Mental health, Spirituality

Learning to see the forest for the trees

I’m a highly detail oriented person who naturally takes everything in without a filter. Certain things come easy to me while others are more of a work in progress. Emotional intelligence is an area that I have worked hard to understand and master at a young age and I feel is crucially important to one’s well being. Seven years ago while I was in the thick of dealing with many complications from Complex PTSD, I took part in an outpatient therapy called DBT or dialectical behavioral therapy. This psychotherapy is the creation of psychologist Marsha M. Linehan. I enjoyed it so much and (needing reinforcement) I attended it four times! I fondly refer to it as emotional college. I was in a classroom of sorts in a separate wing of the psychiatric hospital I did many inpatient stays at for an entire week, 9AM until 5 PM with only a break for lunch. Our class was small, only 6 or 7 other ladies. We had reading assignments as well as homework. After completing that week I was invited to join an aftercare support group for an entire year.

In many ways those ladies saved my life, helped me learn some tough life lessons about myself and aided me in realigning my mindset, body and soul. Taking an introspective look at oneself is difficult and the desire to change one’s behavior takes lots of patience and practice. At first it was confusing and awkward but after my fourth time going over the educational materials, reading some self help workbooks focused on DBT and spending 2 hours every Wednesday evening with my support group I reemerged with a fresh outlook.

I learned that my intense emotions can sometimes drive me into certain behaviors that are self harming and self defeating. Continuing down that path creates more suffering. Learning and incorporating DBT principles into my life has changed the game!

Like everything in life, it only works if you work it! Over the past few years I like to open that workbook up and give myself a refresher. The main principle that I work the hardest at is definitely Radical Acceptance. DBT uses both behavioral science and Buddist concepts like acceptance and mindfulness to teach better coping methods for people with Borderline Personality Disorder. It has proven highly effective for many mental health disorders as well.

This is Google’s definition of dialetical behavioral therapy:

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy tries to identify and change negative thinking patterns and pushes for positive behavioral changes. DBT may be used to treat suicidal and other self-destructive behaviors.

In a nutshell it taught me that I can coexist between two mindsets, see both sides of an issue, be both comfortable and uncomfortable in any given situation. The definition of dialetic is this:

Dialectic or dialectics (Greek: διαλεκτική, dialektikḗ; related to dialogue), also known as the dialectical method, is at base a discourse between two or more people holding different points of view about a subject but wishing to establish the truth through reasoned arguments.

For me the bottom line is that one principle I mentioned earlier, Radical Acceptance, is the key to ending my suffering. On most days I can clearly and easily achieve the understanding that even though I may not like something or think it to be ok, it still is. It is what it is. I have the choice to respond or react, always taking my emotions into account.

In this last week I have been blessed with so many amazing opportunities. My fiance and I mingled with some A list former professional football player friends of his, had an overnight in a phenomenal luxurious lakehouse and on Sunday I met Mariel Hemingway at a small movie watching party and interview session.

I have admired her life and career for a long time. I even gave her my poetry book, “Emotional Musings” that she asked me to sign! A real “pinch me” moment that I will cherish forever. To be able to meet such a kindred and emotional spirit is so profoundly powerful.

Despite the years of psychotherapy, DBT classes, numerous sessions of EMDR (eye movement desensitization reprocessing) and reading shelves of self help books I still struggle with my core belief that I’m not good enough. I do however understand that I can chose to change that tape that plays relentlessly on repeat through my mind, unpack that emotion from that invisible backpack I wear daily along with the other intense emotions I cope with or I can suffer. Intellectually and logically I get it. Sometimes the disconnect is to my soul. The memories, the flashbacks and unfortunate nightmares that will plague me for life.

At the end of the day, I am growing and evolving everyday. I am blessed and humbled. I have people around me who love and understand me. I’m able to see the many miracles of humanity being an empath. Life is good ❤

Mental health

Appreciation for feelings

I’ve come to accept and fully appreciate the fact that I’m a highly sensitive person or HSP. I’ve disclosed before in my blog posts that I’m an intuitive, emotional and physical empath. All that being said, I am an emotional being. That is a fact I used to feel shame for. Others would criticize my emotional responses to certain high intensity situations and I would allow their harshness to hurt my fragile feelings. I definitely am someone who wears their heart on their sleeve. Instead of being embarrassed or ashamed for having deep rooted emotions, today I am grateful for them.

Trusting ones gut is a basic and instinctive response to danger. There’s a reason why we say, “go with your gut.” It’s our bodies natural defense mechanism and a way for us to identify how best to react in a potentially dangerous situation. For too long, I was trying to condition myself to be numb. Ignore what I was feeling, not trusting myself or my own instincts proved very detrimental to my safety and well being.

I’ve now learned that with balance, patience and acceptance that I have held these powers all along I just wasn’t listening to them. I subconsciously became too overly trusting of others for fear that my emotions would loom too large. I always held myself back in one way or another.

I love to listen to podcasts and YouTube videos, a few years ago I came across a series about the dangers of denying ones true self. Our emotions are what make us human. I rewatched these videos a few times until it finally struck me. I remember it clearly, the epiphany I had was a game changing principle that I had been resisting for far too long.

The peace that overcame me when I finally began trusting and believing in myself was something I had never experienced before. The quest for my true self had been lying just underneath the surface all along. In that moment, everything began to change.

Shame was washed away and I finally embraced myself as the emotional and spiritual being that I am. The power in that is great my dear readers. There is nothing I can’t accomplish with these beliefs.

My message to you my readers is to learn from my example. Trust your feelings and use them to your advantage. They serve an important role in life. It’s a strange paradox I know to feel others so deeply and honestly yet I was denying myself. Looking back it was just another lesson I had to learn the hard way. I’m blessed to have this newfound perspective and greater understanding of myself.

Feeling amazingly peaceful on this Sunday. Peace, love and light to you all✌🙏❤☺

Mental health, Spirituality

Some musings on my musings

I’ve been doing a lot of introspective reflecting as of late. What makes me tick and how far in these last six months I have come. A year ago I was utterly depressed, unemployed, out of shape and directionless. Something started to change around mid to late August and looking back I’m unsure of what that precipitating moment actually was. All I know now is that in September I connected with an amazing woman in Australia who gave me the selfless gift of simply believing in me. Her suggestion that I should start sharing my writing has absolutely changed my life!

Being able to let down my defenses, walls and whatever other terms can be applied here has proven so freeing! I gained so much self confidence that I finally applied to work for a company I have admired for many years. As fate would have it this coffee chain was building a new store in my neighborhood less the a mile from my house. I carried myself quite fearlessly into my interview and landed the job. After only a short time I was promoted to management. I began walking to and from my new job daily while starting to care again about what I was eating. I’m a petite woman and have always been naturally small yet when I gain even ten pounds I feel uncomfortable. This new me gave me back a spring in my step! My sassy self was finally shining on my outside again😁

Just yesterday I made one of my childhood dreams come true. I self published a book of poetry on Amazon entitled, “Emotional Musings” using my maiden name Maria Pratico. Afterwards, I felt like I floated on a cloud to work!! I’m so damn proud of myself my dear readers. I have always used writing as a way to cope with uncomfortable emotions, and being an empath sometimes they were feelings that weren’t my own. When I was younger I was really mixed up about this part of myself so my writing helped me make sense of it, process it and let it go.

I’ve always felt different from my peers and even anybody in my family. A blacksheep, a sore thumb, someone who walked to the beat of her own drum. I’m a true middle child who’s able to get along well with others but I still felt like I was outside looking in. I was a decent student, made friends easily yet I have always known that I perceive things quite differently than most. Now I have reckoned with that part of myself that felt strange.

I love the weirdness that my creative side allows me. I appreciate the way I hear music and the feelings I get from it. I understand that I feel stuff on another level, a more complex way that most wouldn’t be able to articulate into words. God has brought me down dark paths because He trusts that I will find my way back and learn from it.

I’m a late bloomer. An analytical thinker when it comes to these intense emotions, musings I call them. I have a highly tuned emotional intelligence that has delayed my progress in understanding certain important aspects of life. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. As a middle aged woman that sounds ridiculous but to me it’s exciting.

I’m just getting started. I’m coming into my own. Watch out world because I’m ready to roar and I’m finally ready for it all!!!!!!

Mental health, Spirituality

I’m still here

In the spirit of it being a new year and all the possibilities it holds, I have been doing a bit of reflection. I have made huge strides and overcome many obstacles in the last six months. I’m deeply humbled and quite proud of myself for bringing some of my dreams into reality. It’s really important to have dreams and I’m glad I never forgot mine completely. There have been a few forces and situations that threatened even that my life would continue and I’d have the ability to carry on. Yet I have overcome those obstacles and have tasted success in a few key areas in my life.

First and foremost I have the chance to reconnect with my son. In just thirteen days we will finally be reunited and I’m so excited about that moment! For now he is enjoying spending time with my family and having a wonderful time. This last month has brought me so much joy and peace being able to communicate with my boy daily. That unbreakable bond that a mother has with her child is something I cherish dearly. The birth of both of my sons changed my life and molded me to who I am today. God’s greatest gift.

Secondly, sharing my writing and connecting with people all over the world is something I had no idea would impact me so positively! I have engaged with so many fascinating people along this writer’s journey and I have learned so much. One of my blog posts was recently published as an article for a larger blog here on WordPress called Coffee Writers Blog. It’s entitled, “How to push the pause button “. I’ve such gratitude for the opportunity to reach a larger audience and spread my story of triumph over trauma. Another of God’s gifts.

My new job and all of the challenges, responsibilities and new information has proven to me how strong I am and how far I have come. Just six months ago I was unemployed and depressed. Deciding to get out of bed was a huge undertaking for me daily. I was anchored down by guilt, shame and sadness. I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel I found myself in. It was a difficult time and I felt paralyzed by fear. Taking that first step in choosing to get back into the world was one of the scariest things I have ever done. The benefits have been so abundantly beautiful and priceless. Regaining my self confidence and self esteem is the best part. I finally feel like me again. Again, another gift from God.

Lastly, my close personal friendships with loved ones and family who have cared for, supported and guided me along my life’s path make my heart complete. I take so much love and inspiration from these people and I wouldn’t be who I am without my tribe by my side. At the end of the day my soul is happy. I feel at peace. The monsters are gone. I’m still here❤

Mental health, Spirituality

Attempting to define patience

I usually feel this way every year at this time. I must admit this year, the feelings are all a little extra. Early January’s weather is partly to blame for this unease. So many truly amazing events are closely on the horizon to take place for me. My heart is beating a little faster and many thoughts are racing quickly through my mind. All of this definitely affects my creative juices as well and I feel I’ve been neglecting my writing. This is the perfect time to try and process it all…. so here it goes.

Early next month I will finally get to see and hug my oldest son! This is a major event over two and a half years in the making. So many intense emotions weigh on my heart. Mostly excitement but also a bit of anxiety which is an emotion I must constantly address daily. I have been so preoccupied with my new position at work that I have had to keep everything going on inside me at bay by doing some extra meditation and light therapy sessions. I have this reoccurring daydream of me running down that long airport gate hallway towards my boy and him picking me up in a tight embrace while tears of joy run down my cheeks. This vision keeps me moving forward yet does little in maintaining my patience for that day to arrive!

I looked up the meaning of patience. The word is defined as “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset“. Over these last two and a half years, I can admit to mastering the acceptance part. The not allowing anger or frustration part has proven more challenging. Anger is not something I have ever felt comfortable expressing and I still struggle with how to release it in a healthy way. I usually stuff it down deep and it will eventually come out indirectly at inopportune times. Mostly hurting only me but sometimes those closest to me, as is natural for everybody. I have always taken this emotion out on myself and blame myself for my role in creating the anger in the first place.

In the circumstances dealing with my boys absence from my life, I view it very differently. I know in my heart I have done everything I could to maintain our relationship. The blame falls squarely on my ex-husband’s shoulders and at some point in life he will reap what he has sown. Intellectually I understand that I have no control over him or what he does. My heart still breaks because I still haven’t been able to speak to my youngest son. All I have control over is how I respond to all of this. I must employ patience and also hope in order to survive this heart ache.

Good things do definitely come to those that can wait. Like Nietzsche said, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” My life is a living testimonial to this truth. All I have endured has most definitely made me a much stronger person. This too shall pass and the rewards on the flip side will be magnificent I am sure.

I also have another major project in the works that should by the end of this month come to fruition. The hard work, energy expelled and time I have given to this endeavor is about to pay off quite handsomely. My fiance and I are on the brink of some major life changes in a super positive way financially if all goes according to plan. All the sacrifices and struggles these past three years will have been worth it when we get to finally taste success.

In the meantime, these next three weeks are crucially important. I must maintain my patience, hope and faith. My first step in achieving this is to focus on my gratitude by waking up each day and saying thank you to God. At the end of each day I allow myself some quiet time to again say thank you God. My understanding of spirituality has grown tremendously during these past seven years and I will never forget what got me to this point. My belief and faith in a higher power that governs us all. The lessons that God put in front of me to learn from are priceless. By walking this path, guided by hope, I have almost reached the other side and I finally see that light at the end of this dark tunnel.

Events and circumstances such as mine have the potential to harden a person, making them bitter. As for me it has produced only a stronger resolve in my faith and gratitude. I lead by kindness and love because I know what hate does. I refuse to let anything that happens to me change who I am in my core. I am a healer, a lover and a friend to all. Learning to have patience has been and will continue to be a wonderful gift from our creator. Namaste my dear readers ✌

Mental health

Learning how to push the pause button

We live in a fast paced world where instant gratification is king. Self centered, ego driven and demanding people seem to be all over the place. There is a major lack of empathy and compassion in today’s cruel world and our culture is paying the price. I for one truly worry about the next generation and the harm on our human connection. Technology has influenced our society in many positive ways yet it’s the negative impact that terrifies me. We hardly speak on the phone any longer with each other. When was the last time you received a hand written letter? Most people walk down the street staring into a screen. The worst example is being out at a social gathering and nobody is talking to each other because everybody is preoccupied with their cell. Don’t even get me started on family dinners with my teens!

We are moving away from an important part of life. Learning how to develop and maintain close personal relationships is under attack and ironically enough, we humans invented it! Out of convenience the precious time spent interacting with each other has become fewer and far between. I feel so many of us have learned to separate ourselves from emotions for time’s sake. Ending relationships by text shouldn’t become acceptable because feelings are messy. If I read an email that I disagree with or am hurt by, I can quickly react and write one back before really thinking through the consequences before hitting that send button. It’s that knee jerk reactionary response to so much in life when it comes to our interactions that is causing undue stress and pain.

There is a big difference between these two actions. Responding to something or reacting to it are choices that can have large and damaging repercussions. I have explored this idea in my own life for the last few years. I made it a priority in all my interactions but most importantly with myself and how I treated me. Of course it will never be perfect but it’s become one of my works in progress. By learning to push that invisible pause button, imagine how much different outcomes in a wide range of situations could be! You get a mean text and instead of reacting to it, you thoughtfully respond. Not two seconds later either, you consciously decide to allow for some space between your thoughts, feelings and actions (whether or not to respond or react). Too many of us purely react to everything in life. We look at everything as though the entire world is against us and we must always be on the defense. Is that mindset allowing for space? How well does that serve us not only as a society but in our individual lives? These are some of the questions I ask myself.

When I encounter a difficult person or situation in life it’s easy to react to them and doesn’t require much thought, looking at it soley from the emotional side. If I can shift my thinking, push the pause button and allow for some space (even 15 seconds) imagine what my response can be?! Putting these ideas into actual practice helps them become more automatic. I have a tendency to act impulsively so this was a challenge for me at first. When I shifted my thinking to decide what was more instinctive to my nature, a loving response or a hateful reaction that’s what made all the difference.

In the end it’s all about staying true to onesef. I must decide to respond or react by what I value in myself. I refuse to take on what others want to impress upon me based on their own scewed perceptions. We are so caught up in the judgements of others that our minds start agreeing with them! Mostly I choose to respond to life in a kind and gentle way. Yes, when I’m met with anger and hatred it would be easy to react with more of the same but ultimately that doesn’t make me feel really good. I end up with regrets, nobody wins and especially learns anything from that kind of interaction.

More of us need to push that pause button. Respond with empathy and react with loving compassion. These are the human qualities that are virtually disappearing from too many around us. I hope you can find your pause button and allow for some space. The next generation is watching. This is a poem inspired by the concept of space.

Consciousness, Mental health, Spirituality

A crack in the shell, an Empath’s journey to salvation

I can see a bit of light and it finally feels more than alright to break free. The weight of life’s worry, sadness, fear and judgement have cemented me into this shell. A suffocating feeling of being bombarded by ten foot tall waves of negativity slapping me upside my head. Gathering my strength I kick as hard as I can and am finally through! I stand up to see where I am and get my bearings. Time passes slowly so minutes feel like years. The pain I was feeling was growing unbearable and my only prayers were for mercy to be relieved from my torture.

Who is this enemy that locked me away? Well the answer is not quite so simple. My energy field had been corrupted by an emotional vampire. This particular parasite is someone who was supposed to love and protect me. Some children view their parents as heros. I will never know what that feels like.

Sound familiar anyone? If you have experience living with these types of people you can understand these thoughts and feelings all too well. The entire world slows to a crawl and my body gets heavy. Extreme fatigue and sleepiness latches on making it impossible to function properly. My thoughts are all hazy, confused and unfocused. Due to this, my emotions are wildly irrational and I can’t help from weeping. It’s like somebody turned all the lights out and I’m wandering around, stumbling to find my way. Everything seems too overwhelming and I have a case of the “I can’t(s)” and “I don’t care”.

Once I can see my way to reality, there is a stark contrast to that last statement. I care too much and I take the world upon my shoulders. My body physically hurts due to the anguish and sorrow. This is a burdensome feeling I have known since I was very young. An unexplained heaviness of heart. It wasn’t until my early twenties and after my first son was born that I was able to discern the root cause for these spells. Once I had left home for college and my own adult life it become very obvious exactly who was causing me to feel so out of body. While growing up, I never felt quite right. I was happy and everything was great and then I would enter my house and the darkness would creep in. As a teenager I started to feel like I was going crazy. Of course I never spoke about this to anyone, how would I have described it?

Finally, once already along on my journey to self discovery was I given the answers I so desperately desired. My therapist told me I am an intuitive and physical empath. That means I can feel others feelings and I can also feel the physical pain of others. When I get very close to someone I love, I know their thoughts before they speak them. Upon hearing this I immediately felt cursed not relieved. I started building a wall all around myself mentally. Digging my heels in and resisting everything I encountered.

Trying to live life against my nature which is open, friendly and positive was hurting me more than anything. I was living in a constant contradiction scrambling to keep others away from me. I was turning into someone I didn’t recognize and I became so miserable.

By God, my creator’s grace I woke up one day and made the decision to change my thinking . I went into full on study mode to teach myself how empaths protect themselves, maintainin our energy and use our gifts for healing. Incorporating boundaries has become essential to my daily mental health. I’m a big fan of using visualization techniques. I taught myself how to meditate and then I attended proper classes on different types of meditation. Sometimes I color mandalas for relaxation. I love my essential oils collection and how they can impactfully change my mood so quickly. I carry a small sack of crystals in my purse wherever I go. My nighttime routine before bed includes deep breathing and chanting. Yoga is my religion and when I miss doing my stretches my joints ache.

Here’s what I have learned so far about my empathic life. I have the ability to see colors and sights so vividly. My sense of hearing and smell is extra sensitive. I operate on a higher vibration than most. My soul is touched on an almost daily basis by those around me, especially by strangers. I fully embrace these as gifts today. I’m a good listener and strangers seek me out to tell me about their problems. A friend once told me I have an invisible flashing neon sign on my forehead that says I’M SAFE, YOU CAN TELL ME”. I have to agree and I feel humbly honored to serve.