Tag Archives: psychology

Change Makes Waves In Family Interactions

Change. It happens. It happens all the time, right? Sometimes it just feels more momentous than others. I am in flux right now. So much so that I have been sort of paralyzed. Ever have that happen to you? I’ve felt stuck, in every sense of the word, but yesterday I somehow broke through all of that. Today I feel a bit like a butterfly. Change is good.

Let me back up a little. I haven’t been writing blog posts. I haven’t been able to sit down and write. I’ve had things to say. I’ve had stories to share, but I would glance over at my computer and just the act of standing up, walking over, turning it on, and sitting down to write seemed overwhelming. So I just didn’t do it. The same exact thing happened when I thought about painting.

So, what have I been doing for the last week? Don’t laugh, but I’ve been walking. A lot.

Change Makes Waves In Family Interactions
Yep. That’s me walking over 16,000 steps in a day.

I’ve been doing yoga too. I’ve been trying to eat well and get enough sleep. I’ve been taking care of myself. Like really taking care of myself. I even painted my toenails. Something I haven’t done in years.

Since the miscarriage I’ve had some family patterns of interaction (I’m talking family of origin type stuff) sort of pop up like they do sometimes. For some reason (maybe I am more sensitive?) they just seemed to present themselves and I could see them with my eyes wide open. I’ve started thinking about how I can’t say no well and how I am often kind of a doormat. I’ve been a little angry with myself too. I want to be more assertive and I want to feel good about having boundaries. Usually when I draw a line in the sand I just feel horrible guilt afterwards…forever. Seriously, 6 years later I will think about it and feel a wash of shame and anxiety. Even when I know my boundary was a healthy one my body still dives into fight or flight…sometimes even 6 years later when I am just thinking about it. Usually flight. My go-to move is avoidance. Or, even worse, I apologize, basically, for existing. It’s pretty pathetic, but to be fair, I am much better than I used to be so I know I am growing. It’s just been a slow process. Change usually is.

I’ve learned a lot about family dynamics through my education. I’ve even put what I have learned into practice and made some of my relationships much better, but there are always times when you feel vulnerable or scared and it’s easy to fall back into old, familiar patterns with people. It’s easy to feel like you don’t matter or are unseen and unheard. It’s easy to feel inadequate and small. That’s how I describe it. I told Jim, “I just feel small today.” It’s like being invisible when you don’t speak your truth, or have an opinion, or express how you really feel. There are a few people in my life who seem to trigger this feeling in me. They seems to remind me as often as possible that I am not enough and never will be enough. The message is subtle, but it’s there. I feel it with every interaction.

This is the legacy of growing up in a home with substance abuse. Low self-esteem runs rampant. Neglect can make you feel worthless for years to come. Plus, I feel my feelings and often I think I overcompensate in that department because I grew up surrounded by people who were doing everything they could to not feel their feelings. It’s a dance and when one partner is underfunctioning the other partner tends to overfunction. I am an overfunctioner in so many areas of my life. I am always worried about taking care of everyone emotionally (and often physically and financially) that I often forget to take care of myself.

This is what is changing. When I had the miscarriage I actually focused on my own emotional health. When Jim said, “So and So is upset that you didn’t call them and tell them before posting it on your blog.” I said, “Too bad. This is my pain. This is how I am dealing with it.” Seriously, I know my blog readers are empathic, caring, funny, supportive people. I knew I would get the support and love I needed from this community…and I did. The comments on the post about my miscarriage carried me through the hardest days (I am going to respond to every single one of them soon because I have so much gratitude for your kindness). In hindsight, I must have known exactly what I was doing when I made that choice. For once I chose not to “take care” of the feelings other people were having and chose to take care of my own feelings first. It’s not my normal mode of operation. So, when I broke the pattern I caused some waves.

Family members were quick to try and pull me back into the old pattern. They reminded me that I needed to take care of other people. That other people were grieving too. That’s when it hit me like a rock falling out of the sky. A Eureka moment: I am not responsible for other people’s feelings or behavior. I’m not. I’ve spent a lot of energy over my lifetime fussing over what other people were thinking and feeling and trying to smooth things over for them. It hasn’t gotten me anywhere. It’s just made me tired and angry. So, I am learning to let go of that “responsibility” because it wasn’t ever mine to begin with.

I am learning that I am enough and I don’t need anyone else to confirm that. I am allowed to have an opinion and disagree with people. That doesn’t make me a bad person. I am allowed to choose myself. That doesn’t make me a bad person either. I am learning that I am the one with the problem here. I have to let me be me and be OK with the fall out. I have to let my light shine and if it’s uncomfortable for other people, well, that’s not really any of my business. I am the one causing my own pain. I don’t have to look to others to define me or let them trigger feelings of inadequacy anymore. I’ve accomplished a lot. I’ve been through a lot. I am proud of who I am. I am not perfect, but I am strong, kind, smart, resilient, loving and hardworking. I am not “nobody” and I am not invisible. I am ready to let go of these stories I tell myself because they aren’t true.

I am not responsible for the feelings other people have. I have to stop overfunctioning because I am only inhibiting the growth of other people. I am not an expert on what they need or how they should live. It’s not my job to keep them from feeling sad, or angry, or frustrated, or lonely. I am not going to swoop in and save the day. Failure is an experience we all need to grow and so is feeling all of our feelings. It’s not my job to save them. It’s my job to save myself and to work towards being real and authentic and free. It’s my job to take responsibility for myself: My thoughts, my feelings, my behaviors. I can’t blame any of this on anyone else. I can change the dance at anytime just by changing the way I choose to interact with people. So I am dancing to my own rhythm as much as possible. It’s a process. I’ll still slip up and make mistakes, but I am on the road. I am taking steps in the right direction.

Have you ever made a change in the way you interacted with people? How did it go?

 

I’ve been debating whether or not to write about this or not. I think that was why I have felt blocked. I was trying to silence and censor my experience. I had a choice to make: I could write about it or I could keep it all a secret. Yesterday I said to myself, “Be honest. Tell your truth or close down the blog. It’s not worth having it if you’re too afraid to write what you want to write. Stop worrying about what people will think.” Secrets make me feel like I am suffocating. I grew up keeping secrets. I don’t want to live like that anymore.

I decided to write about it last night. I broke the block. I have to say I feel much better and I am pretty sure I am going to be able to paint today too. This is what happens when you make choices based on your own health and happiness versus worrying about what other people will think of you.

 

P.S. I’ve lost three pounds, and an inch and a half off my hips from taking care of myself for the last 10 days.

Change Makes Waves In Family Interactions.
When I measured my hips and realized I’d lost an inch and a half I am pretty sure I looked just like this. This is Tiny-Small when she opened a card from her Nonnie & Papa.

 

P.S.S. This book is really helping me make sense of things. You’ve probably read it, but if not you might want to check it out The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships (totally an Amazon affiliate link).

P.S.S.S. My friend Molly Field grew up in a family with substance abuse too and we often compare and contrast the baggage we carry around because of it. She’s been an amazing support system and her post Cutting Off Is Never That Simple really resonated with me. If you struggle with self doubt and choosing your own peace of mind, you might want to check out her post too.

 

Anxiety Keeps Me Busy – The Days After Miscarriage

Anxiety keeps me busy. I’ve been feeling anxious since Saturday. When I get anxious I clean things. So far, I have emptied a closet and turned it into a secret hide-out under the stairs for Tiny-Small.

I have cleaned out and reorganized the refrigerator. I have folded and put away piles and piles of laundry. I have vacuumed all of the furniture. I have deep cleaned the kitchen, including the oven. I have packed up all of the clothes Tiny-Small has outgrown to make space in her closet. I am in the process of moving a bed, a couch, and some chairs…but I am not supposed to lift anything heavy for a few more days so that is sort of in limbo as I wait for Jim to help. I’ve pushed and slid things as far as I could without having to lift them. My house is beginning to resemble a very clean, shiny corn maze.

Anxiety Keeps Me Busy
I can’t wait to read Harry Potter in here with Tiny-Small.

I just don’t stop moving from the moment I get up until I fall into bed exhausted. It’s been the only way I can through the day.

I am getting a lot done, but it’s not reducing my anxiety. I am just moving through it. Running from it. Running, running, running. It’s been difficult. I’ve had to answer questions I just didn’t know how to answer. Tiny-Small wanted to know what had happened to the baby. “Did she get a boo-boo, Mom?” she asked, “Did my baby brother die? My baby isn’t in your belly anymore? Where did she go? Is she in heaven with Cleo and Rosie?” She is just trying to make sense of it all within her limited experience with life, death, and where new babies come from. “Can we go to the baby store and get a new baby, Mom?” she asked once. Now, she just pats my leg and says, “Don’t worry, Mom, we will try to have a new baby later. Then my new baby will have a birthday party and I will be a big sister.” I just nod. Everyone says we can try again. Tiny-Small can still be a big sister.

Anxiety Keeps Me Busy
She hasn’t given up on her dream to be a big sister and this gives me hope about the future.

Yesterday, I spent hours outside in the yard. I cleaned up weeds. I raked, swept, stacked, and finally, I planted. I dug in the dirt. I put flowers and vegetables into the ground. I watered them. I transplanted them. I felt the cool, leafy plant life on my skin. I practically fell asleep standing up last night. All of that physical work and fresh air was like a lullaby.

On some level I know I am trying to punish myself. If I push hard enough my body will feel my disappointment in it. Through hard work and aching muscles my body will redeem itself. If I get everything in order I won’t be a failure. If I just keep moving the pain will sort itself out and I’ll be able to get on with my life. If I keep moving the anxiety won’t cycle into depression. If I fill my mind with dimensions, storage option ideas, and keeping everything running as smoothly as possible I won’t have time to obsess over the what-ifs, or if-only-I-had’s. It’s all a silly distraction fueled by myth and denial, but it’s part of the process I am going through. I have to acknowledge it and let it be. This too shall pass.

I woke up this morning and I felt a little lighter. I didn’t feel so anxious. I could breath. My muscles had loosened up. The tightness in my chest was gone. My first thought was “coffee” and not “I am no longer pregnant.” I could sit with myself and just be a bit. That is progress. Gardening is therapeutic. I wish I had done it sooner, but I wasn’t ready. I had to go through the anxiety first. I think working in the garden allowed me to nurture new life in a way that I’d felt robbed of.  To be part of helping something grow gave me some relief. Maybe I just needed a place to put that energy. It was bouncing around inside me without anything to focus on.

Today I think I will make some time to get back into my art studio too. I feel like I might be able to paint today and painting will, hopefully, be even more therapeutic than gardening. I need a place to put my creative energies. I am still in that mode. I need to create something. Jim does too. When I cleaned out the closet under the stairs he found some memorabilia from his youth. He’s already turning it into a collage. He said it makes him feel better.

I am hoping tomorrow I will wake up feeling a little less anxious than I do today. I just have to allow myself to go through the process.

 

Asking For Help

Asking For Help itsadomelife.com

Asking for help doesn’t come easy for me, but I am getting better at it with practice and maturity. I’m more of a stubborn problem-solver, preferring to work alone until I figure out a solution. I think some of this comes from being introverted and enjoying the time to process problems, experiment with solutions, and discover what works and what doesn’t in my own time. Working alone is easier because there aren’t as many opinions or disruptions in the thought process. Some of this comes from being a shy kid and just being afraid to ask for help. Having to ask for help filled me with so much anxiety and dread that I learned to avoid having to do it at all by adopting a stubborn, “I can do it myself,” attitude. In some ways it has served me well.

I’ve moved heavy furniture by myself by putting a sheet under it and sliding it around until I got it into position. Due to my limited sewing ability, I once figured out how to reupholster a couch with fabric, a hot glue gun, and a prayer. I’ve piled things on top of other things to create a makeshift ladder when I didn’t have access to a real one. I was able to reach things I never thought I’d be able to reach. Basically, I have found a way to get what I needed without asking for help. I am what people call independent and there isn’t anything wrong with that, unless you really do need help, which happens to all of us eventually.

Being “independent” has been my mode of operation for most of my life. Then, along comes Tiny-Small. She has no fear of asking for help. She’s actually quite the opposite of me. I often find myself telling her to at least try to do something by herself first before asking for help. I want her to be a good problem solver when she grows up and not be totally reliant on other people. The funny thing is I sort of get her point, why should she struggle for hours when someone else can show her how to do something in a couple of minutes? Or why should she do it when she can get someone else to do it for her? Asking for help certainly saves time and energy. It also creates bonds between people. Helping someone seems to make us care about each other more. When we help someone it’s like we are investing in them so we want to see the fruits of our labors pay off. Not to mention, that old saying, “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine,” didn’t develop out of thin air. There is a lot of truth to that. When you help people they are much happier to help you in return. We are social creatures, I mean, that’s what the scientists keep telling us, right?.

So, here we are, Tiny-Small and I have different skills and different strengths, but we are teaching each other how to live happier and more successful lives. I mean, just a few days ago I was showing Tiny-Small how she could use a lawn chair to help her climb onto a slightly out-of-reach swing and then kick the chair out-of-the-way once she is ready to start swinging. Meanwhile, almost daily, she is teaching me the importance of reaching out to other people and asking for help. She’s teaching me there is no shame in not knowing how to do everything or in relying on the expertise and strengths of other people at least some of the time. In some ways she is teaching me how to be a better friend or how to even make new friends. Not too long ago we visited a new park. Tiny-Small was up on a jungle gym when she saw another little girl was afraid to cross a bridge, so she went right up to her, held her hand, and brought her across the bridge. They were instant friends. It’s kind of strange to think that a three-year old child is teaching a 38-year-old woman how to make friends. You have no idea how much relief I feel when I see her making friends so easily. I’ve been so afraid that she would be shy like I was as a child. I’ve outgrown most of that now, but I am still not great at making new friends. I am so glad she is. Her childhood will probably be much happier than mine was. This makes me happy and sigh deeply in relief. Phew!

I thought as a parent that I would be doing most of the teaching. I thought I would be showing my daughter how to live a good life. It turns out this relationship is a journey filled with mutual growth. I am quite certain she is teaching me more about how to live a good life than I will ever teach her. Most importantly, right now, she is showing me the importance of asking for help. I am asking for help more often now and that slight change in behavior is opening doors for me, doors I never thought possible. It’s also making my life richer. I am really grateful to have Tiny-Small in my life. She is one of the best things that ever happened to me.