Exceptional

I have been quieter than usual the last few days. A lot going on in my mind, and more challenge than usual to gather and capture all my thoughts and emotions to put them in order to write. This post, I’m not sure there is order in my chaos, a sure sign of a me trying to capture a lot of big concepts and events and synthesize them down into something that makes sense for all of you. Of late I have been dwelling in the land of sexual abuse, likely triggered and fed by the latest Hollywood scandal. I feel lighter now that I’ve sorted through and downloaded my thoughts. But I always feel obligated to put this type of disclaimer that this is not a typical light-and-fluffy sort of post. 

Are you exceptional at anything? Playing jacks? Skipping rope? World peace? The idea is dominating my thoughts the last couple of days, so much so it’s been hard to sit down and focus on writing out the why of it all much less a training recap.

I had an appointment with TM on Monday as we are winding down this year’s tune-up. Losing friend J extended the process, because while I look and act okay, the cracks are still pretty fragile just beneath the surface. But it wasn’t grief that has my mind in slow-mo idea crunching; it is the idea of exceptionalism.

Vast majority of my life thus far, I have chased and relentlessly pursued average. My childhood traumas made me feel extraordinarily separate and alone, so I craved to be just like everyone else. Safe. Sane. Unmolested.

Yet my whole life, I have had it pounded into me that I am not like anyone else. Those pushing that idea of my not being like everyone else has not had a good or positive connotation. If I blend with a crowd it is because I choose to comport myself into some facade of normal and keep my thoughts to myself. I rarely ever belong, even now as a middle age adult, and through the days and years of my life I have learned to accept it and build a good life and niche. I have no complaints; I only see pathways to enhancement and improvement. Acceptance of my lot does not mitigate my curiosity and interest in the world around me. I cannot change what happened to child me – I learned that a long time ago – but I also learned to survive and thrive in spite of it. How often does that happen? In my experience, not often enough. I have watched the self-destruction of too many other peers in my childhood sexual abuse experience history and efforts to heal and overcome to think my successful transition into middle aged adulthood is a typical occurrence and outcome.

But I am wildly uncomfortable with the thought of exceptionalism, even good, positive, complimentary exceptionalism. To hear TM say that to me – TM who has never lied to me in all these years – felt like a death sentence. Or a lifetime of future discomfort sentence.

My discomfort lies primarily with deeply rooted fear and anxiety. To be different, exceptional, makes me a target. I’m the outlier gazelle in the sights of the predators. Difference is I am a grown-up now. I have a voice. I understand right and wrong, and I am far from powerless. Every time I think of my childhood, I have to pep-talk myself off the ledge of old, crippling fear.

Some scars still ache.

The full context of how this came about: I asked TM if he had insight to why I am successful this time with my diet and exercise consistency when I have tried and failed in times prior. His response was that I am someone who is never going to be satisfied with the simple answers to the complicated problems. I am always seeking to know more and to understand why. It’s true I enjoy knowing how things work. I am a knowledge junkie, a collector of information. In our years of working together, it all comes down to understanding why. Why this happened to me. Why did he choose me. Why didn’t I do more to make it stop. Why, why, why. There are no answers that satisfy me or that could ever quell the raging anger I have learned to restrain and contain and keep in context. But the search continues and seems unlikely to end until my final breath.

I have had to learn to live with that as well.

For a long time I imagined my latent desire to understand the essential why of evil doings to be the central strength and failing in my whole life. It’s made me try harder to be a decent human being; my fear turning into a kind of evil spawn colors most significant decisions of my life to date.

But TM points out that my need to know and understand things was part of what kept me from giving in to the despair that brought others to their knees. Or worse. It is not enough to be smarter than the average bear; it takes a lot more courage (I hate that term) and determination to survive without crutches (drugs, alcohol, poor moral choices, poor life choices, etc.). My personality type also contributes to my success in this endeavor.

For a knowledge junky seeking to understand just about everything that comes into my orbit, I am rather blindly ignorant in my own self-awareness. Frequently I think it is a handicap that comes from the old injury, and self-protection is reasonable. Looking too closely at how I think, who I am as a person requires critical self-examination of all aspects of my life. I’m incapable of that, or I am on my own. Hence the therapy and annual tune-ups.

TM and I had previously discussed my Myers-Briggs and the consistent INTJ results. I have been dismissive of that, feeling the confidence and other favorable traits were so not applicable to insecure and mundane me. TM disagrees and used the example of compliments. He can tell me how much trimmer and fitter I look (as he did on Monday when I showed up in his office wearing gym capris and t-shirt). Because I do not think that about myself to the point that someone I admire and respect as enormously as TM would take notice, I dismiss his comment and opinion as him being nice. Except TM does not say anything he does not mean; in his line of work, he is very deliberate in word choice, tone, and delivery of every utterance. What he thinks may fail to impact me in the moment (because I disagree with his comment) despite my genuine admiration and respect, our conversations linger long after we part from our meetings. I do have my own strong feelings and opinions on many subjects even if they are not fully expressed. In this case and others like it, I offer gracious thanks for kind and flattering words – I have learned at least that much – and either change the subject or blabber incoherently about nothing. Point is, he can tell I am discounting his words, because they conflict with my own ideas. This is me reinforcing my confidence in my more correct point of view.

Put that way, I feel both happy at my confidence (in my own lack of confidence) and horrified that I might come across as so blatantly contrary. But people who like me still like me, so there’s some comfort that at least I’m not obnoxious about it.

The whole 20 minute discussion at the end of our meeting was like turning on my thought grinder the last couple of days. I have been busy and productive in other aspects of my life, but part of it has been fueled by my X-ray examination of this from every single angle and processing what it all means or could potentially mean. Part of me feared I have learned nothing in the many years of off-and-on therapy I have been through with TM (and others), but that knee-jerk was quickly dismissed as negative girl shenanigans trying to hijack.

Truth is I’m mostly glad we can still have a conversation that alarms and elates me. There is so much more still left to know about myself, and I have not become stagnant and boring and hanging around awaiting a slow mental and emotional decline. Developing any sort of self-awareness – I guess it’s not instant pudding either, where you add milk, stir, refrigerate 30 minutes, and voila! Dessert. Like most complexities in life it takes time and patience (hate that term, too) in order to develop any sort of understanding and mastery.

I do like the puzzles life presents to me to solve. Even those outside my sphere of experience or ability to solve, I like that they exist and someone else will work at them and create intriguing solutions.

I learn from my experiences and missteps. In all facets of my life.

This morning I was doing 1-legged Romanian deadlifts with a cable weight machine, and I cannot even describe how tediously difficult I still find them. But I am better with them now than I was 6 months ago, and hopefully 6 months from now I will be a step up from where I dwell right now. Going through them, trying, Trying, TRYING to not weeble-wobble sideways, I understand the mechanics better now. I know what “slow and controlled” means in relation to this movement, and now I really know how slow and controlled is supposed to look and to feel. Knowing does not mean body is capable of doing it. Understanding the way it is supposed to work does not mean mind ceases sending out doubt impulses that impair concentration, though. Despite all the other ways I may do this balancing act, the cable changes it just enough to make challenging in a different way.

When I had few other ways of doing 1-legged RDLs, it seemed so much harder. But now I have dumbbells, TRX, and landmine – possibly others that I have forgotten. All look and feel just a little different. With that kind of comparison and contrast, the cable version is not so bad. Or rather, my effort with them is not so bad. In fact, my effort with them is very good and my ability is improving. Because of my interest in how my body works. And my faith and trust that I will improve. So many times I doubt myself and my capability to learn.

This is what enormous progress from 2+ years of consistent effort and study looks like for me.

My trainer is fabulous and very good at his job. He’s also scary smart, which was the outstanding quality and key takeaway from our very first meeting. While still fully in the thrall of my own brand of gym crazy, I recognized and respected his intelligence and compassion. Yeah, it took a few months for me to gain traction on what that meant to and for me, but I got there.

I rarely feel especially smart. I feel curious; I feel interested. I feel capable of learning, yet not especially bright. Because of that, smart people are almost addictive. I love that they know things, are bright in ways I lack, and are able to share their knowledge and capture my interest in different things as I try to develop understanding and make it all make sense. The puzzles they solve so effortlessly and present are good mood food for me, because there is a particular brand of energy that tends to draw me in and get my thinking pumping. Unless they are assholes. If they’re assholes, no amount of scary smart is worth my time.

With my better health quest, I’ve made huge strides in reshaping my shape and improving the quality of my overall health. TM made me recognize and understand that it’s my making the better choices for help and guidance that have kept me focused and allowed me to develop the mindset to keep going long after my typical (up until now) expiration date with exercise and healthy eating. My personality demands certain qualities in my coaching, and if I try to deny that particular quirk I will end up unhappy with my poor results.

TM reminds me of this every time we meet. Not saying it in words, but by his example in working with me to guide my thinking and teach me new tools to manage my life during the other 166 or 167 hours per week I’m not sitting in his office. Every year we moving into the next chunk of undiscovered country of all-about-me.

Thing with therapy – something often complained about by others – the all-about-me discoveries may never end. Some years I feel very self-indulgent in our tune-up sessions. Others, I have real stressors or issues I want to address head-on and resolve for a better, less nut-ball crazy life. This year, I wondered if there were perhaps there are other qualities of my personality now demanding recognition and attention? Although deeply sad and grieving the death of friend J, I am not in crisis. I am not endangering myself, my marriage, any of my closest relationships, or my livelihood. If anything, I am shedding other deadwood and unhealthy relationships that impact my ability to pursue what is most important and/or modifying my impulses and capabilities that might impede personal growth.

Learning new skills, acquiring new tools to live a better, more interesting and fulfilling life – all good. But the struggle is real. And no matter how much or how frequently I may feel myself completely ridiculous in how difficult it seems, the struggle is still real and tough for me to process and reconcile past, present, imagined future. Sometimes.

It truly is the “sometimes” in this equation that grows smaller every year.

I cannot deny or change the broken pieces, emotional shrapnel, big ugly scars from terrible injuries sustained as a kid inside my heart and my head. Look at any of the scars on my body and I feel confident I could tell you when, where, and how I acquired them. The ones on the inside – I am mostly incapable of speaking about them in detail to anyone. So many years of silence and withdrawal have made those events harden like granite in their mind vault compartments. But therapy has provided me tools and workarounds that let me move about freely through my life in spite of the mental and emotional limp-inducing load I carry.

Healing could be a misunderstood term. It’s not that I stop caring about or feeling the pain from past hurts; I seriously doubt I or anyone else will ever forget major traumas. But perhaps healing is the choice to set it aside to the point that these grievous injuries no longer rule or have direct impact on our present or threaten our future.

Very recently, I read something that described therapy as a temporary measure that does not fix you, but provides tools to fix yourself. Not sure I agree with that either, because I will never be fixed or made whole. However, I know TM and other professionals through the years have taught me skills to cope and to let go as much as I could to be functional and productive, to have a good life. The piece was thoughtful and made me feel like I were having a whole body root canal without anesthesia. As unpleasant and painful as that sounds, it frequently happens when someone says something imminently sensible and intelligent. The context of which she was writing (cheating in a primary relationship) is completely unrelated to me and my issues; perhaps there is a solution and tools for someone to fix themselves in that context. But reality for me is that my dragon is unslayable, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be quarantined and its dark power harnessed for good or at least better purposes.

Maybe in this way, I’m exceptional. Framed in that context, my thought grinder winds down and quiets for awhile.

Right where I need to be

Blogging. It seems the process takes on life of its own. There is so much to write about, yet so little of any substance. Or so goes my judgment and justification for why I’m not getting more posts written and published.

I have been pondering blogging a fair amount in the month of September. Not in terms of ceasing to blog, or chastising myself for not posting more frequently. No, this was more an observation of the ebb and flow of life. Work of late has been picking up – new clients, new projects, new chunks of time that might have been utilized writing being devoted to income generating projects instead. Or being sick. Or sleeping. Or any number of other tasks and priorities.

Each of us have our own individual reasons for writing and publishing about our lives, ideas, thoughts in a public forum. For me there is a catharsis and empowerment in blogging. No doubt in my mind that it has been a contributing factor in my evolving confidence and maturity to date.

An old friend emailed me last week an apology of sorts. This friend was extremely judgmental about my better health quest when I first began, asking intrusive questions about my weight loss and making derisive statements about the size of my upper arms. It was hurtful, yet the pattern of our lives that I would mildly object, tell her to knock it off, have a minor disagreement that would blow over. Lather, rinse, repeat over various topics through the years. The last time, though, I was working hard at my exercise, getting on and then staying on the consistency training plan. Her words offended me, triggered feel badly about me emotions, and I suddenly woke up and realized I do not need any help with my own negative self-image. It was terrifying to end a multi-decade long friendship, but I had to protect myself. TM (my long-time, long-suffering therapist) helped me through the logistical details, and it was a Very Big Deal for me to tell her that I needed to distance myself from her and her attitude and we should no longer communicate. She did not take it well, and it was like high school all over again with her “poor me” crying among our mutual friends. I was not being mean. Taking care of myself to the best of my ability is a unique job and primarily, ultimately my primary responsibility to myself.

It cost me a lot in terms of friendship and social interactions. While hard initially, I also understand people and that our individual needs do change along with the circumstances of our lives. But when I look back and examine the wins and losses, I see it merely as trimming of deadwood from my life. There are folks I kind of miss at certain times of year, yet I can also see there is nothing to apologize for in my behavior toward them. I did not say “you’re a horrid person and need to be banned.” Nope. Not my style. I was clear and direct: “You do not respect me or my choices. I think our friendship has run its course. I wish you well.” Or something equally benign.

She thought that was harsh. She felt I was being mean, yet telling me to fire my trainer because I was not losing weight under his tutelage was not out of line. Either way, we parted way, and in the last 2 years when our paths have crossed I was banished to her vision of freezing Hell. Oh well; I am apparently immune to social frostbite. It divided our friends, many on the other side of the line with her. The few I do still communicate with are honest about how difficult and uncomfortable it can be to be around someone as serious as I have become about overhauling my diet and my exercise habits; it points out to them the flaws in their own lifestyle choices. I understand that, and no, while in my own blogs I may have the zeal of the born again, I do not routinely flaunt it or criticize their own choices that differ from my own. However, my already thin patience for the whining and excuses is also lessened as well. All I ask, and sometimes it is too much, apparently – be responsible and own your choices; stop making or seeking sympathy and understanding when you continually make excuses your own inaction.

So I do work on that.

I want everyone to be happy, and I am sympathetic when life does not work out as we hope and desire. However, if you are repeatedly self-sabotaging and shooting yourself in the foot, common sense says put down the loaded gun or at very least remove the bullets before pulling the trigger. Yep, folks who do get irritated with me for my practicality admit that it is primarily because I am disrupting their pity party with reality. They still like me enough to forgive me for being a voice of reason.

So the email from my original frenemy was a bit of a surprise. The way it was worded, the way it sought to “share” responsibility for our falling out (yet still refused to accept her role in it), I had zero inclination to respond in anything akin to a positive way. There is enough of a legacy codependent within me that felt poorly about that choice, so I reached out to TM for help and support that I was doing the right thing by deflecting her outreach.

In the meantime, there was some additional information from other mutual friends. Frenemy has uterine cancer and is facing surgery and other cancer treatment. I am sympathetic, yet I feel little inclination to reach out and be part of the support team for her. Part of my lifelong habit is to feel guilty for my lacking more generosity toward her. But I got my own stuff brewing and whatever caring energy I have available needs to be directed toward me right now.

And I have no reason to feel guilty about taking care of myself. I have learned through the years that putting my oxygen mask on first is always far more beneficial than trying to take care of others while I am wounded and in need of care myself.

The timing of this could not have been worse, yet I wonder – is there ever a perfect time to have someone you have known most of your life be diagnosed with serious illness? Or is there ever a good time to realize you’ve been kind of a fuck up – are are so ridiculously fucked up overall – in allowing someone to treat you poorly and then return with whatever expectation that their illness is going to matter so much that you stop dead in your tracks and abandon all sorts of leaps and bounds forward?

I am in an emotionally weakened state right now and rebuilding my defenses and acceptance skills. Sometimes picking at the childhood wounds causes fresh pain and unexpected bleeding that cannot be staunched with the first aid skills I have adopted through the years. Good thing my village of experts includes a mental health specialist who seems to have infinite patience waiting for my next breakdown.

After an hour together yesterday and half a box of kleenex, I am still muddled yet so determined to be stronger and not let my past interfere anymore with my forward moving present. I hate hating to deal with this old shit, because it pierces the facade that I am so boringly average. And I get up, go to the gym, move whatever weightier weights I can to and fro. It’s good for body, but it is soothing balm to my soul.

Good, bad, ugly – life is messy. It takes some time to learn the necessary skills and gain the experience to put it all in order. I need teachers and guides. I’m grateful that I have grown up enough to know how to seek out help.

At the end of it all, it simply reminds me: I am right where I need to be. And it is going to be okay.

Better choices today

Immediately after bleeding my angry rage post yesterday, I was off for a visit with TM (my therapist, for newer readers unaware of my tribe of experts). Even in the midst of my own crazy, I understand when the walls have closed and boxed me in and how I need help getting out of a funk. It was a hard conversation, especially through the blur of angry, raging tears and having to continually blow my nose. As is typically the case of talking stuff over with TM, it was also productive.

The downside is there is still more work to be done in this area. No matter how “done” I feel with the whole series of chapters in my life, it seems there is always an unread page or 10 to go back and thoroughly read, review, digest, turn. Perhaps this is life for everyone. Happily there are huge swathes of the population who have more normal and mentally/emotionally healthy families of origin and cannot comprehend the legacy of my type of crazed and complicated coping mechanisms. I seem to have to tug and unravel something else every, another thread every few years these days.

I am choosing to believe that it says a lot about my evolving maturity that I can report  such things without feeling the old humiliation that my issues are somehow my fault, that I am not handling it more successfully without having to publicly admit my shortcomings and air my dirty laundry. If anything, I am more motivated to sort this shit out and put it away in a neat and orderly manner, kind of Kon Marie tidying of my horrific childhood events. And no matter how much I try to woman up and tell myself it was not as bad as many others endured and survived, it was pretty bad. There is no competition or comparison on who suffered the most when it comes to childhood sexual abuse and assault. To be healthy and the best me I can be means I have to dial direct and deal with it; no avoidance, no raging against the unfairness, no tantrums about not wanting to do it. My choices of action or inaction have their own types of consequences, both are painful and difficult in their own way. From long experience, though, action is more like the sting of ripping off the supersticky bandaid versus delaying the inevitable and peeling it slowly while the wounds fester underneath.

Ewww – so gross to think about.

Today is a better day already. I went to bed early and slept a deep, mostly dreamless sleep and woke up refreshed. The only “nightmare” I had was that it was actually Monday and I had overslept and was going to be late for meeting trainer J at the gym. Except it’s Saturday, not Monday. If that’s the biggest problem I have in my sleeping hours, I am going to be okay.

I was completely on fire and in-focus in my gym practice today. Had some time to chat with J and other members, and while others might have found the extended rest distracting, for me it just made my focus feel sharper and more on-point. TM had an interesting observation yesterday. When I phoned for the appointment on Thursday, my voice mail stated that I really hoped to get in this week because I was having an issue that was disrupting my focus and distracting me in the gym, making me feel like poser member, and thoughts of giving up were starting to creep in while I was already struggling to get through a List. All true. It was not just the recurring rage and anger and pain that dragged me back to his office; it was the fact that it was interfering with my exercise routine. I have worked too hard and come too far in my better health pursuits to be derailed now by old wounds, and I am determined to stay on track with the training no matter what. TM just found is ironic that all the years he encouraged me to get more exercise and I could would not do it, only now to be calling for an urgent care appointment because my head is trying to disrupt my gym time.

Progress has never been described more accurately.

TM and I agreed that a couple more “tune up” appointments are in order. Life is in a state of flux this month with the job changes and recruiting new clients, settling back in with former clients returning, plus accepting more work from existing clients. As far as life issues go, these are good problems to have and I feel very, very fortunate. However, I would be lying if I said there is not some struggle with adjusting to self-regulating my work schedule and mostly being on my own every day. M is around, of course, but with regard to coworkers and that interpersonal interaction, it’s an adjustment. I miss my crew. I miss my role within the firm and working together toward a common goal. While I still feel like a vital component in my clients’ business goals and objectives, it is very different from being a hands-on part of each day after day.

Again, I am very appreciative to have work that continues to support us and keep us moving forward on our financial goals. There is no shame in admitting it is takes some effort to get used to this new normal.

I’m also grateful for this space, where I can download and offload my ugly insides without fear or anxiety of harsh judgment. My intense craving and need to feel safe is a ruling impulse in my life, and if there were a hierarchy of vices and poor choices (thanks trainer J for putting that image in my head), blogging as an exercise in reclaiming power over my own thoughts and emotions is a lot better than self-harm in so many other ways.  Food remains a trigger for me in this state, and thankfully we have purged most of the junky choices I might select and it is far easier to resist the allure of the nearest convenience store. Dill pickles (my latest food obsession) are mild on that harmful scale, as is a peanut butter sandwich I had for dinner last night. At least there were roasted veggies on the plate as well.

TM Tuesday – inside/outside stuff

So I had an appointment with TM this morning. It went well. It was good, even. And I came home in a better/worse sort of shape than when I arrived at his office. Such is life in therapy and exploring uncomfortable stuff. Thing is, I know what was said and discussed are like grass seeds planted and tilled into the soil to take root and sprout later.

But I am having a tough, tough time today and this morning. Part of it may be the early rising – getting up at 4 rather than 4:15 should not make that much of a difference yet for some reason it does. Possibly it’s purely psychological. I got to the gym early, went through the new cable workout, then came home, cleaned up, went to meet with TM.

Therapy is never easy. Sometimes it hurts me all over again, to my roots of my soul, and makes me want to throw up (and sometimes actually racing for the ladies room to actually do so) and withdraw from the world. My base-level thinking is that if I am not part of this world I cannot be harmed or disappoint anyone else in it.

But my life does not work that way. I have a job, a business, a family, friends, and a life that must be lived out there with other people. There was a time when I did not think that far ahead, about what my life beyond and into older age-hood than I am right now. This time last year, there were sleeping pieces of me that was asleep to the idea of actually living more completely than I feared dying.

Things started to change when I began paying more attention to and caring about taking better care of myself, when I began to think there was more out there in the world for me to discover. Little changes led to slightly larger ambitions and objectives.

I admire those who say they do not care what other people think, because I have never been one of them. My mindset is more one of service than being served, yet I am acutely aware of those who take advantage of others and of me. Sometimes I allow it to happen to me. Plus I have this weird dichotomy of not desiring to be recognized for good deeds and yet almost throwing myself in front of the bus when things go wrong, whether I am remotely responsible or not. I have a habit of apologizing when doing nice things.

And what that has to do with anything is a mystery as well.

TM last week said I expect to disappoint people, and it has rankled and bothered me for most of the last 2 weeks. Because of course he is correct in his assessment – I do actually anticipate being a disappointment to others. I so want to shed that … 2 weeks from last Thursday, not days or weeks or months from now.

Today we talked about that a bit further. He used example of the kids’ weddings, apparently quite a flashpoint between many parents and their adult children. Not for me, though; I have always genuinely hoped and strived to raise my kids into independent adults and responsible community members. And I really, Really, REALLY want them to be happy. In truth that’s all I want for everyone I care for and about, for people to be happy and enjoy some measure of peace in their lives.

We discussed parenting a bit in general, and how I no longer qualify my statements about my parenting. I am a good mother; I raised a couple of terrific kids. There are some guilty moments in there, where I made mistakes or did things I truly regret to this day, but those are fewer and farther between. The memory is still there, of course, but it’s further into the background, behind newer memories we make now that we are all adults and relate to each other as such.

TM talked to me about affirmations and homework assignments. We talked about how I have fallen off the wagon again with the affirmations, fallen behind on my homework. When my focus is on building my self-esteem and self-confidence, I am less likely to feel the self-destruct buttons embedded in my mind and with trigger-happy negative girl manning the controls.

More than anything else said, being reminded that I am faltering at my practice sounds the alarms and focuses my attention. Nothing at all worse for me than someone in my village oh-so-gently pointing out that I am not doing my homework in the off time practice.

TM suggests I come up with some set number of affirmations to repeat in my head rather than counting reps when I’m at the gym. Or while brushing my teeth for the 2 minutes my Sonicare runs, and since I brush my teeth at least twice daily that’s not too bad.

There is always discussion about what I am thinking, or not thinking. A lot about feelings, events in my past, scars that still bleed, life skills I never fully developed. If I have learned nothing else in the years of working with TM and other skilled professionals like him, there are ways to cope and techniques to help me be a better, more emotionally healthy version of myself.

The affirmations are not so much affirmations so much as reminders and highlight reel of the good-person qualities and habits I possess. In not too much time (I hope) my brain will be redirected away from its instinctive first, fear/insecurity/anxiety-based responses to any and all situations. It’s kind of a temporary sling until we can work out the kinks of a more permanent solution and heal the break.

Asking for help, feeling deserving of help – so difficult to overcome. Then when I find the right fit coaches to work with me, learning to stuff down that instinctive feeling that they are dumbing down, desperate, or something even worse to deign to work with me.

TM and I have become friends after all these years. Outside his office, we socialize and have fun and laugh uproariously and I feel like his peer. Inside the boundaries of his office, I feel as if I am still some broken puzzle pieces that do not fit. Pieces are missing. Pieces are rotted and smelly and gross. Or the wrong pieces are present.

Or so goes the narrative built into the structural foundation of my brain.

I have been down this pathway before, almost too many trips to count anymore. Each time new chunks are fitted together and glued into place, and the patchwork of empty is made smaller. And every year, sometimes every other year, I grow another vertebrae to face the next rejiggering of my personal puzzle with TM.

It smarts something fierce. No matter how dreadful the dreadful core exercises or the present troubling troubles I am  having with single legged everything, the work with TM is far more challenging. Eating more protein, avoiding sugar, making better choices about carbohydrates and food is hard, but the emotional stuff I am working at every other Tuesday makes me far more capable to stand up to those types of temptations.

I restarted in January, in the midst of a winter frost that had me frozen in place. The weeks and now months have passed and spring is in the air, new grass and new growth is starting to appear. This weekend was a barely a blip in the much bigger picture. My brain’s muscle memory needs more practice, because the new habits I am striving to adopt cannot be learned without consistent practice.

So back to work on my mental game. Improvement happens when I apply myself and work at it … and want it badly enough. And believe me, with all the other objectives I am chasing, I really want this one more than badly enough.

Belief in my sovereign good personhood? I guess digging deep to find the patience and focus to let it happen is printed in invisible ink on every List currently in my possession.

I can and will learn. For me, this is most definitely and ongoing process.

 

What TM really thinks about me

Spoiler alert: He thinks I’m pretty swell. One day I will appreciate just how swell I am, too. Just in case you were curious and did not want to wade through this whole post.

Therapist TM has worked with me for a number of years. Not regularly for probably 8 or 9 years, but I see him once or twice a year just because I like to be reassured that I have not dived down some unknown rabbit hole never be seen again.

This year we’re exploring and working at building my confidence and self-esteem, reducing my insecurity and inability to accept that I am not some ax murderer waiting to happen sort of bad person. Or that was sort of my half-baked plan when we started this; sometimes I am never sure if I am actually asking for what I want or merely accepting what I need from this process. Either way, I have always ended feeling as if I accomplished a lot when we complete a specific project , if not precisely the objective I thought I was seeking. I return for annual tune-ups

So today we talked about lots of incidents and things. We started and ended with the guy on Friday, how I felt, how I reacted, and the why of it all.

TM pointed out how I discounted my own reactions, that in my shock and dismay at this foolish man’s assumptions and actions that I did not react more strongly and instead allowed him to instill doubt and anxiety into my practice and the days after. I cannot disagree with anything he said, because I see clearly where I allowed something so foreign and unexpected to govern my behaviors.

I pointed out that my ability to return to the gym day after day is partly habit and partly conviction that I am mostly invisible while I am there. To have someone speak to me and tell me I am doing something wrong is my worst nightmare come to life, because the only way I can successfully navigate life is to take the clearest version of following the rules.

Because I barely trust myself and my own instincts, I feel undeserving of the basic care and consideration I would give to another person’s dog. Because of this, if challenged about something I think I know, I still fold like a house of cards.

Except this time I didn’t, not really.

Yes, I was greatly bothered by that man’s comments into the weekend. Yes, I was bothered enough to text J about my form and be buoyed by the opinions and pep talks from J, from M, from the rest of my network. But I was not so wigged that I avoided returning to the gym on Saturday or Sunday. Monday I was at training without a peep or attempt to cancel.

I pointed out to TM that I was wigged out, but I was not running for the hills and burning the fields behind me. I also stood up for myself when our paths crossed again yesterday, and the only tiny bit of doubt was calling my bestie to see if I had been rude.

Not that I planned to apologize or anything else if I had been rude.

While I did kind of discount my instincts and reactions, I was shocked, surprised, and kind of appalled that he would say something like that to me in the first place.

But this was so much of a better outcome than what could have happened, would have happened in some prior rendition of me. It might have been weeks or months before I returned to them gym or to training after something like this.

TM agreed. He agreed that I have made progress, good progress. Not just with regard to my health through diet and exercise. I am doing well with building up my own boundaries and strengths against others, and most importantly, trusting myself and my instincts.

I kind of laughed at that one. But in retrospect, he is right. While I was wigged and felt knocked down, I was in the gym on Saturday and on Sunday for practice. I was training with J on Monday morning. I had my doubts about what I was doing, I felt clumsy and awkward in my interactions with other people the last several days, but I was there and I got it done.

This week we are going to work on positive affirmations. Every time I think something negative about myself and whatever I happened to be doing at the time it occurs, I need to find something positive to balance the scales. If I am presently hating on glute bridges, I need to find something positive about glute bridges.

Some assignments are much more challenging than others.

But I’m game for it, because despite my 2 steps forward, 3 steps back approach to improving, I can feel tiny little wings of confidence are growing. I was terrified of the gym and everyone in it when I started. I am still mostly afraid of many, many things therein, but not everything and not everyone.

It took me a long time to become this level of functional and mentally and emotionally healthy. It may take a bit more time to get a little further along the healing path. Progress, incremental, tiny little baby steps forward is still progress.

And I am okay with that.

TM offered today that he’s proud of me, says I try hard and am doing good work. I am making amazing strides. Mostly I believe him, and I know given enough time I will overcome and actually accept that the work I am doing is providing long-term dividends, and I am the one doing the heavy lifting, sometimes literally, to make it happen.

More than that, though, I’m developing the muscles that let me get back up when I fall down or am pushed off balance and back into dark places. Because I never thought I would last this long, through this many go-rounds with therapy for different aspects of old problems. Or with training and going to the gym, day after day after day. Maybe this is why I believe my confidence will be studier and less impacted by a random stranger. Or why I feel certain I will eventually overcome my dislike of glute bridges and core exercises. My persistence muscle has been engaged, worked, and grows stronger through my efforts.

At the end of my day, I think the key to success is and has been stocking and staffing my village, because no way could I ever get this far all on my own.

And I am more than okay with that.

TM and wild west Tuesday ponderings

I should have suspected today might turn wonky when I picked up a 25 lb. dumbbell and a 20 lb. dumbbell this morning for a chest press and just thought my left arm was feeling really weak after 2 days without any dedicated upper body work. No, I am just the idiot who did not notice she picked up 2 different weights. In my defense this has never happened before, so how would I suspect such a thing would feel like that? Spinning it, this was a learning experience and I will know better next time.

Yesterday was all about the gym’s marketing campaign. It’s relentless. This morning I was listening to the promotional messages on gym radio and how they pitch the cost of personal training as comparable to a daily cup of coffee for a month. As a training client, I know what J costs (he is worth every single penny) and understand completely that my sessions are a luxury not everyone can afford. I guess it bothers me that in their advertising the gym is manipulating the numbers to make it sound more affordable. If that were truly the case, either the gym’s marketing people drink richly expensive coffee or they are pushing individual training as a couple of hours per month only.

I know I am not alone in my distaste for marketing and advertising, and I always wish businesses could be more straightforward and honest in promoting their products. But would that trend have any impact on us being more honest with ourselves?

This was part of my theme today for meeting with TM, my therapist. Thus far we have made some progress on improving my overall outlook and my feelings of self worth, and today we somehow got onto the subject of authenticity and how much raw truth anyone can truly take in interpersonal relationships. If ever I am looking for food for thought TM does not disappoint.

From my work as an accountant, I have plenty of experience dealing with people and their money habits. Money tracking is prone to just as much elasticity with reality as calorie counting, in that when left to our own devices and not actively tracking our tendency is to spend more and consume more than we realize. There was a time when I tracked our spending as obsessively as I flat out refuse to track calories now. Of course, with debit cards and credit cards and even cash, the inflow and outflow of money is pretty black and white with little room for subjectivity.

While we were climbing out of debt and for a few years after that I very carefully tracked our spending until such time I was sure we could be trusted not to fall back into the credit card debt trap. It was during those years that I learned about myself and the insidiousness of marketing. Of course, it was also during those years that I did quite a bit of work on my emotional and mental health; I went from insanely insecure about almost everything to just insecure about a significantly shorter list of things. The more comfortable I got with my place in the world and accepting that I was not a waste of space (yes, I actually thought and wrote that about myself regularly), the less inclined I was toward overspending to compensate for my blackhole of shortcomings. The less inclined I was toward overspending, the more I started examining what I was reading, listening to, watching, interacting with. The insidiousness of marketing everywhere I went and everything I came into contact with was pretty astonishing. It was, and is, everywhere.

Parenting magazines suggested my child needed this toy, those books, that sort of expensive education to grow up and into decent human beings. There was advice and admonishments about the ways that I needed to step-up my mothering skills to raise emotionally healthy children. General women’s magazines and self-help books offered solutions for any existing relationship problems and prevention for future issues. There were articles on doing my job better, getting promoted, getting a new job, improving my housekeeping skills, making my marriage more vital and passionate, or affair-proof ourselves. On top of all that, there were all the cautionary tales of what happened when you failed your children, were a bad daughter and did not do more for your aging parents, screwed up your job and future employment prospects, and let us not even talk about all the faltering to failing marriages and the consequences of children of divorce.

I found myself not wanting to read anything resembling current affairs or articles that discussed where I was in the current phase of life. I alternated between being alarmed about the state of my relationships and terrified of what could happen if I did not pay enough attention or could not figure out a way to acquire the needed tools. At the very least, I had to stay current and keep my magazine and newspaper subscriptions going or I would somehow miss out and be left behind.

And all this was before the internet with its 24/7 instant updates on everything imaginable.

I finally stopped reading anything that resembled self-help, advice, or described the pitfalls of parenting, marriage, relationships, life in general. And my kids are fine, both independent adults that are fully-functional and productive members of their communities. Having just celebrating an 18th wedding anniversary and still in love and in a happy marriage, I believe we are bumbling along well enough without the advice of experts or the fear-based cautionary tales. Still employed and thriving, although I am still not an organized and efficient housekeeper or cook. But oh well.

Fashion and beauty magazines – do not even get me started. I actually abandoned all make-up products after a brief, really awful couple of tries in my 20s, because the process of applying it correctly engaged my inner perfectionista and I would never get out of the house on time. I take care of my skin – same Clinique line I have used since I was 19 – but other than that, I am not a big cosmetics consumer. My hair care products, probably my biggest personal splurge, are from the salon where my stylist works and I enjoy the effect on my particular type of hair. For me, it is worth the ridiculous amount of money I spend on a liter of shampoo, conditioner, and tube of hair goo every 6 months or so. If my budget got too skinny to afford such indulgences, I would experiment until I found a replacement. But I am not there yet, and while the frugalistas in my midst might scoff at my spendthrift ways in pursuit of good hair days, so be it.

But every single time I glance at a women’s magazine, I feel inadequate and like a failure on some level. Because I fail to look like the skinny models. Because not using this, that, the other thing makes me less attractive and my marriage vulnerable. Because the workouts prescribed are typically way beyond my current abilities, and when they do not produce the promised results in 30 days I feel like a failure yet again. Because 90% of the food on the recommended diets are things I would barf back up if I tried to eat them.

Because because because.

Because those publications end up making me feel so badly about myself I stopped even looking at the covers when I’m in line at the grocery store. I have no issue making myself feel badly about myself all on my own, thank you very much.

I feel as if I am a realist about who I am, what is possible for me, my body, my life. I do my time at the gym and thus far I am satisfied with my efforts and my results. It’s extremely personal, though. If I wanted something different – bigger, stronger, faster body in X number of weeks or months – I would likely be asking J for more specific make-it-happen type advice and to write programs that would do that for me on a particular timeline. J, in turn, would have to sit me down and be real with about whether or not such changes are even possible for me as well as what else it will take in terms of diet and time in the gym.

It would be such an uncomfortable conversation it gives me the willies just thinking about it.

There is room for improvement in my thinking and self-esteem, so I am exploring my options there with TM. It’s not always easy; he challenges my thinking and assumptions and acceptance of the status quo. But if it were easy everyone would have a healthy outlook and be completely confident. That said, I already notice that I am more assured than I was a few months ago.

From the glitz and gloss I see everywhere else, rarely is anyone that realistic about what it takes for the average person to get as close as they can being the best versions of themselves, whether it is an attempt to achieve to the fitness model body and lovely face/skin/features gracing the covers of fashion and fitness magazines. The dream of turning a plain Jane into a supermodel exists on some level for many, or advertising would be targeting and directing their campaigns in a different way.

And because I am picking on the fitness industry and it marketing machinery, gyms are unlikely to sell memberships if they were brutally honest about how much sweat equity and eating discipline is required to achieve and maintain the thinnest, fittest versions of ourselves. Or to bulk up and get the muscle cuts that may be desired. All those men and women proudly baring their hard-won pretty, muscles and promoting their books, their workouts, their eating plans and promising if you work out like they do, eat like they do, you too can look like them are there to make a profit, not enhance your life out of the goodness of their their hearts. I cannot blame them at all for trying to make an honest buck, and I suppose they are not really lying to us, more like not really explaining all the realities of the differences in body shapes and sizes. But those are things that we as consumers should know about ourselves; we could do our research and make honest assessments based on all the available facts and assumptions used.

For the average person, it is unlikely to happen. Because few are willing to put in the hours of exercise or deny themselves foods they like for extended periods of time to look like the pictures in glossy magazines. But that does not stop marketing machines from churning out reams and reams of pages with advice and assurances that it could happen for you.

It makes me feel kind of ill.

J and I have had many conversations about training and goals and everything in between. I would be a terrible client for a lot of trainers, in my resistance to setting goals and tracking progress and high maintenance quirks. Would any of them say that, though? Would any of them say to me “if you are not willing to follow the program and procedures we set for you to the letter, you will not succeed and will be wasting your money.” Probably not. Of course, the training program and diet may be unhealthy for me, but maybe that is in the fine print no one ever reads. It is truly up to me to do my research for best possible outcomes.

To be fair to the marketing masses, J is unlikely to say that either. Because he is a practical man and has a viable service to sell and he definitely can help guide and create a map for most people to reach their personal fitness goals. I absolutely believe he is smart enough, savvy enough to parse it out in far more diplomatic, kinder and gentler terms than “do it my way or you’re going to fail.”

What does all that have to do with TM and self-esteem? Everything and nothing. I am sensitive to the onslaught of information all around me, much of the time my curious mind is seeking it out whether I am aware of it or not. When I was 10, I told my mother than the newspaper and television reports could not be trusted, that they were not impartial observers and that bias colored their reporting whether they realized it or not. Her bias was that I, her peculiar child who asked too many questions about everything, had no idea what I was talking about. Maybe I did not really know what I was saying, but I had my own evaluation system that said no one should be completely taken at face value or on faith, especially if my instincts said otherwise.

The odd thing about my mother was she had great respect for my instincts about people. If I did not like someone, said she should not hire them, she generally listened. The one time she overrode my pronouncement – a roofer for their home, the lowest bid – turned into a disaster that had to be repaired repeatedly after his firm declared bankruptcy and went under. My reasons for rejecting him? He smelled bad, a combination of sweat and cigars and liquor … and sex.

At 12 I knew more about men and sex than any child ever should. My mother just felt like I was gifted with a sixth sense about people. How I wish that had been completely true.

I know my peculiar sensitivity to the information inflow makes me have to take a break from reading the news and doing little other than reading emails from close friends or looking at cute pet videos. The tragedy and negative press causes anxiety and crankiness and adds a dark and sinister tinge to my worldview.

So in about half our time today, TM and I discussed all that … 2000 words condensed into 25 minutes of a 50 minute conversation. No wonder I feel stressured sometimes.

But then TM asked me about my interpersonal relationships – my friendships, my communications, the people I see and choose to invest time with on a regular basis. Most of that seems fine; none of my friends are currently having drama-trauma that impacts me, a couple are having genuine problems that inspire me to send good ju-ju their way.

That said … my radar for bullshit has been amping up in intensity lately. I cannot quite put my finger on it or what is happening with it, but I have been on higher alert. Anyone who knows me even a brief time knows I prefer that we always be honest with one another, even if it is something I do not want to hear or would prefer not to state out loud unless it truly is necessary or constructive somehow to one or both of us. Whatever our relationship, please just tell me the truth rather than try to spin it to something softer. I am pretty direct much of the time; ask me and more likely than not I will express what I truly think. I am not a mean girl (most of the time) or one who enjoys being deliberately cruel or hurtful, but lying by omission or outright is not my way either.

And as I said my tolerance for bullshit is pretty low under normal circumstances. But the drama – oh my the DRAMA – from what I am reading or following is wearing me down. As our world and many relationships are more and more online based, the level of fake and inauthentic and manufactured drama nearly makes me cynical. And I am among the less jaded of folks I know; I am almost Pollyannaish in my hope for my fellow man.

I cannot really pinpoint what it is that is bothering me, but I sense some inauthenticity in my midst yet no real way to discover it. The only choice is to step back and away, try to discern if this is me being overly saturated in glitz and gloss or if there is genuinely something amiss in my little world.

TM brought this back to me and my sense of self. If learned someone is being inauthentic with me, perhaps ratcheting up the drama in their lives for a greater share of my or other people’s time and attention, what would I do? Gave me pause, because no one likes to be lied to or spun in that way. I said it would likely depend upon how close I felt to the person, how much I care for and about them, but most likely the first step would be to step back and distance myself from the person and the situation. I certainly do not need someone yanking the chain of my emotions for attention.

Would this constitute a violation of trust? To a degree, I suppose; it would depend upon the degree of deceit. But the whole line of discussion started to make me vaguely uncomfortable.

He brought it back to J and to the dietician, since both men are looming large in my reconfiguring my health at the moment. If J blew smoke at me about my present progress and how far I could advance in 3 months, 6 months, however many more months my next re-up of sessions, would I feel more inclined to believe and trust him? My immediate response – would not happen, period; J does not need to fan my ego to get me to re-sign with him for the next block of sessions when it is time. With the dietician, when I submit my food tracking sheet, if he suggests I did in fact omit or outright mislead about my food consumption, would I be inclined to confess (if I had in fact done that) or merely walk away from the relationship? Since I do not lie, I would be inclined walk, because ours is a relatively new relationship and should be at least based on professional benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.

And why would I lie in the first place? This man is there to help me, and the only way he can is for me to be completely honest and transparent in feedback and discussions. If I am telling him on paper that I am eating nothing but steamed broccoli and chicken yet have gained 25 lbs. and have cookie crumbs on my face when we meet, yes, there might be a problem and he should be calling me out. Same with J. If I do not practice between sessions I say so; there is no point in trying to conceal it, because (1) he will know, just by my performance, and (2) it demonstrates lack of respect for his professionalism and should result in loss of credibility. At that point I may as well be reduced to merely cha-ching in their paychecks.

TM points out I would likely never truly understand anyone’s motivation in misleading me, because I myself do not lie about big stuff that matters. I am kind, have a good heart, and would likely indulge in a little white lie if no one was directly harmed by it. But I am unlikely to directly lie to anyone for any reason, because honesty is part of my identity and what I value.

However, if I allow others to mislead and manipulate my emotions for whatever reasons they choose that path, it seems I do not see myself as worthy of the same levels of respect and honesty as I provide. Are they sparing my feelings somehow by being inauthentic? Or are they serving their own needs by inciting my sympathy and compassion? And how do I feel when the inauthentic behavior is exposed and cannot be denied?

And with that our time was concluded, leaving me with lots to think about.

I see where he is going with this – I have been far too tolerant with many in the past until I reach some breaking point and either all sorts of Hell breaks loose and I end up feeling shredded and depressed. Maybe self esteem truly begins with self-respect? Establishing and enforcing boundaries on acceptable behavior toward me?

I always think I do these things, then things blow up in my face and I realize no, I did not, have not. I already see it happening to some small degree with friends about the exercise. What to do about it, however, is another issue to think about, explore, discuss. Oh boy. It is going to be an interesting week of thoughtful perking on our discussions today and my thinking of the last couple of days.

What else shall we talk about today?

This morning, I was pondering all the little things to talk about today. I imagined a short post with the 2, 3, 4 items on my blog agenda for the day, none of which seemed weighty enough for a full post.

That was then, this is now. I’m searching for the light-and-fluffy, but there is a severe cotton candy shortage in my household and M refuses to give in to my whining demands requests that he rectify the situation. So this is a mishmash brain dump of everything going on in my head during the last 24 hours.

Exercise and such. From yesterday’s training and new List was the hamstring curl on the stability ball, the alternative to the TRX hamstring curl. This morning I had planned to test drive both back-to-back, but it was crazy busy in my little corner of the gym world and that only stability ball I saw was a big gray one and it was in use much of the time. (I am apparently far too lazy to go seek out another one from the many other places another could potentially be found within the confines of the gym.) So I used the TRX for 2 rounds of this exercise, and I still kind of hate them. Something about the feet and the the wiggle-wobble of the straps. When I finally did lay hands upon the stability ball, I vastly preferred it to the TRX version. It just feels more solid in its wiggle-wobble solid squishiness beneath the feet.

This new list is also challenging. I mean, like being even more of a sweaty mess limping out of the gym after it’s all done yet without the angst and dread of other things we have done on occasion. Perhaps one more run at it tomorrow morning before Thursday’s training session. On the bright side, I am feeling much more positive about the TRX push-ups. Progress.

The Dietician. Yesterday I had my second visit with the dietician. He was dismayed that I did not appear with my food diary of what sorts of things I have been consuming in the interim few weeks. I reminded him that I am not a food tracking person, that I had told him I did not weigh or measure food I was consuming, track calories, or even write what I am eating down. How am I supposed to help you develop an eating plan, he asks? I sort of shrug helplessly, because I truly do not know and did not know last time I was here. He reviews his notes again and I can see the lightbulb going on above his head. Yep, I am THAT patient.

So we have another conversation about diet, exercise, calories, fat, weight loss, etc. I remind him that I am now, officially, a well-controlled diabetic. He reminds me that the docs would like to see a leaner me. I ask how we can do that without driving myself crazy try to calorie count, track food consumption, etc.? He frowns at me, and I frown back. He sighs, I smile ruefully. I am typically not this impossible to deal with.

From there we have a real conversation. We talk about food, diabetes, and weight loss. We talk about my exercise program and how I am so dead set against weighing myself or any food I am eating. Finally, after some back and forth and negotiating, I agree to track food for at least 5 days, and he agrees they do not have to be consecutive days. So for some 5 days in the next 3 weeks I have to track everything I eat and drink. He said I don’t have to weigh and measure, just write it down.

Le sigh. I am so weak and giving in to a very nice dietician who wants to help me to the best of his professional ability. Only 5 days; I can last with notebook in hand for 5 days. Right? If I am uber cranky next week you’ll know why.

Self-employment Tuesday. Before this morning’s first ever police station visit, I was scheduled to meet and lunch with a client I had to reschedule from last week. He is very understanding and was very concerned for my well being, so I am kind of glad I kept the lunch meeting appointment. While we did talk some financial stuff for his practice during our meeting, at least 60% was about me and the Very Bad Incident. I made a mess of a very nice salad by pushing the lettuce leaves around on the plate for an hour; there was a big, soggy-looking mess left on the plate by the time I was done and it was pretty obvious I barely ate any of it. The waiter was very concerned and asked me if it was not to my liking, which I of course then felt compelled to apologize for my mistreatment of produce and left him an extra nice tip because of it. I actually really love that salad under normal circumstances. Today is anything but that.

All afternoon I have been meeting with clients, picking up documents, catching up on what is new and exciting in their business and financial lives that I was previously unaware of from our phone, email, and text conversations. Work is keeping me busy and distracted from my other issues, so all is well on that front.

The panhandler meltdown. When I was leaving my last scheduled client’s office this afternoon to make my way to my therapy appointment, a woman approached me in the parking lot looking for a handout. Whether she was homeless or truly just in need, it scared me so badly when she approached I started trembling and nearly ran back into the building. I just shook my head and waved her away as vigorously as possible when she approached an started her pitch. I hurried as fast as I could to the safety of my car and the relief of being locked inside. If she had been one of those aggressive people who came up to my car and rapped on the window I would have reacted very poorly. As if was, I had to take a few minutes to compose myself to drive. I called M and told him where I was, what happened, and he talked me off the ledge. From there I made my way to TM’s office and sat in his waiting room for 20 minutes replying to emails until my appointment time. I am never that early for our meetings.

I suppose my sudden fear of transients and homeless people is understandable, but I was unprepared for how strong, how violent, how physical my reaction would be when our paths crossed. And this was a woman, not even a male homeless person.

Therapist TM appointment. Despite my trauma drama, I am actually doing pretty well with the primary objective with this year’s personal navel gazing. Before the Very Bad Incident last Thursday, I had been feeling more confident, upbeat, positive about future outcomes based on my own efforts and abilities. I was much less inclined to not shred myself in fits of anxiety or listen to the negative, destructive voices inside my head. Even now, after the Very Bad Incident, I am holding my own, albeit with shaking hands and queasy stomach. I had been handling things pretty well, sleeping 2 nights in a row without sleeping aids, and finding new ways to cope with the quieting my mind before trying to fall asleep.

Now, I am a wreck again.

TM suggests we meet weekly for at least a few weeks, until I get my life-legs back and am not feeling so fractured and fragile. I agreed, because I have so much new and free-floating anxiety that I am finding it difficult to sit still enough to concentrate when not actually engaged in doing something. Monday – was that only yesterday? – I had spoken to J about additional exercise in the evening, trying to physically tire myself out to be able to sleep. He agreed that it’s a good way to keep my brain occupied, but exercise may inhibit the ability to fall asleep. Instead he suggested something low intensity like yoga flow for unwinding. I am not sure how that qualifies, because I think everything exercise is high intensity for me. But I respect his thoughts and opinions and will give it more thought and experiment.

I have been jumping on my arc trainer or rower to physically tire myself out before bed, reasoning that if I feel physically tired I will go right to sleep. There have been many mornings where I felt well-rested and fine arriving at the gym, worked really hard, and then really wanted to come home and take a nap before work. But cardio is so damn BORING anymore. I looked around and asked friends and cobbled together a schedule of yoga or yoga-like classes I could attend in the evenings when I need something to help quiet my thoughts and make me feel physically fatigued enough to sleep. I was going to try it tonight, but now I am feeling scared about going somewhere new after dark. Maybe being bored before sleeping is not all that bad?

TM agrees exercise is a great outlet for nervous anxiety and strongly encourages me to continue my practice and even taking up a second practice if I am feeling that climb-out-of-my-skin sort of anxious nervousness. Eliminating all forms of caffeine and any remaining sugar in my diet is probably a good idea as well. While I have not been slamming donuts with my one cup of decaf coffee per day, I do enjoy a single piece of dark chocolate a few nights per week. The last of my vices is now going away. Maybe I need to take up booze for its medicinal properties?

Today we worked on breathing exercises and started exploring meditation and how it can help get me through this. I am very anti-drug use for my particular neurotic strains, the remaining valium my only concession to the Very Bad Incident. TM agrees that right now it does not seem additional medication is necessary, because he is going to provide me some new tools to get through the day-to-day business of living my life without fear of breakdown. I have a book on medication on my Kindle that I need to settle down and finish, because I am going to become one of those truly annoying fidgeters if I do not get myself under control somehow. Today in his office I was foot-twitching and uncomfortable much of the hour, and I was actually eager to see him and be psychically repaired. Unfortunately his magic wand for such miracles was left in some other suit.

I am kind of disappointed that my primary objective of positive self image is kind of taking a backseat, but if I cannot leave the house because of anxiety then I cannot see myself feeling a whole lot better about my outlook.

Today it weighs on me that I require the influence of a stable of coaches of different disciplines to get me where I am going next. Personal trainer, dietician, therapist, doctors, and I now work for bunches of lawyers. I’m still not sure what a life coach does or I might be contemplating one of those as well. Still, if it takes a village to get me through I will be grateful for the income to afford such luxuries.

Tomorrow will be better. I hope. Or do I decide? Something else to consider.