A Word on Darkness

It’s lurking. I can feel it hovering at the corners of my mind, of my spirit. It’s moving towards me, but this time I am not being caught unaware. This time, I see it coming. And I can do something about it.

It’s like being in the Berkeley Hills, looking out towards San Francisco as the fog rolls in. You can see it and feel it coming. It takes over. As the sun goes down the darkness and fog become one. I’m not afraid of it, per se. I’m afraid of not being strong enough to not get lost in it.

Fog rolling in

A year ago I stopped taking my medication. I had been on meds for a few years prior and I wasn’t stopping just because I felt better. I wanted to stop to see if I could do life without a dependency on drugs. It might sound silly or presumptuous, but I wanted to see if I had what it took – though I’m not even sure what that means – to live life without a regular dosage of a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI). I am a supporter of medication and recognize that depression is not just a feeling but is a biological reality that has chemical implications. I am clear now that I am not one who can just pray, exercise, eat and sleep my way through dealing with my depression. Continue reading

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A Word on Shame

Shame Quote

As Brene Brown would say, this weekend I suffered from the worst vulnerability hangover ever. After my unfortunate Friday night experience, all I wanted to do was go and hide. I replayed the events of that night over and over and over again and could only think one thing – “Lord, have mercy.”

You see, not only did I feel bad about how things went, my mind led me to a place that went beyond embarrassment to pure shame. I totally passed over the thought of “Oh, well, maybe it will be better next time” and headed straight to “See you are not good enough. You really are a fraud. You can’t do this. You are bad.” Continue reading

Yoga Making Space

I am starting a new journey this weekend. Over the next 10 months, I am a student training to become a certified yoga teacher. This wasn’t a part of my plan. It’s funny how things happen like that. One moment I am sure of one path and the next, something and someone I couldn’t imagine or didn’t know grace my path and things begin to coalesce.

I am a dancer and have lamented my disconnection from dance as physical, emotional and spiritual therapy. Since my move and the various transitions of my life, I have not been in touch with my physical form. And I’ve suffered because of it. Sure things have been pretty good as of late, but I have felt like a piece of me has been missing.

I haven’t been grounded.

I haven’t been in touch with my body.

I haven’t spent time moving and stretching and breathing life into tired joints and stiff muscles.

I haven’t engaged in something that causes my mind to stop and allows me to hear – to hear my own inner thoughts and to hear that small, still voice of God that reaches out to me when I am engaging in that which I love.

DownToEarth-Yoga_art-Alders800px

Enter Yoga. A colleague of mine is a yoga instructor and owns her own studio. I became close with her and the Spirit showed up. There’s more to this story that I will share later but the short version is that through this connection I am beginning this journey.

All of this is happening at the same time that I am experiencing some breakthroughs in therapy. I am beginning to peel back layers of myself and it has become clear that now is the time for me to confront some fears, some insecurities and some maladaptive ways of being. I can’t run from certain things anymore. It’s time that I make space…

Yoga is a way of life. The word yoga actually means to unite; to unite one’s mind, body and spirit on a journey of peace and acceptance. I realized tonight that I am on a journey of making space to knit pieces of myself back together as I seek healing and wholeness.

The part that’s been missing, the part that I’ve been longing for, is an integrated sense of self. I got this through dance. I was able to fully embody who I was created to be and the practice of dance taught me much about myself and ways of being in the world. After our first practice and class tonight, I was overwhelmed by the feelings that emerged simply because I made space.

Making space allowed me to feel some emotions that I’ve been avoiding.

Making space allowed me to hear from my body.

Making space allowed me to confront the negative voices that spew lies about who I am that my depressed mind has a tendency to believe.

There’s so much more to share and this is only the beginning.

Love,

Me

The Danger of Self Loathing

Trigger Alert: If you are someone you know is contemplating suicide, please seek help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free and anonymous service. Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 or visit http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. 

Selfhatred (also called selfloathing) refers to an extreme dislike or hatred of oneself, or being angry at or even prejudiced against oneself.

Not_Good_Enough_by_graphiqual

I thought I’d never get to that point again. I guess that’s the danger of thinking you’ve overcome something. I still have a lot to learn and realize that my family’s involvement in AA* (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA* (Narcotics Anonymous) has a lot to teach me. Never stop thinking that you are an addict. You are an addict. You might be in recovery, but the moment you think you’ve conquered your addiction is the moment you fall off the wagon. That being said, I thought I was over feelings of wanting to die.  Until last week.

Self loathing and shame are powerful emotions, ones that lie and lead one to think that they are worthless. And truth be told, they are the two emotions that I have battled much of my life. I don’t know where it comes from, but I have constantly thought that I was unworthy. I could never make a mistake. I was never good enough. All of these thoughts have fueled my desire to further my education and constantly seek to be better. All in all, these aren’t bad things to seek but I’ve learned that the motivations – self loathing and shame – are deadly.

My desire for to be perfect leads me to have zero tolerance about making mistakes and I am inherently ungracious towards myself. More about this thing called grace later…

This past week, everything that I feared became a reality – making a public mistake, disappointing people that I care deeply about, engaging a man in an unhealthy relationship, scaring my closest friends – you name it, it happened. Basically it was one of the worse weeks of my life. And the feeling of wanting to disappear, to leave and never come back, to die, returned.

I didn’t think I would ever be there again. I didn’t think that I would make decisions that would put me in danger. But I am realizing that the longer I go trying to cover up rather than embrace the dark side of myself, the easier it is for me to slip back into thinking that I am worthless. My tendency during these moments is to withdraw, to shut out loved ones and crawl into myself. I’ve found that my thinking is flawed during this time because my mind leads me to wonder why anyone would care. At my lowest moments, I believe this to be true. And this is dangerous.

I am thankful for the community of support that surrounds me in spite of myself. I am thankful for the women in my life who push through and don’t take no for an answer. I am thankful that my decisions did not lead to a point of no return. I am thankful that God’s grace abounds even as I struggle with it and can’t fully comprehend it.

I am continuing on this journey of healing – meeting with my therapist, taking my medication, getting back in shape, taking care of my body – but I realize that there will be setbacks.

My prayer is that feelings of worthlessness disappear as we look them in the eye and declare that they don’t have the last word over our lives.

My prayer is that I grow in grace and compassion towards myself and that you do the same.

My prayer is that love abounds – love of God, love of self and love of others – as I continue to realize my self worth.

Love,

Me

*Alcoholics Anonymous is an international mutual aid fellowship founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith in Akron, Ohio. AA states that its “primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety”. Narcotics Anonymous describes itself as a “nonprofit fellowship or society of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem”.

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

Dance Lessons Part 1…

I love to dance. There’s something that happens when I hear music that causes a soul-stirring reaction.

I love movement. I love the expression of emotions through movement. I love how beats and rhythms and lyrics come to life in a physical form that is dance.

I am not a gifted dancer. I define gifts as those things that are like breathing, those things that you don’t even have to think about that just flow from you. Dance was not something that came naturally to me. Anyone who knows me from childhood knows that I wasn’t the most coordinated person. Truth be told, I was quite awkward. I discovered dance through my experience as a cheerleader in middle school and high school. I switched over to just dance when I got to college. Dance saved me from myself. When I was a junior in college and in the midst of my second major depressive episode, dance was the only thing that kept me from killing myself.

I am a passionate dancer. Passions are those things that can be cultivated. I see as many dance companies perform as money and time allow. I secretly want to be a member of a Salsa dance troupe and envision the costumes, music and pure joy that would follow. As I’ve gotten older and my passion for dance has been realized, I seek out classes and troupes and studios that would allow me to hone my skills. I’ve taken ballet, jazz, modern, hip-hop, Latin and pole classes. Yes, pole classes. (For more about my experience with pole dancing, click here. It was seriously the most liberating experience of my life!) I have stretched and strengthened muscles I didn’t know I had. I’ve gone from being a terribly awkward girl who was not comfortable in her own skin to a woman who fully embraces her body and sees it as a gift from God. Dance has connected me to my soul and to the Divine.

Dance continues to be one of the best forms of therapy that I experience. I recently moved and while things have largely gone well, I have had some rough times during this transition. Once I found a therapist, I realized that I needed to find a dance class. I signed up for Salsa lessons and am ecstatic that it works with my schedule.  There is clearly a link between exercise and dealing with depression and every time I attend a dance class I am reminded of it’s importance. However, the what I’m learning goes beyond the physical. I am gaining life lessons from this passion of mine and am so grateful.

What things/hobbies/activities serve as therapy for you and teach you life lessons?

Stay tuned…

Love,

Me