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discernment & self-care means saying no sometimes

The new manager that I sent my Canada AM story to (along with my resume) didn’t respond to my email. This, after saying how, “We have to get you back in here before next Tuesday …,” and me having sent her these things on (last) Wednesday. So when I went in this last Tuesday, I was quite anxious, and totally unsure what I was going to encounter there. The lady (and Board members) were bumbling along like nothing had happened, completely unaware of what her not getting back to me had felt like. Still talking to me like a future employee, and some kind of super star hero. 
I knew I was going to have to say no to them somehow.
This job is coming out of their needs, and is not a collaboration having anything to do with mine.
My needs seem to be somewhat invisible to them.
And so, it is not a good fit for me.
It sounds so simple. But I have been feeling extreme anxiety over this, over saying no, doubting myself and my perceptions. Slowly, they are coming clear.

It’s like they are so desperate that they don’t care who I am; they just want me to be the superstar they are projecting onto me.
Wow. How could anyone feel safe around that? !

I don’t feel in the least bit seen. This situation is so perfectly reflective of my childhood. No one seeing me; everyone seeing a star in me and turning a blind eye to the rest. No wonder I needed to say no.

I wrote, and sent, an email to her yesterday, declining the employment opening there. It felt good, though  part of me is sad that I am not the right person to help this centre for people with disabilities.

I realize that what I have to say may be disappointing.
I have decided not to pursue the current job opportunity at IL (Independent Living).
The organization is obviously in a massive transition, and no one who knows me from just a few months ago, is there any more. I do not know the board as a whole; two people have left due to stress, and one person has been let go very suddenly.
Having been through burn-out several times in my life, and quite severely last time, I cannot take risks like I used to, and I regret to acknowledge that working for IL at this time would be a risk for me. 
I feel the importance of IL here, very strongly. I want to support it in whatever way I can; and for now, that means remaining as a volunteer in the capacity I have been doing.
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embracing the self-saboteur

Subconscious

Subconscious (Photo credit: kevin dooley)

I asked a friend of mine over email today if there was a subconscious place in her that believes (one thing or another) and that holds her back from achieving or manifesting what it is she truly desires. It’s funny how particular people in our lives can shed light on things in very particular ways some times.

That question to her lingered in my mind when I pressed send, and I realized that I’ve arrived at a different place with such questions. I used to hear them with a should in them. Like I should be able to go, “Oh, it’s my subconscious, and this is why, and now I get it.” I used to hear it like someone saying, it’s easy to change the subconscious once you become conscious of it. That awareness (not time?) can heal all wounds.

When I ask this question to myself (what subconscious beliefs am I holding on to that are sabotaging my life?), I now simply remove the expectation that it is easy to change these subconscious beliefs.

There are those with mental illnesses who are unable to become aware of such subconscious beliefs, and there are those who are able. I think what defines a mental illness is that in either case, these core beliefs have such adverse affects on our lives that they are significantly and chronically compromised; and changing these core beliefs is a miraculous and sometimes impossible feat.

It’s not a case of choosing to focus on the negative, or a lack of self-discipline, or a resistance to change; it’s a chronic mental-emotional condition with grave effects on a person’s life.

I’m not saying it’s not possible to change on this level — every person’s journey is unique, and good psychotherapists are out there (even if there’s no funding for them here in BC). I’m just saying that it isn’t as easy as pop psychology / new age self-help philosophies seem to claim. We cannot simply ‘choose to be happy.’ We can respond to the intensity and the range of emotion with as much compassion and understanding as possible, continue to learn from it as much as possible, and live our lives accordingly to the time, space and energy this requires. We can stop trying to fit in with the status quo who do not understand this reality. We live on a deeper level of challenge and humility that is, as I have so often said on here, as much a blessing as a curse. If, in this society, I must be labeled as disabled in order to live the lifestyle that allows me to be at all functional, then a) that says something about this society, and b) so be it. Call it whatever you want to call it.

While it may be nearly impossible to change them, it is still worth trying, and continuing to strive for at least a greater degree of understanding that allows us to be compassionate towards ourselves and others, and make healthy decisions for all involved.

When I spoke the question to another, I realized that I spoke it with this new understanding. I did not mean to come across as if it were easy to change the self-saboteur, but to convey and encourage curiosity and compassion for this human condition that affects all of us to various degrees.

Thanks L 🙂


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disability application process

Today I met with an agent at an organization called ‘Cowichan Independent Living.’ They provide assistance to those applying for permanent disability.

I was quite nervous that I would be misunderstood as a fraud and an attention seeker, but was pleasantly surprised to be received with sympathy, compassion, respect and support.

Generally, I am hesitant even to share my process here. Who knows where it will go. My hesitancy is the fence post i so often find myself upon — whether I am a gifted leader and artist or a patient in the lock-down psych ward. Whether I am minimizing or over-dramatizing. I have chronic confusion around this. One day, I wonder what all the fuss was about. I’m fine. What the hell was I complaining about. The next day, i wonder if I should admit myself into the hospital.

And so, here I am, embarking on this path, being met with compassion and support. No one is saying I don’t fit in, or I shouldn’t bother applying, and to some degree, this is still shocking to me. To another degree, it is the biggest relief of my life.

The rep at CIL read what I had written, expressed sympathy and invested his compassion in hearing my disability. We began by making a list of key words, and we began the process of putting my history into words–what are the events and experiences that have brought me to this application.

It’s daunting, and it could have been more terrifying, considering I had met this person at a social event in my neighbourhood a few weeks ago, and he remembered me. But his response was so genuinely caring that any embarrassment was soothed. He said how glad he was that I had found CIL, and that I he felt there was more the organization could do for me, beyond the disability application.

What remains intact in me so far is a striving for integration, a wholistic approach to the term ‘disability.’ The possiblity that I am both gifted and talented as well as requiring a higher level of emotional support, more processing time, and less stimuli and pressure on an ongoing basis.

As I was telling the rep about what I experience, it was clarifying how the things I go through really are exceptional and hindering to many things that the status quo take for granted.

This is quite a radical shift in how I view and present myself in the world. Quite the transition, quite the process of integration I am in.

I’m not sure how much I’m going to post on here about this as it evolves, but I’ll share this snippet that came to me at 3 AM last night:

I have an incredible diversity in me — an abnormal range on the scale of confidence. I go from being able to present myself confidently with warmth, humor, intelligence and leadership to social phobia, indecisiveness, insecurity, isolation and hopelessness. I have a regression into the later rarely less than once every week. It makes a fool out of me. Makes it hard to trust myself, know how to present myself.
This range of confidence is a significant part of my illness. I have difficulty maintaining social connections and community involvement and frequently feel disconnected, somehow at odds with the flow of things. People misunderstand me, call me a fraud and say that I am faking it for attention. They cannot imagine that someone who seems so competent and confident could also be at an emotional / psychological / social / economic disadvantage. And, because I compulsively hide the darker end of my experience, it’s easy for people to disbelieve that it exists. It’s even easy for me to forget how it feels until I am back in it. For the most part, the most that people would see of it is a shyness and awkwardness that seems out of character. A childlike quality where once there was a leader; someone with professional knowledge and expertise to offer. A shy person where once there was a ‘life-of-the-party.’ A person who doesn’t show up for things, who once seemed so gung-ho and like such a positive addition to any event. They are not sure how to take me — do they look up to me or bring on the extra compassion and support for me? Few of them I’m sure realize how much I share in their confusion. They do not engage in the relationship; it’s not a conscious decision, but rather like an inadvertent, unconscious rejection. There is nothing solid for them to attach to, so no attachment is formed.

I feel incredibly vulnerable posting this. I fight with myself in this process, with my insecurities and the chronic confusion over what is real. I’m going to try it out and give myself permission to change my mind and remove this post. It’s a fragile thing.

Luv Underground


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the gift and the curse

Black Water Dragon by Glenda Anderson

Black Water Dragon by Glenda Anderson

What comes out in my writing this Sunday is a slice of my dragons and how they play out in my life.

Last week, I added on two classes that I hadn’t been doing regularly before. I have also been planning a return trip to my old digs to wrap things up there, which has been a process in itself (would have to make a separate post).

What that meant was that by the time I got to Friday, and the social event I had been looking forward to all month, I was completely exhausted, and had to stay home. The exhaustion lasted into Saturday, and I realized that it’s a trigger for me when I feel too tired to go through with social plans because I am exhausted. My exhaustion is like the flu; I need to treat it like I am physically I’ll, which I still have a very hard time accepting. I have to spend a lot of time on the couch, or napping. Just eating and sleeping are about all I can manage. I can’t concentrate on creative projects, or even reading sometimes.

By late Saturday afternoon, I felt cooped in and began craving connection. I reached out to a couple of folks, but got the additional trigger of everyone being busy or also too tired. My Sponsor (CoDA) likes to distinguish between those ‘willing, but not able’ and those ‘able, but not willing’ and in my case, it is actually almost always the former.

I often find myself in this place of craving company, having people to call, but no one being able. After years of this experience, I feel quite daunted by it — a little scarred, really. Like there is something wrong with my life, which there truly is, if I keep repeating this experience over and over again.

'Like Two Ships Passing in the Night' by Dan-ah Kim

'Like Two Ships Passing in the Night' by Dan-ah Kim

I don’t know why. It’s like the timing is all off. When there are opportunities, I am needing time alone to process and rest; when I am ready to go, no one else is. The despair I feel with this pattern is more than I can truly let myself feel at the moment. I have gotten very good at passing the time by myself these days, continuing to justify it by being in recovery from the amount of stress I put myself through before this year. And that is true — the amount of pressure and strain, sustained for so long, is astounding to think of, and that someone — anyone — would have survived it. I don’t think I am even being dramatic, and that’s unusual. All the major and recognized stressors of life were present in mine for over 2 years (career, job, marriage, and living arrangements), so it is understandable that I am experiencing fairly frequent and severe exhaustion.

But it is also part of what I am beginning to call the Gift, which is essentially being more sensitive and living on a deeper level than most. I am beginning to meet others with this gift — many of us being survivors of trauma. Honestly, I’m not sure which comes first: The gift or the trauma, but i don’t tend to care.

Maybe it is part of an explanation of why it is hard for me to make connections. I am different from the status quo, and I always have been. This processing time I need, my ability to become over-stimulated so easily, the detail and depth with which I engage with tasks and relationships, and the creativity that demands to be integrated with it all somehow; the fact that my best functioning hours are between 8PM and 2AM, the amount of time it takes me to wake up and become ready for even the simplest conversation.

Clipart Illustration

Clipart Illustration

Sometimes I feel lazy because I cannot participate and/or accomplish as much as other people; because a 9-5 M-F workweek would kill me (I know this from experience, and I mean this quite literally). And, sometimes I feel like a loser because I do not make friends easily, people who have not been through recovery don’t understand me and think I’m wierd, and because I end up spending a lot of time alone, which is the dragon of all dragons and the subject of this post.

So there is the gift of vibrant (if transient) creativity, intuition and intelligence, and the curse of not fitting in, not being productive in the traditional and generally-acceptable meaning of the word, and of loneliness.

My sponsor asked me in our last meeting how I feel about being gifted. I said I didn’t like it, and that I experienced it as isolating; and both of us looked at each other and knew that this is my work in this life. To live the gift and thrive with it. I realize that calling oneself gifted, or seeing oneself as being ‘special’ is a recognized ‘unhealthy’ core belief in many schools of psychology. As of today, I’m just not sure what to make of this, how to reconcile it with how I feel in the world. I certainly don’t use the word to imply that I am better than anyone else; it does not come from a sense of arrogance, just recognizing that I don’t fit in and that I have talents for things that are harder for the status quo to allot value to.

The questions burning in my heart this evening are how to thrive in the reality of me. How to feel connected and accepted in the world, how to find a sense of belonging, and balance; and if I am not productive in the traditional sense of the word, then how am I productive? What do I produce? What do I contribute to the world, and how do i turn it into a sustainable way of living?

I’ve been entertaining the notion lately that what might be commonly known as an illness may just be a different reality, with value and benefits of its own. What if society found a way of harvesting the value / productivity of this reality, instead of labeling it as a disability? What if all the  (however many) millions of people in the world living on disability funding began seeing the value of our “condition” — what if there is a practical purpose in the world for being this way?

A friend of mine who is a long-time recipient of assistance expressed to me recently how she felt like a hypocrite — hating the government and yet being dependent on it. That many people tire of hearing how we get to flit around doing yoga classes and expressive art therapy, and after nearly a decade, and continued symptoms that prevent her from working etc., she felt a growing sense of guilt for all the self-care activities she does. My response in the moment was to consider my own situation (on assistance since May, but not yet long-term disability status):

Im realizing (/rationalizing) that all these things (yoga, voice, movement) serve to open my vessel by generating joy in me. Seeing as how my life was so devoid of this for the last few years, i think i am doing some catch-up work too–remedial joy-making. At any rate, it’s just what I’m meant to do right now. Maybe the Universe works through the system (government subsidy) to support us in generating joy, opening up the universal flow in the world. Maybe we are sent here to do that.

Maybe we are sent here to open the flow of balance, well-being and creativity in the world, to compensate the whole for all the current depravity of the working class; maybe that is our unacknowledged purpose. Maybe things could be different if the common point of view were changed. Maybe if the accepted work week were 25 hours per week instead of 40, the canyon between health and illness would not be so vast, or exist at all; the cost of health care would return to balance with all of us, and disability assistance would cease to be necessary. What if we all found purpose and value.

When I write these things here on my blog, when I create images and words, share my gift of movement, voice and music in an amateur, community-minded setting; make my own journals and crocheted clothing, I feel my sense of purpose and connection return to me, I feel the inspiration to be alive return to me.

That is the truth of now.

Luv, Underground.

journal cover by me (unknown image sources)

journal cover by me (unknown image sources)