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”.

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 “.

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

Keeping love alive

Does anybody have a “love hangover” today, the day after Valentine’s Day? I must admit to feeling some aftershocks from being shown so much love yesterday. From the moment I opened my eyes until the moments before I closed them, love was surrounding me and encompassing me in its warmth and glory. Yesterday was a magical day for giving and receiving love from my friends, family and even my customers at the store. Of course my fiance stepped up his game too by making me feel special, very appreciated and of course loved yesterday as we celebrated Valentine’s Day together. All in all I had awesome day!

I know I have written this before in previous blog posts but I must emphasize it again here. My mission in life is to always spread love and kindness to all I encounter along this journey called life. Especially those who need it the most, the downtrodden, forgotten amongst our society. Those who are homeless are a good example of this. I observe those folks getting treated and judged so poorly on a daily basis, it breaks my heart.

I have a confession to make here. About two years ago, my fiance and I found ourselves without a secure living situation. We were homeless for about three months while we lived in our car. We showered at our local YMCA, ate at food pantries and sometimes slept overnight on the beach. It wasn’t easy and the only positive part of it is that at least we were together. I can’t imagine having to bear that time alone on the streets by myself. Some days were better than others. Some days I was so terribly sad and depressed not knowing where we were going to end up and how we were going to rise out of the terrible spot we felt stuck in. Our cell service was cut off too so we became experts at finding and utilizing free WiFi in order to stay in touch with our loved ones.

I have seen life from different angles and perspectives. My experiences have shaped me into the woman I am today. I take nothing for granted and try to be as grateful for everything I have today as I possibly can be on a daily basis. Anything can happen at anytime that can shift one’s world, turning everything upside down. Believe me dear readers, I am living proof of it!

I like to tell others when describing my life that I have lived a few different lives during my lifetime so far these 41 years. My family owned a car dealership while I was growing up and we enjoyed an upper middle class lifestyle. Then while I was married, my ex-husband was a hardworking blue collar type of guy who usually worked more than one job which afforded me the ability to be a stay at home mother for ten years while my boys were little. Then I went through my divorce and found myself working three jobs to try and survive. As I began having nervous breakdowns that required me to be hospitalized so many times I found myself homeless for the 1st time. I couldn’t afford my rental house because I had lost all of my jobs one by one so I was offered a friend’s couch to sleep on. That experience was extremely humbling, complicated and difficult.

It took me years to rebuild my life after going through so much loss. I have a keen awareness of how much grief and loss can affect a person’s outlook in life. I was basically just trying to survive everyday, I was definitely not thriving. It has taken years of intensive treatment, therapy, healing and rivers of tears to get me to where I am today.

There is not one day that goes by that I don’t pause, allow myself some quiet time to sit and reflect on my past. I whisper Thank you God for keeping me going forward, pushing me even a millimeter more when I wanted to give up. For allowing some wonderful people to come into my life and inspire me to want to do better. For guiding me through the darkness until I could see just a small speck of light. For keeping my faith, hope and belief alive enough so I never quit. There were a few times I did consider ending it all. I thought those who loved me would be better off without the burden of worrying about me, the pain of the disappointment I felt I had become.

Yes dear readers, I have expierienced some very dark days. I have also had the pleasure of feeling some truly amazing moments too. I am grateful for all of it. Without the dark one cannot appreciate the light. Hold on tight to those you love and tell them how you feel. Don’t judge others for there but the grace of God go any of us. Be kind always and act as if God himself is always watching you (because he is) In the end life is short. Love is all that matters. Spread it generously to all everyday and keep love ALIVE💖