Restless Life Syndrome

“I’m restless. Things are calling me away. My hair is being pulled by the stars again.”

Anaïs Nin

I’m stuck. And, I have no idea what I want and why I feel stuck. I spend my days with other therapists who specialize in asking the perfect questions to get someone unstuck. Despite their best efforts, I can’t figure it out. In fact, I think they’re avoiding me in an attempt to stop the conversation.

I am fantastic at spelling out all the things I do not want. But, I have a terrible case of restless life syndrome. The daily grind is hard on my soul. But, I love my job and I love what I do. Do you see where this is problematic?

It’s not that something is missing. The parts are all there. If I step back and look at my life, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Nevertheless, I feel restless. It’s not boredom. I don’t have time for boredom. I’m not unfulfilled. I seek out fulfillment on a daily basis.

Perhaps, I’m having a vacation/adventure hangover. But, I’m not the kind of person that wants to travel the world with a backpack. I mean, I refuse to sleep in a tent ever again.

My brother and I had a long talk about our “faith systems” this morning. We are incapable of talking about the mundane. If you give us fifteen minutes, we’ll be exploring the universe and the illusion of time. It’s one of my favorite things about him. We’re desperate to know more about everything.

I bring this up because I feel like screaming to the sky and saying, “What is it? What am I missing?” I’ll give it a try but I won’t scream, the people in my office are already avoiding me.

Maybe I need a good book, or a stiff drink.

Love.

 

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Dirty Four Years Old!?

“The good news is that she is one of the nicest people in the universe. The bad news is, that’s because she always does exactly what she pleases. An Aquarius female is rebellious, headstrong, and contrary. She can be selfishly independent and exasperating, especially when she is running through the house screaming, “freedom!”
Hazel Dixon-Cooper

I love birthdays. I love any reason to celebrate someone or something. One of my favorite birthday messages was written to me in one of those “pass it around” cards. The message read: I’m glad you were born. I thought that was a wonderful thing to say to someone. So, I’ve since stolen the expression and I sprinkle around on other people’s birthdays. I was going to do one of those 34 things I’ve learned in 34 years but I don’t know that I could genuinely compile that many items. However, I would like to reflect on some of the lessons life has brought to the table over the years.

What have I learned in thirty four years on this blue orb? 

  1. Being a genuinely nice person makes all the difference in the world. In fact, people are more likely to listen to whatever you have to say if you are speaking kindly.
  2. You can’t get what you don’t ask for. This goes for anything and everything in life. Happiness in any form is not going to show up at your door. You must seek out the life you want. Be brave.
  3. And, hearing no is not the worst thing that can happen to you. It does sting. But, when the sting wears off, try again.
  4. Remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can and sometimes the best you can involves doing nothing. Seeking perfection is emotional self-harm.
  5. The key to healthy communication is listening. This involves really paying attention to what another person has to say. The next most important thing is to ask questions and be curious. Doing both of those things well, leads to healthy relationships.
  6. Slow down, especially when you want to speed up. Taking a pause between thinking and acting can change your life. 
  7. Say thank you all day. It trains your brain to be happier.
  8. People need people. We are not wired to do this alone (unless you are a sociopath). Take care of your relationships. You need them.
  9. No one has it all figured out. As a therapist, I see behind the curtain all day. We are all a mess and it’s fine.  There is no such thing as a grown up.
  10. Apologize. Genuinely apologize. Take responsibility. It may not fix the situation but it is important nonetheless.
  11. Smile, and not in the cat call kind of way. Smiling tells your brain to feel better.
  12. If you accept your life as it is, right now, you can change it. If you spend all your time thinking you deserve something better or you got a raw deal nothing will ever improve for you. Feeling entitled will make you miserable and lonely.
  13. Extending compassion to yourself and others is essential to a healthy life. We all struggle. We are all imperfect. Don’t make it a habit to beat yourself up.
  14. But, have boundaries. Do not let people treat you poorly more than a few times. After a few times, a precedent is set.
  15. Forgive yourself and others. It provides peace of mind. However, forgiveness does not mean you get to be part of my life again.
  16. Defensiveness and righteous indignation will destroy your relationships and make you miserable.
  17. Learn from your mistakes. It is best to suck it up and accept you screwed up than to deny responsibility.
  18. You don’t have to tell everybody everything. You are allowed to keep parts of yourself to yourself.
  19. People will gossip about you and it’s no big deal. When I gossip about parts of your life, I am actually sharing more about me. We make sense of ourselves and the world in relation to one another. For example, I own a hundred and twenty year old home and I know people have said “Why would they buy a money trap like that?” That statement says everything about the kind of house you want and nothing about my decision to buy that kind of home. Or, when people say, “I know she’ll regret not having children.” Again, this says that children are really important to you and maybe you couldn’t image your own life without them. The gossip about me isn’t really about me. 
  20. Tell the people you love that you love them. We are not mind readers. It needs to be said out loud as much as possible. Don’t take each other for granted. Water relationships with love like a thirsty plant. If you don’t, the love will die.
  21. Life is devastatingly and gloriously brief. So, let go of all that does not bring you joy.
  22. Answer the phone, respond to emails, and respond to texts. If you don’t respond people will stop reaching out.
  23. The world is scary from a birds-eye view but on a human to human level we are not so bad. I’ve been in enough classrooms, prisons and psychiatric hospitals to know that most people are not monsters. Most scary people are just scared. There are some monsters but not enough to lose sleep over.
  24. If Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia could be best buddies you can find common ground with most people.
  25. With that, some people will leave your life even if you really want them to stay. And that has to be okay. Sometimes they come back and sometimes they do not.
  26. Tell the truth or be quiet. At the very least, be honest with yourself. A lot of people end up living lives they don’t want because they failed to do this.
  27. If we want to change the world, we need to teach children to love and be loved. 
  28. Lastly and most importantly: Love always wins. 

Really, most of these lessons have been discussed on the blog before. This list feels more like a table of contents than a new post. I suppose I operate from some general themes.

What has life taught you?

Love.

“So there was this woman and she was on an airplane,
and she was flying to meet her fiance seaming high above the largest ocean on planet earth.
She was seated next to this man she had tried to start conversations,
but the only thing she had really heard him say was to order his Bloody Mary.
She was sitting there and she was reading this really arduous magazine article about a third world country
that she couldn’t even pronounce the name of.
And she was feeling very bored and despondent.
And then suddenly there was this huge mechanical failure and one of the engines gave out,
and they started just falling thirty-thousand feet,
and the pilots on the microphone and he’s saying “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, oh my god… I’m sorry” and apologizing.
And she looks at the man and says “Where are we going?” and he looks at her and he says “We’re going to a party.
It’s a birthday party. It’s your birthday party.
Happy birthday darling. We love you very, very, very, very, very, very, very much.”
And then he starts humming this little tune, it kind of goes like this: 1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4″

Bright Eyes, At The Bottom Of Everything

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.

 

 

 

Okay, Maybe I’m Embarrassing Myself A Little.

“So many female friends of mine feel like they have to be overly gracious and nice to compensate for their ambitions, because there’s this sense of having to swap one form of femininity for another. And honestly? Not every woman is warm. Not every woman is friendly. And they don’t have to be. Some women are reserved, some are biting, and some are mean. Humans are weird creatures. There are a whole lot of different personalities.” – Maddy Foley, 6 Backhanded Compliments Every Ambitious Woman Is Tired Of Hearing

In the last week, I received some interesting feedback related to my reactions about Donald Trump being elected President. I’ve heard things like I’m overreacting, I’m embarrassing myself and I’m not operating at my best. These comments are coming from people that clearly do not know me very well or know me at all. If you do know me, you would know that social justice runs in my veins. It also runs in my family. My grandmother is an avid fighter for social justice and my grandfather had planned to go into politics before my biological grandmother fell ill.

I’m a woman and women are allowed to be angry, pissed, frustrated, rage filled. We are also allowed to say fuck. If this makes you uncomfortable – it makes you uncomfortable but I will not compromise my values or shrink to fit into some mold.

That being said, I am also in love with my life. I am hosting a Thanksgiving Celebration with friends and family this weekend. One of my best friends is driving in to spend time with us. I plan on seeing some Harry Potter movie that I know nothing about. ESPN will be doing Game Day here on Saturday and I can’t wait for my brother to get to participate in that.

You see, I can be a fighter for social justice and go to work and love my friends and family and laugh and cry because I’m fearful for the people I love. It’s just all so complicated being a human.

What follows was the original post which I think captures this complicated woman stuff in a little more detail.

A few days ago I was reading an article about backhanded compliments made towards women and I encountered the above quote. I think it is perfectly written and it captures an experience that I have long struggled to articulate. I don’t have to be nice. I don’t have to smile. I don’t have to be friendly. If you can accept that I’m a complex person and not a Stepford Wife, I think you can get what I’m talking about.

Let me back up a bit. I believe being kind and compassionate are healthy ways of interacting within the world. In fact, pages of research support living a compassionate life. And, it simply feels better for me to go through the world with as much kindness and compassion as possible. However, there are days and situations where I just can’t be kind and kindness is not indicated.

If I were able to adapt Foley’s incredible string of words to better fit me, I would add: all the time. I think that I try my best to be good, nice, kind, warm, and compassionate. Be that as it may, it is impossible (and ridiculous) to set the expectation to be that way all the time. There have been times and there will be times when I am reserved, cold, and biting. It is part of being a complex human being. 

I’ve been in a number of  situations where I needed to be “biting” to get what I needed, or what a family member needed, or what a friend needed, or what a client needed. In those instances some people had no trouble calling me a bitch. I don’t believe I’m a bitch. I believe that saying that, is a way of trying to shut me down or shut me up. Frankly, if you do feel like I’m being a bitch, I’m not too concerned. I don’t know a woman that hasn’t been called a bitch, so I’m in good company. 

I really struggle with the sweet and quiet aspect of femininity. I identify as a woman, and feel it is absolutely impossible for me to be sweet and quiet on a regular basis. I would explode and, more importantly, it would mean living dishonestly. For this aspect of my personality, I’ve paid social consequences (e.g., been called a bitch, told to be quiet, asked to shut up, been threatened by men, been called butch, told I don’t know what I’m talking about, and openly mocked). I find it extremely hard not to be resentful of people that want me to “be quiet“. It feels like you are trimming away at parts of who I am. At this point in my life, I have much less trouble distancing myself from people that don’t appreciate these unique and integral parts of me.

The idea that women must be kind and warm all the time is absurd. No one is warm and kind all the time. Even more, some women are never sweet and kind. It is how they are put together. This does not make them bitches or bad people. If I’m being completely honest, I think “mean women” (aka, strong women) can be wonderfully intimidating. Sometimes, I am jealous of their ability to speak up and speak out about things without the (noticeable) incessant worrying related to perception.

So, Maddy Foley, thank you for your words. You gave voice to thoughts I’ve had for a long time.

Love.

A Enormous Bucket of Thanks.

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thank you (so much) to the people that took the time last week to write a guest post for Sissy Beard. Each post, like each writer, received distinct feedback, shares, and likes. I feel incredibly privileged to have people in my life that are willing to contribute to this community. Moreover, each contributor had a unique perspective and articulated their ideas beautifully. I am lucky to know and share time with such exceptional people. 

The joy of including guest bloggers has me planning for the next round of contributors. It is so much more fun to share this platform than to do it alone. With that, I also appreciate the thoughts, suggestions, and ideas related to how I can make this blog better. Please keep the messages and comments coming. 

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend filled with good food, good love, and good laughter.

It is now time to gear up for more holiday time and I am reminded of The Muppet Christmas Carol, “It’s true, where ever you find love, it feels like Christmas.”

Thank you.

So Much. Love.

I Hope You Don’t Take This Personally.

“The same way that you are the main character of your story, you are only a secondary character in everybody else’s story” – don Miguel Ruiz

“2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” – don Miguel Ruiz “The Four Agreements”

The first time I read The Four Agreements I thought it was complete new age garbage. I spent a few more years doing my job and living my life. And then I happened upon the book again. The second pass differed from the first. The concepts Ruiz spells out in the agreements resonated with me this time and now I frequently refer to the text. I encourage you to read the book.

The four agreements are as follows:

    1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
    2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
    3. Don’t Make Assumptions
    4. Always Do Your Best

All the points he makes are relevant and applicable in our lives, but Don’t Take Anything Personally transformed my life. He proposes that what people say or do to you has everything to do with them and nothing to do with you. Each person goes through life on his or her own path shaped by their values, history, perceptions, faith, expectations, health, and etcetera.

I encourage you to spend one day just listening to people around you. You will find that people will talk about politics, faith, family, work, money, stress, hopes, and dreams. Some will be cynical and some will be hopeful. The people around you will show you who they are if you pay attention.

Maybe during this exercise one of the people in your world will give you advice or feedback. You have options when this happens: believe them entirely, believe some of what they say, or believe none of what they say. Take a moment to decide if the feedback they are providing is useful to you or not. If not, politely let it go. This applies to the feedback we receive from the people we love the most.

This agreement requires us to trust ourselves. However, when consistently told to listen to our parents, our teachers, our pastors, and our supervisors, trusting ourselves can be challenging. This is your life and only you know the best way to live it consistent with who you want to be.

I think when I am feeling my best I am able to step back and see how this agreement works. The internet is a faceless bully factory and some people feel the need to spread their misery around. When I am at my best, I know that mean people are usually the ones scared and suffering. I think it’s hard to not take it personally when people are unable to be happy for me when I do well or when they say “I told you so” when I struggle.

The times that I have acted cruelly were times when I was not happy in my life. I know that when I treat people poorly, it is because I am not taking care of myself. When I feel compelled to convince someone that “I’m right” or I get defensive about a topic, I am not trusting myself and my life experiences enough not to need their validation.

I try to remember that we are mirrors reflecting our own hopelessness or hopefulness onto the world around us. It is my favorite agreement and the one I struggle with the most.

Love.

“If someone is not treating you with love and respect, it is a gift if they walk away from you. If that person doesn’t walk away, you will surely endure many years of suffering with him or her. Walking away may hurt for a while, but your heart will eventually heal. Then you can choose what you really want. You will find that you don’t need to trust others as much as you need to trust yourself to make the right choices.”
Miguel Ruiz

 

 

 

 

Well Shoot, This Did Not Go As Planned.

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard, “My life shouldn’t be this hard!” or “My life should be different!” When this happens, I  start looking around the room. I am looking for the person that told you that life was going to be easy or that your life would go as planned. I want to find that person and tell them to stop talking.

This is the awful truth: life will most certainly be hard sometimes. In fact, it might be so incredibly hard, that it feels unbearable. In those moments where you feel like you are drowning in all the awfulness of life, I encourage you to hold on to your support system for dear life and keep swimming.

Life will also be incredible sometimes. If you allow yourself to ride the waves without a lot of expectations and shoulds, you will find that life will bring you amazing moments and gifts. In my experience, these fantastic moments and gifts were never what you planned. If you are open to what life has to offer, these moments will come about as surprising little offerings of joy.

I wince in pain when I hear people map out their lives, “I want to married by 25, have a house by 26, have two kids by 30, and be financially established by 35.” I again, look around the room for the person that told you that you get to map out your life that way.

We get so caught up in what we think our lives should look like or what we think we deserve, we fail to notice those little offerings of joy. In fact, so few things in our lives go as planned, that it is best to only refer to our map as a general outline.

“All human plans are subject to ruthless revision by Nature, or Fate, or whatever one preferred to call the powers behind the Universe.”
Arthur C. Clarke, 2010: Odyssey Two

It is important to have a general idea of where you want your life to go. But I promise you, you will spend much of that time being sad, disappointed, and resentful if you plan out the details of your life and hold fast to that plan. You will feel like someone did you wrong when it does not go that way and it most certainly will not go that way.

That is both scary and incredible.

When that happens, it is best to pause, refer to your map, and find a different course. Basically, find the next step. It is a waste of time and energy to feel like it should have gone the way you wanted. It didn’t and you were never promised the life you planned. Also, you might not really want that life once you arrive at those decision points. I also hear people say “But I made the right choices and I’m not happy.” and I respond “Maybe you made the choices you thought you should rather than the choices you really wanted to make.” (we will talk more about that in a later post)

If you find the person that is going around telling people that “life is fair”, or “go ahead and plan out the details”, or “you’re entitled to a good life”, please tell them I am looking for them.

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
Pema Chödrön

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/

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

Is Your Life Full of Saber Tooth Tigers? Take A Breath!

Our bodies are designed to notice threats in the environment and act accordingly. Historically, this was a good thing. If we saw a saber-tooth tiger we knew we had to fight, flee, or freeze (also known as the fight or flight response) to survive. However, the saber-tooth tiger is extinct but our response remains.

What does this mean for us today? Our bodies now act on perceived threats (work stressors, long commutes, crying children, angry spouses) the same way we reacted to saber-tooth tigers. This is problematic for many reasons. Primarily, when our bodies go into fight or flight mode our heart rate increases, our breathing gets shallow, our stomachs tighten, and we prepare to protect our lives. We are essentially in attack mode against the perceived threat. Again, this response is/was beneficial in the face of an actual life threatening situation but not helpful in an argument with our spouse. 

This is particularly problematic over long periods of time. When our bodies perceive stress on a continuous basis without relief we develop many ailments; such as: migraines, high blood pressure, digestive issues, depressed mood, increased cortisol levels, increased risk of infection and many others.

How do we counter this response? This is challenging but not impossible. Fight or flight is an automatic response so we can’t necessarily stop it before it starts but we can reverse it, so to speak, by reminding ourselves that this is a scary situation but not lethal. The first step is to notice when you feel a knot in your stomach, your muscles tighten, your fists clench, or your breath get shallow. Then slow down.

How to slow down:

1)      Pause, try not to do or say anything unless it is absolutely necessary

2)      Breathe, take six deep breaths (or more) filling and emptying your lungs very slowly

3)      Notice, look around you and notice the things happening in your environment

4)      Comfort, rest your muscles, put a hand on your stomach or chest

5)      Remind, tell yourself that you’re safe and you’re going to be OK

6)      Repeat, do these steps until you feel your stress decrease

7)      Resume, return to your life

This takes practice but gets easier over time. It helps to practice these techniques when you’re not stressed as you will better develop the habit of slowing down and noticing what’s happening in your life.

Disclaimer: If you are in a life-threatening situation, listen to your body and get out of there.