My Gut Saved My Life.

“Intuition is always right in at least two important ways;
It is always in response to something.
it always has your best interest at heart”
Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence

Gavin de Becker wrote an incredible book, “The Gift of Fear.” In the book,  he highlights the warning signs that often precede a violent crime. In his research he emphasizes that our intuition (gut) will let you know if a person is safe or not. It is in those initial moments of interaction that we can sense whether someone is safe or not.

The problem is, women are socialized to be nice over being safe (and trusting their gut). This is why Ted Bundy used a broken arm to lure women to their death. He knew his weakness would lower women’s ability to say no, even though I am certain they could sense something about him was not right.

Intuition is not always a scary thing.

A few years ago, I was attending a professional conference in Austin, Texas. As professional conferences tend to become late night parties, I did not end up back at my hotel until really late one night. The taxi dropped me off at what looked like my hotel and when I walked in, I realized that I was at the wrong Hampton Inn. Apparently, there are several Hampton Inns in Austin.

This situation was particularly frustrating because I was a broke college student. I was barely able to afford the conference let alone all the additional cost of another cab ride. In the midst of sharing my stress with the desk clerk, two middle-aged men offered to take me to my hotel at no cost. I sized them up and decided that this was a fine idea.

Mind you, it was now around 1am and I was getting into a strange car, with two men I did not know, in a state far from home. Not one person knew where I was or where I was going. My cell phone died hours before. This easily could have ended in a Dateline Murder Mystery. Thankfully, it did not. I arrived safely at my hotel and crashed out.

Why is that story important to me? I trusted my gut. I try my best to make this a hard and fast life rule. My gut tells me what to do and what not to do. When I sized these men up, I paused to consider how I felt about them. There were no red flags (other than they were men and I was a young vulnerable woman). The hairs on the back of my head did not stand up. I did not get a stomachache. I did not feel like running towards the door. My face did not get red. I was not suspicious. These men did not pressure me to get in the car. They did not make me feel guilty. I was not afraid of them or intimidated by them. I rode with them more out of convenience then desperation.

It turned out fine and I saved money. I am grateful that these kind men were able to help me out of a bind. In retrospect, it was not an ideal situation but we are sometimes put in less than ideal situations and forced to make a decision. Unfortunately, cabs and ubers are not always safe either.

“Only human beings can look directly at something, have all the information they need to make an accurate prediction, perhaps even momentarily make the accurate prediction, and then say that it isn’t so.”
Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence

In my late teens and early twenties, I did not listen to my gut and this resulted in dangerous situations with unsafe people. Thankfully, I was not seriously hurt but I was definitely in situations where that could have happened. Frankly, I’m too embarrassed to go into detail but if we were friends when I was an undergrad, I’m sure you can identify a few of the aforementioned incidents.

If you are one of my best friends you are familiar with the phone call: My gut says something is off or my gut says I need to do this. And even though I’m calling for support, I know what I need to do. When you follow your gut you may have to do things that might make you feel guilty or bad but when I consider my options: I would rather be safe than sorry.

How do you trust your gut?

Pay attention to to your body! Your body is highly invested in survival. If your stomach starts to turn, your hairs stand up on your neck, you think “they’re lying,” you feel like something is not right, and/or you “just know”that you shouldn’t: DON’T DO IT! Your gut is a primal tool set to survival mode. Use it.

Also, I believe that your gut has the ability to encourage you to go for something if “it’s right.” So, believe your gut if it says: “Hey, that person is cute” or “You could totally do that job” or “You should ask for that raise.”

Your gut has your best interest in mind. Give it some love.

 

“The subjects did not always follow through with what their slightly sweaty palms were telling them to do, but the slightly sweaty palms were almost always right – in fact, they even had the ability to predict the future (by about 2-3 seconds).” – The Science Behind Intuition

Love.

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I Know Where Your Keys Are.

“Multitasking is a lie”
Gary Keller

(Note: Talk about self-fulfilling prophecy. I wrote this post a few weeks ago and literally lost my keys last week and cannot find them anywhere. So it goes.)

I spend a lot of time looking for my keys. A friend of mine even put up a hooks for my keys at each entry point of my house because he was tired of spending time helping me look for my keys. I am ashamed at how seldom I use the key hooks. The reason I forget where my keys are is not entirely a function of a bad memory (that I know of).  It is that I am not paying attention when I put them down. When I come home from work, I drop my bags and keys where I stop and this is not the same spot everyday.  Thus, the search for my keys becomes a regular struggle.

If I don’t pay attention to what I’m doing I can’t form a memory of the event.

This is what happens when you’re scrolling through social media on your phone and your partner asks you something and later says “remember when I asked you about this?” and you really cannot remember. You did not form a memory. You were not paying attention to what the person was saying and so it was not absorbed into your brain.

Yes, people can struggle with short-term memory challenges but a lot of what I see happening is not memory problems as much as a lack of paying attention to your life. This can be because you are thinking of what you have to do next, you are watching television, you are reading, you are on the phone, or you are anxious about something and hanging out in What If Land. The truth is you were not paying attention to what was happening in the right now.

How to improve your memory (unless you legitimately have a brain injury or a neurological disorder; if so, contact a physician).

Slow down.

Do one thing at a time and take your time doing it.

Pause while doing the task and review what you are doing.

Limit unnecessary outside noise so your brain only has to process one thing at a time. This is why when we are driving and lost (or the weather is bad) we turn the radio down. It allows our brain to focus on the task at hand.

Do not agree to do things you do not have time to do.

Sometimes it helps to say what you’re doing out loud as you are doing the task. For example, when I leave the house I say, “Doors locked, dogs inside, gate up, alarm set, good to go.” This way if you are stressing about whether or not you did those things you will remember that you went through the task out loud. You will have formed a memory that you did this and will be less likely to stress all day about if you locked the door or not.

I know it’s a bummer that a vast majority of us cannot do two things at once and do them well. And, I know that some of you won’t believe me and will even pride yourself on your ability to multitask.

But:

Research also shows that, in addition to slowing you down, multitasking lowers your IQ. A study at the University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what they’d expect if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night. IQ drops of 15 points for multitasking men lowered their scores to the average range of an 8-year-old child.” Travis BradberryMultitasking Damages Your Brain And Career, New Studies Suggest

So, take your time getting things done and then come help me find my keys.

Love.

 

My Time In Therapy.

“I know you said that you do not like the word survivor, but its just saying that you lived through, you survived, things that were traumatic…which was (and is) true. Much metta” 

I had my first session with a client as a therapist in 2005. I can remember every bit of the experience. I could probably recite, verbatim, every word we exchanged. To say I was nervous is an understatement – I was a wreck. It meant everything (and means everything) to me to be good at this work. Not to mention, my training involved years of clinical professors analyzing me through two-way mirrors and commenting on my every little move. At the time, I hated that process, but now I see the benefits of such intense self-reflection and self-awareness.

Then I needed to see a therapist. 

I have always struggled with depression and anxiety, and for the most part, I have been able to manage it fairly well. However, in early 2010, depression swept me up like a tsunami. I was not sleeping well (among other things) and I had the thought (at about 3am), “I could just disappear.” It wasn’t that I wanted to die, but it wasn’t that I wanted to live either. That thought scared the shit out of me. I knew in that moment, I needed professional support. In retrospect, I should have called for help much earlier.

I asked some of my colleagues for recommendations. I presented for my first appointment (scared and vulnerable) in front of a woman a few years older than me. From the beginning, she avoided eye contact. She asked me several stock questions, in a flat tone, and wrote out notes on a legal pad. At one point, I was describing how I was feeling and she said, “Oh wow!” and scribbled something on the pad. I thought to myself, “This sucks.” I left that appointment feeling even more hopeless.

As I reflect on the experience, I think if I had not been a therapist and known that there were better therapists than this, I may have never tried again. It takes immense courage to present in front of a complete stranger and lay your story bare. This business is serious stuff. I suppose she might have been off her game that night. Who knows, I never saw her again.

Still needing help, I tried once more. I asked around and this time the masses recommended Ken*. I sat in the waiting room of a dimly lit historic home that had been lightly (it still looked and felt like a house) remodeled into offices. A thin balding man with a Hawaiian shirt came down the stairs to greet me. He smiled warmly and called me by name. As we walked toward his office, he asked if I liked dogs. I replied that I love dogs. This is when a three-legged collie appeared (I cannot make this up).  I sat in a soft comfortable chair and the dog curled up near my feet.

Little by little, I disclosed the details of my story. He nodded and asked all the right questions. There was no legal pad with scribbles. It was simply, perfectly, and beautifully a conversation between a scared, sad person (me) and a person saying that it was okay to be scared and sad. He told me this repeatedly for months. I wish I could tell you that he had a bag of tricks or magic words but that was not the magic at all. The magic was that he never tried to make me feel better. It was safe to share the scary thoughts and feelings and in doing so, it made them less scary and sad. It sounds simple, but there was nothing simple (or easy) about that process for me.

Let me also add that I have an incredible support system. My partner, my friends, and my family were literally by my side through this period in my life. But, when I hurt they hurt. I needed someone with a bit more objectivity. Someone that could sit with my pain and not try to make it better. That was the alchemy of my time with Ken – deep pain and sadness transmuted into intense love and compassion. The only way out of pain is through, and I needed someone to light the way.

I write this story because reflecting on my work with him fills me with so much gratitude, it’s intoxicating. My work with him changed my life and may have saved my life. It also taught me to treat my profession with greater reverence. I literally understand the level of vulnerability that sits in front of me on a daily basis. I am humbled and honored that this is what I get paid to do with my life.

Even now, when I need to, I see a therapist where I live (I’ve since moved away from Ken). My current therapist is remarkable (and she is certainly magical).

Ken and I shared email correspondence throughout our time together and I’ve included two excerpts (including the quote at the top).

“Dear Ken, Sometimes the most valuable lessons our parents teach us are through their mistakes and suffering. This should not get lost in all that sunny-side shit. I credit my parents for these very reasons. They helped me “be better” by their own struggles. I have to believe we all do the best we can with what we have to work with. This inevitably will be different for everyone. There is so much to be learned in the darkness. lovingkindness.”

Love.

*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality and the integrity of the relationship.

 

 

 

Baby, They Ain’t Gonna Change.

“Stepping onto a brand-new path is difficult, but not more difficult than remaining in a situation, which is not nurturing to the whole woman.”
Maya Angelou

The season finale of Sex and The City had me so angry. Namely, Mr. Big had an awakening. He realized that, after all, he was in love with Carrie.  And, he rescued her from the mean artist ballerina guy. All the viewers received the message: If I wait this out they’ll change for me. 

NO!

I loved that show. I lived on that show. I wore out my VHS tapes watching that show. That finale was a bag of BS! (well, now the show is 20 years old and quite dated)

In many ways, I’ve dedicated my life to the belief that people can change. I know that with a lot of hard work, improved insight, self-awareness, loving support, and on occasion, a damn good therapist (sometimes medication) – you can absolutely change your life. Let me also mention, it takes a lot of humility to employ all the necessary components to set your life on a different track.

This post is dedicated to the people waiting on a certain person in their life to change. “If they just change/realize/see how much I mean to them.” Please stop doing that. Your sweet life is too short to waste waiting on another person to do anything to make you happy. If they wanted to change, they would. It is that simple. It is also that hard to grasp. We like to complicate things as a way to avoid the truth. If a person wants to change their life, they will change their life. There are stages of change but we can talk about that on a different day.

What if I leave and I never know if they could be the person I need them to be?

My response: Are they the person you need them to be right now? No? Have you told them what you need and nothing changes? Yes?  And they still didn’t change? ….

It’s that simple.

I use the phrase comfortably uncomfortable a lot. This means that your current situation is not what you want it to be, but you are too scared to do something different. So, you stay thinking, praying, and hoping that it will change.

Truth: your situation will not change unless you do something different. Your happiness is your responsibility and no one else’s.

Sometimes you have to shake up situation and step out for awhile. Let the person know that your words and actions are consistent. You need (and deserve) certain things from a relationship and if the other person can not give you those things, you need to not be in that relationship. Then, you need to follow through on this statement. The more you threaten someone that you’ll leave if they don’t give you what you need, the less they trust your words and the less you trust yourself.

This does not mean you have to end things, but you do have to make the situation uncomfortably uncomfortable to see if that brings about change. Sometimes this works and sometimes it does not. The best shot you have is to align your actions and your words. If you say this is not working and do nothing but complain, the other person simply stops listening to you. Truthfully, the situation might be working just fine for them, so why would they change?

I can tell you for sure what does not bring about change: badgering someone, threatening them, texting/calling incessantly, begging or crying for them to pay attention to you, name-calling, telling friends and family, and airing your troubles on social media.

It boils down to this: Tell the person what you need and pay attention to what they do, not what they say (talk is so cheap my loves). If they don’t give you what you need, you have a choice to make: accept the relationship as it is or change your situation.

Love.

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
Rumi

Guest Post! Don’t Fret Yet: The Planet Isn’t Actually Shrinking

Author: Jared Sipes

“The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know.” – Socrates

In 2005, I was barely into my 21st year of life. I didn’t know anything about the world I lived in, outside of a mild beginning of interest in U.S. politics. And then I made my first trip outside of the U.S. Germany, to be exact. When making plans with the person I was going to visit, they also mentioned a visit to Prague. I told a coworker, who said, “Oh, the Czech Republic, huh? Cool!” I agreed, “yeah, definitely!” What I didn’t admit, was that I had never even heard of the Czech Republic before. I was a product of a small-town public school that didn’t put much stock in teaching kids about the world and focused more time on practical things and when it came to social sciences, tended to focus more on the American side of things, and I was never curious enough to seek out any additional information. I thought I didn’t need to. I thought it didn’t matter.

Before I go bandying about throwing around superlatives about the life-changing experience that travel to a foreign country can be (and which likely everyone has heard before), I will say this: it is not necessary to travel to learn about the differences and similarities in the world around us. I’m personally never one to berate those who don’t have a passport or don’t express interest in international travel. It’s expensive! It’s overwhelming! It’s different! But it’s not that different, really. And this is why informing yourself and having a global perspective of your life is important.

Let’s look at the concept of Globalization, which by definition is “a process of interaction and integration among the people, companies, and governments of different nations, a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology.” What this means to you, Ordinary Citizen, is that we as a planet are growing closer by the day, so why not try to understand that world a bit more, especially when it is easier now than it has ever been in history? You can find newspapers, magazine articles, and blogs from around the world detailing every bit of news everywhere – and just like travel, it can be overwhelming.

However, knowing these things, knowing about other countries, cultures, political systems, and societies, not only can make you a better person, it makes you a better global citizen. If you seek information on your own, you’re less likely to rely upon an “article a friend posted on Facebook” and can instead fight misinformation, and offer a different perspective from those who may not have thought otherwise.

I know this is a lot to ask, and it’s hard for a lot of people to relate to people, places, and things that they consider to be “foreign” – but I have a feeling (and maybe a bit of knowledge from my own personal experience) – that the more you dig around, the more you understand, the more you’ll see that we’re all not so different after all, and you’d be surprised how much better it feels to be able to relate to someone else’s experience, rather than point out our differences.

We go on and on about our differences. But, you know, our differences are less important than our similarities. People have a lot in common with one another, whether they see that or not.” – William Hall

What’s in Your Bag of Rocks?

You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness. – Brene Brown

Someone once said to me “we all have our bag of rocks.” I love that expression because it so simply captures the human experience.

Everyone has parts of them or parts of their lives that they wish were different but cannot be. As I say a lot, nobody’s life is perfect and no matter how hard you try your life will never be without some pain and imperfection.

Sometimes in life, a rock is tossed at us and we try our hardest to toss it back or bury it or however else you want to play out the analogy. But, if we don’t grab the rock the first time it keeps being shoved in our face reminding us that it is sitting there waiting to be shoved in the bag.

If we try to avoid our rocks it can create a lot of problems in our lives. I have watched people live their lives in deep denial in an effort to avoid feeling bad about the way things are which only makes them feel worse because they are always hiding. Denial and dishonesty only makes things worse for you and everyone around you.

There is no way to hide the rocks or make them go away.

When faced with painful life situations we have choices. I think there are healthy ways to accept our situation and unhealthy ways to deny our truth. I think depending on the situation that we want to be different, it is unhealthy and deceitful to say “I don’t care” when of course you care and of course you should care. Saying “I don’t care” does not magically lead to not caring.

We do care about the things that happen to us and to the people we love (no magical away around pain in life) That’s why it hurts and it is okay that it hurts. The more people and things you love the more vulnerable you are to hurt.

But would you really want to love less to avoid hurt?

Saying, “I do care and it hurts like hell that this happened and in some cases it will probably always hurt” is a form of looking closely at your bag of rocks.

I think sometimes in life we have to slowly and painfully examine the situations and ask ourselves:

“What do I do now?”

And

“Now that this has happened what is the healthiest most loving way of handling it moving forward?

Then there is need to share your bag of rocks with the people close to you. My father has schizophrenia (and so does my grandmother) and those are just some of the big boulders I tote around. I have tried all kinds of ways to hide those boulders but that only made me feel worse and ashamed.

Sometimes when I shared those rocks with people they reacted in ways that were extremely hurtful (because I care) but when I shared those rocks with Mr. Beard he looked at me like they were little pebbles. So, you never know how people will view your bag. And, not everybody gets the privilege of seeing all the rocks in your bag. 

I am suggesting that you grab hold of your bag of rocks and examine it closely. The longer you live the more rocks you accumulate and no one lives without a bag. And, although you will try, there is no way to put the bag down.

So, if we can’t put it down maybe all we can do is learn healthier ways to carry it around.

Love.

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Image from: http://thedailyquotes.com/stop-trying-to-be-perfect/

Make Friends or Die Early.

In some ways it is harder to make friends as adults. We don’t have the fortune of being forced to interact socially on a daily basis like in school or even in college (or if you were like me and you kept going to college). But, as hard as it may be to make friends as an a adult it is as essential as eating healthy and exercising regularly if you want a long healthy life.

What is forgotten or not understood about social connections is that they are significantly linked to longer, happier, and healthier lives.” Brody (2012)

“The results show people with strong social relationships increased their odds of survival over a certain time period by 50 percent, the researchers say. That’s on par with ceasing smoking, and nearly twice as beneficial as physical activity in terms of decreasing your odds of dying early.”  – Rachael Rettner (2010)

I understand that balancing a family and work life are daunting tasks and the thought of adding additional social obligations may sound impossible. I am not suggesting that people have to go out and make a lot of friends and have a full social calendar to meet their social needs.

Each of us have varying needs related to healthy social connections. Some people may need one or two close friends and others may need larger social networks.

Only you know what feels right for you. But, starving yourself of social connection is not an option. That’s when you end up lowering your expectations and interacting with people that may be unhealthy for you. Because, being socially connected is a real essential need like eating or drinking. Unless, you are a sociopath? But, you’re probably not.

Also, some people are fortunate enough to have family members that double as friends and their social needs are met through those relationships. However, some people do not have those types of relationships with their families. In these cases, they can create a family through strong sustained social connections with friends and this I’ve learned is a pretty amazing thing.

So now that we have established that having social connections is essential to living a long healthy and happy life, how do we go about making friends as adults?

Today, I am going to focus on the communication component involved in developing a friendship. It does require some time investment but as I’ve mentioned it is worth it.

When is the last time you asked someone: “How are you?”

Or any variation of an open ended question:

What did you think of that?

What brings you here?

What do you like about this?

And then:

  1. Honestly cared about the response
  2. Really listened (patiently) to the response without interrupting or thinking about something/somewhere else
  3. Did not offer a solution if they presented you with a problem they were facing but listened with the goal of understanding
  4. Did not say “I understand because the same thing happened to me when _____” (which is impossible and also invalidating because no matter how similar your situations we are all different people)
  5. Patiently let them finish what they were sharing before interjecting
  6. Asked follow up questions related to their response to better understand where they are coming from.
  7. BONUS: Asked if there was anything you could do for them!

I completely understand that I am asking a lot of you in the above interaction. It takes a lot of time to go through that scenario (not really).

I think a lot of us are aware of how much we want someone to care about us and how WE are doing but for a friendship or intimate relationship to build you also have to be willing to regularly ask open ended questions and be then be prepared to do the work associated with listening.

Asking “How are you?” and then listening, asking follow up questions, being patient, and asking if there is anything they need demonstrates in a significant way that you care about the person and the person will feel valued and magically so will you through this interaction.

I think we are taught that we need to have certain things (cars, homes, kids, jobs) to be worthy of social connection so we put our best face forward in our conversations. I have watched this lead to people feeling immediately disconnected from the person. I believe we feel the most connected around our vulnerabilities and feeling validated in the: life is hard struggle we all face.

So saying you don’t have time for friends might leave you with less time overall.

Love.

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Image from: http://Found on bloglovin.com

We Need to Talk About Domestic Violence

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

I’ve heard people say it’s not domestic violence if he doesn’t hit me. Physical violence is emotional violence and emotional violence is physical violence.

I’m going to use the male pronoun throughout this post but this does not suggest that men are never victims of domestic violence.  Also, we are starting to understand the dynamics of domestic violence in same-sex relationships.

Although, I plan to talk more specifically about anger and violence in later posts. I think that for men and women fear, sadness, shame, and other feelings associated with vulnerability manifest in anger and violence. Culturally, we do a poor job of teaching children healthy ways to manage emotions and the results have been catastrophic. This is not an excuse for the behavior but context from which to understand.

Domestic violence is often misunderstood because it is so complicated. Often, the relationship dynamics don’t start with outright physical or emotional violence. Slowly, through emotional manipulation and guilt the people in the relationship become isolated. Also, the person that is abusive is not always a monster. In fact, he/she can have many amazing parts to their personality. This makes the situation extremely confusing for the victim because “He’s really sweet most of the time” or “He feels really bad when he hurts me” or “I know he loves me”

When someone hits you it isn’t just physical. When someone hits you it affects you emotionally in ways that can not be quantified. Your self-worth is demolished. Your sense of safety is destroyed. Your trust in yourself is shattered. This is all in addition to whatever physical pain you’re experiencing as a result of the act of physical violence.

This is when denial and making excuses is dangerous and possibly deadly. If you’ve ever said “He only hit me once and he didn’t mean it or it was an accident or he was drunk or I was acting badly” please get help now.

It will happen again and it will be worse. 

There is the shame spiral of stuckness: “how did I end up in this situation?” and “what do I do now” and “where can I go” and “I don’t have any money” and “what about my kids” and “if I leave he’ll kill me.”

If you feel like you can’t leave a situation because you’re scared of what he’ll do, you are in an abusive situation.

If someone calls you stupid, fat, bitch, worthless, whore, (or anything of that variation), you are in an abusive situation.

If your partner forces you to have sexual relations when you don’t consent, you are in an abusive situation.

If someone actively cuts you off from the people you love and/or makes you feel guilty when you connect with other people, you are in an abusive situation.

If someone is following you, calling you, or continues to solicit attention from you and you don’t want their attention and/or the attention makes you uncomfortable, you are in an abusive situation.

Even if your parter never hurts the children involved they are being affected in ways that researchers are only beginning to understand. Witnessing domestic violence is child abuse. 

If you have any concerns that you might be in an abusive situation, you might be in an abusive situation. You may not fit squarely into one of the above categories but if your gut says you are not safe YOU ARE NOT SAFE!

And you should get help right now. I mean, stop reading this blog post right now and call someone you love and tell them how you feel.

If you don’t have someone to call, this is a link to the National Domestic Violence 24/7 hotline.

Tell people what’s happening. Tell all of your safest friends and family. Go to a therapist immediately. Talk to your doctor. Put together a safety plan for getting out.

And, if your partner suggests to you that the situation is abusive and you make her feel guilty or bad for feeling that way, you are being abusive.

If someone asks you to stop calling them or texting them and you do it anyway, you are being abusive.

If someone is afraid to leave you because you have made threats as to what you will do, you are being abusive.

If you feel like you might be being abusive, this is not healthy for you and the best thing you can do is get help immediately. Call a therapist. Talk to your friends. Tell people you love and trust that something is wrong and you need help immediately.

A relationship should always feel safe and open. I will never own my partner and if he decided he did not want to be with me anymore it would break my heart and destroy me but I have to let him go because I don’t own him.

He is his own person, always.

Even if I desperately want him to stay he always has the freedom to leave.

I can not guilt him into staying. That is abuse. It is emotional manipulation. 

If you ever find yourself in a domestic violence situation please, I beg you, get help before something disastrous happens.

Please. Please. Please.

Love.

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Image from: http://vcgcb.ca.gov/victims/dv2013kit.aspx

Bad Memory Days

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”
― John MiltonParadise Lost

When you’ve experienced a traumatic event or events (and you get to define what is traumatic for you) your brain and body can react in many different ways.

Memories, thoughts and feelings can become curious and unpredictable things.

Sometimes the bad memories associated with the traumatic event may creep up on you like the shadows that crawl up the side of the wall at the end of the day.

Very slowly, until all of a sudden you are surrounded by darkness.

Sometimes, it isn’t even the event that you remember but just an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness that comes out of nowhere.

The feeling that reminds you of the intense and real vulnerabilities of life.

Some days, you can go along like nothing happened. On the other days, the bad memories can kidnap you instantly out of the right now and drag you kicking and screaming into the past.

These feelings and thoughts may not last all day or they may last for several days. You probably don’t have a lot of control as to how long you’ll stay saturated in the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

During those bad memory days it’s hard, if not impossible, to escape from the intrusive thoughts and focus on what needs to get done.

What we know about bad memory days is that the more we try to make the thoughts go away the stronger and more powerful they get. Sometimes that means, despite your wishes, you may have to make friends with these bad memories or thoughts. Or at least, make room for them in your life because they’re not going anywhere. You know the memories are there but fighting them is futile.

It sounds counterintuitive but letting go of the fight and accepting you are having a bad memory day (or bad memory moments) might actually help you feel better.

On these days, it is so important to just try and breathe.

And, sometimes it helps to remind yourself that “you’re safe” by actually saying it out loud (and talking to yourself does not mean you are crazy)

Saying “I’m safe” and taking deep breaths can create spaces between your bad memories.

I believe self-care is paramount every day but if you’re having a bad memory day self care becomes as essential as eating and drinking.

For some people they may want to take a bath, wrap themselves tightly in a blanket, and limit the amount of exposure they have to stimulating sights and sounds.

It helps to have a to-do list of self-care items prepared for these kinds of days. It also helps to have a person (or persons) that you feel safe enough to sit with or call. You may or may not want to share what the specifics but it helps to know someone cares.

If you have bad memory days a lot and they are interfering with your ability to live a life you love please do yourself a favor: Talk to a professional therapist and see a physician. Getting professional help takes a lot of courage. It is an immeasurable act of self-love to ask for help.

Love.

“Ouch, I have lost myself again
Lost myself and I am nowhere to be found,
Yeah, I think that I might break
Lost myself again and I feel unsafe”

Sia, Breathe Me

Hey Jealousy!

Let me start by saying that I think jealousy and envy are normal human emotions but just like all of our other feelings they say much more about us than they do about the person(s) our jealousy is directed towards.

I understand that part of current social narrative is that there is a finite amount of happiness/success available and if you appear to be too happy/successful you are certainly stealing from what could be my happiness/success and I’m not okay with that.

Yes, life is not fair. Some people are born with significantly more advantages than others and we should do our best to acknowledge our privilege and try to level the playing field but no matter what life will always be unfair and bad things will always happen to good people. This can not be an excuse for not pursuing the life you want.

I was doing some reading for this piece and I found a selection from Psychology Today that highlights what I see as the problems with the current social narrative. I am going to respectfully disagree with some of the points in the article.

Here’s one excerpt:

“But once you recognize envy, it may lose its sting. A friend who is envious can still be a good friend. The solution may be to crow less, applaud your friend more, pay more attention to her or find other topics and arenas where you don’t compete.”

No! I am not going to crow less. It sounds like she is saying you should dull your sparkle so that people don’t get jealous or shrink yourself so people don’t feel like you’re asking for attention.

You don’t have that kind of power over other people’s reactions.

Would you really rather people start conversations with, “Are you capable of being happy for me or should I stop talking?”

How about crow together? Life is hard and we should really celebrate all the little successes of our friends and family. I love when my friends reach their goals or go on wonderful adventures. Sure, I get jealous but then I get motivated.

Now this excerpt:

Ask yourself, “If I could be that other person instead of myself, who would I pick?”

Stop this now. They are lying to us: It is not a competition. 

When jealousy crops up life becomes like a choose your own adventure novel.

You can:

Focus on that person and think “must be nice” or “they don’t know anything about the struggle” or thousands of variations on that statement.

Or

You can acknowledge that you feel jealous and then put your phone down and get about the business of making your life better in some way. Jealousy has the power to be a significant motivator if we channel it correctly. Use that energy to achieve your goals rather than talk about how bad you have it and how good you think they have it (wasted energy and everybody struggles).

Remember the Valued Living Exercise? If you clicked on the link and saw the list of 377 values (and I’ve seen more detailed lists). Imagine, all the possible constellations of values. And imagine how those are all self-defined.

Meaning, that what I define as success and happiness might not fit perfectly for you, even if we value the same things.

BECAUSE WE ARE DIFFERENT PEOPLE.

But, what probably makes me the most jealous are things that align closely with my own values (yet another clue for me to reflect on and gain self awareness).

Maybe, if you’re jealous and it is interfering with your relationship with someone it doesn’t mean you want the life they have. Maybe it means you aren’t really pursuing what could be your own form of an awesome life. And sometimes people don’t even know what would be an awesome life for them (so use your emotional reactions as clues!)

If you want happiness/success you have to go and figure out what that looks like for you. The goal is not to never feel jealousy again but to use our emotions as a clues to figure out how you are honestly feeling about your own life.

“But then there’s you telling me I can
Then there’s you screaming say something
I want the ocean right now
I want the ocean right now
I get so jealous that I can’t even work
There I am in the morning
I don’t like what I see
I don’t know how it’s become such a problem
Keep you up all night if I try to remain calm
How can they ask why I feel so angry
Do you see my problem if I never explain it”

Tegan and Sara, So Jealous

Love.

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