Grief Space Part 1

griefSunday was a day – you know one of those days when the emotions bubble up and over.

I’ve been feeling untethered recently. There’s no way else to describe the disconnect and chaos that I feel. I have been struggling to identify where these feelings come from.

Life is pretty good. I’m enjoying my work.

I’ve been proactive about my mental health, seeing my therapist weekly and staying on top of my medications.

My visions have returned. In my major depressed states, I don’t have the capacity to hear from God and my gift of visioning is hindered. That hasn’t been the case recently. My visions have returned, almost to the point of being overwhelming. The creative energy is flowing and ideas are racing through my mind faster than I can account for them.

I’m nervous about the winter. Seasonal Affective Disorder is something that I deal with and being in a new city where cold, long winters are a norm scares me, but I’ve been proactive about dealing with this reality.

But there is still this feeling…this persistent, nagging emotion that something’s off.

I have been having a few days like today in succession recently and that scares me. I don’t like days like this because they remind me that the darkness is ever present. But something else happened today. I chose to reveal myself instead of hide. I reached out instead of staying in. I opened up instead of shutting down.

It began with church this morning. I’ve been feeling so guilty for not going to church. I am a leader in God’s church and I don’t belong to a regular worshipping community. I worship with many different communities as I travel, but I don’t have one community that I call home. Many have told me that I need to cut myself some slack because of the demands that my work in this season of my life make of me. But that doesn’t help ease the guilt. It doesn’t change the fact that I am disconnected from community. So today, on a rare occasion that I was in town and that I wasn’t exhausted, I went to church.

I cried most of the way there and I can’t  even tell you why. The tears just flowed. I got to worship late but I still went. This is a BIG DEAL. The anxiety of walking into places late is often times debilitating, but I decided to push through it and enter into a space that I knew God was calling me to be. It’s funny because I had these great expectations of worship this morning and they didn’t come to pass. But I realized as I left the service that me attending and getting out of my house was the first step.

From there I met with a dear friend who happens to be a pastor. I warned him before lunch that I was a complete mess and sure enough, over the course of our meal, the tears flowed. I still couldn’t explain exactly why I was so emotional but he let me babble on incoherently as I tried to make sense of the the emotions that I couldn’t seem to name. Our time together ended up being cathartic and I realized that if I hadn’t gone to church this morning, I wouldn’t have had lunch with him. I left our conversation extremely grateful for our time together.

As I drove home from lunch I kept playing the rest of my day over in my head. All I wanted to do was go home and bury myself under my covers. But I kept thinking that I needed to be out of my house. I needed to be around other people, even if I wasn’t directly engaging them. I needed to get outside of my head. And quite frankly, the thought of going home and being in my space by myself scared me. So I headed to a local coffee shop and began reading a book that I’ve been meaning to get to.

I sat there for an hour or so and still felt unsettled. At this point, I was getting tired of myself. I have no patience with myself and often wonder why things seem to be so difficult for me. I get tired of the tears. I get tired of the anxiety. I get tired of the sadness. I just get tired. In these moments I can’t imagine why anyone would want anything to do with me. I don’t want anything to do with me.

As I was having these thoughts I decided to reach out to a friend of mine who has profoundly shaped how I understand myself, my gifts and my call. It just so happened that she was available to talk. What happened over the next hour helped me understand what I was feeling and what I needed. Our conversation led me to realize that I am inhabiting what I am calling grief space. And it’s time to deal with it…

Part 2 to be published on Friday.

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Stop and Stare

One of my favorite and most helpful therapists is a woman named Dr. Meg*. Dr. Meg was one of the first people to tell me to look at my marriage and other things in my life that weren’t life-giving. She was the first therapist to work with me in overcoming childhood trauma using Thought Field Therapy. She is a woman who can only be described as full of life, spiritual, intuitive and truly kind hearted.

One of the things I loved about Dr. Meg is that she was Jewish but had such an open orientation towards the Divine. She could definitely be described as spiritual and not religious; but she respected my viewpoints and my way of thinking about God, faith and life. I worked with Dr. Meg for about three years and really miss her and our time together. She was such a gift to my life and, though it would be another 2 years before I actually embraced what she said, she was a fundamental piece of my ongoing healing.

Dr. Meg probably would have been a hippie back in the day. She had strong feelings about justice and equality and was very much in touch with the physical. She pushed me to love myself fully, keeping in mind that I was created in physical form. My work with her got me thinking about pleasure and joy in ways that I hadn’t imagined before. One session in particular stands out to me and now, four years later, I am finally at the point of understanding what she said.

I was sitting on her couch (yes, she had a couch in her home office) crying my eyes out as is common in my therapy sessions. I don’t know about you, but I probably loose 3-4 pounds of water after every therapy appointment due to the tears that run freely. Dr. Meg was waxing poetic about something and truth be told, I wasn’t in the mood to hear anything positive or well meaning. I think I actually stopped listening at one point but when I came back to the session, she was talking about fucking corn fields. Yes, corn fields.

I patted my eyes dry with the tissue that is always placed strategically within arms length and tuned back into our session. I could tell that Dr. Meg was really feeling what she was talking about so I began to listen. This session was a time that we were working on my disconnection from noticing and appreciating the normal, everyday beauty of life. I had the tendency to take myself and my surroundings way too seriously. For some reason I never let myself just be – just be a kid, just be a girl, just be whatever. It would take pole dancing to reinvigorate a sense of joy and wonder. You can read about that journey here.

So back to this session with Dr. Meg. She was talking about beholding the wonder of God’s creation and an experience she had in corn fields in Iowa. She painted a picture that was devastatingly beautiful as she described rows of corn and light reflecting off of the fields and the smell and the air that surrounded her. She actually was moved to tears in her description.

At this point, all I could do was stop and stare. I had no clue what this woman was talking about. I never felt like that about anything, let alone fucking corn. The one time I have been in Iowa, the corn fields brought about images from horror movies and did NOT bring to mind the beauty of God’s creation. But I digress…

My challenge that week was to take in the beauty that surrounded me and appreciate things for what they were, connecting them to the Divine. I realize now that I wasn’t ready to understand what she was talking about. However, today, August 20, 2013, I finally began to understand.

Today as I sat by the lake and reflected on my devotional reading for the day, I got what Dr. Meg was trying to tell me. As I looked out over the water and watched the sun rise on the horizon, as I listened to the gentle breaking of the water as it hit the sand and as I took in the birds that were finding sustenance and relief from the water, all I could do was stop and stare. I was overwhelmed by the beauty that is God’s creation. As I thought about how things work in syncopated time, sometimes seemingly chaotic but coming together beautifully, I thought about my life. I thought about where I’ve been, where I am and where I hope to go. I thought about they way that God has consistently spoken life into my heart when all I could hear, see and smell was death and despair. I thought about the beauty that is the sun and how it brings life to dark places. And tears came to my eyes. For I could simply stop and stare.

Stop and stare at the beauty that is all around you.

Stop and stare at the wonder that God has created within you.

Stop and stare at the people in your life who love and support you.

Stop and stare and recognize that even in your darkest place, God is trying to reach out to you and connect with you using the most ordinary of means in the most extraordinary of ways.

Thank you Dr. Meg.

Love,

Me

Sunrise at the Lake

Sunrise at the Lake

*Dr. Meg has been using her influence to make a positive difference in her community in seemingly small ways. She is such an inspiration. Read about what she’s been doing here

It’s Time to STOP Planning

So I’ve failed miserably. Once again, I set the bar so friggin high and when I realized that I couldn’t reach it, I just stopped trying. You may remember at the beginning of Lent I had this amazing plan of reading and reflecting on Not Alone by Rev. Dr. Monica Coleman. I downloaded the book, set up a reading schedule and began what I thought would be an eye-opening Lenten journey. The last post I wrote was on Day 2. It’s now Day 20 something of Lent. Needless to say, I am behind.

I felt guilty. Once again, I feel ashamed. I’ve been here before. And I’ve written about this before. Damn…

I had an epiphany today. I am a HUGE Dr. Brene Brown fan. Like HUGE. Today I watched her with Oprah on the series Super Soul Sunday. As I am watching and tweeting and being blown away, I realized that I am continuing with patterns that are not serving me well. While I think I have this whole abundant living/embracing my shadow/being vulnerable thing down, I realized that I continue to self-sabotage by not being true to myself. How so?

I mapped out my Lenten plan and decided to take on the tasks of daily reading and reflecting during the craziest time of my life. I was hired for a new position, moved across the country, began a new job, am still looking for housing and am trying to stay on top of all of my wellness tools to make sure that I don’t head back to depressionville before my 10 year cycle is up. So why on earth would I take on one more thing? How unrealistic can I be? And that’s when it hit me – I set myself up by taking on too much and creating grandiose plans instead of living in the moment and embracing my reality.

Even as I had this thought I was like, but plans are important. If I don’t have a plan I won’t get things done. I have to dream big. What will people think? I’m realizing that for a person like me, with the issues, challenges and realities I face, planning and being unrealistic can be crippling and lead to a continued cycle of shame, depression and isolation.

So here’s what’s going to happen dear Shadow Lovers. I’m going to stop talking. I’m going to stop planning. I’m going to lean in and just be. That is the best thing I can do for myself. Join me?

Love,

Me

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t…

It’s been over a month since my last post on Embracing My Shadow. I have been avoiding you… No let me be honest – actually, I’ve been avoiding myself. And I must confess that I am ashamed.

I was so excited with the momentum that was building with this movement of Shadow Lovers. I planned for a new year that was full of order and direction for the blog. You can read all about my plans here. I followed the advice of many a veteran blogger and created a schedule of blog posts. The writing had come to me so easily in 2012, I just figured that it would continue. I tend to keep my ideas in the Notes app in my phone but I felt the need to be a little more organized. I printed up a calendar and planned out my postings for the first three months of 2013. I  was ready to take 2013 by storm. I was the consummate perfectionist. I was on top of it. And then, it all stopped…

I was so excited that I forgot myself. I forgot what happens when I place so much pressure on planning and I forget what it means to be in the moment. I forgot what this endeavor was really about. I was caught in a whirlwind and I couldn’t keep up. So I did what I am prone to do when I get overwhelmed. I disappeared…

Time passes. I keep telling myself I’ll get something done. Then I don’t. Then I feel guilty. Then I put it off some more. Then I build it up to be this huge thing and I stress myself out over it. This stress impacts my entire life. I feel a tightening of my chest. My eating habits change. My sleeping patterns change. I get sick. And it generally comes back to the one thing that I am not dealing with. Does anyone else do this, or am I alone in my avoidance issues?

I used to think that this was simple procrastination, but I am learning that it goes much deeper than that. I have learned about what it means to be a perfectionist and must admit that I suffer from this personality disposition. Perfectionism, depression and anxiety create a perfect storm in my life that has led to overwhelming despair, shame and a type of paralysis that perpetuates the self-defeating thought that I am not good enough, nor will I ever be.

So I confess to you, dear Shadow Lovers. My perfectionist tendencies got the best of me and as soon as I fell off of the proverbial wagon, I had to disappear. I mean, how could I continue on when the plan had been changed? When I hadn’t lived up to my end of the bargain? When I felt like I had let myself down? Tis easier to hide…

But I’m learning that not only does this way of being not serve me well, it goes against everything I preach and teach about being authentic. More importantly, it perpetuates a cycle that harms the very essence of who I am and who God has created me to be. So I turn here, to you (and to me) and confess that I am not perfect, nor will I ever be. I over plan and fall short. I get paralyzed and everything stops. It’s time for this to change. I’m going to be honest with myself and recognize that the world doesn’t end because my plans fall apart. I am going to be more gracious towards myself. I am going to remember to live in the moment and just go with it. I am going to give myself a break. I am going to look at myself each and everyday and say, “I am enough.”

I ask that you be patient with me as I work these things out. Maybe you too suffer from some of these ways of being. Maybe we can walk together as we learn to embrace, love and care for our WHOLE selves. Maybe, just maybe, we can come to a place where we realize that we are enough, just as we are.

Love,

Me

Ruminations and Recriminations

It goes a little something like this…

I don’t feel good.I think I may be sick.I should stay home from work.

Who wants to be around me anyway?I’m pathetic.I’m a failure.I’m divorced.I’m crazy.I run men off.Who would want me?No one can love me.I don’t even love me.

I could have done better.I should have done this/that differently.I feel so guilty/ashamed because…I will never be forgiven.

If people really knew what I was thinking, they wouldn’t love me.If people knew the real me, they would never want to be around me.If I were a better friend/employee/lover/sister/daughter I wouldn’t be alone/depressed/anxious/afraid.

What if I never have children?Does that make me a failure?Isn’t that the one thing I’m supposed to do as a woman?Who am I kidding? I couldn’t take care of another human being if I wanted to.

I’m going to be fired.My work isn’t good enough.Did I make the right choice?What should I have done differently?Why is this so hard?

I’m not good enough.I’m not worth it.I’m inherently bad.I’m irrevocably broken. There’s no hope…

What was God thinking?Is there anything good here?What’s the point?What if I ended it all?Would anyone care?Then people would know that I am really a coward.

God help me.

These are actual thoughts that have plagued me. They start off slow, without warning. They’re amorphous and at times, unidentifiable. Truth be told, if you aren’t paying attention, they can creep up on you. One minute you’re fine. The next minute, you are so sad, or even worse, you are so numb. Before you know it, you are literally paralyzed by your thoughts and incapable of emerging from the darkest of places.

When you can actually feel something, the worst feelings take over – despair, hopelessness, guilt, shame. When you’re incapable of feeling, you just know you’re bad, worthless, forgotten, abandoned. The feelings and numbness take you to dark places, make you feel like your life isn’t worth living.

They don’t seem that bad. I mean, they’re just….thoughts, right?

WRONG.

gandhi_thoughts_postcard

Rumination is the act of focusing on the things that are distressing. Recrimination is a retaliatory accusation, in this case against yourself. Ruminating and recriminating have been my downfall and are signature markers of when my depression is at its worst.

Our thoughts have the power to be life-giving or life-taking. For those of us who struggle with depression, our thoughts are things we must pay attention to and fight on a daily basis. Guilt, shame and inadequacy can literally kill us by causing us to believe that we are worthless. Many people end their lives. While I’ve had suicidal thoughts, I’ve never taken steps to kill myself. I’m not sure why…

For me, the best things in combating these thoughts are medication, therapy, exercise, and spirituality. I’ll write more about each of these later but suffice it to say, without medication (Prozac and Xanax), therapy (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy on a REGULAR basis to be exact), exercise (participating in a variety of dance styles including Pole dancing – more on the benefits of this later) and spirituality (deepening my faith life through my Christian tradition and embracing Buddhism as a way of life) I would NOT be where I am today.

My prayer is that your thoughts breathe life into you rather than take life from you.

My prayer is that if you struggle with ruminating and recriminating, that you seek help and support.

My prayer is that you are able to reclaim the goodness within and never doubt who you are, what you can do or your value ever again.

If you or someone you know are contemplating suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

For more information about treatment options, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Visit Monday’s blog posting, which may provide some support through some very powerful lyrics – Music Mondays: Shine the Light by Sugarland.

When your thoughts threaten to take you under, please remember this one thing: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Love,

Me

On a Day Like This

One of my favorite camp songs is “On a Day Like This”. I love this song because it has fun motions and removes lines from each verse as the community sings it together. By the end, you only see actions that have replaced the verses but the beginning and ending of the song remain…”On a day like this, I need the Lord to help me.”

This song has been playing on repeat in my mind. Recently I had a very difficult day. A couple of things happened at work that brought many emotions to the surface. I went home and lay on my couch with a glass of wine and caught up on my television shows. I went to bed early thinking that after a good night’s sleep I would be up and ready to roll the following morning. But I wasn’t. I was dragging and could feel the tears just beneath the surface that were threatening to spill over. What is that about?

I am a student of awareness. I believe wholeheartedly that paying particular attention to one’s thoughts, feelings and actions provides invaluable insight. That being said, I spent some time sitting with my thoughts to figure out what’s going on…

Work was stressful, but not in a bad way. I commented to one of my colleagues that I appreciate times of crisis because there’s no time to think. There is only time to do and to be. In times like that, I realize not only how gifted I am but more importantly, that God is ever-present and the Spirit goes before me. There were a few situations that tested these theories and I felt confident that the care I provided was not only appropriate but appreciated.

I know that I haven’t fully been present as I continue to reflect upon a recently ended relationship. I keep playing things over in my mind trying to figure out a couple of things: do I really even want this man? What is the attraction? Am I settling? Should I fight for it? Why do I feel this connection to someone who is so different from me? All of these questions provide some insight into how I’m trying to process how relationships begin and end and the patterns that are present in my own behavior.

I also thought about a conversation I had with my father after he read a couple of my blog posts that were able to communicate things that I have never been able to share with him face-to-face. For some reason, my fear was that he would be upset with me, which he wasn’t. He was very compassionate and expressed feelings of sadness and disappointment as he tried to wrap his mind around new knowledge about my childhood and my personal struggles. There were some things he wanted more information about but I couldn’t go there last night. I am a bit relieved though. I feel like I’ve been hiding things from my father my whole life and I was finally able to share pieces of myself that allow him to have a better understanding of who I am.

I think I am also overwhelmed by things that I have been putting off and by doing so, I continue to procrastinate and feel like I am held hostage by my own inertia. The reality of my changing finances, the daunting task of preparing for future opportunities, the risk associated with starting my own business and the ever present fear of failing and not being enough are rearing their ugly heads. But I am aware of these things and valiantly putting one foot in front of the other.

I feel sad. I feel lonely. I feel tired. I feel overwhelmed. I feel nervous. I feel confused.

I don’t feel hopeless though. I know that it’s just for today. And for that, I am grateful.

Love,

Me