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.”

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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.

Meeting of Souls

As I come to the end of my graduate education I have been thinking about what has changed for me over the past few years. I think I have become more okay with who I am. I have come a good way towards separating myself from the emotional reactivity I once experienced with Mom. I still struggle with it sometimes. I have come to realize the catastrophizing and personalization I’ve done has severely hindered my ability to take risks and trust in myself. It still prevents me from doing some things but I am working on combating distorted thinking by opening myself up to talk to people. If I can talk to people I can dispel the nightmares I often create for myself. It is often difficult for me to keep that in mind when I am in the midst of an anxiety storm. It is often difficult to see my way clear but I think the storms are not as frequent anymore. I think sometimes the storms are not quite as intense and sometimes, every now and then, I am strong enough to alter the storms rather than cowering as I wait for them to pass.

I still struggle very much with creating relationships with people or perhaps I struggle with creating a relationship with myself. I look to fill an ever present hole in my heart while at the same time knowing I have to do that for myself. Love, security, and comfort first have to come from within myself. I cannot look to others anymore, as a child might. Though my heart aches for that metaphorical and literal hug.

Sometimes we come across people in our lives that our soul or heart seems to recognize. We may not be very much alike but we still have an odd connection. That connection may be one sided or not but I think each and every one of us searches for that connection. It may be a few minutes long, a brief meeting of souls, or a few decades long in the case of a true friendship or partnership. Or maybe it is only those of us with holes in our hearts who search endlessly for that meeting of souls.

The Standards of Others

Last night I talked on the phone with my Mom. A short exchange has really stuck with me since then and has triggered some anxiety in me. Because I am currently on break from school, though I am still working on my internship hours roughly 25 hours per week, Mom assumed I might be working extra hours at my paying job. Typically, because of internship, I work my paying job 16 hours per week. True, especially because I currently do not have classes to worry about, I now have a fair amount of time where I am not working my paying job. For example, instead of leaving my internship site, where I work an 8 hour day, and going directly to my paying job, I go home, usually. I could technically, especially on a Friday, go to my paying job and work a 7 hour shift but really the thought exhausts me and overwhelms me, at times. I have flashbacks to when I worked at a dry cleaners and worked frequently 7:30am-7pm, 5-6 days a week. I remember how angry and unhappy and sick I made myself at that time. (God, I was so angry.) I remember how much more frequent my migraines were at that time. But still part of me now feels badly because I am so unwilling, even though I am perfectly capable, to put myself through that grueling work pace. I call myself lazy. I tell myself I am too used to having the privileges that come with having middle class parents. Because I am unwilling to push myself that hard, to make myself sick, I constantly, especially in January/ February and in July/August when school loan money is used up, run short of money. And that is why Mom feels she enables me, because I am perfectly capable of working an insane amount of hours and yet I don’t because I know how unhappy it would make me. Lazy, self-indulgent…I know how lucky I am, believe me, I do. I see it every day I am at my internship site and see those poor kids so full of potential and yet so laid low by the cards life has dealt them. Some of them are so smart and they have the world ahead of them…if only they were given a chance. Because of my life circumstances I am lucky enough or spoiled enough to consider what feels best for me physically and mentally. I keep reminding myself that Mom pushed herself for so long, for so many years, and look where it has gotten her. She now suffers from migraines 99% of the time and is a chronic smoker. Perhaps I am enabled. Perhaps I am lazy and spoiled. Perhaps I should be working more and worrying about school less.

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.

Sucker-Punched

Hello. I know it’s been a while since I’ve written. Internship has taken up a lot of my time. I feel so much better at this internship site than I did at my first one. Still I feel like I am lacking in so many ways. I have so far to go in terms of skill building. I am still nervous to varying degrees with the students and I feel absolutely clueless sometimes when trying to process their art work in a group setting, especially since their imaginations and, in some cases, their cognitive development are limited. This is simply due to their normal course of development in some cases but in others their perceptions are skewed due to trauma and/or poorer socioeconomic status. My nerves get in the way a lot but I think I have developed a pretty good relationship with the students. It’s a strange balance trying to walk the line between therapist and teacher and it is one I am far from comfortable with, especially since in my art therapy program it is expected that we are more therapist than teacher. When it comes to case conceptualization and implementing art therapy I struggle, or at least I struggle in thinking things through. Sometimes I feel like I struggle putting it into words. I apply half-assed art directives with half-assed reasonings in a setting where “group” is just one of 8 classes our students have to attend everyday. Sometimes, many times, it is as if “group” is the least of the students’ worries where, in many cases, they only half care about their classes.

And so, I found it extremely frustrating and devastating to my sense of…confidence? security? and suitability for this profession, when this week my professor returned a paper to me with an ominous message calling into question, I felt, exactly that. I have been sick off and on since receiving this message even though, I think, it was sent with the best of intentions, enhancing/ furthering my learning. It has been extremely nerve wracking and exhausting to me since I put so much work into everything I do. To have my own doubts and fears virtually confirmed has been at the root of feeling as if I was punched in the gut and the throat simultaneously. I am afraid. And part of me feels as if I don’t know what she, my professor, wants. Part of me feels like I will never put this feeling of nervousness and anxiety behind and I will never be 100% comfortable in this profession.

A gaping black hole feels like it is in front of me sometimes. It is that feeling you get when you are 15 floors up in a building and look down. You know in your mind that you are secure and won’t fall but something in the pit of your stomach makes you want to cling desperately to the floors and walls. When I receive feedback like I got this week it forces me to look down at the street from the 15th floor of a building. It has left me scared, weak, and searching for something to hold onto.