Monthly Update: February/March

(Written March 2022)

Battling The Past

I have been battling with the past these last 2 months. I am observing how my present life gifts many moments of beauty, hope, and meaning to my heart. Yet, the past always finds a way to rip those feelings from me as they bloom. It also tries to destroy any buds of hope in me for a different/better future. The future will be like the past it says.

It’s as if the present moment is a place merely to grieve about the past, and to ruminate on “why it was that way” and “how it could have been” or “should have been different”, and how “much better my life would be if X had or hadn’t happened”.

Over the past 2 months I finally got to a point where I just wanted to “cut the past off of me”. I wanted to be left alone in the present with my 2 kids and hopefully a lifetime before me. I wanted EVERYTHING from before to be disconnected from. Just to be ME, as if born at 30.

The Past In the Makeup Aisle

I had been noticing a curiosity in myself towards giving makeup a try.

My mother never liked makeup, doing her hair, or dresses. She seems to have a personal rift with the color pink. She isn’t a feminine person. She just “never understood why anyone would like all that” – and that “anyone” included me. Like most things in her life “her preferences” were the “right answers” for everyone. I guess I believed her, or whether or not I did was irrelevant. I was offered almost no guidance in anything related to personal care or beauty as a woman.

However since this inner curiosity in trying makeup kept coming up over the last couple months, I recognized I should give makeup a try. My inner child was expressing a clear interest. So, I watched a few youtube videos. And the next morning, after dropping my kids off at preschool, I headed to the store to find some supplies.

What I found were dozens and dozens of options within options. What brand, what color, what texture, what thickness. Would I need a brush to apply that? Which one? Could I just wear mascara without eye liner? Is the weird? I had done research, but had mainly focused on brand names and of course none of them were at the store.

As I went down the 2 or 3 aisles, I became more and more overwhelmed. Here I was a 30 year old woman wandering the makeup section clueless like a 12 year old girl. “How embarrassing” “How pathetic” an inner voice said within.

And as I continued down the aisles I noticed a mother shopping for makeup with her little girl in the cart. The mother’s hair was up in the tight bun I still can’t manage to do. Seeing them brought up a sort of lonely pain. That at the end of the day here I was alone in this, like I usually am with life events. I was a 12 year old girl in a 30 year old women’s body, who still no one showed up for. Seeing that little girl and mother also brought the thought “What a resource I’ll be for my little girl!”.

I picked up a few things I thought might work, and called it a sucess. However the makeup trip, which was suppose to be a new and exciting kindness towards myself, ended up with me leaving me with a heaviness in my heart. It didn’t feel healing, it felt painful.

The Past Wanting to Show Me How Things Could Have Been

Another way the past likes to show up to me is in bringing my attention to “how things could have been so different if…..”. It’s as if my brain seems to think the solution to today’s struggles or tomorrow’s possible struggles lies in the past. My mind constantly pulls me out of the present to “reflect and learn” from the past…over and over again.

“If only you had only recognized the mental health issues in your family earlier…things would be so different”

“If only you had expressed your needs more clearly when you became a mother..you would have received help”

“You were closed off emotionally in highschool and college…if only you hadn’t been life would have been and would be so different.”

“If only you had communicated more calmly to your best friend….you and her could have weathered the storm and remained close all these years”

“If only you had read the Bible earlier…”

If only…If only…If only…

But, is this constant turning necessary? Are the present and future so hopeless that my time is best spent reflecting on “what went wrong”? As if I somehow “lost” this game of life, and I’m in a mad dash to figure out why before I play “life” again. In my depressed moods, that’s pretty much exactly how I feel. However, a more logical side of me KNOWS my life is actually much better than it was a few years ago. TODAY I am blessed with 2 beautiful children, I am building a circle around me of kind and loving people, and I am becoming a more kind and loving person to myself and others.

But in some nonsensical way, my past is usually tight around my neck. It’s as if I am taking my last breaths, and desperately wondering “what went wrong, what went wrong!”.

Conclusion:

These were the months of a growing frustration and desire to cut the past off of me/ or out of me.

I felt the past was the problem. It offered me nothing but pain. I was over it. I wanted to erase it.

I communicated this feeling to my husband. And as I listened to myself share these feelings with him I observed something interesting. It was certain events about the past that I seemed intensely focused on erasing. And it wasn’t just all the “big negative events”. Rather it was events I still felt strong emotional about, whether they were seemingly “big events” or not. It was the existence of these strong emotions inside of me which allowed certain memories of my past to jump into the present and color both my present and future outlook. I realized it wasn’t past events in themselves I wanted to erase, but rather my still living strong emotions towards them.

And by this point in my journey I KNOW emotions can not be erased. Even the sentence hits as cruel. Emotions, as strange as it is to say, are people. They need to be heard and they need to be accepted. And they may need help.

Still though I KNOW this, I struggle to live this. I observe over and over how I go to my emotions with anger and frustration. And when I battle them, no resolution is ever found. When I ignore them (or run from them), I’m merely deluding myself. They are still right there, everyday with me. Effecting me.

So, I guess I know what I must do. In order to lay these past emotions down, I must stay right here with them in the present. Even in their intensity, I must stay. And if I do, more and more of my past will lay down peacefully.

This will not be an easy process for me. It will take honesty, vulnerability, courage, determination, faith and time. The areas of my mind where intense emotions lie, is a laregly wordless space. A shaky place, a loud space, a timeless space, a confusing space.

But parts of me are stuck there, and I can not live fully until I have found and accepted and heard all the parts of me.

*** The past also intrudes on my present in a more beautiful way (though it contains unsettling elements). This way involves having memories of life before this life. Of a mother who is not my Earthly one. It didn’t quite fit with this post, so I didn’t include it. One day I’d like to write about it though. ***

– March 2022

I’ll Bind Myself

Many afternoons
I've promised evening. 
I'll bind myself in boldest black,
On brightest white.

I bet you think it's fear
When each morning I reveal 
Fresh layer, 
Winter white   

But I declare, 
I feel despair
For I have found 
There is no me to tie down

Just these rattling straights and curves
Fooling you into belief
There is something underneath 
Finally!

March 2022


 
 

Where I Was (January)

I’ve Lost the Narrative

I’ve lost my direction. I have always been a big planner, someone who has multiple future goals I’m striving towards. This aimlessness is new. It feels uncomfortable. It leaves me feeling detached and unconcerned about life. A “what’s the point…” is the common bedrock I hit inside of me now.

But that “what’s the point” indifference is not the only emotion I feel now a days.

I realize more month by month that I am an extremely split mind/body/soul. I believe this is a major factor causing my sense of directionless. I am full of wants, needs, emotions, dreams, beliefs, but they do not make a coherent whole. I struggle to say what I want, need, or feel. Which one do I pick? So many sides of me are passionate. So many feel authentically “me”.

Observing my chaotic inner world often leaves the whole of me in a “what’s the point” attitude.

Experience with Antidepressants (Lexapro)

Anxiety

I have been taking antidepressants for 3 months now.

I noticed within the first week or 2 my level of anxiety plummeted. My mind would still have anxious thoughts, but the emotional component of my anxiety was significantly less intense. I was no longer getting stuck in those vicious cycles of terror at what “might happen”. I was no longer spending excessive amount of time seeking relief through proving that what I feared wasn’t going to happen. (Health Anxiety for myself and those I love was a major one for me).

I still have concerns and fears. But now I can handle them more logically. I can consider the probability of what I fear. I can think through any actions I may need to take at the present time to deal with the situation. After these steps, my brain is now able to simply drop the issue. My body and mind feel at peace, and ready to continue on with my day.

This early experience with antidepressants reveals to me just how much anxiety has been affecting me. I knew I “struggled with anxiety”. But this new non-anxious way of living is like a whole new me. My life would certainly be different if I’d always had this freedom in decision making, it would certainly have FELT different. I now see, without a doubt, that anxiety has been an EVERY DAY struggle for me for as long as I can remember. It wore me out physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s a heavy realization, a sad realization.

I do not want to experience that endless anxious headspace ever again. I worry without antidepressants it will return.

Depression

In helping me with depression antidepressants have had more mixed results. Within a few weeks I was feeling more energetic and more motivated. I felt I was able to handle my daily tasks more smoothly. I ruminated about the past less. I interpreted my daily mistakes more leniently. “Everyone makes mistake, oh well” became easier.

Then I started taking better care of myself. I am kinder to myself now. I bought some pretty and comfortable pajamas and an automatic candle for my bathroom. I take a shower every night (I’m not a morning person), and look forward to wearing my comfy pajamas. After my shower I brush and floss my teeth, I put lotion on my hands, I brush my hair, and wrap up my wet hair.

This might sound like a normal routine, but I have never taken care of myself like this before. I didn’t own any pajamas that went together. I had lotion, but never used it. I’ve never bought any sort of candle. I’ve always used an old comb from my parents house I took with me to college.

Since I am less weighed down and focused on my pain, I’m able to think about others more now. I am extending simple gestures of kindness and generosity. I am noticing when others do this to me, and the joy in brings to my heart. And I am eager to share the kindness I have received with others. I see now love is simple. This is another heavy realization to me, a painful one.

I see now I have lived all my life just trying to get by. I didn’t take good care of myself. I didn’t take good care of others. It was senseless – but I didn’t know better. How much simple comfort and joy I’ve missed bringing to myself and bringing to others! The past is painful to even think of.

The Mixed Results

I am more resilient to stress than I have ever been in my life. I am more engaged than I have ever been in my life. I have more energy. I have more fun and carefree moments with my kids. My emotions are more level. I’m more present. I am more freely loving. I spend more time on my hobbies and exploring my passions. I am functioning better than I ever have before.

This all sounds wonderful, right? And it is. Antidepressants have given me a perspective I believe I would never have been able to find on my own. I know now life can have light moments. Life can feel safe. Love can be simple.

This new perspective allows a different view of myself. I can see that my past cut me. It damaged me. It feels the cut was to my very soul. The best way I can express it is – brain cells without oxygen die, soul cells without love die. My antidepressants do numb the pain from those cuts on my soul. And for that I am thankful, I can breathe. I can see and feel a better side of life. I am able now to talk about my hurt, and then move on with my day. I can distract myself away from the cuts (which I do now with loud happy music, and being productive). Numbed out and distracted one could almost think I’m a functional person, a strong person, a fun person. But I am not. I am a person deep in pain. A pain I can not name. A pain I can not bare. If I go off antidepressants won’t they just flare up like a wildfire again?

But I feel helpless to heal. I feel I can never have normal relationships with others, or even just be a normal human. Like a brain after a stroke, I struggle to learn what once could have been simple and I will have to accept some life-long effects.

Is any of this true? I do not know. But this is what it feels like to a side of me.

Conclusion

Externally – functioning very well: good energy, developing good and healthy daily routines, getting out of bed earlier and easier, more joyful with kids, going easier on self and others, resilient to stress, keeping up with house work, better self esteem, finding better balance between time with kids and me time, present focused, high and stable mood.

Internally – observing the incoherent whole of me.

This Christmas I reflect with Gratitude on:

This Christmas I reflect with gratitude on:

(In no particular order…)

My Grandma

My Grandma has a comforting presence to me, her energy is a Mother’s love. She’s never ceased being amazed by the blessings and wonders each day brings – whether it’s snapping green beans on the back porch for dinner, catching fireflies in summer, gathering in her den enjoying conversation, feeding the ducks at the pond, the red roses in her garden, a tea party, or a “big adventure” to an amusement park or historical spot. In her presence, my heart has always felt safe and engaged in the wonder of the present moment. I and the world – are wonderful just as we are.

My Grandma has a deep love of Christ. I’ve always noticed the rosaries, bibles, crosses, and images of Jesus and Mary when I visit her. She shared her faith in a gentle and natural way with me, bringing me to church with her when I was a little girl, and speaking openly about how God is her strength and comfort and has carried her through life.

However it was never any words or images of Christ or the cross alone that ever meant all that much to me as a child or as I grew. It was always her, her loving presence and how it made me feel, that stood out as a Heaven on Earth. When I saw a cross, an image of Mary, or Jesus – it was always her I thought of. Therefore, despite growing up in the passionately atheist home of my parents (think Christopher Hitchens) and considering myself an atheist since birth, the cross, Jesus, Mary – Christianity has always radiated to me with the beautiful sacredness of love.

Taken at Grandma’s

Dostoevsky

I was 19 or 20 when I first read Dostoevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov. The novel highlighted the clear split between my thinking mind and my feeling heart. My heart connected deeply with the character Alyosha, an aspiring monk, and his mentor, an elder monk named Zosima. I was inspired by the beauty of their wise words, steadfast kindness, and the compassionate stance they tried to take towards every person they met. They quickly became my heart’s favorite fictional characters of all time.

However my mind sided with a different character – Alyosha’s logic focused and atheist brother, Ivan. My mind stood in awe and approval of Ivan’s arguments against the goodness of God, his courageous dedication to brutal truths and logic, and his sharp intelligence. My mind viewed Ivan as having the wisdom and the strength to find the harsh path of reality/the truth and to take it. My mind understood Ivan’s philosophy, words, and actions weren’t very beautiful, but the truth is the truth was the philosophy Ivan and my mind endorsed.

However it seems Alyosha’s and Zosima’s philosophy of love struck something deeper inside of me. A decade later when my inner world went pitch black, the memory of the beauty of their faithful love and compassion was one of the few lights I could find in me. The memory was a blinking arrow directing me to the goodness, the beauty, and the power of Christ like love. That light inspired me to pick up Brothers Karamazov again and then pick up the Bible. It was one the the earliest steps I took on this journey back to self.

Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.

Father Zosima (Brothers Karamazov)

“What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.” 

Father Zosima (Brothers Karamazov)

My Children

I decided in high school, if not middle school, that I wanted to be a stay at home mom. Being a mother, and being with my children full time their first years, has always felt like a calling to me. So when I had my first child, my son, and I was able to stay at home with him full time I was delighted. It all felt like a dream come true!

And it was a dream, but it was also real life. My first year of motherhood was a colossal adjustment. My son needed a lot of attention, and he knew how to make that need known. The family encouragement and support I had assumed I’d received never showed up. It was just me and my husband and a very fussy baby. That lack of support cut me deeply, and was the start of the painful opening of my eyes to my own childhood. I took great care of my son, but horrible care of myself. I feel shame admitting this, but the truth is resentment towards him started to grow in me. And then a dread I felt in my very soul hit me – as I realized though he could not actually hurt me I could, and likely would, hurt him (I do not mean physically, just emotionally or damaging his understanding of love ,himself, or trust, etc.) And I did not want that to happen! My heart saw the innocence of his little soul and it was a rare time where my mind and heart agreed – there was no doubt that this little baby was more pure and innocent than me.

Thankfully my son, and daughter who was born 2 years later, are the best teachers of love I have ever met. Their authenticity, wonder, innocence, and the endless grace they show me reminded my heart and mind of something I had unknowing lost long ago – the belief in unconditional love. Suddenly unconditional love which was the most good, and beautiful thing, was also a TRUTH. If it was possible, then that meant it was a goal I could strive for. And I wanted to give that so badly to my children. I started learning about and practicing loving unconditionally – and found that is is NOT easy work. Being their mother and growing in this role has been the most terrifying, challenging, and meaningful work I have ever done. It was the very start of this journey back to self.

“I love everything best”

My Son

Fred Rogers

Until I became a parent, I knew almost nothing about Fred Rogers, his philosophy, and his TV show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I discovered Fred Rogers though my son’s favorite PBS show Daniel Tiger. I loved how in Daniel Tiger emotions and relationships were the focus. I loved the shows continual emphasis on all emotions being natural and okay – emotions are not hurtful or bad it is how we express them that can be troublesome. The show focused on teaching kids how to appropriately express their emotions.

This mindset about emotions made perfect sense to me, though I knew that wasn’t the mindset I lived by. My instinct was to label much of the inner emotional world as “silly” or “wrong”. My instinct was invalidating emotions. And because of that I struggled to figure out what my own emotions were deep down and had never learned the skill of appropriately expressing them. So I sat right next to my son learning about emotions through Daniel Tiger.

At some point I learned that Daniel Tiger was based off of Fred Rogers’ philosophy and his show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. So I started watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood too. I found his gentle presence and childlike curiosity and joy for life very moving. He seemed to radiate love and safety to me. He would often look at the camera and say some version of “I like you just the way you are”. This stirred up a great deal of internal resistance in my mind. I would feel frustrated, and I observed my mind instinctually retorting “But then how will they/or I improve?”. Sometimes my frustration would boil over and I would even tell my husband “I don’t really agree with that sort of….unconditional praise” and fumble around as to why that was saying something like “this world and the people in it need serious improvement, sorry but we most definitely are NOT okay as we are, and people need to hear and accept that truth and get to work being better.”

But alongside my inner resistance, I couldn’t help but notice part of me was actually very receptive to his message and felt touched by it. A soft and vulnerable part of me, I wasn’t used to seeing, was being brought to the surface by the very words that frustrated the thinking side of me. Sometimes even tears would well up in my eyes at his words of unconditional love and acceptance. I believed him! I believed that he, this stranger, would love me exactly as I was right then, despite everything I’ve done or will do. He would see me, he would listen to me, and he would LOVE me. That belief in the possibility of unconditional love was a powerful and stabilizing force to me. I aspired to be more like him myself, I wanted others (especially my children) to believe in and feel that beautiful love from me. Which sounds a lot life his message that I was likable just the way I was – inspired me to……”improve”. (I’m teasing my mind here, but I have come to learn the somewhat non instinctual truth that – Love not criticism leads to improvement.)

Fred Rogers singing “It’s You I Like” and saying this after “And that’s true. And you’ll find that the people who love you best, are the one’s you learn the most from. And the more they teach you and the more you learn the better feeling you’ll have about yourself and the world we live in”
Fred Rogers singing “There Are Many Ways To Say I Love You”…Followed by these words “As you grow I trust that you are finding many more ways to show and tell people that you love them. Those are the most important things that you’ll ever ever learn to do. Because loving people and animals and the world we all live in is the most important part of being alive.”

My Husband

This year has been a tough one for our marriage – lots of life changes and inner realizations and very little quality alone time together. At points it has felt like our marriage was a chapter in our lives, and it was quickly coming to a close. So it might be surprising for my husband to see himself on this list, but on reflection he shouldn’t be surprised.

In the second half of this year my inner struggles came more clearly to the surface than they ever have in my life. Waves of every emotion I’ve ever felt came out and it changed on a weekly basis. It was messy. Yet, somehow, he never judged me. He’s tried to be there for me even when I pulled away from him and expressed doubt about our marriage surviving this inner change in me. His focused seemed always on getting me back on solid footing. He reassured me he loved me and wanted to see me happy and healthy no matter what that meant for us. His focus wasn’t on what he had to gain or lose – it was my wellbeing. That is unconditional love, and it’s been a beautiful and inspiring thing to see.

He may not be artful in day to day expressions of love, but when times were tough (which is when love is truly tested) he’s displayed his unconditional love clearly. While others, who I thought loved me and would always be there to catch me, fled or at best stood by with criticism, doubts, frustration, invalidation, and wordy advice he reached out with the strongest arms of love he has to try to catch me. And his effort, simply seeing his effort, did steady me in my fall and guided me to softer spot to land. Unconditional love came from an expected source unexpectedly – I clearly have some reflecting to do.

WordPress Friends

At the beginning of my journey back to self I assumed the major changes happening in me were a uniquely “me” experience. It wasn’t until many months into my journey, maybe closer to a year, that I began to suspect I wasn’t alone in this journey. That what I was experiencing was a human experience – like the experience of falling in love, or the experience of missing someone, or the experience of tasting good food.

That’s when I started this blog. I wanted to document my evolving journey ( a human journey) in my sometimes beautiful, sometimes good, but always true inner world. And in this blog I have done that, but this blog has gifted me so much more than I ever expected. It connected me to you! So many people have reached out to share their own experiences and perspectives and what they’ve learned on their journeys in healing, motherhood, faith, creativity, love, and life. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to everyone who has taken time out of their lives to show kindness to me – an internet stranger. My WordPress friends have given me the beautiful gift of feeling seen, encouraged, relatable, understood, deserving of compassion and loved. This blog created to document my journey back to self has become an essential element in my journey back to self.

I will be forever thankful to each of these people who reminded my heart and mind of the truth and power that is Love. That is God.

I Find Love

I find love to be a complex thing 
Yes, even the love Christ brings 
He says he loves me 
But how could that be  
For most of me is faithfully unkind 
I guess he's simply paid me no mind
He replies what is me is past what is seen
I lie in unmanifestable dream - eternally clean
I've paused more, mined silences, surveyed what's within
I've never seen anything other than darkness and Him 

(December 2021)

Where I Was (November) – An Unexpected Step

Being Me?

I’d assume being me would be the easiest thing to be. Trees, birds, everything in nature appears so gracefully itself. Couldn’t I just decide to be me in a moment, and to remain me for the rest of my life. Sure life would still send challenges, but they’d be sent to me. I’d be someone. I could pause and reflect at any time and know how I felt and what actions I want to take. Yet years have passed in this journey back to “me”, and what I’ve learned is I have no idea who I am. Or maybe, I am a mix of contradictory parts. And many of those parts are passionate. So I am chaotic. Maybe too chaotic for the stability inner peace or daily life requires.

I have lost the (likely unhealthy and false) grounding of self I had before I started this journey. And though I have faith, I’m journeying down a truer path now, I have come to fear this path. Where will it take me? What will it reveal to me about myself? About others? About life? Am I strong enough? Am I going too fast? Will it hurt others? Will it hurt myself? Should I put it on pause while my kids are little? Is this selfish?

Me and Antidepressant

At the beginning of November, my therapist suggested I try antidepressants. She felt I was going through a very difficult point in my journey, and antidepressants may help take the edge off my emotional lows.The plan would be to take them for a couple of months, not long term.

This may sound like a simple and logical step. However, I have always been passionately opposed to taking medicine to alter my brain. If I tried to articulate why I feel this way – I’d say my brain is me. Sacred space. The complex and delicate systems of the brain and body are not well understood, and therefore the many effects of the medicine are not well understood. To release such a powerful but uncertain chemical influence into my brain feels very dangerous and unloving towards me. (When I was growing up my father strongly expressed his negative feelings about these sorts of medicines too. I am unsure how much that influenced my own feelings.) I was actually prescribed antidepressants in college. I picked the bottle of pills up from the pharmacy, but I never took them.

But this time when my current therapist suggested antidepressants, it felt slightly different. Fleeting ideas of maybe trying some sort of medication had been passing through my mind for weeks, though I had never mentioned this to my therapist. I had done no research into the options, until she brought the topic up. That night, after our session, I researched the options online, watched videos of people sharing their experiences, and read about how antidepressants work in the brain. The next morning I scheduled an appointment with my family doctor to get his opinion and the prescription. He assured me they were safe and agreed I should try them (which is no surprise considering he is the doctor who first prescribed them to me almost 10 years ago). He wrote me a prescription for the generic form of Lexapro. That night, feeling a mix of verbally loud and verbally quiet emotions, I took the first pill.

That was during the first week of November. So I am about 5 weeks into taking antidepressants now. I would like to and will try to share the experiences and feelings which led me to this step, and how I feel now that I am on antidepressants. It has been a lot to process, and has led me to reflect on my past.

You Have Forgotten Who You Are

You have forgotten who you are.
But I haven’t. 
Some part of God
Lost to love.

But your heart beats,
Listen!
It will guide you back, 
You say to “death!” 
And I agree
As all paths lead
Certainly to destiny.

But if we hold to love,
Through the darkest paths of fear.
We may find a death
With breathe

Our immortality

(August 2021)

Today I Found Those Beautiful Words (Poem)

Today I found those beautiful words
I scan fast 
And ignore
An ode to a mother 

The praise, the tenderness, 
The love 
Expressed with feeling I am sure 
But serves as whiteout to my soul

What pain it must be 
That transforms love to enemy

It steals my heart 
It steals my words 
It steals my mind 

A weight so heavy 
I drift off
Into that world that saved me 
When you were my mother