I might as well eat worms

Can we talk about rejection-sensitive dysphoria (RSD) for ADHD folx?

I was reminded of several things recently. First, that rejection sensitivity within ADHD is a powerful force. Second, it is not often spoken about or understood, even by therapists. And Third, there are plenty of ways we can work with the experience to reduce its impact.

What is rejection sensitivity? ADDitude Magazine sums it up well:

Individuals suffering from rejection sensitive dysphoria may exhibit the following behaviors:

  • Sudden emotional outbursts following real or perceived criticism or rejection
  • Withdrawal from social situations
  • Negative self-talk and thoughts of self-harm
  • Avoidance of social settings in which they might fail or be criticized (for this reason, RSD is often hard to distinguish from Social Anxiety Disorder)
  • Low self-esteem and poor self-perception
  • Constant harsh and negative self-talk that leads them to become “their own worst enemy”
  • Rumination and perseveration
  • Relationship problems, especially feeling constantly attacked and responding defensively

One way that this shows up for me, and many of my clients, is in the aftermath of time with friends, acquaintances, coworkers, etc.

Let’s say I go and spend time with a close friend. We have a lovely time chatting, laughing, drinking tea. In the moment I feel connected (because I’ve learned how to manage the immediate fears and reactions of RSD), and after a few hours we part ways happily. Zero weirdness.

Then it’ll settle in. Maybe it’ll be the car ride home, maybe as I’m trying to fall asleep that night. It’ll sound a little like this, “Did I screw up that entire conversation? I talked way too much. She probably thinks I’m an idiot. She must hate when she is forced to spend time with me. Did I force my way in? How pathetic must she think me? I can’t believe I’ve screwed up yet another friendship. I probably won’t ever hear from her again. I wouldn’t blame her.”

You get the point.

The physical sensation that accompanies this involuntary tirade is a sinking feeling in my chest, a tight nausea in my stomach, a lump in my throat, a smidge of panic, and the distinct urge to crawl under a rock and rot.

Other times, I won’t have this internal monologue, but I’ll notice a nebulous depression or anxiety that hangs over the next couple of days. Almost an RSD hangover.

Sound familiar?

Here’s the thing, those thoughts are trash. When I check back in with my friend, she’ll be surprised that I felt anything other than warm fuzzies, as she did. She can’t fathom why I would feel that way. And when I search my memory, I can’t really locate the specific moment I acted a fool, but can still palpably feel having done so.

The truth? Most people don’t check back in with that friend. Bathing in a soup of shame, misery, and a fear of over-reacting, they stay quiet. Heaven forbid they acknowledge, out loud and outside of their body, that they’re as mentally unstable as they feel. The embarrassment is paralyzing.

TLDR: You are not mentally unstable. RSD is a normal survival reaction of the brain to get you to preserve relationship and community, because humans can’t survive without it.

Now, this example was based on a close, loving friendship. Imagine this, then, with someone you’re still trying to win over like a new acquaintance or coworker. Imagine if it’s not just one person, but a group of people. Or even worse, imagine that the scenario isn’t all kittens and rainbows, but is in fact is riddled with criticism like in a review at work or when your partner is frustrated with you.

Where is a good rock when you need one?!

Relax. We can cope with this. In an upcoming blog, I’ll teach you the three step process to managing emotions. Yes, it is harder than it sounds.

For starters, remember: Name it to Tame it. “Whoa, my body is tight and I’m having anxiety. That’s probably rejection sensitivity. That happens sometimes after I spend time with others.” Or “of course I feel fear and overwhelm, feedback at work is hard.”

Next, check your mind. If you can’t locate a specific whoops moment, then thank that part of you for trying to protect you from social banishment, and let it fall away. It always helps to return to your body. Notice where the feelings are loud and breathe into them. See if you can focus solely on the physical sensations of this, and whether you can relax even a tiny bit during each slow exhale.

If you can locate a specific whoopsie, then reach out to your friend and apologize. If the relationship is too new or the whoops wasn’t egregious, then apologize to yourself in the mirror (and then forgive yourself). We all make mistakes. You can always phone a friend and replay what happened, or even phone the friend you were with and check out your story with them. It helps to start by saying, “I’m telling myself a story that… did you experience the same story?” It helps if they know, in advance, that you might do this.

But what if you really did screw something up or are getting difficult feedback from work or a partner? Well, for starters, welcome to life. You’re a human. Humans are chronic mistake-makers. We’re all basically bumping around in the dark trying to make our way through this life. Some of us make more mistakes, but that has nothing to do with our value. Some people have more freckles. Does that change their value?

The antidote I’ve found most effective for difficult feedback, is to be gentle with myself and take accountability for it. Someone else: “You didn’t do the thing you said you’d do.” *shame spiral swirls – deep breath* Is it true that I struggle to complete some things? Yes. I can do this. “You’re right, I said I would and I didn’t. I can understand how that’d be frustrating for you. This happens for me sometimes, I’ll go take care of it now.”

Ultimately, we have to be willing to acknowledge and work with our shortcomings – while keeping kindness in our hearts. Am I the very best friend who ever existed? No, probably not. Are any of my friends? Well, they’re pretty great, but they’re all imperfect. Just like me.

(and that’s okay)

Subscribe to our blog for more information and techniques of managing emotions, ADHD, relationships, and more.

You got this,

D

In the wake of loss

2021 ended in a difficult way for so many families in the Front Range. The Marshall Fire was the most devastating on record, and the loss is palpable.

The journey through this grief may be long and come in waves, and with the right support, you can feel your way through this. We’re here to help if you need us.

Additionally, we’ve added some resources below.

A few of the therapists over at Integrating Insights put together a wonderful handout for parents on how to talk to and support their kiddo with navigating the loss. You can read it below.

Not sure what to do next? The Red Cross has a page dedicated to you: What To Do After A Home Fire.

The US Fire Administration has this information packet below:

While we are offering a discounted rate to anyone impacted by the fire, Jewish Family Services also offers free services to those impacted.

You can also access more local resources through the Colorado Sun.

If you’re trying to support a friend through their loss, check out this Sonoma Magazine Article.

Here are some groups offered through Integrating Insights, as well:

Let us know what you need. We’ll keep adding resources as we find them.

Seity

I don’t need any help

Unlike many traditional graduate programs, my program required a 14-day backpacking trip into Utah’s
most grueling terrain. My peers and I spent two weeks hiking along the bottom of White Canyon, a deep
canyon marked by labyrinth-like side canyons, thick underbrush, arches, and pictographs. Throughout
these weeks, my peers and I took turns facilitating therapeutic group activities designed to provoke self-
reflection. What I discovered about myself during one activity changed the way I saw myself forever.
As the sun disappeared behind the canyon wall to the West, I shifted my heavy pack off my back and sat
in the sand to listen to the activity instructions my peer was giving. Here is what she said:


“I will be setting up a maze with rope. With one of your hands on the rope, your job is to find the way out
of the maze. You will be blindfolded, so this task will be difficult. You can raise your hand as many times
as you want to ask questions or to ask for help.”


“Okay, pretty straightforward,” I thought as I tied a bandana around my eyes and placed my hand on the
rope.


I slowly worked my way around the maze, making a mental map in my head. I could hear my peers
laughing and huffing in frustration as we quickly discovered the exit wasn’t going to be easy to find.
After a while, a few peers excitedly proclaimed their success and exited the maze. As fewer and fewer
people circled the maze with me, I grew frustrated and determined to find the exit.


“Do you need help, Jess?”
“No, I can do it! I don’t need any help.”
“Okay, let me know if you need help, I’m right here.”


Slowly but surely, I was the last one in the maze, circling around in the sand and swearing at my inability
to figure out the game. Finally, in a fit of frustration and anger, I pulled off my blindfold and begged my
peer to tell me the secret for getting out of the maze.


“All you needed to do was ask for help.”

If you relate to this story, it’s possible that at some point in your life, you learned that other people
couldn’t be trusted or relied on. To compensate for this lack of trust in others, you developed a
rebellious streak of independence to cope. Now, don’t get me wrong, independence can be a wonderful
strength, but at what point does it isolate you and leave you feeling alone and helpless?
As we’ve seen from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s difficult for humans to thrive in isolation. As difficult as
it may be, learning to be vulnerable and ask for help when you need it will improve your relationships
and your mental wellbeing. I’ll save you the hassle of backpacking into the Utah wilderness and blindly
following a rope in circles in order to unlearn hyper-independence. Here are a few skills to try to begin
learning how to trust others:

  • Check your ego: Use a beginner’s mindset to view tasks with “fresh” eyes instead of assuming
    you know all the answers.
  • Delegate tasks: Ask your co-workers or family members to help you with something small or
    inconsequential to build your trust in their ability to help you in the future.
  • Allow for imperfection: If you’ve delegated a task, and it’s not done exactly how you would have
    done it, ask yourself if that’s okay?
  • Trust: Think of someone you trust completely. Make a list of qualities which make it easy for you
    to trust them. Work to extend trust to others who hold those qualities

Next time you find yourself saying “I don’t need any help,” challenge yourself by adding: “Actually, I could use a hand.” Remember, this doesn’t make you weak or needy, this makes you brave.

Reach out if you need me,

Jess

I Just Want It To Be Over

“I just want it to be over.”

A sentiment I hear on repeat, from all walks of life, from the left as well as the right. From men, women, non-binary, White and POC.

“I just want it to be over” …but it’s not. It’s not going to be for a while.

Wishing for difficult moments in time to be over is natural. It’s human to try to escape suffering. That is what our brains are made for. Itch? Scratch. Uncomfortable? Adjust. Sad? Distract. It’s as if we are addicted to the pursuit of not feeling negative feelings. This addiction blinds us, though, to all the potential joy we could be experiencing. Right now.

Here are two reasons you are robbing yourself of joy when you wish for now to be over and the future, surely full of awesomeness, to be here now.

1. When you wish for something to be different, you are shifting out of acceptance. This is a topic I talk about often, but here is another reminder. Acceptance is essentially acknowledgement. This is what is. When in acceptance, we are not condoning, being “okay with,” or embracing anything. We are simply acknowledging life as it stands. In this space, there are feelings. All the feels, but we’ll get to feelings in a minute.

When you step out of acceptance, you step into either aversion or attachment. Aversion says “I don’t want what I have,” while attachment says “I want what I can’t have.” Can you feel the instant ache? These are the places we experience suffering. “I just want this to be over” is a deeply painful cross between these two points of suffering. I ache to escape what I have and long for something not possible. Oye. Is it any wonder we’re suffering so much?

2. You can’t block out one “type” of feelings. Therapist bias here, but feelings can’t be broken down into types. Feelings are feelings. If you try to block out sadness, you block out joy. If you try to block out anger, you block out peace. You cannot pick and choose. You are either numb to feelings or open to experiencing them. And no matter how long or how much you try to hide from feelings, you can never escape them. They’ll pitch a tent and wait for you to open your door for other moments. This is why grief can snowball. Often, when we lose someone, we lose everyone we’ve lost before them all over again because we’ve mistakenly believed we could shelve our experience.

How much easier would all this feeling stuff be if we just thought feelings were… feelings? Not good. Not bad. Not desirable or undesirable. Just that – a passing emotional experience. Just as waves are not separate from the ocean, our experiences are not separate from ourselves. The ocean never fears that the current wave will last forever. The ocean doesn’t try to block out certain waves or believe it is this current wave. They simply arise, move through, and return to the ocean. You could have embarrassment or jealousy arise and, instead of losing your peace of mind by resisting, believing it is who you are, or falling prey to thoughts about its permanency – you could choose to get curious and lean into the experience. You might find when you do this, feelings are juicy. They’re fascinating. Exciting. You could feel child-like awe about them. Suddenly, all feelings are awe-some.

“I just want this to be over.” Okay. But engage with this intentionally. Finish the thought: “I want this to be over, and I know it isn’t and that I cannot control that. So, instead of sitting in the discomfort and allowing it to be temporary, I’m going to consume, distract, numb, or stuff my feelings and turn this difficult time in my life into a long-lasting suffering that will take me years to unpack. But, that sounds like future me’s problem.”

If it feels ridiculous, you’re doing it right.

Sometimes we have to be a little ridiculous with ourselves to see where we’re getting stuck. 2020 has given us a ride, and from the look of it, we’re only halfway through. We can’t fast forward. Can’t numb out until it’s over (ever seen Click?). 2020 is giving us an opportunity to tune in. To greet the grief and overwhelm – both ours and in our communities. Sit in discomfort. It’s good for you. If you’re comfortable, you’re not changing. We often have to look for opportunities to get uncomfortable to create change.

Not this year.

Lean in. Reach out for help. Try not to wish your life away. If you’re reading this, you’re alive. Look at your family, your friends. Whisper to yourself, “we’re alive.” Breathe it in.

D

Swirling Minds

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There are so many questions – mine, clients, the world. It seems as though we’re walking around our homes and neighborhoods with swirling minds. Wondering. Pondering questions that we may never get answers to. Fearing the answers to others.

There are questions about why, how it started, and why we didn’t do things differently. Fears and frustrations around governments, lack of access to food and medical care, and the perpetual unknown of who is sick and who is not.

There are questions that hit us to our core, too. Our attempts to understand the why and how behind the moment set aside, we wonder how our world will be when it all comes to an end:

Will people be kinder, will they focus more on what matters? Will I?

How is this changing the next generations? Will they fear for safety? Will they come together faster? Will they learn to mourn losses without pushing them aside or numbing them out? Will the littlest of them remember?

What will it feel like to go to the grocery store, concert, airplane, or birthday party after this? Will I ever not feel afraid?

I think we’re seeing a lot of reality all at once these days. We’re being shown our privilege in high definition, and it can be painful. We are usually able to go to a building and purchase food whenever we want regardless of the season. We normally have endless connections, freedom to move about and travel our world, and yet very little contact with the people we live with.

I’ve been amazed by the countless stories of people finding themselves in better positions, emotionally, throughout this process. Reversals in who does the primary parenting, more time together as a family, and gratitude for having work we might otherwise be unsatisfied with.

I’ve also seen a lot of suffering. Most of the suffering I’ve seen have been of broken expectations and plans, fear and anxiety, and guilt around not enjoying this time like so many people post about online.

Whatever your experience, give yourself permission to feel it. It’s okay if you’re enjoying this time while people in the world suffer. It’s okay if you’re suffering during this time while people on Instagram are enjoying the downtime. Give yourself the grace to move through this however you need.

Try writing down the questions that you find swirling around in your mind to get them out, and then spend some time answering them for yourself. It’s okay not to have all the answers but to just think things through clearly. You could also color, draw, or tell a story for yourself. Once you’ve done this, you can keep it for later or release it by safely burning it outside.

Example: What will it feel like to go to the grocery store after this? I might be hesitant. I might wash my hands more, touch my face less, and need to regulate my breathing. I might be more appreciative of the people who work there. I might find myself hesitant to move close to people or stepping back when someone approaches. And I might have a completely different experience – that’s okay too.

The best work we can do right now is to learn to allow our experiences. Focus on how they feel in our bodies. Anxiety is often felt like a shaky, butterfly-wing, pressure in our chest or knots in our stomach. Anger is hot and tight, where sadness might be heavier and feel like choking. Start with just breathing to acknowledge and allow. Then, breathe peace into the physical sensation of the emotion. Breathe out and imagine breathing out the emotion like a dragon breathes out fire. Focus your mind and try not to follow thoughts (when you do, bring yourself back with the next breath).

We still have a few more weeks to go. And we can do this. Reach out for help if you need it.

Be safe out there,

D

We’re Still Here…

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It can feel a bit like the world is spiraling these days. People are struggling with the loss of work, being cooped up at home, or having their regular self-care activities come to a screeching halt. This could feel like the end of the world. This could also feel like an opportunity.

As a therapist working in the world right now (currently, through telehealth), I have to share: I’ve been amazed. I’ve been amazed by how many people have been seeing this as an opportunity. Amidst the loss and uncertainty, I’m hearing stories of gratitude for being required to slow down, spend more time with family, get more creative with self-care.

I’ve seen a lot of tears in the last two weeks, and I undoubtedly will see more. Heck, I’ve had my own. And that’s okay. Let it out, feel your way through it. Uncertainty can feel heavy on your chest, and tears can release some of the tension.

I’ve seen a lot of hope in the last two weeks, and I hope to see more. Maybe the world will get a wake-up call. Maybe we’ll realize what is really important and care more about our people than we do about how pretty our homes look for Instagram pictures. Maybe we’ll put our phones down and look up to the sky or into the eyes of those we love more often. Maybe we’ll Facetime Grandma more than once a never.

Maybe, just maybe, we’ll realize that we don’t have to face a pandemic to appreciate those we love, take good care of ourselves, and slow down.

If you’re struggling, please reach out to a therapist or other trusted person. You don’t have to go it alone.

We’re still here.

All services have been moved to Telehealth through programs like Google, Doxy, Theranest, SimplePractice, and Zoom. But we’re here. Here are a few tips to get the best experience out of your telehealth sessions:

  • Find a quiet, comfortable, private place to engage in therapy (though we never mind meeting your dogs and cats!). If you can’t find a quiet place, plan to stop a few times throughout the session to take a few deep breaths and refocus your energy.
  • Have a few things you’re hoping to touch on in the session. When you feel prepared, sessions feel smoother and you walk away feeling like you got more from them. It also helps you feel like you have power in an otherwise uncertain time.
  • When you’re talking, look at the camera instead of your therapist. While you’re talking, we’ll look at you. Then, when we talk, we’ll look at the camera and you can look at the video of us. This back and forth helps it feel more connected.
  • Be patient. Everyone and their mother is using telehealth services, so sometimes there are blips. Though it can be tough, we’re still here and we can see it as an opportunity to pause and breathe.
  • Relax. The hour is yours. Laugh, cry, be uncertain. Just be you.

Keep an eye out for some at-home self-care things, and check out our Facebook or Instagram for ideas. Get creative!

You can do this. We’re still “here” with you.

D

Willingness for Vulnerability

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I’m sitting in a chair, barefoot and holding a warm glass of tea meant to bring some calm into my life. It’s my first time in this place, a mindful community, and the three others there have been kind and welcoming. I’ve needed this, a sangha. It’s been hard to find one that fits. The task before me is a check-in, much like a therapy group, but without feedback or conversation. Just brief attuned listening. Real space to exist for a moment.

I thought perhaps I’d share something mid-level. In grad school, we used to call it a 4 or a 5 on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is the trauma you’d share with a therapist and 1 something you’d share with a stranger. After all, I don’t know these people. I haven’t even decided whether this is my place or my community. Why let them know me?

Ready to share something mostly meaningless, it struck me. A question I ask myself perhaps to often: “What would I tell a client do to?”

I’d probably say, “what would happen if you actually shared how you felt? What might you gain? What is there to lose?”

My turn came. I made the brave choice.

I’m feeling grateful to be here tonight. I’ve been spending so much time trying to take care of others that I’ve forgotten myself. I used to rely on my meditation practice to help me be my true self, and when my daughter was born that nearly disappeared. I let it. And now I don’t always recognize myself. I get frustrated for such mundane reasons and then spiral into shame for not being the woman I know how to be. It hurts. I’m ready to find what makes me radiate again. My daughter deserves to grow up with that version of me.

It came easily. And it reminded me of something I so frequently encourage in others. Shame only holds power when you keep it secret. Letting the air and light in sends the shadows scampering.

Not every place or person is safe. And, if you are standing firmly in an open, willing vulnerability, nothing anyone says can hurt you. You are open and willing, so you examine it, integrate what helps you heal and grow, and allow the rest to fall away.

Naming what shames us is freeing. It takes back the power that shame steals from us. The power we sometimes hand over willingly. It says, no I won’t disappear inside. I won’t hide or fight it. I’ll open the door laughing and invite it in. Only then do I have any chance to let it go.

Is there some shame you might be able to bring into the light? Where might you be able or willing to be vulnerable?

Reach out if you need help.

D

Can’t You See These Flaws

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There’s a shaky feeling. I should be taller. I should be thinner. Everyone else has the body I wish I had. I’ll never be quite as attractive as that. I mean, it’s fine I guess.

I just know if I were a little more __________ then I’d be more loveable, too. More deserving.

Can we talk about body dysmorphia?

It’s been coming up a lot lately. There is this thin veil of “it’s no big deal,” and beneath it a quivering, painful fear. Hate or disgust. It hurts down to the bone, and we make passing jokes about it. Yet we don’t share just how deep this hurt goes.

I’ve fallen prey to it, myself. It wasn’t long ago I realized a pattern I had. I’d look back at younger pictures of myself and think, “my goodness, I was so _____ back then.” Insert whichever wishful adjective you’d like. Over time, I realized that I felt poorly about my body at the time the picture was taken, just to be wistful at having lost the beauty a few years later. Pictures became mirrors I couldn’t ignore. Maybe, just maybe, I never looked as bad as I felt I did at the time, and only with some years of separation from that body could I see it for what it was: beautiful.

We learn a lot about how we feel about our bodies from our families growing up. We hear our parents, who we initially idolize, judging their own bodies, ours, or strangers on the street. We learn what beauty is supposed to look like, and then we measure ourselves against that standard as we grow into our adult bodies. If we don’t quite measure up, we hate ourselves. If we gain too much weight, we skip meals, restrict calories, or exercise too much. It begs a question: can you hate and/or punish yourself into being attractive?

As a kid, I remember my mom saying how old her hands looked. Now when I look down, the same age she was, I see my mom’s hands in place of my own. I hear the words she spoke and have to be intentional about not buying into that, myself. When I see my hands and notice their age, I try to feel gratitude for having made it this far. For having a daughter who will love these hands like I loved my mom’s.

Culture feeds into it, too, right? With all the airbrushing, photoshopping, and filters, we forget what real humans look like. There’s a reason I’m not often keen on following back those fitness moms who post endless “before and after” pictures of their bodies. Those folks who are always DMing me asking if I’d like to lose weight or get more fit. I’m so glad for them that they are working on themselves. And yet, it doesn’t suit everyone to see so many pictures day in and day out of bodies, with the intention to idealize, improve, or boost sex appeal. It can become obsessive, and it concerns me for the dozens of folx I know who still struggle with loving their bodies. The constant suggestion that there might be an ideal body can be vexatious to the spirit. Confused, the spirit starts to ask, “why can’t I look like that?” The answer is simple: because you’re not them. It can be painful when you feel like culture, family, or your own ideals don’t align with the body you were given.

Body dysmorphia wants you to think you’re flawed. That there is some piece of you that is wrong when in reality, there’s not. But saying that is like saying, “don’t be sad” to someone with depression. In fact, it’s closely tied to anxiety, depression, trauma, and OCD. They share a common struggle: believing that happiness, peace, or worth is something that comes from the outside. Each struggle forgets that worth is inherent and happiness comes from within.

Here’s my thought: Why not love yourself into being healthier?

How about instead of hating, obsessing in the mirror, and shaming ourselves for rolls, wrinkles, or too big/too small of something, why don’t we just love ourselves and show it by being gentle, kind, and tending to ourselves? Eat food that makes your body feel healthy. Get restful sleep. Engage in supportive relationships. Take walks. Enjoy the fresh air. Unplug. Drink water. Wear clothes that match your spirit. Laugh. And under no circumstances, stress yourself out doing any of the above.

Perhaps we’ve had it backward all along. Perhaps it isn’t “once I look this way, I’ll be able to love myself.” Maybe we get further by loving ourselves first, respecting and honoring our bodies, and allowing them to rest in their happy place. Then we think, “I love myself, so I love what my body is.”

There are so many ways to start down this road. Here are a few places to start:

  1. Meditation and Mindfulness.
  2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
  3. Radical Acceptance.

There’s something to be said for an attitude of gratitude. Your body will never be “perfect” by any standard other than your own. And sure, walks and happy thoughts won’t make you taller, have different genitals, or re-grow hair. But that’s not the point.

This is the body you have. You won’t ever have another body in this life. This is it. Hating your body is like cooking angry. Your anger taints the food and robs it of its brilliance. Hating your body taints your life and robs it of its brilliance, too.

Think of it this way. Does your body generally work? Try to remember that it’s a miracle you exist. The fact that you can think, that you can breathe, that your heart beats. Maybe you’re missing some digits, or maybe you have a degenerative disease. That’s okay- you still have so many other blessings that many people don’t have. Do you have the disorder where your brain forgets to breathe while you sleep? Imagine being afraid to go to sleep at night because you could forget to breathe and not wake up. Sometimes we need to be grateful for what we have that we consider basic. What we take for granted. Accepting what we have and being grateful can help us see the bigger picture.

Note: Acceptance is not the same as being okay with or giving up. Acceptance simply acknowledges what is. I have a body. It’s not attachment (“I wish I could have a body like that”) or aversion (“I hate that my ____ is so ____”). Acceptance likes facts. This is my body. This is the only body I have. This body allows me to move, speak, breathe, love, and experience pleasure and pain. This is my body. 

Once you can acknowledge your body as it is, you can work toward loving it as it is.

You can do this. If you need help, reach out.

I see your beauty,

D

 

If you’re looking for some body positive insta’s, try: @thebirdspapaya or @lizzobeeating or @noordinarynoire.

When You’re Not Quite Enough

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We can push so hard sometimes. We push away experiences that we find unpleasant, like anxiety, anger, and sadness. We create these beliefs about what it means to be human and then we measure our worth based on how well we meet those expectations. Unsurprisingly, it’s never quite enough, so we hate ourselves a little harder and then hope that by hating ourselves, we’ll learn to do better. But hate is exhausting, so when sticky thoughts come back up we believe them without question. Then, we hold ourselves to those beliefs, and it continues.

Welcome to misery. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Clients often come in wanting me to help them make the sadness, anxiety, or anger go away. I’m here to tell you that I can’t do that. I cannot make your emotions go away, because you’re a human. Humans have emotions. Sure, I can help you learn how to navigate, manage, and experience those emotions without falling into despair, but that’ll take a lot of effort on your part day in and day out.

Geez, don’t sugar coat it, Danielle.

I know. I’m a bit of a pragmatist – I also believe that’s where peace comes from. It’s time we acknowledge (aka accept) where we are. Who we are. Then we can adjust our expectations within attainable limits and feel the joy of small victories.

Meet Sophia. Sophia feels like she should be doing better. She should be further along in her career, more successful in love, and adulting in a way that looks right. She’s been coming to therapy for a while, so she feels like she shouldn’t be still feeling sad or anxious. She snaps at her loved ones when she doesn’t mean to, she questions her worth so frequently she doesn’t even notice half the time, and she clings onto others like air. She sees herself doing these things, and she knows better, so she gets angry that she’s still doing them. The anger doesn’t take long to drift into sadness and despair that she will always live with this struggle. That somehow, she’s broken.

I’ve created Sophia out of thin air. She’s not real. But my guess is that if you’re reading this, she doesn’t need to be. You already know her. I know dozens of Sophias: Men/Women/Non-Binary, later in life and just starting out. I could maybe go so far as to say we all have a little bit of Sophia in us. Some (not so) distant fear that there may, in fact, be something wrong with us when we’re anxious or sad.

There is nothing wrong with you. You are supposed to have all the feels.

It can be really confusing when you’re in recovery from something like Generalized Anxiety Disorder or Major Depressive Disorder. It can also be frustrating when you’re trying to get into recovery from something like this. The push to feel better sometimes makes us forget we’re still supposed to have sadness and anxiety.

Without sadness, we wouldn’t be able to recognize what is important to us. Without anxiety, we would make rash, potentially dangerous decisions. Feelings serve a purpose. Ever seen the movie Inside Out? That’s what it’s all about. Understanding the why behind our emotions.

Here’s a favorite poem, which I’ll describe more in-depth in another post:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-Rumi

When we try to push away all feelings we label as negative, we end up numbing ourselves to all emotions, including the ones we typically think of as “good,” like happiness, love, excitement, peace, etc.

Maybe, just maybe, if you could learn to experience your feelings, regardless of whether they are “good” or “bad,” you could see that you are beautifully human. That no amount of sadness, anxiety, or anger makes you broken. You always have room to grow and heal. And yes, you can experience sadness without being depressed.

Our goal, then, should not be to remove the existence of difficult feelings, but rather to flow with them, acknowledging both their presence and their temporary nature. We get curious about them, looking for what they’re trying to teach us, and then allow them to pass when they’re ready. In Buddhism, this is called inviting it in for tea.

How to do this? I recommend you start with getting good at a body scan meditation, which helps you learn how to shift your mind, feel your body without holding/resisting/judging, and bring awareness into your breath.

If you need help, reach out.

Good luck out there,

D

When You Love Your Opposite

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Most couples who come to see me don’t come in already having figured out how to relate to one another. Most people come to see me because they trigger each other and are unsure of how to navigate to a healthier place.

Working with couples has taught me that there are often two kinds of people in stressed relationships: outwardly emotional people and inwardly emotional people. Those who are outwardly emotional can be seen as intimidating or sensitive. The inward emotional folks are the shutdown, aloof bunch. Outward folks may have fears of abandonment and self-worth issues. Inward people may fear being smothered and struggle with vulnerability. Both people typically struggle with emotion regulation, trust, and healthy boundaries. Both people struggle with insecure attachment styles.

We call those outward folks’ attachment style Ambivalent or Preoccupied, aka “the jungle.” For inward folks, we call their attachment style Dismissive or Avoidant, aka “the desert.” In Wired for Love, Stan Tatkin explains these types as waves (outward/preoccupied) and islands (inward/avoidant). His book is great for a deeper dive into the topic.

When a preoccupied and an avoidant person come together, it can be a bit tricky. The preoccupied person may be too needy, reach out too often, and feel easily rejected or abandoned. Fearing being smothered, the avoidant person may pull back at the first sign of these behaviors to protect themselves, be dismissive of the other person’s feelings, or accuse them of being too sensitive. In turn, the preoccupied person reaches out harder. Then the avoidant retreats further. It’s a bit of a cycle. Too often people try to be heard/seen by getting louder or to show overwhelm with closing down. This cycle leaves both people feeling frustrated and confused.

Fun fact: when a preoccupied person gets overwhelmed their heart rate skyrockets. Inversely, an avoidant person’s heart rate plummets. Makes sense, right?

Lightbulb! Don’t have those attachment styles get together! … if only it were that easy. Preoccupied people are interested in avoidant people because it perpetuates their anxious beliefs about relationships and vice versa. Even when we try not to, we inevitably end up with someone who fills our unconscious expectations. Here’s a great video to illustrate:

“We may describe someone as not sexy or boring when in truth we mean, unlikely to make me suffer in the way I need to suffer in order to feel that love is real.”

Our attachment styles come from how we were parented. To add some fun to the mix, attachment styles can also vary from relationship to relationship and change over time. The good news in this is that attachment styles can be healed.

Once we know our attachment style and the style of our partner, we can work together to heal. The avoidant person works to notice when they get overwhelmed and chooses to lean into the relationship instead of pull away. The preoccupied person works to notice when they get overwhelmed and chooses to lean on themselves first instead of believing their needs can only be met by the other person.

As the video shows, we try to listen to our knee-jerk reaction to learn what is being triggered within us, and then work to respond as our adult self instead of reacting as our younger self. This takes time, patience, and commitment.

Ready to find your attachment style?

Reach out for help if you need it.

Take care out there,

D