Panic

I went to the informational meeting from my last blog post. Let me paint a picture for you:

11:30am - Stretch Guy texts me to see if I’m going

12:30pm - I text back with a lovely bitmoji of pure anxiety and confirm

12:30pm - 4:00pm - A few texts w/ Stretch Guy as he tried to reassure me. A phone call with S who goes to the website and doesn’t see anything concerning to him. A short discussion with my supervisor about the possibility of this counting as leadership training. He’s on board, btw, others have done similar type training and it totally falls in line with where I tend to have weakness (relating to others).

4:00pm-6:15pm - Finish up work, drive over the hotel and wonder what the hell Wa.ze was thinking as it took me further south than I needed to go. Lame. Feel nervous but not too bad and wonder why I’m feeling nervous because I have the support of no less than 4 people who are close or know me well.

6:15pm - Get to hotel, park the car, find the ballroom where it’s being held and walk right past the talking, laughing group, down the hall, turn the corner and think, ‘oh, shit that’s them’. I approach, a friendly person asks me if I’m here for psi. I give a curt, “yeah”. By now I’m starting to shake. I find the registration table, sign in, and a nice lady I am just barely able to make eye contact with hands me my nametag. I take the nametag, slap it on under my jacket and promptly take a seat on a chair in the corner of the vestibule to the ballroom and nervously pretend to check email while I scan the group for Stretch Guy. After about 2 minutes, I have to move again, I get up, stomach clenching and wander away from the crowd, continuing to try to hide. Stretch Guy shows up, finds me and comes up to me with a big smile. “Hey, how are you?” (hug). “Not good”. “What’s going on?” “I…I..don’t know, I want to run.” “Do you want to meet some people?” “No.” “Do you want some water?” “No.” All the no’s said as I stand there with my hands cold as ice, my heart pounding, my ears ringing, tunnel vision…I feel completely disconnected from the body standing there talking to him. “Ok, want to go in and sit down?” “Ok”.

I follow him into the room, and he jokes, “sit wherever you want!” as most of the chairs haven't been claimed yet. I say, “uh, where can I hide?” He chooses a back corner and as we settle into the chairs that are way too close together (on purpose I find out) and sit down, people start streaming into the room to take their seats. He’s quickly surrounded by people seeking him out, clearly the people who he wanted to introduce me to and I’m sitting in my chair, head down, frozen. I pull out my notebook and write how I’m feeling. I try to breathe. I don’t make eye contact and just let the talking and joking float around me. Stretch Guy doesn’t forget about me, he remains reassuring and lets me sit there with no pressure to be introduced.

The presentation starts, and I decide I need to write down my thoughts and reactions so I can try to work through whatever THIS is that’s going on in my body. My reactions as they start talking: “sheep, they’re all sheep”. Next, “i’m being critical, why?” “what am I scared of?”. They pull up the graduates (honestly, “graduates” for a 3 day seminar? whatevs) and a few talk about their experience. It all seems genuine, the presenter seems genuine, and none of it is anything I’ve not been working on or different than I’ve heard before from other trainings (quite similar to Emotional Intelligence training actually)

I try to listen, a few things make me smile, especially when the presenter talks about how when he took this 3-day course way back when, he noticed that his mother, whom he had a strained relationship with “changed”. The point? He changed and was able to see her differently. I write down what I don’t want to be: (someone I work with, my mom…) I start to write down what I want to be in my career (leader, why? middle management isn’t enough, I want to change the culture, I want to develop people). A few times, Stretch Guy smirks at me, knocks my knee, puts his hand on my back reassuringly as I sit in squirmy discomfort. We joke a little bit back and forth.

The presentation is over, the predicted (I was prepared for this by Stretch Guy), push to sign up is brought forth. Stretch Guy doesn’t push me, he’s already gotten blowback from me, and he’s learned. He wants to know how I feel. I tell him that what he saw in the beginning from me was pretty damn close to a panic attack. I’ve never had a completely debilitating panic attack, but what I experienced here, has occurred more than once over my lifetime, and usually is around social situations where I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself. By the end of the presentation I had identified where my initial “sheep, they’re all sheep” reaction came from. My parents. My dad specifically, who would scoff at anything like this, any organization. He wasn’t too happy when I joined a sorority in college. My mom would follow suit, or at least not contradict the idea that anytime you are presented with someone like this, it’s a scam/cult/pyramid scheme someone is just trying to profit off of suckers. “Just be yourself” is what my dad would always say. But, I was conditioned to NOT be myself. So, how do I know how to be myself if I’m always performing?

I don’t.

Why do we condemn these organizations? P.S.I isn’t the only one. There’s Ton.y Rob.bins (whom I don’t particularly like), there’s another one called Lan.dmark, and there’s even one that looks pretty similar to this that my organization sends supervisors to for training.

I realized sitting there in the ballroom that my panic and discomfort were coming from the idea that I want to change but this “sheep” idea is so deeply rooted in my being that it’s causing massive conflict in me. I tell Stretch Guy that one thing I’ve learned over the past year and a half is that the things that scare me the most, are the things I’m supposed to do. This class terrifies me in a way that I can’t articulate. I can’t explain why, even in identifying the root cause why I have spiraled into panic. All I know, is I need to do this because I panicked.

I haven’t signed up yet, but I am talking to my supervisor and I know I’m going to do it. S is completely supportive and even seems a little excited for me. He also knows he’s next if this ends up being a good experience for me. ;-) My therapist is in and super excited that I’m even considering it. What I heard at the presentation was reasonable and transparent enough to make me comfortable with the idea of going through with it. I brought up the cult thing with Stretch Guy and said, “Ok, it’s not a cult. My therapist is the one who told me that”. He was happy to hear that, but then I was like, you know there’s also cult-like…and he admitted seeing that in some people. I personally, haven’t witnessed him do anything or say anything that gives me concern. Plus, long before he started this, he was available, holding space and supporting me even though I was rejecting the support.

I’m still feeling anxious and slightly panick-y even though I’ve made my decision that I am going to be doing this in the relatively near future…good thing I have a therapy appointment on Monday.

#MicroblogMondays - Resistance is

futile.

It took less than a year for Stretch Guy to get me here:

psi.jpg

Remember this post? It was all about how I completely went off the deep end thinking he joined a cult and was trying to recruit me and I almost fired him over it. Oh wait, I didn’t share all of that at the time…Yup. Since then there’s been more EMDR, intensive therapy, sharing, growing, letting him support me, hearing his experience, him joking that he’s going to get me there…me resisting, resisting, and more resisting. Since I’ve acknowledged I need more support and help from him through all this healing stuff, and he’s been right about everything else so far…I’ve finally agreed to go to the presentation. Therapist #3 is completely on board. She got so excited I thought she might get up and do a happy dance right in front of me.

sigh

Bring it.

 Don’t know what #MicroblogMondays is? Check it out  here

Don’t know what #MicroblogMondays is? Check it out here

Soul Speaks aka. Geochick Learns to Connect

Words of essence:


Bold Brave Graceful Precious Endearing Honest Beautiful

Tenderhearted Courageous Dear Honest Loving Aware

Selfless Resilient Kind Generous Inspiring Open


This introverted thinking sensing judging engineer walks into a Soul Speaks workshop.

Waiting for a punchline?

I wish I could come up with one, but I’m not a comedienne. Well, not intentionally.

I took this workshop as a challenge to myself, as a minor investment in time and money to see what the next leap into personal development holds and deep dive into the core of my being.  I knew it would make me squirmy and uncomfortable. I also knew that all my personal shit is so forefront in my mind that I was liable to share too much and risk a vulnerability hangover. I was right on both counts.

Two women run this workshop and to describe them to me Stretch Guy (yes, this is one of his pushes/suggestions) used words like loving and powerful. He told me I’d feel safe. I just stared at him wondering how these words like loving and powerful fall so easily from his lips. I never use those words. I’ve just now begun to understand what “grateful” means and been able to use it without sarcasm. I’m constantly in awe of how these other strong feeling words are so natural to Stretch Guy, and how they never seem contrived. But I digress…

 I walked into the room and Soul Speaks teacher #1, whom I talked to on the phone glided up to me with a huge smile on her face, “I’m so glad you came!” with a big hug. Yikes. Then I discovered that most people a) knew Soul Speaks teacher #1 because she’s their therapist, or they had been doing these workshops for a while. I was the outsider on both counts. Immediately, I felt the armor come up, protecting me, enshrouding me. I wanted to be small, not noticed. A couple of people introduced themselves and asked how I knew about the workshop. “A friend recommended it to me.” “Are you excited?” “No. I’m really nervous.” During the whole opening of the workshop, I stared at the floor, at the wall, anywhere but at the teachers. Then, they explained what we would be doing. It’s called relational presencing and it boils down to eye contact; a breath, a soft gaze and holding another person’s eye contact.

 So anyway, it was a really difficult and exhausting 4 hours for me, and at the same time empowering. I know that I need to do things like this to force me outside my comfort zone and to learn how to connect with people. I didn’t know what to expect, Stretch Guy didn’t really prepare me for it, and when I talked to one of the teachers about it she tried to explain, but for such a simple thing, it’s a difficult concept.

 They start small, just take a breath, look into someone’s eyes for 30 seconds and don’t say anything, don’t break eye contact. That was the longest 30 seconds! Then we did it again and it wasn’t as difficult. Then we did it again and took turns talking, whatever comes up without thinking. Then we got in groups of five, sitting in a circle and took turns around the circle. The key is trying not to break eye contact while talking and move your gaze from one person to another about every sentence or so, and I found it easier in a larger group where I didn’t have to hold eye contact with one person as long. THEN, a bigger group, the room split in half and half went to another room. We did the same thing in front of the half group adding in a few steps. At the end of us talking without thinking for a whole minute while holding people’s gaze, the people in the room would shout out words that they see you embody as you stand there. And the grand finale, the entire group together and random names being called up to practice. The words I wrote down at the beginning are all the words people threw out at me as I stood in front of them scared, tears streaming down my face and wondering what the hell I just said. The things people say when in front of the group run the gamut from, “I don’t really feel like talking so I’m going to be quiet and just connect with all of you, to I’ve been doing x,y,z this past year, to isn’t this amazing all this energy in the room,” to people like me, who have all this heavy shit front and center that just comes out. The two times I was in front of the big group, I wished I could say something positive, and I guess some positive things were said about healing, at the same time it’s all shrouded in “hey my mom’s a narcissist and now I’m trying to figure out who I am”.

By the end of the 4 hours, someone commented on how much my demeanor had changed from when I first talked to people and the end of the day. She was right, I felt more relaxed and I was able to focus on the people talking rather than my shit because I was actually seeing them. That’s got to be one of the things that I have trouble with the most. I don’t see people because I’m so wrapped up in how I appear to them, if I’m acting the way they want and taking it personally if someone comments on my demeanor. This time I was able to accept and acknowledge someone telling me that they saw a positive shift instead of falling down the shame spiral of what the hell did I look like before? Is she telling me I was a total bitch to start with and now I’m ok? This is a big shift for me to feel kind of comfortable in my own skin, and to be able to accept compliments! HUGE! So, I’m happy I went, and I’ll be looking into more of the Soul Speaks training. Who knew I’d end up being so open to the hippy-dippy? Not me, that’s for damn sure.

And the vulnerability hangover? It never came…"

Struggling with Shame *edited 12/2/18

Shame is the emotion I most often fall prey to when something doesn’t go the way I expect, or when someone doesn’t react to me the way I expect. The shame hits in the pit of my stomach, I feel uneasy and off-balance. It happens with little things, with big things, with inconsequential things, a hair-trigger of an emotion always lurking.

I had been doing a decent job of looking shame squarely in the face and telling it to fuck off as of late, and then I did something that feels so out of character that I’ve been struggling with shame ever since. I straight up asked Stretch Guy to help and support me more than he already is (which was conversations when I went for stretch sessions, 2 birds, one stone). I had gotten a lot of support from him over the summer partially because I hit all the therapies hard at once and was going weekly to see him for about 6 weeks straight. Then I got to the point where I don’t need the stretch sessions as often, but I still want to talk with him about all the things going on. So, I did it, I wrote the e-mail explaining that I see him as a mentor and I need more support. I promptly fought anxiety for hours until I got the reply saying he’d be happy to support me more.

Ever since then I’ve struggled with whether I did the right thing. I take that back, I struggle at very specific times whether I did the right thing. See, there is never a problem when I’m sharing with him all this therapy, dealing with depression/anxiety and family crap. It always comes after. It will hit when I get home, that fear, the feeling in the pit of my stomach, the non-stop questioning, the confusion. What have I done? Why do I lean on him so much? Is it ok? Is he ok with it? What does it mean? blah blah blah. I am so conditioned to believe there is no such thing as a platonic relationship between men and women that shaking the belief as I find myself in such a relationship, is nearly impossible. Therapist says it’s a vulnerability hangover (one of my favorite Brene Brown’isms) that I’m experiencing when this happens and in asking for help, it’s triggering my avoidant tendencies. She asked if I ever feel the same way after therapy, and I don’t. In my mind, I hire the therapist to help me through all this crap and that is what they are there for, to listen to me pour it all out. It’s pretty easy to work through that in my head so that I don’t have a strong reaction after therapy. He’s not a therapist, he’s just the Stretch Guy and there’s a weird connection that exists between us. The phrase it’s like my soul sees your soul has been uttered in all sincerity. I don’t get it, won’t ever get it, I’ll just chalk it up to a vastly different personality. I wholeheartedly believe he believes it, and who am I to question an intuitive person? I’ve got like zip in the intuitive department.

I was pretty proud of myself lately in that I have been able to have these conversations with him and not fall down the shame spiral. Then something happened and it’s such a little thing that I’m pissed at the level of shame I’m feeling. I knew he was going to do something difficult for him and he kind of joked that I should check in on him. When the time came, I texted a simple, “how are you”. Four hours later, with no response I sent more of a “no really…how are you” text. That one elicited a response along the lines of “oops, I’ve been doing a thing, thanks for checking in I’m fine”. That led to a short text conversation and at the end of it all, I sat on my couch feeling like a fool. So, he forgot he said he’d let me know and got wrapped up in his day. Not a big deal. Unless you’re me.

Let me lead you through the steps of my shame spiral

  • Good grief, do I really think he was going to be worried about updating you when he has x, y, z going on?

  • And why am I so damn invested anyway?

  • I’ll be better off if I just find another stretch therapist. This is ridiculous.

  • Shit, what do people think about mine and S’s relationship? All I do is blog about Stretch Guy it seems.

  • I probably annoy him with my stupid requests for support

  • I need him, he doesn’t need me

  • He has people who support him and I’m not part of that. I’m not important to him.

Let me show you why that’s all wrong

  • Yeah, people forget all the time about details in conversations they had 4 days ago.

  • So I sent two texts and once he saw them, he remembered immediately that he had told me to check in on him and let me know what was up. I’m invested because I care in the same way I would check up on a friend.

  • He’s a damn good stretch therapist and I trust him. End of that conversation.

  • I talk to S and S understands why I’m developing this relationship. Because S and I are two peas in a pod. I need that touchy-feely-intuitive type to give me a swift kick in the analytical ass.

  • Clearly I don’t annoy him with requests for support. In the past year and a half no one made him spill the beans about our similarities. He chose to share his story with me, and continued to encourage me. Oh, and besides…he has never shown annoyance with me over any of this stuff. He’s been a consistent safe presence.

  • I AM important to him. He’s said it and shown it by showing up for me. Sharing with me and supporting me.

There you go, all the reasons why I need to continue looking shame in the face and telling it to fuck off. Writing about this helped a ton. I could keep it draft just for me to read when I need a little kick to get out of the shame spiral, but that wouldn’t be wholly authentic. My blog, if it’s nothing else, is authentic.

Welcome to Fear

I’ve been trying to write a post for weeks. I started it on a work trip, struggled to get words down and then wondered how I was going to edit the mess I had created. Last week I traveled again, pulled up the document and….once again didn’t know how to make what I had down into a coherent blog post. With that, I’m going back to the way I seem to write best, vomiting all over this page…you’re welcome.

I’ve been having trouble putting into words all the emotional shifting that has been bombarding me over the past couple of months. I’ve experienced joy, pain, fear, anger, irritation, anxiety and grief, often in the same week, maybe even over a day. The constant cycling has been exhausting, as well as trying to hold onto my full-time work as I waited to be able to transition into part-time work. During this time, I’ve had the conversation with my mom that didn’t really give me what I needed to move forward with her and ultimately made the decision to for-real-this time let go of my parents. Unlike other times you’ve been privy to if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, this decision wasn’t made in anger, it was made from a new place of self-care and understanding mixed with sadness. I thought I should be able to move forward with my family, until I sat in a therapy session and these words escaped my lips, “I guess I just grit my teeth and get through it”. By the end of that session, I changed my tune to “I don’t think I can see them”. That particular session centered around how Stretch Guy triggered me, how I had realized that I was reacting to him as if he were my parents, and landed squarely in fear. By the time I got to my therapist, I had been able to be straight with Stretch Guy that I had realized how I was reacting to him and apologized, so that part was relatively ok at that point. The fear though, that was something else bubbling below the surface in my interactions with him. I started talking with my therapist about fearing rejection, she effectively drew out of me that I was scared of Stretch Guy rejecting me once he found out who the real me was. Most of the time in her office, I struggled to find the words to talk about how I felt and other than recognizing fear, I couldn’t articulate. I didn’t know where it came from or even why I would be scared of being rejected by Stretch Guy. It didn’t make sense to have that kind of fear around someone I’ve been able to learn how to trust. She pointed out that when that happens, it’s probably pre-verbal. This means that the conditioning of me trying to meet everyone else’s expectations started before I could talk.

As a baby, I was taught to perform to expectations. Once I realized this, I started processing what it meant for me and how I’ve moved through my life. As I processed over the next couple of days, I saw Dr. M who noted that it seemed something heavy was hanging out in my back. He also noted that I was going through a shitty part of the healing process and advised me to not make any major decisions or changes until it passed. I followed up the appointment with Dr. M with a stretch appointment as I often try to do to reinforce to my muscles to stay relaxed. By the time I got to that appointment, I was fearful, anxious and feeling shame. Brene Brown often talks about speaking shame and how that takes the power away from shame. So, since I was visibly upset anyway, I went ahead and told Stretch Guy I was processing a metric ton of fear and it seemed to be fear of rejection, that if I’m not what people want or think I am that they will reject me. Which then led to some revealing on his part what it was like to get to know me over the past year or so. Listening to those words and taking them to heart led me to another realization.

I was so afraid of being rejected for not performing that I wasn’t anything at all. I was afraid of not meeting expectations, but I didn’t know what those expectations were so I squashed all of me, put my head down and tried to figure out who I should be. People never saw who I was, just who I thought I should be and I built up this armor of being walled off, performing academically, basically being a robot. My only emotional outlet was to get angry and explode when I couldn’t take the pressure anymore leading to more shame spiraling, further walling myself off from human contact.

I think they call this a breakthrough. It’s so different from earlier in the summer where I started feeling emotions and being able to handle them better. This staring at myself in the mirror and having a real sense of what other people see and experience.

 

#MicroblogMondays - Gong Bath

you read that right…this ISTJ engineer, unfeeling, skeptic attended a gong bath and loved every second of it.

I’ve been finding that yoga is resonating with me in a way that it hasn’t before. During a candlelight class I attend, the instructor plays the tanpura, and her playlists are intentional with the flow she teaches. There’s something about how she conducts the classes and her messages that pull emotion out of me. I’ve cried through grief, happiness and everything in-between in her class. So when she started promoting a gong bath she and her partner hold, I became curious. I’ve known about gong baths since my old days of attempting to connect with yoga during the adoption wait, but I was always resistant to trying it. Now that I’m responding and feeling more, it was time to give it a try. I made a decision at the last minute to go by myself when I realized it was the last one of the year and I didn’t have time to line up a babysitter so I could drag S with me. When I showed up with my two yoga mats, a blanket, a pillow, a notebook, and water I was nervous not knowing what to expect. I got there 15 minutes before it started and the room was almost full. Choosing a spot near the back observing how others were set up, I set myself up. Mistake #1: didn’t notice that there were thicker mats to borrow that would have been way more comfortable than my two thin yoga mats. Mistake #2: not doing any stretching before lying down on my back. I’m all comfy in shavasana after an hour of yoga, not so much after a long work day. My back was tight, the floor was hard and I found it hard to stay still. The bath started with a guided meditation followed by singing bowls and other instruments before moving to the gongs. Ok, I am a huge skeptic (I know, you’re sooo surprised), so when she talked about the gongs being tuned to the Sun and Saturn, and the journey we were all going to be taking and the forms it could take, I internally rolled my eyes and thought…yeah yeah…how is that possibly going to happen? Especially since I was sober! Well, I didn’t fly through the cosmos. Instead, the vibrations of the gongs rolled through my body causing me to breathe fast and deep and I felt like something was trying to burst out of my chest all Alien-style. The. Whole. Time. It was scary and intense and I found my mind crying out for help imagining people in my inner circle hanging on to my hands to guide me through it. About half way through the gongs, I had to roll onto my side to minimize the vibrations for a while. When I resumed shavasana, the sensation was the same and just as intense. After the gongs, rattles and drums were played to calm it down. I was spent, amazed, shocked, and I can’t wait to do it again.


Don’t know what #microblogmondays is? Check it out here.

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(And then I ran into my network chiropractor as I was leaving and that was totally weird.)

#MicroblogMondays - The Complete Transformation

I have been remiss in posting what my hair looks like 100% completely free of color. It’s taken a while for me to get used to it, and to bemusedly navigate the stares, stammers and roundabout questioning from people I haven’t seen in a while…

Overall, I’m happy to have made the change. My hair is evenly silver for the most part with quite a lot of white around my face and it looks pretty cool. The texture is something else though. When my hair was colored, the dye helped to calm down the naturally coarse and wavy/curly texture. Absent the coating of dye, it’s been quite a learning curve to figure out products and styling techniques as I grow out the short ‘do to something that I like more. While I look good in pixie short hair, it’s not me, and I have a weird perception that because I have gray hair that’s short, now I look like all those 60-year olds rocking their short gray ‘dos. I’m growing it out to my usual jaw-length short hair.



…today I’m an 8/10. It’s been a pretty decent run of feeling good despite some significant challenges, and I didn’t dip below 6/10 after that chat with my mom.



The Coffee Meeting

I ripped the bandaid off and asked my mom to coffee. We met in the afternoon, sat down after some perfunctory chit-chat and this is what went down.

Her: So, what do you want to talk about? Lay it on me, I can take it.

Me: (confused). It seems that you want to talk so, what do you want to talk about?

Her: (crying). I know you met your bio-fathers family and I’m really happy.

Me: ummm, ok (this is not how I thought it would start out)

She talked a lot, apologized (I think) for some things, and left me a little off-balance. There’s still a disconnect happening. She apologized for not trying to keep in touch with him (and he didn’t try to keep in touch with us), I realize there were bad decisions all around. I told her I can see the differences between what she did (got us out of bad situation and I’m grateful) and how she acted after (completely controlled my life and I never felt good enough). Her response was that I was never the kid they had to worry about. My response to that was that I was compliant, I always thought that if I just got the straight A’s, did everything she wanted me to do, then it would be good enough, but it never felt good enough. I never felt good enough. I wasn’t happy. That the only reason I’m not a hot mess is because of my personality, that’s how I got this far.

I think she apologized, to some degree? She admitted that she realizes that what they did (my parents) wasn’t in the best interest of their kids. It’s taken 3/4 of her kids waking up and realizing the control we were under for her to get there. But at least, she got there? At the same time, she kept saying, “I was a young parent and ignorant, but that’s not an excuse.” She said things like that so many times I started to wonder if she is using it as an excuse. Sure, she was a young parent, so was my dad. They were college-educated, post-graduate educated, working scientists. They weren’t dumb. I guess they fall under the typical baby-boomer screwing up their kids theory. Baby boomers tried to give the next generation everything they didn’t have and do everything for them instead of letting their kids learn. Check. Check. Check. In my case, they also tightly controlled my every decision, activity and choices. She said she thought all the self-doubt goes away as an adult (hahahahahahaha), and I shut down that pretty damn quick citing that I’ve had to do a lot of subconscious therapy work to release trauma and realize my self-worth. That if I hadn’t done that work, there’s no way that I could go to my boss, tell him my position isn’t working for me and make drastic changes to my work-life. As an aside: When I first told her I was going to be cutting my hours she heard that “they are cutting your hours?” and I thought, who the hell immediately thinks that? Clearly, she comes from the world is out to get me so I’m going to control everything camp.

Ah, and then there was the kicker when it comes to my bio-dad. She said that when I was 18, she remembered telling me that she would help me search for him and I said no. So, she thought I was fine. Yep, about as fine as someone conditioned to not ever talk about it is fine. At that point, she could have shared everything, but still there was that control thing, right? I was still controlled, I was still going to the college she chose for me, I was still not supposed to talk about my feelings.

The topic of mental health came up, one of my brothers is likely bipolar, and apparently she has tried to get him help (I know how this goes, something along the lines of “you can’t cope”), and she likes to bring up her sister who has been medicated for decades. I told her I needed to be treated for depression in college, and at least I’m being treated now. I still get the sense that it falls on deaf ears, or that she internalizes all of this to flog herself. The difference I see and feel now, is that I have no control over her reaction, only mine.

She talked a little bit about her parents, which I long identified as an abusive household (clearly, when there are stories of dishes being flung at my grandfather and the way my grandmother treated people in general), yet can’t see that it was abuse. It was just how it was, and she had some other friends who were in similar situations. It’s not hard to see how she fell into a fantasy world with my bio-dad, marrying him even though there were red flags abounding.

As we left, she asked if she could call to take the boys out whenever she wants. And here where nothing is different. Sure, it was a decent talk, I heard some things I was surprised to hear coming from her and I acknowledged that it was really great that she has been able to recognize these things about herself and how we were raised. There was a fair bit of “I failed as a parent” that I didn’t really react to, because I’m a) not going to fall over myself saying that she didn’t fail, and b) I am not in the position to validate that feeling. But, at the end of the day, she wants a fantasy mother-daughter relationship that has never been there. She wants to be able to text every week about seeing my kids (I’ve been ignoring those texts for 6 straight weeks or politely declining or making S respond since she texts both of us). She can’t see that we have our own lives, that we’re busy and sometimes, we don’t want to have plans on the weekend.

I had to talk it through with S as I started to spiral into the thoughts that I’ve been reading it wrong or I had it wrong all along. He stopped me immediately. Sure, she is citing that one long ass conversation we ended up having in a locker room of all places as when the light bulb went on (that was over 3 years ago), yet none of her behavior has really changed in those subsequent years. She still withheld information from me when I asked for it, and there were countless times when we were over at their house for dinner where this type of conversation could have happened, but didn’t.

So, maybe a baby step forward, but I’m not super excited to go over for dinner anytime soon or have them babysit my kids.

Today, I’m a 6/10. Meh.

Putting it All to Work

In a recent therapy appointment, she pointed out that I am going to have to talk to my mom and it's going to be the biggest hurdle in integrating the work I've been doing. I managed to get myself to a place where I decided, ok, fine, she wants to talk, she's afraid to/doesn't know how/can't approach me so I'll set it up and see what happens. See if I get triggered in the moment if I'm more resilient and able to let go after.

Then I learn that when my parents traveled to Oregon recently, she brought a journal that she gave to my brother (not knowing that we had been contacted by our uncles). It's from when she was married to my biological father and I was 2 years old. No one can convince me that she was just being thoughtless with what she did, it was a fucking clear message that I don't deserve to know anything until I comply and act the way she thinks I should act. There have been so many opportunities over the past several years, starting with when I asked them to read a book on adoption and she barely acknowledged reading the book. I've pushed harder since then as I've been in therapy and learning to ask for what I need. The more I ask for what I need, the more she withholds because I don’t ask in the way she deems acceptable. Another thing became crystal clear too, I am definitely all alone in the identification of the narcissist in the room. My brother can't see it and writes it off as having different relationships, and mine with her is more difficult than his with her. (says the one who ran away from the situation). It's difficult not to go down the rabbit hole of self doubt and shame even with all this work.

So far, I’ve been ok, excepting the news from my brother when I cried myself to sleep. For his part, my brother told me he told my mom that she needs to let me see it, but it’s clear she either doesn’t know how or doesn’t want to reach out to me. This is where I have such a problem. She is the parent. I still expect her to act like a parent. Therapist says, hey, but what if she can’t? She doesn’t have the emotional capacity to address this situation in a healthy way. So then, it’s up to me, for my mental health to basically test it all out. See if I am at the point where I can talk to her, see what she has to say and go from there. It’s really a test of whether or not to completely cut them off. I’m not likely to suddenly see a miracle and get the mother I always needed, and I’m not likely to even get a half-way. It’s likely to be more of the same, the difference is….am I able to see it in a different light?

Burn it Down

Bear with me…

When Stretch Guy told me that it would feel like a “miracle” when the therapies worked, I scoffed. I scoffed at my back getting better with the odd adjustments of network chiropractic work. I scoffed at the idea that I could know what I wanted out of my career. I scoffed at the idea of knowing what “happy” is.

Motherf*ker was right.

I’ve felt happy and content over the last 2 weeks. Like really for real happy. It’s not like all of the sudden my life got easier, because on a day-to-day basis it’s been more difficult. X had a rough re-entry into school, we changed Z’s daycare and that came with it’s own transition nightmare of pulling a screaming crying 4-year old off of us while we ran out the door, and work has not gotten better. So, to be able to say I’ve felt happy and content in the middle of all this means that I have finally had a massive breakthrough.

I realized my breakthrough when I rode the 100-mile bike ride I train for every year. I raised money for charity, I trained more consistently than I have in the past, and I was ready to tackle the ride….then the Tuesday before, I got shingles. What. The. Hell. Shingles! You’re not supposed to get shingles until you’re old! Luckily, I recognized the symptoms as soon as they started, which was a weird tingling/pain sensation on the right side of my face around my eyebrow and forehead. I got on medication within 48 hours and they never got as bad as I’ve heard. By Saturday, I was still ready to ride, my forehead was annoyingly itchy, but no nerve pain. What I didn’t think about was how the medication was upsetting my stomach, and right about mile 60 or so, I suddenly got a massive case of reflux. The biking position does not lend itself to being particularly conducive to combatting reflux, in fact it makes it worse. Ten miles later I knew I was not going to be able to finish and sadly took the bail out turn back to the start for a total of 73 miles while the rest of my group continued on. Here’s where the breakthrough realization comes in. I was sorely disappointed that I couldn’t finish the last 27 miles after all the training and prep I had done. I had to hang at the finish for quite a while by myself waiting for S to show up with the kids and then for my friends to finish. Any other year and I would have been berating myself for not pushing harder, beating myself up left and right. This year, I shrugged it off. Yes, I was totally bummed out, but I realized that my body was fighting a major infection and my immune system was suppressed. It wasn’t my fault, it was bad timing. By the time my friends made it back to the finish, completing the full 100 miles, I was ok with what happened and genuinely proud and happy for them finishing. That couldn’t have happened even a few months ago. And it didn’t. When we were in France, I beat myself up for not skiing the glacier with S and our friends. I wasn’t happy for them, I was completely depressed that I was such a chicken. The change from March to now is staggering.

Having this newfound sense of self-esteem and worthiness has made me consider my career trajectory and the choices I’ve made. I’ve been working through my career trying to prove to myself and everyone around me (read: my mom) that I’m good enough. I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do: Got the degree, got the second degree, found a career I don’t hate, found an organization that seems good enough, worked my way up in the organization, put myself on the management track aiming for the highest position I can achieve. I struggle to fit 40 hours plus hobbies plus school plus after school plus kids plus S into one week.

Things have happened at work that make it clear I’m in the wrong position. I’m good at my job, in fact I’m better than good, I’m great, one of the best. I have a forward thinking vision for how to get to the end of projects, I can see issues arising and try to do something about it before critical mass hits. I have the opposite personality from everyone I work with. All my forward thinking, critical thinking and technical skills come with a Compliant/Dominant personality and I struggle to connect with people. I struggle mightily with the politics of my position. I’m constantly getting negative feedback (I look angry in meetings, I’m too confrontational…blah blah blah) as I strive to move projects forward. They want all my strengths, but they don’t want to let me be me. I can work on my reactions in interacting with people and in meetings, but they are asking me to become someone I’m not. They are asking me to put on a mask at the same time I’m trying to break down all my armor. I used to buy into the idea of leaning in, except that leaning in up until now has gotten me to the point that every few months my body gives me a signal that I’m pushing too hard. In January I had strep. In August I had shingles. A couple of years ago I had influenza. I get several head colds a year. Sure all of this can be attributed to “I have kids in school!”, but it’s not just that. I know it’s not.

Burn it all down.

I went to my direct supervisor and gave him a proposal. I don’t want to continue in my current position, I want to work part-time and these are the things I want to do. For now, I’m done with the ladder. I need time and space to figure out where I want to take my career. I need to branch out to trying different things like being involved in my kids school and putting my skills to use in other areas. I'm doing this for me, not for my kids, not for S, and most certainly not because I feel like I should. I want to slow down my life and I feel confident in my current skill set that this won’t be a set-back. I like the people I work with and I want to stay in my group, just in a different capacity. For their parts, my supervisor and my superior (despite my difficulties with her) are supportive. They don’t want to lose me. So, fairly soon, although HR in the gov’t is maddeningly slow, I will be slowing it all down. Not as much travel, not as many projects, and the ability to make my position what I want.

This is a win.

I feel good.