Tag Archives: therapy

Breathe and Stay in Gratitude

Sometimes my life knows what I need before I do.  Does anyone else experience this?

The idea of breathing (ha, that just sounds funny because everyone breathes all the time) came to me when I started yoga.  I decided to take a stab at getting healthy and being more active.  That led to me trying yoga.  I was going to be that hot chick… that trendy hot chick with a rocking body.  No idea what really prompted me to try it but it completely saved me.  So like I started this weekly yoga thing and the first class kicked my ass.  I sucked at yoga.  I was incredibly uncomfortable and a few times I had to excuse myself from the torture and take a break.  I’m surprised an ambulance wasn’t put on stand-by that night.  I was a complete liability to myself, those around me and the studio.  Okay, okay… I’m exaggerating. It was ugly though and harder than I ever could have imagined.

But I did it.  I totally got through the class.  Being on a health kick and trying to push myself, I kept at it.  I went back every Monday night.  I still go every Monday night and I’m looking to potentially add a second night of torture to my week now.  But yoga became more to me as I began to face some challenges.  I went through some relationship issues with an on-again-off-again guy that shook me to the core.  It forced me to sit with years of lies, self-doubt, negative self-talk, and all that good stuff.  There were lots of tears and I immediately shoved myself back into therapy with the best therapist on the planet (I truly believe this).

My Monday nights at yoga left me feeling accomplished.  I continued to improve and really dug deep to push myself.  At the end of yoga, there’s always this quiet time to lay and reflect-there is a technical term for this but I have no idea what it’s called.  During this time I would give myself the best pep talks.  Like, “Look at you, Britta.  You’re doing it.” It felt so good!  It felt so right!  This helped me gain confidence and a new perspective.  Instead of chasing after feelings and trying to make something work, I began building what I wanted.  I began constructing the Britta I knew was always there.  I dusted her off and proved that her spirit and drive are constants (and very much alive).

What does breathing and gratitude have to do with all of this?  Yoga forces you to really focus on the breath.  If you can control your breath, you can control anything.  Remarkable!  This isn’t exactly new to me but it hit me in a new way.  As I find myself being overwhelmed and anxious, I turn to my breath and really stay in the moment.  As I hold a particularly hard pose in yoga, I turn to my breath and push through.  Nothing is constant.  There’s nothing that I can’t move through with a clear and focused mind.  Just breathe.  Also, my yoga instructor always reminds the class that the poses don’t start until you’re uncomfortable.  Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.  Remarkable!  It’s what was going on with me and it was a road map to pull my butt out of where it was.  I began to live again.

I threw in gratitude because I’m still keeping my gratitude journal.  Despite what I’m going through or how busy I am, I still dedicate a portion of my day to express gratitude.  It helps keep things in perspective.  I’ve built a few amazing practices into my life because they make me better.  Stress and anxiety aren’t necessities.  They don’t prepare me or force me to get more done.  Taking focused steps will and that takes breathing and appreciating everything around me.

 

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Personal Revolution

I’m not the first human being during these era to wake up and truly believe that there must be more to life… amirite?  For myself, I feel like I go through these cycles.  Things are going great.  Things are not going so great.  Things need to be torched to the ground so I can start over.  Things are getting better.  Things are going great.  Things are not going so great.  And repeat.

Maybe the torch thing is a bit dramatic for a 35 year old woman.

But the cycles keep going and it’s like I’m constantly on the prowl to figure out how to stop it and witness sustained long-term progress.  It’s been a favorite subject of mine in both my written (yes, still handwritten) journal and in my therapy sessions.  Typically I’m searching my life for a culprit or a knight in shining armor.  Every now and then, like a good little therapy attender, I look inward and start to take stock of what is really going on inside.  Both looking outward and inward for a cause or a catalyst come with traps, right?

The outward-looking trap is quite obvious… no one and nothing other than yourself will propel you to that life of sustained progress.  It’s not possible.  The perfect mate, the amazing job, financial security, supportive family, and whatever other external factors people dump into the “if only I had this, I’d be happy” category are all nice, but they do little to affect the internal barometer of success.

The inward-looking trap isn’t quite as obvious (for me, anyway).  I tend to cycle through my childhood, poor decisions, bad things that have happened to me, my failures, and all the ways I’m not measuring up to the person I believe I am.  So I get stuck there analyzing segments over and over again with no resolution.  I’m merely providing an avenue to give everything that’s wrong a stronger voice.  In many ways, I’m allowing the universe to kick more of the same my way because that’s what I’m drawing attention to, right?

So… the outward and inward approaches aren’t working.  What’s next?  Let a professional handle it.  I’m extremely fortunate to work with an incredible psychologist.  He has a phenomenal skill set and continues to push me in the best possible ways.  The issues I’m facing are deep and I’ve done everything I can to suppress my feelings and their real effects on my life.  Sure, I can meditate.  I can do yoga.  I can say positive affirmations during the day.  I can work to stop the negative chatter in my head.  I can smile more.  I can approach work with a confident attitude.  But these are the small changes.  This are mainly superficial.  It’s the underlying layer that needs the real work.

What does that mean?  How do I get there?  And more importantly, what do I do with it when I arrive?

I don’t know.  I’ve lived for many years by not showing up and certainly not taking any accountability for the path I’m on.  Substance abuse allows one to hit the reset button over and over.  It allowed me to reassign the blame.  I passed the guilt onto alcohol.  I checked out and decided that not feeling was more important that feeling anything negative.  And so here I am… I feel like an infant all over again.  I need to learn how to navigate the world around me but unlike an infant, I also need to learn how to navigate the past that haunts me–that underlying layer that has constructed this escape.

I’m terrified.  Being terrified is a feeling though, right?  I’ll start with that.

Morrissey is okay, but am I?

I love the song “Okay By Myself” by Morrissey…

Click to watch Morrissey perform it live!

Here are the lyrics:

Could this be an arm around my waist?
Well, surely the hand contains a knife?
It’s been so all of my life
Why change now? It hasn’t

Now this might surprise you but
I find I’m okay by myself
And I don’t need you
Or your morality to save me
No, no, no, no, no

Then came an arm around my shoulder
Well, surely the hand holds a revolver?
It’s been so all of my life
Why change now? It hasn’t

Now this might disturb you but
I find I’m okay by myself
And I don’t need you
Or your benevolence to make sense
No, no, no, no

After all these years
I find I’m okay by myself
And I don’t need you
Or your homespun philosophy
No, no, no, no

This might make you throw up in your bed
I’m okay by myself
And I don’t need you
And I never have, I never have
No, no, no, no

I struggle with the down time.  I always have.  Since high school I can remember cramming my schedule full of activities, clubs, groups, and friends.  And when I started dating, I never stopped, never took a break.  And now that I’m an adult (in some sense of the word) I’m the same exact way and I’m sick of it.  Why do I need so much attention?  So many distractions?  Why can’t I just be single?  Why can’t I put my stupid phone down and just relax?  Seriously, I feel like I’m facing a attention-starved, persistently lonely epidemic.  And what do I get from all that white noise?  What’s in it for me?  And is it causing more harm than good?

Every now and then I sit down to think about this but it’s like I’m an addict.  I can’t go a minute without some sort of stimulation (connecting, reaching out, etc.).  I seriously short-circuit when I don’t have my phone with me and I’m heating up a Hot Pocket in the microwave–it’s happened.  I respond immediately to social media, emails, text messages, snap chats, tweets, LinkedIn stuff, and whatever else can be schlepped onto this list.  I crave it.  I need it.

Lately I’ve been more hard on myself from the relationship point-of-view.  Why do I have to constantly be engaged with relationships?  I can’t wake up, get in the shower, get dressed, and go to work without checking in with a guy.  Why?  And I can’t move through my workday without the attention from someone.  Why?  Sure, it feels nice to be recognized and such but like why do I NEED that?  And aren’t I just setting up meaningless relationships?  OR, on the other side of the coin, maybe I’m creating unrealistically high expectations for anyone looking to take on the role of being my boyfriend full-time?  Probably.

What am I getting out of saturating my time with meaningless check-ins and attention?  I’m projecting.  I’m looking for praise in hollow spaces.  I have that problem.  What’s my weakness?  It’s sitting by myself with nothing but quiet.  TERRIFYING!  I’m not okay by myself.  I don’t even permit the time to be alone.  It’s been like this forever.  I can’t live life afraid of myself.  I’m better than that.  Therapy always helped block out time for introspection and quiet time. Maybe I need to get back to therapy.

Anyway…

I need to focus on what’s important.  I need more genuine interactions focused on growing.  Anything that is “filler” needs to be trimmed.

Line ‘Em Up: Back to the Basics

I thought I was past this point.  It’s like you learn these things, apply them, and then you think you’re “good”, right?  But that’s not how it works.  I occasionally leaf through my old journals and I’m blown away at how the same issues keep rearing their ugly heads.  It’s rare that I deal with anything new.

Recently I had a decent conversation about life, sex, relationships, etc.  He said that sex has become purely physical for him and that the emotional and psychological aspects have been missing.  I haven’t thought about those categories since college (yep, about 13+ years ago).  I decided to throw myself into therapy in college.  It didn’t last.  They assigned me to this young guy, most likely pursuing his next degree.  I hated him.  One day he was late to our 8am appointment.  I followed him up to his office.  His first question, “I know I was late, how did that make you feel?”  SERIOUSLY BUDDY?  Told him that his time with me is expendable and that I was hoping he didn’t show up so I could do school work and maybe grab breakfast.

But… he did help me in one way (just one). He told me that we have thoughts, feelings, and actions.  The psychological, emotional, and physical self.  The goal, he said, was to get all three moving in the same direction.  It made perfect sense then.  But it feels so foreign to me now though.  It’s something I should look at on the daily.  Like, maybe I’ll set an alarm or put a white board in the shower.  I think it’s that important.

I imagine most humans aren’t doing it right.  How do I know?  I know I’m not doing it right and I’ve seen first-hand how people are lying to one or more parts of themselves and the consequences that trickle out from there. I think the goal of getting them all focused and going in the same direction is a goal but one that needs to be set and reset and reset, etc.  But it’s not always easy to keep all of them in check.  The ego bubbles up.  Emotions run wild.  There are so many limitations, circumstances, and factors that come into play every minute of our lives.  Maybe it’s about taking control.  Maybe that’s it.

Guilt, Being a Helicopter, and Remembering 4th Grade

Do you remember 4th grade???  I do!  And I think that’s why I’m having such a hard time right now.

I’m a mom.  As soon as I found that out (yep, it was August 31st 2005 at 6pm on the dot) I was flooded with worry, panic, and GUILT!  It’s like the seed of guilt grows along with the baby and when the baby is born so is this gut wrenching sense of guilt that never goes away.  It’s totally insane.  I’m sure dads get the same sort of feeling but I wouldn’t know.  Dads are like unicorns to me.  Good dad’s are like all-orange unicorns capable of time travel.  (They just don’t exist.)  But this guilt comes with owning the life of another human life.  It like piggy-backs off of the “joy” of your new “blessing”… blah, blah, blah.  When I found out I was growing a human inside me I knew I had to start making, not only good decisions, but the BEST decisions.  I wanted to read everything, consult everyone, and be the best mom ever.  I had to do everything I could to give my new bundle of joy the best foot forward.  And Christ, the feeling never goes away.

Maybe I’m crazy?  It’s quite possible.  But that feeling persists to this day.  I’m constantly beating myself up.  I threw myself into therapy when C turned one.  I dealt with a lot after I had him and I needed to dive into therapy a lot sooner.  Anyway, when I started feeling less like a robot and more like a human robot, I decided I needed to get professional help.  My therapist told me that I’m probably doing the whole parent thing right because I’m beating myself up and analyzing the job I’m doing.  She insisted that a lot of parents don’t.  They don’t question the work they put in.  Maybe that’s the case.  Whatever the case, it made me feel better about the guilt.

Being a parent is tough and it takes YEARS to figure out if you’re doing it right.

The guilt  brings me to my next thought… being a helicopter.  I work in student housing for a local university and I get to witness parenting almost on a daily basis.  It’s given me a long list of “what not to do’s” and I feel better positioned to be a good mom.  I won’t hover over C.  I won’t make decisions for him.  I won’t do work for him.  I won’t answer questions he should answer.  I won’t be part of his identity.  He won’t be my whole identity.  I’ll give him space to mess up.  I’ll give him space to get things right too.  I don’t want to know everything.  I’ll trust him until he gives me a reason not to trust him.  He’s an awesome kid and I just want him to be him.  We won’t have one another forever (in many ways).

Lastly, let’s circle back.  I remember 4th grade.  I remember friends, my teachers, some awkward moments, and so much more.  My little man is going into 4th grade.  I can’t believe it.  I’m not the first mom to say it or write it.  I know.  And I’m quick to dismiss other moms.  Oh… they’re just saying it to say something.  I mean, maybe that’s the case.  But good god!  It’s 4th grade!  Homework gets serious.  Boys/Girls start the boy/girl thing.  It just feels less innocent.  I learned stupid things that weren’t true about the boy/girl thing.  LOL!  I won’t elaborate but we all have those things we heard about that couldn’t be further from the truth.  C’s like a dude now.  It’s hard to let that sink in and just be.

Being a mom forces you to make decisions (small and big) constantly.  It’s one thing to mess up your own life and get things wrong but you can’t do that to someone else.  I always wanted to be a mom.  I thought that was my one shot to truly give back to the world.  It was also my chance to right the wrongs of my childhood.  I always knew I’d be a mommy and I can’t forget this.  I can’t forget my simple mission.