Unconditional

I know it has been a while since I last wrote.  I am writing today because I was informed this morning that a client’s pet died.  I keep looking at my cat, not even a year old yet, and wondering at her, cherishing her, holding her a little closer.  My client’s dog was old, half toothless, blind in one eye…my client’s family recused him.  He was roughly treated in his younger years and my client’s family made his last few years as comfortable as they could for him.  It’s a sad day for them.  I ponder the impact of unconditional love on us given to us by our pets.  I know a while ago, a couple of years at least, my therapist tried to get my then landlord to allow me a cat as a support animal.  I also know how much richer and better my life has been since I picked out Piper from her litter mates.  How much I’ve changed for the better just knowing that her warm little body and her ready purrs wait for me when I get home.  Piper was with me when I was in a house fire 8 almost 9 weeks ago.  She adjusted surprisingly well to the sudden upheaval, waking up in the middle of the night, being shoved into her cat carrier, being locked in an unfamiliar bathroom all night, the two (or was it three?) and a half weeks we spent at my Aunt’s, and then moving into a brand new apartment.  I still remember the way she used to curl up in the rug in front of my tv and wonder whether she remembers too.

Piper is my first cat that is all mine.  Growing up we had cats but they were family cats.  They belonged to all of us.  Piper is mine.  She knows me and I know her.  It was hard for me when we were at my Aunt’s, to listen to my Uncle get testy over what she is and isn’t allowed to do.  I get it.  Their house, their rules.  But she is so much a part of me it felt like a criticism of me.  I didn’t hate her for her natural behaviors and her personality, in fact while I was scared that we would be kicked out, I was also defensive of her.  I was angry at my Uncle.  This, getting defensive and taking care of my inner child, is something my therapist has tried to get me to do for my inner child practically since I started seeing her.  So in a way my cat embodies that inner child part, the vulnerable dependent part, and I am reminded constantly to take care of it, treat it with kindness, play with it, love it, honor it, and cherish it.

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The Stories We Live

This post might seem a little redundant at first. For a long time I believed there was something fundamentally wrong with me. Let that sink in for a moment. Many people grow up believing that yes they do good things and bad things but their essential sense of self is permanent, immovable. They might not even be conscious of it but they have this sense of okay-ness at their core. For reasons I can’t explain and are long and involved and don’t want to go into here, I have felt I did not have this essential sense of rightness. It is why for as long as I can remember I have looked for this sense of stability, something I can rely on, something to which I can attach myself, because I could not find this sense of rightness or stability within myself. I equate it to constantly being on a ship at sea, constantly adjusting, equilibrium always just a little bit off. I have been on a search for my land legs. I am tired of traveling the stormy seas.

Yesterday I came across this article posted on Psychology Today entitled “Imagining an Authentic Life.” For some reason, perhaps I was just receptive to its message, it really impacted me. The article talked about the stories we live and how they are composed for us, in this case by the author’s parents. I began thinking about the story that was composed for me and how all of the information I have taken in since I was a very little girl has gone towards supporting this story. I have finally begun to question this story of wrongness, of not good enough. Who says? And is this the story I want to continue living?

From the start my belief that something is wrong with me, something makes me essentially ‘less than” or unworthy, is something my therapist and I have worked on correcting. She, my therapist, has worked on pounding into my head the message that, “There is nothing wrong with me!” And yesterday for some reason I really realized just how much I was living someone else’s (Mom’s? My teacher’s?) story. It makes me sad.

I’ve beaten myself up for so long because I honestly and truly believed that I deserved it. I have been receiving messages or interpreting messages for so long that my wants, needs, inclinations, preferences, ways of learning or being in the world, etc. are wrong or shouldn’t be, that as a very little girl I distorted it into believing that there must be something wrong with me, my essential being.

And this is where my therapist would ask, “So what are you going to do about it?” I’d like to believe that I’ll be a little less afraid to engage in “reasonable risk taking.” By combating the belief that I am fundamentally undeserving, I will no longer be afraid to ask for what I want and need to survive. By accepting my wants and needs without judging their rightness or wrongness I will finally learn to love myself and to “write my own story.” Finally, “reasonable risk taking” will be more about deciding who I want to be rather than living someone else’s story.

There is also this part of me that doesn’t want to let go of this “magic feather.” (see Dumbo and his magic feather the crows told him he could use to fly.”

The Diet

It’s been a long time since I’ve last written. I was in the midst of thesis writing and internship hours. Now I have graduated. I finally have my Masters in Art Therapy after four long years. Wow what a journey it has been. I’m going to share a story that will be a little hard to really grasp without all of the background history but I’ll try to make it clear.

After high school I was heavy and during my first year of college, with the help of my Aunt, I undertook the task of losing weight. When I was losing weight I could see measurable physical results and I had my Aunt there to encourage me and recognize my results.

Now. I still struggle with the nasty messages I’ve been telling myself for decades, since I was really little actually. I often find myself wishing that changing these thoughts were as easy as it was for me to lose weight. It’s easy enough to say, “eat this, not that” but to fight something that is in my head and heart, it is not as easy to get a hold on.

In a way the horrible, nasty messages I live and breathe and incorporate into my being are like junk food. Worse, they are like the junk food that pretends to be healthy. When I’m eating it (the messages) it tastes so good and I can fool myself into thinking they are good for me. Later, I feel horrible and ill and they eat away at my being. It clogs everything up. These pretend healthy messages are actually junk. So what does actual healthy mind food look like?

Healthy mind food involves an accurate and balanced assessment of abilities and scenarios.

I was watching ‘My 600 pound Life’ last night and thinking about how the doctor told each of his patients to ‘stop making excuses.’ It reminded me a lot of what “K,” my therapist, tells me. Instead of bad eating habits I have bad mental/ emotional habits. Now again, it was easy enough for me to follow the “eat this, not that” direction but it is not so easy nor is there a perscriptive mental “diet” for me to follow. In any event changing my thinking, like changing my eating habits, involves the same kind of conscious choice. I’ve got to force myself to put down that metaphorical donut. Once. And. For. All.

2014/2015

This post is inspired by another post by another blogger/ Art Therapist. Earlier today I read http://natashashapiroarttherapy.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/great-idea-for-art-therapy-new-year-activity/

Give Away/ Get Rid Of from 2014

~Fear of trying new things, going “out on a limb,” experimenting
~Resistance- to new possibilities, doing new things, new ways of seeing things
~Thinking about myself only in relation to other people and their approval or disapproval
~Going too fast- Not making conscious decisions
-making reactive choices, thoughts, and decisions based on instinct, fear, or feeling, rather than thought out choice that recognizes all sides of the situation
~Not always using realizations made
-realizations —>new ways of seeing things should translate into doing, saying, or acting in new ways

Hopes for 2015

~Doing more of what makes me happy just because it makes me happy.
~Be more generous
~Stand up for myself more with less fear, even if I am wrong.
~Do more of what feels rights and less of what feels wrong.
~Do things I know are good for me even if I don’t want to- like going out with people
~Be Brave
~Be Patient

*Just because things (people, feelings, wants, needs) are hard to find, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Summer Perspective

Today is my next to last day on vacation. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking the past few days, since my therapy session on Wednesday. I’ve learned a lot over the summer. I think I’ve become stronger as a person and I’ve started to distance myself from the anxiety I’ve been plagued with for many years. Some days, some hours, some seconds are easier than others. Some days I’m overwhelmed by it still. I’m more settled in myself and have learned that even if there are some things I could do better I am a good and worthy person.

My therapist and I have been working on dialoguing with my Inner Critic and Inner Child. She had been advising me to view my current self (reason) as a coach who decides when to put certain “players” (the Critic, the Inner Child) into the game. I am the coach who decides how to best use each player. But this metaphor wasn’t working for me or maybe I just wasn’t getting what she was trying to say. This past week a simple change in vocabulary brought new meaning into the metaphor. She suggested I use the Critic and the Inner Child as “input.” They can offer input into whatever I’m encountering but I am the one who makes the decision on what to do, how to react, and what needs are met. For some reason this was more clarifying and enlightening for me. I can listen to one side and the other and then judge what needs to be done. Now these emotional sides of me aren’t always nice and patient or reasonable but somehow this shift in perspective gave me a greater sense of control.

I am still nervous about restarting internship this Fall semester. Will I be able to maintain reason and clarity and not let anxiety and fear get in the way of what needs to be done? I waver between this confidence and fear. I know a lot. I know theory and compassion and the humanity of it all but will I be blinded by my uncertainty, by my fear? Will I be paralyzed like I was during my first internship? I don’t want to be. Part of me is also afraid of asking for what I want and need, which is close supervision, a guiding hand, someone I’m not afraid to go to to ask for help, someone who will be near until I feel strong enough to work on my own. Asking for help has always been a BIG problem for me. Asking for help has meant not being good enough, not smart enough, not worthy, an imposition, an inconvenience, an annoyance. I have been afraid to ask for help for the simple fact that I have been afraid I wouldn’t receive it.

And part of me is afraid that I haven’t made as much progress as I keep insisting I have, though I do feel differently than I did, I think. Have I done enough? Have I done anything? Have I just been pissing around and not really doing any work at all? Though I am still slipping and sliding I think I am making slow progress towards more solid ground.

The Inner Child is whining. She needs something. She’s lonely and wants to be loved.

True to you or true to me?

I’m socially phobic. This is not just some random label I’ve taken on myself. My therapist and probably even my professors can testify to it. So obviously, this is a problem in a woman who is studying to become a therapist. I’ve come a long way but I am still not comfortable enough to really effectively work with people. This may change even more before I graduate but still it is not a strength I have. My strengths come from research, reading, writing, analyzing, putting together new information and associations, and passion, oh yes, I have boat loads of passion for learning new things, psychology, Art Therapy, and the human condition. And I have such empathy for people; I want to help them.  Over the past few days, since my last appointment with my therapist, I have been struggling with what we had discussed. She said that I can’t work with people in the same ways that my classmates can. I can’t work with people in the same way that she, my therapist, can. My therapist is a people person.  I, she said, am not.  I am an idea person.  She equated me to someone like “Abby Sciuto” (Did I spell that right?) in the t.v. show NCIS. Brilliant but out in the field??? She said, Steve Jobs knew he needed people around him that were better than he was at relating to other people.  Steve Jobs was the idea man.  Anyway. I have been quite distressed about this. Why can’t I ever do what everyone else is doing?! Why am I never like anyone else? Why can’t I just fit in? Why can’t things ever be easy for me? Why can’t I do what is expected of me?  I don’t care about having the knowledge half so much as being able to relate to people easily and comfortably.  I so want that connection.

My heart has ached and continues to ache because I am unable to do what the women I have idolized have done.

Then this morning, as I was getting dressed, I spied the poster I’ve had hanging on my bedroom wall for quite a while. It is a poster I made for…I think it was my Issues in Art Therapy class. We were instructed to create our ideal therapeutic space based on the ethical guidelines laid out by the AATA (American Art Therapy Association). My classmates came in with some really spectacular drawings all more or less standard drawing paper size. Me? I came in with a poster collaged with images of a window fronted A framed building surrounded by other images of zen pools, long outdoor dining tables, wide open spaces, terrariums, drawing tables, books, terra-cotta tiles, intimate sitting areas and flashy bar chairs pulled up next to marble or granite counter tops… It was beyond the four walls and art supplies drawings of many of my classmates. I was kind of embarrassed to hang mine up next to everyone else’s. Then when it came time to discuss mine one of my classmates put her hand up and said, “Yes. To all of that.”

This morning I looked at this poster and thought, “I could do that.” I could put together this retreat based on the principles of Art Therapy, trauma-therapy, healing, hope, being one with nature and ourselves…I could host so many skilled and talented therapists and artists who can get in there and do the hard work in ways that I want to but can’t right now. I can create the ideal space in which to do this hard but oh so necessary work. And since the profession is struggling for its place and legitimacy right now I can include research space. The research space would help to develop the strength the profession needs and deserves. It would be a place of education, insight, and hope for practitioners or anyone else interested in the human condition. Most of all, this place of mine would be one of healing, retreat, and living soulfully.

Certain Allowances

This morning I had a phone meeting with one of my school advisors. I’ve been having some difficulty in finding an internship site and the place we thought would work fell through. So we/ I have to find a new site and that’s what the phone call was about this morning. I was nervous. I was afraid of being unprepared. I was afraid of not having done enough. But most of all I was afraid of what my advisor would tell me. I was full of an unrealistic fear that I would be rejected, that I would be without support. I’ve come this far. There is no dispute I know what I am talking about and I honestly want to go, do, and help. And I know from talking with a classmate that I am not the only one still looking for a site for the Fall.

I have this enthusiasm to go and do but I am also afraid of being overwhelmed. This is something my therapist and I have been working on lately. I have been trying to learn how to trust myself, trust myself that I can handle most situations I am in, trust that if I do not know or am not comfortable, I can ask for help. In the past feelings of being overwhelmed lead to feelings of needing to escape, confusion, hurt, fear, and paralyzation. I couldn’t easily ask for help out of fear of the other person’s response. What would they think of me? What would they do? What does it mean if I can’t do _________ by myself? And, while I am or think I am in a better place, I am not entirely sure I am past that place if pressed or stressed.

I’m still not entirely comfortable about asking for help especially when it comes to school and professional arenas. I have this feeling that if I ask for _______________ then they’ll think I can’t handle _____________ and I am not worthy for __________. I can ask for help but there is only so far that help will be extended. It’s like I’m trying so hard to catch up before time runs out. Certain allowances will be made for only so long and only so far.