What is DBT Therapy?
DBT stands for Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and was developed by Marsha Linehan. A dialectic is holding two seemingly opposing views at the same time. For DBT those in the program recognize they are doing the best they can while striving to be better. This helps on to give themselves some credit, as well as push themselves to do more.
Within DBT there are four sections, or as they are called, modules. They are the following: Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotional Regulation, and Interpersonal Effectiveness. Each module goes over concepts as well as trains the person in different skills to use when distressed, to sort out emotions and urges, and for working with other people.
The program is unique from other therapy programs for many reasons. The first and my favorite is that it is designed to keep a person going in their life. Other trauma and therapy programs I have taken part in have been beneficial in their own ways, but required me to take time off from work. Not with DBT. There’s three hours of therapy a week, one hour with an individual therapist and two hours in a group. So it is very easily managed into a full or part time work schedule.
There is homework assigned each week with in the group and with the individual therapist as needed, but it isn’t necessarily difficult. It simply takes thought and practice.
Also, every week each patient is required to fill out what is called a “diary card”. This is very helpful in tracking skills used throughout the week, emotions, harmful urges, and habits to break or improve. These diary cards not only give the therapists a lot of data to work from, but for me the diary cards help remind me of skills that are available to me and keeps me focused on my goals. A core part to DBT Therapy is the practice of mindfulness, in fact it is the backbone of the therapy.
Mindfulness is a practice which has become more widely spread in the past few years in therapy and in more of a mainstream fad through apps and YouTube. But not get me wrong, it’s not “just a fad” but is based in Eastern thought. (Summarize mindfulness origins) My first exposure to mindfulness was through an app called Headspace. This app does well to help one practice peace of mind and learn how to meditate. But I find even something as simple as counting my breath or focus on the sensations in my body. It takes a lot of practice to meditate and to let your thoughts float away like a cloud, but one thing the app Headspace and my therapist have taught me is that getting down on yourself for getting lost in your thoughts doesn’t help. It just takes accepting that you got distracted and moving on back to a calm state of mind free of worry and thoughts. But there is more to mindfulness than meditation.
Distress Tolerance was my first module when I started DBT in July of 2017, and it came at a perfect time for me. I was still having trouble with panic attacks, anxiety attacks, and staying at work my whole shift. Distress Tolerance teaches Crisis skills as well as when to use them. These skills are not made to solve problems, but to help one in the short term to bring someone back to the window of tolerance so they can get back into Wise Mind.
Emotional Regulation teaches you to understand and name your emotions as well as decrease emotional vulnerability, suffering and gives on skills to change their emotions or the intensity of those emotions. It also goes over myths commonly held about Emotions.
Interpersonal Effectiveness teaches one to be skillful in getting what you want or need from others by using specific conversation skills to meet your goal, keep the relationship healthy, and to keep your self respect. It also talks about ending destructive relationships.
I didn’t go into much detail about Distress Tolerance, Emotional Regulation, and Interpersonal Effectiveness due to more detailed blog posts to come on these topics and skills.
Here is one of my favorite videos about DBT Therapy that can help clear up some of the points I didn’t go over here:
Feb. 26, 2018
I have often thought that if I were paid to clean my apartment, like I’m paid to clean and tidy things at work, I wouldn’t be so messy. Recently I’ve even thought that I would give up caring about how clean I am. I’m an artist, a writer, a musician, all of which have known to be messy types of people. But today I remembered that there are more types of payment than just money.
One type of payment for cleaning is Pride. I can be proud of my apartment, my possessions, my skills, and my decorating sense. I could think of the comfort I get from having a tidy living space as payment for my cleaning. Also being able to have friends and family over more is a type of payment.
I’ve always been the kind of person to get enjoyment and fulfillment from many things and activities, but for some reason cleaning is one practice that is hard for me to make myself do. I think it stems back to my mother. She never taught my siblings and I to clean well. It just wasn’t important. When my parents were still married my Dad wasn’t around a lot. He worked at the most three different jobs to try to provide for us and to cover my mother’s out of control spending habits. But I am an adult now and I can take this part of my life into my own hands like I have in so many other areas.
So I guess this was the long way of saying that I am actually going to do my chores tomorrow!
Avatar the Last Airbender and DBT Therapy
I’ve recently been introduced to the cartoon Avatar: The Last Airbender and have been enjoying it very much. In finishing season 2, I found the nineteenth episode to have many similarities between chakras and my DBT therapy.
My Opinions on Chakras . . .
Even though I have learned the value of meditation and some concepts within eastern religions, I cannot get on board with Chakras—In my opinion the idea of “Chi” and different metaphysical connections to the physical body worked out as an energy source of which all peace and knowledge can come . . . let’s just say I am more scientifically minded than not—But . . .
I was pleasantly surprised when I found the Chakra analogy in The Last Airbender to have many parallels to Radical Acceptance from DBT.
Radical Acceptance is a concept where you accept the reality around you and get rid of wants and desires, particularly ones that are not helpful. And the recognition that you do not have to always get what you want all the time. As Marsha Linehan says, you only have to accept each moment that you are currently in. What happened, happened, it cannot be changed and one needs to recognize this if they plan on moving on in a “wise mind” manner (using both emotional and rational mind frames to come to the best thoughts and actions). And if you want to change something, you must first accept it before moving forward to change it.
This concept ties perfectly into half of the Dialectic of Dialectic Behavioral Therapy: the dialectic comes from accepting who you are, while striving to be better at the same time. These two views seem in opposition, but can be held together in a balance to achieve the best you and the best outcomes of a goal or a problem one finds themselves in.
So . . .
What does this have to do with Avatar The Last Airbender?
Guru Pathik talked of seven chakras—a common number in about three eastern traditions. He said that opening each one would help Aang control the “Avatar State”, where he was most powerful, and I believe doing the things Guru Pathik suggested can help one be their best selves.
The Seven Chakras of Avatar
First is the Earth Chakra, which is tied to the concept of Survival and located at the base of the spine. Guru Pathik told Aang to open the Survival Chakra, he needed to let go of his Fears. For most people, me included, this is very difficult. I feel I have come a long way with facing my fears, but everyday I find new ones due to my anxiety/PTSD, or old ones try to resurface. Lately, my biggest fear has been trying to straighten out my financial security. I’m afraid to have the credit concealing I need, I’m afraid to fill out the paper work necessary. I’m simply afraid of the thing I know I must do, something I know by checking the facts, will benefit me greatly in the end. But knowing these things is only the first step to really letting go of this fear. I have to keep making steps toward this goal if I want to let go of this fear and do what is right for me.
The second chakra is the Water Chakra, which is about Pleasure and located in the abdomen. Aang was told to look at Guilt from his past and to let it go.
Thirdly, the Fire Chakra is about Willpower located in the stomach which is blocked by Shame.
Now, one of the discussions I’ve had in my DBT group is about how Guilt and Shame are sometimes indistinguishable, and are defined differently be different people. To me, guilt is about an action I took that I know I shouldn’t have, such as eating too many sweets. A guilt I am currently trying to let go of today for the many gummy candies I ate a few days ago. But to me shame is about others in society telling me I did something wrong, whether I believe them or not.
Yet when I shared my views in my group, others said they had different definitions or have the same ones flipped from mine. That is one thing that makes Emotional Regulation in the DBT program so interesting. Learning about other’s perspectives can be very telling.
The forth chakra is of Air, located in the heart and deals with Love. This chakra is blocked by Grief. Aang was feeling grief and loss of his mentors, the monks at the air temple he grew up in. This chakra makes a lot of sense to me. How can one love, and feel the love of others if that person is consumed by the grief of lost love or lost loved ones? I wouldn’t have been able to move on with my current partner if I was hung up on how my ex had treated me, or how our relationship had turned out so terrible. I wouldn’t be able to accept the love of my partner’s mother if I was still hung up on losing my own.
Fifth, the Sound Chakra in the throat is about Truth, and blocked by Lies. This is a lesson I learned very well. My mother lied all the time and had my siblings and I lie for her constantly. After I left her, I promised myself to never lie again, but more importantly to “speak my truth”. It took a long time to put speaking my truth into action more completely, to be assertive, something I only truly began doing well at a little over a year ago.
Sixth, is the Light Chakra in the forehead is Insight and blocked by Illusions. What Guru Pathik meant by illusions is the illusion of separation or as I would like to call it, Differences. The example given in the show is that of the four nations of the Avatar world. Though they live divided they are all one people, and alike in so many ways.
What went through my mind as well was not just the nations and peoples of the world, how we all have things in common, and have similar desires and needs, but how we are all connected through our shared heritage. We all are linked in the evolutionary tree of life, not just to other Homo sapiens, but to all other species that are alive or ever have lived. Something I believe is the most beautiful story ever.
And lastly, the seventh chakra is Thought, located at the crown of the forehead is said by Guru Pathik to be Pure Cosmic Energy and blocked by Earthly Attachments. I don’t know what is supposed to be meant by “Pure Cosmic Energy”. Maybe it’s like the word “toxins”, the woo-filled health nuts can’t tell you what exactly toxins are, but it sounds good and everyone seems to be obsessed with fearing them. But I would like to rename Pure Cosmic Energy to mean Freedom. Ridding oneself of earthly attachments is a concept the show took to be Aang needs to let go of Katara, and he points out that loving her was a good thing only three chakras ago! But unfortunately, nothing is forever and we cannot expect anything to last forever or to stay the same. Not people, possessions, places, or most importantly ourselves. You cannot be the same you you were as a teenager or a few years ago. You are always changing, evolving, and you have to decide if that will be good changes.
Although I believe chakras to be a bit of woo, I feel that the TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender did a good job of talking about Radically Accepting things as they are, while allowing this acceptance to help us move on and release our own “Avatar States”—or what we call in DBT, your WiseMind State. When someone is in their wise mind, they can make the best decisions for themselves.
Here’s the break down:
- for survival let go of fear
- for pleasure let go of guilt
- for willpower let go of shame
- for love let go of grief
- for truth let go of lies
- for insight let go of illusions (differences)
- and lastly for pure cosmic energy (freedom) let go of earthly attachments,
I think remembering these seven concepts will help me to achieve my best self, a life long process, and something I take to be a very serious endeavor. One idea I’ve had is to use these topics when I meditate to better discover what I need to let go of.
Thanks for listening,
Avatar the Last Airbender, Season 2, Episode 19
Learning to Love My New Body
In the past year I have endured many challenges. One of these is a new challenge I haven’t written a lot about, something I know to be prevalent in the world right now, especially in America: Body Positivity. If you have read some of my blog before you might remember some of my history, but I will recap.
When I lived with my mother, there were a few years where food was scarce and my siblings and I were malnourished. Due to this, when I got away from my mother I weighed about 100 lbs.–As a 19 year old woman. I wasn’t so bad off that I didn’t get my period, but my periods were irregular. When I moved in with my father food was something provided and I just paid rent, but I didn’t change in size. I thought I just was very petite, that somehow I was unlike the rest of my family.
When I married, I became a vegan and worked out more than I ever felt was necessary, yet because of these things I felt like I was healthy. Through working out and protein shakes the heaviest I was was 120 lbs. In the last two years of my marriage when I was struggling with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts, I was back down to 100 lbs. And that was the weight I was when I left my ex–at 28 years old.
So when I started gaining weight after I struck out on my own I was fearful. I was afraid I was going to end up diabetic and overweight like the majority of my family and all the women in my family. There were a few reasons why I was gaining weight:
I started taking a new prescription for my birth control. When I left my ex I no longer had medical insurance, but I knew I could find help in Planned Parenthood. I made an appointment and saw a doctor and submitted my finances. I was awarded funding for 18 months of birth control pills! This was not just a need for if I was to become sexually active again. when I first started taking birth control pills, my periods became shorter, lighter, my cramps went away–all in all it made my periods more manageable. When I was in highschool I missed one day a month because my cramps were debilitating and my mother didn’t bother to have me see a doctor about my extreme periods. On birth control I never missed work because of my period.
With the new prescription, side effects included weight gain and breast enlargement. Both of which happened. Now I am a full B cup, when I used to be a AA.
I biked to and from work. Before I got my car I biked at least four miles to and from work a day, more if I needed to run errands. Due to the consistent muscle building activity, I continued to go up in pants sizes simply because my thighs kept getting bigger! At 29 years old, I got my first stretch marks on my legs–and I love them! I thought I would hate stretch marks and that I wouldn’t have any unless I had a baby (a myth some people still believe I’m sure).
I started eating a regular diet. After I left my ex I stayed with my aunt and uncle and their family. I knew having nothing but what could fit into my duffle bag and backpack, with no job and little money from friends and family, that I could not expect to eat all vegan. Beggars can’t be choosers. Then when I moved in with my current roommate I got on food assistance, but I still received food from friends and family sometimes making my choices slim. So a regular diet it was and has been ever since.
Now over a year later, I weigh 155 lbs. At first I was torn up inside. I thought I was unhealthy and that I needed to get on a vegan diet again immediately. I was restricting calories and obsessing over my new body–how I couldn’t fit into my jeans anymore–that my stomach wasn’t completely flat like it used to be–and I fatigued myself and missed some work. I thought I was going to become diabetic or get early cancer like my father.
But in contrast there are a few things which convinced me that I am actually healthier now even though I weigh more than I used to: For example, I was so thin my pelvic bones used to stuck out! Now I have rounded hips. When I look at my height and BMI indexes I am right in the range of where a 29 year old woman should be.
It was hard for me to accept my new body. I had to radically accept that I was shaped differently and that that is okay. Due to a new job I will update you guys on later, I get 15k-24k steps every day I work, so I am still physically active and burning calories. Yet acceptance took months.
A couple of months again I ended up crying in my group therapy and one woman pulled me aside and told me a story of how one of her friends was so obsessed with being thin that she developed anorexia. She was hospitalized and soon after passed away. Her story hit home because I have made myself sick by not eating enough and I know that had to stop.
The woman in my group also told me that I looked like a regular size person.This was interesting to me. I was so used to being a size 0 and buying my short shorts in the tween section, that I wasn’t putting things into perspective. Being a size 6-8 in women’s clothing is normal. And I soon came to realize even though I wasn’t vegan anymore, I could still eat healthy and was healthier (not that being vegan isn’t something that can be done with healthy habits). I’m not wasting away. Now I have bigger curves, bigger boobs, beautiful stretch marks that show how strong my legs really are, and I don’t get as cold as I used to.
Another influence which has been invaluable is my current boyfriend. He accepts me for who I am, trusts that I am taking care of my own health and has said he has seen progress in my physical and mental health. And he still loves me and is as affectionate as he was when I was tiny. I can tell he still finds me sexy. He accepting me helped me accept myself.
Thanks for listening,
Journal Entry 12/11/2017
I went to work and did my whole shift plus and extra 20 minutes.
I tried out Postmates tonight and I made about $20 in 3 hours before tips. I’m going to try Door Dash too and see how they compare. But tomorrow I starting donating plasma again.
My drawings of late hold a lot of angst. These transitions in my life are getting easier but I still feel a little sad about this job change. I haven’t received the call back, but my background check went through. I guess it will take a few days before they will call me.
I wish movies made me feel the way they used to. I don’t feel like my troubles go away, they come out more prominently. Watching movies alone makes me feel sad. But I feel like doing anything else would make me feel even more lonely.
I’m in limbo, just waiting to know what direction my life will take and preparing for other possibilities.
Life after huge turning points, points of change is challenging. It’s worth it, but does not come short of moments that will test you to the core. I’m holding on. Somehow. Somehow I’m going to make it through all this. It’s just waiting. Waiting for the call to work for a company I respect and sees value in me. A job where I care about what I’ll be doing–something I’m always searching for. I may have found it. I sure hope so.
Thanks for listening,
December 1st, 2017
December 1st is a very important day for me. Here is the video I made this year describing the importance of this day. I hope you enjoy this vlog, it is just something short I wanted to share with you this week:
I’m so very sorry I haven’t posted recently. As many of you can relate, the holiday are especially difficult times. The memories, the hard times with family come up and my anxiety raises a little. I’ve been able to keep it in check lately and had a wonderful Thanksgiving with my boyfriend and brother, at my aunt and uncle’s home. It was low key and my family seemed to like my boyfriend.
My mind keeps going back to where I was and the abuse I was enduring last year. I know I’m out of that situation and my life is so much better, but I still feel that little jump in my chest when my thoughts wander or I’m tired.
Some tips I’ve learned from my current therapy program which have helped me stay steady and I hope they can help you if you are experiencing the holiday hardships:
Distractions–This is something you have already been doing I’m sure. Doing something to distract yourself from a distressing situation like watching funny television or reading a book, doing a hobby or helping others. Currently I am watching the IT Crowd for the first time and loving it!
Something else you can do is an activity which elicits the opposite emotion. This can be an action, imagery meditations or just meditations. Even reading a note from a loved one. This takes being mindful of your current emotions and seeing the positives of changing the feelings you are having. You must have the desire to not want to stew in them, or let them ruminate.
Mindfulness–being mindful whether it is in meditating, taking a walk, being one mindful in an action (being fulling in the flow of what you are doing), this can be pantimount in living in the moment, enjoying the moment, and not allowing your mind to take you back to when times were harder.
And lastly, list out all the good things in your life: This one has been invaluable to me. Many days a week I make a list of good things in my life, and things that I may have missed that are really good if I wasn’t trying to focus on the good. So in conclusion, here is my list for today, and if any of you need to talk or a hand making it through the holidays, I am here for you.
The Good Things:
- I have a car now!
- My car is completely paid off!
- I’ve been at my job for almost a full year, my anniversary day at my job is Dec. 17th!
- I am doing well at my job.
- I am lucky enough to work for a company where I can really help people in need.
- I can pay all my bills.
- I have food to eat.
- My room is fully furnished now!
- I’m selling my art.
- I’m following my passions.
- I’m working on Book 2 in my first series (Book 1 to be published next year!), and working on a second book series!
- I’m in a relationship where someone loves me for who I am!
- I have read 31 books this year! One of my favorite past times.
- My creditors are subdued.
- I get more followers to my pages everyday!
- I’m talking to my Dad again.
- I’ve met my boyfriend’s family and they are lovely.
- I’ve sent out holiday cards just because I wanted to!
All my Love,
My Marriage, Part 5, The END
This post will recount the last year I was married to my wife and how it fell apart, how we came to not want to be in each others lives. Not even a full year has passed at the time I am scrolling this down on paper. So this is a little difficult to talk about.
I was released from my second hospitalization and entered a group therapy specifically for trauma. I was learning a lot and gaining more self confidence. I had a moment in the hospital where I realized why I was still alive–what my meaning in life was. It was a few things which gave me meaning. And I was learning, for me to heal, I needed to create a life where I could easily take part in as much self care as was needed and centered around my meanings, my reasons for living. This was a life I didn’t have at all.
Meanwhile, my wife said she was experiencing transmisogyny and discrimination after coming out to her superiors and coworkers. It was very distressing. But my wife being an extremist suddenly decided we needed to live in a specific region on the East Coast where she would not be facing transmisogyny due to the laws in the area.
I tried to offer suggestions and reasons why it would be best for our finances to have her try to find a more LGBTQ+ friendly job where we were, even at least for a time. If we moved East we were going to have to break our lease, sell most of our possessions, and road trip across the country–once we found jobs in the area that is.
But as all of her other life choices there wasn’t time to look for jobs in the area. We needed to move ASAP! And she cried and sulked saying I didn’t care about what she was going through. She said she had already spoken to a mutual friend in the area and that we were invited to stay with them and their mother until we found jobs and got an apartment.
My wife claimed she was thinking of me too in this move. But if we moved I wouldn’t finish my group therapy, I would lose my medical insurance by quitting my job, no longer be able to purchase the medical marijuana that was helping me to sleep, and leave one of the best degree programs in the nation for my major only to find universities which wouldn’t at all prepare me for research or a professorship in my desired field, which is one of my the long term goals.
Nothing about the move would help me, except it would help my wife’s transition and seemed it would make her happy.
So in less than a month we moved, all of the above things happening and having what turned into not enough savings to pay our fair share for more than a month or two once we got to our friend’s home. I’m not very confident of the time line, everything was such a whirlwind, but my wife found two jobs by about the fourth month or so, but we had been living off my credit card and by the time money started flowing in, we could hardly pay for our new health insurance, food and all the creditors coming our way.
Life on the East Coast was worse for me, but there were many defining moments during the five or so months I would never trade, even though it all was stressful, heartbreaking, and at certain times cruel.
During this time I was able to be mindful and take care of myself enough without consistent therapy to put down boundaries, advocate for my needs (even if they were dashed aside), and decide what I did and didn’t want. I could also find the best action to take with new information, no matter how difficult it was to hear and accept.
I don’t feel it would be appropriate to go into all the details about what happened and how I was treated. She said and she said etc. But even to have the strength to reach out to any and all friends and family and walk away took radically accepting the situation with my wife, and moving forward. Because I knew deserved better.
In short, my wife had created an emotional and physical relationship with the friend we were living with and tried to get me to get on board with a polyamorous lifestyle. They had been physical since April of 2016–which my wife only updated on her facebook once I walked away.
In the midst of this conflict my wife’s . . . (forgive the callousness of this term, it’s the only one that seems to fit) side piece, was threatening to kick me out of the home based on pride as far as I could tell by the accusations of embarrassment I allegedly caused and that I wasn’t doing the house work well enough while I searched all day for a job, took care of the three animals in the house and the meals while still finding time to meditate by the way. But these weren’t the real issues, just a smoke screen.
And my wife just sat there, letting this verbal abuse happen and agreed with it. She told me when I asked her how an unemployed woman with mental health concerns would live on the streets–Where would I go? How would I eat? My wife said, “You’ll just have to figure it out.” In this instant all love, care, adoration and any benefit of the doubt I had endlessly allotted to my wife was gone. I was being tossed aside as garbage.
We both agreed we wanted a divorce. She’d “had enough of [me]”.
With one checked bag, a backpack, laptop bag, and $9.00 in my pocket, I boarded a flight back to Phoenix, Arizona not three days later. This was due to the kindness of a man who was once the boy who made fun of me when we were children growing up in a small town. Without him, my family, and one very close friend in particular, I wouldn’t have been able to escape an abusive environment and take charge of my life.
As I type this out in a coffee shop, my scribbled first draft to my right nearly a year later I can say that I did take charge of my life. It wasn’t easy. When I fled, my now ex-wife threw out all my possessions including large pieces of complex abstracts I had been working on. I never had the chance to scan them. Then she re-homed my cats even though I told her I would send money for them to be flown to me. This loss was greater than what I felt of the forever gone childhood photos, books, my violin, and art combined. I cried for my little boys for a long time. I still feel the loss, I even created my own word for it.
My ex-wife then refused to communicate with me about the filing of the divorce. I looked it up online but the courts sent me on a big pass-the-buck scavenger hunt of paperwork to try to get a copy of the divorce papers. Once I opened a P.O. Box address and emailed it to my ex for her to send the divorce papers to me, the very next day she informed the courts I defaulted. She emailed a scan of the divorce decree which stated we’d “divided up our debts amongst [ourselves].” But we hadn’t. She landed me with over half the debts, plus owes me money for all my possessions totalling in the thousands. But the attorney fees would be more than the total cost just to get her to be honest and divide the debts in half as is the common practise. So I’ve just accepted it.
I got a job almost immediately upon returning to Arizona, it was within the first two weeks, but one thing people sometimes don’t understand is I was starting all over with nothing and now buried under crippling debt probably for the rest of my life. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve received a lot of help and kindness from family and friends and I love them so much for that.
I wouldn’t change what happened or my life now. It’s been hard work but “The grass is greener under me” as Demi Lovato sings, not just compared to my ex (I’ve heard she has gone through some unfortunate events), but compared to my life before as well.
For the first time in my life I am not being criticised for how I use my spare time, my choice of job, a choice to change jobs, how I drive, my opinions–the list could go on and on. I’m free and I have an amazing support system who love me, I’m getting the therapy I need, I have a car, and I’m following my meaning and dreams in my life. It’s the most wonderful feeling to finally live my life for what I love and not for others or what others prescribe for me.
Life is worth living! I no longer want to run away from responsibility by taking myself out of this world. I no longer think I am a burden and that everyone would be better off without me. Meaning is all around me, opportunities to be in touch with the world, to live in the moment. And each day I take baby steps farther and farther out of my comfort zone to heal for certain this time.
I know this is a phase overused, but the world is my oyster–and it’s your’s too! You deserve better–correction–you deserve the best. Take care of yourself and don’t let others take that away from you. Set boundaries. Adopt a “no nonsense policy”. If someone treats you and others like a shit, cut them out! You don’t need that. Work toward a better self and your dreams and let in those who will support you–not those who want to change you and/or make you like them to stroke their egos. You are amazing and you can overcome anything if you try. And I’m not just saying that. I have a long record of hardships which I never asked for, but I’ve kept fighting–even when I didn’t want to. So you can do it. If you need help, I’m here for you.
How Emotions Are Made, Book Review, Part 2
Concepts, Goals and Words:
Our brains are experts at creating concepts and categorization to explain the world around us. As far as how this applies to the creation of emotions (which are concepts), Barrett says,
” . . . categorization constructs every perception, thought, memory, and other mental event that you experience, so of course you construct instances of emotion in the same manner.” (Barrett, 86).
Brains are also pattern recognition machines, this being a survival technique we have evolved to have, but most of the time our brains engage in pattern recognition in over load. Barrett states on page 90: ” . . . it imposes similarities between them [Concepts] in the moment, according to your goal in a given situation.”
So how and what we think has a great deal to do with how we will interpret the world around us. She also says, “Goal based concepts are super flexible and adaptable to the situation (Barrett, 90).” So as a simple example, if you think you are going to have a bad day, boom! You’ve created a bad day for yourself unless you changed your goal/thoughts/body budget.
Barrett points out this is due to our neuroplasticity and that concepts are highly malleable because your goals can change. (Barrett, 91). Because of this, we can change our neuro pathways, our emotions, and for example, the demons of PTSD, (more on Barrett’s thoughts on mental illness in Part 3) all dependant on our goals, using our thoughts.
One of the best ways Barrett recommends to do this is to pay attention to our self talk and the words we use day to day. As many of you may be familiar, the English language is very limiting in its conceptions of emotion and therefore the emotion words. According to Barrett, the better we can categorize our emotions with more exact words, the better we will be able to regulate and create them relative to our situations and goals. (Barrett, 95-111).
Barrett encourages us to learn emotion words from other cultures and languages to help us construct, understand and regulate our emotions (Barrett, 181). Here is my favorite example she gave:
“My friend Batja Mesquita is a Dutch cultural psychologist, and the time I traveled to visit her in Belgium she told me that we were sharing the emotion gezellig. Curled up in her living room, sharing wine and chocolates, she explained that this emotion means the comfort, coziness, and togetherness of being at home, with friends and loved ones. Gezellig is not an internal feeling that one person has for another but a way of experiencing oneself in the world. No single word in English describes the experience of gezellig, but once Batja explained it to me, I immediately experienced it. Her use of the word invited me to form a concept as infants do, but through conceptual combination–I automatically employed my concepts of “Close Friend,” ” Love,” and “Delight,” with a touch of “Comfort” and “Well-Being.” This translation was not perfect, though, because of my American way of experiencing gezellig, I used emotion concepts that focus more on internal feelings than those that describe the situation.” (Barrett, 105).
“Conceptual combination plus words equals the power to create reality.” This is a very bold statement but those with low emotional granularity have only a few emotion words to express themselves, clumping multiple experiences and feelings under a few concepts alone, and those with moderate emotional granularity might have a dozen or so. People with higher emotional granularity have more words to describe and then influence their thoughts and then the world around them. Because no one is free of the influence of the other brains around them (more on this in Part 4). (Barrett, 106).
Barrett also suggests creating your own words to help describe particular instances around you or what you feel (Barrett, 181). Along with other tips and practises to help your body budget and your emotional regulation (Which will be the topic of Part 4), I took her advice and made a few new emotion words of my own to explain some things I was feeling but couldn’t describe in one or two words. Disclaimer: I am not a linguist, I just made words for my own use off of something that sounded good, so please understand, these may not follow grammatical rules etc. Here are just a few:
Disconstructful–To feel disdain toward a situation that isn’t going as planned and you can’t change it.
Employexity— 1. The anxiety one feels about having a job and being judged by their boss and/or their performance.
2. The anxiety one feels when speaking to one’s boss regardless of tone or outcome of the conversation.
Dispurrity–The feeling of loss from not owning a cat and missing the comfort and happiness cuddling with a cat provides.
Purrity–The feeling of comfort and happiness one gets from owning and cuddling a cat.
Parentally Helpless–Wishing you could talk to your parents and get advice, but you either don’t have parents or you believe they will disapprove of the choice(s) you may need to make.
Once I was able to pinpoint what more exactly was causing me distress or anxiety I was able to move beyond those broad terms and construct concepts specific to my situation or experiences. I was a little surprised that once I was able to put a label on theses complex emotions, regulating my emotion and thoughts became much easier. When I felt these things again, I either looked up or remembered my word, and I was able to know what I was feeling and move past it, either by acceptance the emotion/experience or regulating my body budget.
I highly encourage you to try this out for yourself, and to learn new words to expand your emotional granularity, as Barrett instructs. It’s just one step, but this alone can make a big difference in your life, the reality you create when exercised enough mindfully and correctly.
Take aways from Part 2
- ” . . . categorization constructs every perception, thought, memory, and other mental event that you experience, so of course you construct instances of emotion in the same manner.”
- “Goal based concepts are super flexible and adaptable to the situation.”
- The words you use influence your concepts (and are concepts) and create the world around you.
- “Conceptual combination plus words equals the power to create reality.”
- Learn emotion words from other cultures and languages, and create your own to better describe, understand, and create the world around you.
Being a Woman
Written Nov. 5th, 2015
“Being a woman to me means being able to fight for equality, like the women before me, and to take advantage of what they struggled and gave their lives for. Being a woman means that I can be whatever I want to be because of those fighters, the champions before me.
My Marriage, Part 4
When I got away from my mother I thought my anxiety and frequent crying spells would subside or stop. I wasn’t aware of the trauma she cause me. So I was always anxious, cried a lot, and started having panic attacks again. I thought the same of leaving that church. But that only lessened my anxiety a little. I was having anxiety attacks at work and I didn’t know why.
As I’ve had time to step back, a few observations can be made:
Fast forward to years 4-5 1/2 of my marriage. I’d taken time off school to be sure about my major–it was 2 1/2 years and I was progressing in the work force. I would change jobs or get a promotion and I got more money per hour each time. My spouse was very convinced that we needed to reach middle class status. I thought the money I was bringing in would make him happy, but I frequently heard, “You keep changing your mind!”
When I decided I was going to go back to college, he was very irritated and worried about me talking about going part time at work–even though that is how he completed his bachelor’s degree. So I took a job with high pay and a flexible schedule and was accepted to a four year university. I did part time school and full time work. But these weren’t my only stressors.
An injury from when I was a teenager resurfaced so I had many doctors appointments and physical therapy. Some will disagree with me, but the faith I left was very sexist. Much was left to the women or the wife as the men did not much more than hold a job and sit high in their status at church. Every relationship is different, but leaving that church didn’t change this for my husband.
He wouldn’t clean, very rarely cooked, refused to clean the litter box, wined and wouldn’t follow simple steps to get the printer working again, refused to do dishes, refused to clean the bathrooms, refused to do laundry, and all car maintenance and appointments for both cars were things for my day off, not his.
I fell behind on domestic tasks often. This irritated him greatly. Once I told him if he was truly a feminist he would help with the housework. And boy did that make him angry! Yet his behavior never changed.
One way I have described my ex to friends and family is as a “facebook activist”. My ex “believes” and stands up on many social issues, but doesn’t lift a finger in his personal life. I remember there was once he donated to a suicide prevention line, but never did we designate any of our funds to these causes he boasted so insistently about over social media. Never attended rallies, and I not certain he voted except for Trump vs. Hillary, but that is getting ahead of ourselves in the story.
More changes came. He said he was gender non-conforming and felt neither male or female. By this point I was hoping we were finished for a few years. Maybe that is why my spouse was always changing? Having a hard time finding themselves?
Not too long after, I had my first suicidal ideation and plan, followed by my first hospitalization. As I was on disability at work, trying to recover with group therapy and individual therapy–and still going to college part time–my spouse came out as transgender. I will now refer to my ex as she/her from here on out.
So as I went to therapy I was shopping for an all new wardrobe, make -up, etc. at her every whim because she wasn’t confident to go with me and I had “free time”. Even with my bout of mental illness and wanting to leave this world, she still wouldn’t help around the house either. I mean, neither of us planned to have a crisis at the same time. But she wouldn’t work with me. That remained the same.
As I completed the group therapy we had a meeting with my therapist. my wife refused to hear or understand how my very high paying, demanding job was not what I needed, that something low key and maybe part time would be best so I could do self care–a concept completely foreign to me. I had always taken care of others. My mother, my siblings, and my wife. I was having to learn how to put myself and my health first.
My wife said that I couldn’t do part time work or leave my job because we needed to save for her sexual reassignment surgery–Immediately she was sure this was what she needed and wanted and I had to help her, she had been out for a mere month or two, which is very uncommon. And, it was all about her. It always was. Something I didn’t realize for over another year.
So I went back to work and lasted four months before becoming suicidal again. I finally advocated for myself. I told my supervisor I was going out on disability again and HR would fill her in. I called and made an intake appointment then that night I told my wife I was checking myself in for suicidal ideation the next day, and I would love to have her support. Not even a whole year had passed by since the last time I was hospitalized.
To be continued . . .
Lady Gaga’s Live Video For Mental Health Day
Sometime around 4pm Arizona time, Lady Gaga went live on Instagram for about 25-30 minutes and it was inspirational.
I have recently become more of a Lady Gaga fan ever since her 2016 album “Joanne” came out. I appreciated the raw and vulnerable lyrics and style she produced in the album. It felt so much more real. I identified with a few of her songs, “Million Reasons” (except there wasn’t one good reason for me to stay), “Grigio Girls”, “Perfect Illusion”, and of course “Joanne”.
When I first heard Lady Gaga sing “Million Reasons” on SNL I was hooked! I knew that this was a person just like me, who had gone through something similar to what I was going through that very moment–considering whether they should stay or go in a relationship.
“Joanne” came off as a suicide song. I remember tearing up and wishing someone had said, “Hey girl, where do you think you’re going?” to me when I had my plans. But it turns out Joanne is about Stephani’s aunt, who died young.
Watching the Netflix documentary “Gaga: Five Foot Two” was an awe inspiring moment for me a few weeks ago. I didn’t know she struggled with chronic pain and that her 2016 album was all about her feelings–that it was all real expressions of things she was feeling and going through. I felt like I finally found a female role model as she talked about how she was trying to be more true to herself and be a woman, no longer a girl.
So when Stephani went live today I was right there. She started off talking about how important mental health is as well as self care. She also announced she is donating $1 million to the hurricane victims–specifically youth through Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program, designed to help children through trauma (http://www.savethechildren.org/atf/cf/%7B9def2ebe-10ae-432c-9bd0-df91d2eba74a%7D/JOURNEY%20OF%20HOPE%20FACT%20SHEET%202014.PDF).
Then, she proceeded to teach an interesting way to breathe, she said she uses it for when she is starting to feel a panic come on. You start by plugging one nostril and breathing in with the other, then squeeze both nostrils and hold for a moment. Lastly you release the opposite nostril and breath out. I had never come across this before and practised it as she showed the over 12k fans watching her live.
Next, Stephani explained how she meditates and her mantras. She breathed in and as she breathed out thought/spoke, “I am calm.” With the next out breath she would say, “I’m safe.” She said to clear your mind of all thoughts or let them drift away while breathing in.
I love to meditate. I’ve been taught to count my breath or number of breaths, which I often lose track and need to start the counting over again, but it has still been a powerful tool for reaching a calm and my Wise Mind. I’ve been trying to make the switch to mantras, but honestly I haven’t been very dedicated as I’m working on other skills I’m learning in therapy. So when Stephani laid down and meditated for 20 minutes on a live video, I happily followed her lead. It was a comforting experience to meditate with her and who knows how many others around the world and say “I am safe.” as Lady Gaga did.
She ended the video very sweetly, wishing everyone the best and reminding us to take care of our minds. I felt refreshed, comforted, and ready to write. Stephani is as motivational and real as her music, I learned that much through her documentary and today as we meditated together.
So let me know. Did any of you meditate with Lady Gaga today?
My Marriage, Part 3
People change. Regardless of all those tacy sayings, people learn, grow, and shift in different directions. Most often it is a gradual process, even if the actions they take seem sudden, bits and pieces of information have been clinging to their brains and sometimes come together in something I call a shift: When a person’s views, values, or beliefs change and the logical steps that follow are actions which seem different or contrary to who you thought they were. As an example, me leaving the faith of my youth. It appeared sudden to my family, but it was a long time coming, I just hadn’t shared with my family my doubts and thoughts and anguish I went through as I tried to justify the teachings I was taught all my life with what I saw around me in the world.
Yet, my spouse began having many shifts–so many I was lost and confused most of the time. Here is a short list to get us started:
- Randianism (follower of Ayn Rand)
- Then something leftist but not quite a democrat for politics, possibly anarcho-capitalism in there . . .
- There were at least 3 shifts in philosophical alignments but I know my memory is not accurate in this area
- He lept straight to Veganism–strict and then rather suddenly to me became more lax
- Working out as if training for the olympics
- And my personal favorite, leaping directly to Polyamory.
For those who don’t know, Wikipedia defines Polyamory as: ” . . . the practice of or desire for intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the knowledge of all partners. It has been described as “consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy“. Polyamorous arrangements are varied, reflecting the choices and philosophies of the individuals involved, but with recurring themes or values, such as love, intimacy, honesty, integrity, equality, communication, and commitment.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyamory).
By this point, my spouse and I had been married about 3 years. I felt as though we were barely finding ourselves and barely starting to create a strong bond as a couple. Not only had I not heard of polyamory before, I wasn’t understanding. He wanted to not only have meaningful loving relationships with multiple people, but be physically intimate with them too? AND–He had a girl picked out already to start him off.
Was I not enough?
Did our marriage vows mean nothing?
Did he still love me?
What lead him to want this?
He told me that monogamy wasn’t natural (for anyone) and that he had so much love in his heart he wanted to express it. It didn’t mean he loved me less, but he also did not have “normal teenage experiences” since he was raised to save himself for marriage.
I was raised to save myself for marriage too, so I didn’t have “normal teenage experiences” either, but I didn’t feel the need to have sex with other people. Monogamy seemed natural to me. But that was okay–I didn’t have to be polyamorous–but it was an option open to me, he said.
For as intelligent as he was–he could be a very near-sighted, arrogant person. If he was going to be polyamorous, that means BOTH of us were involved due to the “consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy” and the values of “honesty, integrity, equality, communication, and commitment.” If we were to do this, it would be a joint effort. We needed to have good, open communication, discuss rules and hold to them honestly and notify these other partners of our boundaries and stick to them.
I kept thinking about if he fell in love and wanted another woman to live with us, what would we do then? We were still undecided about children and if we had children, what kind of life would they live? If other people found out (like the schools), how would our children be treated? For polyamory, as misunderstood as it is, is mostly practised in private.
What if he had a baby with another woman? Two families! How would any of this work?!
No, He was pretty confident that he didn’t want children . . .
Okay . . . Honestly I wasn’t that confident about the question of children myself. . .
But in bringing up the possibility of getting another woman pregnant–I wanted him to make sure he always wore a condom. It seemed like a safe rule for many reasons. Double protection, protection from STDs etc.
“Why?!” He roared. He had asked the girl and she said she was on birth control.
“She or any of the others could be lying.”
“Why are you being so difficult?”
This is just a taste of what I lived with everyday was we tried to work out this and other ideas.
I knew I needed someone who was my biggest fan and loyal to me, something that can be accomplished with polyamory–but we couldn’t even agree on anything. I had lived a hard life where I was constantly having to distance myself from the people who usually care for you most. I had to break off contact with my abusive mother, I was losing my father and sister who were more and more wiry of me since leaving their faith, close friends cut me off after leaving and refused to see I was still me. My spouse was the only one in my life at that point who was loyal to me and gave a shit, who didn’t leave me. This was the person who meant the most to me and I was afraid I was losing him too.
But according to my spouse, I was being selfish. And how dare I restrict him? I didn’t own his body!
My breakdown was so bad it was affecting me at work. I would go to an unused conference room, leave the lights off and cry. I would attempt the breathing exercises my therapist taught me. Sometimes the breathing helped and sometimes it didn’t. I found myself so alone, I couldn’t tell people about what I was going through, I was afraid they would judge me. And my therapist had no experience counseling about polyamory.
My spouse also kept saying that he envied me because I am pansexual–being so “doubled the opportunities”.
I didn’t know how to describe it to him, but being pansexual does not double the opportunities for relationships and sex. That’s a myth. Just because I am attracted to more than one body type doesn’t mean I would fall in love with or be attracted to all or twice as many people. It’s just an orientation, not a buffet, which is what he seemed to want. All you can eat, Gotta Catch Them All.
This may sound odd, but the possibility of my then spouse having sex with other women didn’t bother me as much as that he wanted to have relationships–other types of intimacy with other people. If he did, what would we have? Would this change us? Would what we had still be special?
But despite all the arguments and fears, I tried, because I loved my spouse. But after about a month or more of talking, meeting the girl he had picked out from the start, and them going on one date, I couldn’t do it. I ultimately said no. And it did change us. I tried, but I just couldn’t adopt this type of lifestyle even if the ideology made sense– some people do it successfully. But I just couldn’t. I couldn’t even see myself dating others. I didn’t want to.
I think even if we hadn’t tried, this still would have changed our relationship. When my spouse got something in his head, it was right, true, and the most correct way to live and if I didn’t jump on board after his declarations and lectures, I was being a problem, I had a problem. I wasn’t trying hard enough. I was just making excuses. I complained too much. And I was trying to control him. At least that’s what he told me. Oh! And my personal favorite–I was always changing my mind!
Abso-fucking-lutely. We couldn’t even communicate, and you have to be a jedi master of communication for polyamory.
My Marriage, Part 2
After my first year of marriage my spouse and I left the faith we were both raised in. So it was a trying, yet oddly fulfilling year. My spouse opened a door of free, non-judgemental communication about a religion that made me never feel like I was good enough and that I wasn’t the kind of woman god wanted me to be. And, finally, I could tell someone about it.
Now, out of respect for my beloved father, I will not state name of the specific religion I left. There is enough to fill a whole book, which will also not see the light of day, about what made me say “WTF!” and what made no sense at all and caused me to leave. But I don’t want to bring any unnecessary angst to my family–a family I just got back not a few months ago.
It is safe to say that my spouse and I came at our decisions to leave from different directions and for different reasons, even if there was some overlap in our research. I was greatly influenced by science and still am to this day, but there were philosophical arguments and ideas of influence as well.
When I told my father in person about my decision to leave, it was out of respect and I attempted to comfort him. Yet some things were said which bothered me for years and resulted in a strained relationship between me and my father. Just because I left didn’t mean I disrespected the fact that he still followed that faith. But I don’t believe I communicated that very well at all. My father and I eventually, didn’t talk for years.
For reasons which are hard to pinpoint, I didn’t believe my father accepted or respected me and I wasn’t even sure if he loved me after I came out to him as bisexual (to be more exact I am pansexual, but was trying to simplify things in my letter).
There after, my spouse and I had a strained relationship with my in-laws as as well, but we were more often invited to holiday and family events. Sometimes we declined but they never stopped inviting us. For that I am grateful, for I felt as though I had no family of my own, so my in-laws helped more than they know.
Yet with all that being said, a whole new world opened up before me. A world full of opportunities, knowledge that was kept from me, diversity, and a greater acceptance of people who were different than myself. I found a level of humility, I no longer believed I held all the answers to life; I was a student of the world, nature, and culture. Non-fiction was as fascinating and held as much or more wonder than the fantasy books of my childhood. To this day I still read non-fiction in my spare time: Biology, Paleoanthropology, Evolutionary theory, Physics, Astronomy, History of Science, Psychology, Economics, and Biographies. It’s all so fantastic and interesting I can’t get enough! I still read fiction, but not as obsessively as when I was young.
What Should Have Been My First Clue
Year two and maybe three of marriage I was coming to an acceptance of myself that I had never known–and it was a time of new experiences. It is difficult to say exactly when, but my spouse began doing things which seemed out of character–but then again we were both on our own paths of self discovery, so I didn’t judge.
My spouse became a full-time troll, to this day nearly all internet activity consists of this. Gaining and dropping friends like flies–Facebook friends–we rarely met few in person. Once my spouse seemed to be having a crisis of degree and career path. When I asked him what he wanted to do he said, “I want to change people’s minds.” And he didn’t mean to educate or motivate people–to literally change their minds to his point of view. This left me speechless. It took me years to articulate why: How could he be so certain his opinions and views were correct?–AND they changed constantly–AND wasn’t he just like those churches who want to convert the whole world over because they were the only sect that was true?
My spouse kept his degree path but he had one person he could try to change the mind of–by many “techniques”. And that person was me.
My Marriage, Part 1
I remember crying myself to sleep on my wedding night. I don’t know if it was from the stress of the day, which was dominated by traditions and the desires of my step-mother and mother-in-law to be, or it was my spouse looking at me with a smile saying, “I had sex twice today!” before falling asleep. Very romantic and dutiful words I know.
It was nothing like I wanted. I was so young and naive I remember having the stark realization that I wouldn’t be retuning to my father’s house and resuming my regular routine. It was as though my wedding was just an event to be checked off the list. My realization may seem obvious when a person marries, but the thought scared me a little.
Just like anyone I thought I was doing what was right, and what I wanted. I think it is natural since my marriage has ended–and what commenced in those years-for me to look back on that day and feel it was a mistake. I couldn’t have known–no one could have known my marriage would be something of emotional abuse, betrayal, and tossing me aside as used goods. As the years went on, I mattered less and less.
I was raised in a strict Christian church that believed in complete purity before marriage–and even living with a boyfriend or girlfriend was considered sinful. So my then husband and I couldn’t even just try out a life together to see if we would work before we made promises before god and family. I wanted to be with him, so we married.
So that day was also my first sexual experience, and to say the least it wasn’t great. I had learned it might not be, but I was hoping it wouldn’t be painful, since most of my hymen was gone, but I guess the way we went about it, there was more blood than pleasure. I recall it took about a week before it stop hurting quite a bit down there. But we had to practise, we had no idea what we were doing, and we both wanted sex. It was unknown and said to be an amazing experience. I can confidently say I rather quickly came to enjoy sex.
But there were so many little things about living with this man that were just not what I expected, that I chalked up to personality. He didn’t like cuddling. Some people don’t. He would clean up immediately and then go watch tv. We didn’t talk as much once we lived with each other. It’s almost like I didn’t know what to say. We were also up to our necks in work and university, so we hardly saw each other except to study late at night for that first year or so.
#1 Good Thing That Came Out of My Marriage
I was unhappy at church. There was so much expected of women, I had no idea how I would keep up with all of that, all the readings for church, teaching at church and other duties I was given there, going to school and following my own interests, plus working a full time job–oh! and we were supposed to repopulate the earth–because you know, it’s not like the world is overpopulated and people are starving . . . And then I was supposed to meet up with these other women I didn’t know–we all just lived in the same general area so we went to church at the same time–most of these women older than me and I was expected make doilies, cookies, casseroles, little wood things that we would stencil sayings and scriptures on . . . That wasn’t my jam. I felt so out of place. I didn’t have children, I’m artistic–not crafty, valued science and learning, and by the way “When are you two having kids?” over and over and over again. I was a manager of a movie theatre and did well academically, I didn’t want to give up a career to have children and run a day care out of my home!
Now I realize I’m generalizing, but the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I had questions that my church leaders couldn’t answer. Questions about promises I made in these rituals that I didn’t agree with since I was a closet feminist. And they couldn’t answer my questions. I would work all night at the theatre–having gone to school all day or done homework all day–then wake up super early to dress up for church. I was tired! And I didn’t feel like I was doing all that a wife and woman should be doing for god. I didn’t fit the mold. So I would cry out of exhaustion and guilt and sadness.
I didn’t know who to tell, or what to say. Until my then husband told me he was an atheist.
Let’s just say I lost my shit. My then husband had quite the talent for dramatic changes of opinion and lifestyle choices in the six years and four months we were together.
I already lost my mother, had somewhat of a relationship with my father, though strained. And now I thought I was going to lose my spouse. Why was God leaving me all alone? I cried for a long time.
But I loved and respected my then husband, I wanted to understand why he came to that conclusion, even though in my mind it couldn’t be true. But this gave me the opportunity to tell him how I was unhappy and how I didn’t feel like I fit into what god wanted me to be. So I started to do my research, to look at the philosophical, scientific, and historical arguments, ideas, facts, and events. And this was the greatest opportunity to me. Because it had never been acceptable to ask my own questions, to be skeptical without punishment from my mother or fear of punishment and banishment from god. And this was very freeing for me.
And for that I thank my ex.
How Emotions Are Made, Book Review, Part 1
For as long as I can remember, my emotions have been something high-strung, all encompassing, and a seemingly uncontrollable disturbance to my day to day life.
People told me I was simply more emotional than others, while i found myself oddly apathetic to some things at different times in my life, and wishing I could just get rid of them all! All my emotions! Some of my emotions–mostly fear, unease, and a daunting pit of sadness–were so extreme, I didn’t want any emotions if that meant the three listed above would stop. I was in agony–sometimes I fall back into that agony, but now I know how to handle these feelings a little better with therapy. And my medications help me to be steady.
As I grew older even anger and a feeling of disjustice seemed disproportionate to the circumstances around me if I was allowed to express myself. In the words of Lisa Feldman Barrett I hadn’t developed “emotional granularity” for my age, a construction of “finer-grained emotional experiences” and what some of her collages–of whom she disagrees with on many issues–as “emotional intelligence” or maturity (Barrett, 180).
Published this year How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain By: PhD Lisa Feldman Barrett challenges the conventional views of emotion and our interactions with the world around us in the formation of emotions and perception.
The Interoceptive Network
Now, before we dive into Barrett’s, in my view, convincing argument of how emotions are made and then construct our experiences, a few terms are in order.
Barrett states, “In every waking moment, your brain gives your sensations meaning. Some of those sensations are interoceptive sensations, and the resulting meaning can be an instance of emotion (pg. 67). Pretty basic, right?
She says there are two “general parts” in the brain’s interoceptive network: “One part is a set of brain regions that send predictions to the body to control its internal environment: speed up the heart, slow down breathing, release more cortisol, metabolize more glucose, and so on. We’ll call them your body-budgeting regions (pg. 67).”
The second, “represents sensations inside your body, called your primary interoceptive cortex (Barrett, 68).” These two take part in a “prediction loop”–“Each time your body-budgeting regions predict a motor change, like speeding up the heart, they also predict the sensory consequences of that change, like a pounding feeling in your chest. These sensory predictions are called interoceptive predictions, and they flow to your primary interoceptive cortex, where they are simulated in the usual way . . . The neurons in your primary interoceptive cortex compare the simulation to the incoming sensory input, computing any relative prediction error, completing the loop, and ultimately creating interoceptive sensations (Barrett, 68-69).”
So far, this sounds like internal everyday workings of the body. But interoceptive predictions, predict what we have previously observed of similar situations in day to day life, as well as sensations in our bodies. In the feedback loop, these experiences are checked against what is happening around us, and any errors are corrected to reflect reality–or so they should if your feedback loop is working properly. But not everyone is so lucky, something we will touch on later (Barrett, 56-83).
Let’s start off with talking about this “body-budget”. Learn about this changed my complete outlook on my emotions in relation to my mental health: “Every person you encounter, every prediction you make, every idea you imagine, and every sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell that you fail to anticipate all have budgetary consequences and corresponding interoceptive predictions (Barrett, 71).” So this means, everything around you affects your body and it’s internal and external abilities to function. So this is important to our very survival.
“To perturb you budget, you don’t even require another person or object to be present. You can just imagine your boss, teacher, coach or anything else relevant to you. Every simulation, whether it becomes an emotion or not, impacts your body budget. As it turns out, people spend at least half their waking hours simulating rather than paying attention to the world around the, and this pure simulation strongly drives their feelings (Barrett, 71).”
So let’s take this in for a moment; have you ever worried yourself sick over something that hasn’t even happened yet, but your anxiety about the subject is possibility so high that you make yourself ill? You are affecting your body budget and your perception of the world around you. What goes through your mind? ‘They won’t like me; Everything will go wrong; What if I make a fool of myself; I’m no good at this; I’m a loser; I can’t do this!’ Sound familiar? Here are some more examples, most positive, from Barrett:
“When you interact with your friends, parents, children, lovers, teammates, therapist, or other close companions, you and they synchronize breathing, heart beats, and other physical signals, leading to tangible benefits. Holding hands with loved ones, or even keeping their photo on your desk at work, reduces activation in your body-budgeting regions and makes you less bothered by pain. If you’re standing at the bottom of a hill with friends, it will appear less steep and easier to climb than if you are alone. If you grow up in poverty, a situation that leads to chronic body-bugeting problems are reduced if you have a supportive person in your life. In contrast, when you lose a close, loving relationship and feel physically ill about it, part of the reason is that your loved on is no longer helping to regulate your budget. You feel like your’ve lost a part of yourself because, in a sense, you have (Barrett, 71).”
We are so much more interconnected to our environments and the people around us (part of our environments) than I ever realized until I read this book. I often experience exhaustion from being “too social” by my norms. This exhaustion is real and it takes self care and alone time for me to get back to a place where I can “deal” with people, even people who are close to me. This is an example of exhausting my body budget in a particular way. This is a common way people exhaust themselves, commonly if this happens to you, you may identify as an introvert, but that’s not always true.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from Barrett’s book which have helped me better understand my emotions under the heading of the body budget:
First of all, if I haven’t already mentioned, I adhere to the theory of evolution (it is as factual as the theory of gravity) and Barrett adheres to it as well, “Interoception did not evolve for you to have feelings but to regulate your body budget.” Think about that for a moment. Our emotions are tools, for our survival, “Your affective feelings of pleasure and displeasure, and calmness and agitation, are simple summaries of your budgetary state.” (Barrett, 73). Our emotions are our bodies communicating to us if something is going well or not internally or externally. And we can influence this with what appear to be harmless thoughts!
Take-Aways From Part 1
We are subject to our surroundings and our evolutionary ancestry. Nature and nurture. Our emotions tell us if there is something awry in our body, specifically our body budget for different internal and external actions as well as predictions by our feedback loop. But life is messy. There isn’t a simple formula, even if being on your period + ice cream + your favorite movie = an improved mood. Nothing in life is ever that straightforward. So stay tuned for Part 2, where we will talk about how emotions and perceptions are formed in more complete detail.
Journal Entry, July 22, 2017: What It Feels Like to Have PTSD
I don’t operate on other people’s schedules. It’s taken all day of doing mostly nothing for me to feel a little release, encouragement, fear, and even a desire to express myself with my art. My body had to recharge. My brain went through so many memories today that I didn’t want to see and I’ll never really know why today was the day for me to process those memories. And because of these things, my energy is low, but yet I feel inspired–maybe it’s desperate–to get what I feel out. And this act takes energy as well. This is what people don’t understand about mental illness and trauma.
Sometimes my angst and anguish makes me feel like an alien, that I do not belong here and there is no one else like me. In a way there is never going to be anyone like me, but there are others who feel this way too. I have and can relate to them when I let myself open up. In reality no one “belongs” here. We just won the genetic lottery to be the people we are. Even if it doesn’t feel like I “won” with the kind of live I’ve survived.
Other times I feel hollow, empty, like a ghost. Unseen. Unwanted. Cursed. Sometimes I honestly don’t understand how people can love and care for me so much. Yet I’m desperate for people to see me, to know my story. To know what i”ve been through. I feel it’s valuable sometimes, my story, that I can help others with it. There are moments I feel these things so strong I feel like I can’t breathe and I feel the fire of anxiety in my chest. That I have to use my talents to express what I’ve been through. As though it’s the only way to let it’s treacherous, scary truth free, to go down an unbeaten path that I’m not certain anyone will care to follow me through.
Just as anyone else I want to be liked and loved. Sometimes I forget I already have that in my life regardless of my alien origins or being a ghost. People do see me and love me. If writing and drawing doesn’t get these feelings to go away I’ve found music to be a priceless release of late. People don’t see how much self care a person like me must go through to function day to day. Most of the time all I can do is take care of me.
I used to cry to Pink’s song “Fucking Perfect” because I didn’t feel that kind of self love or confidence. At the time I didn’t know why I was crying. Now I know. Yet, even if I know something, that doesn’t mean I always believe it. My emotions conflict with my brain–even though they come from my brain–I can know something I’m feeling is completely irrational, but that doesn’t make my feelings any less real or valid. I sit alone, haunted by the demons I’ve slain, watching them, even though I know it’s over, yet it feels like they will never leave me. It’s like having something following you, or a creepy feeling on the back of your neck all the time as thoughts try to come into your brain telling you, you are not good enough. But even then, I feel my description may be lacking.
The fire in my chest to do something new–
The loneliness when I’m surrounded by people–
The strongest desire to get away from public places–
The fervent desire to hide–to “get out of” commitments–
The tears as I fight that desire–tell myself what I “should” do–
The fears of what could happen, “What if”s endlessly bombarding my mind–
Ugly crying and not knowing why–
This was me before medication, sometimes it’s still me. And I just sit alone, surrounded by my supplies and my talents, feeling hopeless. I think that pretty much sums it up.
I can’t be like other people. So I’ve stopped trying. Doing me isn’t easy. But it’s better. And it takes time.
Letter to My Younger Self, Part 2
For this week, I’ve pulled up my bootstraps, and made myself address an action by my mother that still makes me sad and angry. I find myself asking: Why didn’t I put up a fight? But then I know why, because she probably would have put me in that dog kennel too if I questioned or pushed her too far, as I did with her delusions, budgeting, actions towards others etc.
Here is Topic 18: Disregard For Pets
“One of the things I’m sure you remember about your mother that you still hate to this day is how she treated your pets. In fact you still feel guilty for how they were treated. You had your cat named Griffin. He was a beautiful gray and white tabby and (my sister) had her cat Robbie. We thought Robbie was a boy, but since we got them as kittens from our aunt who is no expert, soon we had kittens too. It was so much fun. I know how much you still love kittens to this day. Robbie had three litters because Mom wouldn’t get her fixed, and it just kept costing more and more money. We tried to find homes for them, but when you couldn’t, Mom would take them off driving somewhere and drop them off.
The ones we did keep, even Griffin and Robbie were not allowed out at night and were kept in a small half bath where all their food and litter were kept. But they were cramped up in there all night. You hated that, and when there were kittens there was even less space. You fell in love with one of the kittens because he was a spitting image of his dad. He wasn’t into cuddling as much but you still claimed him, you named him Phoenix to keep with the trend.
One day, Phoenix misbehaved, do you even remember what happened? I don’t. But Mom said the only way he would learn is if we were to put him outside in this huge dog kennel, which we had acquired randomly, and leave him there all night. The cats were strictly indoor and I knew he would be afraid. I sat there for an hour with him that night as he cried. He was terrified and cold, dogs were barking. And you were crying, full of sadness, but also afraid. You wanted to step up and disobey your mother and let him in so he would trust you again, but you were terrified of her. So you cried most of the night and didn’t hardly sleep. You let him out first thing in the morning. He was never the same kitten. You feel so guilty that you let these things happen. These were innocent creatures who didn’t know better. I think you still feel guilty. After losing Griffin (another story) your heart could not open to another cat again for a long time. But now you have Friedrich and Hitch and they are well fed, well groomed and have free rein of everything. You are not your mother, and you don’t need to feel guilty for the choices she made. I know you wish you could have stopped the bad treatment, but you were so afraid and with good reason. You love animals so much that if it had been in your power you would have never let any of that happen, so you need to stop carrying it around with you. It’s okay. You treat animals right. “
The cats mentioned, Friedrich and Hitch . . . with no regard for them or their care, were rehomed without my permission after explicitly telling my ex that I would send money soon to get them to me. I was thousands of miles away for my own safety. I tried to take them with me, but I couldn’t. Neither humane society in either state would help me, and I was homeless, staying on a cot temporarily with some good friends. Even if I could have brought them, I wouldn’t have been able to care for them.
What happened to Griffin and Phoenix, and later Friedrich and Hitch, my babies, weighs heavily on me. One of the things I’m trying to do is not guilt myself. I did everything I could to get Friedrich and Hitch back. I wasn’t the asshole who didn’t care about them, and I am certainly not my mother. But it all still breaks my heart.
Another thing I would like to share with you from the Letter to My Younger Self is the end. Topic 25, It Is Not Your Fault:
“But even though there was so much loss, so much pain, there are things you need to remember and memorize about your mother, about your life:
- You are not responsible for the way she neglected or ignored your real needs.
- You are not responsible for the way she made you feel unloved or unlovable
- You are not responsible for her cruel or thoughtless teasing
- You are not responsible for the bad names she called you.
- You are not responsible for her happiness.
- You are not responsible for her problems
- You are not responsible for the hatred she put in your heart toward other people
- You are not responsible for her choice not to do anything about her problems
- You are not responsible for her sanity
- You are not responsible for her reputation in town
- You are not responsible for her lies
- You are not responsible for her stealing
- You are not responsible for her sadness.
- You are not responsible for being her peacemaker
- You are not responsible for the family, she was
- You are not responsible for the family starving, she was.
- You are not responsible for your father giving up on visitations so easily
- You are not responsible for his lack of interested in you when you came to visit
- You are not responsible for his lack of ability to teach you life skills
- You are not responsible for him ignoring the terrible situation she put you in
- You are not responsible for the things she made you say to him.
- You are not responsible for any of it, you were but a child.
You can hang in there. You can find a way to not let this haunt you anymore. You are doing the right thing by seeking help. And it will take time, it will be steps, little steps. And there probably is more that is repressed. You remember a lot of name calling and yelling and stress and a lot put on your shoulders. But you can get through this. This past of yours is no reason to stop living. You’ve done pretty good for yourself for having no parents for most of your life. And you have people who love you now. But it’s okay to cry. Your mom was terrible. and I know it’s been hard to say that because you know it isn’t completely her fault. She didn’t ask for her brain to be that way, but she still did a whole hell of wrong against you, so you can be angry and sad. You can get it out. You are allowed to. And with time, you will be alright, even if it doesn’t seem like it right now.”
To this day, I have a hard time believing some of those affirmations. But they are true, and I find myself saying some of them often, especially since the ghost of my mother won’t seem to go away.
As stated in the last paragraph of the letter, I can get through this, and I have made significant progress when it comes to my mother. But since my life took such a drastic change recently with fleeing from my ex, there is still work to be done about my mother and other topics. It always takes time–that is one thing people don’t seem to understand. They seem to think that if you get therapy or take pills you’ll be “back to normal” in no time! But there is no back to normal after going through the things I have, there is simply growth. And growth and self care take time and perseverance. So don’t get discouraged. We will get there together.
Letter to My Younger Self, Part 1
When posted last week about my mother, I recalled an assignment I was given by my favorite therapist, of whom I did two group therapies with. My therapist told us to write a letter to our younger selves. What would we want to know? What comfort did we not receive that we wished we had? What would we have needed to hear to make it through our hard times more easily?
These were hard questions, especially since I endured 20 years of abuse from my mother. And being a writer and taking the assignment seriously, it took me two months, but I turned in a seventeen pages, complete with topic numbers, affirmations, and reminders of the good things about my childhood.
Some instances in the letter to my younger self I already expressed last week, but I thought some of this letter I wrote would be something worth sharing, which could shed more light on what I have gone through, and how I talk to myself about my childhood–because your inner self voice is very important. The more aware you are about how you speak to yourself, the more you can alter your self talk and avoid causing yourself more unneeded pain.
Here are some of the important parts from Letter to My Younger Self, finished on September 15, 2015:
“Topic 2: The Fighting
It’s okay to be sad about it. To realize by about the age of 7 or 8 that your family had problems isn’t easy. Your home was bare compared to the friend’s houses you went to. And you doubted their parents fought so much that your friends had to hide in the pantry just to feel safe. It’s okay to remember the screaming, it’s okay that you felt scared. None of it was your fault and I think you knew that, but you wished you could do something to make things better. There is nothing wrong with that. But eventually it lead to problems for you. And that’s okay too. You didn’t know any better. Your heart was in the right place. You were just a kid, a kid who should have never had to deal with that (fixing her family).
“Topic 4: The Start of the Delusions
Not knowing when the brainwashing started it’s not something to worry about, but by this time, Mom had said that Dad was not right for her and the family, that there would be someone better. He was Native American and very rich. God told her. You had been taught to trust in God and trust your Mother, so it’s not your fault you believed her. You were a child under the age of ten being told what sounded like wonderful stories of a better life, a life were we would have a nice home, and so what were you supposed to think? Your mother took advantage of your ignorance but that isn’t your fault. You can cry about that. She didn’t know what she was doing, but you can still cry about how this made your life more difficult. You were confused, but also excited about a different life. Remember the day you and your siblings packed up (and left your home in the Phoenix area)? It was a happy day, or made to be one. And your father didn’t even know (you were leaving).
“Topic 5: Loss of Innocence Due to Delusions
You were introduced to the ideas of hate, revenge, poison and death at a very young age when Mom told you Dad was trying to poison her and that is why he didn’t eat the same meals as everyone else. Remember how you questioned dad about why he ate beans and crackers one night and you got a lesson on carbs and proteins and weight loss? It seemed to make sense. You didn’t know who to believe. But you were skeptical of your Father, you were trained to be.
“Topic 22: How Mom Handled Panic Attacks
I remember at least three times when I had a panic attack in the middle of the night, there were probably more. And these times I woke up my mother because I was scared and I didn’t know what was wrong or how to calm down or even why I was having them. To this day I don’t know what triggered it, but in my life, take your pick. She would hold me, only because I asked her to. Then she would rub my back as I cried, and she would get frustrated. Some times she would say, “Just stop it!” I remember once that I said back, “That isn’t helping!” because it only made me cry more. I would shiver and shake so much. But it never seemed that my mom would help or have anything comforting to say. It’s as though she didn’t care about what I was going through.
“Topic 6: The Ideal of Rape
Remember? One night you couldn’t sleep you were worried about the things Mom had said about Dad, worried if she as alright. You could hear noises from the bedroom. You were so terrified going to that door. You knocked softly but no one answered, so you opened the door. Suddenly there was screaming and you realized your parents were naked and didn’t understand why. They were yelling at you to close the door so you did and curled up in a ball crying. What was wrong? What did I do wrong?
Mom came to the door and told me it was alright and to come on in. She had a blanket wrapped around her. I went in the bedroom and saw Dad wrapped in blankets too on their mattress which didn’t have a box spring or a bed frame. I was still crying; he told me to come here. He said that they didn’t mean to scare me, they were just surprised that I came in the room. I asked what they were doing and I don’t remember if i got “the talk” for sure, except that when two people are married they can be naked together. He asked me why I couldn’t sleep, but I didn’t tell him the truth except that I was scared. He told me I was safe. I remember somehow that by the time my mother was dressed he got me to laugh.
Mom took me back to bed and told me that it was good that I came. I asked why and she said it was because she didn’t want to do what Dad wanted her to do with him, the thing that only married people can do. I saved her from that. She thanked me. So at a young age you were introduced to the idea of rape without a word for it, and you weren’t sure if your Dad was raping your Mom. I still couldn’t sleep that night. I didn’t understand the world. And it’s okay to cry. It’s possible with your mother’s mental state that she wasn’t sure if she wanted it, but said she did, and how was your father to know if he was committing spousal rape?
At this point, remember, you weren’t even sure if he was physically hurting her or not like she said he was. But you never saw any bruises. It’s okay to cry about this. Your mind was swimming with anxiety for someone you loved, your Mother, and you didn’t know how to stop it. You didn’t know what was wrong or what was happening. You were unnecessarily anxious for yourself and your siblings, because your father wasn’t trying to poison anyone or hurt anyone. It’s unfair to be introduced to all this at such a young age. It’s unfair that your mother told you all those things about your father whether they were true or not. Go ahead and cry. It’s okay.”
And I have cried about these things, as I wrote them. I remember I would stop and find my cats and cuddle and play with them as I ugly cried it all out. I needed that. I needed to look at this from a different perspective and give myself permission to cry.
There’s much more that I addressed in the letter to my younger self, but I think this is enough for now. Most of the other things . . . I’m not ready to share, though I’m sure I will one day. I believe in being open and vulnerable in safe spaces, so I’m sure you will learn more about some of the things that my mother did that are even now uncomfortable to admit. Maybe I still feel some guilt or fear about those things. Whatever it may be. I’m not responsible for my mother’s actions or abuse of me. Something I am still telling myself with every nightmare and depressive/anxious period I have.
Thank you for listening. If you feel like you want to talk about anything, just let me know.
My Mother—My Ghost
Since sharing with you that my mother has severe schizophrenia, I felt it is time to delve in deep and write down some explanations, some difficult truths about my childhood. These are things I have hardly shared with anyone–mostly therapists and others who were in trauma therapy group with me.
Much of this will be hard to swallow, it being the first cause of my PTSD, even though I was not diagnosed until 2015.
But I find being vulnerable in safe spaces is cleansing and almost like a drug once you get into it. So I hope to share my story with you so you will know it is okay to share your own story. No one should be forced to be silent, I know this first hand.
I also wish to warn you, this snapshot of my childhood may not be in chronological order. It’s hard to know where to start . . .
Where It All Began
I grew up being told by my mother that I was ugly, useless, and that no one would want me. Most of these memories of this are blocked or faded. I don’t even know what I did to cause such yelling, anger, and hatred. Most often that I can remember, it came very unexpectedly, bursting from my mother.
Yet at the same time, my siblings and I were trusted with our mother’s secrets and she gave us glowing praise when we were in front of others in the community. To say the least it made for a very confusing childhood, and even into high school I found myself doing things like picking the tootsie rolls when offered candy, so I could give them to my mother as an attempt to be in her good graces. Tootsie rolls were her favorite.
My mother insisted that we be different–we were different–and not like all those terrible, normal, sinful, snootie kids. She couldn’t keep jobs very well, so I never had clothes that fit, and this set me apart from the rest of my peers big time.
I walked around that small town in prison. I couldn’t tell anyone that my mother yelled.
I couldn’t tell anyone that my mother believed she met God and that she could travel with her mind to other planets that’s inhabitants also worshiped the Christian God and that she had healing powers.
I couldn’t tell anyone that any fictional story my mother liked she believed to be real and happened on other planets.
I couldn’t tell anyone that she “conversed” with these characters as if they sat in our living room constantly.
I couldn’t tell people how in many small ways I was punished for trying to speak reason to my mother regarding these things.
By speaking out I was told I wasn’t smart enough, I was handicapped, and didn’t have enough faith because I “couldn’t” travel to other worlds too.
Copy-Cat and Codependency
I was terrified and yet desperate for my mother’s approval. Yet her approval came in the form of copy-catting—but she only copied me. Not the other two. I was her “best friend”. She was codependent on me for her own validation and approval.
I was in prison because she followed us– me and my siblings–around as much as she could, holding us close and in her clutches.
Everything I did, she started doing too. She’d finish my paintings for me, making me very angry.
When I started writing she was suddenly a writer too.
I took ballet, she claimed she always wanted to do ballet but her mother wouldn’t let her as a child.
I played musical instruments in school, and she started buying instruments for herself.
I was considering a career in editing, and when I enrolled myself in community college, not only did she sign up for nearly every class I did, but planned on being an editor too.
I couldn’t even go get the mail without her coming along!
She headed up our role-playing games.
She discouraged us from different invitations we would receive.
She told me she had told the boys my age that I didn’t want to date them for one reason or another that came down to her unfounded high horse ideals of how “righteous” she and in effect we were.
When I was eight years old I was mesmerized by space, the universe, galaxies and our solar system. I came home saying I wanted to be an astronaut and be amongst the stars! My mother told me it wasn’t a good idea because God’s plan for me was to be a wife and mother and, how would I care for children if I was an astronaut away in space from months to years at a time? She made me feel guilty, and I tossed my dreams and interest in science aside.
When my siblings and I had friends over or were at social events she was just like one of the kids, and it was embarrassing. When I was sick with the flu or a cold, multiple times my mother and my siblings would conspire to pour cold water over me while I was resting and sleeping. Once I got really angry and started yelling at her saying, “You’re the adult here! You should be stopping these things! Can’t you see I’m miserable! You know I’m sick!” I was crying so hard. But I don’t think she is capable of empathy. She was more important.
Once when I was asleep at night, I had been sick, she came in my room and felt my head and neck as if checking for a fever. This woke me–thankfully–for she then started putting her hand over my chest. “Mom? What are you doing?” I sat up asking. She said something like that she was just checking on me. But I don’t think it is a stretch of the imagination that if I hadn’t woken up, she would have continued touching me inappropriately.
Once I was invited to a friend’s birthday slumber party and discovered the step-brother’s, who were me and my friend’s same age, were not going somewhere else for the night but staying there and interacting with us girls. I was so anxiety ridden by the horror stories my mother told me of similar situations and terrified of being punished if she found out this fact of the party–because it was sinful you know– that I ended up making myself sick and hand to go home.
Release and Answers In Writing
I naturally turned to the arts as a means of release. Writing my novel revealed deep insights that as a fourteen year old I couldn’t have expressed any other way in that environment. In my novel my main character, Sarina, is plagued by her father who seems to have gone insane but is in fact cursed. Sarina embarks on an adventure initially to save her father and finds the situation of the magical world is much more daunting and severe, more people need saving than one man.
My mother convinced my siblings and I that our father was just a step or two shy of Satan himself, so I was naturally missing him in my life, even if I couldn’t admit it at the time. And my main character knew her parent was crazy before I could bring myself to say that mine was! Also, Sarina’s motivation to save her father is similar to how my siblings and I were in effect trained to defend and protect our mother’s image if and when it was questioned and how I felt the whole family’s futures’ were on my own shoulders. As a teenager I was trying to figure out how to make us financially stable, move us to a town with more jobs, and how to get my mom to stop accepting and using credit cards on subscriptions, books, movies, fabric, sewing projects, and a bunch of other things we didn’t need.
Now, I speak in the past tense because for my own mental health I had to cut my mother out of my life. It even scares me that I know where she is. To this day, even on sleeping drugs, I dream she is right by my side.
My mother isn’t a demon or vampire I can slay, but a ghost. And even with the abuse I endured from my ex-wife in the last few years, it is my mother who haunts me. Sometimes I wake up and I’ve forgotten that she is out of my life and that I am safe, that I now control my own life–that she has no control over me. I still have more therapy to do, but no one will ever know if her apparition will ever truly leave. It feels daunting.
I feel numb as I sit here at the end of this revelation to you. The flame of anxiety in my chest has ignited due to writing this down. If you are reading this, that means somehow I powered through to type this into my computer. (Because, you know, I’m one of those weird ones who writes things out old school with a pen and paper).
Somehow, through all of the above, I am still here. Living my life. I repeat to myself that all this is in the past as an attempt for it to stay out of the present. Yet it still plagues me. She still plagues me. I know I can never see her again. Never interacting with her again is a comfort. Never interacting with her again is also for her own safety.
Let’s all take some deep breaths. Because I am in control of my life, and I’m doing well.
Thank you for listening, it means a lot to me. Please reach out to me if you need to get anything off your chest. In the least I am someone who can listen.
Who Am I?
One of my favorite TV shows is Sense 8, a Netflix Original, which only has two seasons. Yet, it is the most emotional, influential, heart felt, intense show I have ever experienced. It is very inclusive and is about human connection. And I shamelessly, highly recommend it to everyone.
When season two was released on Netflix I got stuck on episode 2. I couldn’t explain it. It was a very positive scene where the eight characters, but especially Lito and Capheus, tag teamed speaking to the press, and it is a beautiful speech known as Who Am I? Please take a moment to watch it below:
It took me months to get back to this episode and mindfully know why I started to cry and had to turn off my TV the first time. These questions, Who Am I . . .
Do you mean where I’m from?
What I do?
What I dream?
What I’ve done?
What you see?
What I’ve seen?
What I fear?
What I may become?
What I’ve lost?
Who I love?
This is what I’ve been trying to answer as I’ve started my new life. I’m learning all over again, who I am and how I define myself. Upon first watching this, I didn’t know my answers, or the answers were too terrible to think of.
I have hinted at a hard run in this life and a few facts about it. But I’ve been fighting with another question as well: How much sharing is too much sharing when it comes to writing a blog?
How deep do I go? How honest should I be with all of you about where I’m from, what I’ve done, who I’ve loved, what I’ve lost, what I’ve seen?
After over a month of mostly silence here on my site I’ve decided, these questions, posed in Sense8’s Who Am I? scene are exactly the questions I need to answer for me, AND, that there is never too much honesty–or else what’s the fucking point of all of this?
I want to be real. I want to show you the real me and not be another fluff writer because I’m afraid I’ll offend, trigger, or estrange someone. I won’t worry about that. Those aren’t my problems. And this, this is my site, my venue to be the real me and let you decide if I am a person worth knowing. Worth reading about. Worth connecting with.
So who am I really? Stay tuned and be prepared. I’m no longer holding back.
Meet The Raffle Winner!
I know it’s been awhile since you heard from me, but I have some exciting news! We have a winner of the raffle! Meet Dolly!
Dolly is a fan like all of you and entered the raffle I held last month. When I notified her that she won the Pride 2017 Color Abstract art, she informed me she would be visiting my area, Phoenix, Arizona, the 24th and 25th of July (yesterday and today). We were able to meet up, talk, and I presented her with the framed art.
Dolly lives in outskirts of Seattle, Washington and graduated with a degree from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School. She works in a bakery and is dedicated to her husband, two dogs, and working out. Dolly is also an artist in her spare time and loves fantasy and sci-fi.
It was a joy and a pleasure to meet one of my fans in person and to hold this contest! As promised Dolly will receive a 25% off coupon for entering, as well as all the other many people who entered the raffle, so keep your eyes open for this!
Will there be more contests in the future? Absolutely! I love people to have my art. So keep following and watching on Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube for future contests, videos, blog posts, poetry, and images of my art!
Love you all!
I Am Free
I know I promised to announce the winner of the raffle at the beginning of this week, but I have become so consumed by one fact, one thing that has happened, I kind of lost all notions of plans when the news came.
I AM FREE.
My divorce is final. I am no longer legally bound to the person who was once my wife. And this is fantastic!
I’ve been leading my own independent life for seven and a half months–she lives all the way across the United States–and she will never hurt me again.
She a poltergeist of my dreams, the legal process the horror plot of my nights, I was slowly wearing down. But now it is finished and I no longer feel doom looming over my head.
At first I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t stop saying, “Oh My God!”. Then I was laughing and next I was crying. I am so happy to be finished with that unhappy, scary part of my life, I can’t stop smiling.
I have never felt more able to navigate my life than I do now. And this is a wonderful feeling i have never experienced before.
I am so happy, I can hardly find words to express it!
I Wish Someone Had Told Me . . .
As I’ve gone through my life, events, and the way I grow and change as a person never ceases to amaze me. Along the way I have discovered life lessons, per se, or “facts” which I wish someone had told me. Knowledge which would have helped me, even if I didn’t accept the notions right away. Here are just a few:
Good Things Don’t Simply Fall Into Place
Good things–jobs, degrees, careers, relationships, sales, talents, recognition, promotions etc.–they take Hard Work and Action. Everything I have has come from taking Action, and putting in the necessary time.
My birth mother suffers from schizophrenia so sever I don’t believe I ever knew her, or will ever know the real her–the person without the illness. She raised me on her own since I was about ten years old after my parents split, but really, it was more like I was raising her. I stayed with her until I was twenty years old.
As the years wore on, it became more and more apparent that my mother had serious concerns with reality. No one told me my mother had a condition–knowledge I feel I would have been able to handle if someone had taken the time to sit me down and tell me. I guess that is number 1.5 of things I wish someone had told me. But, I figured it out on my own in my teen years. Looking back I learned a few things about my mother:
She always expected someone would come and save her–someone would come and solve all of her problems, she would never have to work again, she wouldn’t want for food, she would be respected and could do all the pastimes she wanted to. Aside from her prince charming delusion, she never took action or stuck with something long enough for a job, schooling, career, or really anything to pan out for her. She would have all these ideas, projects–mostly sewing–and would never do or finish them. She was in love with dreaming, but couldn’t take the steps to achieve her dreams. She just believed it would all happen and her life would become how she wanted it. But she was incapable of understanding that she actually had to get up off her ass and do something if she wanted a result.
Sometimes No Matter How Hard You Try, Most Things Are Out of Your Control
Sometimes no matter what you do, what Actions you take, how much you put into something–a job, career, relationships, promotions etc.–what you are striving for doesn’t go according to plan.
There is only one thing you can control in this crazy world and apathetic universe. And that is you. Even controlling yourself–your thoughts, emotions–is trying, for some more than others.
A good, yet a sad example of this is my past marriage. I put my all into that relationship. I even put my spouse above myself. I did everything I could, everything she wanted, and it still wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t make our relationship work no matter how much Action and forethought I put into it. Because I cannot control or change other people or their desires, and neither can you. This fact, is actually a good thing. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be responsible for another adult!
In the end, the outcome of a little over six years of marriage was out of my control and the only thing I could do was decide, taking into account happenings that I do not wish to go into further explanation about, whether I was in or out. What was best for me? It turns out I am much better off on my own than with my ex-wife. No matter how hard I tried to make our marriage work, it was out of my control and we mutually wanted out.
Sometimes You Just Have To Go With The Flow Of Life
Don’t resist. Your life will take you in unexpected directions–directions you never imagined as a child. In most occasions it is best to accept them and be malleable with your views and outlook as more information about the world presents itself–or really pushes itself in your face–for review.
One thing I never expected was that I would leave the church of my youth. With my mother being a very anxious person as well as schizophrenic, I lived a very sheltered childhood. She also was very strict about each one of us following different ideals of that church.
When I became an adult and left the care of my mother to others, I began to learn things about the world which didn’t coincide with the views and teachings of that church. The blatant denial of science was a large factor for me. The church I belonged to denied the Big Bang and Evolution and didn’t even allow us to look into these theories (Not to be confused with hypothesis. The Big Bang theory and the theory of Evolution are backed by tremendus evidence and are as much a theory as the theory of Gravity).
Once I allowed myself to be open minded, the world was starting to make sense for the first time in my life. And it is such a beautiful story, how the universe came to be and how life continues to grow and change and shift to challenges and the environment. It is so beautiful, Evolutionary Theory is my main course of study when I can afford college. I realize others may not see it this way, but that’s okay.
I have simply learned not to resist something just because I don’t want it to be true, or was taught differently when I was young.
Now that I know these things, and follow these ideals, I have been so much better able to start my life all over as an independent woman. It’s easier to accept that my wife might have never truly loved me, and that this isn’t important. Because I matter to me. It’s easier to accept that my mother is severely ill. Because I know the world isn’t fair. And it’s easier to accept that maybe how I was raised in that church was possibly wrong. Because I have facts which support the opposite and I am riding my current wave of life with a sense of peace.
Peace may seem counterintuitive to some of the life examples I have now confided in you, but the better each one of us can come to accept that we may never have the answers, to deal with ambiguity, the healthier we can be mentally and emotionally. And everyone’s path is different to get there, and guess what? It’s never ending. I will continue to surprise myself as I continue to grow and evolve in this life and as I fight my demons. And this is a good thing. And so will you. Just keep on going.
Pride Month Raffle 2017 Post
I was raised in a church which didn’t really come out with it at the time, but they were against the “gay lifestyle” and “gay marriage” (They have come out with it now in no uncertain terms, which sadly has lead to suicides of young people, and it breaks my heart.). In fact I didn’t know being gay was a thing–something real until my freshman year of high school when my boyfriend told me his ex-girlfriend hand two moms.
I know the lack of talk about the reality of LGBTQ+ in the church and from my mother (a single parent), is probably because I grew up in a small town in Arizona, which to this day censors everything and strives to keep their little cranny of the world the same. No Walmart, no McDonalds, , and they put in their first traffic light in about 2011.
During those years, I never thought about being gay, even though I always found the female lead so much more attractive than her male costar at the movies, and when girls asked me who I had a crush on at recess, most of the time I just said a name–a boy’s name–even though I didn’t find any of them particularly attractive. I often chose boys who had been nice to me. But it never occurred to me that the girl I thought was the prettiest in school, was ranked as such by the boys in my class. (Straight boys that is.)
After getting out of that small town, I found myself as a team lead at a movie theatre at twenty years old while going to college. Since most of the team members were high school teens, I also found myself as many people’s confidant–regardless of feeling the least qualified to counsel kids on their problems–I was the school outcast for Zeus’ sake!
One person at that movie theatre stood out even until this day. We will call him Clayton. Clayton was sweet, eccentric, outgoing, and only about two years younger than me. Clayton came to me during a day shift, completely disheveled; he looked as if he’d been crying. Clayton told me his boyfriend cheated on him and left him. It had never occurred to me that Clayton was gay. I simply didn’t see people in categories like that–especially when we all wore the same uniform.
I looked into Clayton’s eyes as he told me what happened, what he was feeling, and asked me why. Why would he do such a thing? (A question I’ve been asking myself about my ex-wife.) His emotions were real, sincere, raw. He truly felt love toward this other man who had betrayed his trust.
I comforted Clayton the best I could–as I would anyone in his situation–as I recalled Proposition 102 to ban marriage equality in Arizona and the video produced by the leaders of my church riding the line of telling us how to vote “because if the bill was passed, the United States government would force the church to marry gay people” which even then seemed to me as a poor argument–I mean, hadn’t they read the Constitution?
In that moment Clayton gave me a gift. Something I have never been able to thank him for. I knew for the first time that love is love. Clayton was the first person to lead me down the path to discovering and accepting my own sexuality and to knowing it is not only okay, but natural to be gay.
In 1999 it was recorded that there were over 500 species in the animal kingdom–not just mammals–displayed homosexual behavior. But now studies show there are so many more. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_animals_displaying_homosexual_behavior)
I have read a few books on the subject of gender and sexuality–which are two very different things–as well which I highly recommend. The Riddle of Gender: Science, Activism, and Transgender Rights by Deborah Rudacille and Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People by Joan Roughgarden. But even without the science, from my own experiences and over the course of a few years I discovered and happily accepted that I am Pansexual–I sometimes go by Bisexual for simplicity.Now what does this have to do with art? My story has a lot to do with this particular piece of art featured this week. This is part of my identity, my life, my very biology, and I put my everything into my creative projects.
When I was a child I said I loved all the colors of the rainbow! All of them together! My parents quickly told me I couldn’t like the rainbow because that is what the gays used. And that was the extent of my home education on LGBTQ+!
I still love the rainbow colors, all together, and they mean even more to me since I am a part of a larger community. As I created this specific piece, I thought of all the wonderful people I have come to know in the LGBTQ+ community since leaving the church of my youth and learning I can be myself–and be myself with Pride.
So as a way to end Pride month and to celebrate with you, you can win this original piece of art! A piece of art which means so much to me.
Confessions, Random, and Sometimes Inappropriate Thoughts: Part 1
June 22, 2017
- Public bathrooms are the most uncomfortable places! Yet, they turn into my sanctuary when I need to hide from the world and the noise. But I must admit, it is awkward to set up camp in the handicap stall and then have a slew of women come in, waiting in line and I think to myself they are probably wondering where they have seen those bright, pink shoes before. THEN it becomes even more awkward when you have to pee, but you don’t want to lose your stall/camp. What’s the edicate on that? I go out to wash my hands and say to the next woman in line, “Oh I’m sorry, that’s my stall.” and either she is so shocked she doesn’t use it and I just walk back in there, or she uses it and I wait in line with the other women until I get to my stall and the women would be staring at the crazy person who was camping out in a stall AND trying to keep people out of it? It’s a good thing there are no people in wheelchairs right now at my job. Great now I sound like I don’t like handicap people!–That’s not what I mean! Anyway . . . I guess the solution is to carry hand sanitizer so I don’t have to exit my sanctuary–I mean–disgusting bathroom stall.
- Once I lived in a house with three other women which had only one bathroom. On more occasions than I care to admit, I couldn’t hold #1 or #2 any longer. I would walk out the back door to the yard, do my business, come back inside, marched straight to the bedroom, put my undies in the hamper, and whipped with tissues. I mean come on, I wasn’t going to hold it while the oldest woman in the house (and it’s owner) occupied the bathroom for 40 minutes to pamper and ready herself for work! And besides, her dog was almost as big as me, so I let everyone assume it was the dog. Being a size 0 and only 5’4″ made it plausible.
- When my roommate had viral meningitis I hadn’t seen her in a week because of our very different schedules. Over the weekend the thought crossed my mind that she could just be dead in her bedroom and I would never know! But then she commented on one of my post on Facebook and I thought, “Thank God! She’s alive!” When I really could have sent her a text, or, imagine this idea: knock on the door. Yeah I know that last one is way out there! This is how disconnected our society has become–or more rightly how disconnected I am from everyone else. Should I feel sorry for myself? I don’t know, that seems like more than I need and a lot of unnecessary work. You can feel sorry for me if you want.
- Confession: everything up to this point has been written in the largest stall of my day job’s bathroom BEFORE I peed, and yes, I did go out and wash my hands. You are welcome! But I suppose that would mean more to you if you were reading from the manuscript in my dollar store notebook . . . I’ve spent way too much time in that bathroom today.
- Once my step mother’s mother (are you still with me there?)–my step grandmother– told me she didn’t fart in front of her husband for 20+ years of their marriage! I mean she claimed he had never, ever heard or smelt it. My first thought was, “Well, I guess she doesn’t like it rough!”
You have been an amazing audience! Thank you!
Focusing On The Good
This past week has been one of those “sit on the toilet lid with your pants down” kind of weeks. But somehow I made it through and got all my allotted hours at work. Yesterday I layed on my back in bed, breathing slowly, meditating and feeling proud of myself and happy that I had all the weekend to myself. I was reminded of Rick Hanson’s book Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence and how he talked about focusing on the good–a memory, an achievement, a loved one–for about twenty seconds and really letting it sink in, will help hardwire your brain towards focusing on the good in your life rather than the bad.
(To find Rick Hanson’s book go to: https://smile.amazon.com/Hardwiring-Happiness-Science-Contentment-Confidence/dp/0385347332/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497725318&sr=8-1&keywords=hardwiring+happiness)
Some of the brain science is out of date, but as I have tried to put his suggestion into practise as I go throughout my day and especially when I meditate, I can see how much easier it is for me to find the good in my life. You see, we are built with a fight or flight syndrome, still on the lookout for what may or may not harm us, a survival mechanism. But we aren’t wired to find the good in life, that takes practise and neuroplasticity.
So as I was meditating yesterday, I found a few good things to focus on which have happened over the past week:
- I’ve had nightmares every night this week, but I don’t remember them when I wake up.
- Even though I haven’t seen my roommate in days, I know she got home safely when I slide out the chain lock to leave for work in the morning.
- I check my phone and see all the amazing fans who like my last post.
- As I bike to work, though the wind is against me, it has been a cool wind
- Biking and exercise are good for my depression and I feel much happier on the days I bike, rather than the days I’ve asked for a ride.
- I walk into work and people smile and tell me they are happy to see me.
- One of my coworkers shared some literature with me that was very important to her.
- I have a safe place to live, I don’t feel threatened in my neighborhood.
- I’ve had steady employment for six months!
- Help is simply a text message away.
- I have many friends and family members who love and support me.
- Music turns my day around if I let it.
- I know my friends and family love me and they tell me so.
- I have my own personal and creative space.
- I want for very little lately.
- I am making my dreams come true.
Another practise I take part in is everyday I carry a little note book around with colored pages, and as the day progresses, write out good things that are happening, rather than trying to make a list at the end of the day when I am most often alone, tired and might feel sad. My Dad recommended this about two months and two weeks ago and it has really helped me to be happier, even when things go a little crazy as they did this past week with my thoughts of self harm.
I highly recommend you giving these things a try. It’s hard at first, but happiness can be but a few thoughts away. Practise focusing on the positive and you will find your own happiness.
Beauty Comes From Pain
This past weekend was magical. I spent my hours creating art and other than eating and sipping coffee, I didn’t do much else. I posted on my social media pages, wrote blog posts and promoted my site to friends and family. It was fantastic. I love days like that where I can work on my projects.
But life came back around and I went back to work. It’s going well, but I’ve had my ups and downs and generally had a feeling of cabin fever. Nothing works, I can barely bring myself to draw. Last night was the worst. I went from feeling depressed, to numb, and then had thoughts of self harm. That hasn’t happened in a long time. I’m reminded of a poem I wrote back on April 27, 2017 that I call Fruitlessly Wondering Why:
My brother came over last minute to be with me and we talked. I told him of my dreams and ended up answering my own question, “What’s the point?” I’d asked. The point is I want a cat, two cats really, I want to pay for food, I want to buy a little house one day and grow my own garden. I want to make a living with my art and writing. That’s the point. That is why I am still here. And because I think I might be in love again, so I want to be my best self.
This morning, despite the nightmares, I got up, went to work, came home and ended up eating all the things which I shouldn’t. Things I bought on a late night bike ride to circle K last night after my brother left. I feel like I have no self control when it comes to food. And yes, I am gaining weight. These are the times I have to push through, work really hard to remember the good things and make myself draw. And tonight I am a little better for it.
You see, my art isn’t just a hobby and writing isn’t just a way to bring you into my site. They are necessary self care. My artistic outlets are part of my therapy. When I was hospitalized at the end of June and the beginning of July of 2015 I was introduced to art therapy. As we colored or used watercolor paints I found it was easier to express my childhood traumas and stressors at that time in my life.
When I feel anxious, if I can draw, color in a coloring book, write in my journal, my novels or a blog post like this one, I feel more grounded. Less like going out and doing something reckless because of my cabin fever about my life. Sometimes I feel emotions I can’t pin point to anything specific, but if I keep drawing or writing those emotions subside or can even be whipped away and I feel peace.
Of course art alone is not the answer to my condition and self care. I take a number of pills for anxiety, depression, and for better sleep daily. I meditate at least once a day. I keep in touch with close friends and family. And soon, I will be able to start therapy again. My lack of therapy is what makes all this so hard right now.
If you are experiencing troubles as I have expressed, please see a professional. Don’t think I have all the answers because honestly, no one does, least of all me. What works for me may not work for others and that is part of the beauty and adventure of being an individual.
So quite literally when someone tells me my art is beautiful I think of how it’s said beauty comes from pain, because that is where my art comes from. And I’d hope that beauty is in me as a person, how I treat others, and the newfound joys in my fairly recent life of independance from an abusive spouse.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I know I’m worth it and that my life matters. If I didn’t know these things, I don’t think I would be here to tell you about it. Please know, you are beautiful and you are capable, but also take care of yourself. Neglecting the self leaves you empty and incapable of doing anything. So don’t let someone bring you down, and don’t be that someone.
Your are worth it.
It’s Just HEALTH–Not “Mental Health”
If it hasn’t been made apparent already, I’m going to be honest and forthright about my cPTSD and soon, my experience as a domestic abuse survivor. I haven’t been putting trigger warnings because in the summary of this website I already informed you of some of the topics I would share with you.
I believe in being real. To put it in the words of Kalina Silverman, I believe in Big Talk and not small talk. (See the amazing TEDtalk below).
So in efforts of honesty and since I want this blog to not only be an outlet for me, but something I hope many of you can relate to, I have a confession: I haven’t been to my day job for over a week. Today is my first day back. You are probably reading this while I am making calls at my call center.
There is a pattern I’ve noticed, one I’ve been trying desperately to break, almost every month since I fled for my own safety from my spouse about six months ago, I have suffered from nightmares, insomnia, episodes of ugly crying, depressive episodes, anxiety so severe at times I can’t leave my apartment, and panic attacks which cause me to freeze in place. Immobile, terrified to make any sort of choice about anything.
With the childhood and marriage that I’ve had, all these things are natural physical reactions to the situations I found myself in. Yet in the “real world”, in the workplace, there is only so much understanding. Without notes from my phychitrist I would be unemployed right now. I must clarify, my job has been very understanding–the most understanding I’ve ever seen a job be toward someone like me. For this I am extremely grateful.
But this is exactly why we need to be open and vulnerable, to take part in Big Talk instead of small talk, no matter how uncomfortable it might be at first. This is also why mental health and PTSD awareness is so important. So people like me who have walked through the coals of Hell can keep a job, even if we aren’t always able and ready to work in this demanding American work culture.
1 in 4 people suffer (mostly in silence) from mental health concerns. That’s 25% of the population!
So who do you know? Statistically if it’s not you, you know someone who may suffer from violent flashbacks, who have been suicidal or even attempted suicide. But guess what? They aren’t telling you and you may even be the person who “has to” fire them because of lack of attendance.
One of my goals with this website is to tell my story to help people understand as much as they can without going through it, that mental health is HEALTH.
Stop calling it “Mental Health”, because these conditions are just as physical as a broken arm. It is HEALTH. Health concerns caused by heritable genes and/or being treated (to be blunt) as a piece of shit by people we thought we could trust, or someone who took advantage of us strangers or not.
It is here where I propose a movement, call it what it is; cPTSD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety etc. are HEALTH CONCERNS (and there are surely conditions I have failed to mention). The more this is realized and the more we treat these disorders as such, fewer people with these health concerns will be unemployed or homeless.
And am I scared I won’t be able to pay some of my bills? That this pattern won’t improve? Yes I am. But me and my health come first or else my symptoms will increase and I may become suicidal for the third time in my life. I’m not going to let that happen. I’m following my doctor’s orders and doing all I can with self care and positivity which is humanly possible as I start over and create my new life. I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by amazing, non-toxic friends and family members of whom I see often. It was the abuse, neglect–a lack of consideration towards me and my health from others and myself (feeling I was worthless, trained to have low self esteem) which made me suicidal.
Do I feel bad about not going to work the last few days? A little. But the consequences are far greater. So I’ll keep fighting, keep taking care of me and will one day come to the point where going to work isn’t so hard or hindered by my symptoms. And if you are suffering in silence, keep fighting. Life slowly gets better the harder you fight for yourself. Live life assertively and call it what it is, this is your HEALTH. If you need someone to talk to I’m here, but if you need help, seek a professional–there is never shame in taking care of yourself.
The Creative Process And Keeping Myself Steady
The creative process is an odd thing. For some people they doodle, play with paper clips, play around on the computer or on Facebook. For me, last night I wrote my first piece of slam poetry as a way to evict the anxiety from my pounding chest, and sang along to my favorite songs. Yet, I made little progress on the piece of art before me.
My anxiety (which is part of my complex PTSD) stops me from doing many things. I wonder if many people can relate to what I wrote and the way I express my struggles. And if you could please keep in mind, this is my first attempt at slam poetry, I call it “Smoke Before There’s a Fire”:
I have learned through therapy for my complex PTSD a lot about thoughts and how one thinks affects their lives greatly. So I have held myself to a few promises to keep my thoughts beneficial and positive in my life.
#1 There is never a bad day. I have unpleasant moments and times where a goal or action does not go as I expected, but I do my best not to label it as “bad” or in a negative way. If I do, it can be added to a list of terrible things which could pull me into a spiral of despair where I want to curl into a ball and hide from the world forever.
#2 I don’t do anything stupid, and neither do you. All of us make choices and then have the consequences to deal with. If I made a choice which had an undesirable outcome, I take responsibility, but I don’t judge myself or call myself names. When these things happen I have new information I didn’t have before, and I do my best to learn from it and move on. It never pays to stay in the past or add to all the insults I’ve already endured in my life.
I take these views in not just my life and health but with my art as well. I do not judge, and there is never bad abstract art, that is one reason it is my main form of art and I’d have to say my favorite. Abstract art is malleable and flexible, just as I try to be in life. I try new things and try to learn from my experiences, sometimes even when my anxiety is trying to pull me backwards.
Even with these practises, just like anyone else I get discouraged. Often I find this happens when I am spreading myself thin. The activities I find the most joy in, like my art and writing, feel useless, so “blah”. And this is when I know I need sleep, a break, food or just to unwind by some other means, I may even just need space. A lot lately, I’m emotionally processing events from my marriage, which ended just six months ago.
These are also the times in my creative process and life where my affirmations come in. I remind myself:
I am talented, I am capable, I am smart, I can work at my own pace, It’s okay to slow down.
Some artists and other creative people may be able to simply sit down and complete a task. But for people like me (people with mental health conditions) each and every part of our lives are buttressed by self care and positive thought processes, sometimes making what we do choppy and seem unorderly. It is not with pride that I say I am more often in awe of what I do, can get finished, and have battled in the past. Because for people like me, even doing the things we love takes work.
So that is my artistic and creative process, and in part, my process to life to keep myself steady.
Who Is C. Lake?
Do you ever get that feeling like you are a kid again and you are so excited for Christmas morning, or waiting for recess, or to get home so you can play with your favorite toy? Anticipation building which you cannot contain? In the wait your excitement is building until you feel like you are going to explode! That is how I feel at this very moment and every time I hold a pen in my hand.
I’m C. Lake, and I’m an abstract artist, poet, and novelist. In fact, I’ve been waiting for this day, to introduce myself to you with the same balled up excitement, anticipation, and even baited breath as the childhood excitement of even the first time I went to Disneyland!
I’ve been drawing and writing ever since I could hold a pen, in both hands in fact, I happen to be ambidextrous. My parents told me a story where I was sitting in the front of the shopping cart in a Michael’s craft store and how I took hold of a red handled paint brush and wouldn’t let it go. So I’ve been painting too.
Art was my first dream and writing my second, but, as I’m sure many of you can agree, our first dreams often get lost, burried, change, or people say, “You’ll never make money doing that!” or “What job can you get with that degree?”
So we shift, give up our loves, our first dreams and the things which brought us so much thrill we could hardly contain it, and became “adults”. We get jobs or degrees that lead us into careers which may–but mostly do not–give us the uncontrollable joy of some of our first dreams.
If you and I are alike, you shelved your book and let your art supplies collect dust as you “went to work for the man” to earn as much money as you could. And if we have even more in common, you hated every job and found yourself very unhappy with your life.
I’ve had ups and downs. So many it will take a book to one day recount them all as I’ve rode the waves of life. And here I am, two months shy of 29, finally in a position, and most importantly, with the conviction, to live my dreams and that no thing or being will be able to stop me. Not my past or another large crushing wave which may be in my future.
Pasts and futures. Now these two things I know very well, probably too well. I have complex PTSD and I’m a domestic abuse survivor. Some may feel empathy, whether they can relate to these facts or not, and I appreciate that. But I wear them as badges of honor–it’s the only way to make it through. For I have won. I’ve fought my battles, slayed my demons, and pushed myself past my past and future worryings (my depression and anxiety) and linger in the moment. Each moment if I can, with my pen and paper, because it grounds me in the now.
I’ve learned life gets better if you work hard enough on yourself and the things that matter. What matters is different for every person, and can/does change as we grow. I’ve simply been drawn back to my roots, pulled to my art and writing after the latest crashing wave life threw at me. And I couldn’t be happier to share my art and creative writing with you now that I have come so far and been through so much.
So please enjoy! I plan to blog at least once a week, and I am always creating new pieces of art, in fact the walls of my room are covered in upcoming works you will be able to view and buy in my gallery in the next month, in addition to the ones listed now. Please be sure to email me with any questions or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow me on Facebook and Tumblr@clakecreations, and on Instagram @c.lakecreations!