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, Spirituality

Choosing love while I remain true to myself

It’s been an amazing six months of personal growth and accomplishments dear readers. I recently posted a poem of mine on my IG profile under the handle @emotionalmusings (I have reposted it here) that revealed a personal truth. I have purposely held myself back from success for the past 40 years. Why you may be wondering? For fear of failure, for fear of not being good enough and finally because I didn’t believe in myself. It has been a long and winding road for me. One that required lots of twists, turns and quiet self reflection. Ultimately it took losing everything, my sanity, my personal safety and my home for me to discover that in the end love for myself is the only superpower that I needed. Something that was inside me all along, I just wasn’t accessing it!

If someone had told me that being involved in an extremely difficult domestic violence relationship eight years ago would be one of the catalysts for my evolution, I would of never believed them. Getting punched in the face is quite jarring yet it showed me over time that I wasn’t as worthless as I believed myself to be. There are no magic pills, absolute directives or a master plan to figure out one’s purpose here on the journey. I’m among one of the people in life who had to learn these important things the hard way. Perhaps you can relate. Please put your own story in the comments below!

Perhaps it’s my hard headed Calabrese roots, my fierce independent nature or my insatiable curiosity for why things are the way they are that has led me down a more difficult path than most. A dear friend of mine recently stated to me that I always seem to have so much on my plate. That is definitely true. Juggling lots of “life balls” is all that I know and something I have had loads of practice with since I was quite young.

I follow my heart always and air on my emotional side most often over my intellectual understanding of any given situation. One may say I through caution to the wind. I pride myself on leading with my human foot when faced with adversity or confrontation. I love that about myself and the more I choose to follow my heart, the more confident and content I become. It has taken years to gain this inner peace and now that I have discovered it I desire more of it!

The self loathing, self doubt, feelings of inferiority, and uselessness seem light years away now. I have survived some dark years. I firmly believe that without those years I wouldn’t have found my path of enlightenment. I give thanks for that time, I don’t regret it. Important life lessons and poor life choices resulted in some truly brighter days.

I write and post a lot about the need for more of us to show empathy to one another. In my opinion we must become love warriors against hate and evil doers. It’s those people among us that are crying out, in a more negative way, for love and acceptance. Humanity’s fate is under attack. It’s ugly and it evokes fear. I feel it is the root cause for people to in turn act in an ugly way towards each other. Bottom line…..ugliness, fear and hate needs to be challenged. The only recipe for change is love. Love is the only answer my friends.

Love hard, whole heartedly and often. Hate is easy. It takes more courage and faith to choose love over hate. In a real and genuine way, I challenge you to try a little more love in your life. Especially with complete strangers. A bit more empathy will open your heart to more understanding of not only that stranger but for yourself.

Trust me. I am living proof. I have survived, now I am striving. This is what winning looks like😁

Mental health, Spirituality

Why I’m happy I put myself on the list

It’s a brand new year and this is a brand new me! After forty-one years of putting everybody else’s needs before my own, I have decided to put myself on my list of priorities. Here’s the kicker, I feel no guilt about it either!! Honestly it feels so good to take charge and stand up for myself. I’m no longer willing to allow anybody to walk all over me any longer. The buck as they say stops here!

This mindset is years in the making dear readers, it definitely didn’t appear overnight. After years of abuse, trauma and self harm I have finally turned a corner. I am strong, I am confident and most importantly I love myself. What’s changed and how did I get here you may be wondering? I believe the answer is all in the timing. As an intuitive, emotional and physical empath I’m highly interested in our metaphysical world. Astrology has always interested me since I was very young. Whenever I would read about my birthday and projected charts, I always read that I would be a late bloomer. That I wouldn’t “come into my own” until later in life. It’s really just in the last two years that things started to just click for me. Stuff I used to struggle with just isn’t a stressor anymore. All the time spent healing, praying,years of taking medications and rivers of tears have come to fruition. The seeds I started planting seven years ago are beginning to sprout. Writing about this gives me pure elation but actually feeling this way is so peaceful!

I recently had to make a choice at work to stand up for myself with the management. In the past I would of swallowed the poor treatment, condescending tone and allowed myself to feel bad. Those days are over! I took matters into my own hands and went above my direct manager’s head by expressing my frustrations to higher management. The result is respect, both my own and from my manager. I will NOT be treated poorly by anyone because I now value myself. Trust me dear readers, if you have been flowing my posts, you can understand how pivotal this is for me.

In this last week I had to chase down a full refund from my credit card company for something I purchased but never received. I put forth so much effort in obtaining the final refund and I wasn’t taking no for an answer. These two events really spoke to me by showing me that it’s ok to not accept what the world is giving you. It’s alright to say, hey nah….no thank you. I deserve better than what you are offering me.

Growing up I was so shy and believed I was crazy because I could feel other people’s feelings and know their thoughts. I’m a middle child, a team player who’s comfortable having someone else be the leader. I’m a companion type of person who is great at supporting others but I now understand I was letting myself down at times by not pushing forward to reach my full potential in certain circumstances.

In combination with the timing of the universe, I believe my new career has greatly improved my self esteem and proven to me I can be a leader. Making the choice to share my writing has also given me a huge confidence boost and aided me in finding like minded people all over the world. Thank you to all of you who follow me, it means the world to me.

As a child I was unaware of my gifts. I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere,just strange and on the outside looking in. A square peg in a round hole, a sore thumb and the black sheep. I can honestly say I don’t feel like that anymore. I believe in myself and I know my worth. I love where I am going and I believe this is my year. This is my time.

Mental health, Spirituality

My grateful heart

Since my last post, I’m happy to report that so much has changed for the better!! Two days after Christmas with the help of my ex brother in-law and my sister, my oldest son Tyler finally reached out!! We have been messaging and chatting every night since!! We have our long awaited reunion set up for next month which will include my family too. I haven’t gotten to hug him in over two years and my parents, sister, niece and nephew have been deprived of his company for over six years!

The last time my family has spent time with him he was a kid. Now he is on the verge of adulthood! He sent me a current picture of him that I can’t stop staring at. He really is my mini me in so many ways both inside and out. I’m beyond proud of the young man he is. My soul is at peace and my heart is bursting with joy.

This whole situation has taught me many invaluable life lessons. The two greatest being patience and perseverance in the face of adversity. Retaining my hope and faith that all would eventually work out is what kept me going daily. Living each day without any communication from my sons has been the worst emotional pain I have ever felt. My heart literally felt broken. Despite it all, I got out of bed every day when my brain was screaming for me not to. I sent numerous letters without a response. I prayed for the strength I required in order to carry on and keep trying to achieve my dreams. I was able to push aside the guilt all mother’s innately feel on most days to pursue my new career. Also, I launched this blog and my poetry profile on Instagram of the same name, Emotional Musings.

I firmly believe that my youngest isn’t too far behind his big brother. Once he sees him talking and visiting with me I think he will come around too. Divorce is terrible for any family. Parent alienation is both real and devastatingly traumatic for the children and the parent that is being shut out by the other parent. I agreed to divorce my ex-husband, but I DID NOT agree to divorce my children.

I’m really proud of myself because I didn’t allow the guilt and shame to shallow me up alive. There were days I didn’t think I would make it through. In the end though the saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” holds true. Again, I’m reminded of how strong I am. I have conquered over many situations and conditions, some even threatened to end my life for good.

I took one of those psychological quizzes today on PsychTest.com

Here are my results:

Both your right and left hemisphere seem to have reached a level of perfect harmony – rather than trying to dominant each other, they work together to create a unique and well-balanced “you”. Your spontaneous, impulsive, and free-flowing right brain creates an exciting and adventurous world, while your left brain helps you make sense of it and keep track of everything.

When faced with a problem or a tough decision, you’re not only able to break things down and make an informed and sensible choice, but you’re also not afraid to go with your gut when necessary. You tend to express your individuality both in words and actions, and although you’re perfectly comfortable running on a schedule or planning things ahead of time, there are occasions when you love to throw in a little spontaneity.

Your balanced outlook and approach to life creates a desire in you to not only understand the world, but to also take it in your hands and mold it as you see fit. With both your right and left hemispheres working together to guide you, you are able to understand yourself and life in general from so many wonderful perspectives.

So my dear readers, my message is to never give up. You are stronger than you think you are, even at your lowest points, there is always a reason to keep going. This too shall pass. Everything is temporary and tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us. I am a lover, a giver and a fucking warrior. I believe in you. Thank you for following me and reading this blog. It is serving as a timeline for my children and I. I hope it also serves as a beckon of hope for you all who read it.

I’m very close to finishing my book of poetry that I am self publishing through Amazon. Stay tuned dear readers for more I information on the release date and how to download it. I wrote this poem this morning to reflect my grateful heart.

Mental health, Spirituality

Having myself a Merry little Christmas

This time of year used to bring me such joy and happiness. From November through early January I dove head first into decorating my home, visiting with friends, baking cookies, seeking out the best Christmas lights displays and watching my favorite Christmas movies. Since my divorce six years ago and my move away from where my children live, each holiday season has gotten tougher and I don’t participate in any of my traditional holiday activities. It’s simply too painful and I can’t bear the memories of being with my children in years past. The breakfasts with Santa, the shopping for presents, decorating the tree etc. just make me sad and yearn for those happier times.

At the request of both of my boys, they don’t want me involved in their lives any longer. We haven’t had any communication in over eighteen months. I also haven’t seen their sweet faces in over two years. Just typing these two sentences leave tears running down my face. Despite the swirling of my emotions, I get up everyday and go to work, smile and engage with my customers. Lead my co-workers and try my best to lend a hand where I am needed. This is something I’m deeply proud of because in the past I would’ve let this destroy me. I would have crawled under my covers and quit. This year I have decided to overcome my sadness by living my life to the fullest. Writing about it too is completely liberating because of the tremendous guilt this entire situation brings.

I’m also proud that however I have been feeling over these past six years, I have never once uttered a bad word to my boys about their father. I refuse to destroy their image of him. He is a huge part of who they are as people and I understand that. My own mother would tear into us as children with negative comparisons to our father and it used to make me feel so terrible about myself. I believe it’s emotional child abuse to purposely alienate a child from one of their parents. I have tremendous faith that one day my boys will see the truth and want to know me again. We have an unbreakable bond and no matter how many miles separate us I will always be there for them. They are the two souls on this journey that I love the most.

Recently I came across some of my old journals. I have used writing as an emotional outlet for processing and healing since I was a young girl. I’m so thankful that no matter how many times I have moved I always keep my old writings intact. I enjoy looking back and rereading my work because it’s a great way to assess how much I have grown and evolved emotionally from the things that cause me distress and pain.

This week has hit me harder than any of the last six years. I have recently taken on more responsibilities at work and that is a welcome distraction emotionally. I haven’t been sleeping well the past few nights because my mind is in overdrive between work stuff and all these memories. I don’t feel creative and I’m concerned that my passions will be neglected because of it.

I do however have this weekend off because I will be working both Christmas Eve and Christmas day. I’m actually looking forward to it. Making others smile and feel joy even though inside I’m crying. It’s opposite action for sure (a DBT principle coping skill) and my former therapist would be proud of my choice to triumph on over my feelings.

Here are the three poems that I found in that journal stuffed into an old bag under a chair in my apartment. I have come a long way emotionally from where I was when I wrote them. I’m stronger. I’m a survivor. I’m a fucking WARRIOR. Happy holidays dear readers. If I can do it, believe in yourself and you can too ✌💖

Spirituality

All about energy

Many of my posts on this blog are about my interpretations of spirituality and energy. I recently wrote a poem entitled, “Energy flows” describing exactly how this phenomenon works. I’m always amazed by how karma occurs and plays out in real life. Recently I have been feeling on top of the world in most areas of my life but yesterday life threw me a curve ball and I’ve been scratching my head about what it means. I bet my dear readers can relate.

I overheard a conversation that I don’t believe I was intended to hear. It caught me off guard because it was very cruel and about me. I’d like to believe this person didn’t know I was there and was talking freely behind my back. The problem is I heard it all, now I know this person’s true feelings about me and I feel awful. I’m unsure what caused this person to say such hateful things about me and in order to avoid a confrontation, I now have to change my routine to stay away from this person. I’m so uncomfortable and upset over this. I know that when somebody reveals their true colors I should believe them but I’m very perplexed over it. It doesn’t make sense and all I have been doing is replaying the hatefulness over and over again in my mind. I know that it changes nothing and keeps me feeling badly.

Hate and cruelty towards people sometimes has its roots in jealousy which is what I suspect in this instance. Women can be so overly competitive with each other and so petty. I have been through too much over these last several years to act in a fake and phony way. Wearing masks was something I did in the past to cope. I can no longer employ that tactic in life because it doesn’t work for me any longer. I believe in myself now and I honor that by always being genuine. Yet this situation is pulling me into a gray area. I live by some standards now in life that I feel very strongly about. In regards to this situation I refuse to treat this person as they have treated me. Hence why I am so uncomfortable today.

Instead I am choosing to be quiet about it, pray and reflect. I don’t wish anybody any harm and I live by my ability to show kindness, ALWAYS. I’m admitting here that however I feel about my previous statement, I am struggling with how to correctly handle this in order to move forward. I want to get to a place of forgiveness but unfortunately, I’m not there yet. Not even a little bit.

One of my favorite books on life is by Don Miguel Ruiz entitled, “The Four Agreements”. In it Mr. Ruiz outlines the four principles to live by in order to have peace within oneself:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don’t take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

By adhering to these principles, I know I shouldn’t be taking any of what was said about me personally. In this case it is truly challenging because it IS about me. Intellectually, I also understand that this person is probably projecting their own feelings upon me. It is something I used to deal with regularly from my own mother. She was so uncomfortable in her own skin that she would project those unsettling feelings about herself onto myself, my siblings and our father. When I was younger, I would soak it all up and internalize those feelings about myself in a destructive way. I would beat myself up, doubt myself, employing self hatred etc. It was ugly and left me feeling worthless and empty.

The quote that next springs to my mind is by Maya Angelou.
Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” “The question is not how to survive, but how to thrive with passion, compassion, humor and style.” “When people show you who they are, believe them.”

She really hit the nail on the head with those words! I’m also reminded of this quote by Ms. Angelou,
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude“.

In regards to my situation I know my only choice is to forgive and change my own attitude about dealing with this person.

Upon reflecting about all of this I must admit I’m beginning to feel a bit better. That’s what writing provides me. It allows me a positive way to process and heal emotionally. I’m so grateful for this outlet and I thank you my dear readers for coming along with me on this journey.

Tell me, how do you handle stress caused by other’s opinions about you? Please comment below or send me an email privately at mariaswan1209@yahoo.com

Here is my poem…..

Peace, love and light to you all✌💖

P.S.

I highly recommend reading “The Four Agreements.” I received it as a gift about fifteen years ago and I reread it often to remind myself of its message. It gave me such a great perspective on life’s struggles in relationships and I gained so much insight.

Anxiety, Depression, Domestic violence, Grief and loss, Mental health, Spirituality, Uncategorized, Women's self care

A monster came knocking

Seven years ago I was coming out of an emotional denial. That time now feels like a hazy dream. I was functioning daily in a robotic way. Truly going through all the motions, nobody would of guessed how much pain, confusion, loneliness and anger I was feeling inside because the woman on the outside showed everyone she was beautiful and perfect. Always happy and content. Yet unsettled, not peaceful. I know now I was on the path to a severe nervous breakdown. I was working three jobs while trying to survive a messy divorce. My two boys whom I had been a stay at home mother to for 10 years moved out to live with my ex husband. It was at my request. My act of compassion in attempting to protect them. From me. I believed I was cracking under the pressure of the charade I had been keeping up for twelve years and that it would be safer for them not to be around me. Growing up with the way my mother was I was terrified about becoming like her and making my boys feel like I did. My mental health issues came to a head. I likened it to dropping a million piece puzzle on the ground. That’s how my brain felt. A tearing at the seams turned into shredded material strewn all over my house. I had been the three males in my life’s everything mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually and there was nothing left for me. I stuffed my emotions, my dreams and my desires. I wasn’t even on my list of priorities let alone at the bottom of it.

Yet at the time I didn’t know that. I certainly didn’t acknowledge that. I felt fulfilled by my jobs, intensive exercise training for races I was running in while being an exercise anorexic and consuming huge amounts on alcohol and Xanax. I thought I looked great and it wasn’t until a dear friend brought his concerns up to me. He said, “who do you think you are, a rock star?” I was in a constant state of perpetual motion almost 20 hours each day. That had been had been my routine for months. Truly burning my candle at both ends. Literally running away from life.

Then the monster walked into my life. I refuse to call him by his name because remembering it and saying it honors him and he is not deserving. My ego was off the charts and I presented as a charismatic woman without a care in the world. I believe now it was my sheer brokenness that he sniffed out and was attracted to. Whatever started the spark between us grew rapidly into a raging forest fire within just four short months.

The monster moved into my home and I wasn’t lonely anymore. I had found someone who loved me, cooked and cleaned for me. Yet went through these crazy incoherent and incredibly violent controlling episodes where I ended up battered and abused on the floor. I have never seen that kind of rage before. Growing up my own mother who is clinically insane had scared the daylights out of me with her fits. She was a lamb compared with this lion living in my house. He said he loved me and I blindingly believed him.

That last month was the most terrifying time in my entire life. He wouldn’t let me out of his sight. I couldn’t even take a shower alone. He controlled what I ate, when I ate, when I slept, if I slept. Absolutely everything. I actually allowed another human being to fully dominate me 100%. I survived being screamed at in my face, choked and strangled, punched, kicked, thrown right through a wall and raped repeatedly. By that time I was completely isolated from any of my friends and family. My family lived many states away, not at all close. He held my phone anyways and monitored all my calls so either way I wasn’t telling anybody what was going on. The police came many times to my house. My neighbors would call them anonymously trying to save me. Each time I would swear to the officer that I was fine. He would stand behind the door glaring at me, making sure I was keeping his secret. Nobody could save me and there would be not rescue.

Finally, one Saturday morning as I was getting ready to teach my dance class he started in on me. First the screaming than the hitting. The thought came to my mind that he might actually succeed in killing me this time. So my act of taking back control in the situation was to swallow a bottle of pills and chase it with a few shots of vodka. I would be the one to kill me not him. He watched me do it and then continued his beating of me before he threw me in the car and dropped me off at the ER.

Upon waking up in the hospital in that bed with my arms tied to the gurny I learned I would be committed to a psychiatric hospital. Not only was I alive but God was offering me a new life, a chance to change, it was my moment of desperation. Where I realized I had two choices. I could try to stab myself with a medical instrument and get the job done right this time or I could use this opportunity to see hope in my future. Trust me I grappled with the first option for awhile. Lastly I thought if I could hold on to that hope and give myself a chance to heal, I just might make it. The acronym I like for hope is hold on pain ends.

In the years since that time I believe I am living proof of that statement. I had to learn how to put space between my thoughts, feelings and actions. Determine if I was to react or respond in certain situations. Start on the path of trusting myself, knowing my self worth and most importantly believing in myself. God shown his light through my hospital window that day. He reached out his hand to guide me. All I did was take a small leap of faith, held on tightly to hope and received his hand.

#mentalhealth #complexptsd #suicide

#hope #god #love #lifeisbeautiful