Mental health

My relationship with myself

This summer has been chock full of unexpected realizations, observations and shifts in my perception relating to my past traumas. As I continue to heal and incorporate new skills for coping, my therapist lent me a book entitled, “Unf*ck your brain”. It’s an easy read and I was able to read most of it on the plane during the recent visit with my family. Today I finished the last ten pages.

I’ve read many self help books but haven’t read anything in that category in years. Now that I’m solely focused on my own healing, I took this opportunity to really soak up the information this book presents. It’s a very common sense approach to understanding how your brain operates, reacts and handles trauma, the potential and possibilities for real change. Neuroplasticity, which is the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury. Each chapter is a break down of brain functions and the chemical responses to our emotions.

Awareness is more than 90% of the battle. Learning about and becoming aware of my triggers can help me slow the process of my reactors and responses to my emotions and behaviors. I’m not new at this but given my current circumstances this book was a good refresher. This is a long repetitive process because our brains love recognizing patterns and we become creatures of habit. Disrupting and challenging my thoughts can help rewire my brain’s ability to cope in a more productive way. I learned that emotions only last 90 seconds. They are meant to be temporary and when they persist longer than that, we have entered mood territory.

The best tool for rewiring the brain is meditation. The ability for my brain to recall a state of mindfulness and calm is extremely beneficial once I become triggered. It takes practice but it’s the best thing I have learned in self healing.

I expierienced many ah-ha moments reading this book. I made an important connection between my trauma and what is called “traumatic grief”. My brain displaced and delayed the grieving process in order for my survival at the time of my trauma. Our brains are hard wired for survival. Any feeling you don’t allow yourself to process, will keep reappearing until it is healed. If you feel it, you can heal it! I believe the disconnection I carried for so long of not feeling worthy enough to heal, not trusting or believing in myself created enormous amounts of guilt and shame. Then I was stuck in a pattern of feel, hurt, push aside and suffer. Over and over again throughout the years.

My patterns for a long time were centered around blocking and resisting painful and uncomfortable feelings. As a result of the traumatic grief I have been carrying, I believe much of it in my subconscious, has led my brain to establish this chronic cycle of depression and anxiety. A quote in the book that resonates with me is, ” no one ever told me that grief is so much like fear”. Our cultural expectation is to possess rather than release. We are conditioned to hold on to something rather than letting it go.

The expierience of traumatic grief is created when we don’t allow or aren’t allowed the necessary grieving process. My sexual abuse has a child was something so painful, uncomfortable, confusing and scary that I simply didn’t allow myself to feel it. It created this inside motor of fear that literally drove me. For so long I have thought my spirit animal is a rabbit. Always hypervigilant and nervous.

I’m reexamining the relationships within myself. That is the area I must attend to because it’s the foundation for everything. My ego, attachments, feelings of chronic abandonment and displaced emotions have created a disproportionate reaction in other situations. All of this has played a role in developing a constant trauma response to life. For example, keeping myself busy and always moving soothed my anxiety but further delayed my grieving process and once the memories came rushing back, I was thrown sideways.

This book explained the biochemical roots of my brain’s reactions to stress. Most of this is the perfect storm combination of genetics and triggers. It’s more validation that I’m not crazy. I’m giving myself permission to honor my grief and by accepting it I’m showing myself grace. I will have to develop a new spirit animal now!

Self compassion is something I never really thought about until recently. It’s the opposite of self esteem. Focusing on my insides rather than my outside successes and failures. It means forgiving myself. That which I wasn’t aware of, I didn’t have the opportunity to heal. Now that I’m so much more conscious of it, it helps me make sense of what happened in my past, how the fight/flight/freeze patterns developed in my brain.

My relationship with radically accepting not only myself at this moment but what has happened in my past to bring me to this point is now my main focus. I’m using this time wisely so that I can fully heal and let go. My trauma recovery timeline has been disrupted many times over the years. I will not do myself the disservice of over analyzing why but I now see that much of what happened to me was not given the proper amount of time and focus to heal. Researchers have found that ninety days is the basic timeline for reestablishing equilibrium after a trauma. Each trauma is unique to that individual. There is no cookie cutter, one size fits all for healing mental and emotional trauma.

Another variable that I must recognize is my experience as an empath. We sensitives are the people that notice early on what is dark, broken and hidden in our society. For much of my journey I was an unrealized empath, meaning that I immediately took on the discomfort around me like it was my responsibility to feel all the dark brokenness around me. My vibration was lowered to match my environment. I didn’t acknowledge this or know how to talk about it. Now I’m shifting to allowing for a higher vibration by first aligning myself so that I may raise the vibration and offer solutions. Seeing the situation from my inner being. Pretty deep stuff.

This is hard work. I follow a couple of awesome profiles on Instagram that help by providing me daily reminders. Positive affirmations and guidance so that I can do the work. I’m challenging myself to allow and make room for change. It’s all part of the ever changing process of healing and growth. Becoming more aware and adjusting as is necessary. Following my inner guides so that my spirit can shine through unfiltered.

The definition of radical acceptance is this, Radical acceptancemeans completely and totally accepting something from the depths of your soul, with your heart and mind. I’m determined to keep moving forward by intensifying my ongoing relationship with acceptance which will allow myself continued healing. Namaste y’all🧘‍♀️

Mental health

Little Ms. Perfect

What is perfect? There are two separate definitions. Using it as an adjective means this, “having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be“. When used as a verb, perfect means “make (something) completely free from faults or defects, or as close to such a condition as possible”. Either way it’s used I have suffered from perfectionism my entire life. In psychology, perfectionism is described as a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting high performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.

My Mom has told me that when I was younger she used to find me obsessively organizing my room. I loved to neatly arrange my books, toys and knick knacks. Cleaning and straightening a room, tidying up things brings me a peacefulness and calm that’s hard to match by other activities. It’s also something that has made me feel strange and weird.

There was a period in my life when I literally couldn’t sit still or overlook a piece of lint on the carpet without having to immediately stop whatever I was doing to pick it up. After the birth of my first son, I found myself in a perpetual state of motion, always wiping a countertop or vacuuming a room that was already spic and span to everybody else’s eyes. I got caught up in routines that kept my in a “loop” for hours. So many routines and rituals had to be achieved compulsively and repetitively. Some days I got so stuck I didn’t even leave my house. Looking back those were dark days.

I’m a shift supervisor at a Starbucks and at 41 this is the first time I accepted a management position. In the past, I had been offered/recommended this role but I always turned it down due to my overwhelming fear of failure. Truth be told my perfectionist ways have plagued me throughout my life. Recently at work my manager challenged me to stop working like a superwoman. She asked me to examine my leadership skills by holding others on my team accountable for certain tasks. At first it felt awkward delegating the things I have been doing alone without help. Lately however I can feel an important shift taking place.

A favorite quote of mine by Maya Angelou is,”Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better. Boy does this sentiment ring true in this regard!

I’ve always been an analytical thinker, wondering why things are the way they are and trying desperately to make sense of the world around me. I had this book as a kid called, “The book of why” and I loved it. I’ve especially been intrigued by my own emotions and the emotions of others. That intense curiosity has sometimes kept me up at night.

A former therapist once told me to disengage myself from the outcome of a certain problem I was having a difficult time finding a reasonable solution for. My perfectionist ways and drive to control a situation can leave me breathlessly spinning my wheels. Despite my efforts I end up feeling exhausted mentally with no end in sight.

When I start to feel my old ways creeping back into my daily choices, I try and recall his words. Letting go of the outcome and maintaining an open mind sounds logical enough but my heart stands stubbornly doubtful.

Establishing a connection within myself has been key to easing off my perfectionist attitude. Grounding myself really quiets my mind and eases my fears. Whether these fears are real or hypercritically blown out of proportion, I can often find myself overwhelmed and grasping for my idea of perfection. I’ve learned I’m only hurting myself when I put this kind of pressure on myself.

For there is no such thing as perfect my dear reader but perfect imperfections throughout life. Try shifting your perspective taking a closer look at yourself. Deepening your own connection within your soul. Becoming your own best friend, saving yourself from yourself. Like Shakespeare said, “to thine own self be true”.

Spirituality

For love of water

I was born on the East coast and have lived all my life near water. When I was younger it took an hour or so to drive down the New Jersey shore, depending on traffic. Then in my early 20s I met and got married to a man from Rhode Island. I lived in a few different cities there but my favorite house was a cottage I rented right on a private beach. In all of my adult life I have only felt at home in that cottage, it was my safe and happy space. One entire side of that cottage was windows looking out over Narragansett Bay. The smell of salt water and the sound of seagulls greeted me at my door every day. It was peaceful, serene and beautiful. I’m reminded of how much I cried the day I moved out. Thankfully I took pictures that I look at from time to time and reminisce.

I moved into that house with my family but moved out a divorced single mother. It was there that I found my independence and a renewed sense of self. In the 2 years I lived there, I discovered the confidence I needed to change my unhappy life. Everything about my life from move in to move out was drastically different. If those walls of that beach cottage could talk. Ultimately it’s those circumstances that helped propel me into more healing once I moved to Florida.

It’s been a little over six years since I moved away from the only real home I felt I had. Now I live in the land locked state of Texas. This area has a beauty all it’s own with some wonderful lakes and parks. Lately I have this longing for back home. The people, the food and most of all the ocean!!

I have caught myself feeling nostalgic and even melancholy about the place I call home. There is just something about sitting out on that sand, tasting the sea on your tongue and gazing at the waves. There are two places that give me the ultimate feeling of zen. One place is in the shower, the scent of clean body wash as the water cascades off my shoulders bringing me a sense of calm. The other is the beach.

I read an article recently that discussed one’s attraction and claim to a body of water calling it, my water. It’s that place where you feel most connected and alive gladly naming it as your own. I’m not sure if I have just one of “my water” spots yet more realistically I can claim a few. Nevertheless I feel them calling to me. I need a visit back home. I need to be refreshed and renewed by the ocean’s powerful force.

As an empath who is constantly being twirled around by other’s emotions and energies, the ocean is a place where my own energy can be restored. The ocean provides such a force, an immense energy that is so freeing for me.

I feel stuck in a rut lately. Not creative, bored and unamused. Two days ago I wrote this poem about my favorite thing to do in the ocean. Floating takes me outside and away from myself. It allows me to really clear my mind, release and let go. I feel amazing afterwards.

I set a goal for myself that this summer I must go for a visit back home, up North. To take in the ocean mind, body and spirit. I will leave all that weighs me down on its shore. I will be reborn.

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

Writer’s problems 101

I have been so busy in the past two weeks that I fear my creative juices have dried up. I have been avoiding trying to write my next post on here for a few days now until I figured I might as well write about just that! Due to my hectic work schedule, I have fallen into this routine of writing on Sundays. This past Sunday I was definitely in a more soulful mood yet I just felt like cooking. I ended up pouring my heart into a wonderful meal for my family. Once I was finished with that, I felt my creative energy had vanished. This is the first time in a long time I have felt that my balance is off, my mystical energy is gone leaving me feeling a heaviness of heart.

Perhaps it’s the change of seasons, the weather or just my distracted mind. I’m probably putting unnecessary pressure upon myself to produce something fabulous without giving myself permission to be in a rut. All writers go through this I imagine. My mind moves so quickly normally, like someone is spinning a rolodex. Lately I feel numb and off somewhere in the background. I’m not engaged and focused, my drive is no where to be found. My head is in the clouds and my heart isn’t grounded.

These periods of restlessness do pop up from time to time. Living with my form of Complex PTSD presents these challenges of disorientation and dissociation. I can’t help but feel an episode is looming in the background. It’s been almost four years since the last debilitating episode that left me hospitalized. No matter what I do to counter them from occurring, the likelihood of one happening seems inevitable.

I’ve also been struggling with some female issues. My “time of the month” has always been irregular yet in February and March I bled everyday. Now that we’re in mid April I’m confused and concerned with if my time will arrive at all. I can chalk it up to stress but my hormonal changes are throwing me off and I’m not a fan.

Writing has always been an outlet, a release and the primary way I process my intense emotional energy into truth. Lately I just feel depressed inside and writing seems like a chore. I’m extremely proficient in covering my deep inner feelings about myself so I’m sure nobody in my daily life can tell something is amiss. This is me telling on myself right now, calling bullshit on the last few weeks of interactions with friends and family. I feel like a fraud with a painted smile on my face while inside is void of any feeling.

Ever since I can remember I have been hard on myself. My own worst enemy even. I have always had that internal dialogue deep down within me that is incessantly whispering “you’re not good enough” and “you’re nothing”. This voice had been silent for a bit but now I’m feeling its presence resurface.

It’s also been raining for the past two days which combined with my current mood creates a real feeling of depression. My sleeping patterns are not consistent which also helps cultivate these irregularities. I’m just off my game and I don’t want to do anything.

Alas, I will always retain my hope. It never dies despite these blue feelings. This too shall pass and I know I’ll be ok. I will adjust my crown and keep steadily walking my path. I may be a bit tired and dusty but I will overcome. Peace to you all✌

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

Steadily climbing a mountain

One of my favorite quotes is by Sir Edmund Hillary, “It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” Today this quote really resonates with me. I am acknowledging and giving myself the gift of self love by recognizing how far I have come in only a year. My C-PTSD has been in remission for three and a half years. I have gone from being a mess upon the floor, sobbing and in a dissoactive episode to holding a management position at work while self publishing my own book of poetry. I’m really so very grateful and elated with how truly wonderful it feels to have inner peace and strength within my soul.

On Tuesday my team at work and I witnessed a near fatal car accident right in front of our window. It was the most horrible and terrifying scene I have ever witnessed. The sounds and visuals have left their scar on my heart. The gentleman’s truck looked like God himself crushed it with his hands and dropped it out of the sky onto its roof where it landed. My store is next to the freeway and the driver’s truck came literally flying off the road landing on its roof on the grass across the street from us. Airbags deployed, windows busted out and smoke billowing from it, the truck looked unreal. The five of us dropped what we were doing and immediately ran outside. Three of us called 911 while the my two other younger coworkers ran up to the truck itself. One of them had grabbed our fire extinguisher and used it to smother the smoke and kept a fire from starting. Her heroic actions really moved me. She later admitted that her own father had died in a similar situation so I felt it was a kind of redemption on her part in trying to save this man’s life. The EMT’S pulled him from his vehicle alive and consciousness which is truly miraculous given the circumstances.

For the rest of the day we all kept hugging each other. We used our nervous energy to clean our store to a like new condition. When I closed up Tuesday night I felt a sense of pride for how we coped with the days extraordinary and unusual events. I can honestly say when you witness such an extreme example of life and death in front of your own eyes, while in a job setting it changes your perspective.

Here’s what I took away from Tuesday.

1. Life is too short, each moment is a gift. I will not waste my time with frivolous worries about things out of my control. My time is precious, therefore I must prioritize accordingly.

2. I work with 5 very selfless people who I know have my back in a special way. That feeling is priceless both on a professional and personal level.

3. I am getting stronger. This same situation for my past self would’ve driven me up under the covers for a few days. Left me a puddle of tears and nerves.

4. I can do this……I managed and led people through a crisis. I continued to do my job in a professional manner despite the chaos. We all went back to work serving and assisting our customers.

All in all as I reflect now I can see myself steadily rising up from the ashes of despair and heartache. One foot in front of the other I climb. I keep going even though my mind is screaming “NO” and “you can’t do it”. I’m proving to myself everyday that the challenges I face are all preparing me for greater things. The best is still yet to come which is what gets me out of bed everyday!

I never thought I would achieve success again after so many failures. Attempting suicide, being strangled to within inches of my life on my previous job eight years ago, going through a hell of a divorce, surviving domestic violence and rape, losing touch with my children, being homeless, coping with my fiance’s health issues. The list is lengthy and not for the faint of heart.

Last week I made a life long dream come true all on my own. I self published my first book of poetry. It is available as both an e-book and in paperback through Amazon.com. I have created a small following here with this blog and my writing profile on Instagram called Emotional Musings.

I am currently working on putting together a book signing event here locally with family and friends. Sharing my success with those who have loved, supported and believed in me is such a blessing. It gives me the chills that I have so many wonderfully loving people in my life today.

I’m bursting with positivity and gratitude. And yes…….

I have survived and conquered over myself.

Living my motto, “Triumphing over trauma “.