Category Archives: emotional health

My Aunt Louise

Aunt Louise is the oldest of four sisters.  In her day, she was very beautiful with a beaming smile.  She was also quite awkward in many ways.  As an example, when she graduated high school, her fiance still had a year to go, so she kept going to school and audited classes so she’d have something to do while she waited for him to graduate.  She didn’t feel free and excited and have all these girlfriends to do things with.  She waited for her fiance to graduate high school.

The following year, they did indeed get married.

In the wedding photo she looks quite happy.  He looks kind of bashful.  The article in the paper is typical for 1949 with descriptions of what everyone wore and the several bridal showers she was given, including one given by the office girls of the place she worked.

Her life afterwards turned out to be very, very difficult and sad:  dysfunctional marriage, death of a three-year-old daughter, poverty, divorce, more poverty, then a good husband who died years ago, abusive relationship in her later years, and finally death of another daughter from brain cancer.

I would read the wedding article sometimes and wonder where it all went wrong….

Aunt Louise is due to turn 90 this coming January and my mother recently remarked that she has been quite talkative the last few times they were together.  Louise has said surprising things such as:  the reason she never worked after getting married was because not one person had liked her at the job she had.  She knew it the very first day she walked in the door.  They hated her at first sight.

How strange.  I wouldn’t have guessed that she was hated at her job.  According to her wedding announcement she had worked there for two years and “the office girls” had even given her a wedding shower.

I had always thought she had two lives.  The one before marriage and the one afterwards.  Instead, those “two lives” were part of a familiar pattern.

Her life turned out like all the other women’s lives in this family.  A beginning seemingly full of promise and light, beauty and hope.  Smart, sensitive, active girls who end up as victims on some level wondering where it all went wrong.

I suspect the clues to the future were right there all along.  We just missed them in the quest to do the right thing, please the people around us, be good girls, and basically give away our power until there was no more to give.

There are more women’s stories in my family and I hope I can do them justice.

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Filed under anxiety, decisions, depression, dysfunction, emotional health, enemies, family, first impressions, getting along, grief, history, human nature, journey, love, opinion, social phobia, Uncategorized, wellness, work

Afraid to do Things

When I was a little girl, my parents took me to a nearby art gallery, www.albrightknox.org, for a tour.  I remember coming home and NEEDING to make a painting.

My father gave me a piece of wood from his workshop and some house paint and a brush to use for my masterpiece.  And I still remember thinking that even just a plain, two-color abstract painting was really hard to do!!  At the gallery I had seen paintings that looked like nothing!  Just squares of one or two colors!  But I guess there was more to it than I thought.

I have been wanting to visit the gallery again for quite some time.  All that wonderful art less than an hour away from my house.  But something always comes up and I still haven’t gone.

Then a few days ago, when I was feeling restless for the millionth time, a thought came to me.

I could just go to the gallery by myself.  Technically, I have a lot of freedom since I don’t work.  I don’t have to go with somebody.  It would be during the day.  It would be safe.  I could go at my own pace, lingering if I want or racing through the place if I want.  I could eat in the gallery cafe and have museum-y food to choose from instead of Wendy’s or Burger King.  It’s easy to get directions ahead of time.  I have money for parking and admission.  Nothing is really stopping me.

Except that I get scared now when I think of doing things.  Before I could just force myself to do things even if it made me anxious.  Now, not so much.

Someone I grew up with in the old neighborhood flies to San Francisco every year all by herself and she thinks of it as her time to heal, re-charge, and be 100% herself.  And I envy her those trips.  I want that for myself.

I’m not used to thinking of doing something and then just doing it without first considering the millions of possibilities and needs of the whole rest of the world.  Without “awfulizing” the whole endeavor first.  Without remembering past failures.  Without remembering past triumphs and thinking, those days are long gone.  And while this sounds like a ponderous process, it actually is so natural and automatic for me that I can do it without even realizing what is happening.

Ah, sweet Clinical Depression and Chronic Anxiety, you are terrible companions and it is high time I break up with you.

The gallery is closed on Mondays so tomorrow is my first opportunity to take what I hope is the first of many such field trips.

I hope that it feels good to do this and to be there.

I really hope this idea means I am turning the next corner.

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Filed under anxiety, art therapy, decision making, decisions, depression, emotional health, growth, healing, journey, motivation, planning, pressure, progress, self-care, self-respect, Uncategorized

“Ripen into Your Authentic Self”

The phrase “ripen into your authentic self” was part of my horoscope from Rob Brezsny this morning and it was one of those aha things that I just love.

I’ve been having a little bit of trouble with a family situation lately.  We haven’t heard from our oldest son in over a year and it is bothersome.  Luckily with the internet I can keep faint tabs on him, but still.  This is the kind of situation that most parents dread and are confounded by.  I am no different.

Fortunately, I found a recent blog post he wrote–the sign of life I’ve been wanting.  The subject matter is one I am quite uncomfortable with personally.  However, it is not a surprising subject.  It is consistent with the kind of person he has always been.  Which makes his absence from our lives quite understandable.  He is being considerate of our feelings as well as being true to himself.

I was pleased to see that he is a fantastic writer.  And a person with integrity.  His interests are not interests I can share, but I can respect them.

I feel very proud of him.  But it is still strange and uncomfortable for me that I cannot just call him and say, awesome blog, tell me more.  I have to give him the kind of space that most parents would be uncomfortable with.  And I miss him.

It’s hard to know what to do with a relationship of this nature.

But the thing we have in common, and that all people have in common, is the desire and need to be our authentic selves.  And for many of us that takes a great deal of time.  Some people never accomplish authenticity.

I had to learn to get out of my own way to even begin ripening into my true and authentic self.  I think my son had to learn the same thing and over a year ago he made his move.

So here is to all of us finding our true, authentic selves and the peace that it can bring.

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Filed under blogging, boundaries, emotional health, family, getting along, growth, healing, honesty, human nature, love, self-care, self-respect, Uncategorized, wellness

Scarred for Life!

I read an article recently that discusses what happens to children who have been traumatized at certain crucial stages of development when they grow up.  The author’s opinion was that trauma during the terrible twos and again during puberty had a permanent effect on the individual.

Awhile back I read a different article about a study.  The study involved a group of children who had been bullied at certain ages and checked in with them at intervals for their entire lives.  The study reached the same conclusion–that particular childhood stages were very vulnerable for psychological damage and that the damage is virtually permanent.  The bullied children as adults tended to remain unsuccessful outsiders throughout adulthood no matter what.

Well, I could have told them that!

It’s kind of nice to know that the way I turned out is not my fault.  I did not choose to hang onto the past and fear the future.  I did not choose to wallow in grief or get lost in worry and anxiety.  Instead, this is basically what I became “made of” due to the timing of events and how those events mixed with my “self” during my childhood and youth.

This means to me that my task is not about weaknesses or flaws.  I don’t need a cure.  I need to accept who I am now.  I need healing and purpose.  My task is to keep finding my way.

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Filed under anxiety, bullies, depression, dysfunction, emotional health, grief, growth, healing, human nature, journey, progress, PTSD, self-care, self-respect, stress, Uncategorized, wellness

Getting Overwhelmed

I woke up “early” today, at 9:39 am to be precise, and I am, in this moment, trying to transition from the anxiety of nighttime to the, hopefully, calm state of daytime.

Sometimes it feels like my brain is my own worst enemy.  For example…

Yesterday turned out pretty cool. A friend and I drove to Rochester to pick up our t-shirts that we will wear when we belly dance on Saturday in a Shimmy Mob for the first and last time. But oh, the stresses attached to this endeavor.

My friend found this program last year when it was too late to sign-up, so we vowed to sign-up this year. In the meantime, we split from our troupe and had to deal with that issue all year.

Naturally, when the time came to sign up for Shimmy Mob, our old troupe suddenly decided to participate here in our little town while we decided to join the team in Rochester. Awkward!

Then the choreography turned out to be a bear to learn, meaning that we had to put our own personal dancing on hold for the past two months. We had questions for our out-of-town team that were hard to get answers for. Well, we could have just stayed with our old troupe for that!

It was looking like everything would be last possible minute and that was quite stressful.

Then yesterday we got word that we could pick up our t-shirts early. Yippee! We would know early if they fit and could actually do something about it if they didn’t. We’d know what color so we could plan accessories accordingly. We could talk to a team member instead of meeting them all for the first time on Saturday. And as a bonus, she lived in a part of the city I have been to frequently, so our trip was uneventful in a good way and I could have that added feeling of accomplishment yesterday.

Every day I wonder if normal people just take things like this in stride and waste not a moment of thought or worry on tasks such as yesterday’s undertaking: The Great T-shirt Unveiling!

Years ago I was one of those people who could just drive to “the city”, meet a new person, get a t-shirt, drive home, and let the experience melt into the past without dwelling on it. How I miss those days and that self.

There has to be a happy medium somewhere in there. Maybe that is a definition of wellness: Doing things with some kind of presence of mind and without getting stuck in the fear and worry.

Saturday will come and go as does every other day of my life. Shimmy Mob will be memorable for what happens and for what I learned. It will turn out to be not as bad as it felt at times while we struggled with someone else’s choreography. And I will have no desire to try it again. Not because it was hard but because my time will be better spent on my own creativity which I tend to put on a back burner far too often in this life.

Then again, nobody knows what next year will be like and maybe it will be something else altogether.

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Filed under anxiety, art therapy, decision making, depression, emotional health, exercise, friends, growth, healing, human nature, planning, pressure, progress, stress, Uncategorized, wellness

Progress? Who knows….

Tonight I learned how to make Christmas cards with two friends of mine and about ten other women at our local library.

While checking out one of the card-making stations set up by the instructor, I recognized a woman carrying a cane who came in along with two other younger women.  She was the mother of one of the girls who, in junior high school, made my life a living hell for several months.

At the end of eighth grade and beginning of ninth grade, I was the main character in one of those two-against-one-best-friends-betray-a-weaker-friend-mean-girls-scenarios that you see portrayed in so many movies, TV shows, commercials and… cold-blooded crime shows.

Of course, since it is my story, there is so much more to it than that.  But for now I’d rather just write about tonight.

When I saw the mother walk in, I quickly assessed if her daughter was with her and I didn’t see her at first.  So I thought, good.

It turned out, however, that I was wrong.  As everyone seated themselves for the class and got comfortable, it turned out that indeed, the “evil one” was going to make Christmas cards, too.

It did not occur to me to leave, so we’ll call that progress.  And I did not have an anxiety attack, also progress.  I did decide to avoid being near her, which meant a certain amount of hyper-vigilance.  I’m not too sure how to grade that one.  Maybe it was just some good, old-fashioned self-care.

If I had never met this person before, and knew nothing about her, I’d be under the impression that she was a nice woman who was close to her mother and enjoyed some of the same things I do.  All that might even be true to a certain extent.  I mean, we were actually friends for a time way back when, so there must be something in common.

At any rate, I do know about her.  I know what she is capable of.  I know what I carry around with me to this day because of her and the other girl involved.

People like her are the reason that people like me leave their hometown and never come back.  I did leave for ten years but circumstances brought me back here and now it looks as if I am here to stay.

I actually had her as a customer once at the Terrible Job.  At the time I had no way to avoid waiting on her.  She seemed nervous and hyper and like she was trying to please me.  And the whole time I’m thinking, “Ha!  Your son is in prison.  You raised a violent criminal!  Why am I not surprised?  Your violence led to a second generation of violence.  Ha!”

I expected to see some sign of this tragedy in her face, but there was nothing there for me to see.  I also wanted to see some sign of sorrow or shame for what she did to me way back when.  But again, there was nothing to see.

No, people like her do not carry their own shame.  They carry no sense of responsibility for the effects of their actions on others.  Instead, they give their shame over to their victims.

Over forty years later and I’m still having to deal with such things.

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Filed under anxiety, art therapy, bullies, decisions, emotional health, enemies, first impressions, friends, growth, healing, history, injustice, peer pressure, progress, scapegoating, self-care, social phobia, Uncategorized

Out to Lunch

Today I took myself out to lunch at our local Wendy’s.  It has been three and a half years since the last time I ate there.

Wendy’s was the nearest place for lunch when I was still working at the Terrible Job.  Back then, I went there most days for lunch.  The last few weeks before I quit, I’d sit at my table furiously eating my spicy chicken sandwich and fries and looking at Facebook on my phone.  I mean that I was actually furious.  By the time my lunch break happened, I would have already had a lousy day and it would have been about six hours since last eating anything.  As hungry as I was, I never finished my meal either.  It was during the time period that I was restricting my food intake–sort of an act of aggression but directed at myself.  I’d eat about half my food and then angrily throw away the rest of it and drag myself back to work.

Yes, I was quite a mental mess by then.

Since today is Sunday, I knew I would not run into any former customers or former co-workers.  It would be safe for me to eat there.

Growing up I was of the mindset that I had to go where I likely would be treated badly.  I didn’t really have a policy of avoiding troublesome people.  Well, often enough there was no other option.  I was a kid, I had to go to school.  Going to school involved walking on public streets.  I was just a kid.  What else was I going to do?

Some unhappy kids skipped school, did drugs, got into fights.  Those did not seem like good options for me.

As an adult, I kept up that habit of staying in bad situations.  Often I volunteered for such.  Then came the day when I was at the end of my rope and I decided to go home from the Terrible Job.  I promised myself I would no longer do things that were sure to end in trouble or unhappiness for me.  No longer do I tolerate toxic people or situations.  Sure, it limits where I can go at certain times of the day in this small, crappy town.  But this is my little gift to myself.  I no longer participate in my own victimization.

Today it is Sunday.  I can go to Wendy’s if I want.

I ordered my spicy chicken and fries.  I ate until I was full.  I people-watched.  It felt so normal and safe.  It felt like taking back a little bit of my life, but on my terms.  No self-judgment or self-criticism.  Nobody prying into my personal life.  No having to explain anything to anyone.

It’s really hard to basically start life all over again but not moving away to do it.  Old habits and old distractions and old dangers are everywhere.  I am new, or at least I want to be, and I am surrounded by old.  It has been a very good exercise in letting go and learning how to be detached in a healthy way.

I can do this thing.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under anxiety, boundaries, bullies, decisions, depression, emotional health, enemies, getting along, growth, healing, human nature, peer pressure, progress, PTSD, self-care, self-respect, social phobia, Uncategorized, work