Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Couch Was My Crutch

I have this amazing scrapbook room where I do my crafts and hold workshops.  It was one of the main reasons why I wanted to move to our new house.  I love being in there because I find myself energized as I create and teach.  My only problem, over the last 3 years that we have lived here I have had a hard time getting myself to go in there.  I couldn't figure out what was holding me back. 
At the beginning, I thought maybe it was guilt for wanting this room and this house.  I felt so bad because as it turned out the house was a mess.  There was unbelievable damage in the house that was hidden behind the previous owners belongings.  I felt guilty for wanting a house that ended up costing us thousands of dollars to repair.  I thought it was the guilt holding me back from going in to this room and enjoying this space, so I kept trying different things to work through it, but none of it seemed to help.
A couple of weeks ago I was talking to my therapist about another issue which is anxiety when I go on trips.  I had been thinking that it was the leaving home that was causing it, but as we talked I realized it wasn't the leaving, it was being anxious about what I was going to, unsure of how things would go when I was there.  Later as I was thinking about our discussion, it occurred to me that maybe I had been looking at the problem with my scrapbook room all wrong too.  I realized that going into the room wasn't the problem, it was the leaving of my comfort zone of the couch that was holding me back.  My spot on the couch had become my crutch.
That thought really struck me, I was holding myself back because I was having a hard time leaving my comfort zone.  Before we had moved and I was at my worst with the anxiety, depression, etc. my side of the bed had become my world.  It was where I felt most comfortable and safe.  When we moved I decided to quit making my world just be my side of the bed.  I hadn't realized that I had moved that position to my spot on the couch.  I had expanded my world, but only to the couch.
It was time to expand my world again.  Some friends told me about how they download audio books from the library and listen to them while they clean the house and work so I decided to try it.  I got an audio book and left the couch and went into my scrapbook room and stayed there for hours and I loved every minute of it.  Maybe there is some truth to the guilt, but I realize now my biggest problem was letting go of my crutch.  I have been thoroughly enjoying my room since then!  Hmmm, I wonder what other crutches I'm holding on to? 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

End Of My Therapy Boxes

Those of you who have been following my blog will remember my first post on my therapy boxes and why I started them.  For those of you who don't know what I am talking about here is a brief summary (you can find the related blog entries by clicking on the "therapy boxes" label to the left):  I had a dream one night which included some boxes not unlike the ones in the picture to the right.  I didn't know what was in the boxes, but I knew they were mine and I started carrying them out to my car when I woke up.  The boxes in the dream bothered me for a long time.  I eventually created these little boxes show in the picture to the left (they are from the Scrapbook in a Box pattern) thinking that maybe I could figure it out by having something physical to look at.  The boxes pretty much just sat there for many months.  In my talk therapy and cranial sacral therapy they tried to get me to visualize what was in them, but for some reason I didn't dare even visualize opening them.

One day I prayed and asked for help in knowing what the boxes meant.  Later that day I had a cranial sacral therapy appointment and she said something about me being disconnected from my emotions and she said, "it's like they are all boxed up."  That was it, I had put all my emotions in my "boxes" and I was afraid of them.  My talk therapist had me just opening the boxes and closing them for awhile, just to get used to doing something with them.  Eventually I named each box and found pictures that I felt went with the boxes.  Then even later I added my thoughts to the boxes.  It was a long process that probably took a couple of years because looking at some of them was really hard for me to do. 

After I had completed the boxes, they sat there for a long time.  I didn't know what to do with them next.  My therapist told me that she would like to see me somehow put them all together.  I thought about it for weeks.  Then one day the thought that my emotions and feelings shouldn't be in boxes at all came to me.  They need to be out in the open, emotions and feelings need to be acknowledged, felt and then released.  I knew I needed to open up the boxes in a permanent way, but I wasn't sure how. 

One morning I went into my scrapbook room and I looked at those boxes and before I knew it I was opening them all up, then I was tearing them up into smaller pieces.  I took the pieces, rearranged and glued them onto 6x6 pages and I put them in a small scrapbook  (there is more to why I put them in a book, but I will save that story for another day). 

Now all my pain, denial and hurts were all together in one book.  I could turn the pages and see it all.  I could see my initial hurts, how I carried those hurts into my adult life and then how I had found ways to heal those hurts.  I could see my progress on every page and I was so proud of myself.

The hurt pages are still hard to look at, but I can't wait to turn the page and see the healing.  After I had finished the pages, I felt like the book needed some sort of message of completion.  So I wrote the following addressing each box individually then putting it all together and added it to the book.

Free to Be Me

I had been hiding behind the couch
Away from everyone, away from myself
Waiting to be noticed
Waiting to be loved
Then I found myself tucked away inside
Found my heart, my joy, my peace

I had been trapped inside myself
Emotions locked up tight
Locked up tears
Locked up fears
Then I found the key
And set myself free

I thought I had to be perfect
For others to notice me
Perfect to be valued
Perfect to be loved
Then I let myself be more
Faulty, perfect, balanced

I denied myself basic needs
Believing others more deserving
Denied being human
Denied being me
Then I faced the truth
I'm human, I want, I need

I was broken into pieces
Barely holding on
Broken emotionally
Broken physically
Then I saw all the pieces
And put them together

I am free to be me
Free to embrace all of me
Embrace the child
Embrace the adult
Love all of me
Free and whole

I do have a few more things I want to add to my book and I know I will do it when I am ready.  It may have taken me years to work through this process, and maybe my "therapy boxes" were a strange way of doing it, but for some reason they made sense to me and really that's all that matters.  I have learned that we all heal in different ways, and my therapy boxes helped me in ways probably not many would understand.  They helped me face hurts I had inside that I dared not look at for the longest time.  Just the physicality of the boxes I had made slowly helped me face the emotional ones I had hidden inside. 

I wasn't sad to see them go when I created the book instead, but now as I write about the end of them I find myself a little sad to have them gone.  Funny, I didn't realize how much a part of my life those boxes had become.  Well, one thing is for sure, it is much easier to see inside of an open book than closed up boxes.  So now I say to my therapy boxes, "good-bye, thank you for taking care of me when I couldn't, I will always appreciate you for that."

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Belong To Your True Self

A friend asked me the other day if I had ever thought that what I have been through the last few years would help others and I told her that I didn't, but I'm glad it has. Just the last few weeks I have found myself in a couple of situations where my trials with co-dependency, therapy and depression equiped me with what I needed to help others. With one of the situations, as I sat there listening to my friend as we worked through some things, I realized how grateful I was that I could understand and help. I guess that is where the gratitude for a trial comes into play. She needed my words and love and I could give them to her because I truly understood.

In my other conversation with a different friend, I was encouraging her that it is okay to step back and let others take care of her for a change. The challenge she is facing is breaking my heart for her and her realizing that she has to deal with it now before it completely breaks her is a hard thing to admit. In the book Belonging: Bonds of Healing and Recovery by Dennis Linn, Sheila F. Linn and Matthew Linn they say:

What cripples us is the way we've turned on ourselves and disowned how we feel about what happened to us.  Then we no longer belong to our true selves.  We use addictions [for me it has been co-dependency] to fill the void where our real self should be.  Healing comes when we can love and care for our disowned feelings.  The feelings are stored in our bodies and thus focusing is a way of letting the body speak to us about our true self. . . .  Co-dependents feel ashamed of their needs and afraid to ask on their own behalf. Thus, they try to get what they need without asking for it . . . , or they "give" as a way of getting. This is very different from asking directly for what we need and leaving others free to say "yes" or "no." Asking for what we need is a healthy way of taking care of ourselves and affirming our right to need other human beings.

Being co-dependent, I understand how difficult it is to ask for what you need instead of giving what you believe others need.  But my friends, in their current trials, must reconnect with their own needs and make sure they get them in order to heal and move forward.  When I did this, it was really hard for me, but I knew I needed to do it.  I remember asking my husband one day if it would bother him if I didn't really do much for awhile.   I was already feeling guilty about being home but mentally and emotionally not being able to do much and I just needed to know that he was okay with me focusing on my healing instead of focusing on our home for a little while.   He understood and supported me in this and was grateful that I had just communicated with him as to what I needed for a change (that wasn't something I was usually very good at).

Connecting to what I needed was a new experience for me and very hard for me to ask for what I needed. It is a long and hard road to learning what you need and learning how to ask for it. The disconnect from myself started at a young age and lasted into my forties. Being disconnected with myself for that long was a hard thing to change. The Belongings book talks about using affirmations to reconnect to yourself, it says:

Shame originates when the interpersonal bridges that connect us to others are broken and we are left feeling that we don't belong, even to ourselves.  Affirmation restores those broken bridges and creates in us a sense of belonging to our real selves, others, God and the universe.

Another quote from Belongings that I liked was this one:

The opposite of affirmation is denial.  Abuse is an extreme form of denial.  No human interaction is neutral; we always either contribute to others . . . through affirmation or we deny them.

We are either affirming ourself, or denying ourself, we are either contributing or denying.  When I first read this, it made a real impact on me.  If I wasn't confirming good things about myself, then I was denying myself.  I realized that I needed to start being more positive with myself. 

The last quote I want to share from Belongings is this:

The two most powerful tools for the development of self-esteem are the ability to ask for what we want, and the ability to receive what we want. Straight forwardly asking others to care for us in these ways is not co-dependency.

Asking and receiving are so hard to do when you are co-dependent, but are crucial in learning how to care for yourself.  I am have gotten better at this, but still find myself caught in that co-dependent trap sometimes.  I have to stop, and try again.  Use the tools I have acquired in learning how to properly take care of myself and others.  I get better every day, and if not, tomorrow is always another day to try again!