You can’t avoid growing pains forever . . .

I have been dragging my heels.

As I sat with my books scattered around me, I wondered where to focus next, and finally realized what I have been avoiding.

I don’t know where to let my mind go next, because I am afraid.
I am afraid to open the gates and continue exploring.
I am afraid to become overwhelmed.
I am afraid that if I stumble . . .
I am afraid . . .
I am afraid to move forward.

I have been dragging my heels.
Because I am afraid.
And my avoidant tendencies are so strongly rooted in my behavior,
That I have waited until now to confront it.

I am afraid to continue without my safety net in place.
I am afraid to move forward without your voice.
So I remind myself that if I were saying this to you,
You would give me that look and tell me that I don’t need you.
Because you’ve taught me how to be that voice for myself.

I will do better.
I will remember that I will be okay.
I will remind myself that I know how to not be okay.
And I will know that there is always a great lesson to be learned.

I will continue to grow.

So, I make a promise to myself.
To lift my heels.
And move forward.

“Leap, and the net will appear.” – Julia Cameron


Learning to Harness Strength From Pain

The thing about therapy and personal growth is that it’s difficult as hell.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m entirely grateful for my experience and my journey with therapy.
And most days, if you ask me, I’d say that I love it – for the things that I have learned from it.
Many of my friends and family have heard me talk about how it’s been one of the greatest experiences of my life.
And I’m often encouraging others to try it themselves.

Most days, this is how I feel about my journey.
But it’s not how I feel every day.
Some days are really fucking difficult.
Some days leave me feeling completely defeated and broken.
The reality is that I am living with depression and anxiety.
These shitty days are going to happen regardless of whether or not I’m in therapy.
The difference is that while therapy can be extremely helpful in aiding me with how to manage my anxiety and depression, it can also trigger some unexpected issues that bubble up to the surface.

This was a reality that was all too real for me a year ago.

This is a story that I haven’t shared with many.
Most of the time, I prefer to recall the stories where I’ve found clarity and understanding, and I guess this is one of those time too.
But the reality is that it’s not all “feel-good happiness.”
Sometimes it fucking sucks.

I feel as though I often talk about how I have a sense of great connection with my therapist.
I can recall explaining this to my close friends after I had met with her for the first time.
This was significant to me because I had been in therapy before.
I’d started seeing someone 6 years ago while I was in school, after my brother had died. Despite meeting with her biweekly for months, I never really felt as though anything had been accomplished. Thinking back on it now, I’m not even sure that it was helpful for me.
Being in school at the time, I had roommates and close friends who were very involved in my personal life, and they were all aware of my being in therapy. These were the same friends that I happened to be visiting with only a few days after first meeting with my current therapist, so it seemed fitting to share my recent experience.
I was thrilled to have gotten so much out of one appointment, and this excitement was mirrored by my close friends who had witnessed for themselves some of the difficult and painful times that I had experienced in the past and my resistance to open up about them.

I was never ashamed to be in therapy.
And I don’t feel that anyone should be.
Truthfully, I think it to be very admirable.

While I was never ashamed to be in therapy, that doesn’t mean that I never felt shame.

Despite my excitement after the first appointment, I held significant reservations heading into my second.
But these reservations quickly dissolved as I realized how comfortable and at ease I felt speaking with her.
I completely opened up and our discussions covered a myriad of topics.
Even my therapist made a point of saying that she had not anticipated our discussion to get so deep so quickly, but that things just seemed to flow between us.
I left feeling light and excited, similar to how I was feeling after our first appointment.

I don’t recall when the darkness set in.
I just remember things suddenly being more than I knew how to handle.
Two days later, I was at work when I seemed to no longer be able to cope.
I was existing at such a heightened state that seemingly everything was triggering for me.
I was unable to focus on my work.
Constantly feeling bombarded by intrusive imagery and obsessive thoughts.
I felt as though I was a helpless victim to my body and my mind.
I was in a complete state of panic, and I couldn’t seem to bring myself down.
The only thing that I could think to do was trying to get myself to a safe place.
A place where I could accept and experience these overwhelming emotions without fear of judgement.
So I got into my car and I drove to her office.
There were two women who came to address me.
I think it was quite obvious that I was in distress.
I couldn’t even look them in the face.
I was overwhelmed with so many emotions, but in that moment, what I felt was shame.
I didn’t want to talk to anyone, not even my therapist.
I told them that I was fine – that I just needed a place to sit for a while.
So I tucked my head between my knees and I rocked.
I rocked and I tried to breathe.
One of the women explained to me that my therapist wasn’t in the office that day, but that they would like to schedule me in to see her the next day.
I agreed.
And I rocked and I tried to breathe.

As I woke up the next day, the realization that I would have to go and meet with my therapist weighed heavily on me.
I felt sick.
The thought of having to acknowledge and deal with the mess that I had been the day before was painful for me.
It made my skin crawl and my body squirm.

Begrudgingly, I walked myself from my car into the office.
Dragging my heels every step of the way.
As soon as I walked in, I knew they recognized me.
My face flushed and my body started to shake.
I was sick with guilt and shame.
I sat with my head in my hands, praying for this to all just go away.
She came and called my name.
I followed her, head hanging the whole way.

She asked me what was up, but I didn’t have an answer.
I didn’t know what had happened, or why I had fallen apart.

I can remember my body.
It was completely collapsed.
I felt so broken and defeated.
I was so ashamed of myself for being weak.

I couldn’t find any words for her.
Every time I would open my mouth, only strained sounds would come out.
I wanted to disappear.
I wished so badly for the floor to open up and swallow me whole.
For anything to come and save me from the hell of living through this shame.

When I could finally find some words, they were “stupid,” “failure,” “weak,” “dumb,” “embarrassed,” “idiot,” and “I’m sorry.”
I told her how I felt so ashamed.
I explained that I was sure the two women from the day before thought that I was some sort of freak.
And that I wouldn’t blame them if they did.

She listened.
She watched me stare at my shattered pieces on the floor.
She listened to me curse and berate myself out of shame and disappointment.
She shook her head.
She told me that I wasn’t broken.
She told me that I was being much too hard on myself.
She promised me that I would be okay.
She promised me that it would get better.
She also promised that it wouldn’t be easy, saying “It’s a painful process, but I assure you that it’s beautiful.”
She thanked me.
She thanked me for reaching out when I was struggling.
She told me that no one thought that I was a freak, but that they could see my pain and distress.
She told me they were proud of me for coming for help.

By the time I left, I wasn’t entirely convinced that my feelings of shame weren’t warranted, but I was at least feeling much calmer and less critical of myself than before.
And I eventually found my peace and understanding with the experience.
Through this breakdown, I learned about vulnerability and how to be more patient and understanding with myself.

These dips, depressive episodes, periods of darkness, whatever you might call them, they’re a painful reality of this process.
You can’t explore your darkness without tripping every now and then.
Sometimes it’s a slight falter.
Other times, it leaves you feeling as though the world is crashing down around you.

It’s painful, and it’s overwhelming, but it’s okay.
It’s okay to be upset.
It’s okay to have feelings and emotions that you don’t quite understand.
It’s okay to get overwhelmed.
It’s okay to ask for help.
It’s okay to not be okay.

Everything in life is cyclical.
We experience ups and downs in everything that we do.
Therapy is no different.

“It’s a painful process, but I assure that it’s beautiful.”

It may seem crazy to some, but I am most grateful for the painful times.
Because they represent a challenge that I have managed to overcome.
And they provide me with direction for further growth.
We learn the most about ourselves when we are struggling.
The pain is inevitable, so we might as well use it to our advantage.

“We must allow the bolt of pain to strike us. Remember, this is useful pain; lightning illuminates.” – Julia Cameron

Have you ever had an experience of great pain or distress that you managed to harness and learn from?


Describe Yourself in Three Words

We are often asked to describe ourselves in a few words. As if our being can be summarized so simply.

I can, like anyone else, describe myself in only a few words. Take delightful, droll, and devoted as a few. But these limited descriptions can be deceiving, for I can also be described as disturbed, despondent, and delinquent.

Do you feel like you know me yet?

It is commonly believed that one’s personality is comprised of two parts: temperament and character. With temperament being our innate, biological make-up and character being our learned traits as a result of experiences.
As Spanish philosopher, Jose Ortega y Gasset, describes it:

“I am, plus my circumstances.”

Naturally, this leads into the nature vs. nurture debate.

In learning more about my own personality and using this knowledge to reflect on my past, I have managed to identify particular experiences that have effectively altered my personality. Personally, I find this both fascinating and terrifying. I have also been able to identify a number of “whys” from my past. Coming from a larger family of six girls, I see my sisters and I as ideal sample subjects for my own personal analysis. I now look back on certain experiences that I encountered alongside my siblings and use this reflection to identify “why” I often reacted differently from them.

In terms of temperament, read ‘genetic inheritance’, I am a fair bit more sensitive than my siblings. While I can identify different sensitivities in each of us, and another whom I believe to be HSP, my sensitivities seem to reach farther and deeper than the others. This belief has been supported by the recognition of my parents that I was, without a doubt, their most excitable, cautious, and gentle youngster of the bunch. I am also very introverted in nature, with a strong preference for isolated time of reflection and contemplation. I am less certain where my siblings would each lie on the introvert-extrovert continuum, but I do seem to have always been the quiet one at the dinner table – one of the more eventful rituals of my life.

The general idea is that we are born into our first identity based on our temperament and gradually adapt into new personalities or identities as our life experiences modify our character. For me, my first identity consisted of a highly sensitivity nature, then my environment nurtured my experiences  and developed my character to make me patient, caring, independent, etc.

I remember getting in trouble when I was five-years-old. I was attending a public kindergarten at the time and the teacher was upset with me because I hadn’t tied my shoes. Even as a grownup, I get uncomfortable thinking about how upsetting this experience was for me. For sensitive little me, getting in trouble was punishment enough, but this was followed with a trip to the thinking chair. I felt scared and intimidated for getting in trouble and I felt embarrassed for being punished. I was frustrated and annoyed with my teacher, because she didn’t understand the situation. I was five-years-old, sent to the thinking chair because I didn’t tie my shoes. I’m sure I did plenty of thinking, but it wasn’t about my wrongdoing. I hadn’t tied my shoes because I didn’t know how to. If I knew what pissed was when I was five, then that is what I felt.

I imagine that this experience would seem insignificant to many people, but it was a significant event in my life. I was a pretty easy-going kid, because I hated getting into trouble. So this interaction made me feel sick. Truthfully, interactions like this still do. And getting into trouble for seemingly no fault of my own, is something that I’ve never been able to accept as just. But I’ve developed a defense for it. That day, while morosely sitting on that thinking chair, I tied my own shoes for the first time. I had gotten in trouble for something I couldn’t control, but I decided right then and there that I would not fall victim to it again.

How did this experience change my personality? It reinforced my sense of discomfort surrounding conflict and disobedience, it encouraged me to establish a spectrum-view of right and wrong, because this situation was certainly all grey, and it gave me a desire to be independent.

Isn’t the psyche a fascinating thing?

There is no doubt in my mind that our personality is a dynamic thing. As I have witnessed these changes in myself, and others, over the years.

There is a poem I am fond of, by Christopher Poindexter, that reflects this:

nothing drives me more mad
than someone telling me,
“goodness, you’ve changed.”
i feel so awful for them.
i want to say,
“in this great, big, intricate world,
yes i have.
i change everyday.
you don’t?”

I do believe that each day carries the potential for change. Maybe that’s the idealistic dreamer in me, but I do. I’ve read that, as an INFJ, this is my nature.
For others, this view may be temporarily developed following a significant life event. But for me, it is in each and every day.
Of course, after 28 years of life, my personality is much more developed than it was on that fateful kindergarten day, but it will never be static. And I am more likely, than some, to actually experience this change, because I am open and willing to.
Like Christopher, I am often accused of having changed, and I experience a similar reaction. I am baffled by how much people are the same. And I feel sorry for them, because they seem afraid to change.
Although, I will admit that significant change is often unpleasant.
But when you emerge from the fog, the world seems so much more vivid and bright than before.
And this change doesn’t have to be dramatic or traumatic, although, admittedly, it may seem like it at the time. But that’s okay.
We have the choice every day to participate in our own growth and development. I just wish more people were willing to play.

My isolated, introverted personality and social views leave me feeling lonely sometimes. I can be a bit selective, and I often push people away for a variety of reasons. Mostly, I just don’t care to socialize if I do not feel that I will be stimulated, and I prefer to forgo socialization for solitary contemplation. But I also become frustrated and impatient when I experience interactions that I perceived to be shallow or inauthentic. As a result, I understandably, am not most people’s ideal companion. And often, this doesn’t pose much of a problem for me. But when I’m struggling, as I have been, and it feels as if everyone’s backs are turned, that’s when the loneliness sets in. So then, I grab my pen (or laptop) and open myself up to change again. Through this approach, I have found a way to manage my loneliness and preoccupy my mind with wonder. I presume this resiliency is just yet another character trait developed through the years as a result of my experiences.

I suppose if I truly were to describe myself in three words, they would be “anxious, curious, and introvert” because these seem to be the underlying factors of what makes me “me”.
But we must always remember that, at the end of the day, we are so much more than we can describe or understand.

Could you describe your personality in three words?

What are your thoughts on the development of personality from temperament and character?


I Guess I Forgot to Take My Anti-Rejection Meds

This morning I awoke to a notification on my phone that a popular poet had liked one of my posts on Instagram, and it immediately made me smile.
I smiled because I felt special.
I felt special because it made me think of the time I posted her words on my page with a note about how much they meant to me, and she thanked me.
It made me think of the time I met another poet that I look up to, and how kind and encouraging she was to me.
We all want to feel special.
I just think that it’s just too bad that it’s the attention of popular strangers, like these two women, that make us feel the more special than the daily attention of those who love us.

Like many others, I struggle with my self-esteem.
Some days are fine.
Some days, I need absolutely no encouragement or reinforcement to remember how truly awesome I am.
But other days, I struggle.
Some days, my anxiety and depression take over, and I feel like a tiny, worthless speck.

Recently, I’ve been struggling with this issue more than I sometimes do, and it’s because I’ve been struggling with rejection.
And it’s this rejection that leaves me so eager to receive the attention of these people who do not know me.

This past year has been really difficult for me.
And the issues that I have been working through have changed my perspective on a lot of things.
These changes haven’t gone unnoticed by those who are close to me.
And while majority of my people have been overwhelmingly supportive of this journey and my transformation, I have been left feeling disappointed by others.
I have faced judgement, ridicule, and isolation as I have struggled to exist, grow, and challenge myself.
With an explanation of “you’ve changed.”
And I think, “Of course I have. I’m always changing.”
Truthfully, I think that we’re doing this whole “life” thing wrong if we’re not forever growing and changing.
So I feel frustrated by this form of rejection, and it has been extremely difficult for me to accept.
It doesn’t matter what way you slice it, it hurts to be rejected.
It hurts to be made to feel as though you no longer have a place where you used to fit.
The people who have been my supports have explained to me that this is just one of those inevitable and painful things about growing up.
Because that’s what we’re all doing.
We’re all growing into our own people with our own views, opinions, and lifestyles.
We’re all growing and changing, but in different ways and at different rates.
So, I remind myself that maybe they feel rejected too.
Maybe they see the ways that I’ve changed and think that they don’t quite fit into my life the same way anymore.
Maybe this really is just one of those inevitable growing pains as we learn and grow apart.

All of the advice that I have been given and have found has directed me to move away from the rejection.
Encouraging me to be grateful for and to focus on those who embrace and support my growth.
And encouraging me to find others who are like me – my kindred spirits.

It’s been a learning process for me to move away from people who have been such a significant part of my life in the past.
I’ve had to learn to lean on and look for support from others in my life.
I don’t think that anyone truly understands the weight and significance of their existence in my life this past year.
Good or bad, it has all been magnified by my experiences.
I’m learning to appreciate simple acceptances and trying to walk away from rejections.
I’m learning to watch more and to listen for the true intent in the words that are spoken to me.
And I’m learning to push myself outside of my comfort zone.
Or at least, I’m trying to.

This search for kindred spirits has been a significant and recurring theme over this past year.
Whether I’m struggling or feeling good, it somehow comes to the forefront of my mind.
Through this search, I have challenged myself to try new things and explore new places, I have had some incredible interactions, and I have had some miserable #fails, but I have managed to identify an underlying lesson or silver lining with each experience. And I always, always laugh.

I plan to share some of these stories with you, and my hope is to offer some encouragement to anyone else who might be struggling with their own self-esteem or experiences of rejection. And I encourage you to please feel free to laugh with me.


Learning to Put Myself into Time Out

As one busy week comes to an end and I reflect on all of the deadlines met and tasks completed, I find my thoughts immediately turning toward the week to come.

With orders to fill, restocking to be completed, shows to prep for, contracts to be negotiated, assignments to be written, and exams to be studied for, there’s a seemingly never-ending list of items on my to-do list. With so many things weighing on my mind, it’s easy for me to move from one thing to the next without giving it much thought. There are days when my mind seems to be running non-stop, always trying to stay one step ahead of wherever I’m at, and I’m forever asking myself, “What’s next?”
While this may seem to represent a healthy and motivated work ethic, it comes at a price.

Stress is a normal byproduct of being busy. We all experience stress from time to time, but when the sources of this stress seem to be never-ending, how do we deal with it?

Ignoring it has been my go-to strategy.
As I would feel the stress building, I would just push it down and deny its existence.
I mean, how bad could the stress ever really get to be?
It’s not as though I would be spending every waking moment being busy with work and school, so there wasn’t much to be bothered about, right?
It didn’t help that I would look around and determine that everyone else seemed to be managing just fine, leading me to wonder what it was that wrong with me that caused me to struggle.
For a long time, I was convinced that this stress and struggle was just a normal part of being a grown-up – that, when things got overwhelming, I just needed to just suck it up and push through.
And it’s only been recently that I’ve started to challenge this belief.
Looking back, I can recognize a pattern. A cycle, if you will, starting with high productivity that would eventually peak and fall until I reached burnout.
As far as I can tell, these cycles are pretty common in just about every aspect of life, thus the objective is not to necessarily “break” the cycle, but to regulate the ups and downs in order to maintain an optimal level of functioning.
It’s taken me a while to get here. I’ve gone through the cycle many a time before, but now I think I’m starting to understand it.

The key is to allow yourself to rest.
I think most are familiar with the imagery used for this one – the empty bucket.
You cannot draw from an empty bucket, so you must make a conscious effort toward filling the bucket back up.
We all have different needs and preferences, so what might work to fill one’s bucket, might not be the key to filling another’s.
For some, it may be as simple as a good night’s sleep.
For others, like me, it may take a little more than that.
My anxiously, curious and introverted mind wants many things, and learning to understand what these things are, and how my body communicates this to me, has been a huge part of learning to self-regulate.

Sometimes my body buzzes – I feel this energy build up in my chest and shoulders, my muscles become tense, and by body becomes jittery.
Sometimes my mind goes foggy and I can’t hold a train of thought or remember what it is that I need to do.
Sometimes I get agitated and angsty and become easily frustrated or overwhelmed by every little thing around me. And sometimes I just can’t seem to find my motivation.
When I experience any of these states, it makes it difficult to continue or be productive in my work. Errors occur more frequently, I lose track of what I’m supposed to be doing, and, ultimately, my time ends up being less productive than what it could be.
And this feeling of not being productive only makes me feel worse.

For a long time, I would experience these periods of struggle and get frustrated with myself. I couldn’t understand why I was struggling and I would push myself harder to try to make up for whatever it was that I was lacking. My anxiety and frustration would battle against each other in this vicious cycle until I would reach a sort of breaking point or burnout.
At which point I would, once again, end up in my therapist’s office complaining about my low functioning and lack of productivity, and she would ask me when the last time was that I had taken a day or an afternoon to relax and take care of myself.
Then, sure enough, after following her advice and taking a day to chill out, I would feel refreshed and rejuvenated returning to my work and studies.
It worked.
Every. Single. Time.
It worked.
Unfortunately, it took me a while to catch on, and this cycle repeated itself many times before I managed to initiate this relaxation intervention on my own.
But, I’m starting to get there.

While I still struggle sometimes, I now know and understand that pushing myself while experiencing these difficulties doesn’t help me, instead it acts as a form of self-judgment and punishment that I don’t deserve.
Instead, I try to remember to recognize these signs and respond with compassion. Instead of getting frustrated with myself for not being productive, for getting distracted, or for making mistakes, I stop.
I stop and step away from my work, and I tune into my body and my thoughts.
When my body is buzzing, it’s telling me that there’s an energy that needs to be released, so I’ll go for a run or a bike ride, or some other form of physical activity what will channel and release this energy.
When my mind is foggy, I grab my journal and try to work through whatever it is that has my mind feeling overwhelmed or preoccupied.
When I’m feeling agitated, overwhelmed or unmotivated, I try to calm my mind and body through acts of self-care, like going outside or some sort of activity that sooths or entertains me (reading, crochet, video games, puzzles, music, etc.).

A large part of why it has taken me so long to get to this point, is because it all seems so counter intuitive at first. When I have loads of work to get done, of course I’m not thinking that taking a break will help me to get the work done more quickly or more easily, but that is exactly what it does.
No one is at their best when their bucket is empty, so we need to remember to fill it up every now and then, or better yet, we need to work to constantly be filling our buckets as we draw from them.
Most importantly, we need to remember to always be patient and compassionate with ourselves.
A huge part of my healing has come as a result of learning to stop being so hard on myself. Instead of judging myself when I’m struggling, I’ve learned to be more understanding. Not only do I feel better when I make an effort to relax and take care of myself, but I also perform better too.

Do you struggle with performance frustrations and burnout?
What’s your favourite way to relax and practice self-care?

For a personal account on a day when I pushed myself too hard, but then remembered to slow down and tune in, check out this Instagram post.


No Longer Broken

I’ve always believed myself to be a little different from the rest, but I never thought too much of it until recently.
Not until my differences seemed to be the source of all of my anxieties.
Not until my differences made me start believing that I was broken.

By the time I started meeting with my therapist, I felt completely unraveled. I can recall telling her so as I explained that every day felt like a fight to just get by.
My health had been deteriorating for months and my immune system was completely shot as a result. Despite being a young and fit twenty-something, I would get colds that would last for weeks at a time and I had experienced two shingles flare ups within 8 months.
My anxiety seemed to be at an all-time high, and when tracked on a scale of 1 to 10, it rarely dropped below a 6.
Nearly everything seemed to trigger me, even things that hadn’t before.
And it led me to started wondering what was wrong with me.
A few months after we’d been working together, I found my answer.

One day, while scanning the spines of books on the shelves at Chapters, one book jumped out at me.
The Highly Sensitive Person – How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You” by Dr. Elaine Aron.
On the back cover of the book there are a number of questions meant to identify whether or not the reader might be a Highly Sensitive Person. Having answered “yes” to each one, I was intrigued.
Truthfully, I was more than intrigued.
I imagine the grin that spread across my face as I read those words could have lightened the mood of anyone watching.
I started reading right there in the aisle, and continued reading right through the author’s note and preface until I came upon the self-test.
I didn’t have any doubts at this point, I was an HSP!
Sure enough, after I got home and took the test, I had responded yes to each question except for one, “I tend to be very sensitive to pain.”
Apparently every single part of my being is sensitive except for my pain tolerance, lucky me.
To find something that so thoroughly explained my struggles and sensitivities was literally life-changing.
I had always known that I was sensitive, but I guess I had kind of viewed it as something that could be changed. I had thought that I just needed to “toughen up” and that this was something that I could achieve with the help of my therapist.
But reading this book and learning that high sensitivity is something that we are born into and have no control over, that changed everything for me.
Broken” was replaced with “Sensitive”.

When I think about explaining this revelation to my therapist, it always makes me laugh.
We had talked about my being sensitive numerous times.
I had even used the term “HSP” in describing myself before.
But, despite using the term, I had never understood what it was.
Of course, I knew that I was sensitive. I always have been.
But now, being sensitive meant something different.
I was giddy with excitement as I declared to her, “I’m a highly sensitive person!”
And she looked back as me with a confused look on her face and said, “I know.”
I was baffled by her confusion, and she was baffled by my excitement.

The reason this recollection makes me laugh is because our interaction was so innocent.
My excitement was pure and unfiltered, a result of my recent research and new understandings. And her confusion was more than warranted given our numerous discussions on the topic.
What she didn’t know was that, although learning about high sensitivity didn’t teach me anything about myself that I didn’t already know or that we hadn’t already discussed, it had allowed me to embrace my sensitivity.
My excitement in learning about high sensitivity illustrates the significance of belonging and empowerment that can come from identity.
I no longer viewed my sensitivity as a hindrance or a weakness.
My sensitivity is just part of who I am.
Sure, it can be a pain in the ass sometimes, but more often than not, my life is enriched as a result of my sensitivity.

I still feel and believe myself to be a little different from the rest.
I hear, see, and feel things that go unnoticed by others.
I feel physically ill when I witness violence or injustice.
I become easily overwhelmed by stimuli, such as lights, sounds, and touch.
But I don’t feel broken because of these things anymore.
Instead, I feel grateful.
I’m grateful for the way my sensitivities have softened me and made me a more compassionate and caring person.
I’m grateful for being able to easily empathize with others, even if I don’t know them.
And I’m grateful for the way I find beauty in things that go unnoticed by other people.

The reality is that we’re all different.
Learning how to embrace these differences in ourselves and others is the key to living peacefully.
Because regardless of all of the ways that we’re different, in so many more ways, we’re the same.
This is a lesson that I hold close to my heart, and one that I hope can have a positive impact on others.

Are you highly sensitive too?
Have you ever struggled with feeling different or broken?
How have you learned to accept and embrace these differences?

To take the Highly Sensitive Person self-test, click here.

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One Year Ago Today . . .

Today marks the anniversary of a significant milestone in my life.
One year ago today, marked the commencement of a new journey.
One year ago today, I started one of the most difficult yet rewarding processes that I have come to experience in my life.
One year ago today, I met a woman who has helped me to better my life.
One year ago today, was the day I started therapy.

Those of you who know me well can attest to how significant this process and therapeutic relationship has been in my life over this past year.
You have seen my ups and downs as I have worked to navigate through the dark corners of my mind, my being, and my experiences.
You have seen the sheer joy and excitement after I’ve experienced some new revelation.
And you’ve seen the fearful helplessness that has come after others.
You have witnessed both my love and hate for this process.

“The Process”
It has come to be its own entity.
One that has been much easier to accept during the good times.
But is relentlessly there during the bad.
“Trust the process,” she would tell me.
As I sat in complete despair.
Often times, her words were met with skeptic disbelief.
But there was also a small hopefulness there.
And this small hopefulness made all of the difference.
“Trust the process” I would tell myself.
So, I have.
And it has been completely terrifying at times.
And liberating at others.

There is something very freeing about dumping your problems, leaving them there, and coming back to them the next week.
Because that’s what she’s taught me to do.
I’ve learned to unload and walk away from the things that are weighing me down.

There was one specific occasion during which this imagery and practice had particular significance for me.
We occasionally discuss how “lame” and “corny” our methods might seem.
But we also discuss how that’s okay, because being “lame” and “corny” is awesome, and, besides, part of this whole “process“ thing is learning to leave your judgement and your ego at the door.
So, one day while I was really struggling with an issue, we wrapped up our discussion with a compartmentalization technique.
I built a crate in my mind, and I stuffed all of my struggles inside.
As I pulled down the lid and turned the key in the lock, I thought to myself, “I’m going to leave the key with her.”
Only a moment later, she said to me, “Lock it up, and leave the key with me.”
It brought an immediate smile to my face.
And it warmed me from the inside out.
I don’t have an explanation as to why this was such a significant moment for me, because I never needed one.
But this moment held great weight for me.
Maybe it was just evidence for myself that I was truly invested and was starting to really buy into this whole “process” thing.
Maybe it was just a realization of non-judgement and vulnerability.
Whatever it was, it didn’t matter.
All that mattered to me was that it made me feel good and it helped to feel better in that moment.

I believe that a large part of my healing has come as a result of the strong connection that I have with her.
It is because of this connection that I always feel safe and comfortable when I’m in her presence.
And it is a connection that I felt right from that very first day.
I can’t explain it.
But I don’t need to.

Because our relationship has meant so much to me, the therapeutic relationship is something that I’ve spent a significant amount of time contemplating over this past year.
It’s a complex, intimate, multi-faceted, and dynamic relationship.
It wouldn’t be so effective if it weren’t.
It is supportive, challenging, raw, unfiltered, and free of judgement.
For me, it has allowed me to explore areas within myself that I never could have imagined.
And it has pressed me to challenge myself, my beliefs, and my boundaries.
It has pushed me to seek out more discomfort than I ever would have consider consciously signing up for.
It has provided me with an ally.
It has given me a safety net in which to fall.

I’ve recently spent some time reflecting on the changes that have come over this past year.
It’s painful for me to recall how distressed I felt.
How broken I felt.
I can feel the emotions swell inside of me and the tears well in my eyes as I write these words.
But it also makes me feel incredibly grateful.
Because I am in a much better place today.
And I have that distress and desperation to thank for it.
Because it was my desperation that pushed me to do something.

Unfortunately, and to my distress, it wasn’t all that easy and straight forward for me to begin my healing journey.
A year ago, I met the woman who made a difference.
But that was after months of struggling to find relief.
It came after months of fighting and advocating for myself while I was struggling just to exist.
It came after months of:

“Take this pill, and you’ll feel better.”
“Come back in a few weeks.”
“You’re just feeling overwhelmed.”
“This is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation, you’ll be okay.”

I can recall a number of times when I began the process of accessing resources via the local crisis center and walk-in services, only to get frustrated or overwhelmed and turn myself away.
On the few occasions when I actually followed through and met with a practitioner, I left feeling just as, if not more, distraught than when I arrived.
It was discouraging, to say the least.
It left me feeling more confused and broken than I’d been before.
This seems to be an unfortunate reality for many who are struggling.
Trying to navigate and advocate for resources while experiencing these types of struggles can seem next to impossible.
The trial and error process can be excruciating to endure.
Sadly, I don’t have a solution for you.
The best that I can offer is encouragement to not give up.
Don’t stop fighting for yourself.
I know that it’s discouraging.
I know how painful and isolating it can be.
But your betterment is worth the struggle.
And sometimes the only thing that we have to hold onto is the hope that one of these times it’s going to make a difference.
And I promise you it will.
Just hold on.
It will get better.

I am fortunate enough to have experienced this as my reality.
And I feel extremely blessed for that.
It is my hope and prayer that it becomes the reality for all who are struggling.
In the meantime, I offer my love and support to all of the hurting and healing hearts out there.

One of the strategies that I have found to be particularly helpful to me, as I navigate and negotiate my experiences through this process, has been writing. So, 5 journals and some 100 word processor pages later, I’m looking to celebrate my milestone by sharing pieces of my journey with you. Through sharing my story, my hope is to shed light on some of the ups and downs of the therapeutic process; provide a glimpse inside the mind of an obsessively compulsive, highly sensitive, and anxiously curious introvert; all while providing some positivity and comedic relief through my real life story.