He said, “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

-The Velveteen Rabbit

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Be confused, it’s where you begin to

learn new things. Be broken, it’s where

you begin to heal. Be frustrated, it’s

where you start to make more authentic

decisions. Be sad, because if we are

brave enough we can hear our heart’s

wisdom through it.

 

Be whatever you are right now. No more

hiding. You are worthy, always.

S.C. Lourie

 

 

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so in honor of this I’d like to share a poem by one of my clients. She is a talented local Chicago-land writer. Her writing has been featured at the Brevity blog, Cease, Cows, Literary Orphans, Rose Red Review, Tiny Donkey, Thank You For Swallowing, and many other publications. Thank you so much, René, for allowing me to share this piece!

Putting on Eyeliner with PTSD 

does this makeup make me look smokey slutty sophisticated safe

soft weak or like a raccoon like a ghost a victim should I wash it off

can I not just wash it off make it all go away let me start over

let me it never happened pretend it never

happened. Pretend it looks good. Pretend.

After traumatic endings, there are no fresh starts. No fresh mornings, no fresh facing of the day. Your worldview changes, your face to the world changes, your facing yourself in the mirror in memory in mind in the morning at midnight.

At night, I at least understand what triggers the triggers. Because at night, the body takes the position of the horizon & the mind drops upon the body & burns like the setting sun. & the eyes, washed clean, are helpless to memory. In the morning the world must be faced, you might see him you might be reminded you might break down in the most inconvenient moments the most public spaces.

The deliberate darkening of the eyes, lined thick and messy as the mind, is as good a defense

against

               violation prying being seen not seen

               as the steady sturdy posture of a tree.

For safety, turn yourself into a tree freeze trace a Cleopatra eye with shadow

& blend the wing for that smokey

                                    sickening feeling.

                                   Turn yourself into a raccoon running

                                   round a tree a memory running round

                                   your eyes a woman running a woman

                                   freezing.

Blend rage blend pain blend shadows for a smokey eyed effect.

Smoke goes to beauty. You deserved it. You brought this on.

Drive him wild with mystery with resistance with no & no again &

            again & return

            to rage to bed now when the morning horizon has made distance from

the burn of the sun.

It’s hard to get that effect of a sophisticated eye

a straight sweep of liner

a steady application

                           with an unsteady hand.

On days like this every day actually I tend to shake too much

& the mascara smears.

I look like I’ve been crying I have been crying I am always crying

& I put on too much blusher, choose a color too red for my complexion.

             Red for rage. Red for unrested. Red for return & return again

             rage every night every morning.

I’m a raccoon a zombie a boxer w/two black

eyes shaking hands beating killing

                                                        heart.

Does the horizon shake & rage like this as the sun gets closer

             as the burning gets redder does a tree fight or flight

             does a raccoon go blind in the full memory of light

             full light of memory

does this makeup make me look smokey slutty sophisticated safe

soft weak or like a raccoon like a ghost a victim should I wash it off

can I not just wash it off make it all go away let me start over

let me it never happened pretend it never

happened. Pretend it looks good. Pretend.

Start again. Trace a clear line & tell. Keep

a steady hand sturdy mind surviving heart.

 

– René Ostberg

originally published in Awakened Voices (http://www.awakeningsfoundation.net/issue-4-making-metrical/)

Just a Reminder

Hello Friends,

Just a reminder that YOU matter; YOU are worthwhile. If you haven’t done so, do something today to take care of yourself. Self Care doesn’t have to come in the form of big things like buy a car or getting a massage (although those are nice!) Self care can be…petting your dog/cat, reading, eating something and ACTUALLY TASTING IT, watching a movie, enjoying the snow or sunshine, listening to music, etc. There’s always ways to self-care, even if it’s just for a few moments each day. You deserve it. Take care of YOU.

Image credit: https://hustleflowstudio.com/blog/practicing-self-care/

Self Care

“We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year…we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives… not looking for flaws, but for potential.” – Ellen Goodman

Cassie and I hope you had a great holiday season and we wish you Peace in 2018.

IMG_20171225_214004

Today I Choose Self Compassion

After a long day, I came home to enjoy a nice dinner and catch up on what’s happening with everyone on Facebook. And there it was. Another one of “those” posts. There’s a lot going on right now in the media regarding sexual assault/sexual harassment/survivors/etc and subsequently it’s a topic people are posting about. This also happens to be a topic that is within my expertise wheelhouse; a topic which I deal with everyday at work. So when I say one of “those” posts, what I mean is that kind of post where I feel obligated to reply. A post where, because of my knowledge, I feel I have to put in my two cents because either the initial post or the threads thereafter are so off base, full of misinformation, or blatantly offensive, that I must jump in. And usually I do. However tonight, I just can’t. I have no more energy to give, and even less tolerance if I should have to read any more myths or offensive statements about the aforementioned topics.  I contemplated the feelings that came up as I fought the pull to open Facebook back up and engage in that conversation, and I realized the pressure I put on myself to always be the voice in (attempting) to right the wrongs.

If you’re a Social Justice Warrior like me, I’m sure you’ve encountered similar situations, if not online but in person. Should I engage in this argument? This texting battle? This dialogue? My conclusion today is no. No I don’t. I can take a break. I DESERVE a break. There will be battles, discussions, and people to educate another day. Right now I choose Self Compassion. It takes energy to fight the good fight. I am allowing myself time to rest and others to step forward and have their voices heard. It is not my job to educate everyone.

I share this with you in hopes that you will practice Self Compassion should a similar situation arise. Take care of YOU when you feel you need it most. Tonight I’m distancing myself from anything having to do with work (ok after I write this blog post 😉), drinking tea, laying under warm blankets, and cuddling with my pets as I watch TV. What are you doing to practice Self Compassion?

 

 

Turning Mountains into Molehills

molehill mountain

I think it’s safe to say, moving is stressful for anyone. For those without mental health issues, it is stressful. Add something, like anxiety, into the mix and a large life event gets even harder to manage.

Let me clarify what I mean by anxiety. Everyone has moments of anxiety, and just because you may have some doesn’t mean you have a diagnosable mental illness. There are many forms of anxiety that can be diagnosable, but in this blog I’m going to talk about generalized anxiety. This is the type of anxiety that one feels constantly, for various reasons, or for no reason at all. The kind of anxiety that turns molehills into mountains. The kind of anxiety that makes it very difficult to do ANYTHING.

When I was younger, I wasn’t exactly known for keeping the cleanest room. I liked to call my “piles” of random papers, books, files, etc…. “organized chaos”. I knew where everything was and what were in those piles, however my parents weren’t exactly thrilled with them. When the “organized chaos” started to overwhelm my parents, they would ask me to clean it up, put stuff away, throw stuff out, etc. I absolutely hated this task. Why? Because my anxiety told me that doing this was going to take HOURS. My anxiety told me these piles were much bigger than they actually were. The task, which in actuality often took 20-30 minutes if done without distraction or complaining, felt extremely overwhelming to start. My anxiety STILL tells me this about various tasks.

“It’s going to take too long. Why even bother?”

“You can’t do it.”

“This is going to be exhausting.”

“You don’t know how to do this.”

“Look how much there is to do. It will never get done.”

Anxiety doesn’t just mess with my thoughts, but it also makes me FEEL just how overwhelming something is. This anxious overwhelmed feeling, for me, typically starts in my chest. It feels like a thousand butterflies trapped, desperately beating their wings trying to escape as my lungs tighten in around them. It progresses from there into a panic attack unless I am able to stop it with coping skills or medicine, depending on the severity. This anxiety reinforces the dangers (made up or otherwise) that one’s mind believes. As is often my case, the “danger” of feeling stressed and overwhelmed.

And what is more stressful and overwhelming than a move! So how does one keep from descending down the whirlpool of anxiety when faced with such overwhelming life events such as a move? Well, I can tell you what works for me as well as some tips I give to my clients. First off, break large tasks down into smaller bits. As Frank from House of Cards said, “That’s how you devour a whale. One bite at a time.” I don’t know about you, but I certainly can’t keep everything in my head. Anxiety tends to make my mind race, so it is nearly impossible for me to keep my to-do list straight unless it is written out. Lists are essential! It helps to see on paper (or electronically, whichever you prefer) what needs doing. And I find a sense of accomplishment in being able to check items off. Sometimes I throw a few items in there JUST for checking off. No one said you can’t have fun with it, so “Make a list” totally counts as a “to do” and can then be checked off right away! Ahhhhhhhhhh look how I already accomplished something!!!! Sometimes all of the things that have to get done feel overwhelming because in my head it seems like they all have to be done NOW. However, anxiety is not very truthful. Not everything has to get done RIGHT THIS SECOND. Writing out a list can help prioritize what has to be done now, tomorrow, next week, next month, etc.

When my “to-do” list starts to feel overwhelming, breaking items down into smaller pieces helps. Let’s face it, if I wrote down “pack my apartment”…that feels extremely overwhelming because there is A LOT that goes into such a task. So when you have a big task to complete, how can you break it down into smaller bites? Into something more manageable? How can you turn your mountain of a task into a bunch of molehills? In my case, I started months ago with the task of “obtain packing supplies”. After that, my to-do list has focused each weekend on smaller tasks that will make this upcoming week (the major packing and move week) less stressful. I’ve packed what I can, devised a plan and enlisted help to move my critters, and purged items that I no longer need. In the next week, I’ve assigned each room to a “day” and belongings in that room (except what I need for the week) will be packed on that day. So I’m not going to be doing EVERYTHING at once. Also note how I started this process months ago. Knowing yourself is essential. If you are better at spontaneity, then great! If you’re the type where planning and taking your time helps lessen anxiety, then do that!

What else can you do during these types of overwhelming tasks or life transitions to help with anxiety? One thing that I’m a big fan of is know what you are capable of. Recognize when you’ve hit your limit. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. Take breaks, reward yourself (however you self care), and when you are done with your tasks…BE DONE! If anxiety is telling you “do more because otherwise it won’t get done” then look back at your to-do list and remind yourself how you have planned everything out. There will ALWAYS be stuff to do. We never take enough time to just BE. (That’s a subject for another blog!) And in the end, it WILL all get done one way or another.

Also, if you need help…ask! If you have supportive people in your life it can be helpful to talk things out with them and get objective ideas on how to sort it all out. In addition, be aware of your own “self-talk”. Too much negative self-talk is NOT going to help you and can increase anxiety. For some people, positive self-talk can be helpful. Personally, I’m a fan of mixing positive self-talk with realistic self-talk. Constantly telling yourself “I can do this!” is great…because you can!!!! However, you may be having a day where you can’t tackle everything on your to-do list. And guess what…THAT’S OK! There’s always tomorrow. Sometimes it’s not realistic for me to get everything done on my to-do lists every single day. Things I hadn’t anticipated come up. Tasks take longer than expected. Health issues impede my ability to complete what needs doing. In these cases, my “to-do” list items get bumped to other days. Does that mean I failed (as sometimes my mind tells me?) Absolutely not! It means I’m HEALTHY because I know my limits.

So tomorrow my to-do list includes taking care of all my animals, cleaning out my car, and purging some more items. I will be sure to carve out time to relax and enjoy my weekend because without some balance, I will feel much more anxious at the end of the day.

If you feel you need some help in dealing with a large life transition, or you are dealing with anxiety and could use some coping skills to make life easier, feel free to contact me anytime. I’d love to talk to you!