I’m not competing anymore

Repeat after me: 

“I am 100% the source of my reality.”

When I first read that you should have seen the rebellion on my face and throughout my body. I kept cursing the authors of the book – “You don’t know me – you don’t know my story or what I’ve been through!” 

I read it months ago when I wasn’t ready to read it and unbeknownst to me picked up the same book to read last week. A random grab as I was packing my carry on last minute.

And this time? That statement took my breath away. 

Our unconscious thrives on status quo, on keeping us in our comfortable rooms which are lined with posters of our favorite excuses because our unconscious is young – and change is threatening – and that’s how we survive. 

But I have made a conscious effort in the last week to recognize when I am projecting outwards – to admit that while I can’t control the hand I have been dealt I can control my thoughts and actions and ultimately how I play it. To be curious.

A whole bunch of things have led me to realize that I have been in competition for ‘biggest and best victim’ my whole life. It was set up that way – between me and my brother. And also occasionally between me and my mother. 

Well, I’m not competing anymore.

Here’s to feeling all the feelings, telling our truths, and following through. Here’s to taking our power and multiplying it – being so alive that we can’t help but help others to also feel that way. Here’s to being us, for us, and listening to ourselves.

There will never be a lack of conflicting opinions and information when it comes to any decision you make in life. 

There will never be a lack of people to compete with. 

But they can’t do anything if you take yourself out of the race. 

“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.” – Pema Chodron

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Lessons My Trip Has Taught Me

Lessons my trip have taught me:

1. I have got to stop caring about what others think of my choices.

I wasn’t going to post about my trip on social media – because I was worried about people telling me I shouldn’t (from the family drama – how dare I celebrate my anniversary with my husband when he has hurt my Mom). But then I drafted this response to anybody who had anything to say about it. Haven’t had to use it yet, but it’s here: 

You are welcome to unfollow me or unfriend me if you don’t like what I am posting. But I’m not cutting a whole chunk of my existence out because you don’t think it should be there. Not anymore. And if that makes me selfish – then good. It’s about time. Nobody else gets to decide my life’s timeline but me.

2. I am feeling upset with boundaries for the first time.

As written in my last post. I cancelled and then uncancelled my appointment today within like 30 seconds. 

3. I was taught that we (my family) were better than others – and I am realizing what a disservice this has done.

We have been taking public transit a lot this trip. I’ve been here 2 times before with my family… and we never took transit. I mentioned it casually to my husband and he said “well it’s beneath you guys to travel with the commoners.” And my immediate reaction was “well, yeah.” And I had to stop and really think about that. I was raised to believe I am better than others – and undoing that is proving a challenge. But I have taken transit this whole trip and gone to places and done things that would have been considered “beneath” before (not my Dad, he quite likes travel this way, but my Mom). And oh man, how many experiences I have missed. 

4. I’m still financially irresponsible and I have to get my act together.

Yea. This. Maxed out a card. A $23,500 card. 

5. That the love my husband and I have is real and true and wonderful.

He’s perfect for me. He’s wonderful, and I love him. So much. And we have so much fun together. 

6. I am struggling HARD with body issues. 

Many people offered me a seat this past week on the train. While I love ya’ll in the South – the only reason you offered is because I look pregnant. I am not pregnant. Please stop assuming I’m pregnant. You aren’t helping. 

7. My mom will always be my mom.

She asked me the same question twice within 12 hours about what we were doing today. She sent me an irrelevant text tonight after 10pm. She doesn’t listen and checks things off like they are a to do list. I can’t really share with her and I think that’s what makes A’s boundaries feel so abrasive and hard to be coming up against right now. This will always be the way it is. And I have to decide what to do with that.

8. That I finally figured out why I panic in crowds.

The memory has been there, under the surface. It hasn’t come together yet, but today in a lineup I distinctly felt left behind and alone. I had a full on flashback and ended up hyperventilating in the line with my husband extremely confused. I am so afraid of being left behind. 

9. That the more room I give my inner child to play, the better.

She has loved so much about this trip. Picturing her running around and playing, being given space to do that by my husband, going on adventures that have soothed my kid soul in so many ways. That inner child is alive and well and finally learning how to play.

10. That above all, I’m lucky.

The homeless, the people working three jobs, the people who don’t understand geography. Those who don’t have enough money to pay bills or to support a dream. I am not one of them. And despite everything else, I’m lucky. 

Feeling The Boundaries

Early on in our relationship, A explained to me her philisophy on being a counselor, her feelings around boundaries, and the importance of cultivating attachment in a safe environment to foster my growth. 

I still believe everything she said was skillful and is true. 

I’m visiting somewhere this week, where my old therapist, Em, lives now. And Em has previously told me it’s ok to reach out and maybe we will just get a coffee but I’ve come to realize over time how her lack of boundaries and inexperience really hurt me (we are only about 8 months apart in age, a fact I know because she followed me on Instagram and I see her birthday photos – most recently her dancing on a tabletop in Vegas – see what I mean?) 

I don’t begrudge Em much of anything, mostly because the work I did with her laid the groundwork for me being able to accept and allow A into my life in the capacity that she is now. The work I did with Em was important, and I don’t think I could handle how A challenges me without having done that work first. But Em’s lack of boundaries and continued presence in my life made me realize how important A’s boundaries are.

But I find myself railing against them this week, moreso than ever before. And I don’t really know why. 

A and I love MnMs, it’s our thing. I think it’s where the attachment was created – the day she offered me MnMs in session and it opened up a dialogue about candy – the first dialogue where I mentioned anything about myself… almost three months in to our sessions. I never used to talk much at all. That initial contact was formed via a milk chocolate shell wrapped around a peanut. 

So I am not at home right now, and I saw a unique flavor of this candy. I had picked up a pack of it when I was on my honeymoon, and A and I shared it upon my return. And I found myself wanting to take a photo and text it to her being like “hey, look what I found!” 

And I couldn’t. I can’t. It’s not allowed.

And I’ve felt that wall, that boundary, that barrier so acutely this trip. I have data still, so it’s not like I went no contact on purpose. And I have texted my mother and found her responses so, robotic. That I just stopped trying to share. I so desperately want an attachment figure to share these things with – these moments, this trip. I want to text or email someone and be like “look at what we did today!” Or “Remember when we were here and did that?” 

I want to share something with A, someone who means a lot to me. And I can’t. But I can’t share with my Mom either. And I’m really feeling into that grief on this trip. 

It’s okay. We’re okay. 

I read the letter to A, in my hoarse, cold-stricken voice. I sounded like someone who smokes too many cigarettes (still do, I think my husband is tired of having me up coughing all night long… Goodness knows I’m tired of it).

After I was done she told me I had unloaded a lot of truth there, and that she both understood all my feelings and applauded me writing them – but that she felt that I had circled around back to the start and that she didn’t have a big reaction or any questions. So she put it back to me.

Are there parts you want to talk about? In specific?” 

I thought about it for a while, and quite honestly, there weren’t. Not about the video, anyways. I felt I had done this processing, written it all up, and been heard. There are two parts of that letter though that I hadn’t mentioned before to her so my response was that there were parts I definitely did not want to talk about. 

We started with body shame – OH how I hate this topic and how it makes me feel. She asked me to sit with those feelings and explain the body sensations and I recoiled – telling her that I am okay now with doing it with things like sadness or grief but that this felt like a totally different animal. Something new, something I didn’t understand. 

I kept avoiding her, and it, until she said “can I explain something to you? I ask you to sit with all these things because when we don’t have someone to help us with our emotions as children, experiencing them becomes intolerable. We view them as bad things, things to run away from. But we often run straight into the arms of addiction, of self harm, or anything to numb us to true feelings. So when I ask you to lean into these emotions, I am doing it so that you can experience them with a loving, safe, and trusted adult – with the hope that eventually they become less intolerable and that you learn not only how to deal with them but that there is a safe person to deal with them with – and that you are not alone.” 

She got me with that. She asked if it made sense, and I said yes, and because you intellectualized it it was easier for me to say that I would try. So we spent some time sitting with that feeling of shame – of confusion around my body – which was so hard and led to a thought pattern spiral of I felt shame and like I was not good enough, but I know I was, so then it becomes grief and sadness and a rollercoaster of “why”. 

Leaning in to emotion is so difficult when your body is screaming at you to get away from it. 

But as always A was compassionate and understanding and just directive enough to help me stay in that “uncomfortable but not crisis” level zone of emotion. 

After the emotions ceased, and the wave had created and fallen, I looked at her and said “my answer is no.” 

She said “that is completely okay, and just so you know it’s a standing offer if you should change your mind.” 

And I got anxious and sat up straight and looked at her and was trying to read if she was upset with me (didn’t realize that’s what it was at the time but it was hypervigilance – someone gave me an option, I chose, and was suddenly afraid of it going wrong).

I kept vocalizing that – being anxious and wanting her reassurance and telling her I was worried she was mad or upset. She kept encouraging me to not only listen to her words, but also read her body language, and called out the hypervigilance for what it was, and encouraged me to put the topic down. 

We can come back to this, I am not mad at you, not in the least, and you’re ruminating – so we are going to practice having made a decision together and putting the conversation to bed for a bit – laying it down.” 

So I started focusing on my breathing, resisting that urge to ask continually if we were okay, if she was mad, offer to change my mind. And this is SO evident about how my reactions and actions and choices were all so reflective of what I felt others needed from me, why I read people all the time (and do it well). 

After a few minutes of breathing she went “it’s okay, PD, we’re okay.” 

And I’ve held on to that sentence with so much gratitude.

We’re okay. 

Oops!

I had comments turned off on my last post which was counterproductive because I really want to know your opinions (it’s why I posted!). So if you read it and had something to say but couldn’t comment, please do go back ❤️

To videotape or not to videotape…

Note: I will be writing still, but not with the same frequency. I was obsessing over what was happening in my life, and realized I wasn’t living outside of this blog. It was like eating, drinking, and being the problems with my family. However, some things I still want to share. Hence this post.  

Last week A explained to me she is furthering her learning with a new certification (AEDP), and asked me if I would consider having her videotape our sessions for her supervision. She said that our work together is some of the best work she does, that our relationship is representative of her ideal relationship with clients and that she was hoping to use the tapes to further her growth. She explained who would see them, the confidentiality piece, and ended by telling me it was absolutely my choice and that she would be fine either way.

You’d think I’d just be calmly considering that very simple question, right? She framed it well, explained it, and told me to think about it and not answer there. She had already qualified nothing would change either way.

Well, it seems like she has tapped into this melting pot of attachment issues. And, as a result, I wasn’t able to sleep! So I penned her a letter, which is below, that explains my feelings around it, and we will discuss on Tuesday. But I’m wondering if any of you have been taped as a part of your therapists growth or learning, and your feelings around it. 

And I’m also wondering if I am making a mountain out of a molehill here but it has tapped into some really big feelings for me! 

—————————

I’ve been trying to sort out my thoughts around what you’ve asked with regards to videotaping our sessions – the question has really opened up this whole issue of saying yes or saying no to attachment figures, and my fear around doing either of those things. It’s tapped into my default of saying yes to please and then enduring through it as well… which I am trying to override by having this discussion. 

So I really want to spend today talking about it with you. But that alone brings up a whole bunch of emotions – around discussing something that affects you, with you. I clearly have very little trust in my parents to stay impartial. The voice in my head is telling me you aren’t going to be able to talk to me about this without pushing an agenda of your own – even though I am pretty sure that isn’t true…. and I feel silly, like this isn’t a big ask and I should just shut up and do it and get through it – but with all the emotions and thoughts it’s bringing up, it is clearly something to talk about, or at least I believe so. I know the voice telling me I’m making a mountain out of a molehill is my mother’s.

I want to run down the laundry list of what I’ve been thinking – for both if I said yes, and if I said no, and then we can talk about them all.

I am afraid if I say yes that I’m going to fail you in some way – that our sessions won’t be what you need or want, or that I won’t “perform” as well as you need me to. I know this comes from being taught that I am only worth something to my parents if I’m perfect and performing like a circus monkey. I’m worried I won’t perform well, and that then I will no longer be that client that you value – the person you described when you told me why you asked me. I assume my value to you is tied to me not only saying yes, but doing things well afterwards. 

Something else that has come up with me saying yes is my body shame, which was less expected but I have noticed I’ve found myself thinking about how I hate how I look on camera – how I rarely think about how large I feel and how much I weigh in your office – I just sit and move how is comfortable for me – whether that’s curled into a ball or us sitting together or me stretched out on the couch… but I keep thinking about a person or group of people watching a tape of us and just wondering why I am the shape I am and thinking about how unattractive I am, thinking things like “wow she’s messed up emotionally AND ugly – what a shitty combination of a person”. 

I have also thought about what if I know one of the people who would see it? I’ve made my way through four or five therapists in this city – what if one of them is there? What if someone is there I am friends with? What if somebody I know sees all these parts of me I’ve worked hard to not let out? I don’t know that these people are as ethical or as boundaried as you are. My train of thought has even got to the point of what if my parents have planted someone in the room – which, I know sounds ridiculous but I am so clearly still afraid of them doing things like that, even now. Its one of the reasons I don’t trust new people. 

And while logically I don’t believe you are conspiring with my mom, it doesn’t escape me that there would be something about me, an incredibly vulnerable something about me – that you would have, and that I have no control over once you have it, that could end up somehow in the hands of someone I don’t want to see it. And I think that boils down to trust, and with all the time I have spent thinking of this I think I’ve realized I don’t trust you with this. I don’t trust you to keep it private and not share. I don’t trust things to be the same once the camera is on. And while that upsets me, because I want to trust you, it just once again shows me how much I’ve lost.

I am also afraid that we will plan to record our sessions and I won’t speak up if we get to it and I change my mind, and then if I do that that will let you down. It taps into that “endure and get through and you will get a reward” and then it also brings up all my no fears. 

It is no secret I grew up thriving off of approval and being given special tasks, and I don’t want you to think differently of me if I say no. It sounds dumb, and I realize that you likely don’t have a favorite – but I pride myself on being a good client that you like to work with and someone who you enjoy spending time with. It comes back to that winner mentality – how I feel like I have to win out over my brother – I have to win my parents love. I want to “win” over all your other clients, and I’m afraid saying no will change how you see our relationship, how much you care for me, and how things work here. I’m worried you won’t ask me again for something like this because I “made it such a big deal when it was nothing” this time. 

I love our relationship, working with you has done so much for me. I feel like we have talked a lot about how unique it is, and how important it is to us both, and we have talked about similarities in our journeys.  And when you said you did it for your counselor (note: in the context of telling me what it was like being taped, she asked if I wanted to know) – I thought maybe that means I should do it too, or if I don’t that it changes the quality of that relationship I have come to value so much. 

At the end of the day, our container means so much to me. I’ve come to trust you in this space, even if I don’t trust you yet with something outside of it. I’ve explored parts of myself that have scared and shocked me and dealt with emotional pain stronger than anything I’ve ever experienced elsewhere. I see tidal waves coming now for things I maybe one day will talk about, and remember that I have an anchor in our relationship that isn’t going to let me get swept back out to sea. I’m starting to feel less lonely, and I notice myself internalizing things we do here and carrying them with me. Just months ago, I never would have been able to think about this all on my own, I would have said yes and not discussed all that this question has brought up for me. You’ve been there through all of it and you’ve never let me down. But it comes back to what [my husband] said when I asked him to come in here – that this space is sacred to me, and if he comes he breaks that container wall. I don’t want what we do in here to leave here, if a tape leaves then that bubble has been forever punctured. And it can’t be unpunctured. 

So, I’m leaning towards no, for this reason, above all the others. I think I’ve weeded through the being afraid and not trusting to get to the heart of it which is that I don’t want the container to be cracked open. It means too much to me. It protects that sprout, that part of me growing.

But I also don’t want to dismiss this as a learning opportunity – for both of us – literally for you, but for me in trusting that an attachment figure can follow through, mean what they say, and not let me down. That shitty things don’t have to happen when a therapist turns on a video camera. When you first asked me my first thought was “I know what that really means, asking to tape me, and absolutely not.” And I don’t want to let that drive my decision making. The whole thing could be corrective in so many ways for me, done properly. So I see the opportunity there. 

To cap off this very long letter: I want to spend time talking about this today, and I want to think about it again, and then come back with a solid choice. And I want to make that choice, so even though you may be feeling like it’s a good or not good idea, I really don’t want you to make the choice for me by taking it away as an option right now. That was a fear I got over today by reading this – I chose to trust that we can have a conversation about this and that you are someone I can trust to not minimize this or choose for me. 

So let’s talk. 

A Break

For the first time, I’m wondering if sharing all of this, if writing this blog, has been a mistake. This level of honesty and openness out in the world. 

I’m not sure what I need or if I’m going to continue, to be honest. But know that I’m safe, I’m alive, and I’m still working on things. 

I just need a break.