Posted in life lessons, mental health

The Stories We Tell

GirlTalking“Are you telling stories?”

I have a clear memory of being asked that more than once while I was growing up.

Ok – maybe not a clear memory. It’s slightly hazy. Or not so slightly. Geeze Louise people, weren’t you listening when I said that I lie?

Which brings us back to my opening sentence. “Are you telling stories?” was my family’s gentle way of asking if I was being 100% honest, or if I was “telling tall tales.” Full disclosure – I told a lot of stories when I was young. The pendulum swung way to the other side as the years passed, and by my mid-twenties I was brutally honest (TBH I was kind of an asshole).

Somewhere along the way I realized that although honesty may be the best policy, white lies don’t make people cry. But I still like telling stories. Not “tall tales” or “white lies” I mean stories – rambling “get to the point stories” about my day/the news/a social media post. I enjoy sharing stories about my life. My favorite story is the one that kicked off my blog – the story of how this happy anti-suburbanite DINK (Dual Income No Kids) became an Accidental Mother. I have to admit that my stories have gotten longer as I’ve gotten older. I blame hormones – menopause has kicked my ADHD into overdrive, and every thought triggers a new one.

My stories hold no risk. That’s not true – but the risk is small, and not life-threatening (at least I don’t think it is. If it kills me, I’ll pop by to let you know. I might also rearrange the objects on your dresser or turn your lights off and on, because that’s what ghosts do). The greatest risk with me telling stories is that I’ll ramble on and on and on so long that eventually you’ll lose interest, or that I’ll get so far off track that I can’t remember my point and eventually just trail off into an uncomfortable silence.

The stories I tell others are (hopefully) amusing and light, short and to the point. I aim to entertain – sometimes I miss the mark, but at least my stories won’t put you in danger. Some stories will. It’s hard to believe that stories can be dangerous, but it’s true. Not the stories we tell others (unless you tell them where you hid the body/treasure) – I’m referring to the stories we tell ourselves.

my story

I’ve been hearing a lot about the dangers of the stories we tell ourselves lately. Jen Sincero dedicates a whole chapter to the subject in You Are A Badass, the subject has come up several times in my favorite podcast, and Brene Brown spends a lot of time talking about our Stormy First Draft:

“When something happens that triggers strong emotions, we often immediately create a story to make sense of what happened… a SFD is our brain’s way of making sense of something when we don’t have full information. We are a meaning-making species. In the absence of data, we make up stories because having complete information is a self-protective survival skill. But these stories often magnify our fears and anxieties.”

The universe kept nudging me, but (because I am an obtuse magpie) I didn’t pay attention until it came up yet again in my women’s circle. In all honesty, I didn’t realize how dangerous these stories could be until I heard theirs.  

I know what you’re thinking (I do – I’m psychic! No, wait, I’m psychotic. Dammit I can’t remember which) – “How in the H E double toothpicks can stories be dangerous?”

The leader of our women’s circle explained that the stories we tell ourselves keep us stuck in an endless lifecycle loop – we keep repeating our story until we learn from it. Or, to paraphrase Jen Sincero – “If the story you tell yourself is that you cannot find a good life partner, you will continue to date a string of losers people who are the less than perfect match.” 

In her book Rising Strong, Brene Brown tells us that “The most dangerous stories we make up are the narratives that diminish our inherent worthiness. We must reclaim the truth about our lovability, divinity, and creativity.” She goes on to say that the first SFD “may be the most dangerous (story) of all….Just because someone isn’t willing or able to love us, it doesn’t mean that we are unlovable.”

The women in my circle are amazing. Smart, talented, articulate. We vary in age, and our backgrounds and personal histories are differ, but the story we’ve told ourselves is the same.

“I’m not worthy.”

I’ve been telling myself that story for fiftyish years now. It kept me in bad relationships and stopped me from pursuing my dreams. I have no doubt that my story gave life to and continues to feed the EIC. I’ve finished that story and am starting a new one. Jen Sincero makes it sound easy. She says that we need to recognize that our story is “how we survived as kids but it doesn’t serve us anymore” and that we need to “Bust yourself in your own tired old broken records right now so you can set about rewriting your stories and create the kind of life you love.” Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? Wish me luck.

I am grateful to the women in my circle for giving me a much needed wake-up call. I owe a debt of gratitude to my long-time friend Dawn “Bambi” Taylor for suggesting that I “check out” Brene Brown. I want to thank Jen Sincero for reminding me that I am a badass. Mostly, I am grateful for all y’all for listening to my rambling story. 

So what’s my new story? Not to go all Stuart Smalley on you (and yes, I realize I’m dating myself with that reference – my husband won’t let me date anyone else), but I’m starting with something familiar:

I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.

P.S. – for those of you who are interested, I came across an excellent TED talk from Dr. Colleen Georges on how to rewrite the stories we tell ourselves. You can check it out here

So tell me – what’s YOUR story?

What-story-are-you-telling-yourself-1
image courtey of sharonhuges.net

Posted in loss

Griefball

grief like an ocean
image courtesy of whatsyourgrief.com

Editors note – Griefball is kind of like dodgeball, but not as painful. Or more painful, but without the giant red balls (if you or someone you love has giant red balls, please seek immediate medical attention).

Well, it’s Wednesday again – and my attempt to reboot my blog with theme days (Motivational Monday, Weird/Wacky Wednesdays) is not working for me. I’m not surprised. I’ve always been more of a “go with the flow” hippy/dippy chick (which irritates my inner Virgo no end). Plans are good, but we need to make room for all of Life’s surprises – or, as my Jewish grandmother would say Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht (Man plans, and God Laughs).

Which is just a long-winded explanation excuse for why I’m not sharing news of the weird. 

Can I be honest? (does anyone ever respond to that with “no, please lie to me”?) I’m not in the mood for weird and wacky. I tried being light and funny, but Tears of a Clown started running through my head (yes, it’s an earworm – if I have to suffer, so do you). 

Today is the deathaversary of my brother of heart. It’s been a rough week. Last week was his heavenly birthday, and today marks four years since he “shuffled off his mortal coil.” It’s weird. It feels like forever ago, and yet, it feels like I just talked talked to him yesterday. It could be because Time has been melted by the Pandemic, or that he keeps popping up in Facebook Memories. Then again, if The Sixth Sense is to be believed, it’s because he talks to me when I think I’m dreaming. He’s one ofthe many friends and family members who pop up at inopportune times (i.e. when I’m dreaming of fruity rum being served up poolside by cabana boys.)

I used to think that there was a time limit to grief. I was wrong. I also thought that there were stages to grief. I was wrong about that too. Or maybe not quite. There are stages to grief, but there isn’t linear progression from loss to healing. Sana’s post explains it better. “Grief is hard to understand as it entails so many different emotions and looks differently for each person.” Her post includes the perfect image for how grief works.

griefball

So today is a grey day. As it so happens, it’s grey outside too. I love the rain, but the fact that the sky is reflecting my mood is weird, which means this is the perfect post for a Wednesday after all.

So tell me – how do you deal with grief and earworms?

For those of you who are younger than dirt, here’s Smokey:

Posted in mental health, motivational mondays

Labels are for Food and Clothing

label

Happy Monday! How was your weekend? I had every intention of Getting Things Done, but the Universe had other plans. Of course, the EIC insists that I am making excuses, and I am just lazy. The EIC is an asshole, and he is constantly barraging me with a slew of negative labels. Lazy. Stupid. Bad. The good news is that I am getting better at ignoring him. We shouldn’t believe labels, but if we’re going to use them, we should pick the ones that are empowering and uplifting. Confused? Let me explain. Ugh. Now I have The Princess Bride running through my head.

Back BM (Before Motherhood) I was an actress. When I first started out, I had horrible stage fright. HORRIBLE, as in “I’m pretty sure I’m going to pass out or throw up on stage.” Fortunately, I had an incredible acting coach, and he gave me some important advice: Nervous and Excited feel exactly the same – the only difference is the way you label it. 

Sounds simple, right? It’s simple and effective. When I stopped labeling my butterflies and sweaty palms as nervous/afraid and started seeing it as “excited” I had a huge breakthrough. Changing the label changed my mindset, and I was able to use the energy to fuel my performance. 

Let me be clear – labels are useful for clothing and food (especially when you’re gluten sensitive, like the girl) – but other than that, they’re at best useless. AT BEST. But if we’re going to label ourselves, we need to choose carefully.

In a “There is no such thing as a coincidence” I came across a live event featuring Mel Robbins (thank you Facebook). In case you hadn’t heard of her (I hadn’t) she wrote The Five Second Rule, and she has a YouTube channel. She spent most of her time discussing about the negative narrative that runs through our head and the fact that we need to stop treating ourselves badly. 

I’ve spent too many years listening to the endless loop of negative voices telling me what I’m not. The good news is that it’s a new year and a new week which means it’s a good time to begin again. Then again, you can make a fresh start at any moment.

I won’t say “Have a great week” because that’s a lot of pressure for those of us who are people pleasers – instead I’ll say “Have a week.” Stay safe, and please be as kind to yourself as you are to your friends.

kind

 

 

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Posted in 2021, four letter words, mental health

The S-Word Part Duh

Before we get started, I want to apologize for being MIA once again. That’s MIA, all caps, not Mia, as in Farrow. Although I have freckles and have been involved with at least one crazy actor, I find Woody Allen annoying, I would never have starred in Rosemary’s Baby (demons freak me out) and she looks much better in a pixie cut. 

Mirriam-Webster says that MIA (the acronym, not the movie) is “often used figuratively for someone or something notably or unexpectedly missing, absent or inactive.” If you’ve been following me for any length of time you know that I post on a far from regular basis, and that I’ve been derailed by stress, grief, loss and life on more than one occasion – but it’s a new year, and I am determined to write on a regular basis (I know, I know, I’ve said it before – but this time I mean it!).

Speaking of – HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! I know that last year was (for want of a better word) “challenging” for most of us. For others it was absolutely devastating. My family was very lucky – we managed to survive the year with health and sanity (mostly) intact. I hope you were able to do the same, and that you won at least one game of quarantine or zoom bingo.

But back to me (hey, it’s my blog, so it’s all about me). Again, I want to apologize for being away for so long. I’ve spoken (written?) before about my battles with the black dog and brain weasels – and 2020 brought them back with a vengeance. 

That’s not true. I mean, yes, 2020 was a shitty year, but it’s not entirely to blame for my silence. I’ve spent the past 3 months slaying demons. Not literally. I’m a huge fan of Supernatural (with the exception of its final episode – the finale was almost as bad as the last episode of GOT), but I could never be a Hunter (Hello! Weren’t you listening? Demons freak me out). 

Shortly after my last post, I had an incident (or an epiphany. Or an incident which led to an epiphany) which explained my perfectionism, my inability to say “no” and all the other things that make me unique. 

I’ve been thinking about this post ever since.

That’s not true. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I lie and swear (alot). But it’s a new year, and I’m trying to be a better blogger woman human. So although I can’t say that I’ve been thinking about this post “ever since the incident” I have been thinking about it for a while now. I realized this morning that I’m still not ready to share details, but that the details don’t matter. What matters is that I am slaying my demons, and that if I can do it, you can too. 

I’ve been reading Getting Past Your Past by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D. and The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. Although I’ve had several “aha” moments while reading both of them, Dr. Kolk’s book is a little dry/technical IMHO. Dr Shapiro’s book is written for the layperson, as either a self-help tool, or as an additional resource while working with a professional. It’s by no means a “light” read, but it’s proving to be the book I’ve needed for a while now. Solutions for Resilience lists seven basic concepts from the book including:

  1. Living in continual stress is unnecessary and life-threatening
  2. Our personal struggles are influenced by our stored memories of past events
  3. Many of us are running our lives on automatic pilot

One of the things Dr. Shapiro discusses are our negative cognitions. What are negative cognitions, you ask? (I heard you from here). RelifeCounseling defines cognitions as “the way we think about ourselves” and goes on to say that “when we speak of negative cognition, we are referring to a negative belief that we have developed from negative or traumatic life experiences.” In other words, it’s the negative self-talk that runs continuously in the background.  Examples include “I’m a failure” “I’m not loveable” and “I’m fat”. You’re not, you know.

Stupid. 

I’m not saying that the idea of negative cognitions is stupid, I’m saying that “stupid” is one of my negative cognitions and the foulest four-letter word I know.

Not literally (I CAN count). It’s just a nasty word that needs to be relegated to the trash heap, with the rest of the four-letter words.

I’ve had a problem with stupidity for as long as I can remember. Learning that negative cognitions drive our responses to life explained all the things. Well, not all of them (I still don’t understand string theory) but at least it explained why stupidity makes me crazy. Treating me like I’m stupid pushes all my buttons, and don’t get me started on my frustration with stupid coworkers. The EIC is a sneaky bastard, and although he’s very vocal about a lot of things, evidently he’s had “I’m stupid” running on a continuous subliminal loop for decades. 

I see (hear?) it now. Seeing the problem means that I can fix it.

Well, not fix it. Fixing something implies that I’m broken, and that’s yet another negative cognition.

Seeing the problem means that I can change it.

I’m not stupid, and I may be battered and bruised, but I’m nowhere near broken, and neither are you. 

So that’s it. My quest took me a while from writing for a while, but I’m back with a belated New Year’s wish:

May the best of your yesterdays be the worst of  your tomorrows.

TBH, Jason Miraz says it better

As always, if you or someone you love is struggling, please reach out for help. 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line – text HOME to 741741

So tell me – what negative loop of yours needs cutting? Let’s do this together. 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in four letter words, mental health

The P-word

Image courtesy of itsjustkev.blogspot.com

If you’ve been with me for a while (or even if you joined just recently) you know that I swear – a lot. If this is your very first visit to my blog – thank you for stopping by, and, FYI – I swear a lot.

How much? Let’s just say that The Girl’s first sentence was “Bite me, ‘ackass” (such a proudmommy moment). Before all y’all flame me about teaching a toddler to swear, I was exhausted, hormonal and unaware that my kid was paying attention when I swore at the TV.

I’ve talked about four letter words before – but most of my posts involve words that won’t get you kicked out of church (or school, or work…). Words like “Life” and “Hope” and even the less-than-four letters N-word (no, not that one, didn’t you see the “less than four letters”?).

Today’s P-word has more than four letters, but it’s one of the foulest four letter words I know.

The password is*:

Perfectionism.

I’m probably dating myself, but when I was young(er) I wanted to be Mary Poppins. She could sing and dance, fly through the air and rescue the fox from a hunt with ne’er a hair out of place. She was always calm, no matter how dire the situation (see the above fox rescue) and managed to look pretty with soot on her nose!

College professor says "Mary Poppins" is racist because of a scene where she gets covered in soot - LaCorte News

In short, she was practically perfect in every way.

Although perfectionism is classified as a personality trait and not a mental disorder, it is associated with serious mental health problems, including various anxiety disorders. Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC says that the “two types of anxiety disorders commonly associated with the belief that nothing is ever good enough are generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety disorder.”

I know what you’re thinking (because I’ve asked myself the same question) – “Where’s the harm in wanting to do my best?” I hear ya. We should always strive to do our best (unless, of course, you are feeling overwhelmed by all the bad and sad that 2020 has had to offer. In that case, getting up and getting dressed is more than enough. So is staying in your blanket fort). There’s a huge difference in “trying your best” and wanting needing to do everything perfectly Elizabeth Scott, MS  explains the difference this way:

Perfectionists are much less happy and easygoing than high achievers. While high achievers are able to bounce back fairly easily from disappointment, perfectionists tend to beat themselves up much more and wallow in negative feelings when their high expectations go unmet. They are also much more afraid to fail than high achievers. Because they place to much stock in results and become so disappointed by anything less than perfection, falure becomes a very scary prospect. And, since anything less than perfection is seen as failure, perfectionists sometimes (or in my case, usually always) put things off until the last minute.

How do you know if you’re a perfectionist? I, for one, didn’t realize it until my friends and family members pointed it out. I just assumed that everyone worked the same way – that everyone was extremely hard on themselves and that refusing to accept a compliment was perfectly normal (FYI – “Thank you – I rushed through it and made mistakes/could have done better” does not qualify as “accepting a compliment”).

For those of you whose friends and family members aren’t as brutally honest helpful as mine, Celes has provided a list of signs/symptoms. Here are a few:

  1. There is no room for mistakes.
  2. You have an all-or-nothing approach. You either do something well, or you don’t do it.
  3. You are extremely hard on yourself. You’re always quick to beat yourself up and feel extremely bad about a mistake for a long, long while.
  4. You constantly spot mistakes when others don’t see any. Sometimes these mistakes are real, sometimes they seem self-imagined.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve been struggling with #3 lately. The girl had a minor car accident the other day. Both drivers are fine, and the damage to their cars was minor, BUT (it’s a big but) I missed a box when setting up her insurance policy, and our out of pocket will be higher than expected. My friends and family members (including The Girl) have tried to help by saying “everyone makes mistakes” “you’ve been on survival mode for the past 5 years” and “OMG let it go already” but…I can’t stop kicking myself. It’s as if I’m extremely hard on myself or something.

So you’re a perfectionist, now what?

First and foremost, welcome to the club! I don’t know if it will help, but you are not alone – perfectionism is increasing increasing year after year. Second, stop it. I mean it. Stop it right now.

Easier said than done, isn’t it? Trust me, I know – I’ve been a perfectionist for over half a century now (there I go again, dating myself – my husband won’t let me date anyone else). I’ve searched the web for tips and tricks and have come across posts, a step-by-step lifehack and even a few Youtube videos that look promising, but the most important thing to remember is this:

There is no such thing as perfect. 

So go out, do your best, and treat yourself as kindly as you would treat the people who are important to you – and Fuck the P-word.

Image courtesy of daveswordsofwisdom.com

What tools do you use to deal with perfectionistic tendencies (full disclosure – I re-wrote this question three four seven times).

For those of you who are too young to remember, Password was one of my favorite game shows. Allen Ludden was wonderful, but Bert Convy always made me laugh.

Posted in mental health

WMHD

mental-health-awareness-month-living-with-depression-01-758x606[1]I know what you’re thinking. I do – I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again (and again) – I know what you’re thinking, because I’m psychic. Or am I psychotic? I keep forgetting (damn you brainfog!)…

thE62LR82G

In all serious, you’re probably wondering “What the f-k does WMHD mean?” Ok, maybe not, because not everyone has a potty mouth, and at least one of you is already familiar with the acronym (I’m talking to YOU, smarty pants) – but just in case you didn’t know, it’s not What Might Help Daddy or Where Mom Hides Drugs (not that I have any to hide, in case you were wondering). Today is World Mental Health Day. From Wikipedia:

“World Mental health Day (10 October) is an international day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma. It was first celebrated in 1992 at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global mental health organization with members and contacts in more than 150 countries. This day, each October, thousands of supporters come to celebrate this annual awareness program to bring attention to mental illness and its major effects on peoples’ lives worldwide.” Today also marks the last day of Mental Illness Awareness Week.

In 2017 the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that nearly one in five U.S. adults lived with a mental illness – but, as reported in this GMA article, experts are worried about the recent rise in mental health issues. According to a nationwide poll by the Kaiser Family Foundations, “more than half of U.S. adults (about 53%) reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the pandemic” (and layoffs, and global warming, and increased hate crimes). The article goes on to say that “13% of adults had started or increased alcohol consumption or drug use to help cope with the pandemic and 11% of all adults, and 25% of those 18 to 24 had seriously considered suicide in the past month.”

The numbers in the UK are’t any better. Mind’s latest research showed that more than 60% of adults and 68% of young people in the UK felt their mental health deteriorated during the Coronavirus pandemic and lock-down. 

I know what you’re thinking (I do – haven’t you forgotten already?). “Thanks for the dose of doom and gloom” (told you I’m psychic).

While the data from their first article is depressing, today’s post by Katie Kindelan lists 9 ways to boost your mental health. Here are my top 4:

  1. Set a time limit for news (better yet, watch Some Good News with John Krasinksi again). 
  2. Designate a daily worry time. “I’ll give myself 20 minutes a day where I’m allowed to think about whatever I want and worry about whatever I want…if any worries or anxieties come up at other points of the day, I’m not allowed to dwell on them..I save them for the next day’s worry time.” 
  3. Connect to your senses. “Do activities that connect you with your senses, whether that’s exercise or it could be meditation or even cooking…anything that has you connect with your body is going to help you get out of your mind and reduce anxiety.”
  4. Know when to seek help. “Depression and anxiety can show up in many different forms, but some of the signs can include difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, changes in appetite, a sense of hopelessness or meaninglessness, or even thoughts that you don’t want to live any more.” If you are in crisis or know someone in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. 

In my research for today’s post, I came across a video that made me cry and I hate crying alone, so I had to share:

It’s vital that we work together to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. To paraphrase (ok, steal) from the video, too often people suffer in silence, die in silence, life in silence, and it doesn’t have to be that way. Together we can make life more manageable, but we still have a long way to travel. 

The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day is “Do One Thing” for better mental health – either by doing something for yourself or reaching out to someone else. Abintergro suggests we start small, either by going for a walk or trying a new hobby.*

I believe the “something small” should be remembering that our perceived differences are so much smaller than the things we have in common. We need to remember that We Are All Human and that Love is Love.

*My newest obsession hobby is drawing. Here is my morning Pooh (capital P – not that I’m judging, everyone poops). 

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One last video on WMHD from two of  my favorite men

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in mental health

Mental Illness Awareness Week

It’s national Mental Illness Awareness week, and this post dropped into my reader. Cassandra Creswell is an amazing young woman who is trying to reduce the stigma attached to mental health issues. I loved this post and I hope you love it too. You can follow her here.

This week (October 4-10) is National Mental Illness Awareness week. The purpose of this week is to bring awareness to mental health issues, and to stop the stigma, discrimination, and shame that surrounds the topic. A lot of people suffer in silence because of these stigmas and the shame that they feel. In the United […]

Mental Illness Awareness.. — Welcome to the Chaos..