Down the rabbit hole

I’ve spent the last 20+ years struggling with self harm, cutting specifically. I’ve gone for long periods of time without doing it, years even, but once I fall back down that rabbit hole it is very difficult to climb back out.

Usually I cut when I feel very strong emotions. I can cope with the normal day to day for the most part, but when things get truly difficult, I just can’t. Right now I feel really down on myself. Some things have happened that I blame myself for and I can’t figure out how not to blame myself. I’ve tried the coping mechanisms that my therapist suggested like taking ice cold showers. I stood under the freezing water for quite a long time the other day. It hurt, and I thought for a time that I would never get the feeling back in my toes.

The cold water just didn’t fill that need to see my skin sliced open, to watch the blood rush out and run down my thigh in rivers. I don’t know what it is about cutting that makes me always come back to it. Maybe it is that the pain lasts for days? That every time I bump it accidentally, I experience the pain again? Or is it seeing the blood run out, as if I can somehow open my skin and allow the pain to rush out?

I’ve tried other ways to deal with this feeling. I’ve tried exercise, punching pillows, hitting things, screaming. None help as much as cutting. Maybe it is the aspect of me punishing myself? Cutting my skin, therefore punishing myself with the pain, and also the scars that remain from each time I’ve done this.

Control
They send me away to find them a fortune
A chest filled with diamonds and gold
The house was awake, the shadows and monsters
The hallways, they echoed and groaned
I sat alone, in bed till the morning
I’m crying, “They’re coming for me”
And I tried to hold these secrets inside me
My mind’s like a deadly disease
I’m bigger than my body
I’m colder than this home
I’m meaner than my demons
I’m bigger than these bones
And all the kids cried out, “Please stop, you’re scaring me”
I can’t help this awful energy
God damn right, you should be scared of me
Who is in control?
I paced around for hours on empty
I jumped at the slightest of sounds
And I couldn’t stand the person inside me
I turned all the mirrors around
I’m bigger than my body
I’m colder than this home
I’m meaner than my demons
I’m bigger than these bones
And all the kids cried out, “Please stop, you’re scaring me”
I can’t help this awful energy
God damn right, you should be scared of me
Who is in control?
I’m well acquainted with villains that live in my head
They beg me to write them so they’ll never die when I’m dead
And I’ve grown familiar with villains that live in my head
They beg me to write them so I’ll never die when I’m dead
I’m bigger than my body
I’m colder than this home
I’m meaner than my demons
I’m bigger than these bones
And all the kids cried out, “Please stop, you’re scaring me”
I can’t help this awful energy
God damn right, you should be scared of me
Who is in control?
And all the kids cried out, “Please stop, you’re scaring me”
I can’t help this awful energy
God damn right, you should be scared of me
Who is in control?
Songwriters: Ashley Frangipane / Timothy Joliffe Bran / Roy Edward Kerr

Discovery and Reflection

In my last post, I talked about not being able to come to a decision regarding what I want to do with my mother. If you haven’t read my past posts, I recommend starting here. If you have, welcome back!

I still don’t know what I want to do about her, if I should try to let her back into my life, or if I should shut her out forever. As I wrote the last sentence, I had another realization. Just because I shut her out now, doesn’t mean that I cannot open that door later. Of course, being anxiety’s mistress, I realize that she could die tomorrow and I will miss that opportunity. Or, I could die tomorrow. Anyway, back on track! After my last post, I received a really compelling comment from elizabetcetera (who is a long time follower of my blog- thank you so much). She says, “Baby steps baby steps baby steps! Follow your heart, listen to your mind but above all believe your gut! The best predictor of future actions is past behavior. Someone may SAY they have changed but actions always speak louder than words. Unless your mom has done some serious therapy on her own she may still be too toxic and unhealed to put into your life on any regular or significant basis. Having your mom be part of your life because you feel guilty or are worried abot future regret aren’t very solid reasons for putting someone so deletrious back into your life — those are both negative and fear based reasons. You’ll have to ask yourself what the positives are about including her in your very precious life. You must consider the potential if reopening “healed” wounds. Everytime you put attention on someone it’s less attention for you, your life and other loved ones and friends. You may want to examine why you feel guilt if you do not include her. I wish you the best on all that you decide. There is no rush in this matter. ❤”

First off, wow! That is really solid advice. Second, I never realized that worrying about future regret was negative and fear based. I thought it was something I was doing based on trying to plan and prepare myself as best as possible for the future. Also, what ARE the positives of having her in my life? I cannot think of any right now.

I have always wanted to live my life without regret. I see how much my partner struggles with the loss of her father, who she only knew for a short time. It scares me to no end that I would pick up the phone one day to my aunt telling me that something happened and my mother is dead. That is something we can’t take back, and it scares me a lot. In reality, she is the one who has lost out. She’s missed so much of my life, graduations, my wedding, purchasing my first house. What have I missed? Growing up she was so toxic. Sure, I have good memories of when she taught me how to throw and catch a baseball. When we would play hide and seek in the neighborhood after dark. When she taught me how to tie a slip knot. Honestly, though, I can only think of a handful of good memories over those 15 years that I spent with her. In trying to think of good memories, the truly horrific ones keep creeping into my consciousness like mold on week-old bread. My chest feels tight, my breathing restricted. My eyes blur with pain filled tears, threatening to open a dam of emotion at any minute. Why do I want to bring her back into my life? Do I want to bring up all of those old memories of pain and heartbreak? Do I want to have to face her, to see her name pop up in my email and panic for a second that it will be something devastating to my already fragile ecosystem? There are so many ways she has hurt me and so many ways she can hurt me again. I still have not recovered from the first go around with her, and I may never recover fully. I have worked SO HARD to continue growing, learning, and fighting to make it in this life with the hand I was dealt. Wouldn’t I be throwing that all away?

As I write this, a tiny little glimmer remains in my thoughts. The smallest of voices in my head is saying, “yeah, but you’ve always wanted this”. Every reason for not doing it is faced with that voice. Every single reason, thought, concern… EVERY SHRED OF PAIN THAT I THROW AT IT… is met with, “yeah, but you’ve always wanted this”. It is that glimmer that makes me unsure. That glimmer doesn’t allow the anger, pain, devastation that I’ve felt in my life shut this down. I hate that glimmer. I hate that this isn’t easy. I hate that she had the audacity to send me that letter, to open this door again. I hate it so much that I still have hope, after all these years and all this pain. I hate that I am so fucking optimistic for some reason that I would dare hope that my mother could be good. I hate that I could even entertain the thought that my mother, breaker of souls, could be the mother I have always yearned for. The mother that cares and loves. The mother that hugs you when you are feeling down or had a bad day. The mother that doesn’t hit you and tell you-you’re a piece of shit. The mother that doesn’t tear you down to nothing and then spit on you. Why can’t  I just accept that she can’t be that mother? Why do I still hope in my heart of hearts that she could be good? Why would I ever even fathom talking to her?

Even worse than that glimmer of hope that I have is the empathy that I feel for her. The empathy and compassion that I have knowing that she is a damaged person that fucked up. The reality that I cannot come to terms with that she is just as damaged as me and was doing the best she could at the moment. After all, she has done, all she has said, and all she has taken from me, I still feel compassion. My anger and betrayal tell me that she doesn’t deserve my compassion and forgiveness. My empathy and compassion tell me that she is damaged (through no fault of her own) and wasn’t strong enough not to damage me. She says she was molested by my grandfather as a child. I don’t know if that is true, but I feel like that is not a claim that anyone should doubt. She didn’t ask to be molested like I didn’t ask to be beaten and verbally abused. In that aspect, we are one in the same. I had the advantage of getting out and getting help. I’ve had the strength to keep getting help.

My mother says she got the help she needs. I don’t know if that is true, but right now I feel conflicted on how to move forward. My therapist has talked before about the child that is still inside me. I think that younger version of myself is the one who is scared when my mother emails. I think for right now I need to protect that version of myself. I need to be the strong, protective adult that she should have had her first 15 years. I need to nurture and comfort her like she deserves. Maybe I don’t need a mother for that. In some ways, I feel like I can give myself all of the things that I should have gotten as a child. And what I can’t give myself, I can certainly ask for from those in my life who love me. Maybe I don’t need her at all. Maybe it is too big of a risk to take for things that I can give to myself.

I will keep thinking and be writing on this.

If no one has told you today, you are beautiful, amazing, and perfect.

Decisions

I hate thinking the same thoughts but not being able to move past them or come to a resolution.

Regarding my mother, I keep thinking 3 things: I’m not strong enough to have her in my life, I’m never going to move past this without facing her, and if she dies I will have regrets forever. Those three thoughts have been swirling in my subconscious like a hurricane crossing the gulf. Twisting, seething, and brewing. Not close to land yet, but the possibility still exists.

This may be the most important decision of my adult life, letting her back in or closing her out forever.

Catching up

My mother has been reaching out. She sent me that letter awhile ago, and I emailed her back and pretty much laid it all down – my feelings and frustrations. My anger, and bad feelings about myself because of her, etc.
Since then she has emailed me a few times (like my birthday). I emailed her for her birthday. She replied and said it was the best present she could receive (me telling her happy birthday).
At one point I told her if she really wants to try to have a relationship, we should do it with a therapist present. I also told her I’m not paying for it. She can. Maybe that’s petty, but I’ve incurred enough trouble to my daily life on account of her. She said she thought it was a great idea, but her finances were tight and it would have to wait a bit.
I guess my hangup is how much damage she did to me as a child, and taking that risk of getting crushed by her again. I’m also terrified of her, so the thought of seeing her in person is crazy. When she emails me and the name pops up on my phone I have a mini panic moment.
If I don’t try this, when she eventually dies, I know I’ll have regrets and what ifs. Do I want to risk that? Death is final, so no taking it back.
I also have had this hole in my heart my whole life, knowing I missed out on a loving parent. I’ve crammed lots of other stuff into that hole, but it doesn’t work. So I could maybe heal that if this goes well.
I also feel like I can’t heal without forgiving her, and I feel like I can’t forgive her without facing her.

Is that all worth the risk of getting completely annihilated by her? Because I remember all of the pain she’s caused. I know she still has the power to completely take me back to how I felt as a child, and I just don’t know if I’m strong enough for that.

I forgot, she also confirmed via email that all of the abuse was her. For some reason I believed that it was fueled by my step dad. Maybe it’s easier to think that. Here’s what she had to say when I asked, “Jennifer,
I remember trying to talk to you and I could not understand why you would not listen to me. Brett and I talked about you and we both felt you needed some discipline. At first we had you stand in the corner and it seemed to work. As you got older this did not work. I felt I tried everything. At one point Brett told me I was going over board with the punishments, and I would regret it someday but I continued to do it anyways, after that he stopped being involved. So no, he was not the reason for all the punishments.

As I write this I realize how messed up my thinking was at that time. I was 28 years old when I found out I was depressed, and had extreme mood swings. My mood swings were the cause for the punishments. I felt like I was going out of my mind with anger, and I took it out on you. For this, I could tell you I am sorry for 100 years and I know it would not make things any better for you. I am very sorry for the pain that I have caused you. I do regret it – very much so. I have missed so much of your life.

As I mentioned in my previous letter the molestation tore me apart and still does sometimes. I can not imagine what I have done to you.

I hope I have answered your questions.”

When I read that, I feel empathetic. I know that I’ve hurt people because of my damage. Not children, obviously. But exes, and even Liz has felt the result of that pain and anger from my childhood. So I get it. I understand that she was ill, and hurt from what my grandfather did to her. But I still feel entitled to be angry, and that makes me not want to forgive.

She confirmed that she cannot afford to pay for therapy for us. I kind of went off on her. I told her about how hard it was having to leave foster care at 18 without anything to my name. How for many years I scraped and pinched to try to pay bills and eat. How hard it was to put myself through college. I told her that I wasn’t sure I could keep talking to her.

1/9/18

As you know, I’ve been tasked with coming up with 3 things each day that I’m grateful for. So here goes…

I’m grateful that I live in the US. I know what you’re thinking… Yes, this country is quickly going to shit under this president. Yes, we’re the laughing stock of the world. Honestly though, things could be way, way worse. I have basic human rights, a job, freedom of speech, and the list goes on and on. There are many places around the world where those freedoms are not common. So, today, even in light of  all of the BS in the news, I’m still thankful for being a US citizen.

I’m also thankful for the experiences I’ve experienced. I haven’t had a life full of rainbows and sunshine, but it has shaped me into the person I am today. All of the heartache and pain I’ve experienced has made me appreciate things I think others take for granted.

I’m also thankful for my wife. I know I said this yesterday, but she truly is an amazing person worth being thankful for each and every day. It’s hard to remember sometimes, if we have disagreements or whatnot, but I really am blessed that each day she chooses me.

More tomorrow! I hope everyone who read this takes a moment to ponder what they’re thankful for. Be kind to yourself and others. 

Gratitude and other thoughts 

Hi everyone! It’s been a long time! So many things have happened, and I dare say most of them are great!

I got a new job, which is awesome because I no longer am surrounded by negativity. Wooh hoo! 

I got married… Which is a big deal for me, but I’m really pleased about it. I’m married to the most amazing woman I’ve ever met. She really just gets me like no one ever has. I can’t say our relationship is perfect, but that’s not a realistic thing to strive for. We’re happy, which is all I can ask. 

We bought a house, which is fantastic! I’m so happy to have my own space, and to be able to do the things I enjoy. 

I’ve taken up a new hobby- woodworking! I’m an amateur for sure, but I look forward to getting better at it. So far I’ve built a large living area for my rabbits and guinea pigs, and my wife and I built a bed frame. 

I also have a new friend, who told me I should write down 3 things I’m thankful for every day. See everything I’ve  written above. More than 3 things, but I guess I’m am over achiever!

Until later, my friends. Thanks for reading! 

The Gift of Anxiety: 7 Ways to Get the Message and Find Peace

The Gift of Anxiety: 7 Ways to Get the Message and Find Peace

I read this today and it gave me a new appreciation and insight into my anxiety. I thought I would share for everyone out there who struggles with anxiety.

The Gift of Anxiety: 7 Ways to Get the Message and Find Peace

 

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” ~Pema Chodron

If there’s one thing that has led me the greatest amount of re-invention, it’s anxiety. By anxiety I don’t mean worry or concern. Anxiety is a different animal that grabs a hold of you and halts you in your tracks.

We tend to reject its milder forms and are really terrified by its intense moments, like with panic attacks. It’s difficult to see when we’re fighting with anxiety that it can have any benefit, but it does.

Anxiety comes with some great treasures hidden inside, and they can be yours if you know how to get to them. First, you have to stop fighting and listen to the anxiety for clues.

Getting the Message

The greatest truth about anxiety is that it is a message. Anxiety is not the real issue. It’s the voice of something else lying beneath that’s calling out to you.

Most people who experience anxiety try to go after the symptoms more than its cause and try to fight it off as if it were the only thing to deal with.

That’s not how to go about it if you ever want to know how it happened, why it’s there, and how you can gain long-term freedom from it.

STOP! YOU’RE HURTING!

The anxiety message is simple; it’s just three words: STOP! YOU’RE HURTING!

When an experience like anxiety is pleading for you to stop and notice that you’re hurting, and you know this, your next step is to find that hurt. Its severity is proportionate to the scope of what you have to address—so if you feel like you’re going to die, look for something big!

Its methods of stopping you are varied and some of the common ones are: spinning thoughts, feeling disassociated, heavy breathing, and a racing heart. Whatever works so that you’ll finally pay attention, it will customize for you.

The loudest stop message can appear as a panic attack and causes a sensation that you feel like you’re going to die. Dying is the ultimate definition of stopping within our physical experience, and that’s why we can feel that way.

The good news is that it’s an illusion. Anxiety will not hurt you in that way; but until you catch on, start listening, and heal the source of the messages, it will keep trying to spin you around so that you’re facing it long enough to hear what it’s trying to say.

“Hey! I’m talking to you! Is she still ignoring me? UGH! Ok body, it’s your turn. Make her feel like her heart will explode. HA! You stopped working overtime didn’t you? Gotcha! Now look…we need to talk…What? Now you’re hiding in a movie? Oh no you didn’t! PANIC ATTACK!”

Energy Conservation

Anxiety can feel cyclic as it persists, and it’s easy to feel haunted or trapped by it. You’re always in control though. The body, a part of nature, always seeks a point of balance and rest. When anxiety becomes cyclic and seemingly out of your control, it’s still just a part of you.

It’s being maintained by you, for you, until it gets enough of your attention for healing to take place. Whatever you keep doing or ignoring (maybe the things that led to its nascence) will continue to recreate it until you go about things differently.

This is an important realization because it can help you shift from feeling victimized to feeling empowered. It can only continue as long as you delay tending to what’s beneath the message. Anxiety cannot cause you to feel discomfort forever. It will motivate you to heal, and then leave once you do.

Who/What Sent the Message?

Anxiety messages can come from anything negative you’ve chosen to carry forward. It can be a traumatic or painful event left unresolved (usually through having had an attitude of sucking-it-up, being tough, trying to forget etc.).

It can be someone or something you have yet to forgive, or a long running perception of lack that has hindered your growth for too long.

My anxiety disorder came from high insecurity, an excessive need for validation, a frantic quest for completion through relationships, and an inability to acknowledge who I really was.

I ran around trying to please others and attempting to be who they wanted me to be. On the anniversary of a particularly painful breakup, where I convinced myself I had become less than a full person, I had my first panic attack.

It completely bowled me over and continued to do so for 4 years as it tried to get me stop and heal.

It worked. The experience of an anxiety so severe that I couldn’t leave my apartment was completely successful in making me turn my gaze away from the outside world to my inner world, where I seriously needed to focus. I could finally heal and grow.

Who I became next was a happy, empowered, compassionate person who was more focused on matters of the heart and fulfilling myself than approval from others. Anxiety became my greatest life-shifting gift, and I’m forever grateful.

Receiving the Message

Spending time with anxiety to discover the source of the message and what you have to heal can be achieved in many ways. You have to find what works best for you, but here’s a great series of approaches that seem to help everybody:

1. Welcome it.

Make friends and peace with anxiety immediately. Talk to yourself and the anxiety reassuringly: It’s ok. I’m listening. I want to hear what you have to say. I know you’re just trying to get my attention and that the more directly and peacefully I listen, the sooner you’ll stop repeating yourself.

Fighting with anxiety or resisting it will cause it to persist.

2. Write about it.

I know it’s trite to journal since it’s a suggested solution to most personal troubles, but the slower pace of writing and full engagement of your senses helps you travel down the path of the anxiety message to its source.

We don’t always know where our anxiety is coming from, so we have to take the time to dig and poke. Plus, we’re literal people. Our thoughts are literal. By using a linguistic mechanism the analogy of anxiety message becomes more clear and easier to work with.

3. Laugh.

Bring more laughter in your life. It will help you take life less seriously.

4. Love.

Express love for people, places, and things that you cherish. Be a greater beacon of love.

5. Help others with their anxiety.

The more people you help with anxiety, the greater a vocabulary you’ll develop, and this will help empower your inner dialog for when you’re sitting with anxiety.

6. Meditate.

Anxiety races thoughts and can be very distracting. With a rushing mind, it’s hard to hear the anxiety message and follow it back to its source. Meditation helps tremendously.

If you can learn to notice your thoughts without attaching to them—seeing them as cars passing by as you stand on the edge of a busy highway—you’ll become better at picking out what really matters in this moment.

7. Realize that you are enough.

Be accountable, no matter how much “such and such/so and so did” to you. It doesn’t matter. Now is what we have to work with. Tomorrow is what we have to create.

Realize that you are your own solution. You have what you need to look clearly; to hear and to heal. Anxiety is a message born within you, speaking to you through you, and therefore it’s within you to heal.

Receiving the Gifts

By learning about anxiety, spending time with it and finally holding in your hand, you can enjoy the next step: You can relax your grip, and let it fall away. It will have served its purpose. You will have loved that part of yourself and it won’t need to get your attention with such a difficult message again.

You will be connected. That’s the first gift.

The second gift is that feeling connected and with realizing that you’re enough can lead you to a cycle of inner fullness. It can give you an easy-to-remember awareness that you’re up for this, whatever the next exciting challenge or painful event may be.

The third gift of anxiety is that it gets you to recognize your own power with, instead of power over, yourself and your life.

All you had to do was listen…

 

 

Letting Go of Insecurities with Two Realizations

tinybuddha.com/blog/letting-go-of-insecurities-with-two-realizations

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“What I am is good enough if I would only be it openly.” ~Carl Rogers

I used to spend an awful lot of time worrying about people liking me. Or what people thought of me. Or what they thought of the clothes I was wearing. Or whatever.

It’s taken me a long time to realize two things:

1. Most people really aren’t even taking notice of us. (They’re too worried about what other people think of them.)

2. Of the few who are noticing us, the people who are judging us harshly are not the people we want around us anyway.

Makes sense, right?

It’s actually something I’d heard a hundred times before, but it never really sunk in.

So why had it not sunk in? What made it so hard to believe this is actually the case, and that I should give up caring what people think once and for all?

I think, in simple terms, it’s built into our human nature. We’re social creatures, therefore we want to be sociable; and we think that in order to be sociable, everyone has to like us.

Otherwise we would become (gasp) social outcasts.

I recently moved from my small town to London. Capital city, UK. The big smoke (for the UK). Scary.

I decided, in my quest to try new things and get healthier, to join the gym at the end of my road.

Unfortunately, I’ve never felt quite at home in a gym. For me, it’s almost like that scene in Pretty Woman when she walks into the designer store for the first time, and all the shop assistants look down their noses at her.

I have to admit, that doesn’t actually happen—at all. But it’s happening in my head, because in my head I also hear “You’re not as good as them,” “They’ll think you’re stupid,” and “You don’t fit in here.”

You may have had an experience like this at some point in your life. Maybe you were just starting a new job, or meeting your partner’s parents for the first time, or walking into your first day of school.

The problem is, it’s not other people with the problem. It’s us.

When I think about everything I assume everyone else is thinking, I see side glances and sniggers where none really exist. The gym, for me, becomes hard work, not because of the people who go to my gym, but because of how I perceive them to be.

I am currently working on developing a positive attitude. It underlies my whole philosophy on life:

Your thoughts create your reality.

My natural disposition was always a bit negative. I suspect I developed that attitude partially because my parents taught me that it was important to consider all the options and “be realistic.”

That, in itself, is not a bad thing, but I ended up focusing on the negative side of things instead of realizing I had a choice to perceive things differently.

After my experience with the gym, I decided to turn my negative thoughts about other people into positive ones. Instead of dwelling on all the bad things I thought people were thinking, I told myself, “I belong here,” “I’m happy here,” and “Everyone here likes me.”

Everything started to change.

I suddenly realized that no one was looking at me strangely. No one cared what I was doing or whether I was as gorgeous as them. (There are super attractive people at my gym!) They were quite happy minding their own business, doing their own thing, and working on themselves—and suddenly I was able to do the same.

We are sociable animals and want that approval from other people, which for generations has meant conforming to the social norms of our society. But we live in a time when people are far more tolerant of individual differences than ever before.

If we can start to accept and be who we are, we just may realize not only that it’s okay, but that most other people think it’s okay, too.

We really can be ourselves if we can remember that it’s our perception that matters—and it’s a waste of energy to try to see ourselves through other people’s eyes. Odds are, they’re paying far less attention than we think.

Photo by UVAFragola