and he just held me.  He has been my best advocate for letting out my emotions, but even with him I hid so much.  Often, rolling away from him at night pretending I was fine, but would wait until he was asleep and silently cry.  My therapist encouraged me to "roll toward" him and not away from him when I had the urge to hide what I was feeling.  It felt so unnatural and vulnerable, but I learned how to do it.

I have to admit that when I started my second attempt at therapy, I knew I was talking to her in a very logical manner, but it was all I could do.  It took months before my emotions started to come out of hiding. It was really scary for me, I would make sure I was home alone first before I would let anything out, then years of suppressed emotions would suddenly explode from me and I would have a panic attack or cry and cry (sometimes both).  At therapy I would only let a little out at a time and my therapist would breathe through the emotions with me.

Sometimes life seemed too much and withdrawing and hiding felt like the only way to survive, but I know better now.  Once I was aware of what I was doing, I could physically feel it when I would start to lock down my emotions inside.  The funny thing is that the more I let them out, the harder it is to hide them.  My therapist had told me once that there are four main emotions which are fear, sad, mad and glad.  Over the past few years, I have learned how to feel joy, share my sadness, express my fears and have made a few attempts at letting out the anger (this one truly scares me).  I still have a ways to go, but now I know that I feel better as I allow myself and others to see my emotions.  I have learned how to let them out, breathe through them and survive.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

It's Okay to Break

"I just want to be broken for awhile," I said to my husband the other night.  That might seem weird to say, but I was crying and feeling broken and it actually felt freeing.  All my life I have felt like I had to have everything pulled together.  I felt like I had to be strong for my siblings as my mom struggled with some challenges in her life and I continued those feelings into adulthood.  I remember saying to my therapist one day that I didn't understand how my mom could have the "freedom" to fall apart in front of us.  I was almost jealous, because I would not allow myself to do that and especially not in front of others.

I have been working on what I call my "therapy boxes" (I initially brought up my boxes in my blog entry "Plugged Up Emotions") for several years, it is an emotionally painful work and I have only worked on a portion of them.  The day after my tearful conversation with my husband, I thought about my therapy boxes and I had a huge realization.  In the first part of my boxes I have processed my experiences in my childhood.  In the second part I had wanted to put how I had perpetuated those experiences into adulthood which I am still working on.  Each of my boxes has a category, for example, one is labeled "broken," as I thought about that box in particular, I realized that I carried that problem on from my childhood by not ever let myself feel and experience "brokenness."

As I wrote in my blog entry "Joy is in the Bouncing" I have learned that balance is not standing stagnant in the middle of a teeter-totter, but it is in the going back and forth between two opposing things.  So in order for me to really be "fixed" I needed to let myself be "broken" for a little while.  I have been pretending to be fixed and forcing myself to be pulled together as long as I can remember.  It's almost as if I have an invisible rope that I'm pulling tighter and tighter around my body as the brokenness inside tries to escape.  I see now how physically exhausting holding that rope has been.

I remember going on a field trip to the BYU Eyring Science Center where we were shown a huge pendulum that swung back and forth across the room.  Just like the bouncing of the teeter-totter, the pendulum swinging back and forth represents balance.  Maybe it will take a little longer for my pendulum to swing back from "broken" to "fixed" than I would like, but I believe that the more I allow the pendulum to swing the sooner it will swing back and maybe it won't swing quite so far to the opposite side next time.

I have had this quote in my reading notes for awhile, "When what is inside naturally comes together with what is outside, that is a miracle."  It is from the book Addiction to Perfection by Marion Woodman and I have always liked it, but never felt like it pertained to me.  Today I feel like it does, I feel like as I allow myself to feel what is naturally inside of me that I am coming together with what I have always tried to show on the outside and that truly does feel like a miracle!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Breathe Strategy - Write, Write, Write

I have always loved to write.  I remember my first diary, it was pink with a little key and lock and I loved to see the ink flow across the paper.  I started journaling when I was in Jr. High.  I still have tons of journals that I have filled over the years.  I'm not sure what it is about writing, but I feel that as I write I can get what is in my head out.  I quit writing when I got so busy working full-time, running a home, being a wife and mother and didn't realize at the time how much I missed it.  It wasn't until I started therapy that I started writing again and I don't want to stop this time.

My daughter was teasing me the other day about  how many different writing books I have.  I do have a few, but they each have a different purpose.  I have my everyday journal where I write about my day, what I did and how I felt.  Then I have a book just for writing my releasing process in it (see blog entry "Mistaken Beliefs").  I now have one that I write something in every day to my son who is on a 2 year mission for our church (this one is just temporary until he returns) which later I transfer my daily thoughts to a weekly letter to him.  I have one that I write promptings from prayers in and another one where I write all my Priesthood blessings in.  Finally, I have my "morning pages" note book which is the one that has the most random and emotional healing writings in it.

The "morning pages" idea comes from a book called "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron.  The idea is to connect with your creative self every morning by writing random thoughts and filling three pages.  It doesn't matter what you write, just as long as you open yourself up, let your thoughts flow and free up your mind.  She also has another great idea of an "artist field trip" each week where you go out on your own somewhere that will inspire you which for me is usually a craft store.

I think of writing out my thoughts as like the pensieve in the Harry Potter books, pulling out thoughts and memories and putting them on paper making room in my head for space, to think, to relax, to breathe.

I was talking to a friend the other day and she was telling me that she releases her stress by praying and then writing, writing and writing until everything comes out onto paper.  She said later as she reads what she wrote she can't believe what she was allowing herself to be bothered by.  I think this is a great idea, pray for help to let things go and to find what you really need and then putting it all on paper.

I have another friend that does what she calls an "emotional enema" where she writes what is bothering her on toilet paper and then flushes it.  The idea is to get what is occupying your mind out of your body and doing this makes it easier to let it go.

I don't just write in journals, I write in a planner, I write out lists, plans and schedules.  I don't always stick to those, I just like to get what's in my head out and down on paper so I quit rolling it around in my head over and over.  I love to write, it is my release for stress, pain, sadness, an overloaded brain and so much more.  It also helps me to connect to my emotions which I learned as a child to hold in, writing helps me connect to myself.  So, write, write, write!

Monday, July 18, 2011

How Do We Nuture Ourselves?

"What do you need?"
"What do you want?"

These questions are so hard for me, I have the hardest time coming up with answers.  When I do come up with something I feel guilty about it.  I was talking with my husband last week about this and he asked me if I resent it when he takes time to do what he wants to and I said no, of course not.  Then he wondered why I would feel guilty about doing what I want to do.  I told him that I see that he needs to relax and do fun things after work, I can see how my children need to do the same thing after stressful days of school.  But, for some reason, I cannot allow myself to do the same thing.  I love them and see that they are worth some time for themselves.  I guess I just don't love myself in the same way, it's almost as if I see myself as a lesser being, they are worth more in my eyes, than I am.

Logically I can see how that doesn't seem quite right, but it doesn't change the fact that I don't see that I'm just like everyone else, that I need fun and relaxation too.  But I feel that if I take time for myself it seems so very wrong.  I don't totally understand my feelings in this situation, but, again, logically I see that they are wrong, I'm just having a hard time emotionally believing it.

Nurturing ourselves can be difficult for women in general, mothers even more challenging and for co-dependents, nearly impossible.  The problem is that if you don't take some time to nurture yourself you cause emotional and physical damage to your body.  I'm so grateful for the Lord's command that we worship and "rest" on the sabbath day.  It is the only time I actually allow myself to rest without feeling guilty.  But the Lord has also commanded that we not "run faster than we have strength."  I am not so good at that one.  Over the years I have pushed myself beyond my strength over and over again and found myself challenged with physical problems because of it.  We are told to rest for a reason, our bodies and minds need it.  I have to remind myself that my body needs time to recuperate.  That my mind needs release from all that I think about, worry about, etc.  I understand all this, but struggle implementing it.

Here is a great quote from Co-Dependent No More by Melodie Beattie: 

How do we nurture ourselves?  Of all the blank spots we have, this one is often the blankest.  If we've never seen, touched, tasted or felt it, how could we know what nurturing is?  Nurturing is an attitude toward ourselves - one of unconditional love and acceptance.  I'm talking about loving ourselves so much and so hard the good stuff gets right into the core of us, then spills over into our lives and our relationships.  I'm talking about loving ourselves no matter what happens or where we go. . . .  Nurturing is how we empower and energize ourselves, we can relax enough to do our best. . . .  There isn't a set of instructions for nurturing ourselves.  But if we ask ourselves what would help us feel better or what we need, then listen, we'll hear the answer.

How is it that I can love and nurture those that I love and not myself.  How can I love my family so much and "so hard the good stuff gets right into the core" of them, but not myself?  I'm still working on that, but what I can do is take small steps to nurture myself.  I can ask myself what I want, what I need and really listen, then do it, regardless of the guilt.  Just as Melodie Beattie said above that nurturing can be hard if it is not something you have much experience with, but it's a matter of practice.  Time to practice giving myself what I need, and, as they say, practice makes perfect.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mistaken Beliefs

Positive affirmations are used by many people, but I just couldn't ever seem to incorporate them into my life.  I just always felt like I was lying to myself.  It wasn't until I got a book from my therapist that addressed positive affirmations in a different way that I saw the real value in using positive affirmations.  I was looking through my notes and was reminded of the process I learned in the book (sorry, I apparently forgot to write down the name of the book in my notes).

To start this process you pick a "mistaken belief" you don't randomly pick out a positive affirmation, you start at the root of the problem.  The phrase "mistaken belief" changed everything for me, as I read it the first time I realized that it isn't the "positive affirmation" that is the lie, it is the "mistaken belief" I have been telling myself all my life that is the lie.  I was really excited about trying this process.  I decided to start with one of my most destructive mistaken beliefs which is how I value myself.  I don't have a high value of myself and what value I do give to myself is connected to what I do.  I remember reading something in Co-Dependent No More which helped me understand what I was doing, it said:

"At the heart of most rescues is a demon:  low self-worth.  We rescue because we don't feel good about ourselves.  Although the feelings are transient and artificial, caretaking provides us with a temporary hit of good feelings, self-worth and power."

When I read this quote I realized that I was "rescuing" everyone and everything hoping that by doing so, I would be noticed, I would be valued.  I can't seem to value myself on my own and have fallen deep into the co-dependent trap more often than not and so this is something I really wanted to work on.  I came up with my mistaken belief, "I need to be perfect to be seen and valued by others."

After I came up with my mistaken belief, the second step was to write about the evidence that lead me to this belief.  I wrote about things that happened in my life that brought about this mistaken belief.  The third step was to write the truth, not what I had come to believe, but the real truth about this mistaken belief.  The fourth step was for me to write about why this mistaken belief wasn't promoting my well being.  Once I was finished writing all of that, the final step was to come up with my affirmation which was "I don't have to be perfect, I am loved and valued just for being me."

This was huge for me, because I came up with an affirmation through this process that didn't feel like a lie.  I could actually believe this affirmation and incorporate it into my life.  I wish I could say that since I did this exercise I haven't fallen into the low self-worth trap, but I have.  Sometimes the old feelings sneak in and take over.  The mistaken belief has been in my head for many, many years and it is hard to break that cycle, but I keep trying and reminding myself of the new positive affirmation.

Since learning this process I have used it many times taking old, mistaken beliefs and working through where they came from, how they are hindering my progress and coming up with positive affirmations to counter act the mistaken beliefs.  I'm dispelling old beliefs, incorporating positive new ones and step-by-step healing.