I didn’t come up with the title but it’s funny how all my friends of Dr. Bob and Bill W will know exactly where it came from. I could list a bunch more but my fellows know what I’m referring to.
And if you don’t, it doesn’t matter. For it is but one way to say “I have struggled and have found a better way.” We can all relate to that sentiment. Unless you haven’t found your way yet. If this is you, I encourage you to keep searching.
It took me a long time to catch hold of that previously elusive anchor. I peered into the bottle for it. I thought June Cleaver could show me it. I clung to toxic people in hopes they might have it. I starved to achieve it. I thought when I made the Dean’s List, it would be next to it.
I finally learned “it” is the journey. It is tolerating ambiguity and distress, being my own cheerleader, and opening myself to healthy relationships with people who champion my personal development. It is removing internal and external destruction of myself. And using skills to manage the inevitable waves that come with human experience.
I’m not free from struggle, not even free from hopelessness. I am armed with knowledge and experience reminding me to take everything one day – sometimes one breath – at a time.
Maybe you have heard it, maybe you haven’t. Mindfulness is simply the act of being in the present moment. I had a dance professor who would constantly tell me to be in the moment and I had no idea what she was talking about. Turns out the language didn’t quite hit my brain. She was referring to being fully embodied and not lost in the clouds, the past, or the future. A novel concept for me at the time.
So how does one “get in the present moment?” A simple way and a way that really assists in calming anxiety is by focusing on making your breathing rhythmic. Make the inhale as long as the exhale. And then use your senses. What do you see right around you? What do you hear? What do you smell? What sensations are you aware of in your body at this moment? Ask yourself one or two of these questions and then stay with them and explore the answers. Your mind will wander – that’s ok, just call it gently back to the senses without judgment.
That’s the other key feature of mindfulness. Experiencing without judging – negative or positive. Try to describe your present moment without using judging words. Talk about textures and details and not about value words such as like, pretty, ugly, dislike.
There is a reason this is called mindfulness PRACTICE. It takes time, it’s a process and it definitely takes practice to improve your skills.
I didn’t know what a flashback was until I’d been in graduate school (to become a therapist mind you) for two semesters and realized following a rough day with my boss that I would potentially be seeing male clients in my office. Cue evening phone call to my therapist who assisted me in returning to my body whilst parked on the side of the road in pouring rain.
Now I thought I knew what flashbacks were until that point. My understanding of them was full on checking out of current reality and reliving a previous experience. Of course this is true but so too are emotional flashbacks (no visual content) and partial dissociation (feeling of out of one’s body but still recognize the year, surroundings, etc). It would be another year or two following this experience that I would face the reality that *I* had PTSD.
Back to the flashbacks. I rarely have them now, as a result of some deep work with my long-time therapist. However, a significant portion of my clinical work is WITH trauma survivors and thus it is imperative I tend to my own self care. Sometimes I have to take some extra time. Today was just such a day. I needed to do a little more grounding, a little more self compassion, and a little more mindfulness. I chose lavender essential oil, and an earth element focused yoga practice.
I couldn’t have made the choice to engage in such self care were it not for my own therapy and thus would have run the risk of secondary trauma and/or lingering emotional distress robbing me of the next hours and days of my life. Or based on my history, engaging in unhealthy coping skills that have previously threatened my sanity and my life.
Growth is good.