Friday, June 19, 2009

Follow Your Truth

Amazingly--amazing to me at least--my plan for self-care seems to actually be working. The last few days I've started to feel much better. More specifically, I feel lighter. Less suffering, less heartache, a whole lot more lightness of spirit. :)

I went with a friend Wednesday night to a meditation and dharma talk at a local, free meditation center. I have virtually no experience with meditation, but am excited to perhaps start exploring. The talk was about desire. I took several interesting points from it:
1) Desire is a natural part of the human condition, so there is no point in feeling guilty simply for having them. On a very basic level, desire is what keeps life going--we desire food, sleep, love, family.
2) Desire takes you out of the moment. Instead of being present, your mind has taken you to an imaginary future place.
3) Sometimes, desire can cause a lot of pain. Desire says, "I am here, but I want to be there," and if there is unattainable, this can be very painful. No point, again, beating yourself up for *having* the desire; instead notice and have compassion for the pain the desire is causing you.
4) When you have strong desires, sit with them and notice them and see what they can tell you.

While this whole talk was going on, I was noticing how I was feeling a lot of pain myself, caused in large part by unfulfilled desires. So after the talk I took some time and, instead of feeling guilty as usual, decided to have compassion for my pain and to try to learn what my desires could tell me.

What I figured out was that behind my immediate desires was a deeper yearning for emotional closeness. But here's the thing: I already have emotional closeness. I have so many wonderful relationships in my life, people I can count on to hear me, support me, love me, who I can be deeply open with. So why is it that I yearn so painfully for something I already have?

I realized that I feel lonely. I hadn't been able to put words to this before that moment because whenever my heart started to cry out, it would be cut short with a reminder, Kate, you have so many good, loving people in your life; you are less alone than you've ever been before. My mind said, it doesn't make sense that you would feel lonely, and I never gave my heart to voice its objection to this logic.

But now I realize that I do, in fact, feel lonely. This raises a very interesting question: why do I feel lonely even though I am not alone? I think that this is the answer: I feel lonely independently of whether or not I have lots of friends and love in my life. My loneliness, at least right now, is not a reflection of the actual circumstances of my life, but rather it is a reflection of something internal, something within me.

No amount of love from others can fill this gap. I'm getting so much love right now from the outside, and I feel only marginally, if at all, better. Something in my brain refuses to translate the intellectual knowledge of others' love for me into a deeper, intuitive knowledge that I am loved.

Some part of me, and not a small part, believes that I am unloveable. I have a fear that at any moment, those who love me will finally realize the truth about me, about how "bad" I am (lazy, selfish, incompetent, insufficient, etc. etc.), and they will stop loving me. Because on some level I do not believe that anyone who truly knew me could love me.

In other words, I struggle to accept love from others because I do not know how to love myself. So yes, I am lonely, because there is a deep, gaping, impossible need for love, and no matter how much keeps getting poured in, too much falls right back out. I do need to say: I am so deeply grateful for all the love I am given. I would not have made it this far without all the support I have received from others, and that support continues to play a critical role in my recovery.

Ultimately, though, the solution must be for me to learn to love myself. To somehow come to believe, solidly, confidently, dependably, that I am actually okay.

I do not know how to do this. I know only that I need to do this. This may not be the only thing I need to do, but without it, all my other gains will be ultimately fragile. Because what life can be built upon the treacherous foundation, the wretched pain, of the constant knowledge of one's own inadequacy, unworthiness? I deserve more than this from life.

A good friend suggested that I begin by keeping this thought in my head: "What would my life look like at this very moment if I loved myself?" I like this approach, because to be honest, I do not even know what it looks like to love oneself, to accept oneself, and perhaps it would be helpful to begin creating a vision of what it is I want to achieve.

The other words this friend left me with were this: Follow your truth.

So what does this moment look like in a universe where Kate loves herself? I think that what I am doing here, writing, figuring things out, trying to give myself permission to be kind to myself, I think that is an act of love. And I am feeling...satisfied in a way. The truth that I am following is that I want to think and write and share and learn, and I feel good that I just did this for myself. It's a good first step. :)

Monday, June 15, 2009

And self-care

Too much ache, too much grief-space; I've figured out that I need to take a little space for myself; the pain I was feeling about the loss of my friend's son was beginning to get in the way of my living.

I've never had access to so much empathy before (an effect, perhaps, of me learning how to open myself up more and more emotionally), so I guess this new empathy ability is something I'm going to have to learn how to live with in a way that doesn't drain me. After all, feeling others' pain (not that you could ever really feel it, but feeling whatever approximation your brain creates) does not ultimately take away what they're going through, and if done too much can reduce your ability to be supportive. A friend of mine was speculating today that empathy is most useful in forgiveness, i.e. in understanding someone you are angry at; sympathy is most useful in supporting friends/loved ones, as it does not sap your ability to function and support.

So project self-care, here I come. Taking a bit of space to try to get out of this grief head-space I've been living in; trying to return my focus to noticing and meeting my needs, and thus rejuvenating my ability to function. My heart is still ever-so-full, but a little lighter; the content weighted just a bit more toward joy. I hope before too long to be truly emerging from the depression space I've been sinking deeper and deeper into the last few weeks. (And please, let me note, that my recent depression has by no means only been an affect of being close to this family's loss; I've also been dealing with a lot of stress around finding a job, dealing with losses other people I am close to are suffering from, and dealing with some physical symptoms of feeling realllly tired again, which may have to do with my meds--thankfully I have a doctor's appointment coming up!)

I am going to get out of this hole; here I am to fight another day. :)


I've recently (in the last month) become good friends with a person who lost a young son to cancer in the past year. This has set me kind of reeling emotionally, but I'm slowly finding my way back. What a thing to witness, such soaring love, such wrenching grief.

I am inspired by the way this family raised their son; I hope someday to raise my children with a similar kind of love and validation; I am grateful to be a witness to such deep and tender love.

And I am torn apart over the loss of this beautiful boy I never even met, the way his parents have been savaged by this loss. I am in awe of the strength and courage with which they continue to face each day.

So much...what a thing it is to be witness to such grief and beauty and love and loss....

I am grateful; every ounce of sadness I have experienced I would take over my old days of emptiness--just to feel! is so important. But I'm having a hard time figuring out a balance, figuring out how to both feel the sadness (not block out my emotions), and also how to not let myself become overwhelmed.... I do not want to use words like grief to describe my feelings because the loss was in no way mine, but in whatever way it is possible to say so, I have been in mourning. So now the challenge is to honor both the depth with which I feel for this child and his family, and my own need for balance and self-care. We shall see....

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Long and Winding Road

I've made so much progress but there are those days when I'm struck by how far I still have to go.

I've been reading about "Re-evaluation Counseling" (also known as "Co-counseling") in the last few days (see While I can't follow its theorists to the full conclusion of their beliefs (at the very least, I am prodded to skepticism by my belief that people are always more complicated than you can put down on a piece of paper), I find their root point very compelling; hurts that we have not healed from stiffen and entrap our thinking and thought patterns.

Say that you suffer some form of hurt; perhaps someone says something mean to you. According to rc theory, either you are able to discharge the hurt by finding a caring eye/ear who will patiently let you cry/talk/tremble/laugh out your hurt *entirely*, or you do not get to fully (or perhaps even partially) discharge the hurt. In our society--fraught with sentiments of "don't cry, it will be ok," uncomfortable with strong displays of emotion--the latter is much more likely. And the latter is what traps our thinking. This theory says that if you are not able to feel/discharge the hurt, it doesn't go away; even if it becomes hidden, it remains as a scab clogging up the pathways of your thoughts. The more un-discharged hurts you have, the more limited your thinking becomes; the effects are cumulative.

This theory makes sense to me. I can feel myself shy away from certain thoughts because of the pain they portend--pain born of the memory of hurts that I didn't allow myself to feel, that I didn't know what to do with. This is actually a very good description of depression as I experienced it; sometimes acute, but more often this incredible stagnation of diffuse hurt, fear, sadness--at the worst periods of my depression, everywhere I looked held the expectation of pain rising from the incomplete way I had processed past experiences of pain. And nowadays, even with all the progress I've made, I have moments (or hours sometimes or days even) where I begin to fall back into depression patterns and feelings--and it is very often an experience of feeling trapped between ominous thoughts--thoughts that old hurts, old dreads, are predictors of my future.

It is interesting the way fear has crept into me yesterday and today. Perhaps reading rc theory has caused me to articulate to myself some things I'd forgotten about; perhaps it's just a case of the Wednesdays (quite often the low point of my week, for whatever reason); perhaps there's some area (or areas) of my current experience that I am not allowing myself to feel fully. I was feeling so strong, and suddenly, I feel so afraid.

Deep breath, baby. Keep going. You are strong and brave; just take a deep breath, take another step.