Feeling Stronger

This past week has been good. I had an RC (re-evaluating counselling), also known as Co-counseling session with one of my classmates this past week. She and her husband have been doing RC training for a few months now. I did not know what to expect and it was pretty cool.

Co-counseling is a great descriptor in that it’s a session where the “client” also gets to be the “therapist” or listener. In regular therapy sessions, I always felt bad because I was “taking” so much from the therapist. In RC, there is an even exchange and no one owes anyone money. It’s done with no power imbalance and both parties are on the same playing field. To me, that feels really good.

With my session, I had no idea where it was going to go. We revisited a memory which was deeply implanted in my psyche. It happened when I was almost 2 years old. I was a sick kid, often with allergies and by the time I was 2 years old, I had contracted pneumonia twice. One of the times (probably both) I needed to get a chest x-ray. I remember being scared and fighting off three adults who were trying to get me on the radiology table for my close up. I remember nearly winning and escaping back to my mom (I was a VERY strong little kid). Ultimately, they taped me down to the table with two large strips of tape. One across my chest and one across my legs. I don’t know where they got such tape and I don’t remember it being ripped off either. All I do know is, I had no idea what was going on and I couldn’t move. The staff were weary and my mom was also weary and upset by the whole fiasco. Once the radiology techs had their pictures, they let me up. My mom was holding me and I was looking over her shoulder. One of the nurses made ugly faces (think bratty grade schooler) at me. Me. A sick 2 year old. Having worked in the medical field as long as I have, it still astounds me that an adult would act that way to a child. Especially with one who had a strong right hook as I did! Nevertheless, she did and I never forgot this experience.

My mom was often overwhelmed by my illnesses. I felt she was also upset that she had to deal with a sick kid who had pneumonia again. I felt she wished she could pass this burden off on someone else. This was the general feeling I had about my mom whenever she had something challenging to face in relation to me. I felt she thought whatever she faced was entirely too much to deal with. I felt like a burden, always. As I grew up, I started trying to not be such a bother and I would not ask for things I needed. I knew she was at her wits end and I know she felt like she was failing often. As a kid, we expect the grownups to have their shit together. They’re the ones running the show after all! Funny enough, adults often feel like little kids stuck in grown up bodies. I never understood that until I was expected to be the adult.

When revisiting this memory, I was asked “what did I need?” What did I want to say to my mom? I said I wanted her to stand up for me. I wanted her to explain what was going on because I was scared and didn’t understand. I also said I wanted to go home. Pretty accurate feelings of this event. All I wanted was to go home and not be messed with anymore.

Somewhere in my mind (this week), something finally clicked. I realized that I don’t need anyone to stand up for me. I can stand up for myself. I can speak for myself and later on in the week, I did just that.

There’s been a student in my class who keeps diverting the lectures. Her questions are usually outside our scope of practice. She introduces trivia and tidbits from outside our scope which drag the lectures past time and distracts from the original lesson. When the direction of the lectures are diverted so often with information we cannot use, I have trouble retaining what we are supposed to be learning. Our class on Thursday left me feeling so lost and frustrated. I didn’t even know what questions to ask to get me back on track.

On Friday, at the start of class, the instructor asked if we had any questions or comments we wanted to share. I spoke up and said when the lecture diverts, I can’t keep up with the topic. I also said that the information isn’t difficult but when questions get brought in about information that is off topic, it is too much for my brain to retain anything. The offending student was none too pleased and a comment later on in class made it evident she took my comments as a slight. I was pleased I had the courage to actually say something. I’d been holding this in for months and have struggling with some of the material we’ve been learning as a result.

I’ve decided that my time in school is going to be that of personal growth. I don’t want to shrink or hide to make others comfortable. What I need matters just as much as anyone else’s needs. I matter, I am important and I am strong. I am also capable of using my voice. Doing so felt very good and I am enjoying this stronger feeling inside.

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Being “OK” with using my voice

I do not like confrontation. I do not like people angry at me. I do not like to be around when others are having a conflict. It makes me cringe and want to run away.

That being said, today I realize I need to start using my voice. There is a situation at school which is not going away. There is a student who, in her reactions to the world and relating tendencies, reminds me of my mother. Not in a good way either. I found myself partnered with this student today, all because I was afraid to use my voice.

In my communications class, we were partnered up to work on an accountability exercise. We were to discuss our strengths and weaknesses and then formulate a plan to work on our weaknesses. I do not feel safe sharing anything personal anymore with this particular student. I did so a few months ago and I felt this person might use what I shared against me in some way. She asked me if I wanted to share with the class what her and I spoke about privately. This, to me, was a huge flag and my guard instantly went up. I couldn’t remember what I’d shared with her in that moment and I froze. I made it clear that what we’d discussed would not be brought into the circle and discussed in class. From that point on, I no longer felt safe sharing anything about myself with her.

When anyone shares in class about struggles, this student appears to pity whoever is sharing. This is a big trigger for me because my mom always did this to me. I hated it because it felt like she saw me as weak and incapable. I don’t need pity, I need understanding and encouragement. When I share, I am doing so from a vulnerable place. The reaction of those I share with matters a great deal. I do not share anything to use as an excuse for my shortcomings. I do not want pity as I am not pitiful.

This student shared early on that she is judgemental of others. Today, she said several students in class “push her buttons” and she feels rejected by some people in the class. I wonder if I am one of those who make her feel rejected? She also gives suggestions and “shoulds” advice at people when they have not asked for her opinion. Her suggestions are usually in the vein of natural medicine and she always has something negative to say about “big pharma”. This tendency also reminds me of my mother, especially after she was diagnosed with cancer.

My mother was terribly afraid of modern medicine. After her cancer diagnosis, she tried every natural thing she could find before finally trying chemo. The doctors estimated she had a year left when she was first diagnosed. She died ten months later. Most of that time she had left was spent worrying, ruminating about regrets, desperately trying various natural remedies and fearing the inevitable. The natural stuff didn’t have any effect on her cancer. Things maybe could have gone different if my mother wasn’t so hell bent on doing things her way. If nothing else, her efforts gave her a sense of control over a situation with was so very out of her control. I do not know if things would have turned out differently if my mom had done chemo right after her first brain surgery. I don’t know if things would have panned out exactly the same way no matter what she did. I will never know the answer. All I know is, it was painful to be on the sidelines watching her go thought what she did. To have one of my classmates promoting all natural medicine and shunning modern medicine and stating it’s dangerous, this is a huge trigger for me. It makes me angry to listen to her, thanks to what I saw my mom do during her last months on earth.

I know this is MY issue. These are my triggers and this student is not going away. I spoke to my communications instructor today and she gave me pointers on how to approach this situation. As with any conflict, the school encourages students to speak directly to whomever they are in conflict with. This student may or may not know I have an issue. After today, when I was consulting a friend about this, she might know something is up. Tomorrow, I get to seek out an opportunity to express my feelings an I am dreading it like the plague. I’d rather have my wisdom teeth pulled all over again than do this. Tonight, I am tired and drained. It’s not even 9 pm yet. The universe keeps putting this in front of my face and I cannot escape it any longer. Wish me luck.

Giving Zero Feels Scary Good

It’s been an exciting few weeks for me and I’m feeling pretty good about life. I feel that fact (feeling good) is always a necessary to acknowledge, especially in a world which is so focused on fear and negativity. It feels good to feel good. The only time I’ve felt bad, really bad, is when I’ve done bad things to myself.

I made it home for the weekend and to catch up, I overindulged a bit on Baileys and tequila. Now, I knew mixing such things in the same sitting was a bad idea. So, against my innate knowledge of my body and what it can handle, I ventured forth. I paid for it this morning and I was most annoyed with myself. Fortunately, a can of Limonata, half a breakfast burrito and an afternoon nap allowed me to function better this evening.

WIth dinner and drinking came conversation. Sometimes alcohol allows those hidden emotions see the light, even briefly. My other half and I chatted about my past few weeks away. The conversation changed course numerous times. Insights shared. Souls bared briefly. Tears escaped. All in all, it was a good evening topped off with some mischief to finish out the night.

As I lay in bed in the wee hours of morning, trying hard not to refund last night’s dinner and drinks, I noticed I was feeling pangs of shame and embarrassment. My stomach was flipping but as if flipped, I cringed. It was a familiar feeling and it confused me because I knew it was misplaced. I cannot explain this physical reaction because, I did nothing to be embarrassed about. Yes, I drank too much. Yes, I was rather uninhibited later on in the evening. I had done nothing wrong so where was this feeling of embarrassment coming from?

Last weekend, I did a photo shoot with a photographer friend I met through my sister (who is also a photographer). This gentleman had worked with my sister before. I knew the sort of shoot it would be, We spoke beforehand and he mentioned “sexy” shots and what props I could bring to help the vision. Having worked a few times as a portrait model, I was really looking forward to doing photos. It would be a different medium and there would be a chance to create a mood with body language and my confidence. I had a feeling we’d end up doing a few topless shots and I embraced the opportunity. I was looking at this photo shoot as one more way to learn appreciation for my body. After all, it is MY body, I can choose to do with it what I please. If I choose to take such pictures (which will not be posted or used maliciously), I can.

I was instructed, after the photo shoot, to take a few days before looking at the photos so I could divorce myself from the experience and view them with a more open mind. I took a day, because I was excited to see the end result. Out of over 100 photos, I narrowed my favorites down to about 20. In the following days, that number dropped lower as my criticalness grew. So, maybe I am not great still at not judging myself harshly. In the top 20, I had chosen what I felt was my best topless picture. By the end of the week, it along with about 12 others were culled.

“Too many chins showing.” “My stomach looks fat here.” “I’m making a weird face in this one.” were my reasons. Out of that previous 20, there are only 8 survivors.

By the end of the week, I noticed I was feeling shame and embarrassment when I’d look at those pictures. The ones which got deleted right away were the ones which showed the most skin. Again, I’d done nothing wrong. Why was this feeling of shame coming up for me?

Several years back, I was told to watch Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on vulnerability. She’s done a few Ted talks by this point and Listening to Shame is the name of the one I watched tonight. I was needing to make some sense to these confusing emotions I was experiencing. In her talk, Brene mentions that vulnerability is the birthplace of innovations, creativity and change. There were several times during the past few weeks where I have allowed myself to be vulnerable. I recorded myself singing and put it on my Soundcloud. I did this photo shoot. I’ve been vlogging for the past few months about my struggles and progress in massage school. I have opened up emotionally to classmates during sharing times in class. Over the past few months, I feel like I returned to a sort of therapy because I am learning a lot about myself. I am trying to stretch myself past the socially anxious, fearful person I have been (in the not so distant past). I feel like the source of those feeling of shame and embarrassment are simply anxiety over opening myself up to the potential of being judged. I am guessing these emotions are from my fearful inner self, which has deemed my expansion unsafe and is screaming for a retreat to the cave. Homeostasis (our baseline or our “normal” feeling state) is something the body seeks to achieve and maintain so we feel “right” in ourselves. Stepping too far outside of the “norm” can be scary and in can push the emotional side of oneself to feel unsafe. Vulnerability can feel scary but it can also be liberating. Recording my voice and giving zero fucks about whether I sounded perfect was liberating. Doing a photo shoot, especially when I don’t feel completely comfortable in my skin 24/7, was liberating.

In neuromuscular therapy, part of the treatment protocol is: once you’ve worked out the tension and relaxed the muscle, stretch the muscle so it can realize the new length it can achieve. Same goes for people who have stepped outside of themselves. Once you’ve expanded past your comfort, do more on that path. That stretched version of yourself could become your new homeostasis.