Rainy Day Thoughts
Yesterday, our private practice opened its doors to invite a handful of Neurodiverse teens into our well-known social skills group. It has been over two years since our last group was conducted largely due to the restricting impacts of the pandemic. The laughter and melting away of first group nerves warmed this tired therapist’s soul to its core. I did not realize how badly I was craving a hefty helping of normalcy.
While the rain stirs an array of different emotions for many, today it seems to carry a veil of calm. As if the dreariness outside fluffs the comfort within the therapy room. The haze highlights the warmth of the lightening. The music of the rainy downfall adds an extra touch of security.
Lately a theme of guilt has floated in between the rainstorms as clients come and go from my blue comfy couch. A slew of people-pleasers grace my office, and the narratives of self-sacrifice hold steady despite cravings of change. I can resonate with this flavor of client, as I am a recovering people-pleaser at heart. It’s funny how doing my own work aids in my abilities as a therapist. I have been dutifully challenging my narrative of toxic selflessness to rescue myself from the depths of soulful burnout. While bending over backwards for the sake of others’ wellbeing brings a level of fulfillment, my soul screeches otherwise.
A handful of weeks ago, I despised being a therapist.
The ‘Sunday scaries’ were ferocious as they rocked my nerves.
The restlessness I experienced in session proved to be unnervingly distracting.
The best thing that I’ve done for myself in quite a while was to recognize and validate my chosen limits. Not the limits that I previously lived my life by. Not the ones that defined survival while teetering on the edge of crumpling under the burdens. The ones that I chose after attending to my mentality’s longevity.
If we pay attention to the whispers of our soul, we won’t have to listen to its screams.
Boy, was mine loud. The howls are still ringing in my ears, as I rise from the shambles of unhealthy boundaries.
I had to dig deep to set unwavering boundaries around my work hours. I had to release the guilt of going home at 6pm vs flexing to the requests for later hours. Forgiving ourselves for our humanness many be one of the trickiest tasks in the handbook of human functioning. I had to genuinely grant myself grace for setting my schedule to a maximum of five clients a day. Every day I challenge myself to respond verses react to other’s requests of my heart. Whenever a sentence is poised with the beginnings of “Can you….” I will myself to pause and truly consider if I can fulfill the request without sacrificing myself.
It's not only a shift in priorities but it’s an adjustment of lifestyle. One we have to lean into mindfully or else we are tempted to slip back into old self sabotaging mentalities.
So, if you find your ears ringing from the shrieks of protest arising from deep within your soul…
Please listen to them. Validate their experiences.
For this is the only way we get back to the whispers.
Our Plans and Life's Laughter
Mean neighbor has an odd fixation with the cleanliness of our condo complex’s dumpster. I spot him meticulously tending to the area surrounding the green monstrosity at least a few times during any given week. His most dutiful days seem to be when the lawn maintenance humans are here. Once they buzz around on their riding lawnmowers as quickly as humanly possible, mean neighbor emerges from his garage with his gizmos and gadgets to make sure there is no blade of grass anywhere near the dumpster. He rakes around the edges, fantasizing the epitome of squeaky clean any standard dumpster could ever dream of.
(If you don’t recall who mean neighbor is, he has his own story of humility toward the beginnings of the blog. He’s hardly ‘mean’ anymore, and somehow we have meandered to our own understandings of one another.)
I am working from home today. While the world convinced me COVID and the Flu were the prominent germs floating around, here I sit, nursing a fever. Negative for this, negative for that. An antibiotic was tossed my way with little more than a “good luck” from a random Urgent Care doctor.
Life has been carrying on to its own divergent pace. The therapy room has been perplexingly darker lately, which nosedived me into a heaping pile of burnout. The trauma and abuse that’s been sputtered out as results of oversight, lack of shits to give, and overall lethargy of systems that are ‘supposed’ to keep people safe have been relentless. My ongoing struggle of caring too deeply has spun me into a fun hole of ‘I don’t want to play anymore’. Yet here I am. Covered in metaphorical tattered bandages rolling the dice with my good hand.
Life is not marching forward how I planned it to and it’s irritating my soul. Subsequently, I just rolled my eyes and chuckled at myself after finishing that sentence. Of course life isn’t following our rules. She looks at our plans and laughs too.
In my meticulous planning, the horse we ‘invested’ in would have been sold months ago, my husband and I would be sitting pretty to take on a mortgage, and we would be happily house hunting while excitedly jumping into our evolving plans and priorities with both feet. Work would be chalk full of hustling, yet manageable. The promises of Spring would keep us giddy for summertime.
There life goes again, succumbed by her peals of laughter.
In reality, life cannot be dutifully maintained like the dumpster in our condo complex. Perhaps this is why mean neighbor is so fixated on it. It’s a segment of his life he can rejoice in his perception of control.
The horse we ‘invested’ in is still sitting pretty in the barn she was intended to depart months ago.
Our budget is playing with options B and C to explore ways of moving into the house-buying stage.
The market is deliriously inflated.
The world is rolling in its own fire as war rages across the pond and our own power-crazed politicians gleefully stomp on our country’s attempts at progression forward.
My husband and I are holding onto one another as we jump into our shifting priorities despite the cacophony of chaos swirling around us.
Because here’s the thing.
If the past few years have taught me anything, it’s that life is going to unravel in the ways she sees fit. Most of the time, that unraveling will make no sense to me. A lot of the time I’ll question the motives and intentions of those I see are contributing to the happenstance of events. Occasionally, I’ll curse the perceived injustice that washes over my experiences.
But mostly I’ll roll my eyes at life’s melody and lean into the discomfort of learning how to not wait for the storm to pass, but to dance in the rain instead.
As the days creep into the promises of Spring, I am growing increasingly weary of the Education crisis that looms in the distance. As many different systems within society teeter on the edge of collapse, our education sector may be the most vulnerable to crumbling. Teachers are waving their white flags of defeat as the encumbering demands of the invalidating oversight prove to be too heavy to carry. Lines of support for students are stretched all too thin. Children are tumbling into the cracks of mismanagement. Mental health priority has all but faded into the background of distant memories.
Reform rises out of brokenness. As a therapist who dances with systemic dynamics, I am aware of this cycle of building anew. Yet, this knowledge does not give my empathy any comfort for the souls suffering at the expense of a collapsing education system. As sectors decline, the mental health crisis unarguably skyrockets.
Recently, I was informed of an exchange between support staff at a public school and a student. This student had experienced trauma woven throughout their life. While PTSD raged behind this child’s eyes, outwardly, there were no visible indicators of the demons that danced within their memories. Happenstance, triggers at home lowered the child’s window of tolerance for discomfort. Upon arrival to school, it took a simple straw to push the child over their edge of tolerance and into a meltdown. The overworked school staff huffed in exacerbation, interpreting this expression of emotion as lack of compliance. As they approached the child trapped within their feelings with little vocabulary to capture their internal experiences, the adults in the room reinforced a shame-based narrative.
“Use your words.”
“You have to communicate if you want any help from us.”
“You will not speak to me like that.”
Little did the staff know they were using the same trauma-laced language as the child’s abuser.
Now the child went from an emotionally fueled act to a full blown PSTD induced flashback.
The child shut down further. The staff laid on the shame-based language thicker.
Eventually, the child exhausted themselves and crumbled in defeat of invalidation. The school staff enforced consequences of behavior fueled by humanness. Suddenly, the child’s narrative shifts from a cry for help to internalized shame. Trust in the system they spend hours of their life in becomes muddled by embarrassment and confusion.
I cannot tell you how common this interaction pattern is.
Our education systems are desperate for trauma-informed care and language. Now more than ever. The World is still reeling from a Pandemic that exacerbated mental health struggles, amongst other things. Victims were trapped on lockdown with their abusers. Tensions spilled over into chaos. Our society is a battlefield of the invisibly wounded.
As a therapist, it’s within my responsibilities to serve as an advocate. Educational advocacy for our little humans is one of my passions. Despite the defeat I feel as broken systems tower over us, I will march forward. I will use my voice to enhance the stories of the voiceless.
Let’s continue to commit to validating our youth’s experiences. Let’s increase mental health awareness in our schools for students and teachers alike. Let’s fight for the rights and the well-being of those who will run our worlds one day.
Knock Knock, Who's There?
Time continues to kerfuffle me. One moment I was ringing in the new year with friends, and the next I’m peering at my watch in disbelief that it’s the 23rd of January.
I’ve officially started my own therapy. It’s been a disgruntling venture to try and land a therapist for a therapist, especially for one as stubborn as I am. I resonated with Dorothy and her plight in finding the porridge that was ‘just right’. While it took a hot minute, I am happy to report your girl found her ‘just right’ therapist.
And let me tell you, she brings up some good stuff.
They’re encouraging me to read a book titled The Artist’s Way. I’ll admit, some of the contents lean toward the ‘fluffy’ side of mindfulness that I find myself chuckling at. However, we all know I’m not here to judge the ‘fluff’. There have been two major points so far that have stuck out. Mindless journaling and spending mindful time with oneself. Two seemingly simple tasks that fool you into thinking they will be easy-peasy.
Come to find out, my inner ‘artist’, otherwise known as my ‘creative side’ is quite lonely and all too tired. In one of my mindful journaling ventures my subconscious wrote “I hate how deeply I care for others, but only when it hurts or screws me over. Maybe that’s why I rest in the quiet. Noise threatens chaos. Quiet promises calm.”
Another time I quietly proclaimed “I used to love reading. I could get lost in a book for hours. Yet, I stare at a pile in my living room. When did my soul become so burnt out? Where did her flicker go? She’s antsy with idleness, yet unmotivated to move in the ways that promise a remedy. What would an ‘inner artist’ date look like anyways? “What’s the point?” is a very good point.”
Through my own therapeutic work, I am coming to realize that I have been locked into a mindless, anxiety-riddled space for far too long. I zealously march to the beat of traditional productivity’s drum. Yet, without the rhythmic repetition I am anything but comfortable. I have locked myself away from myself and the vulnerability that lies within. Somewhere along my journey I became disconnected to the part of myself I used to find solitude in. The ‘creative’ part that got lost in books, spent hours upon hours adventuring on horseback, and forgot about the constraints of time. The part that loved to draw. The wildness that had fire dancing in her eyes and sass perched on her tongue.
I am on a journey to reclaim that ‘artist’ that is locked away somewhere buried deep within my soul. I find myself looking around and wondering how many other lost ‘parts’ are locked away in the hearts of those I cherish. How many of us have forgotten how the hell to be there for ourselves?
When was the last time you thoroughly checked in with yourself?
My ‘homework’ is to spend mindful quality time on my own. A simple gesture in theory, yet the major task will be to sit with the discomfort of disconnection. The awkwardness of mindfully spending time with myself without the distractions of responsibilities or daunting task lists. Just me, a book, and somewhere novel to read it.
So, I challenge you to do the same. Plan a mindful ‘date’ with yourself and embrace the awkwardness of beginning to find your ‘inner artist’ again.
Here's to the Growing Pains
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve hopped onto this platform. I apologize for the absence if that’s something that’s impacted you. Just to give you a peep into the chaos that has been the past month here we go…
Puzzle Peace Counseling has officially relocated! I am tapping away on my keyboard in my new cozy nook as you read. Oh boy, has this shift been a labor of love. For the chronically impatient souls like myself, moving always proves to be a humbling experience. There are not enough ways I can thank those in my corner for the physical and mental assist in making this transition as smooth as possible. Seriously folks, thank you. You know who you are.
Aside from prepping 50+ clientele for a physical shift in location, the holidays have not disappointed in upping the intensity of which people call on mental health counseling.
Let’s face it, 2021 has been quite the kerfuffle of stress. The opposite of what we had hoped for as we crawled out of 2020. Fast forward to now and we are on COVID-19 variant 734, the virus is floating around with its posse of flu and cold illnesses mixed in, gas prices are emptying our wallets, and tempers grow shorter-fused by the day.
Personally, 2021 redefined how I view growing pains.
Innocently, growing pains are the uncomfortable pangs of discomfort as our bones grow quicker than our muscles. Little humans wither from the awkwardness that may swim through their legs as they battle with this sensation. Yet, this is a mere surface level peek into the depth of the defining points of the phrase.
Growing pains slapped me across the face in the earlier part of this year. Within three months, my husband lost his last surviving grandparent, I lost my last surviving grandparent, and I had to face a reality that did not have my heart horse, Sadie, in it.
BAM BAM BAM. Three strikes.
I wanted to be out. I wanted the baseball reference to ring true throughout the nightmarish reality of grief that had slammed into my soul. I craved to curl into a ball and hide away from the truth that was mine without those who gave me so much structure and strength. I wanted to disappear into myself and drop my responsibilities on their heads as I cowered from the burden of it all. The world felt wrong.
Growing pains willed me to stand back up. Truthfully, sinking to the floor was my trauma response, yet I found myself gritting my teeth and hoisting my grief-tormented body into the spaces that occupied my responsibility. It wasn’t pretty, but true growth rarely is. There were days I took off from work, and times my people had to glue me back together like a real-life Humpty-Dumpty. There were times that sadness gripped my throat and tears stung my eyes in between sessions. Evenings that I would crumple into my husband’s chest and unleash the pent up yuck I had thoughtfully carried behind my eyes during the workday.
That period of growth hurt like a son of a bitch lit on fire.
Yet I sit here, so unbelievably proud of the woman who stares back at me in the mirror.
Truthfully, I grew into myself and the resiliency I underestimated.
I am publishing a book y’all.
A real-life book that will go on a real-life bookshelf. I am working with editors and illustrators to bring a story to life that would have never been written if it weren’t for my grief and the ways I chose to express it.
I am finding myself pictured in magazines attached to articles I've written promoting conversations surrounding mental health.
I am a fiery advocate for those who identify as Neurodiverse and have pushed for rights of kiddos whose voices have been quieted by broken systems.
I have climbed the professional ladder into a cozy office space I delightfully get to call my own. Titles like ‘assistant clinical director’ and ‘lead Marriage and Family Therapist’ follow my name in a private practice I utterly adore.
I found a therapist I connect with. Finally.
I am here. Figuring it out. Taking it day by day. Finding joy in the ordinary.
So, hear me out.
2021 was gut-wrenchingly painful. I had to mutter goodbyes to souls that ripped my heart from my chest and the air from my lungs. There are times when my grief sneaks into my mind and my eyes cloud with tears as I yearn for what once was. I’m not sure these moments will ever subside completely. Grief is love persevering after all.
Yet, I am actively seeking out meaning to tie to my grief. I am investing my emotional experiences into outlets that cultivates fulfillment. I am practicing gratitude for those in my life whose love I will mindfully never take for granted again. I am humbly learning and gripping tightly onto hope.
Growing pains are not only in our legs, my friends.
Cheers to surviving a hellacious year.
Here’s to a year of vitality, connection, and (hopefully) less chaos.
The 'Neverland' Narrative
Tis’ the season for all things family, stress, and pie galore.
We lean into the cooler weather by unearthing our coats from the depths of our closets. We find ourselves brace for the awkward that is interacting with those we reserve communication just for the holidays. Tradition begs for our attention, which can also have a ripple effect into our skeletons neatly tucked away in our metaphorical closets.
The holidays reliably shift the narrative that floats throughout the therapy room. Old scars from past difficult experiences become irritated. Stress festers as the calling to give both vulnerably and materialistically slowly creeps upon us. Old conflictual interaction patterns begin to tug at our memories, and we find ourselves bracing for impact.
Fun fact, I hate conflict. I am wholeheartedly a lover not a fighter, despite what my feisty disposition may convey. Becoming a therapist only deepened my loathing for uncomfortable interactions, as I can empathize with many different versions of a story.
Many was the key word there. I am still very much human after all.
I have my own skeletons to tend to around this time of year. The heaviness behind the thump of my heart in my chest at the thought of them confirms their presence. They usually start peaking out from behind their hiding places at the first sightings of carved pumpkins and spooky Halloween movies. By this point, they’re wandering aimlessly within the crevasses of my thoughts. Sigh, pesky buggers.
Perhaps the holidays are oddly heavy because of the nostalgia the crisp cold air brings. We are reminded of our own unique ‘Neverlands’; the worlds that once existed but have since faded away. Memories of warmth and connection seep into the dark corners that are collecting cobwebs in our hearts. Stubbornly cemented narratives are highlighted, a lack of closure is aroused, and it’s just damn uncomfortable.
Sometimes, people lean into narratives that support fragile egos, threatened by the thoughts of embracing accountability.
Sometimes, our loved ones leave this world without a proper or well-timed farewell.
Sometimes, we face obstacles that seem unsurpassable because it takes all parties to wrestle through conflict.
So, as we lean into the thick of the holiday season, and find ourselves eating way too much pie, I want to leave you with some tid-bits to take with you:
It’s OK if your narrative does not match another. We cannot control the stories that others choose to tell themselves. Just because you play a ‘bad guy’ part in someone else’s story does not deem you a monster.
Always be kinder than we feel.
Accountability is an elixir for healing connections and conflictual interactions.
Don’t forget to nurture your soul as ‘Neverland’ tugs at your heart this festive holiday season and you yearn for the times your heart is grieving.
And last but not least, eat the damn pie.
The Curse of the Picture Perfect
Fun fact, my husband is an avid podcast connoisseur. He’s got a diverse palate of interests, much of which he was able to pursue during his work-related travels. During our shared car rides, he’s slowly gotten me hooked on a few shows, one in particular is titled ‘Dear Therapist’. It captures the dialogue of two well-known therapists and their pursuits of literal therapizing with a real life human. It’s captivating, regardless of one’s profession.
Over this past weekend during one of our mini adventures, we listened to a woman’s experiences with her childbearing journey. As we listened along, I couldn’t help but pick up on the theme of idealistic expectations this woman seemed to have woven within her narrative. From having a detail-saturated birthing plan, to expecting nothing but experiencing labor all-natural, to “breast is best”, to hyper focused tunnel vision of wanting four children to seek fulfillment. It was exhausting to listen to.
How often do we get sidetracked by our idealistic expectations that we forget to invest in the hear-and-now of realistic expectations?
More often than not, it’s an unhelpful amount of the time.
I mean systemically, it’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of ‘ideals’. We grow up mesmerized by Disney-inspired fairy tales of dreamy characters and happy endings. Media is dedicated to the portrayal of easily attainable ‘ideals’ from parenting, to Halloween costumes, to food prep. Social media rarely embraces the humanness of others, so we are surrounded by mostly happy or successful moments.
It’s quite easy to forget we are human beings.
While idealistic ideas have their perks, realistic expectations leave room for our humanness. Here, there’s freedom to flex when life has its unpredictable splash, when our personhood shows its vulnerability, and when the “mold” is not the best fit. Realism grants permission for outcomes that are an individual kind of turnout, while leaving room for acceptance and peace. When we get caught up in the idealistic ways of thinking, suddenly this line of thought can bleed into the lens of which we experience our worlds. Rarely is anything “enough” when we are fixated on the ideals.
I want to encourage you (and myself) to routinely take a step back and reexamine the expectations that color our experiences. Leave the idealistic ways of being to the Disney princesses and celebrate the multidimensional soul that we are. Leave room for the messy, the unplanned, and the rough edges by adjusting those pesky expectations to ebb and flow that follow the melodies of living an authentic life.
A Therapist Wish
The peculiarities of this profession extend outside the office walls, as does any job. Yet, sometimes I think others dismiss the professionalism we mental health therapists uphold, which means it’s vital to take off our therapeutic hats once we lock up our therapy rooms. As the world becomes more chaotic, I am noticing that more people are busting at the seams, desperate to be heard. Like a hiccup that cannot help but erupt from our chests, hopping over boundaries and expelling their stories in rushed and impulsive monologues.
That happened today. Someone caught a case of the vulnerability hiccups once they caught wind that I was a therapist. I was at a place where I readily seek asylum from the mayhem of work and the outside world, where I collided paths with a stranger. The interaction hopped from “Hi I’m Yada Yada. I hear you’re a therapist. Good, I need to talk to you,” to a sudden plop into a chair. Next thing I know I am learning about deeply carried wounds and emotional turmoil, the hiccups suddenly turning into word vomit escaping this person’s lips like a waterfall, rushing to find a landing place.
You can imagine my discomfort as the word vomit splashed around me.
I had hardly had time to cough out my own name. The conformational nod to my profession seemed to be enough of a trust-fall for this person to plunge into the nitty-gritty about their internal demons.
I think it’s about time to create my back-up plan ‘job’ business cards to start handing out to those whom I first meet. On difficult therapy days, I daydream about becoming a janitor. Yep, ladies and gents. A full-blown, navy-blue jumpsuit covered janitor. These are the days where sitting with tangible ‘crap’ seems more enticing than sitting with the ‘crap’ that haunts people in their every waking moments.
It’s disheartening when people are aching so deeply for a safe space for their internal distress that they pop at the mention of a therapist. Like the very word is the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I wonder if it’s uncomfortable for others to read about this side of the therapist’s chair.
If it is, please know I won’t be offended if you cease reading.
Because I get it. Sitting with someone else’s vulnerability is tough. When someone sheds light into their own exposed ‘stuff’, it begs for the listener to resonate with something inside themselves. This requires empathy, and empathy requires a certain level of attendance and energy. We have to be ready to receive someone’s ‘stuff’ in order to foster helpful spaces for vulnerability.
Just because I work as a mental health clinician does not mean I am a mental health clinician 24/7. Yikes, I would be a walking shell of a person if that were the case.
When I throw on my therapist hat, I prime myself to cultivate safe and empathetic spaces. I fixate on the person or persons sitting in front of me, shoving my ‘stuff’ to the side. I cast away my human reflex of judgement, and I replace this with unconditional positive regard. I feel with you. I hold the space for you, so you can catch your breath, explore, process, cry, scream, whatever it is that is necessary for you and your pursuit of healing.
This is heavy, heavy work for a person.
That’s why it’s pounded into our schooling to set hard boundaries around our work, so we don’t lose ourselves in the process. It’s way too easy to lose sight of yourself when you’re surrounded by tragedies, obstacles, traumas, and open emotional wounds for a living. It’s fulfilling and beautiful, but it’s heavy.
So, here is some friendly advice to those who encounter a therapist or two along the way. Recognize that the therapist in front of them is also a feeling, thinking, and breathing human being just like yourself. Unless I am meeting you in the office, I would like to make small talk before any deep, dark secrets are revealed. Asking for support on an issue is absolutely welcomed after we get to know one another, and I will happily send some referrals your way for outpatient therapy locations. Friendships are still as vital to my well-being as yours. Being seen for more than just my job is revitalizing, refreshing, and so deeply cherished. Although I am a counselor, I am also horrified of the dentist and cockroaches. I live with mostly managed anxiety. I am wholeheartedly human and flawed. Riding horses and chocolate cake bring me joy. You catch my drift.
I wish I could shed light on the gravity of the weight I am carrying silently on my back as my clients proceed on their healing journeys. Sometimes I wish I could get one of those magnets you see for dishwashers that signal when the dishes are clean or dirty. My magnet would read “Open for deep conversations” or “empathy burnout proceed with compassion”.
I patiently bared witness to the menagerie of difficult stories this stranger poured out, knowing this expulsion was not about me at all. I sat with them, tears and all. I expressed how I admired their strength and encouraged them to lean on their resiliency. I silently wished them well on their journey as we parted ways, willing the universe to be kind to them.
I will continue to do so for every soul that I have the honor of meeting.
Just next time, I’ll hand out my janitor cards first.
Dull as Ditchwater
My apologies, folks. Somehow, I blinked and it’s October. I guess I wasn’t kidding when I said that September is nothing but chaotic in the therapy room. September was chalk full of last-minute requests for crisis-fueled sessions, educational advocacy, daunting piles of paperwork, and juggling my own humanness in the forms of dentist (yuck) and doctor appointments. I wish I had more thought-provoking material to report, however my days did not leave much room for pensive ponderings. Instead, I hit the ground at a full sprint, trying to keep an overwhelmed schedule running ‘status quo’.
Another part of me has been uncomfortably distracted by negativity looming over our heads. The point of this blog I had envisioned when I first began it was to be delightfully thought probing, and if anything, a safe space to land and catch one’s breath. So, I doubt many would find delight in the doom and gloom of a therapist ruminating in her own frustrations at impact of the brokenness of systems all around us. Take a peek at any news platform and you can catch storylines hinting at the robbery of women’s rights, missing humans, failing education systems, and an unrelenting Pandemic. For now, I’ll leave my meanderings at that.
While I’ve been subconsciously searching for a word to capture my internal experiences, I stumbled across a term that was uniquely validating. Perhaps, it will be for you too.
As silly as it may be, the image of Squidward from Spongbob Squarepants pops into my mind. The grey sea creature with the funny looking nose and the horrible clarinet playing abilities that paraded on the TV screens of my childhood. He is the prime, tangible example of what it means to feel languished.
It’s the experience of feeling stuck, muddled, and hollow.
As if it would be to exist peering through a muddy windshield day after day.
Aimlessness has to be one of the most gnawing sensations for me. I’m a direct aim and fire kinda gal. Yet, the past two years has muddled that ability, and the joy that accompanied it.
Instead I feel as if I am stuck in an aimless game of chasing my own tail.
A predominant theme in therapy has shifted to crisis management and focus on the immediate future, leaving little reliability to benefit from goal orientation further out. Clients arrive with a dullness to their eyes because of their own chaos they’ve trudged through that day haunts them. Windows of stress tolerance are slim, and I notice the increasing propensities we all have to spit venom at one another.
We are all overtired toddlers sick of trying to shove the square peg in the shapeshifting hole, and we could all use a really good nap.
There is an overall absence of well-being. A depletion of fulfillment. Our motivation is waning, our abilities to focus are foggy, burnout is fierce, and our sense of productivity is that of a Florida thunderstorm. Largely unpredictable and mostly a pain in the neck.
And you know what?
It’s OK to be aimlessly in this spot emotionally. It’s OK to not be the epitome of mental health. It’s OK to snack a little more, to exercise a little less. Because what’s important is that you meet yourself where you are at with compassion rather than criticism. Compassion will prime the way for the moments that soothe our languishing souls. Compassion will leave the light on for when crisis management fades and we regain our confidence in seeking fulfillment and predictability. Compassion for our humanness will maintain the candle of hope for peaceful days to come.
Once Upon a Time
Somehow, I woke up this morning and it was September. Peeking into the social media world, and it’s hard to miss folks kicking up their heels in celebration of pumpkin-spiced goodies and welcoming the season of spooky and sweaters. Football is at the cusp of its season’s kickoff, and people are eagerly formulating their fantasy football leagues.
September is a notoriously hectic month in the therapy room. Sessions have a reliable uptick in frequency as people settle into the rigor of demands exuded by school, work, and regularly programmed life happenings. I’ve always wondered about the correlations. Perhaps it’s a mix of first report cards, lack of sleep, and realization we’re not in the ‘Kansas’ of summer vibes anymore.
Thematically, there has been a shared point of ‘stuckness’ amongst those who grace the therapeutic space. One that seems to be the glue that halts one’s narrative of forward progression through life and damns them to their own versions of Groundhog’s Day. While not out rightly proclaimed, this theme presents itself within narratives in forms like “I don’t know how much longer I can take this” or overgeneralizations such as “I’m always going to feel this way” and “it’s never going to get better”. The list goes on, but you have an idea of the headspace.
Fun fact, each one of us has an internal dialogue that is maintained throughout our lives.
Yes folks, we talk to ourselves.
All the time.
This does not make us crazy. This makes us living beings with abilities to form conscious thoughts. Our internal narration of our experiences and perspectives cultivates our morals, values, and opinions. Think of this as our metaphorical fingerprint that contributes to our uniqueness as individuals.
We are existing conundrums because all of us engage in an internal conflict of finding change uncomfortable, yet craving change when our experiences are perceived as stagnant. In a perfect world, we could pick and choose what changed and what stayed the same. Yet, we all know this only exists in the Marvel Universe, fairytales, and religious beliefs.
What is the story you are telling yourself?
Sit for a minute and let that question marinate within your mind. Imagine if that internal voice began to narrate through the lens of which you perceive your life. What would it say?
In a world that exists largely outside of our control, the story we tell ourselves is the one aspect that is rightfully ours. If you recall in a blog a few posts ago, I explored three aspects of life that are guaranteed to us along our journeys. These are the beginning of life, the end of it, and the change that exists in between. There are many factors that come into play that try to talk us out of these assurances such as emotions and the influence of others. The fancy term for when emotions begin to define our fate is emotional reasoning. For example, if we feel defeated, then we must be doomed to despair for the rest of our existence. Cognitive Behavior Therapy would have a hay day with that mentality.
No matter what emotions might tell us, the story we tell ourselves does not have to be dictated by overgeneralizations that knock the wind out of our sails.
Check yourself before you wreck yourself, friends.
The frustration we can all resonate with presently is extremely valid. Our experiences feel stagnant because there is a giant Pandemic interrupting our regularly scheduled expectations of how life is supposed to be. We are existing within a season of life where “this isn’t how I imagined my life” is the perpetual catch phrase. Our nation is stomping their feet and banging their fists in protest. I get it. I feel it too.
However, the frustration and anxiety does not have to dictate your story.
This is where we are faced with a choice.
We can either succumb to our emotional experiences and allow them to color our internal storylines, or we can make room for both. We can recognize our emotions and choose to honor the humans we are existing in a chapter of life that’s hard as hell.
Our lives are a chapter book.
We fill in the pages.
In what manner and through what lens is very much in our hands.