Knowing vs Feeling

There are many reasons why I love Brandon Sanderson’s books so much. One is that, despite being set in these fantastical worlds with magic and people with amazing powers, I can relate to his characters. I can always find commonalties with characters or tidbits of wisdom that apply to me and real life. It makes his books even more powerful.

In Rhythm of War, the fourth book in The Stormlight Archives, this quote really struck me: “There was more than one way to protect. Kaladin had always known this, but he hadn’t felt it. Feeling and knowing seemed to be the same to his father, but not to Kaladin.”

I don’t know if it is general human nature or if it is more common among those of us with mental illness, but there is often a huge disconnect between knowing and feeling. For many years now I have struggled with knowing something, but not being able to feel it. Logically, I could know I wasn’t the worst wife, the worst mother, the worst friend, the worst neighbor in the world, but my emotions would tell me otherwise. I would feel like the worst wife, the worst mother, the worst friend, the worst neighbor in the world. I could know I had worth and value to my husband, my kids, my friends, but not feel that I had worth and value to my husband, my kids, my friends. I know it may not make any sense, but it is a truth for many of us.

I do feel like I’m doing better with this these days, however. In trying to change my negative cognitions my therapist told me to look at the evidence. When a negative cognition, such as I’m a horrible mother, comes into my thoughts I’m supposed to lay out the evidence—whether that is just thinking it in my head or actually writing it down, it doesn’t matter. But I need to look at the actual evidence. What are the actual facts? Well, I help provide financially for my kids. I spend a lot of time with them. I’m there for them when they need me. I do fun things with them. I teach them. I love them. Reminding myself to do this and actually doing it has helped a ton. I’m starting to know and feel at the same time. But for those of you who struggle with this, you’re not alone. It is a struggle, but, as always, there is hope and light and help. Look at the evidence. Look at all the things you’re doing right. In time you’ll be able to know and feel as well.

Big Life Changes

I made a big life change recently. I quit my job. Despite the fact that it had become a toxic environment and is a huge reason my mental health took such a huge hit this last year it was a hard decision to make because I was comfortable there. There have been several other times in my life where I remained in toxic or abusive relationships because, as horrible as it was, it was comfortable. I think many of us have done the same.

There is a fear of the unknown. Sometimes it is easier to stick with what we know even when it is unhealthy for us. It can be toxicity, emotional abuse, physical abuse, lying, manipulation in all kinds of relationships—work, family, friendship, romantic. We may stay because it’s all we know. We may stay because we feel like we deserve to be abused. We may stay because it’s scary to leave. But there is something better. We deserve better. And we can do hard, scary things.

 In the end, I’m glad I left because it was the right thing to do. Even though there was a time I loved my job and there are people I am going to miss so much, I needed to do this. For my own mental health I needed it. It takes courage to step into the unknown, even when it is going away from something terrible. But I believe we all have courage within us. We can do it. We can take care of ourselves. And we can be happy.

Validation and Empathy Vs. Sympathy

I recently talked with someone about validation, and we both agreed how important it is. One of the ways to define validation is by defining what it’s not. Validation is not “but”s. That’s right. Not buttbut. Anytime we use the word “but” we are actually invalidating, rather than validating.

I’m sorry, but . . .

I get what you’re saying, but . . .

I know how you feel, but . . .

I understand you’re point of view, but . . .

Validation is not trying to make someone understand our point of view. It is not about getting them to see what they did wrong, either. It is about seeing things from their perspective, understanding it as their truth and simply being there for them even if we have a different perspective.

Another thing validation is not is trying to fix things. Again, it’s about letting someone know we understand where they are coming from and that we have their back, rather than pointing out what they did wrong or what they can change in order to fix the situation.

I think validation goes hand in hand with empathy. Someone shared this video with me about empathy versus sympathy from Brene Brown, and I loved it so much. Check it out here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZBTYViDPlQ

Validation doesn’t mean condoning or encouraging bad behavior, but none of us are perfect. Even if we can figure out in our heads how we might handle a situation or how we would feel if we were in their shoes, it doesn’t necessarily mean our own response is the right response or is what would work for someone else. And we are not gods, so we can’t judge. Emotions are real, and need to be felt. There are difficult things we all go through in life and having someone who can validate and empathize with us is so important. This conversation I had and watching Brene Brown’s video inspired me to do better with this. I hope it can inspire others as well.

PTSD and EMDR

Back in March I went through an incredibly traumatic experience that gave me Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I had never experienced this before. Living with PTSD the last several months has been hellish, heavy and dark. I didn’t completely understand what was going on until I started going to counseling. My amazing therapist was the one who recognized the signs and symptoms and why certain things were triggering such horrible and immediate panic attacks.

You know that saying, Time heals all wounds? It’s not true. Time can help, but it doesn’t just end the suffering. I hoped time would help with the PTSD, but it didn’t. I needed something more. Enter EMDR. After even the first session, it started to help. Now, after three sessions and a couple of months of counseling the things triggering my PTSD are no longer affecting me—at all! Sometimes the EMDR can be really heavy, as you dive into those difficult, traumatic events and the feelings associated with them. But it also gave me the tools I needed to recover. It may sound too good to be true, but it is true. It has worked, and I feel so much more light, hope and happiness in my life.

As I have often stated in my posts, everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for someone else. But you’ll never know unless you try. My therapist has said it takes courage to admit you need help and courage to actually get help. I’m glad I had the courage because it has changed my life already. For anyone out there who is suffering from PTSD, there is hope. You have the courage inside of you. I know you do. Give EMDR a try. If it doesn’t work, keep looking. Time probably won’t just heal it, but there are things out there that can.

My Experience With EMDR So Far

I want to talk about my experience with EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. I started it with my therapist a few weeks ago and so far the results have been amazing! If you’ve never heard of EMDR before it is a type of therapy used to help people heal and recover from traumatic events or things such as PTSD, anxiety, depression and panic disorders. It involves a lot of visualization and the therapist using side-to-side eye movements, sounds, taps or some sort of stimulation (my therapist uses buzzers I hold onto in each hand).

I’ve only had a couple of sessions working on EMDR with my PTSD and a little on my anxiety, but I’m already seeing the difference. Not only has it helped me get over panic attacks that have been triggered by PTSD faster, it has also helped diminish the severity and the feeling of panic had at all. I went months being severely affected by my triggers to almost not being affected at all anymore. I know I’m not completely out of the woods yet, but I have so much hope as I feel my quality of life improving.

If you are someone suffering from a traumatic event, PTSD, anxiety or depression or are struggling to heal wounds from your past, I suggest looking for a therapist trained in EMDR. Everyone is different and all therapies, medications, etc. work or don’t work for every individual, but I highly recommend this form of therapy. I am a skeptical person, but I also believe in giving things a try. If it works it is absolutely worth it. If not, you move on to find something else.

I will give updates on EMDR as I continue to work with my therapist on it.

Crisis Response Plan

I started going to therapy again. It has been many years since I’ve gone, but I really like my therapist and think she’ll be able to help me. It feels wonderful having this kind of hope again!

One of the first things she had me do was make a “Crisis Response Plan” card. It’s for times when things get really bad, when I might want to hurt myself or think of taking my own life. It has been awhile since I have thought of that, but I think it’s a good idea to have this just in case.

The purpose of the card is to help me identify warning signs that I’m getting to that bad, low place, what I can do to help myself out of it, who I can go to (who I really, deeply trust) if I need external help and professional help (hospitals, crisis lines and apps, etc.) if it comes to that point.

One reason why I love this idea and am grateful my therapist had me do it is because it’s hard to always remember those things in times of crisis. There are people who have told me I could reach out to them if I get to that point, but when I’m at that point I can barely, if at all, think straight. Remembering this one simple thing–go grab your card–is easier. I also told my husband about it so that if he sees those warning signs he can ask me if I’ve looked at my card.

Another reason I like the card and the idea is because some of the things I can do for myself in a time of crisis are the same as helping me out of a panic attack. I had one at work recently when my PTSD was triggered. Just sitting at my desk, telling myself to power through it wasn’t working. I thought of my card and something on it that I could do even here at work. I went into the bathroom, sat on the floor and played a game on my phone for awhile. Did that fix the trauma or PTSD I have as a result of it? No. That will take more time. But it did help me focus, which got my breathing under control and my heart-rate down enough that I could go back to my desk and keep working.

For anyone who may be at risk for a crisis or who just needs a reminder of warning signs and things they can do to help, I highly recommend having a Crisis Response Plan. It is helpful and hopeful.

There is Good. There is Hope.

Recently, in a conversation with someone I love, I realized that I write a lot more of the depressing than the happy or uplifting. It’s not necessarily because there is more depressing than good, but because of my need to write when I’m depressed. I guess you could say it’s a way to “purge” my soul. 

When I was in high school I wrote a lot of poetry. Most of the time I wrote when I was depressed, and the poetry was depressing. But it was like therapy to me. It was something I needed to do. I think there is something about writing what I’m feeling, getting my thoughts on paper (or computer, these days) that help me understand or begin to sort what I’m going through. And that is important for me. It is needed.

Sometimes when I write about the struggles I go through, I try to do so with a question in mind. I hope that it will open a discussion with others who have felt the same way. I hope we can help each other by discussing different perspectives and things that have worked for or helped us. And it really, truly does help to know that we’re not alone, that we’re not the only one feeling a certain way or struggling with a certain thing.

I never want anyone to read my blog and go away feeling totally depressed and discouraged. I will try to write more about the good. I will try to write more about progress and hope. Because there is good, I do make progress–we all make progress–and there is hope.

A Million Steps Back

Do you ever feel like you’re taking one step forward, two steps back? Lately I’ve felt like I take one step forward and a million steps back. Sometimes I wish I could go back and have a do-over, do things right this time. But it’s not that kind of “back” that I’m going to.

Every time I feel like I’m making progress I slide back through a tunnel of sludge and sharp thorns, ending in a heap of darkness and pain. Becky Craven, a leader in my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) spoke about this from a spiritual perspective. (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2020/10/32craven?lang=eng) She said when she was younger she visualized herself walking along an “upward, vertical” path toward her goal. Every time she felt herself sliding down she thought she had to start all over again, but in time she discovered that with each failed attempt she didn’t have to start over. She could keep the progress and change she had made as she continued to progress.

I understand this from the spiritual perspective, but can it really be this way in life and in our relationships? Can we keep the progress we’ve made even as we fall backwards? Can things ever truly be good again if we don’t make up what we’ve lost? I’m struggling to find or live the answer. And is that struggle what is actually holding me back?

I didn’t start, nor do I continue, this blog because I have all the answers. It’s about opening and having a discussion about  mental illness and things many of us struggle with. I hope that through this discussion we can all help each other, even if it’s just to know we’re not alone.

To Balance or Not to Balance

Balance. I’m not sure I believe in it. People try to say you need to have balance in your life, but how are you supposed to balance your mental and physical health along with home life, work life, church life, being a wife and being a mother when you literally don’t have enough time?

I’ve been feeling my identity slipping away again. I don’t have time to be me anymore. I don’t have the confidence. It seems like in order to have “balance” you have to give something up. And then you’re not balanced anymore.

How does everyone do it? How do you do everything you have to do and still make sure your mental health is good? How do you maintain your sense of self, who you are, with everything else? I’ve been the victim of identity theft—real identity theft–my first time suffering through severe postpartum depression. I lost it again in a bad marriage. When I found myself after my divorce it was the most glorious thing in the world! I was so happy again. I had confidence again. And now I feel empty again. How is it done? How?

The Bottomless Pit

Things can change day to day or week to week. I may not feel this way tomorrow. It’s not how I felt a couple of weeks ago. But it is how I feel right now.

The Bottomless Pit

I fall through the bottomless pit.
Down . . . 
Down . . . 
Down . . . 
Deeper I go,
darker it gets.

Sometimes I hit a sharp, rocky bottom
and think it’s finally over,
only to find a false bottom that pulls out.
And I start falling again.

Down . . . 
Down . . . 
Down . . . 
Into darkness I go,
the deeper it gets.
The bottomless pit.