This post inspired by the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: Object. Look around your writing space. Pick object(s) you see (or hear or smell or feel) and reveal them to your reader. How do they represent you? How do they tell your story? Writing has changed me on a cellular level. Writing has been a miraculous piece of my recovery. Writing is the purpose I’ve found impossible to live without. And, the magic I can’t seem to stop from finding it’s way into the world.
And I’ve never considered myself a writer.
Every minute I spend sitting in my writing chair in my writing room with my writing candle lit I feel a universe of emotion.
Awe in the magic and ideas that are surging out of me.
Frustration of judgment in the middle when I allow self-doubt to invade the process.
Wholeness when I see ordinary words weave together into the powerful story of myself.
And occasionally my eyes will settle upon the vintage secretary desk in the corner that holds vintage books. The desk and the books were left in the home we purchased that was formerly owned by a hoarder. We kept the desk because it is a beautiful piece. We kept the books because they were an intriguing collection of small books of poetry and literature and mysteriously charming.
And then there was this book, mismatched and not quite fitting into the collection. Personal Analysis and Development Volume II Physical Fitness published in 1928 by the Personal Analysis Bureau. Simply the main title alone was too fitting for this mental health therapist in the midst of her own recovery (and arguably the “are you crazy?” status of our decision to purchase and remodel a hoarder’s home).
I kept the book then because somewhere deep inside I knew I could not let it go. Then, though, it was simply an old, smelly but intriguing book. For, the spark of my own book had only just begun inside of me. I had submitted my first round of query letters for Ever Upward that spring on what would have been my first Mother’s Day. But the blog, Ever Upward, was not even the slightest flicker in my being.
And here I am, about 9 months later, irony not lost, feeling the lightness of the small book in my hands. Running my fingers over the series title; feeling the words that, in reality, have embodied every second of my recovery. Smelling the old as I flip through the yellowed pages. And, feeling a sense of completed wonder as I notice, maybe for the first time, the titles of the volumes of the entire collection inside the book.
The parallels they run with the chapters of Ever Upward, the book, feels eerily perfect. The parallels they contain with my life in recovery fills me with a sense of wholehearted honor and dignity.
Noticing this book again and truly seeing the objects around me enabled me to literally feel the physicality of ever upward in my hands.
The awe inspiring and spirit completing reminder that there are no mistakes and everything is exactly as it is supposed to be.
As, this is not only my story, my spirit and light, but also every single page of the book of me. And only one of the many volumes.
That, and the spiritual grasp that I am a writer.
For this is a book, for me, soulfully filled,somehow, with my history, presence and the hope of my ever upward.
This post inspired by the WordPress Daily Prompt: Walking on the Moon. What giant step did you take where you hoped your leg wouldn’t break? Was it worth it, were you successful in walking on the moon, or did your leg break? We had already made the impossible decision of stopping IVF treatments without having had become parents and knew that adoption was not for us.
Surely, this was it, the worst it could get.
I had already survived two back surgeries, one year in a body cast, depression, two rounds of failed IVF with a gestational surrogate, three lost babies, depression, anxiety, anger.
But that is the important part, I had only survived up until that point. And then I was pushed to the edge of doubt and question, the edge of even worse; we had to the make the even more impossible decision to let go of our first furry child, Maddie.
And there I found myself, off that edge in my rock bottom.
I can't say for sure what was the one catalyst for me to take the first giant, and most difficult, step out of rock bottom. That first step of my own walk on the moon. The first step that was the beginning of the last year and a half of my life in recovery.
I know it was a combination of finding the work of Brené Brown and learning how to own all the parts of my story with bravery in order to live my now wholehearted life.
I know it was the decision to change my lifestyle by changing my food and exercise and getting off medication and starting yoga, meditation and self-compassion.
Above all, I know it was my choice.
My choice to no longer be the victim to my past, to my traumas, to my losses. To no longer just survive and choose to thrive.
My daily, sometimes minute by minute choice, to choose to thrive these survivals. To place these amazing and haunting hurts into my life puzzle making them the beautiful tapestry of my life thus far, and therefore just part of my epic story.
My every step on my moon. My walk that continues with many lights of my own ever upward.
Starting to write.
Owning my story and publishing the blog.
Improving my relationships.
Investing in my career, and therefore myself.
Reawakening my marriage after the traumas and losses of IVF.
Fighting for my faith and finally finding a church where I belong.
To wake up and stand up.
And considering it all pure joy.
My walk on the moon started at my rock bottom with a damn near impossible, but completely necessary choice.
The choice, my choice, of the first step of my walk, for myself, my recovery, my happiness, my ever upward.
I can’t keep doing this. Things will never get better.
Why can’t I just do this?
I’ve never been able to change before.
It will never work.
Will I ever get better?
It’s too hard.
Why can’t I stop?
It’s too good to be true.
It won’t last.
Why do I keep doing this?
The words of battle scars. The words of recovery wars lost thus far. The words of pain, hurt, loss and shame.
The words before the true fight.
Life is hard, people are complicated and we simply just don’t get the joy without the pain and work. Which means it can be tempting to give up, to quit; to accept what is but not in the healthy letting go way and only in the learned helplessness give up way.
Sometimes we can’t even fathom putting one foot in front of the other because we’re still trying to pull ourselves back up from falling.
Sometimes we simply cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel anymore.
Except, I can always see your light.
I can’t not help.
And, I love what I do. I was born to do what I do. My life, and my survivals, have made me very good at what I do. Every day I fight alongside amazing people who are setting forth to change their own lives. To choose themselves. To choose to fight. To choose their ever upward.
This war of change can, at times, feel like the most impossible choice ever. But it is also the most necessary choice ever. And it is a war that is won through each small battle, each small step taken forward in that long dark tunnel of recovery. That tunnel that, hopefully, you can see the light at the end of.
But oftentimes, this just isn’t how it works. We will want to quit and the light will disappear and we will even lose some of the battles. But that is exactly when I ask my clients to have faith. Because, when they can no longer see their light at the end of the tunnel I need them to trust that I can see it for them.
Because that light just isn't their recovery, it is their light, the light of their spirit, soul, being.
I need them to trust that I can see who they are truly meant to be
That I can see what really lies beneath all of the struggle.
I see them, I see their light. Always.
But, sometimes that light isn’t always at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes, in our fight to get back to our true selves the tunnel can work against us, creating a blind tunnel vision. The tunnel vision that keeps us stuck. That keeps us trying the same things over and over that just aren’t working. We have been losing the battles and have to force ourselves to put one foot in front of the other with our heads down because we simply don’t have the strength in us to keep going if we look up and see that the light isn’t there anymore.
But this is when we miss it. This dark stuckness that keeps our heads down makes us completely miss the lights beside us. The other outs. The other helps. The hands reaching out for us.
The lighted detours.
I work every day to not only see the lights within my clients, but to also remind them of that light throughout their journey through the dark tunnels of recovery. But it is also my job to help them find the other lights beside them; the lighted detours.
Because recovery isn’t this straight up trajectory of perfection. It is usually hell filled with deep dry valleys, cold thin aired mountains, swamps, quicksand pits and even tight ropes across ravines. And it has many detours, both dark and light detours.
Recovery definitely includes those darker detours, the ones that just didn’t work. We didn’t quite make the best choice possible. And a lot of the times, this can set us back, but never back to the beginning and we just need to take the best next step. It is then that we must remember to keep our eyes open to those lighted detours. The detours that we easily miss because we are trudging along so painstakingly in the war of recovery searching for the light at the end of the tunnel.
Many times, these lighted detours can be our outs. Our escape from the cycle of hurt. The path to our recovery. Our lighted path to our ever upward.
Recovery, from whatever, is brutal, the tunnel is almost always long and dark. Having someone to walk alongside you through that path is helpful beyond measure. Someone who can always see your light. Someone who can see the light at the end for you when you lose track. Someone who can remind you of your own light. Someone to nudge you to look over to the lighted detours.
Someone to fight for you, but most importantly, with you.
Inspired by the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: 1,000 words.
For the last 14 years I have had the honor of witnessing people journey through some of the most difficult times of their lives to emerge as happier, healthier and whole people. As a mental health therapist I fulfill multiple roles on a daily basis; teacher, healer, helper, educator, coach, big sister, mother, friend, confidante, trainer and, in all honesty, sometimes I’m the provider of a swift kick in the ass. Unbeknownst to them, my clients also, at times, fulfill these same roles for me as they are my reminders, and examples, of fighting the good fight and never giving up.
Throughout the years of working with clients I have found there will be times where I must push, and I mean push really hard. Making sure they know they have the strength to change their lives; and that they are ready. There are other times where I will simply hold their hand, walking alongside them through their journey of self discovery, self doubt and finding peace. Then there are times, where I will take their hand and pull them forward, at times, begging them to trust me and try things a different way; to put one foot in front of the other and follow me.
No matter the concern someone is coming into therapy and coaching for, they are facing the hardest work of their lives. They are facing times of progress and times of feeling so stuck they can’t stand it. They will doubt their abilities, and maybe even mine to help them. They will get worse before they get better. They will at times hate me for the things I ask them to do. They will walk away and come back. They will push me away because it hurts that badly to trust someone or to have someone believe in them so much when no one else ever has.
They will question.
They will resist.
They will work.
They will change.
Depression. Anxiety. Alcoholism. Drug use. Gambling. Shopping. Trich. Eating Disorders. Weight Issues. OCD. Bitterness. Toxic Relationships. Lying. Cheating. Discontent. Self Hate. Grief. Perfectionism. Shame. Doubt. Cynicism. Abuse. Rigidity. Bipolar. Unease. Infertility. Loss. Trauma. Surviving. Faith difficulty. Pessimism. Indecision. Blaming. Apathy. Sad. Feeling lost. Parenting struggles. Social difficulty. Bullying wounds. Self care. Distrust. Anger.
These are our stories. And all of our stories contain some struggle.
Where we lose ourselves, I think, is when we make these struggles all of who we are. We turn them into our whole story. They become our entire identity, even when they start working against us rather than for us. We hold on so tightly to these struggles, and what we think works to manage them, that we lose the great parts, the whole parts, of who we are.
When our struggles are our whole story, we struggle to own those stories, and therefore struggle to find our ever upward. We must find the way to make these struggles simply parts of who we are, parts of our story.
But we hold onto the trouble, the trauma, the loss, the struggle because it is all we have ever known. We hold on because the unknown is scarier. We hold on because we have no idea what else to do. We hold on because, at least we’re surviving. We hold on because they have become, what we think, are our water wings, our life preservers.
But eventually, we hold on so tightly and so long, the very things that have saved us, that have helped us to survive, become our own cement blocks.
Our own cement blocks drowning us in ourselves.
No self care. Worry. Drinking. Drugging. Spending. Pulling. Restricting. Binging. Counting. Drama. Lies. Dishonesty. Self harm. No breaks. Too hard. No sleep. Unhealthy sarcasm. Over-scheduling. No room. Flashbacks. Mood swings. Never saying no. Isolation. Promiscuity. No passion. Procrastination. Loneliness. Rage. Inconsistency. No movement, etc. etc. etc. etc.
What I ask my clients to work through and change every day is no less than an act of faith and trust. I am asking them to let go of their way. The way that has actually worked for years, at least worked in numbing or self-medicating themselves. The way that has helped them to survive but is now drowning them. I ask them to let go because if they don’t they won’t have any free arms to grasp onto the tools and the hope I am offering them.
They must let go in order to begin again.
But the most excruciating part of this battle, is that they must have faith that they will either float or tread water while they learn, grow and change.
Because they will. They will tread or float, and I will be right there with them; coaching, believing, pushing and loving.
And eventually, they will be able to grasp onto those tools.
But most importantly they will find their freedom to finally believe in the hope I hold for them.
And they will save their own lives.
They will find their own ever upward.
Choosing to change your life will be the hardest and scariest thing you have ever done. It will also be the best thing you will ever do.
I know, as I have, myself, fought the battle. Being scared shitless to let go of what I had learned to trust over the years but began to realize was holding me back and keeping me from being who I am truly meant to be. Letting go to push through fear to do the grueling work to trust and have faith in my own ability to tread or float in order to recover...in order to find my own ever upward.