Yesterday I did a lot of thinking, writing, and crying. Sometimes it takes me a while to figure out what is going on, I felt a bit better in the evening. I called my boss back to let her know I was okay, as a mother I thought she might worry, we had a great chat where she was very resassuring, she told me how much she loves me and what an amazing woman I am. That's always nice to hear and it's even better to know that she really means it. I hadn't slept well this past week, unsurprisingly by Friday I was falling apart to an extent that I hadn't been earlier. I need to make sleep a higher priority. Things that interfere with my sleep are working late, the girls being here, and my own self - staying up late when I know I need to be getting to bed.
When I was in the mental hospital I went to art therapy and experiential therapy. Both therapists had the same name, but they were very different people. Art therapist was a taller leaner man with silvery black hair and light blue eyes. He had an energy about him, he was edgy, he said the f word during class, we called them sessions, but they reminded me of being back in grade school art with the same types of assignments except this time, and I wish this was done in school, the art was designed to express emotions and give us some safe spaces we needed to get things out of our heads and hearts and onto things like paper or clay.
As I mentioned in Not cut out for the Play-Doh confessional art was a very difficult class for me. What made it hard was my fear of getting things dirty. I lived with a mother who understood that the creative process was messy and a father who was intolerant of disorder and by that I mean he would have been right at home in the military. My mother cleaned, but since she's always in the middle of doing something, there's a level of chaos on her countertops, laundry hanging in her living room by the fire, and her knitting accessories spread out on the trunk she uses as her coffee table. I'm much more like my father. There can be layers of dust coating objects, but if the paperwork is neatly stacked and the blankets are folded into squares, I can deal with the dust.
I'm listening to a podcast on core emotions and the change triangle. I don't really want to hear what this woman has to say so I'm writing to distract myself a little. They're talking about Mad Men specifically Don Draper and his inability to connect with his core emotions. I follow one of the women on Twitter, I really like her, she is into experiential therapy, I learn a lot from her and what I've learned today is that when you grow up in a house where it isn't okay to tell others that you're hungry or tired, you start to lose that ability. Even today at 42 I'm kind of afraid to tell others that I'm hungry, thirsty, tired, etc... because I've been taught that someone might question what I'm saying.
One of the things that makes me really good at my job is I have the ability to earn trust. It's pretty amazing that total strangers can walk into the store searching for a product and feel comfortable telling me things that they would rather not be sharing. Sometimes I do this on purpose, other times it's more innate. But I try to step back, stop thinking about products that could help them, and just listen. I let them talk, say whatever they need to say, and then tell them something like - this is where you're at, this is where you would like to go, what do you need to do to get there? Sometimes we feel that this is a product, at times they'll leave with a book suggestion, or realize they need to do more research.
I didn't mention the principal I spoke with on Friday night in my Three customers poem, but I could have. She was going to buy this hair, skin, and nails product for herself, she wanted a skincare system for her son who was dealing with some acne related problems, but what she left with was a small bottle of bergamot. She difuses essential oils in her office to help students relax, she had very kind deep blue eyes, straw colored silky blonde hair, she was tall, thin, with clear skin that has some wrinkles. As she ages the wrinkles become more pronounced, I asked her how much water she drinks, she said not enough, we talked about other things and in the end she left without the product.
Technically I lost a sale, but I don't feel bad about that in the least. I know she'll be back, this might sound, whatever, but sometimes I get these vibes and I try hard to pay attention to them. I honestly didn't feel as if that product was going to be good for her. I have no real medical knowledge, I could be totally wrong, maybe this hair, skin, and nails liquid was going to be exactly what she needed, but I talked her out of it and if someone wants to get on my case for that, I really don't care because I think it's very important to listen to that inner voice. If I had to say, I think she doesn't feel beautiful. She has a very stressful job, I think there's an inner part of her that wants to be more feminine and nurtured that she is at the moment. Conjecture on my part to be sure, but she wasn't vain, and she wasn't there just to buy things.
I got a lot of sleep last night, but it wasn't until I set my timer for two hours that I got in some dream type sleep. The podcast is discussing how to stick with your core emotions. I tend to repress them, that leads to all sorts of problems, but I've gotten better at letting myself cry instead of trying to hold it together and coming home and lying down when I feel like I'm tired. The women are talking about allowing feelings instead of rejecting them, and how the feelings will peak and recede if you can lean into them instead of shying away from them. I'm so grateful for therapy and people like the art and experiential therapists I've met.
The experiential therapist at the hospital was a round brown, gray haired man who had a long wispy ponytail. He wore comfortable earth toned clothes instead of the crisp starched shirts his art therapist friend preferred. One of the things I've learned to accept and identify as I've learned more is that everyone has their own style and this needs to be honored often at the expense of conformity. There are times when I dislike what my children are wearing, but I try very hard to let them express their style as long as what they are wearing is clean, neat, and appropriate. Ripped jeans are apparently appropriate attire at school, my youngest has a sweatshirt with slogans, one of them has a shirt that says 'My fandom with salt and burn your fandom'. They both wear a lot of black, but my oldest is more Harry Potter and band black while her sister favors Nike and The North Face gear.
I didn't feel safe at work Friday night. That was the big stress for me that led to the breakdown. I put pressure on myself to try and do more and be more and fix things. I don't have to fix anything. I can take action when I need to and let the mail pile up for a while if I need some extra sleep. Listening to this podcast has been very helpful. They're talking about tender feelings and how men aren't allowed to feel them because society may judge them, if I feel this way as a middle aged woman I can't imagine what men who are labeled and judged like this are going through. Some people are very in touch with their emotions. It's something I struggle with, I study, I forget about, I battle, and I'm happy that I'm further along the continuum that I was before.
As a very small child my dad was my role model. He ruthlessly repressed emotions, even physical pain and hunger were experiences he tried to control. I remember eating lunch and watching him peel an orange. That was his lunch. When I asked if he was hungry he said no and I believed him. I think admitting he was hungry, we had been working outside all morning, perhaps he wasn't hungry, but I have a hard time believing that. He ate his orange and I felt greedy and gobbly as I ate my sandwich. The other day I was telling a guy about the time I fasted for 26 days and I truly wasn't hungry after the first couple of days. Sometimes we do things to make ourselves feel better and because it helps the mind we can accept a body state.
Another time my dad fell off a ladder. He was trying to hang a sign by himself, I think it was a sixteen foot sign, it was a two person job, but asking for help was frowned upon. As a result he tried doing it himself and even I could tell that something was terribly wrong with his leg and ankle when I saw the degree of bruising and swelling. Later on we learned it was broken. He walked around on it, refused to do anything the doctor had suggested, and I can remember going off on him for refusing medical advice. Last August I fell down the stairs, argued with the doctor who told me he thought that I had broken something. I had minimal bruising and swelling. I was sure the x-rays of my knee would come back negative and they did.
That night I went to the emergency room, found out that I had cracked the tip of my fibula, refused to take anything for pain, and wore the boot them gave me until it cut off the circulation in my leg. For two weeks I dealt with the incredible nausea and fatigue. My stomach hurt so badly I could barely eat and sleep was more elusive than ever. But I didn't take a single pill for the pain and today I'm not sure if that was stupid or a pretty good example of how mind can overrule the matter. When I met a woman at work who showed me a bruise on her arm I told her she need to have it looked at. For some reason I'm interested in diagnostics, but have trouble listening to the follow up protocol.
My psychiatrist gave me minimal medication, but it felt like a lot to me. They probably knew I wouldn't take it, but I told them I would and I did, at least for a while. I recognized the need for sleep, I thought the bi-polar meds were worth a shot, and until they made me so sick I felt more suicidal than I had before, I took them faithfully. I also hate being controlled and part of this stems from the fact that I was raised in an anti-medication household. My mom's solution was hydrogen peroxide while my dad relied on ice. I married someone who didn't believe in drugs, but he took more of them that I did while we were married. It feels good to be able to have a place to say these things. I can hear how they sound to myself and don't really like a lot of it, but I owe myself the unfiltered honesty.
Until next time,
P.S. I have a feeling that work is going to go very well now that I've gotten a bit more sleep. Podcast spoke about the anxiety, hallucinations, auto-immune conditions, anger, and dependency on substances for escape, I'm really glad I turned it on even though I knew it would be a tough listen.