Listen to your gut feeling.

A couple days ago I had applied for a job. I was feeling the pressures of society, the notion that you need to be contributing and making money in order to be someone of worth. I was embarrassed that when people asked me what I did today my answer was something along the lines of, “Oh, I just practiced yoga, played with my dog, and watched some Netflix,” and the typical response received was, “Nice! That sounds like a relaxing day off!” Knowing that I am sitting at home while other people work at their jobs, made me feel inadequate. So I put on my happy face, gave myself a pep talk, and applied for a part-time job.

Today, I got a phone call saying that I got the job. I graciously accepted at first, but as soon as I hung up the phone the feelings of regret gnawed away at my stomach. I tried to ignore them at first, telling myself that it was good that I got a job and that it would help me feel better to get out into the world and push myself. But then I thought, I do not feel well… why am I pushing myself to work?

So an hour later, I called them back. At first I was going to lie, as I do with most important things like jobs, and school. But when I heard that “hello” on the other side of the line, my courage pushed through and I allowed myself to be honest. I thanked them for the opportunity, and said that I had thought about it and it just wasn’t the right job for me at the moment. After being asked why, and if there was anything that would change my mind, I maintained my composure while explaining that I have some anxiety, and other health problems that may make me unreliable. I stated that I was very interested in the position, but needed to go see my doctor and sort my health problems out before committing.

I feel good about what I said. Being honest felt better than any lie I would have normally told, and the best part is, that they were still interested in having me at their job in the future, if the position was still available when I was feeling better.

When I hung up the phone, I unexpectedly started to cry tears, but these tears were unlike anything I had ever experienced before. They were neither sad, nor happy. My heart was bursting with pride. I was so proud of myself that I had erupted into these tears embodying self-love and compassion. I had listened to my gut, and stood up against the society that had made my feel guilty for not working at a job. Instead of working, I am giving myself permission to take the time and effort to heal my body and soul. I feel like I cannot contribute in a way that honours myself and the way I would like to help others until I have worked on loving myself unconditionally and resolving my physical health issues. I hope that this was just the first of many future times listening to my intuition and standing up for what I think I need.

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Live life in the moment.

I don’t know why I worry about the future so much. It’s like my thoughts are constantly nagging me. With each experience, my mind thinks, “How is this going to impact the future?” I don’t know how it started because I feel like I’ve always thought that way. Even as a young child I was always thinking ahead, wondering how I could be better and create the best possible future life for myself. In my mind I was often several steps ahead of what was happening now.

I keep trying to use the techniques they taught in therapy, the strategies that I’ve read about in all those self-help books, but the nagging persists. The only time I feel at ease is when I’m practicing mindfulness. Otherwise, my head gets so wrapped up in thoughts that I’m on autopilot and not actually living life.

Being in the moment is so important. A lot of the time, the most amazing and beautiful things in life are right there in front of me, not in some preconceived “future”. The sun streaming into my window, walking on the untouched snow, savouring a cup of hot chocolate. These are the type of experiences that I’ve been able to enjoy and appreciate when I’m in the moment, the type of experiences that I usually miss out on when my mind is busy imagining scenarios of the future.

I still do catch myself worrying about my future career, health, finances, and relationships. However, when I realize my mind is getting carried away into the unknown, I remind myself that the present is the only thing that is here right now, it is the only thing I can know is happening for sure. I feel the sun on my skin, I feel my feet sink into the fresh snow, I taste the almondy cocoa goodness of my hot chocolate. I can’t feel, taste, hear, smell, or see anything in the future – that is all to be experienced when I reach there.

Even though life is uncertain, I know the future, no matter how it turns out, will also hold these opportunities for me to bask in the present. This brings me peace of mind, for which I am extremely grateful.

An imperfect new year.

I haven’t written for awhile. Well, I have tried to write but nothing seemed “good” enough to post. I have been experiencing a lot of self-doubt lately, wondering why I am doing this and who wants to read my words. I feel that if I don’t post something so amazing and life-changing that it isn’t worth posting at all. My perfectionism and all-or-nothing thinking won again. But, I want to reclaim this blog. Kick my perfectionist habits, or at least continually practice doing so, by thinking less and doing more. Instead of carefully writing and re-writing, and then scrapping blog posts because I think they are not good enough, I am just going to write whatever is on my mind directly into the browser (not a word document as I did beforehand). I’m hoping this will give me that push to just hit publish and not worry about creating the most “perfect” post.

This may mean that in these new posts, my thoughts may not be as conclusive or organized, but what in life is? As I stated earlier, this blog isn’t a facade. It is meant to be raw and imperfect, because that is what unites us and forms that foundation of empathy and support. I have never really felt like I fit in, and I feel like it is because we are afraid to be our authentic selves. I have put on many masks at various times in my life in the hopes of earning that sense of belonging. Maybe everyone else is doing that too. I’ve felt like I had to always be “on”, that my life was a performance, rather than a continual practice.

Well, now I am shifting to the concept of my life as a practice, and by changing my mind-frame, hopefully I will give myself permission to be imperfect. I want to allow myself to just do, make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes, rather than not doing at all because I am afraid of failing. I have held myself back from so much in life in the hopes to maintain my “perfect” performance. And I don’t want to do that any longer.

 

I am good and bad.

Perfectionism is something I have struggled with from a young age. Although I have worked long and hard to overcome the notion that I need to meet this unattainable version of myself, I still find my perfectionist nature difficult to shake.

My thinking tends to be very black and white – only one extreme, or another. This makes it difficult to find a middle ground when thinking about myself, others, and the world around me.

I’ve always strived to be a good person, and when I make a mistake, or do something construed as bad, it bothers me immensely because it challenges my self-perception.

Yesterday in therapy, my counsellor did an interesting exercise with me. She drew two circles on a piece of paper. In the left circle we wrote all the things that correspond with my idea of “good”, such as eating healthy, exercising, getting good grades, and being kind to other people. The circle on the right, we filled with the opposites, or “bad” things, like eating junk food, lying in bed all day, procrastinating, and snapping at my loved ones.

I don’t like to think of myself in relation to the bad things I wrote down, because then I feel like I am not a good person. I usually deny that the items in the right circle even exist because in my mind, acknowledging them means that I am a terrible person. When I do acknowledge them, it feels like they negate all my positive qualities, even though I exhibit my positive behaviours more often then these negative ones.

Next, my therapist drew a third circle on the paper, a large oval enclosing both the left and right circles. She wrote my name at the top, and said, this is you. Sometimes you are good, and sometimes you are bad, but it’s okay because you are a human, and we are all like this.

I had never really thought of myself as the big circle. In my mind, I was either the left circle, or the right – they were mutually exclusive. Learning to accept that I am a myriad of things that are constantly contradicting one another is a tough concept to grasp for me, but I am working on challenging my thoughts and coming to terms with these contradictions.

The next time I engage in a “bad” behaviour, I will remind myself that all humans, including myself, are not just good or bad, but both – and that is okay. I am not perfect, but I can learn to embrace all the things that make me who I am – the good and the bad.

Adjusting and trusting

Lately, I’ve had to adjust to some new unpleasant symptoms in addition to my usual ones. Whenever something novel comes along, my anxious mind is overwhelmed with thoughts of what these new sensations mean. Do these signs point to an additional disorder? Am I going to die from this? Will I be stuck at home forever?

When I am ill, I tend to go into protective mode, trying not to do anything that could potentially make the symptoms worse. Since I don’t push myself, I’m afraid that I am holding myself back from getting better. I feel like I should get up and get out of the house instead of resting because if I stay in bed too long I could get weaker and sink deeper into the “sick role”.

However, I realized that as soon my body started adjusting to these new symptoms and attempting to heal itself, that I naturally sought out new challenges. It all comes back to being able to trust the healing capabilities of my body, and know that when I am able to handle more, my body will seek that challenge. I am focusing on allowing the natural healing progression, rather than pushing my body to do things just because my mind thinks I should be doing them.

When I first experienced the symptoms of my balance disorder, I didn’t think I would be able to ever leave the again. My mind was telling me to force myself to walk so I wouldn’t lose the muscle tone in my legs, but I knew I wasn’t ready. Feeling dizzy 24/7 was overwhelming and terrifying, but in my own time I adjusted, and now, when I keep myself in check, I’m able to work, go to school, practice yoga, even dance sometimes.

It’s always scary when something new comes along in life. I use illness as an example because that is the challenge I predominantly experience in my life, but it could be anything – a new job, the death of a loved one, moving to a new city. No matter how frightening these new changes may be, trusting that your body and mind will naturally adjust (as it has several times before) helps to get through that initial fear and uncertainty and gives us the strength to persevere.

Inner conflict about reliability

Since my health often fluctuates, I find it difficult to hold down a stable job, or be part of an educational program that requires attendance. At some times, I feel so capable, ready to take on the world, energetic and happy. However, these amazing times only last for so long before my body fatigues and gives up on me. When I reach this crashing state, I usually am so ill I can barely leave the house, thus making it impossible to maintain any work or school commitments.

I have always seen myself as a reliable person, but my fluctuations in health have made me an unreliable student and employee. I find myself jumping from job to job, and missing many days at school. This is something I struggle with because I have always felt that reliability was a part of my identity. I feel that all the ups and downs have resulted in me becoming an unreliable person, and it makes me feel conflicted and upset that I am not living up to my responsibilities.

For example, today I had to quit my retail job – a job I loved going to. I really enjoyed putting together outfits for customers, or helping them find a particular item in the store. My perfectionistic love for organization and order made folding and hanging clothes genuinely enjoyable. Plus, my coworkers were all friendly and amazing people who were fun to work with. There were times of stress, and things like the occasional difficult customer, but overall, the job was great.

I was kind of heartbroken when I called the managers and told them I had to quit because of health reasons. I felt so upset that I was letting all my coworkers down in the prime of holiday season – the busiest time of the retail year. I hated that I had to be unreliable, not giving two-weeks notice, but quitting when I was supposed to be at a shift later that day. Thankfully they were really understanding, but that feeling of conflict still lingered within me.

This is when I realized, I need to shift my definition of what it means to be reliable by focusing on how I can be reliable within my unreliability. A good example is communicating my needs with employers, and teachers at school. I have always shied away from revealing my disorders to people in a position of authority because there is always the fear of getting fired or kicked out of a program. There is still a lot of stigma about mental illness, and when people hear balance disorder, they come to their own conclusions about what that entails. However, we all face difficulties in life, health-related or not, and by honing the way I communicate my disorders to these higher ups, perhaps I can tap into that commonality of imperfection within all human beings, thus eliciting greater understanding.

Finally, I must not forget the importance of being reliable towards myself. Sticking to my routine, healthy diet, yoga, exercise, and meditation is of utmost importance, and is usually neglected when I am attempting to be reliable for work or school. Although I may not be the most reliable student or employee, I need to learn to commit to myself and my health before committing to these external roles.

Success vs. Failure

What exactly determines if someone succeeds or fails? I was thinking about this a lot when I dropped out of my program at school. The perfectionist within me was trying to fight its way into my thoughts: “You couldn’t finish the semester. You failed.”

But then I thought about how the semester had actually panned out. I realized that even though I had not completed the arbitrary amount of assignments and testing, within the pre-ordained time frame constructed by the educational institution, that I had still gained valuable knowledge.

I learned how to carry out range of motion exercises, and with that skill, I am healing and strengthening my previously injured shoulder. Even though I have not “achieved” the title of a physiotherapy assistant, no one can take this learned skill away from me – and that, I think, is a success in itself.

I think that we let society colour our views of what is successful or not. The criteria for what constitutes success is externally determined.

You got fired? Failure.

Got lower than 50% on a test? Failure.

Your partner dumped you? Failure.

The whole way it’s set up negates any actual benefit that was gained by these so called “failures” and doesn’t really look at how these “failures” could actually be a form of letting something go to make room for something better.

What I have been striving to do is really examine what success and failure mean to me, thus switching it to an internal and personal focus, rather than what society labels as successful. For example, today I got out of bed, showered, made a healthy breakfast, and then felt so tired after all of that so returned back to bed. I had planned to go for a walk, practice yoga, and do laundry as well, but I don’t see not completing those tasks as a failure. Instead, I see that I listened to my body and was intuitive enough to realize that my body needs more rest – and that my friends, is my definition of success.

My current situation

Another reason this blog is happening because I feel kind of lost right now. I’m going through one of those transitional periods in my life where I don’t really know what I am doing. Just floating in the abyss waiting for a sign; something to guide me to my supposed purpose in this world.

I’m not sure if this blog is what is meant to happen, but the events leading up to it seemed somewhat fateful. My mom randomly stumbled across a Black Friday deal for the laptop I’m typing on, I just dropped out of school, and my part-time retail job doesn’t demand much of me. So with abundant free time and an eagerness to write, here I am.

Recently, I came crashing down from the high of finally knowing (or so I thought) what I wanted to do in life. I was so consumed with reaching this goal that I neglected my true needs. I felt that I had invested too much into this career path to stop.

Well, I finally gained the courage to listen to my gut and dropped out of my program three days ago. Once I was free from this burden, this feeling of obligation, my mind had space to think about the meaning of life. This is a topic I think of often, but having the time to explore, self-reflect, and re-evaluate life when you are not clouded by the demands of school or work is a blessing.

I’m hoping this blog will act as an outlet to hash out my thoughts and feelings, allowing myself to be okay with this uncertainty and accept the imperfections and vulnerabilities that come along with existing as a human being.