Where I Was (May 2022)

(Written: May 2022)

A New Counsellor

My counsellor has been wonderful. I have gained a huge amount of self confidence with her help. Confidence in myself and my perspective. I have gained an assertiveness in who I am. Yet still her and I have both observed there are deeper somewhat nonverbal emotional selves in me that come over me and in those states I feel and struggle with intense emotions. These emotions pull me out of the present, and sometimes even somewhat out of reality. The anti depressants help with the intensity and frequency of these sorts of rising up, but I feel unhealed and still struggle when my coping mechanisms for these intense emotions come out.

We have both realized that it might be time for me to try another route. I mentioned EMDR, and she said it would be something that may help me. However, she is not trained in EMDR and would have to transfer me to new cousellor. This week I made the phone call to switch from one to the other.

And almost immediately I heard a side of me release a huge sigh of “thank god”. That side felt like it was finally being seen, and help was being attempted. In other words I was finally taking my own pain seriously. I was acknowledging it was time to try another path.

Hoping EMDR will help me with the intense emotions I can’t speak with well or for. They seem without words, often presenting themselves to me in images. I think this side may be where I get triggered from – and where my RAGE comes from.

Anger/Rage

(* Sept. edit* – This section was originally called “I Yell…”. On reflection though I realize this isn’t quite accurate. Though interestingly enough it is accurate of how my mother expressed her anger when I was growing up, and something she accuses me of. Often it seems I confuse my self with her, as odd as that sounds. Still my anger is sharp and damaging. But it expresses itself more through sarcasm/mocking, contempt and extreme conclusions. Which is in fact my Dad’s route of expressing anger too. *)

Not sure whether it’s clear on here or not. But, I become extremely angry (rage?) at my parents. And this month that all came out again. Many words were said, but I think what started the initial blow up was something along the lines of my Dad pushing back in the idea that I’m struggling and could use support. He said he had no idea I was struggling that’s why he hasn’t been checking in on me. Said he has seen me smiling and laughing at one of my son’s soccer games, so he thought I was doing better. That level of denial of and indifference to my emotions often sets me off.

My words rose to a yell. And as I drove home crying, I turned inside to do IFS dialogue. And this is what I heard.

“When I yelled I scare others. I feel bad. I don’t like to be scary.”

A more rational side seemed to join in “Yes, My words were meant to push away, to cut. I went too far”

Another side, in hearing this acknowledgment of shame and guilt for my behavior, offered an option to help make things right. I could: Apologize to my parents.

The sad side said “Yes, that sounds good.”

And that is what I did. When I got home I text that I was sorry I had yelled and said hurtful words. That isn’t the way I should express myself. I was going to work on expressing my anger in better ways.

If felt good to say sorry, and I felt like in doing so I was holding myself more accountable. Making it more likely I would be mindful before I spoke in anger in the future.

Knowing the Mark & Missing the Mark

It is important to me. That no matter how others treat me, I am still proud of how I treat them. That harm is never my intention. The largest truth of all is only love can heal, only love can open people’s heart’s to others or themselves.

Now I know I will never be able to be perfectly loving in all my actions and words, still that is the goal. And I must acknowledge when I’ve missed the mark. Also, it is important I remember that it is not my responsibly and I shouldn’t expect to change others or make them more loving. This is about following my own moral compass and doing what is right – it can not be done with expectations.

-May 2022

Where I Was (April)

(Written: April 2022)

The Birth of A New Parent

I’ve been donating clothes, and buying new one’s. New styles for me. I have figured out a very simple and natural makeup look I love. I finally understand what it feels like to look in the mirror and feel confident and beautiful. The energy I see, reflects ME. It’s new, and wonderful. Something young inside me, is giddy over it all. Delights in this new found expression of self, and confidence in it.

At home that is…..

Out in public other sides of me seem to gain a voice. When I was dropping my kids off at preschool this week that “other side” got busy. In my mind I was hearing what “everyone else was thinking” – judging me and my new clothes, my new makeup. Judging me as a person and a mother. With all these thoughts playing loud in my head, I walked toward the front door of the preschool with my head down. I couldn’t wait to get back to the safety of the car. I felt foolish.

And then, something I’ve never experienced happened. An inner voice showed up to “protect me” from myself. This new voice said “even if they are judging us – let’s defend and encourage “her” (me). She needs us. It is not a time to join the voices of judgement, but a time to support “her” (me).”

And in that new self-loving and self supporting space, I felt peace again. I remembered how happy I was with my new look. How I felt myself expressed in my style. And amazingly once I got this breathing room, reason returned to me as well. None of those busy parents, were paying any attention to me that morning. Those thoughts were purely my own fear speaking.

Freeing of an Old Parent

Whenever I have to interact with my parents for a long period I always feel so sunken the day after. Recently after one of my visits, I laid in bed in the morning, heavy. I don’t understand how they have the power to twist my perspective into darkness. I feel alone, invisible – abandoned. That alone weakens me greatly. I stayed in bed 30 minutes to an hour longer than usual. This meant my husband was going to get to work later than usual (he works from home).

I did get out of bed though and into the shower. Where like usual, in that lonely and rejected state, the inner critic found me and had a lot to say. “You are lazy, dragging everyone down. You are a burden. Your husband might lose his job now -he’s too busy for this”.

Another side of me (which is fairly familiar to me now) rose us to respond in anger to this voice. “Leave me alone!” “You are so cruel!”. I still feel the hits of my Inner Critic, but I’m at the point in my journey where I don’t “believe” everything the Critic says anymore. And I most certainly don’t believe any human should be spoken to in the tone of harshness and hate the Critic uses. It’s not a voice of love, compassion, grace, or growth – it is not a voice of Jesus.

Still, the emotional hits on an already emotionally struggling me left me rubbing my head in frustration and helplessness. Then something interesting happened (probably because I had just been researching how to work with these sides of me through IFS). A voice came in to stop the resistance to the inner Critic. This voice seemed to have an understanding of the inner critic. It knew the inner critic wasn’t “evil” it was merely “confused”.

As this side talked with the Inner Critic I was able to come to understand the Inner Critic (like always) was trying to protect me. It assumed “these accusations” were coming, or soon would be if I let myself lapse in my productiveness. It was trying to make sure that I didn’t “upset” the schedule for anyone, that no matter how I felt I would keep quiet about it and “get the task done on time with no complaints”. That I behaved so I wouldn’t get in trouble.

And I heard this voice reassure the Inner Critic, “That all isn’t going to happen anymore. She is not at risk of getting in trouble”. It told the Inner Critic that people around me now don’t think like that. I am safe to have big emotions. I am safe to share them. I am safe to ask for moments off if needed. And I felt a huge release of inner tension. The inner voice was quiet. And in that now quiet space I felt grief. A sense of my past reality sinking in. How my childhood world and then by extension “the world” hadn’t felt safe psychologically or emotionally to me.

But also, what freedom. That old parent (my Inner Critic), caught a glimpse of a new environment, and for a moment backed off. I am not failing. I am not weak. This is simply what is required for me to let go of what I learned over decades and to relearn that today I am safe to be me. That I am not alone, that love exists, that I am loved, that I am safe.

I asked my husband if I could have another 30 minutes after my shower to type this all up. The final step in me processing it.

Another Step

In the weeks leading up to Easter Sunday, my heart kept pulling me to attend an Easter church service. But I was unsure of where to go. I do not have a church, I have never had a church. Well, besides the one my Grandma brought me too as a little girl. So I asked my Grandma if I could attend Easter Mass with her. “Of course” was her response. She was delighted to have company and delighted to hear I wanted to attend.

So Easter morning, after my kid’s woke up to their Easter baskets, I got dressed and headed to church with her. My heart found a peace there, a determination there, I felt myself somehow make a promise there to LOVE. Whatever comes.

I am starting to feel, and step into, being a Christian. A follower of Christ. Which to me feels like the most natural of impossible challenges. LOVE. The highest meaning of my heart and soul. LOVE. However, I find the words “being a Christian” very complex. Some aspects I relate to, some I do not.

But my heart knows, when I am with nature, when I watch the face of person after person receiving Communion, when I walk through the empty chapel at my son’s preschool after morning drop-offs – I am there, I am not alone, I am home.

(April 2022)

Where I Was (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

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.

Sophomore Year Of High School – Me, Anxiety, and Medicine Meet Face to Face

Dinner At Boyfriend’s House

Sophomore year of high school my struggles with anxiety rose clearly to the surface. I was invited to stay for dinner with my first boyfriend’s family. When I sat down for dinner, I saw his father had made hamburgers. I didn’t eat beef because I was terrified of mad cow disease. (*which of course was probably anxiety related though I didn’t think of it that way at the time*). But I didn’t want to be difficult – so I said nothing.

As I sat there trying to eat as little as possible of the burger as politely as possible. My mind and body started to feel incredibly tense and the feeling kept building. My stomach hurt, my mind was racing, I felt nauseous. I started imagining how terrible and awkward it would be to throw up right there at the family dinner or at his house.

And as the minutes passed it was feeling more and more likely. My mind was screaming “get out of here” and I had the urge to be alone. However, I made it through the dinner. And shortly after standing up from the table, I was feeling better. Though still worried I was coming down with something.

When I got home, I told my Dad about the strangely intense feelings and illness at the dinner table. He wasn’t confused. He instead shared with me how both my Aunt and Grandmother have gone to the ER for “heart issues”, to find out that instead what they were experiencing were panic attacks. He said, though his had never led him to the ER, he had felt his body go into a similar mode. My Dad suspected I had just experienced something similar. He reassured me, that though it felt like something horrible was going on in my body, it was actually my body going into fight-or-flight mode. I wasn’t in real danger.

Understanding what had happened reassured me, but didn’t stop it from happening again. This time it occurred at a restaurant with my boyfriend and his family. I retreated to the bathroom and felt an almost instant wave of relief. However, I knew I had to return to the table and going to the bathroom multiple times at dinner felt both socially embarrassing and incredibly awkward. But less embarrassing than throwing up in a restaurant full of people, though I tried to reassure myself that wouldn’t happen. I wasn’t actually sick, there was no reason for me to throw up. I was merely fearing throwing up in a socially embarrassing setting so intensely that my body was freaking out and making my stomach feel very uneasy. (So goes the frustrating logic of anxiety…)

I never told my boyfriend that I was struggling with anxiety or panic issues. I didn’t understand it all well enough myself, and didn’t feel comfortable talking to others about it. I hoped to get it under control soon anyway as I knew it was my mind causing all the chaos. For unrelated reasons my boyfriend and I broke up soon after this all started happening anyway.

Cue Anxiety Showing Me It’s Power

At the very end of my Sophomore Year I started dating someone else. Our very first date/ hang out was outside of school at a very casual restaurant, just me and him. I don’t remember feeling intensely worried about having panic issues there, though I’m sure I must have been nervous.

It was probably about half way through the date that I started feeling nauseous. I went to the restroom, and the sick feeling didn’t subside as quickly as it normally did. I ended up dry heaving, which terrified me. It was the first time, my body was clearly physically trying to throw up due to panic. I stayed in the bathroom taking deep breathes to try to calm down. It took me a while, but I did end up feeling well enough to return. I went back to our table and told him I didn’t feel well.

As we sat on the bench out front waiting for my Mom to pick me up, I still felt pretty unwell. It started building again, and I rushed to an outside trashcan. Where to my surprise and embarrassment, I leaned over and threw up. My boyfriend was kind to me, he appeared to feel nothing but concern for me. Still what a first date, I was mortified!

This experience took my anxiety into overdrive. As I now knew my irrational fear of eating and throwing up around others made the fear not irrational. My fear alone was able to make my body so turned up, I would throw up. This time I did explain to my boyfriend that I was struggling with anxiety around eating, and that is why I threw up on our first date. He was understanding, and we didn’t go on dates to restaurants anymore and I didn’t eat with his family. I had a best friend in high school, we’d been friends for years, who I also opened up to about what I was experiencing.

At this point the anxiety and panic was starting to expand though. Situations where a bathroom or trashcan wasn’t easily available, the car being the main one, also were difficult for me to be in with people who weren’t “safe” (basically anyone besides family, my boyfriend alone, or best friend alone). I avoided these situations the best I could.

First Experience With Medicine

At some point during the summer after my Sophomore year I went to my family doctor. While I was there, I told him about my struggles with anxiety and panic. I shared with him my opposition to taking medicine targeting my brain. He told me about a drug called hydroxyzine. I could take it as needed if I was worried about encountering a situation that may trigger a panic attack. It would help keep my body calm, and simply having it as an option may help ease my fear. He said it was not strong and non addictive. (According to WebMd “Hydroxyzine is an antihistamine. It works by preventing the effects of a substance called histamine, which is produced by the body”. After reading this, it makes sense to me, why he said this medicine is like “Benadryl”. Hydroxyzine can be prescribed for allergies or anxiety. )

The idea of taking it only as needed was very appealing to me. It left me feeling like it would be easy to try and stop at any point, and I would be able to take it as infrequently as possible. He wrote me a prescription, and I took one pill the next time I was entering a situation I feared a panic attack may occur. The drug worked to calm me, however it also made me incredibly drowsy. I used it out of necessity (if there was an anxiety provoking situation coming up I couldn’t avoid) but I struggled to stay awake at all after taking one. So it wasn’t a very practical solution.

Thankfully though, simply knowing I had the option of the pills did help me. I had a way to decrease the chances of having a panic attack before I entered a situation (though on reflection I was still heavily using the unhealthy technique of avoidance of situations that may trigger panic). I regained a better sense of control over my anxiety. I took a pill maybe only once every couple months in high school, and continued having hydroxyzine tablets on hand through my freshman year of college. Though the last time I took them was move in day of college. I had gained a good set of calming and distracting techniques by that point to keep full scale panic issues at bay. By the start of my sophomore year at college, I wasn’t carrying hydroxyzine tables anymore.

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.

Where I Was (August & September) & Where I Am (October)

*(Just a heads-up: My Inner Critic’s voice is mocking and hurtful (especially in the Inner Dialogue Exercise). Putting this warning up in case you are trying to avoid that sort of energy right now.)*

Life Changes

The last couple of months have brought some big life changes. One of the largest being I moved. Another big life change was my counsellor had a session ( I wasn’t there) with my parents, which opened my eyes to a new reality for our relationship. My parents seem certain that they have no role to play in the dynamics of our relationship. They are willing to “help me” with “whatever I am feeling”, but see it as having nothing to do with them. They say they are very confused by it all. They think I should not be upset now or upset about the past, they think my problem is I won’t “accept the truth”. Of course they don’t usually say it as straightforward as that, but that is the general message. I was left feeling invisible and wrong for the emotions I have. And I saw, finally, that I needed to pull back from the relationship. In truth there has never been much of a relationship, and in all likelihood there never will be. The realizations were painful and upsetting, and especially difficult as I was also in the stressful process of moving.

A New Space For Growth

As I’ve pulled away from my parents, I’ve gotten more space to feel my own feelings. I’ve come to see how alone and isolated I’ve always been in life. These last couple of months have felt like a descent into a mysterious depth, where I now feel stuck. But stuck isn’t really the best word for where I am. Maybe it’s more like some hurting side of me is finally stepping fully forward now. This hurting side of me feels a new safety forming in the growing distance between me and my family. This hurting part of me is right at the surface now, and it’s disorienting and painful, and hard to function and take care of all my responsibilities. The weight and intensity of the hurting part’s feelings feels strong enough to shatter me from the inside out. To destroy me. I feel such an inner pressure.

But I do not believe this hurting part is trying to destroy me. I believe it is seeking help. It is starting to trust that I, my real self, may actually try to listen and help it. And she is right. I am determined this time to figure out how to help her – to listen, to believe, and to try not to judge. However this feels like a near impossible task, because there is another side of me that appears slicker, smarter and more powerful than this hurting side of me, and that is my Inner Critic.

Inner Critic Part/Emotionally Hurting Part

I am observing the emotional hurting side of me is held in like a hostage. It seems so clear to me I am in therapy to get the hurting side of me help, yet she is almost never allowed to speak during my sessions. It’s nonsensical, but feels largely out of my control. During this healing process, I have found an Inner Parent part of me. My Inner Parent speaks with a comforting and loving voice. And I can only assume my Inner Parent is who sought out therapy for my hurting part.

Yet I am observing over and over that when the intensely hurting part comes to the surface, my Inner Parent goes completely missing. I can not access it anymore. And instead of being met by the Inner Parent the hurting part instantly faces the Inner Critic. It’s as if the mere appearance of the hurting part, is the cue for my inner system to get the Inner Critic side online. The Inner Critic presents itself and simply sounds to me like the voice of “the truth/logic/reality”. It has an objective air. Yet when I listen deeply, or imagine it as a 3rd party speaking to me , I hear the Inner Critic’s voice as invalidating, mocking, harsh, threatening, and pressuring. I hear hate.

Furthermore I’ve observed that as my emotionally hurting part feels more and more overwhelmed, upset, or alone the Inner Critic becomes more and more aggressive and hateful. Sometimes it may appear as if the Inner Critic is trying to “get me help”, but it’s in such a frustrated way. It brings the hurting part of me to therapy with an attitude of “What is WRONG with YOU!”. It sounds like: “Can anyone fix this useless stupid emotional person. Give her a diagnosis or something, she won’t just shut up and be happy. She should be happy. She is annoying everyone! Bringing everyone down.”

My Inner Critic keeps my hurting side largely silent to the world and somehow silent even to myself (a large part of this silence is I do not recognize my feelings as my own. It’s like I don’t feel my own feelings.) I do not fully understand how the hurting part is silenced, maybe it is through fear of embarrassment or shame. However it seems that unless my hurting side finds a voice (whether it’s to me, my therapist, or someone else), it is unlikely to receive help from anyone.

An Inner Dialogue Exercise: Giving My Hurting Side A Voice

The emotionally hurting side of me has been very intense and at the surface recently and I recognize it must get help. I did the following exercise a few days ago in an attempt to get some clarity on what was going on inside the emotional hurting part of me. In this exercise I observed how difficult it is for the emotional part of me to speak and be heard. Not because she is silent or has nothing to say, but rather because the moment she starts to speak the Inner Critic shows up and starts speaking over her in an argumentative and aggressive manner. This is an example of what that Inner Dialogue sounds like in my mind:

Emotional Side: So, I am really hurting. What I need help with is….

Critic: (Interrupts) Haha, so many have had it so much worse than you. What a joke!

Emotional Side: Yeah, I know, I’m just focusing on healing my heart right now.

Critic: Of what! You are always so dramatic and self focused

Emotional Side: (trying to just ignore it and speak) Um, so when I was a little girl

Critic: You are still such a little girl…it’s pathetic. Everyone thinks it.

Emotional Side: (getting upset now) Um so, when I was younger, um, my family was always miserable, no love or tenderness or joy was really ever shown to anyone from anyone and

Critic: That’s everyone’s story…you’re being dramatic

Emotional Side: Please stop! Why are you doing this! (continued begging to stop)

Critic: More evidence you are dramatic. Just stop, this is stupid.You are embarrassing yourself.

Emotional Side: Just let me talk

Critic: About what? Your “trauma’

Emotional Side: About what I love, what I want

Critic: How cute…

Emotional Side: I love people. They are all so mysterious. I love nature, music, art, and poetry. I love being together with all this beautiful whatever we are. But my favorite thing by far is people.

Critic: Wow, ever looked around. People are horrible. Destroying the earth. You can’t trust any of them. Name anyone, I can make you turn on them. All are hurtful and ugly. They hide in darkness who they really are.

Emotional Side: Humans are a world unto themselves. Mystery and beauty. All mixed together.

Critic: Sorry, but look at the world

Emotional Side: Why are you doing this!

Critic: It’s true

Emotional Side: Who are you? Tell me your past

Critic: I don’t have one

Emotional Side: Yeah you do. You seem to “know” so much.

Critic: ………I just know they are ugly. I’ve seen.

Emotional Side: Seen what? I’ve seen beauty, mixed, but beauty. Like all of nature, it’s mixed. I love flowers in spring, but when the plant turns brown and dries up and sits ugly in the garden. I don’t give up hope for the flowers or reject the beauty I saw. The plant has beauty, that still stands. Each person is like that I think. A mixed bag, the ugly doesn’t negate the beautiful.

Critic: But the beauty doesn’t negate the ugly either

Emotional Side: True. But I feel I can love what I see. I do love what I see. I mean I certainly am just like all of that. A mixed bag. I think you are trying to protect me from the ugly side, because it can hurt. But I think I’m building myself up to be able to face it better. I’m learning new ways of thinking and understanding.

Critic: It won’t last. You always come crawling back to me. You will be torn apart.

Emotional Side: Maybe, but the beauty’s been real. And I’m curious why do you think I come back to you? What are you providing?

Critic: I take care of you. You are naive. You think they love you. No one does. It’s interesting though, because you do love them. But I often convince you that your love is broken to protect you. It’s easier for you to take the blame then to hear the truth – no one loves you.

Emotional Side: Do you love me?

Critic: Yes, Of course.You’re beautiful.

Emotional Side: (Overwhelmed, crying) … I didn’t know that. I thought I was broken, a problem.

Critic: I know, I’m sorry, it felt necessary.

Emotional Side: Is it still necessary?

Critic: Less so. But you’ll be scared.

Emotional Side: Okay, I am scared.

Critic: That’s okay. I’ll try to be easier on you. We can build on your passions. I know you enjoy them.

Emotional Side: Thanks, it’s been really hard hasn’t it? Being so alone, loving everyone so much, but seeing so much misery. Feeling powerless, and powerful all at once. Intensity and emotions in secrecy. The loneliness and confusion.

Critic: Yes, it’s been hard. We were placed in a line of trauma.

Emotional Side: Thank you so much for validating that. It has been hard. But I’m here to start changing that aren’t I?

Critic: Yes. Your parents contributed some, and you are going to take that and run for you children.

Emotional Side: Yes, yes, that’s exactly what I want. But I’m so worried, I know I’m struggling with all these changes and new ways of being. Living love and living trust is so hard. I’m very afraid.

Critic: That all makes sense. I’m very proud of you already though. And others are too, even if they don’t have the words to say it. This is a beautiful task, just the picking it up, it will mean something to your children.

Emotional Side: I worry it won’t, that I’m lying to myself. That maybe I should be doing something else. Just like the feeling I’m not doing enough. How do I balance self care and care for them?

Critic: You are figuring it out, keep going. This is hard.

Emotional Side: I’m so surprised to see you turned motivator. Is this really the Inner Critic not the Inner Parent?

Critic: I think we might be the same figure. Maybe in different settings. We both want the same thing at least, to keep you safe.

Emotional Side: So I was safe being attacked by you?

Critic: Yes, I thought the environment was not safe for you.

Emotional Side: My parents are not safe?

Critic: They don’t do it to hurt you. But yes, they are not safe. Not until you gain more strength in yourself.

Emotional Side: Is it safe now? (The new space away from them)

Critic: Yes.

Emotional Side: But you still attack me, shame me?

Critic: I am nervous too.

Emotional Side: (laughing) You do sound like a parent.

Critic: I am.

Emotional Side: Well, maybe seeing this side of you will help me handle your rants better. I can recognize you are nervous and doubting as opposed to certain. You aren’t the voice of truth, more a voice of worries about my safety.

Critic: Hopefully we will figure it out. I don’t want to tear you down. Only keep you safe, The beautiful, good, and true.

Emotional Side: But I’m ugly too right?

Critic: Yep, like everyone else.

Emotional Side: But we grow the beauty I guess, enjoy it, seek it out, nourish it, encourage it?

Critic: That makes sense to me. But honestly, I’m not passionate and emotional like you are. That’s all you. I just sit back and enjoy it. You are the beautiful, good, and true.

Interesting Take Aways

I was basing that write up off an inner dialogue I had a few days ago. But as I wrote it up from memory, it started taking a new turn and I went with it. I feel I learned something big here. I have never seen my Inner Critic be so kind. I’m sort of left speechless and unsure. Did the Inner Parent take over or was that really the Critic? Or are they really the same? Maybe the Inner Parent voice I thought of as “new” from this healing journey was really just the “new goal” of the Inner Critic. Maybe the Inner Critic has been learning and growing alongside all the other parts of me this whole time. I’m really not sure. I’ll have to give this time to sink in and reflect. But I definitely felt an inner ally inside, one I’m not used to.

More Reflections Given More Time:

  • I feel when the Inner Critic speaks of “others”, it is referring to my family of origin as opposed to the world at large. Which makes sense if the Inner Critic part was formed in childhood.
  • It would be nice if the Inner Critic praised me more often. It seems to see a good side of the emotional me, but rarely does it ever speak in a proud or supportive way. I need to practice encouraging and supporting myself, and also actually accepting my own encouragement and praise.
  • The more I reflect, with adult eyes, on how my Inner Critic tends to speak the more I see the dynamics of my family growing up through a different lens. I’ve always “sided” with my father. And by that I mean I’ve seen reality through his eyes for most of my life. He was the hero. However, as I am gaining strength and gaining my own perspective, I am starting to see the past actions and words of my father in a new light. Something about the tone and attitude of the Inner Critic strikes me as very similar to how he treated my mother when I was growing up. His past actions and words I used to view as having “protected” me or himself now appear (whether intended to or not) incredibly harmful to our family. They seem inappropriate and disproportionate. It’s a lot to process, and I am in the thick of that now.

Where I Was Last Month (May) And This Week (6-24-21)

(Written in May)

Beginning to Process A Heavy Mood

I am currently processing and being with one of my heaviest moods. This emotional state I get into seems to be one of the most disconnected from my more unified sense of self. Coping skills that work brilliantly for other moods, seem to make this mood worse. There is a distrusting, aggressive, and mocking attitude it seems to possess towards what feels like “me”.

It feels like this mood descends on me quite frequently, and probably has most of my life. The mood has a teenage feel to it, and I suspect it was during my teenage years when I first started experiencing this mood. I probably lived more of life in this mood in the past. However I may have been unable to see it as clearly as I do now, since I did not have as much joy and peace to compare it too. It is the intense reappearance and struggle with this mood that led me to attend counseling again.

I don’t understand what sets it off yet. But it comes on suddenly and it feels heavy and empty. In that emotional mood I feel nothing towards people who I know I love. And that upsets me and angers me. But the mood doesn’t care, doesn’t care about anything or anyone. And definitely doesn’t care what “I” think about it. Seems to hate me. Thinks I destroyed my life. And that there is no chance of any good outcomes. It tends to urge me to seek comfort in “nature”, who “won’t judge me/who loves me”. It has self-destructive urges, that disturb and frighten me. I try to encourage it, mention how many people wound be there to help it. It has a very mocking attitude. States they will help me for a day, and then be gone. I just feel so emptied out in this mood. Only grief and guilt about the past, and hopelessness and indifference towards the future.

I am trying to be patient with this emotion. And accept it as it is, even in its mocking and anger.

The only thing so far that does seem somewhat promising with the emotion is simply to gently tell it/remind it “It’s okay, you are okay, those you love are okay. It’s okay to feel this way. You are safe. Those you love are safe. It’s okay. You’re okay.” I felt a lifting in that, and it seemed to offer me a simple path forward to show kindness and support for myself. After softly whispering that out loud over and over, I felt the desire to have a cup of tea. I felt a lifting in all that, a being present, being less overwhelmed.

I don’t know what this mood is. And I don’t know why is descends on me. But I would like to address it, process it, hear it, and help it.

A Second Stage In Processing

(I believe this comment I left to a friend on WordPress in the thick of processing the heavy mood captures a shifting in my perspective towards the mood.)

(Written in May)

“I am in such an intense place recently. Really struggling with so many overwhelming emotions. I’m feeling it physically and mentally more than I’m used to. Struggling to function. But I’m hanging in there and reminding myself this is likely part of a loving freeing, finding, listening to, and being with my true self. She’s held so much in for so long, so much suppression.But as those inner forces that have been holding the real me down are lowered, I connect more and more with her in a deeper way and unlike in the past I’m not going to criticize or push her away now. Even if the left over of my old inner system of suppression rises up, to it believes protect me, I feel I know a better way now. It’s all okay. I’m okay. Even though I fear how I feel at moments in this anxiety, grief, guilt, helplessness, emptiness, and brain fog. It feels like I’m cycling quickly through intensity and numbness.

But I will not abandon her. Because I see more clearly now, who I really am, the natural intuitive sensitive me, is kind, smart, good, and loving. I or no one else has anything to fear from her. All she wants is to live as herself. And I believe that is what is best for her and everyone else. I am worthy to live my life as myself, we all are.”

A Third Stage in Processing

(Written In June)

I am still in a haze of sorts trying to stay with and work through this complex mood. I have come to suspect my Inner Critic is very much active within me against this mood. And I am realizing my frustration and impatience towards this mood isn’t helpful by any measures. It is a case of me giving myself, what I am used to receiving from my family of origin. But I believe I have come to know better than that now. I believe what is best for me and everyone around me is for me to listen to this mood and understand what it is trying to communicate to me.

I notice when I tried to take a more loving and calm stance with this mood, accepting it as how I am feeling and being gentle with myself and my “lack of functioning” right now, I felt a release of sorts. It seemed much of the intense feelings of self-hate, weakness, feeling life was unbearable, wasn’t actually coming from the mood itself it was coming from my Inner Critic’s judgment and view of the mood.

The inner critic side of me wants to see emotional strength and productivity in my day to day life. If I struggle emotionally or with my day to day tasks, it declares I am “pathetic” and “weak”. It seems I naturally believe those verdicts, and then fall further and further into a negative state. Or maybe it’s not so much I believe these judgements of the Inner Critic, but more I am torn down by them. To be vulnerable to one’s self, and be met with harsh judgements, does nothing to help build an understanding and work through a difficult emotion or establish peace and contentment within.

There is a sense even the “self destructive” thoughts that so disturb and upset me in this mood, are actually more coming from the Inner Critic’s frustration and hate towards the mood as opposed to the mood itself. It’s more like hearing “YOU have nothing to offer anyone, something is wrong with YOU” from someone you love as opposed to actually feeling that way yourself. It’s complex, but it was a relief to realize that it wasn’t so much life I can feel the urge to escape as much as this harsh inner voice that seems to value “me” only in terms of my ” functioning”, “productivity”, and “strength” and when I falter goes on a tirade against “me”.

Maybe at some point, this style of inner self talk was deemed necessary by my mind, but it feels wholly destructive to me and ironically destructive to my smooth functioning in life. I want peace from that voice, I need peace from that voice.

When I try to reflect on what the heavy mood itself is feeling before all the inner critic’s judgements and labels rise up, it is probably something like immense helplessness, loneliness, hopelessness and grief. If I imagine any other human feeling this way, I would not be proud treating them how my inner critic treats me. Who yells and demands productivity and displays of emotional strength to a human heart that is hurting. First one must listen, and I believe if I listen well and patiently, I will come to understand this mood. And somewhat naturally I will find myself showing her love, and with that healing and release for this part of me to shift her energy into a new direction in life. But first she must be heard, she knows something, and I need to hear it.

Who Am I?

I turn inside with words
Asking
"Who am I?"

I hear ricocheting replies
Proclamations of strength
Tearful helpless hurting
Screams of rage spiraling destroying
Whispers of my fears confirmed
A panicky flow of words
A loud mocking laugh
A meek voice promising a flinching kindness
A gentle confident voice reassuring love

I am all of these
I am none of these
Besides the one asking 
"Who am I?"

And the reply is - 
Choose!