This morning I had a rare early morning appointment with TM. Typically those 8 a.m. appointments are filled with more regular clients, but there was a cancellation this week and he offered me the early spot. I happily took it.

Because of it, I was in sort of preparatory analysis mode this morning. And I noticed that I have been listening to the same series of classical music videos on YouTube every morning for at least the last 2 weeks. I start with whatever rendition of “Ode to Joy” I left off on from the previous day and let it rip while I am preparing and eating breakfast. This is a new behavior for me; I have never been much of a classical music fan. However, of late I listen to a fair amount of it; must be J’s unusual (to me) coffeehouse playlists from Mondays and Thursdays influencing my musical tastes.

TM always has instrumental music playing very softly in the background of his waiting area. It’s nice, but in all these years I have never really taken much note of it. Now I think – it’s not bad. Now I am noticing it more, listening while I wait for his inner sanctum door to open and admit me. Now that we are winding down for at least this year, I am wondering what it is that is playing, why he selected it, or if it is some canned mix to soothe agitated patients. Perhaps that is why I have never noticed before; I was always fidgeting, agitated, too nervous and too anxious to hear anything other than negative girl and my own racing thoughts.

Today he asked me to describe something that made me anxious since last we met. My mind went completely blank, and I honestly could not think of anything. I described my apprehension and hostility toward meeting my former boss last week, but it did not really inspire anxiety. I am not the type to resort to physical violence, and while the idea of punching him in the face if kind of a satisfying fantasy, reality is I doubt I could ever deliberately do that. So really, no anxiety there.

So he shifted the question to other negative emotions, like anger or frustration. I have not really gotten angry lately either, and while frustration is a part of my life with exercise, work, cooking, life, nothing terrible or out of the ordinary came to mind.

From there he asked about good and positive emotions, describing highs of the weeks.

Lots here, I think. C’s wedding immediately floats to mind. Sleeping better and how glorious it feels to open my eyes in the morning and actually feel refreshed and awake after 7 hours of rest. Some of my recent small successes with eating and with exercise. Hearing that a close friend may come visit us next month. Just chatting with TM felt like a very good, calming, relaxing event.

We talked about C’s wedding and how it feels to have that settled. While to me it seems like a mere legal formality, it is a milestone in a child’s life and indirectly a parent’s life, one I am happy about because the event was precisely what she desired. Nope, no angst or anguish or feelings of loss exist for me; she has been out on her own quite awhile now. Plus, it is no secret to anyone, least of all both of my children, that I love being an empty nester.

The sleep caught me by surprise. I began my bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (HRT) last Friday and thought at first the more restful sleep was a bit of placebo effect. My doc had told me it would help me sleep better and I therefore believed I was sleeping better. Maybe that is really true, but if so, it’s a damn powerful suggestive influence. While I have been waking up at 4 a.m. for several months now, there has always been some degree of fatigue until up and wiggling around for a couple of hours and many, many days of staying in bed an extra 10 to 20 minutes after the alarm sounds. Since starting the HRT, I am waking up before the alarm and feeling refreshed rather than still tired. I go to bed at the same time and am getting the same 6 to 7 hours of sleep every night, but I feel so much more relaxed and awake and rested when I wake up.

The other side of that coin is feeling more energetic and focused throughout my day. I would not go so far as to say physically stronger or more powerful, because some days I feel like that anyway and other days not. But I have noticed that my attention span seems sharper, the my energy higher throughout the day, even in the afternoons when it typically, noticeably wanes. I have felt no desire for coffee or other stimulants, although I still sort of reach for them in the afternoons out of habit. It’s new, it’s different, and I am not quite ready to call it a real uptick just yet.

From there we went into some of what I described in yesterday’s blog post, about how I am viewing my burgeoning confidence as accepting and embracing my successes. For every health-related issue I have had in recent years, every doctor I have consulted, I walk away with the sense that “diet and exercise” cures everything. The “eat less, move more” mantra that is preached by fitness gurus everywhere is alive and well and in flashing neon lights inside my head. Such a simple prescription really, yet I have the means to complicate anything and everything.

As I discussed with TM, it has taken me months and a dedicated team of professionals to teach me what general practitioners toss about as if my issues were easy to resolve if I would stop being a lazy slug sitting on my ass mindlessly eating bon-bons while surfing the net. While I agree eating less and moving more is a really, really good idea for everyone, I consider myself pretty much Jane Average as far as intelligence and ability to figure things out and I honestly had no clue where to start or how to manage my expectations for my efforts. So once I did start, I was still confused and needed J’s training, TM’s head shrinking, and RD’s foodie education to get my thoughts slowed down and insecurity and anxiety wrangled to address sustainable lifestyle issues that include regular exercise and healthier eating and all that those pursuits entail.

The doctors – they make it sound so easy, but of course they continue to push their pills and medications and other stuff until patients finally pull themselves together enough to figure out how to diet and exercise. Such bullshit. Either that or I am too stupid to succeed in the wild on my own.

I completely understand that my degree of crazy is going to make me overthink everything, but I honestly cannot believe dumbing it down to the degree it has been in the media and online actually makes things better. I kind of like it when complex issues broken down into bite-size pieces where I can grasp the basics and build up from there, but between the internet and the glossy magazine articles and the patient education pamphlets handed to me by doctors and nurses and dieticians through the years – all that essentially tell me nothing useful. Walk for 30 minutes each day, they said, and it made me feel like a desperate failure for not impacting my bloodsugar. Counting calories, counting carbs led to more oral medications and injectable insulin.

My head spins when I think about it now. I lacked the ability to make them understand that I did not understand what I should be doing, how I should be doing it, and I really am a special needs person who needed more help. I felt like such a failure. Under most circumstances I truly believe myself to be at least as bright as the average person, yet I made so little progress. And I still do not understand precisely why.

So I hired my village. And I know I am fortunate to have the resources to hire a J and a TM and a RD for my corner and to puree and spoon feed me the very basic of basic concepts. Now I have some good solid success under my belt, and possibly I do not care why exercise and trying to eat better failed me or I failed to exercise and eat right adequately in previous tries. Or it is one of those ongoing puzzles that will bother me until I come to an acceptable answer I can live with well enough to put the thoughts away at last.

I was on my rower for a short time last night, first time in months, and I was watching videos of people doing exercises I now know how to do and marveling at how different they look when they perform them. I am not an expert and cannot judge or label their form as wrong, but from what I know, what I have been taught and coached, it is wrong form for me. Then I was listening to weight lifting people talk about their craft with lots of swearing and other earthy language. Because I am still learning I am intrigued their individual stories and the various methods to reach their goals and objectives. The time set for rowing passed quickly.

TM mostly listened while I spoke about my recent experiences, asking an occasional question for clarification, and as I wound down he smiled. He noted no terms of self-depreciation; no lamentations about failing, disappointing others, being unsuccessful with my endeavors; no worries about “never” learning how to get through a List or a new exercise; no distress about my weight or overall state of health. Instead, I spoke of my recent successes with pride, present day challenges with determination and focus on what I want/need to try and to do to overcome them. Eating was a description of what is on the menu, new things I am trying and liking or disliking rather than all I could not or should not be consuming and am missing so desperately. He said I sound like someone living in the moment, not looking over my shoulder in desperation or looking up in fearful dread.

In short, TM stated, my mindset is noticeably different, more positive, more pragmatic about where I am right now and hopeful about my future. I am not so bogged down by all that I cannot do or the ways I perceive myself failing, because my mind is centered on where I am succeeding with diet and exercise and work and life, my focus is on what I need to practice, what else I want to try and keep working at, because now I know I am capable of getting through whatever challenges are in my path right now.

Confidence is indeed a series of small changes, steps forward, backward, sideways, and one day you look around and realize you are far from the place where you began or the last waypoint you remember.

I honestly have not noticed the difference in how I think or really even how I feel in the bigger life picture. I sometimes realize there are differences in my thinking or my attitude in the moments, when I am in the gym, or planning/preparing meals, or doing work I feel uninspired toward or unenthusiastic about. Life without negative girl ruling my head is infinitely more pleasant.

I relayed to TM a conversation with J many months ago, while we were still in and just starting to really get to know one another. J had remarked that I seemed to be in a really good mood that morning, and the comment made me stop and think. To my view of the world at that time, I felt like I was always in a pretty good mood, at least while we were going through our work together. Was I unpleasant to be around? Crabby to work with? Even more whiney than I realized and acknowledged? It was the first of many wake-up calls in that time period. But even now, this many months later, I recall where we were standing and his uniformly pleasant way of saying things that seem so casual and so neutral for anyone else.

And it makes me smile. I took it to heart, just a casual toss-off comment that everyone else in the world would have forgotten less than 5 minutes later. Yeah, I care about what other people think, especially people I truly like and respect. Sometimes it even causes me to stop and examine my behavior and attitudes. Sometimes it is a small seed planted toward larger, better blooms in the unknown future.

So, as pronounced by my therapist, I am looking better, inside and out, harvesting the benefits of my hard work these past several months. The negative filter I see myself has been cleaned up considerably, potentially mostly eliminated, and my inward view is clearer than it has been, perhaps ever. I like that idea. I like that what I see right now, and how I feel about me is based in reality of who I actually am, versus the skewered reflection negative girl presented to me.

As I described it to TM, I feel as if I have stepped out of the dark funhouse of distorting mirrors and no natural light and into a house of clear surfaces that offer accurate, realistic reflections. And the day is brilliantly sunny and clear. He smiled and nodded in agreement.

I think I shall stay awhile.

As for TM, he suggests we leave things here for awhile, say a month or so, then meet again, see if I need additional help and support. I feel nervous, as if I am standing in the doorway and unsure whether or not to walk through it. Thing is, the door may close behind me, but it’s never locked. I can always turn around and ring the bell to request reentry.

Maybe I will be okay on my own for now. Time will tell. But I certainly feel more sure-footed than I did 4 months ago.

3 thoughts on “TM Tuesday – Stepping outside the funhouse

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