What an odd sort of week. Good, to be sure... but odd.

I had my second counseling appointment today. It went well, and already she says she can see positive things happening.

We talked a lot about “breaking the cycle” that I go through with depression and stress. Apparently, I’ve already identified my own cycle (true), and I was able to describe how I broke out of it.

Having a sounding board is so helpful to me. She picks up on what I say, reflects it back, and I have to stop and think, “Oh, yeah. I said that, huh?”

Also, HUGE validation from H (the counselor)! We were talking about guilt and self-talk and expectations and all that. As she summarized my life currently, she said, “You have a lot on your plate. You’re very busy.”

I cannot tell you how validating, how good it felt to hear her say that. Weird, I know. But I guess it’s that constant background tape of “Well, you’re not really that busy. You’re not doing that much. Other people do this much and more. You could be doing more. You should be doing more. You’re really not that busy. Don’t get too impressed with yourself-- this is nothing.” To hear someone else say, “Wow, you are really busy,” kind of gives me permission to step back and say, “You know what? Yes. Yes, I am. And I am not going to be ashamed or guilty of the fact that I think my plate is full.” (That’s a tendency of mine, of course. Boundary setting related, I think. Who am I to say that my plate is full? Um, hello, only the one who has to live with all these crazy decisions!! lol)

If my friend told me, “I’m going to school full time, working part time, doing odd jobs on the side, volunteering, and planning a wedding,” I would tell her, “Dude. You’re doing a ton. You’re my hero. Seriously, though, knock it off. You’re going to kill yourself.” (Much like how I feel when I talk to a certain Miss KW... lol) Yeah. My tendency is to over-fill my plate, which leads to collapse, then horrible, horrible guilt for now doing nothing and for collapsing in the first place. To compensate for the horrible guilt (or maybe to appease it and give it what it wants so it’ll stop gnawing at me?), I then load my plate over-full again, which leads to collapse, and then... Gah. Somebody shoot me.

So it was... there were.. lessons. I guess.

Those few weeks of bliss, of balance, have given me hope that I can actually live like that. And I got away from it. I don’t feel like a failure, because all I did was drift back to my normal, comfortable, familiar ways of dealing with life and myself. These new behaviors will take time and practice to learn, and that’s okay and totally normal. I need to be realistic and kind about this.

So! Here’s my toolbox, my Control Panel for adjusting the knobs and buttons of my inner brain workings. First of all, I need to learn how to relax. I need to intentionally set time aside for reward and rejuvenation. (Especially with the adrenal burnout. I’m getting that message loud and clear from my science class, as we’re going over the endocrine system right now. The way to heal adrenal fatigue is lots and lots of rest, and that’s the opposite of what I do with myself!!)

Here is how I am going to be intentional with myself and my thoughts for this coming week (and the weeks beyond, but let’s just take it one step at a time, shall we?).
  • Self-validation for work/accomplishment
Part of what I was doing for myself those good weeks was taking time to praise myself and acknowledge what I’d done throughout the day. Rather than impatiently demanding more from myself, I stepped back, looked at the day, and said, “Hey, you’ve really done a lot today C. And you’ve done it well. Good job! So, what fun thing would you like to do as a reward?” That was great! But, well... life crowded it out. It wasn’t a priority. And it needs to be..

  • Control-- I have the choice.
Most of my life, I have felt and/or actually been powerless. Life, my circumstances, Providence, etc. It all ran me. I didn’t really choose, I waited around to see what I should do, what I was supposed to do, “what is God/my parents/my godly friends/Ellen White telling me to do?”, etc. Part of what’s been so liberating for me is taking back my freedom to choose, and the responsibility that comes with it. This last week, when I was getting all wound up and stressed about the upcoming trip to Yosemite and the preparations necessary and my homework and work and what have you, I texted BJ and told her that I may not go. She wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea, but just knowing that I could choose whether to go or not and it would all be okay regardless (even if she was disappointed, she’s a big girl and can take responsibility for her own feelings-- I do not have to do that for her!) was the relief I needed to be able to handle what was left to be done. And that’s what got me through the weekend during the most trying times; knowing that I had chosen to be there. This really goes along with, and is a part of, setting boundaries. (Which we all know is something that I’ve been working on.)

  • Prioritize-- let it go.
This is something that started percolating in my head with the last counselor. Making lists of all that needs to be done, breaking it up into realistic segments, and learning not to freak out if something doesn’t get done that day. No problem. Just move it to tomorrow. It’s okay. I need to do this with my life, both big picture and nitty gritty. This actually... may change a few things right now. We discussed how when I try to deal with the past abuse, I basically morph into this person that can’t function at all, and I hate it. But my personality is that “get it over and done with” type, and I know that I “have issues” (as we’ve come to call it lol), and I want to get those straightened out! Especially with my health and all... I mean, I know they’re related. As I heal emotionally, I heal physically. Which is why it’s such a novel concept for me to look at my life, evaluate it, realize that I have a full plate (yay!), and... decide to maybe put intensive healing on the back burner for a while. It’s like, now that I’ve added in wedding planning, I have to take something else out to keep the equilibrium.

It feels weird, though... like I’m giving up? But I know I’m not. I think part of taking care of yourself is recognizing when you need to step back for a while. Even the book on abuse I’m reading now says that. I just totally didn’t think it would apply to me! (I distinctly remember thinking, “Oh, yeah. Right. Like I’ll ever do that...”)

  • Identify overwhelming triggers
Goes with the above. Take stock, focus, and re-work things so they aren’t overwhelming.

  • Logical, patient self-talk (vs. impatient, illogical)
I’m seeing that I’m basically learning to take care of the child within me, the one that was never nurtured. I need to treat myself as I would a child-- kindness, patience, acknowledgement of achievements (no matter how small!), appropriate expectations, fun :D, encouraging development of personality, etc. Logical, patient self-talk will have much to do with this. Especially the patient part. I must be patient with myself. This will definitely be a new one.

I bet the impatience comes from having to grow up so fast. I needed to have arrived already, all the time. I never got the chance to learn at an appropriate pace. I had to be a mother, a daughter, a sister, a housekeeper, a babysitter, a lover (?!), a good student, a kid, a confidante, a friend, a keeper of family secrets... all at the same time. All way too young. Seven? Eight? Nine? Poor kid. Poor little me. I will never, ever do that to my children.

  • Meditation
Yeah, I know it’s weird. But this has come up so many times the last week or two, it’s thoroughly ridiculous. From all different sources. It’s like, “God, are you trying to tell me something?” And I know the SDA’s reading this are thoroughly alarmed. A trap of the devil! Runnnnnnn!

Erm, yes. I suppose. I’m kind of over the whole “ruse of Satan” thing, though, because it was applied to pretty much everything for so long that it’s lost its effectiveness. (Cheese! It’s of the devil! lol) I mean, if he’s gonna get me, he’s gonna get me. That’s deception, right? That’s what always puzzled me... “The devil is trying to deceive you! Beware! Be alert!” Yeah, but, if it’s a deception... then you can’t see it. Thus the very nature of the thing. So what’s the point in being all worked up all the time over everything? My philosophy is that you do the best you can and trust (hope?) that God is really what he claims.

I think I’ve become firmly entrenched in my wariness/general dislike for organized religion. Hmm. Who woulda thought I’d end up here? The happy Bible worker? (Puh-leeze!)

So! Back to meditation. Um, I don’t know. It’s like when I went back to eating meat. I’m half afraid that I’m wrong and I’ll get zapped or thrown into Hades or possessed by demons or something. On the other hand... really?! I read a study earlier today about how regular meditation has been objectively and consistently proven to markedly decrease anxiety, depression, stress, and perfectionism. (The answer that leaps to mind is that the devil is oppressing people with these problems and then when they do what he wants--meditation-- he relieves the affliction to hook them. Right? Right? Do I get a gold star?) Data. Hard data. What am I supposed to do with that? And those are the very things that I’m trying to learn to cope with.

The other day on a walk, I was talking to God and asking him why it was that the very things that are hallmarks of Christianity are the things that I’m finding great freedom and joy in bucking? Relinquishing control/surrendering my life. Well, actually, now that I’m taking control of my own life, my mental and emotional distress have eased considerably. (Yeah, it almost seems like my spontaneous depression has abated entirely! Coincidence??) Constantly striving for perfection of character. You know, accepting myself as I am, accepting that I am good enough, flaws and all... that’s really been a huge doorway for me. Hard, but huge. And contrary to what I’d been fed. Today, I was able to tell myself that I loved me, and that I was going to take care of me to the best of my ability. You never would have heard those words from me when I was going to church. Self-denial. Hmm. I feel giddy even saying this, but deciding to put myself first and take care of myself first and do what I need to do for me to be okay in whatever situation I’m in... has been so... I dunno. Healthy. Joyful. Balancing. Freeing. Empowering. I will be damned before I go back to the way I was living at SOULS.

I dunno. It’s just so hard for me to reconcile all this with what I’ve been taught. I mean, what do you do when your experience flies in the face of your church’s teachings? Of course, that would automatically mean that you’re wrong, I suppose, but... I just can’t accept that.

So anyway (not to digress at all), all those little things that I was doing during my weeks of bliss are good, healthy behaviors that I need to practice and replace my old ways with.

Easier said than done. :)

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