A Crazy Good Beverage Container

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Lookit what I got for writing a post on Crazy Good Parent!  Thanks, Janice!

That’s right, now I can consume schnapps-flavored coffee during 2am feedings and no one will be the wiser.  No one.

If you missed my guest post, be sure to check it out.

And now we’ll return to our regularly scheduled pregnancy nap.

 

My feelings are not to be fixed

Unsolicited advice really doesn’t help.

In fact, it’s always made me feel worse.

A lot of people refer to my job as a professional advice-giver, which really misses the mark.  I’ve often had clients come in and expect direct advice – they’ve even asked me straight up what I think they should do. I get that with some cultures, this is the expectation of coming to see an expert.  Others just desperately want “the answers” (whatever those are), they want a quick solution, and they are afraid or not ready to put in the work to get there on their own.

I always pull back and slow down when a client asks me for advice.  Sometimes I’ll ask why they are wanting to be told what to do, because often their answer reveals a lot about their world view.

And then I lay it right out for them.  I explain that, while I’ve gone through training and I am qualified to help, I don’t know all the answers.  And I certainly don’t know what’s best for one particular person from Adam.  Sure, I have my own opinions, but I see clients for typically only one hour per week, and each client is really the expert on their life – they know better than anyone what may help and what won’t.  Most importantly, a client has to live with whatever consequences their decisions bring, and that’s why they should be making these decisions – not me.  My job is simply to help them make that decision, whatever it is.

And all that is just for advice that was actually invited.

I got onto this topic because 1) It’s one of my biggest pet peeves ever, and 2) Being pregnant seems to invite unsolicited advice, like a lot, and 3) I revisited a comment I made on a similar post, Tolerating Sadness:

I hadn’t really thought about it before, but I do hesitate to post sadder things on Facebook, mostly because I don’t want unsolicited advice or the other unwanted phrases I mentioned in the post. I don’t want to feel judged, dismissed when my sadness makes people uncomfortable. What a shame.

Number 1 is just me, and I tend to not like to be told what to do, unless I am specifically asking for help.

Number 2 is, in my opinion, an example of the (horrible) concept that a woman’s body and sexuality is everyone’s business and is to be regulated.  Do we ask men how their erectile dysfunction is going today?  No.  Do we inquire about the state of their prostate?  No.  Do we give random advice about how to get their sperm count up?  I seriously doubt it.  I could be wrong about this, since I am not a man, but I do know that women’s bodies are more regulated than men’s due to the fact that men have no trouble getting Viagra and penis pumps covered by their insurance, while women have trouble getting birth control and access to safe abortions without unnecessary ultrasounds in some states.  But I digress – this could be a whole other string of ranty posts.

Pregnancy, once a woman starts showing, is also a very obvious, visible condition, and I think this contributes to women getting unsolicited advice from strangers, not to mention getting their personal space violated. (By the way, always ask a pregnant lady if you can touch her belly BEFORE you touch it.  And if she says no, then don’t.  Please.)

Back to the advice-giving.  It all boils down to the fact that advice serves to help the advice giver, not the recipient.  I’ve found that when I am expressing some aspect of my life and feelings that is less than optimal, (sadness, frustration, fear, some icky pregnancy side effect, etc.) that sometimes creates feelings of discomfort in the listener.  One way people try to alleviate that discomfort is to give advice as a means of maybe fixing the problem, or at the very least, feeling like they’ve helped and thus the uncomfortable-feelings-burden has been passed back to me.

Let me be clear.  When I am expressing discomfort, it is not my intention to pass a burden onto the listener to fix my problem.  If you feel discomfort while listening to me, please know that means that you care, you’re tuned into me, and that’s awesome.  Seriously.  But please, don’t take on my discomfort as your own.  It’s not yours to carry.  And it hurts my feelings when you try to deflect the discomfort with advice.  My feelings are not yours to fix.

What I would like instead is empathy.  I know you already feel it for me, hence the advice-giving.  So, instead of covering up empathy with advice, try to give a voice to it.

I’m so sorry you had to go through that.

My heart aches for you.

I wish I could make your pain go away.

Let me know if there’s anything I can do.

These sound wonderful to me.  They are vulnerable.  They keep the two people on the same plane, as equals, as opposed to one who is suffering and one who gives advice as an expert.  I think they are harder to say than advice is.

I’d much rather have someone come join me in empathy than try to slap a bandaid on my feelings.

So please, I invite you to pause the next time you feel the urge to give someone advice.  Why do you feel like giving it?  How are you feeling in relation to this person’s news/problems?  What would it be like to refrain from trying to fix, and instead try to feel?

It might feel uncomfortable, and that’s ok.

Because my feelings (and yours) are not to be fixed.

Reminders

I wrote the following post several weeks ago, shortly after moving to the Portland area.  I hesitated in posting it, mainly because of the reaction I was afraid it might get.  But after reading Charlotte’s brave post on her blog Momaste about her own depression, I figured I should go ahead and post, too, regardless of what others thought.

———————————————————————————–

It’s time to get up, Melissa.

…..what?

You need to get up now.

Not yet.  I don’t think I can.

Take off the covers, swing your legs over the side of the bed and sit up.

…O-Okay.

Now take some deep breaths.  One thing at a time.

I am doing my best to listen to the voice inside my head.  The good voice.  That voice who can see the other side.  That therapist voice who always knows that things are going to be ok, even when I seriously doubt it.

It’s so hard to take my own advice.  I can’t count how many times I have told clients to try and provide themselves with reminders about how it feels to climb out of a depression, or how it feels after you’ve just left an abusive partner, how it feels when you’re loving life and you actually have hope.

We need those reminders of what hope feels like, and now I am needing them, because depression lies to us.

Let me say that again: depression lies.

Some of my clients remind themselves by journaling.  When they feel themselves slipping, I’ll remind them to go back and read the entries they made when they felt good about themselves.

Some of my clients use artwork they’ve made as reminders.  Others use music.  Or dancing.  It’s about whatever works.

Step one is to get yourself to actually make the reminder.  Step two, which is the harder one, is to get yourself to pull out the reminder when you need it most.

I actually got this idea from one of my very first clients who used this technique naturally.  She recognized that the abuse in her relationship ran in cycles, that her manipulative ex changed his tactics from time to time, and that she needed a reminder as to why she left him, especially when he was beginning to turn the charm back on, or when things got particularly hard on her own.

She knew just how strong her denial could be, and so she knew that she needed a real, tangible reminder.  Something she couldn’t ignore or explain away.  So she cleared out a drawer in her house, and she filled it with things her ex had broken.  Picture frames, phones, even pieces of a dining room chair.  Every time she needed reminding, she would open that drawer and touch all the broken pieces of a life she had left behind.

I used her amazing example with many clients, and right now I’m needing to use it for myself.

Because sometimes I feel like my hope has leaked out of my drawer.

Now I need you to brush your teeth.

I don’t feel like it.

You’ll feel better afterwards.

…will I feel better, ever?

Yes.

How do you know?

Because you’re still listening to me.

~~~

Tell me, what do you use as a reminder of hope?

Two poems, one story

Every once in a while I try my hand at some fancyass prose just to see what happens.

Occasionally I come up with something with which I am fairly satisfied, and two of those recent examples are here and here.

For the first poem, Bending Slightly in the Breeze, I didn’t set out to write a poem initially.  I drive past several sunflower fields on the way to work each day, and I think, when they are in full bloom, they are one of the most beautiful sights on earth.  After several trips back and forth, I realized that almost every single flower faced east.  I still don’t know why that’s the case (anyone know?), and I found it very interesting.  Also, the entire field on a small hillside just makes it look like the country is on fire with joy, especially as the sun dips low in the sky at the end of the day.

I tried taking a picture of the fields with my phone as I drove by (not the safest thing, I know), and the pictures just didn’t do them justice.  Not even close.  It was then that I grabbed my phone one morning and recorded a voice memo of what it was like to drive past the flowers, and that eventually morphed into the poem.

I wondered what it would be like to be one of those flowers.  They looked like they were all patiently waiting for something…but what?  Anyone see the movie City of Angels?  It reminded me of when the angels would gather on the beach every single morning to watch the sun rise and hear the glorious music that came with it.  Perhaps these sunflowers were echos of those angels.  What would it be like to be among them?  I wanted to see what they saw.

Links to source

For the second poem, This Was Where She Belonged, I again thought of the sunflowers since they remind me of the hills being on fire, but it was also inspired by some real, scary flames.  Recently, my partner’s place of business was threatened by a grass fire.  It’s a remote area with only one road as an entrance/exit and he and his coworkers were not allowed to evacuate for fear they’d clog the route for emergency vehicles needing to get in.  After a very tense hour or so, the fire was put out about 100 feet from his building, after his office had begun to fill up with smoke.  Needless to say, I was very happy to see him after work that day.

Back to the poem, I imagined my human/sunflower (notice her feet were still rooted in the soil) from the first poem threatened by a fast-moving, evil, destructive grass fire.  The last part of the poem was about…acceptance, I suppose.  She couldn’t outrun the fire (indeed, I was trained in such matters as a summer camp counselor), and so she accepted…her fate, whatever that may be.

Maybe the fire would spare her.  Maybe she’d get burned and rise from the ashes.  And maybe the fire would get put out in the nick of time, just 100 feet away.

Transitional periods are hard

Hello there, Psychos.

I’ve missed you.  Well, I have and I haven’t.  It [my honeymoon] was actually a very nice break from blogging, from wedding crap, from my job, from the world.

I was able [read: forced] to completely unplug whilst on a giant ass boat in the middle of the Mediterranean, and it felt good.  Wireless was crazy expensive on the boat, and the only things I used my phone for was as an alarm clock and to stitch together amazing panoramas of European villages I want to retire to (in like 5 years).

But it’s interesting, because now that I am back, I want to write, I feel the need to write, but I don’t know what to write about.  I also want to put a post between me and my last one…so here you go.  I just started typing to see what comes out.

So I started this post several days ago, and just last night I got a surprising email – my Post Wedding Blues post is going to be Freshly Pressed, and my first reaction was not excitement.  I think my first worry was that I’ll get all this unsolicited advice about how I need to look on the bright side and how I shouldn’t dwell on the wedding, it’s the marriage that’s important.  (A side note about advice like this – I find it very interesting that many people in our Western culture have a hard time tolerating sadness, whether it’s their own or someone else’s.  We’re taught very early to act like everything’s fine or to cheer people up rather than just accept and deal with what is.  Perhaps this is a post for another day…) I’m wondering if dealing with all the FP-ness is going to hinder or help my fragile mood as of late.  Being FPed is an honor and a part of me is excited – maybe it’ll give me that push to start really writing again – but it’s also a vulnerable place to be.  I’ll get a lot of exposure from all different kinds of people and that can be awesome but it brings about just that – the feeling of being exposed.

My depressed mood hasn’t all been about wedding stuff.  I had a lot of fun on my honeymoon, and I was able to just be in the present for the vast majority of it, but we came home to a hurricane of an apartment and it’s driving me crazy.  We registered for crap for a house we don’t yet have, and that crap is now piled and shoved into our tiny two bedroom apartment.  Right now I feel like I am drowning in stuff – the walls are closing in.  More importantly, B and I both came home to jobs from which we’ve learned all we can, and we both feel that it’s time to move on – professionally and personally.  At this point, before we’re able to actually make these major changes, I am not sure how I am supposed to keep this feeling of unrest from eating me alive.

The only answer so far has been for me to clean, organize, pile, and give shit away like a maniac on speed.  I obsess over what I can give away next, or how I can maximize my closet space beyond what I’ve already done.  In my calmer moments, I am also able to reassure myself that this period of my life is transitional, it’s temporary, and I will get through it.  Plus, now I have an amazing husband to get through shit with, and that’s the best part.

Post wedding blues

I’m really sad about the way my wedding went.

It wasn’t what I wanted.  It wasn’t what we had planned for over a year, and what I have anticipated for years, and I desperately want a do-over.

So many things went wrong that I don’t really know where to start.  But I do know that I’m having to grieve the loss of the biggest, most important party of my life, and that I’m having to grieve the violation of my expectations, which has always been a tough one for me.

We had issues with a lot of vendors.  The bartender showed up late, our ceremony started late, the on site coordinator was shit and was often nowhere to be found.  The DJ introduced us with the wrong fucking name.  Staff started cleaning the wedding up before it was even over, and someone moved my evening bag from the sweetheart table, delaying our planned exit.  The town car was late picking us up at the end of the night, and then they even drove us to the wrong hotel.  The worst part, though, was that I suffered late stage heat exhaustion and eventually went to the ER in the wee hours of the morning after the wedding.

I’m pretty devastated.  I feel like I have postpartum, but for weddings.

A lot of things went right, and I did manage to have a good time, and I am so thankful that I was physically able to finish the wedding.  The ceremony was absolutely beautiful and went better than both Brian and I anticipated.  We wrote our own vows and they were absolutely perfect.  We made each other laugh and cry…. I got to marry my best friend in the whole world.

After the gorgeous ceremony and before I fell ill

After the gorgeous ceremony and before I fell ill

But there was so much I didn’t get to do that I really wanted to.  Brian and I didn’t get to do our planned first dance.  We didn’t get to do the father/daughter and mother/son dances.  I wasn’t able to wear my gorgeous dress for the whole night.  I barely tasted the food and I didn’t even get to try the ice cream sundae bar that I was just so, so excited about.  We didn’t get to go up on the hilltop and have the sunset pictures taken of us under the oak tree.  I was really looking forward to that.

So, as you can tell, I have a lot of mixed feelings.  They come and go depending on my mood and energy level.

I felt like I needed to write about this….but even as I read back what I just wrote, there’s just nothing I can put down that will accurately capture the sorrow and disappointment I feel.

I’m really working on honoring my feelings and allowing myself to feel sad about the bad parts, and happy about the good parts.  And I know it’s going to take a while before the happy outweighs the sad.

It makes me sadder still when I realized I was dreading being asked by friends and coworkers (and fellow bloggers) about how the wedding went.  It’s really hard to talk about when 1) the person asking is expecting a glowing report, and 2) I don’t feel like bursting into tears at work or in public or to someone I don’t know very well.

One thing that helps is when others don’t try to cheer me up, and instead allow me to feel sad about it.  Yes, I did get married, and yes, I have much to be thankful for.  But had Brian and I just wanted to be married, we would have gone to the courthouse a long time ago.  We wanted a celebration.  We wanted a wedding just like most others, and I feel robbed of that experience.  Of course I didn’t expect things to go perfectly, but I didn’t expect such a chaotic let down.

We leave for our honeymoon on Wednesday and my fear is that our sadness will get in the way of us having fun.  At times it probably will, and we’re anticipating needing to take some time to grieve together.  We also plan to have fun, and we know that having fun will be unavoidable because we’ll be on a boat in the Mediterranean and I’ll be stuffing my face with gelato and pizza.  And we’ll be with each other, because in the end, that’s all that matters.

This has been really hard to write, so thanks for reading this far.

Personal meets Professional meets the Internet

If y’all enjoyed reading my guest post on Black Box Warnings on what it’s like to be a therapist, then I can also recommend a fabulous piece by Ally at Dream Electric!

Ally is a mental health professional in the UK, and she interviewed me and another psych blogger on how we manage and present our professional and personal selves in the online world.

Check out the post here!

Baby’s First Troll

It’s happened, you guys.

I think I’ve finally made it as a blogger!

Screen Shot 2013-06-14 at 5.54.17 PMI don’t even know where to start, q1605.

Should I comment first on how you used the incorrect form of your/you’re?

Or maybe I should point out how awesomely creative and not at all ironic you are for inserting a poop reference into your comment about my post on, well…poop.

And then there’s the content of your comment; you so appreciatively imply that you’re a longtime reader of Psychobabble, and for that I thank you from the depths of my colon.

I have no idea why it took so long for me to attract the attention of an honest-to-goodness troll in need of some quality hugs and psychotherapy, but I won’t speculate.

I’ll just accept the honor and keep right on blogging about the same old crap.

Happiness is an Empty Colon

I talk about poop a lot.

Freud would say this means I am stuck in the anal stage of childhood development, and I am not sure that’s too far off the mark.  Let’s just say that The Beatles were wrong when they said that happiness was a warm gun.  No, no, it’s an empty colon.

—–

Since Brian and I get up for work at different times in the morning, we don’t get to see each other until we get home from work in the evening.  We supplement our communication needs with email and chats during the day.

me: You know, because of this bloating, I’ve had to get up and pee TWICE each night since Saturday

Brian:  eek

me:  My sleep hasn’t been good
Brian:  Have you asked Dr. Internet what to do?
me:  No…but it’s just going to tell me that I am dying.  Or pregnant.  Besides, I pooped this morning, so that’s a plus!
 Brian:  Was it a lot?
 me:  Not a lot…
 Brian:  Still good though
 me:  From 1-10, it was a 4
 Brian:  Hah
 me:  10 being MASSIVE, EPIC poo, you know, that breaks the water
 Brian:  On the Shat Scale
 me:  Right!  So at least my poo wasn’t a 1, which would be like two little nuggets…plop, plop.
 Brian:  Let’s change the subject.
 me:  Why?  This is awesome!  …This could be a blog post!

Could it be…Satan?!

It appears that Lucifer was hard at work on my blog over the weekend.

He must have been angered by all the bunnies, eggs, and joyful pastels.

Katie from Words for Worms kindly informed me that my blog required a much-needed exorcism.

The power of Christ compels you!

The power of Christ compels you!

Thanks for fighting the good fight, Katie! (as opposed to putting devil horns on my head, cuz I know you’d never do that to me.)  I owe you one.