Making peace with mistakes

So I made a mistake. Doesn’t everyone? Or course they do. Humans learn through trial and error, amongst other ways, and that means mistakes will be made. So why is it that when I make a mistake, consciously or otherwise, the pain tends to linger long after the lesson was learned?

Mistakes are nuanced and so I don’t want to imply that when I accidentally buy my kid the wrong toothpaste I shame spiral into a pint of ice cream and punish myself for weeks on end. No, that’s not what I’m talking about here. I am referring to the type of mistake I had somehow convinced myself I was too mature to make, or that I had already done in the past and it would never, ever happen again. These mistakes seem to stick around and stir up trouble.

One example is anger in parenting. Oh, to be the peaceful parent. I had never heard of peaceful parenting until I had two toddlers and was raging at them in angry fits I can only describe as disturbing, to respond to their own angry fits. It was around then that I started to hear friends and peers buzz about a parenting method that was sure to produce balanced, calm, enlightened adults, if only you didn’t yell. Oh dear, I sighed. I am not a peaceful parent. I am the antithesis of a peaceful parent and that could mean I’m ruining my kids.

I would promise myself to do better. I had to be better for them. It was my responsibility to raise people who would be good for the world and not end up on the news for criminal activity. Each and every time I slipped up and yelled, I’d punish myself for days and weeks for failing them. I would carry the weight of the mistake with me for weeks at a time, worrying that they would remember and hate me or that my husband was disappointed in me for yelling at the kids. It was enough to push me right out of my intuitive eating and self care exercises and directly into destructive binging and self shaming.

Mistakes are not something I tend to enjoy but I’m trying to evolve the way I experience them. Maybe its age or all the reading I’ve been doing. Maybe I just don’t want to be so psycho about the way I react to mistakes anymore. Whatever the case may be, I’m glad that I’m seeing there might be another way to learn from mistakes. I don’t want to stop making them because mistakes are the secret ingredient to learning and that is what I want to embrace.

If I’m not willing to make mistakes, it is essentially saying that I’m not willing to try anything new in life and that sounds like the opposite of living to me. I don’t want to settle into life. I want to stir it up! I want to test its limits. I want to take risks. This is my only life and its a one shot, kind of deal, so bring on the mistakes!

I wanted to come up with some ways to help get me into that new way of thinking about mistakes. Winging it seemed like what I’d been doing for the last 40 years so I thought a more organized approach might help with the shift to embracing mistakes and seeking the lessons they teach rather than running from them. I put together some steps I’m going to try and think through when I feel like I’m carrying around the burden of a mistake rather than forming new muscle memory and moving on.

Below is what I came up with. I hope to use these thoughts in some way to keep my reaction from becoming my punishment.

  1. Acknowledge the mistake. Just admit whatever it is out loud, even if it’s just to myself.
  2. Gracefully allow yourself to explain the decisions that led to the mistake without judgement.
  3. Try to do some damage control and apologize to anyone involved. If I’ve done something to someone else, I want to own up to it.
  4. Forgive yourself out loud as if you are talking to someone else. Do this even if the other person does not forgive you.
  5. Do a symbolic task like writing down the mistake and then throwing away the paper. This creates closure.

My hope is that I will find peace with mistakes sooner and this will lead to better mental health. I want to learn from the mistakes but I do not want to be a slave to them.

The right therapist makes all the difference

Therapy has proven useful to me at a few key points in my life that needed an extra assist to find my footing. I benefited greatly from putting aside ego and finding the help I needed. Please feel encouraged to do the same if you are doing some mental gymnastics on your own to deal with whatever is on your mind. There is a better way! Finding the right therapist can make a big difference in your experience, so I wanted to share with you a couple of times I researched and found the therapist I needed to move forward. What I found with each use case was that in therapy, one size does not fit all. It is always prudent to shop around.

First a quick background and a reminder…

A reminder: I am not a doctor. I am not offering medical advise. I am sharing my own experience of finding the right therapist for my personal mental health needs. For medical advise you must contact a doctor.

I have a minor in psychology purely because I’ve always been fascinated with people’s psyches. I did not take psych classes in college with the plan of going into the field rather I knew I would do well in them as electives because reading about this stuff really was no chore to me at all. Therefore, after 6 years of college, I graduated with a minor in 3 areas of study, english, history, and psychology. What’s the common denominator? Reading! All three of those studies revolve around reading and that is something I don’t mind doing at all.

Anywho, I wanted to start with pointing out that I have several years of studying psychology at the colligate level under my belt and I still had to be told by a doctor that I was dealing with clinical depression. Sometimes, despite ourselves, we are blind to reality and need profession help. I certainly was. I’m grateful that my primary care physician saw the writing on the wall, as I cried to him in his office telling him I just didn’t feel good but couldn’t figure out why, and sent me to see a psychologist. I was 22.

Finding out I was depressed was shocking to me. That sounds silly but it was. I always considered myself happy, lucky, healthy, loved, etc., so to hear that I was depressed sounded counterintuitive. BUT, it also felt correct. I knew that something was different about the way I’d been behaving and the thoughts I’d been wrestling. It wasn’t my normal moment of sadness or disappointment. It was a long and enduring sadness. I did not want to do anything, go anywhere, see anyone. I was eating constantly to soothe the sadness and that resulted in gaining 100 lbs in one year. That’s right. You can read that again. A hundred pounds in a year and I wasn’t skinny to begin with.

It was like a door was unlocked when my doctor said, “You are suffering from depression and there’s help available”. I could hardly wait to find a therapist and start my journey out of the darkness. I started by calling my insurance to see what it covered and where to look for a therapist. There were 100’s in my area and this is where the shopping begins.

The right therapist makes all the difference in your experience. It is important to take your time and research the psychologists in your area to find one who specializes in what you are dealing with but that is just one thing to consider. You definitely want to see a therapist who treats depression if you are dealing with depression but there will no doubt be several in your area to choose from so the hunt does not stop there. You also need to find someone you are comfortable with and if possible someone who comes recommended by a medical professional or a trusted friend.

I found out quickly that therapists are nuanced just like regular people. I know, crazy right?! What I mean is, therapy involves you talking extensively about personal and private experience. Sometimes you do exercises that unlock memories buried deep down that erupt very primal emotion. Sometimes you have to tell your deepest darkest secrets that solicit worry, fear, shame or guilt. It can be an amazing experience that brings you to a new level of personal inflection and understanding but it is also very revealing and exposes your truth to a total stranger, so doesn’t it make sense that you might feel more comfortable with one person than another just like you do when choosing a mate or friend? What’s my point? Trust and comfort with the person sitting in the chair across from you is critical to allowing these raw and necessary talks to happen.

I “interviewed” three therapist the first time I sought the help of a professional and each psychologist was completely different. It only took one session with each to determine if I would be back but I knew that if I didn’t feel a connection with the therapist, I would not be able to open up or be real with them in our talks. This process was hard. It was emotional. It was time consuming. It took patience, repeated emotional exposure, and endurance. But, boy was it worth it!

Once I found the right therapist, the road to healing was paved and the work could begin. Its not my place to tell you what to look for in your own personal search. Your criteria is likely very different from mine or the person to your left, but I am hoping to highlight that your do not have to settle when you look for mental wellness help. Try another therapist. Ask friends for referrals or read reviews online. Do not settle. This one tip will make a world of difference in your experience. You are worth the work, so do it!

As I mentioned, I’ve sought the help of a therapist a few times in my life. After my first time doing the research to find someone I felt connected with, I felt more confident in the process when I was tasked with doing it again even though I was looking for a different type of help. Depression led me to seeking help the first time and even my second time. However, my most recent time has been to examine my compulsive eating.

The process for finding a new type of therapist was similar but I wanted to bring this up to highlight the point that there are therapist who specialize in different disciplines. This time I started my research online because I was looking for something less general and more specialized. I wasn’t even sure what I was looking for existed so I wanted to start my journey privately and the internet offered an easy way to do that.

The internet helped me find a therapist who worked with people to remove the diet mindset and make peace with food. If you are looking for something very specialized like this, the internet is a great tool to aide you. I tried asking friends and doctors for referrals but due to the highly specialized nature of my topic, they didn’t provide any good leads. My point here is that you might have to do different types of research to find a specialized therapist than you would when looking for one who treats depression or anxiety. And it’s important not be discouraged or give up if one road seems like a dead end.

Again, I am not giving medical advice. That should come from your doctor. I’m only offering you insight into the first steps you might take to find the help you need. My pro tips are to test out several therapists until you find one that you click with and to use different research tools depending on the type of therapy you are looking for. These two things will help set you up for greater success in your therapy.

Nowadays virtual therapist visits can open up even more doors to find even the most specific of mental wellness therapies so don’t let lack of options stand in your way. The world is available online and you deserve the help.

Best of luck and please take the time you need to take care of yourself!

Remove the illusions of obstacles and just do it, already

I love to exercise. I love to work up a sweat and move. Some of you are tempted to stop reading right now because you are the exact opposite and believe I should be committed after those two sentences, but this concept I’m about to go over can be applied to anything, not just exercise. So please keep reading!

Every day I have the desire to exercise. My body feels better when I make movement a part of my routine but the benefits don’t stop with the physical. It clears my mind and helps me synthesize my thoughts and emotions. Doing this one thing for myself a day allows me the feeling of accomplishment. I love exercise and see its value, however that does not mean that I have found a way to remove the mental gymnastics it takes to get past the perpetual poppycock obstacles that often get in the way of the rewards I reap when I exercise.

Perpetual poppycock can get in the way of anything you want to do, even the most loved and satisfying to-do’s on your list. Exercise highlights this for me very well so I’m using it as an example here but you could replace it with writing, reading, cleaning, shopping, etc. and the concept is the same. If you are dealing with perpetual poppycock you know exactly what I mean. The reasons and excuses you can’t do the thing you really want to do seem to rain down from above like Niagara Falls!

You don’t have time to exercise. You should be cleaning the bathroom instead. You don’t have a gym membership so exercise isn’t as affective. You aren’t sure what exercises are the absolute best to do so you shouldn’t bother doing anything at all. You are not strong enough to do those exercises without hurting yourself. You don’t have the right gear to exercise. You aren’t wearing the right shoes. You will look like a ding dong if you exercise outside. You don’t have enough room to exercise inside. Your kids might interrupt you during your routine. The list goes on, and on, and on. All of these reasons stand in the way from you and good feelings of physical exertion and success you will feel if you just do it already!

I know, so well, how crippling it can be to deal with the thoughts that stand in the way of you actually doing the things you want to do and living the life you want to live. I’ve been letting these thoughts stop me my entire life. Its been a struggle and I’ve let decades go by with that same record playing in my head. But no more! This blog is about overcoming those thoughts and beating the cycle! Making a different choice, one moment at a time is all it takes to baby step my way out of the insanity.

This morning I was able to do three sets, of three arm exercises, in my pjs, while waiting for the coffee to brew. Oh, and I also fit in 10 minutes of floor yoga stretches before that! This would normally be IMPOSSIBLE! Exercise, in my pjs? No way, that isn’t the right attire. Lift weights in the kitchen with only a few minutes to get it done? Heck no! That isn’t going to make a difference so why even bother. Do some yoga without watching an instructor to make sure you are doing a good routine and using the correct flow? What, are you crazy?! Everyone knows that yoga is only legit if you do it with an instructor.

Blah! That is all crap! Before that perpetual poppycock got the best of me, I started the coffee and walked straight over to grab a set of dumbbells. I let my thoughts be, “something is better than nothing”, and “bad things won’t come from standing here doing a few sets while I wait so why not?” And with that, I was able to spend about 12-15 minutes doing something that makes me feel good and gives me that baby step it takes to complete the marathon. It was a total success and I’m starting the day with a sense of accomplishment.

The point is, if I let the thoughts start, they will take my gumption and hijack my day. Those thoughts are not trying to help me in any way. They are simply a barrier between me and my best life. Stopping the perpetual poppycock from robbing me of this is my plan.

Exercise is one example, but it applies to everything for me. Even writing this blog is a challenge. I have to work hard to beat all the thoughts that try to tell me to give up or not try. I’m currently fighting a 7 year old boy who has interrupted me at lease a dozen times in this one paragraph! It would be so easy for me to just shut this laptop down and jump every time he says “mommy”, but I’m determined to complete this post. 🙂

My point is, dealing with perpetual poppycock is exhausting but you don’t have to beat it all right now. Just try one moment at a time and you’ll start to see progress if you can keep the wheels on the track more often than not. No one is perfect, but we can strive for the things we want and the efforts will have results. Good results. Keep trying!

Perpetual Poppycock 2

Dear Perpetual Poppycock,

I’ve been heavy since the age of 9. I started overeating and put on weight making me look and feel different than my peers. Athletics and a busy schedule kept me from becoming extremely overweight but the propensity to get there someday started from the very beginning. I have always loved food and eating.

It wasn’t until late college that I really gained weight to the point that I was physically suffering. It was the perfect storm of happenstances amplified by my first real heartbreak. Pain and lethargy from the extra weight set in and along with it came depression. In one year, my already heavy body, gained 100 lbs and I’ve held onto most of that since.

Recognizing my depression at that time was key. It was very hard to see it on my own and I’m thankful for the therapist who set me on the path to healing. I got help for the depression and used medication to catapult me back to a life I wanted. The weight and depression had robbed me of my social life and I was dealing with social anxiety for the first time. Thankfully medication did the trick to boost my mood enough that I could regain some of what I had lost to the depression. I was on an antidepressant for a year.

The thing that medication didn’t change was the weight I had gained. My new physique remained and I’ve pretty much been “morbidly obese” since then. That brings me to the point of this post, my breakthrough. I’ve finally remembered how to let go of the rules and fear around food!

Over the past 20 years of being “morbidly obese” I’ve lost weight several times. Never more than 40 lbs but still I’ve managed to lose that much on more than one occasion. Most of those successes were due to a diet. The diets did their job but only for a moment.

Keto, low carb, calorie restriction, fasting, you name it, I did it. And they all worked according to their claims. I lost weight and saw the physical results I desired. It was fleeting, of course, because in case you weren’t already aware, diets are short term fixes. But once upon a time, I unlocked the door to embracing my love of eating to bring personal understanding and compassion into my life, and my second real heartbreak.

Heartbreaks can be big life disrupters. I know the two big ones I’ve had were the launching pad for me to a new phase in life. I do not take them lightly and have really grown to appreciate the work they force me to do on myself when they happen. My second heartbreak was a doozy. I again sought the insight of a therapist to help me listen to my feelings and love myself through them. It’s during this time that I was introduced to intuitive eating.

Intuitive eating was a totally new concept to me then. It seemed way too simple to be real. This post isn’t about intuitive eating exactly but I will go into that another time. If you can’t wait for me to unpack that topic in what will likely be the longest post of my life, you can read the the book that changed my perspective forever. It’s called Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. For now I just want to explain a piece of it.

Giving myself permission to eat without fear or judgement, even from myself, was and is transformative. I removed all rules and threats of restrictions from food. Doing that changed everything for me. Again, this post isn’t about intuitive eating exactly so I can’t go into that much without spiraling off the point I’m hoping to make but I just wanted to give you an idea of what the concept is.

After doing a lot work healing my relationship with myself, I enjoyed some of the best years of my life. I was able to just relax and the result was a renewed enjoyment of moving my body and a greater appreciation of the food I ate. This brought physical strength and a slimmed down body but neither was my goal when I decided to work on intuitive eating. Again, read the book! The outcome was that I started eating food I wanted and enjoyed when I was hungry and I didn’t eat more than I needed because I knew my next meal was available anytime I wanted it and it could be whatever I wanted it to be. I ate when I was hungry and only until I was no longer hungry.

The hardest part of reaching this level of food normalcy was that I had to let go over the thought and desire to lose weight. Now if you are like me, you have been dreaming about losing weight your entire life. Everything you’ve ever wanted is probably tinged with the thought that if you just lost weight it would be possible. Like extra weight is the reason for everything bad in your life and the barrier from everything good. That extreme way of thinking was exactly why it was difficult, to say the least, to let go of wanting to use intuitive eating to lose weight. It seemed impossible at times.

After some focused effort to remove the perpetual poppycock plaguing my thoughts about losing weight, I was able to stop letting weight loss be the monkey on my back and just live. Wow, what a huge relief that was! I really did embrace who and what I was and just gave myself permission to put thought into other things I wanted in life that had nothing to do with weight loss. Exercise became a right not a punishment and I LOVED it. Eating became necessary to live and not my reason to live. Delicious foods were in every bite I took but eating for fun was far less frequent. Instead I was eating when my stomach actually needed food to process and I chose foods based on taste and nutrition. Crazy!

As the years went on, I fell in love for the third time in my life and that love created two of the coolest people I know. I’m now a household of four and still madly in love with the people in my world. My husband and kids are my highest life achievement and my number one priority. I’m lucky beyond words! However, I’ve also realized that I really do mean they are my number one priority, at the cost of my personal health and mental/emotional stability. I think this is known as #momlife.

I’m a full time working mom of two school aged kids and with the onset of the pandemic, we have been homeschooling them to better fit with our schedules. This is actually a dream come true for me. Working from home and homeschooling the kids was always a goal so I totally recognize the bone life has thrown me. I’m loving every minute of it and thankful we’ve remained healthy while so many others are suffering but this has brought on more responsibility and less time to allow myself. That shift has put me back on the slippery slope to eating for comfort/self care, (not all self care is healthy, its whatever you are doing to make yourself feel better and sometimes thats an unhealthy choice) and dieting to combat the extra weight that has piled back on.

You might be tempted to think that because I have been granted something I really wanted that happiness would make me treat myself better and that stress would be gone from the scenario but I will correct that thought here. Happiness comes at a cost for me in the form of guilt and fear due to a lifetime of thinking I don’t deserve happiness (that is a topic I’ll explore another time). AND stress is still very much a part of this new world I live in. My job, even though I love it, is extremely demanding and homeschooling is adding many hours of work with the kids to the awake hours of my day. Stress on some levels is greater now than it was before the pandemic.

For the last three or more years, I’ve been yoyo dieting again to try and lose the weight I’ve regained. Same list of offenders as far as diets go and they have all worked again. I’ve lost weight but regained it right back. The goal has 100% been to lose the weight. Realizing the flaw in these repeated efforts has taken me a while to figure out but it led me back to the book I read years about about intuitive eating and now I’m finally ready to do the real work again. My breakthrough is that I forgot what I learned all that time ago. Giving myself grace and loving myself is where “health” thrives for me. Understanding that patience and freedom from judgement give me the tools to find my way through stress, bad thoughts, and hard times, is where my work needs to be. Not on losing weight or shaming myself for wanting to eat more than I need.

For a lot of people these thoughts are obvious. I’ve read those words hundreds of times from others who’ve experienced the enlightenment that comes from living them, but until they embed themselves into actual understanding, they are just words. I’m happy to say my memory of this understanding has resurfaced and now the work can begin to treat myself with the same love, time, and respect I give to my most important people. The perpetual poppycock of dieting is hard to shake but I’m going to write my way through it.

Another year, another reminder…

Dear Perpetual Poppycock,

Today was my annual physical with my gynecologist and per the usual, I got yet another reminder that I have not changed. I’m still overweight, and on the brink of a diagnosis, or two, pertaining to the toll too much weight takes on my body. Some things, I, never change. And that, ladies and gents, is my reason for this blog. Perpetual poppycock is chronic but I’m determined to beat it.

I really enjoy my doctor. We have a fun! I mean, what isn’t fun about getting naked with a stranger and having them feel you up in the least sexually pleasant way possible? “Hi Ashley, lay back and be still while I shove a cold metal device inside you that is essentially a car jack for your vagina. Then I’ll smoosh your boobs around in circles, one at a time, while we talk about hair color.” I jest, but really, she is the coolest and if I have to make out with a woman once a year, I’m glad its her. I have a thing for smart, witty babes.

Each year when I see her, we gab about the kids and world events, and she respectfully answers my questions when I ask about missing periods and long chin hairs. Is it normal to go 130 days without a period? Does it still count as peach fuzz if its black and an inch plus??

The truth is, I know what the problem is. Of course I do! Anyone with a web enabled device and a few minutes can find the most likely suspect of whatever ails them. In my case, I’ve had decades full of experience and the internet, to give me a pretty in depth education on whats is lurking in my shadow. And the fact that this, saint of a doctor, hasn’t lost her mind having the same conversation with me every time we meet, is a true triumph of her character. To paraphrase, I have presumed PCOS and insulin resistance, as a result of my diet and lifestyle that has resulted in an oversize body, irregular periods, sporadic facial hair changes, and the list goes on and on.

My primary care doctor echos the advice. Try to cut back on carbs and sugar. Move a bit more. Its consistent, gentle, and wise advice that I’ve been told by my care providers for at least 30 years. They are sticking to their guns here and I’m clearly the one not changing. This perfectly highlights my point. Poppycock excuses are perpetual.

To overcome this entire situation, all I need to do is cut back on carbs and sugar while incorporating exercise. That’s it. Not 7 pills a day or scary surgeries to fix something thats broken. Its just a change in how I eat and move, yet I can’t seem to do it. Why is that??!

Today as I was leaving our annual tryst, it really struck me how chronic this perpetual poppycock is. I have been letting this broken record play for over 3 decades. The excuses and reasons and fears and failures are as predictable as lipstick on a quarterbacks cock. Is that a saying? (shrug) I have not changed. Progress is my greatest foe.

The take away from this year’s reminder to make some healthy changes that might prolong or improve my quality of life, is that I will suss out the perpetual poppycock thats blocked my success so far, by writing about it in this blog. Maybe this will help me unlock the pandora’s box of possibilities to make a concerted AND consistent effort in the area of my personal health. And so my journey to next years appointment begins.

Food, you aren’t the problem

Perpetual poppycock and the topic of my weight go hand in hand. I constantly dream of a lighter body and yet the perpetual poppycock surrounding the actions to make that dream come true is compulsive.

The way I feel about food is the way I feel about most things. More is better! That, is a gross generalization. There are of course, nuances to this idea but it usually applies. I’ve overindulged more often than not, resulting in a heavy body teetering on numerous diagnoses, many missed experiences, and several fears about the future. Eating brings me joy in a way that feels necessary. I don’t want to use the word addiction here for reasons I will explore later but some might choose that word for their own struggles and it would make total sense.

I eat for all the reasons that you’ve already heard a million times. For joy, warmth, heartbreak, entertainment, fear, stress, fun, sadness, loneliness, love, boredom, procrastination, the list goes on and on. Luckily, I am also fairly active and very independent so my weight has not become more than I can manage. Once you cross that threshold of not being able to move I believe your weight gain grows exponentially. I’m grateful I have not sustained an injury or some other situation that would cause me to become immobile. That would prove troublesome.

I’ve always loved food and consequently blamed it for how I look and feel. The thoughts sound like, I am fat because of food, period…end of story. I put on weight because of food. I kept extra weight on because of food. I am not losing weight because of food. My health is struggling because of food. I/My…fill in the blank with any statement and end with…because of food. These statements fit. They always made sense. The problem with blaming food for my weight is that it allowed me to be a victim and not be responsible for actions. It’s easy to make 1000 statements about myself ending with “because of food”, but that would only enable me to continue to blame something other than myself for they way that I am.

These thoughts totally allow the perpetual poppycock parade to roll untethered and that results in nothing changing! If I keep saying, food you are the problem, the poppycock echoes the idea that I can’t fix it so why put any effort into it. This totally lines up with my typical behavior of maintaining status quo and not changing anything. The problem with that is, my goal is not to be overweight, unhealthy, and unfit for the remainder of my life. I do not want to end up so unfit that I can’t do various life activities. I do not want to stay overweight and eventually end up with high blood pressure and/or diabetes. I do not want to grow old and regret that I never really tried to get my body into a strong enough shape to be useful to my kids and grandkids. 

So what do I need to do to change the future? What do I need to do to reach my goal? How can I change the talk track, or perpetual poppycock, to open the door towards actual growth? That is exactly what I’m trying to figure out!

Acknowledging the problem is an important first step, so that is what I’m doing. Food, you aren’t the problem! I’m not a victim of food. Food is not hurting me on purpose. 

I’m going to work on listening to my thoughts and identify any that put the blame or control on of my behavior on something other than myself. I think this will help me gain awareness of how those thoughts affect my feelings and drive my actions. My action item for this first blog post is just to gain awareness and feel my feelings. From there I will define next steps. 

Homework: To stop the perpetual poppycock that removes my responsibility in efforts to reach my goal of being strong and healthy, I will work on identifying the things I say to myself that point to food as the problem and feel the feelings that are sparked from the thoughts.