Experiencing Guilt for Having Psychological Limitations

“Sometimes we just can’t, and that’s ok. Sometimes we kind of can, but the energy trade-off just isn’t worth it. Society demands that we keep overcoming, overcoming, overcoming. But we don’t have to. Nowhere is it written that to be a really real human you have to brute force your way through your limits. Nowhere is it written that not doing so makes you less worthy.” ~ Author, unknown

It is Easter Sunday and I am experiencing guilt for not being able to take my kids to church (and not getting myself there as well.) The crowds, parking, and stress of it all is more than I can bear, I know from experience. Plus, my husband is working which makes it all the more difficult to handle since I am on my own.

On top of that, we will be with family later on this afternoon…loud, excited kids, my siblings and their kids, my parents, all cramped into a tiny house for the evening…need I say more?!

Here’s another kicker – a mess up with my medication refill leaves me with no anti-anxiety pills this weekend. Kind of a WTF? moment…

Thinking about it all makes me want to shut down OR fall into a panic attack. I feel like my body doesn’t know which one to choose.

What I am choosing however, is to try and sit back and observe all of these thoughts and feelings as I would if I was watching another person go through them.

Acknowledging them, not fighting them, but also not making them who I really am…separating my thoughts and my feelings from my true self (who is simply a consciousness/higher self comprised solely of peace and love) seems to really help.

Maybe some would call this a form of detachment, and in a real sense I suppose that is what it is. Reminds me of that saying “Go to your happy place” – the place in your mind where no one or nothing can hurt you. Only this place isn’t in my mind. It is outside of my mind.

417px-Easter_Lily

I picture it floating directly above my mind. Although, it is not a place but more of a presence, an aura so to speak.

And in this entity I am not escaping from reality but rather engaging in it as an observer…not a fighter or a victim or any kind of participant, but simply as an observer that knows – believes – deep down that all is ok, that I am ok no matter what thoughts and feelings are happening inside my mind.

It truly is a peaceful phenomenon on this joyous Easter morn. I do hope you are having positive thoughts and feelings today. And if not, I pray you can access your higher self – that space outside of your mind but still within you that can sit back and observe and know that it is safe, it is happy, and it is pure love.

Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts today. I would love to hear yours. Feel free to leave a comment if you are so compelled. Until next time…

Wil

When Self-Reflection Leads to Self-Harm and Other Negative Core Beliefs

Dear Friend,

I used to see myself through your eyes only. I defined myself – my self-worth, my emotional state, my values, and even my likes and dislikes – by how you defined yours, or worse by how you thought I should define mine, even if they were different from yours.

Or worst of all, I defined myself by how I thought you thought I should define mine. Confused? I know I was. Living life on the basis of false beliefs will do that to a person.

After decades of making decisions – acting, reacting, or not acting at all to everything that happened to and around me – based on a foundation of lies, confusion often turns into insanity, at least that is the way it happened to me.

Three lies in particular seemed to have governed my decisions for most of my life:

Big Fat Lie #1: If you like me then I can like me.

I was a gluttonous “people-pleaser”, because if you liked me then I liked me…end of story. How I decided whether or not you liked me was in direct correlation with how much time you spent with me.

It mattered little what you said to me, what you bought for me, or how you treated me; what mattered was that you looked at me, talked to me, and subsequently, saw something in me that I could give to you. So, you chose to spend your moment, day, or any amount of your time with me. Yippee!

Big Fat Lie #2: In order for you to continue liking me, I’d better have something to offer you in return.

Whether it was straight A’s to my parents, sex to my boyfriends, humor to my classmates, a good listening ear to my friends, flexibility to my co-workers, or unwavering patience to my children, I had to give you sufficient enough reason to never leave me, because if you left me that meant you didn’t love me. And I needed you to love me so that I could love myself (see Big Fat Lie #1.)

Big Fat Lie #3: People don’t abandon those they love.

People most definitely abandon those they love for any number of reasons, all of which boil down to one fact: Everyone is human, and therefore, everyone f***s up! It’s how you come back that makes more of a difference to me than why you left in the first place.

For example, I find that when people come back because they feel guilty or ashamed, or out of some sense of obligation, they would be better off not coming back at all.

But, if after leaving, because they acted hastily or because they needed a time-out (because we all have limits, remember), they come back because they want to, for no other reason than they love you, I might have a better time dealing with it.

I am specifically thinking of the many occasions that my father left us. I had a mother who would send me and my siblings out to find him, whether he was at another family member’s house or at a bar, and guilt him into coming back home; to actually say things like “If you love us, you will come back home” and “If you don’t come back home, I won’t let you walk me down the aisle when I get married.” (See Big Fat Lie #2.) Sick stuff!

Negative Core Beliefs


So, I had these core beliefs (thanks, mom) that if someone loves you, they won’t abandoned you, and if they do abandoned you, you had better be or do something that will give them sufficient reason to return. And if they do return, “yay!” for you, because that means there is something you have that they want, and ultimately for me, that translated into being worthy of love on some level, which is the only thing that allowed me to like myself enough to not commit suicide.

Is there any good news?

“YES!” times infinity. The good news is that I now know that I do NOT have to be or do anything to be worthy of love. I am worthy of it simply because I exist, because I was made by our Creator who IS LOVE. Therefore, if I want it, I have access to an internal source of love that will only become absent if I choose to abandoned it, not the other way around! NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND!

On the other hand, anything outside of myself is subject to the conditions of an imperfect, unjust world on which I cannot base my self-worth.  For me, to do so means to die.  I know this because I almost did.

Changing Negative Core Beliefs to Positive Ones

Just within the last year, fleeting moments of complete, radical acceptance of my flaws, mistakes, shortcomings, character defects, sins, human conditions, or what ever you want to call them has led to shifts in my aforementioned negative core beliefs.

And in these fleeting moments of complete radical acceptance, I have never been more joyous, peaceful, content; felt more safe, warm, secure, and happy; been more aware of the grace, compassion, tolerance, patience, and forgiveness undulating like silk scarves in the breeze all around us, or of how loved we actually are; how worthy of love and loved we all are regardless of our thoughts, feelings, actions, or circumstances.

Current Core Belief

We are worthy…end of story. No conditions, no expectations, no restrictions, no questions asked. WE are Worthy.  And the greatest thing is that you don’t have to believe this for it to be True.  That is the cool thing about the Truth – it isn’t conditional on whether or not you believe in it; it just IS.

Love and Light,
WIL

How to Stay Happy When Others are Fighting

When the conflict of others does not directly involve me, am I able to stay out of it? At times, it is difficult to let the adults in my life fight their own battles. Also, it is harder to distance myself emotionally than physically.

Physically, I can go for a walk or a ride, sit outside, visit a neighbor, put on head phones and listen to relaxing music, or take a break from my surroundings in some way.

Emotionally, however, my thoughts obsess over the conflict, causing anxiety, depression and fear to overwhelm me.

If I am able to expel these thoughts from my mind in a constructive way, like talking about them with a trusted person who is a neutral party, the negative feelings leave me. Then I am able to detach with love from those waging amongst themselves.

I have the choice to try a different action; to walk a different path. Today, I can choose to know peace.

Are You Emotional, Logical, or Wise?

photo credit

 

Sadness engulfed me. I lied down, eyes half-closed, and sighed repeatedly, barely audible. Colors faded into shades of grey, and every day noises became irritating. The television on upstairs, the ball bouncing against the sliding glass door, and the red-headed 4 year-old playing loudly in the yard behind ours soon became like mobsters taking sledge hammers to my knees or terrorists using pliers to separate the nails from my fingers.

BOOM! I startled when my daughter jumped off the couch upstairs. Minutes later, she sneezed causing my arms to jerk, my heart rate to elevate and my respirations to quicken. I was surprised at this visceral response and scared because I did not understand it.

The vicious cycle began as the anxiety worsened because I wanted to understand where this anxiety came from, what it was all about…what I was all about, but I didn’t know how to go about seeking these answers.

In addition, part of me was scared to find out, but I was more scared not to find out. I hated myself – a self that I didn’t even know. Doesn’t make much sense does it? I hated how I felt, but I have learned that feelings are not facts. What a concept! They come and go faster than a man at a brothel if…I stay in what Marsha Linehan calls the “Wise Mind.”

The wise mind takes subjective emotions (in my example above those include sadness, fear, anxiety, self-hate) and compares them with the objective facts of a situation or environment. It’s the internal versus the external. Are they cohesive? Does one make sense in light of the other? The wise mind answers these questions.

I used to oscillate between emotional mind and logical mind daily. My emotions did not match the facts of my surroundings. These every day noises were not a threat to me, so why was my body going into flight or fight mode? I knew my body was overreacting and this made me hate myself. What was wrong with me? Was I just a crazy freak? Was I too sensitive, as my mom always told me? Was I losing my mind? Was something horrible about to happen? Was it a premonition, a warning, a spiritual prophecy?

As you can see, my emotional mind had a strong hold on me. I had to spend more time in logical mind mode. I had to give my logical mind more ammunition to combat these irrational thoughts. I had to find out why I reacted this way before my wise mind could reconcile these discrepancies. I had to find out so that I could be at peace.

In sum, my emotional thoughts lead to anxiety, my logical thoughts lead to self-hate, and now, after a year of DBT (counseling)…on most days, my wise mind is able to acknowledge the logical mind’s truth while also soothing the emotional mind. I have to validate both. One is not better or worse than the other, good or bad, hot or cold, saint or sinner. They are what makes me human – intelligent while loving, rational while empathetic, firm while compassionate. It’s balance, people. It’s all about the balance.

Do you spend more time in emotional mind or logical mind? How do you try to maintain a balance between the two?

An Attitude of Gratitude

A fellow blogger asked us to join him in making a gratitude list. I used to do this often. Now, I think of things I am grateful for, but keep them in my head. There is something about writing them down in black and white that gives them more power for me. Join us, won’t you – make a list and share it with the world!!!

I am grateful:

- for being able to finally catch up on my blog-readings for the first time this summer
- to have found such inspiring blogs to read :)
- for hope
- for open-mindedness and willingness
- for the however-wavering-ability to learn new things about myself and others if I am honest
- for the new-found ability to live in the moment and not judge experiences as good or bad but just experience “what is.”
- for my awesome, awesome psychiatrist and equally awesome counselor
- for my recovery from alcoholism
- for my relationship with God
- for my husband and children
- for my friends
- for nature
- for art
- for the ability to read, write, walk, talk, see, hear, eat, feel, and breathe (I have to remember that not everyone can do these things – that’s why there are wheelchairs, feeding tubes, ventilators, etc.) :(
- for pain (without which I would not know comfort)
- for sorrow (without which I would not know happiness)
- for anxiety (without which I would not know peace)
- for the emerging ability to access a timeless, spaceless state of being where the mind has no power and therefore, cannot disrupt serenity.
- for access to a wealth of knowledge and people with whom I can connect instantly via the internet
- for freedom of speech and religion (I have to remember that communism still exists in this world.)
- for the stars, the rain clouds, the breeze, the sun, the soil, trees, flowers, bugs (well maybe not the bugs, especially wasps – they really freak me out, and what purpose to they serve? Seriously, does anyone know???)
- for a sense of humor
- for my country

Happy 4th of July to all my state-side friends!

photo source

My True Self Is

My last post included a video about how those with mental illness have a body/mind sickness, not a “self” sickness. After reading some of the comments, I had some follow-up thoughts which I wanted to share here as well, for my own mental reminder and hopefully, for the benefit of others out there in Blogland.

What is our make up as “beings?” I believe the human or mortal part is made up of the mind and body, and the spiritual or immortal part is the “self” (a.k.a, the Divine, God, etc.) Thinking of it in terms of God, our Creator, connects all the pieces of the religious/spiritual puzzle for me.  I can’t quote the bible verses, but phrases like “the Great I am,” “be still and know that I am,” “what you do unto others you do unto me,” and “made in His image” all point to this “self” – the part that isn’t sick, the only part that really matters, because it is forever while the mind and body are temporary.

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” ~ Teilhard de Chardin quotes (French Geologist, Priest, Philosopher and Mystic, 1881-1955)

As the Universe would have it, another blogger posted some relevant information just yesterday, from The Upanishad (introduced and translated by Eknath Easwaran.) The Upanishads are the oldest and one of the most universal of messages which inform us that there is more to life than the everyday experience of our senses – including our physical and mental illnesses!

Some excerpts from Indian Spirituality:

“The Self is one, though is appears to be many. Those who meditate upon the Self and realize the Self go beyond decay and death, beyond separateness and sorrow. They see the Self in everyone and obtain all things.”

“Control the senses and purify the mind. In a pure mind there is constant awareness of the Self. Where there is constant awareness of the Self, freedom ends bondage and joy ends sorrow.”

“The Self, pure awareness, shines as the light within the heart, surrounded by the senses. Only seeming to think, seeming to move, the Self neither sleeps nor wakes nor dreams.”

“When the Self takes on a body, he seems to assume the body’s frailties and limitations; but when he sheds the body at the time of death the Self leaves all these behind.”

Brahman is the infinite, supreme soul. Brahman is all-prevailing, and the visualized world is a tiny part of the same. Whatever we see or feel with other senses (as in Biology) is Divine Illusion or Maya, and is Asat or untrue. The Only Truth or Sat is Brahman. We, or our souls (Jeev-Atma), are infinite small parts of Brahma.

In Hinduism, Brahman (ब्रह्मन् bráhman) is the one supreme, universal Spirit that is the origin and support of the phenomenal universe. Brahman is sometimes referred to as the Absolute or Godhead which is the Divine Ground of all being. Brahman is conceived as personal (“with qualities”), impersonal (“without qualities”) and/or supreme depending on the philosophical school.”

That last sentence is what makes me completely baffled by so-called “religious wars,” because really, we seem to all believe in the same thing.  So, what are we fighting over? Semantics???  How sad!

Anyway, back to the “self.”  I have heard people greet one another with the word “Namaste.” I always thought it meant “peace to you” or something along those lines. Yesterday, however, when I was watching a video on The Light Way blog about Rapid Eye Technology, I learned the true meaning of namaste, which made for the third time in three days from three different sources that the same message of this “self” was delivered to me. I love when that happens. It’s like God frantically waving His arms over His head saying, “Are you hearing me??? Are you paying attention?”

According to Organic Spa Magazine,

“the literal translation [of namaste] is a little more nuanced and suggests that it is not a superficial gesture or word but has deep spiritual significance” such as:

“All sacred in me greets all sacred in you.”

“Honor the peace within.”

“The light in me honors and respects the light in you.”

“I bow to the divine in you.”

“The light in me recognizes the light in you.”

In order for these truths to help me cope with my mental illnesses, I have to continue searching and learning more about them. It’s a never-ending spiritual journey that doesn’t always “feel” good. I also have to talk about it with others, who understand, daily and honestly. And finally, I write a lot and create a lot of digital art (and some paintings) that reflect these truths, so that I am constantly reminding myself.  (btw, the digital art in this post is not mine but listed on elfwood.com as public domain.  Thank you to those creators.)

What beliefs do you have that help you cope with yourself as a person with mental illness?   How do you keep these beliefs in the forefront of your mind?  I would love to know.  Please share!

Choosing Balance

I choose balance, and then I choose to sleep too much or not enough; work on too many projects at one time or none at all; over-book my social calendar or isolate. I choose balance, but choosing it once is not enough. It is a choice I have to make over and over and over again, because the western world in which I live is constantly bombarding me with demands that, if I go along with, throw me off-balance.

Choosing balance is a test in endurance and perseverance - two qualities which are weak within me.  I succumb so easily to the pressures of this world to be “productive,” stay busy, move in fast forward just to keep up with the pace of modern-day living.  I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: At times, I believe I was made to live in solitary…maybe as a nun, definitely not as a prisoner, but most likely as a hermit…in the woods – my sanctuary – blanketed under the safety and serenity of the earth’s trees…like a mother enveloping her child in protective, warm, and loving embraces.

Sigh…re-reading what I just wrote makes me feel at peace. I wonder if this is because my mother did not provide me with loving and protective embraces, neither physically nor emotionally. Yet, the woods do, whether I am in them or merely thinking about them.

When I was very young, I would lay in bed and stare out the open window.  My view of starry summer skies was always partially blocked by the lush-leaved branches of a very tall, large oak tree in our front yard -  an umbrella of green God-goodness under which I felt safe, sometimes the only time I felt safe, laying there in my bed, while mom and dad sat on the front porch, not fighting for once, but listening to major league baseball games on am radio, together. I felt safe, I felt secure, I felt happy, I felt at peace, in my bed, under the tree, surrounded by the sweet smell of a summer breeze and the soothing voices of baseball announcers. And I slept without dreaming – something I rarely do anymore.

I have added Zazen Life – Develop Your Conscious Awareness to my blogroll because of this article on Equilibrium which inspired this post.  I recommend this website to any one trying to achieve balance in their life. Aren’t we all? But, what are you willing to let go of in order to receive what you think you want?? And once you receive it, are you willing to give it away to keep it???

Writing Moment by Moment #26

Practicing mindfulness:

 

Sunlight reflects off of the hood
of a black car parked
across the street.

Naked tree limbs reach up
while wheat grass flutters
in the breeze.

I inhale winter’s crisp air;
exhale steamy puffs
of my own.

I hear cars zoom by
off in the distance; inside,
the washing machine
agitates clothes.

My finger tips are chilled
as is my nose while the sweetness
from a chocolate chip cookie
lingers on my palate.

The garage is cold yet, the sunshine
on the grass and street warms me.

White clouds blanket the blue sky;
they are still
like the thoughts in my mind.

 

This mindfulness exercise was a result of me sitting outside for less than five minutes. I can only imagine how much I would notice if I practiced mindfulness in all of my daily activities.

Mindfulness involves a conscious effort to observe what is through your senses (i.e., eyes, ears, nose, mouth, touch) both inside and outside of your body without giving any subjective thoughts, opinions, judgements, etc. nor attaching any emotions to what you observe.

In other words, everything that you identify through your physical senses is not to be tagged with thoughts such as “That is beautiful” or “This is awful” or “That makes me feel sad” or “That is so exciting!”

Give it a try and let me know what you experience in your moment.

Writing Moment by Moment #20

photo by Rantes

I stepped outside this morning and inhaled the clean, cold winter air – refreshment for my soul!  What moment are you grateful for today?

For more information on “Writing Moment by Moment” click here.

Writing for the Key to Liberation

photo by Patrick Q

We will find the key to our liberation only when we accept that what we once did to survive is now destroying us. ~ Laura van Dernoot Lipsky

I survived the chaotic events of my childhood by minimizing them. My instincts used minimization as a coping strategy to protect me from further emotionally pain and confusion (something my parents should have been doing instead.)

As time went by and the insanity of my home life increased, I learned how to ignore my emotions and eventually, how to fall into a state of complete shutdown. Because of this, I now have difficulty connecting to my feelings and naturally, this causes problems in my interpersonal relationships at home and work, with family and friends and well, everywhere with everyone. Why? Because my emotional development is still that of a ten-year-old – the age at which I began to detach from my emotions.

So, here I am in my late thirties, resuming my emotional development from where I left off at age ten. Although, I have the guidance of my DBT therapist, the pains of emotional development are greater than if they would have occurred in a “normal” fashion because…

The world assumes I am capable of doing what people my age – who have by now emotionally matured, mind you – are doing; things like work full time, raise children, volunteer, socialize, keep up on household responsibilities and the kids’ school and after-school activities, be neighborly, drive in rush hour traffic, deal with horrible bosses and crabby clients, cook, clean, shop, give baths, do laundry, invest the time needed with my husband to have a successful marriage, etc. – all while staying relatively sane.

So, let me ask you this:

Would anyone in their right mind expect a ten-year-old to do all of these things? Of course not! What about four or five of those things? No? What about two or three? Maybe? What about just one or two on a consistent basis?

Currently, one or two things are all I am capable of doing consistently. Therefore, expecting me to do them all, like I was trying to do up until my mental breakdown three years ago, would be ignorant (as in, not knowing that I was still a ten-year-old child on the inside.)

Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace. ~ Dalia Lama

For two years following the start of my disability, I continued to expect too much from myself which only perpetuated my suffering and despair. Now that I know how emotionally immature I am, it would be cruel to go on as I have been.

Knowing the true state of my emotional development enables me to have compassion for myself and when compassion is present there is little room for self-hate. Furthermore, as the self-hate dissipates so does the depression and the impulses to self-harm.

My therapist refers to this phenomenon as “radical acceptance” which is a DBT term. Radical acceptance doesn’t mean, “Well, this is the way I am and there is nothing I can do about it.” (I like to call this my “deal-with-it, I’m hopeless” attitude.)

No, radical acceptance says, “These are the facts…. This is who I am right now and it is possible that these are the reasons I am the way I am….” Radical acceptance is the realization that due to the events of my childhood, I could not have developed in any other way. Therefore, I need not be so hard on myself.

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. ~ Dalai Lama

Tomorrow I will tell you about what happened to me after I started to radically accept myself.

Do you have difficulty accepting yourself, others and the situations in your life? How do you cope with these things?