What Is Right

People are problem solvers.  Everyone you meet has a bit of advice for this thing or that thing.  Everyone can tell you what you should be doing and what you should want to do.  Many times it is well intentioned and meant to be supportive and done entirely without conscious thought.  However, for someone like me, it often leaves us feeling unheard, unappreciated, and as if there is something wrong with us for not wanting to do what we should.  We are told, “Do what is right for you.”  Then we hear, “Don’t stay in your comfort zone.  Do what you have to do in order to change.”  It may be uncomfortable but it is time we I become comfortable with the uncomfortable.  Why? How does this serve a purpose if we, if I, am unhappy?  I am tired of feeling uncomfortable 99% of the time.  I want to feel safe and secure and in control and comfortable enough to be uncomfortable.  I’m not there yet.

There was a long time when I hated public speaking.  I still do not love it and have a hard time with it, sometimes a very hard time with it, but throughout this program, over the past few years, I’ve become a lot more comfortable with it.  I can talk in front of my classmates with much greater ease than I used to, especially if I am interested in and enthusiastic about the topic. It has taken time.  So I feel like I am in the same situation now.  There are all of these things I should be doing, and should want to do, and should do no matter whether I like it, feel comfortable, or not.  Just like when people told me about public speaking, “You just have to get up there and do it.”

I recognize that avoidance only perpetuates the feelings of discomfort but until I find a better way to deal with those feelings of discomfort my attempts at confronting it will be limited. One thing I can say is that it has gotten ever so slightly easier to stand up for myself over the last couple of months.  Again, I’m not where I want to be yet.  I do not like to feel badly about wanting to do what I want to do, rather than what everyone else says I should want and need to do.  There is this part of me that thinks/ feels, “Yeah you can accuse and blame, call me resistant, roll your eyes at me, get frustrated because I am not doing what you want me to do.  But fuck you; I’m going to do what I want to do and what I need to do for me.”  And if that means I’m resistant and refusing growth then so be it.  I’m tired of doing what everyone else thinks I should be doing and I am tired of feeling badly about not wanting to do those things.

Huge flashback to an ear doctor’s appointment when I was little.  The doctor had to remove a tube from my ear that allowed fluid to drain from behind my ear drum.  It’s a common enough procedure for kids who have a lot of ear infections.  After a while the tube falls out of the ear drum and lays inside the ear canal until the doctor goes in with a pair of tiny tweezers and plucks it out.  So the doctor at this one appointment reaches in with his tweezers to remove the tube from my ear canal.  Unfortunately, the tube had wax build up around it and had attached itself to the tiny hairs inside my ear.  Needless to say, the removal of the tube this time felt like tiny knives had just exploded in my ear.  The next time I go to this doctor and the tube in my other ear has to be removed I would not let him touch me.  I mean I totally flipped out  I became as strong as a bodybuilder on steroids in an effort to hold my Mom and the doctor off.  I would not calm down.  I told my Mom she could beat me and starve me but I would not let that doctor near my ears.  Looking back on it I totally had a trauma reaction.  In an effort to protect myself, rationally or irrationally, I would not do what they wanted me to do.  Eventually they realized they were not going to be able to get anywhere near me and plans had to be made for me to be put under anesthesia just so that the doctor could reach into my ear with a tiny pair of tweezers to get the tiny drainage tube, about the size of a couple of grains of rice, out of my ear canal.  Looking back on it, I’ve felt guilty about the time, expense, and effort put out for something that could have taken 5 seconds in a doctor’s office.


A lot has changed for me over the past couple of weeks.  Some personal realizations have given me a new sense of freedom, contentment (even if fleeting), and the beginnings of, dare I say it, confidence.  I just hope I can continue to hold onto these good feelings.

This week I start my art therapy internship, something I have been working towards in one way or another for almost 5 years, ever since I discovered art therapy as a profession.  Because I chose this path I cannot help but be excited by it even if I am more than a little nervous about it.  Even though I am nervous about my abilities I’m excited to interact with people in a helping capacity and I am excited about working with people through art.  Sometimes my excitement leads me to wonder whether I am one of those people who believe humans are inherently good.  I’m pretty sure, at least, I am not one of those who believe we are inherently evil.

Through my experiences in my art therapy program, friends I have made moving here, in the program and at the gym, and most especially with my wonderful therapist, I think I know what it is like for one soul to meet another soul and for both to be changed or moved for the better by the encounter.  That, overall, is what I hope to achieve no matter where I go in life.

Magic Feather


You know that part of the movie Dumbo where the crows (ravens?) get Dumbo to fly by giving him a “magic feather,” that is how I am feeling after my therapy session yesterday.  I have hold of a magic feather and the state of mind that comes with it is freeing, clarifying, and exhilarating.  But Dumbo also believes for a period of time that the feather is the reason why he can fly so when he starts to lose hold of it he tries desperately to hold on, believing that if he lets go the magic will be gone.  That is also how I am feeling today.  I am trying to hold onto the magic of yesterday.

New thoughts and revelations have been coming to mind since the end of my session yesterday and I am trying very hard to maintain the state of mind those realizations allow.  I don’t know if I can explain succinctly.  Probably not, as it would require a long explanation of my family history.

This is only one of the revelations I encountered yesterday.  I suppose the easiest thing for me to say is that I began to see my Mom more clearly as a separate person.  I mean I have known this since I began to differentiate between things that are me and not me (i.e. a very long time) but I realized yesterday I don’t have to fix things for Mom anymore.  In the past if I did something wrong or even if I wasn’t the cause, I felt responsible for returning Mom to a happy state of mind.  It was scary (like psychologically terrifying) for me to have Mom be unhappy and so I made myself into being in the wrong or the one responsible for others emotions.  Yesterday I saw Mom more clearly as a separate person.  My stuff is not her stuff.  This past weekend I told her how I felt.  I said, “I have always felt like a disappointment.”  I did not say, “You have always made me feel like a disappointment.”  Before I left she got angry because she felt I was blaming her for my problems.  I tried to tell her that it is not about blame.  It is what it is. Or in the words of my therapist, “you cannot unring the bell.”  I was simply telling her how I felt.  In session yesterday I realized Mom’s anger was her stuff.  I wasn’t bad or wrong or whatever because I told her how I felt.  I wasn’t accusing her of anything and still she got angry. (My therapist pointed out that it was probably a sense of guilt.)

This morning it reminded me of how we deal with prickly customers at work.  As a cashier you do what you can to meet them where they are, fill needs, make allowances, and still sometimes they are grumpy or down right mean and nasty.  At work all we can do is just shrug our shoulders and let them go.  It is not our problem; it is them.  To apply this to Mom is freeing to me.  I can only do what I can do and it doesn’t make me a bad person if it is not enough.  To realize this and apply it is grounding to me.  I am not so much at the whim of others anymore.  I am not tossed around on a sea as much.  I can navigate.  And this is part of what I am trying to hold onto, my “magic feather,” so to speak.

Constant Craving

Well, I’ve been trying to incorporate what my therapist and I have been talking about.  I’m normal.  There is nothing wrong with me.  I was really happy yesterday for the most part.  I felt good.  Today, not so much.  It’s like coming down from a high (or at least how I imagine it would feel like).  From time to time things are still glowy around the edges but I can feel my anxiety and it feels like I’ve sat down hard on the cold, unforgiving ground.

I’m lonely.  I know the only constant in anyone’s life is themselves.  But I am not feeling strong enough for that yet.  I want a kind, caring, loving, supportive, constant, presence, someone to comfort me when I struggle to go on.  Someone to ground me.  Someone to hug and hold me.  I want to be someone to look forward to seeing me as much as I look forward to seeing them.

Just like I told my therapist that I am not yet confident enough to ask for what I need, I am not sure enough yet in myself to rely on myself for that care and comfort.  Besides, “K” says it is something we all need.  As humans we need other humans.

I just don’t feel right asking for what I need from people I admire.  I am constantly drawn to people I see/ feel in mother/ older sister/ mentor roles, like my favorite gym trainer, or my bosses sometimes, or teachers, or my therapist, my Aunt, one of my favorite cousins…  Part of me feels like I can’t ask for what I want/ need emotionally from these people.  There are so many shoulds and shouldn’ts.  For example, as much as I might want it, I can’t be “friends” with my therapist.  I need this connection with someone but I fear being hurt which is why I find withdrawal of affection or whatever, so devastating.  (Like this slow withering of whatever kind of friendship I had/have with my trainer.)

I told my therapist once that one of my highest aspirations in school was to be “teacher’s pet.” We agreed it is/ was because I didn’t get what I needed at home.

Ground Control to Major Cog

“I am afraid of not being liked.  I am afraid of not being loved.”

This is something I said to my therapist this week and it is true.

I am afraid of acting silly.  I am afraid of a loss of control.  I am afraid of losing or not having respect.  I am afraid of criticism.  I am afraid that if I lighten up on myself I will be less disciplined and as a result less respected as a person.  I face the constant feeling of needing to justify my existence.

I came to the realization during my last session that a lot of my self esteem issues come from myself.  I stew in my own juices and I let past experiences sour it.  In short, there is very little to support my lack of self-worth other than the mental abuse I heap on myself.  Major Cognitive Distortions.  Of course, I have known this for a long time but after my last session it seemed, for a fraction of a second, as if I might easily shed these harmful ways of thinking.  I had hope and a glimpse of what my future might be.  You know, it is kind of like poking a bruise repeatedly.  Something initially caused that bruise but if you continue to poke it, it is going to hurt.

I have a highly overactive inner critic who uses tools like guilt, fear, anxiety, and depression with the skill of a master chef.  I need to learn to modify these.  If I ever  do modify these I feel it will be a whole new world for me.  It seems almost inconceivable to me that I might function with my own interests in mind.  I won’t be concerned about what other people think about what I do and when I do it, say, buy, not buy, wear, think, look like…I will finally be able to say “screw you!” to those nagging thoughts that tare me down.  I will finally feel happy, truly, purely, happy.  It will not be tainted with fear, anxiety, or depression.  Will I ever get there?

My assignment this week is to create art answering the question, “What does fear look like?”

“Physician, heal thyself”

My heart is filled with gratitude today.  My…being has changed since moving up here to Western PA and there is one particular person I feel has a lot to do with it.  I am so glad to call her friend.  As she is a trainer at the gym I go to, a part of me does doubt.  It is her job to encourage, advise, and help support members.  But even if these activities have just been a part of her job description, she’s got me.  I don’t need to be convinced.  I will continue going to the gym just for the way the trainers make their members feel whether it is out of legitimate connection or just part of the job description.  In any case I am so grateful to have this friend.  I was lacking something, needing something, when I moved here and she has helped to fill a hole and has helped me to see that this hole can be filled.  It will take a lot of work and I doubt sometimes, okay, frequently, that I ever will be whole but she has helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel and has helped me to see that I can keep going.  I don’t have to settle for the darkness.  The effort, the task, the journey, as long as it may be is something worthwhile to be accomplished.  I just hope I can get to a place where I have genuine self-compassion and confidence before it is too late for me to truly enjoy…self-actualization.

Still as encouraging as I have found many of my associations up here to be I have this deep core of fear and anxiety that has not been greatly impacted yet.  I think of an allegorical story of a large brass ball and the dove.  Every thousand years the dove flies past this brass globe and lightly brushes it with its wing.  The story goes that when this brass ball is reduced to dust then that will be the end of eternity.  I feel the same way about some…deeply entrenched part of my personality.  But where reducing the brass ball to dust seems unimaginable I have the slim hope that one day I will no longer fear rejection.  I will no longer feel I have to justify my existence.  I will no longer feel I have to earn the things I have a right to simply by existing.  I will be sure I am loved for me.  I will be sure of my place in the world.  I won’t feel as if I have to apologize or make excuses for who I am.

But like many others I am looking for the quick fix.  Tell me what to take, where to go, what to do, so that I can feel better as soon as possible.  I did the work, the hard work, when I lost weight and I know that a quick fix or a detour around the hard work cannot be found when it comes to weight loss, no matter what the drug companies say.  But I suppose, for me, I want a detour around the inevitable pain that will come with putting the psychological pieces together.  I want to be whole, happy, and ready to go after what I want, right now!  The hard work scares me and discourages me just like those who seek weight loss.  “But it is so long and so hard, why should I even try?  It is just easier to stay where I am.”  Which is why what I receive at the gym from my friend the trainer is so incredibly important to me.  The support is essential no matter what the case.  Like another friend said, “It is time to decide whether it is more uncomfortable to stay where you are or whether it will be more uncomfortable pursuing who you can be?”  I had a very strong motivation/ motivator to lose weight.  I need to develop as strong a motivator to heal myself.

“Sickness is a defense against the truth.”

These questions are questions I found on http://www.expressiveartworkshop.com

Good questions to ask yourself when you are sick:

1.) If I could name two hidden parts of myself that are in conflict right now, what would they be? What are their names?

Healing and productivity/ usefulness

2.) What does each side of the conflict want?

 The healing part of me wants this time to myself to do what I want and what I need to do.  It wants me to rest.  The productive/ useful side of me feels I have to, I need to, justify my existence.  I do not feel entitled to take this time for myself.

3.) How do I need to grow in order to resolve this conflict?

I need to learn to value my time off and give myself permission to heal, spiritually and/or physically.

4.) How am I needing to be loved right now?

 I always need reassurance from friends and family and to get “permission” to do things for myself/ put myself first.  “No” was not an okay word to say to family when I was growing up.  It was unacceptable.  I want to know unequivocally that I am loved and valued and worthy, that I don’t have to earn that love, that I don’t have to justify my existence, my worthiness. 

5.) How can I ask for that love or give it to myself?

I want a hug, a real hug.  I want a hug from someone I admire and value and I want to feel valued by that person and trust in that.  I don’t want to always second guess my relationships and the qualities of those relationships.  I want to know I am loved and I am special to that person(s).

 Give that love to myself?  That is hard for me to determine.  It cannot be something as superficial as aquiring an item I want or allowing myself to eat a food I want.  Even engaging in an activity I enjoy is not completely satisfying either.  It is difficult when much of my validation comes from external sources.  I like creating something I can take pride in, perhaps that is the way to give love to myself?