Friday, February 03, 2012

This One's for Me

I had therapy today. I'm only going once a month now, per my therapist's recommendation, and for the last month, I figured I didn't need it anymore. But it proved to be quite needed; it proved to be essential.

I had a lot to talk about and what surfaced were the things I've learned about myself over the last year and my depression and the way I think and... well, I just didn't want to let it slip away. I've decided to write down my thoughts.

Yes, publicly.

Yes, I know --but if you've read this blog for a while now, you realize that I am not one to endure my pain in secrecy. By sharing, I recover. By sharing, maybe you can relate and recover, too. But really, this blog post is for me. Honestly, it's long, so don't feel obligated to read it (although I have slipped in some photography of mine --yes, I took them all -- that I haven't been able to upload before, but now I can because the computer is upstairs and they aren't too shabby if I do say so myself...)!

I have noticed in my life that I tend to have two statuses: Knowledge and Growth. Knowledge tends to be a time in my life where I am constantly learning, both the secular and the spiritual. The time I spend is usually focused on learning something new -- obsessing about a doctrine I've learned (or finally understood or have learned about in a new way), discovering a more efficient way to parent, uncovering truth about marriage, literature, health, science, or philosophy. At the end of the time I've spent learning, I tend to shout about my new knowledge from the rooftops! Look at what I've discovered! Look what I have learned! Did you hear about this? Where has this knowledge been all my life!?

That's when the Knowledge stage ends and the Growth stage begins.

Growth is not kind. At least it doesn't seem kind. At first.

Growth is the master of humility. Usually, when I learn something new, when I share it brazenly with anyone who will listen, something will happen that will pull the rug right out from underneath me. I tend to be forced to be humble. I see that although I have learned a lot from Knowledge, I still have a lot more to learn from Growth. It usually manifests itself in terms of personal relationships gone awry (do to my own arrogance), a stinging rebuke from someone with more knowledge/wisdom than I, or just a gentle nudge from the Spirit reminding me that I really have so much more to learn. So much more.

This year has been a Growth year for me. It started out as Knowledge, but it's been Growth for a while now.

It's never easy to see the mistakes in one's psyche. I used to rebel against the idea that I could be wrong. How could I be wrong? I'm smart, I'm capable, my opinions matter...but really, I'm wrong a lot. I'm so wrong about so many things, but more than anything? I've been wrong about me.

My journey through depression has taught me a lot about myself and the way I see the world. My biggest personal issue/hurdle/personality flaw is my desire to be in control. Of what? Everything. I want to control my home. My kids. My husband. I want to control how people perceive me. I want to control how things play out, how things get done. Because of this, I'm a planner. I plan ahead. I imagine unlikely scenarios so I will be prepared mentally if they come about. This isn't to say I actually abuse people to maintain control (quite the contrary, I have control over my intentions --see? More control!), but that I see my self-worth as something only good if I'm able to remain in control of myself and my environment around me.

And yet... I have no control. Not really. This year in therapy has taught me what I have control over and what I do not. The list of what I have control over is very, very, very small. I do not have control over:
*other people's opinions
*other people's feelings
*other people's agency/choices
*my own physical limitations (pregnancy right now), although I can improve them through diet/exercise, etc.

I do have control over:
*My feelings, thoughts, and opinions.
*My choices

That's about it, really. And yet, how enormous are those things over which I do have control!

I told my therapist about my crazy, yelling, irrational day (I posted about it here) and she told me three good things that came out of it:
1. I realized what was going on --I was having a breakdown.
2. I stopped myself and removed myself from the situation. I took control over MY actions.
3. I turned it into a deep and vast learning experience for my children afterwards.

“Be useful in [your] sphere and [do] not be discouraged because of difficulties in the way, but trust in God and look to Him, and His marvelous blessings.”
—Lorenzo Snow, in Daughters in My Kingdom, page 43

We talked a lot about how I have a tendency to take the control I want and be in a kind of "all-or-nothing" scenario. For example, for the last few months, after family scripture study, I will sit on the couch and just veg out (and check Facebook). Why do I do this? I think it's because I feel I have no control. One child will hate the breakfast I make. Another child will refuse to do chores without lots of tantrum throwing. So, I just sit around, because what's the point? I don't have control over any of it, so why do I keep torturing myself? Why keep trying? Forget it! I will ignore them all!

I realized earlier this week that this is STUPID. I need to STOP. Why is it stupid? Because I was, in the name of exhaustion (and heck yes, I'm exhausted!), ignoring my children. I was "at the crossroads" of their morning, but I wasn't really paying attention to them. So, I decided to stop it. I got off the couch and I've made them breakfast every morning this week (just green smoothies, but still!). I've also re-vamped the chore chart (this you already know) and supervised their chores. I chose to participate in their mornings, rather than just let it pass me by.

This morning, I almost reverted back to my vegetating state, but something pricked me (I'm pretty sure it was a prompting by the Holy Ghost) and told me to GET UP and BE A MOTHER.

So, I did.

Whenever I actually get up and do things, it tends to snowball a lot. The satisfaction I feel from doing one of my "duties" gives me the boost I need to do more. And so on. "The same can be said," my therapist pointed out, "about the opposite side. The more you sit in depression, the more it feeds off of itself." She is so right. Pick a side! Pick any side! But whichever side you pick, be wary, because it will become a habit quickly. I noticed that this week --when I got off my duff and did what I knew I needed to do, it snowballed into the day. I got more laundry done. The house stayed cleaner. I showered more (gasp!). I found myself planning dinner earlier and thinking about ways to help my kids and husband. I got out of the house more often.

Opposite example? When I don't, I tend to sit in my jammies all day long and be on the internet. The boys play more video games and watch more TV. The guilt builds; I take it out on the kids and my hubby. Choosing to fulfill my chosen role as a mother, homemaker, wife, and "lioness at the gate" --although harder on the outset (mentally and physically) -- makes everyone in my family happier. Including me.

One thing I have had to learn is to give myself permission to take care of myself. Ironic, since I'd rather veg out than take care of my kids and house, eh? But what my therapist has told me is that it's okay to stop (like I did when I took myself to time out) and realize that I need something. Not in a selfish way --in a "I matter, too" way. For example, taking a nap on a Sunday afternoon when I need one. Simple, right? And yet my guilt gets in the way...

Learning how re-wire my brain this year has not been easy. Yes, I've had enormous success, but I've also had major setbacks. It's hard to change, period. But throughout this process (which will continue, do not you worry!), I've been given such a gift --I've been able to objectively see myself outside of myself --I can view my reactions in a reasonable way. Does this mean I make all the right choices? Hardly! It's definitely going to take me some time. But I feel great because I'm on the right path.

“There is nothing in this world as personal, as nurturing, or as life changing as the influence of a righteous woman.”
—M. Russell Ballard, in Daughters in My Kingdom, page 156

One last part of the session today. My therapist is LDS, and I love how her understanding of my testimony (not to mention her own) has really helped in my growth. She knows how important my faith is to me. I told her today that I think teaching Gospel Doctrine this year has helped me enormously alongside therapy. And then it got me thinking...what else has helped me this year alongside therapy?
*Listening to more classical music (Please note: even though I'm a classically trained musician, the fact that I prefer classical music on the radio now is very, very strange to me)
*Increased study time of scriptures, the Ensign, and now (very recently) Daughters in My Kingdom (I just finished it today! Thus all the quotes from it throughout this post)
*The way I eat (ten thousand times better compared to the first time I had a child!)
*Brandon being done with school
*Our financial struggles (which has strengthened my testimony of tithes and offerings: Not because our blessings from paying them have given us wealth, but because paying them has helped me see where those blessings are: roof not leaking, learning how to be more frugal, kids not getting hurt/sick, baby being a boy --I already have everything he needs!)
*More consistent prayer. Personal prayer (while I drive, in the shower, on the couch, in my bed, basically all the time!)
*Taking my medication faithfully
*Learning to serve others again; thinking beyond my own problems and limitations and being concerned for those around me

Everything is connected. My therapist told me how everything could never not be connected! Every bit helps.

And that's what we talked about today. This is how I'm working through my muddled brain, my raging hormones.

I'm just hoping that as I keep going through this process that the Knowledge and Growth gap will begin to be smaller --irony? It's up to me, really. I can't imagine Heavenly Father needing to humble me in the wake of wisdom if I truly have humility. Maybe it'll happen by the time I'm 90? Maybe?

“If you live up to your privilege, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates. … If you will be pure, nothing can hinder.”
—Joseph Smith, in Daughters in My Kingdom, page 169


Angie said...

Cheryl, I totally feel like I can relate to this! Thanks for the therapy session ;)...I now feel like I can Get up and "Be a mother..." and that I should get up and not ignore it. I tend to do that a lot's hard work!

Michelle said...

Really beautiful.

Growth is hard.

One thought. "I'm just hoping that as I keep going through this process that the Knowledge and Growth gap will begin to be smaller --irony? It's up to me, really."

I think there is a part 2 to this. Yes, we have to make choices. But some of this change really does come through the Atonement. When we are working to rewire our brains and have a change of heart, there is a dance between our part and God's part. Ironically, we can't control His way and timing, but I do think it's essential to realize that it's not all going to be our work that makes those changes.

Repentance is "a change of mind, i.e., a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world." (Bible Dictionary) I think when we choose to turn our hearts to God, even (and maybe especially) in the little things, we invite the Spirit (the vehicle of the Atonement) into our lives. The joy we feel in those little moments helps change our heart and mind a little bit. And then we have more opposition, more opportunity to choose.

Again, and again, and again. Until we are safely dead. Ha.

Well, that's what I've been thinking about lately, anyway. That's the dance I'm working on.

Cheryl said...

Thank you, Michelle! You are right about the Atonement. Why is it so easy to forget that we don't have to do this on our own?

Dorri said...

Thank you for sharing. I needed to read this today. The part about taking care of yourself really hit me. I felt for so long that if I stopped to take care of myself that made me selfish, it meant I was putting me before my family. But I've learned in the last few years (in therapy ) that I need to take care of myself so I can be a better mother. I feel like now that I've started taking time for myself to take care of me I can better focus on my kids and their needs. It was a huge learning experience for me to see that.

Mother of the Wild Boys said...


Misty Lynne said...

I really understood this. It's very similar to what I've been going through and slowly realizing too. Thank you for sharing. And I LOVE those pictures!