Daydreaming: My Saving Grace

Growing up, daydreaming was my favourite escape. It was my way of coping. Of surviving.

In my daydreams I could enter a world where everything made sense. Where bad things didn’t happen, or even if they did, it was over quickly, I would be comforted, and everything turned out well.

I would sometimes daydream about a specific person. Most of the time it was a character on TV that would be my mother-figure or loving person in my life. It felt so safe. And you know why? Because in my fantasy world that person would never abandon me. They didn’t hurt me. If I saw a movie or read a book that involved a loving parental figure, I would play that story line out in my mind, inserting myself as the character that had that relationship with that person.

The downside of all of this was that sometimes when I would snap out of daydreaming mode, I would feel an incredible sadness because I knew it would/could never be real. But for me, the good side of daydreaming far outweighed the negative.

These days I don’t daydream nearly as much. Not because I’ve grown out of it (I don’t think we ever really do), but because I just don’t have the time anymore. Sometimes though the only way to calm myself down and stop feelings overwhelming me completely is to escape. Back into daydream mode. Where no one ever purposely hurts me. Where there’s plenty of love, genuine acceptance and affection. Where rejection and abandonment don’t exist. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been tuning into my own world a lot more often.

They say we need to be mindful. Be connected to reality. But sometimes, reality sucks, and the only way through it is to lose yourself in a world of your own making. Personally, I don’t think that being in a constant state of mindful awareness is even healthy. When I’m out in the world my nervous system is on high alert and I’m zoomed in on everything around me (unless I’m in a dissociative state) and it’s exhausting. So I see it as a form of self-care to allow myself to just drift a little bit when I’m at home and in need of some rest. Daydreaming helped me the most through my childhood and teen years, and it’s still a valuable coping tool today.

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Finally Feeling It

I spent some time with my uncle yesterday. Since he was diagnosed with cancer, I’ve been feeling pretty numb about it. I have had fleeting moments of anger and disbelief though. Driving home after seeing him yesterday, a deep sadness came over me. The kind of sadness you feel everywhere inside your body and that just sits there. I couldn’t cry. Just feel it as it took my breath away. Such a deep pain with nowhere to go.

It scared me when I saw him yesterday. He’s lost so much weight, I don’t know how he has the strength to even stand. We went for a short walk on the beach and then sat there for a little while until he got too tired. When we got back to his place I only stayed for a few minutes so that he could get some rest. He told me that I’m the only person he looks forward to seeing and that he can really talk to. I’m glad that he feels like he can talk to me, and that he phoned me the day he was feeling at his worst. He doesn’t need people telling him at every turn what to do and what not to do. How to feel. Which is what the rest of the family does. He’s got doctors that do that. He needs family who will listen with no judgement. Who will be there for him. I don’t always know what to say. Most of the time I don’t say anything. I just listen. And apparently that’s exactly why he feels he can be open and honest with me.

We have a special bond. We always have had, even during those times where I felt far from him. The time it felt like I had lost him. I feel like I have him back again, and the thought of losing him forever, terrifies me. A part of me wants to push him away. To not feel the fear, the pain. But I also want to hold tightly onto him. I love him so damn much, and hate seeing how much he’s suffering. I wish I could just take it away from him. But I can’t. All I can do is be there for him. It’s so hard and painful though.

The one person I really want to talk to about this is my previous therapist, A. But I can’t. She knew the relationship I have with him, and was there when he moved out and I was having a hard time with that. I’m missing her even more than I usually do. I’m aching to hear her voice and see her face again. For a hug from her.

Tonight, the sadness is still there. But I can cry now. It’s got somewhere to go.

It’s Not All About Success Or Being The Best

I just read an article on the Scientific American blog that spoke deeply to me and gave me a better perspective on something I struggle with.

It’s something I’ve spoken about on here before.

Here’s the thing. I’m constantly working on my businesses, trying to make them successful. Sometimes I get so frustrated because it seems no matter what I do, it’s just not working out. I’m limited by finances, so can’t spend much, if any money on paid advertising. As most people know, organic content, marketing and advertising often doesn’t work well enough. It can be a dead zone. The saying “you have to spend money to make money” is pretty accurate. But still, I continue to try new things. Learning new ways to market and reach people.

Life rarely gives us what we want, and sometimes what we want isn’t actually what will make the most impact or difference to our lives. I’m proud of myself for continuing to work hard. I’m always learning. And even if I never reach the particular goals I have right now, I feel I’m not wasting my time by working on these things. Someday, somewhere down the line, it might just come in handy.

On another note, like most of you, and as the title of my blog says, I’m on a journey of healing from trauma and mental illness. This is extremely hard work, and most of the time it seems as though I’m not moving forward fast enough, or even at all. When we’re really struggling it’s difficult to see the progress and the little ways we have moved forward. During these times it seems as though everyone else has it all together and we’re left behind. But the fact that I’m still breathing and writing this right now is an achievement. It’s a result of not only fighting to survive, but to thrive as well. Life is hard, it’s messy, and sometimes even downright shit. But if we put in the personal work, if we strive to be our best selves (not who others want or expect us to be), we can better deal with whatever comes our way, and experience all the blessings that life has to offer as well.

Success isn’t everything. Striving to be the best can be exhausting, and most of the time, not even possible. There will always be someone out there who’s better. At the end of the day, I believe it’s the journey that counts. The end point is just an illusion.

You can read the article I mentioned here:
Working Hard Even If You Might Lose

What Shame Looks & Feels Like

Can’t face the world. Want to disappear.

Can’t face those you most want to connect with – wanting to push them away – already feeling as though you have done something wrong in the relationship and that it’s not fixable. Pulling away and disconnecting feels like the only possible thing left to do.

Being in your own body and mind is unbearable. Every part of you is on fire.

Unbelievable pain and torment.

Taking medication early just so you can go to sleep and forget you exist.

The thing with shame is that when you feel it for any specific reason or even for an imagined or blown out of proportion “infraction”, your entire history of shameful feelings and events joins in, pulling you even further down the hole.

Growing In Assertiveness

I went out with Jasmine and my business partner/friend (Kim) last night. I had sent Jasmine a message last week, telling her that I have been feeling rejected and unimportant to her over the past few months, and that I miss her. She then invited me for sun-downers with her and Kim, as well as another mutual friend of theirs.

I really wasn’t in the mood to be with people, especially having to meet someone new, but since I haven’t seen Jasmine in months, I decided to go anyway. I’ve also been having some issues with Kim over the past few weeks and wasn’t looking forward to seeing her and talking more “business” (she has a habit of bringing business stuff up anywhere and everywhere). Our recent business meetings have been all about her and her own business and I was fed up. She’s back to her old pattern of constantly relying on me to help her with things she can easily figure out herself or Google. I’m trying to work on building up my own businesses and this is taking me away from that. I don’t get time to work on my own stuff because I’m constantly helping her out.

Last night when she started talking about our next meeting (on Friday) and how there are some more things she wants to change/add/remove on her website, I felt my anger rise up. I took a sip of my drink to buy myself some time, because I didn’t want to react immediately. Thanks DBT and Mindfulness. I told her that we’d talk more on Friday. Once the anger died down, I decided that I needed to talk to her about this now because I’m not sure whether I want to meet up on Friday anymore. Jasmine and her other friend were in the middle of a conversation, so I felt it was okay to talk to Kim about this quietly. I told her that I feel as though our meetings have changed. That I used to enjoy them, because I almost always left feeling inspired and motivated, and they had been a benefit for both of us. These days I just feel overwhelmed and frustrated. I wasn’t nasty about it, but made sure to use a firm tone of voice. She insisted on just one more meeting focused on her business and website, so we can get that out of the way and she can relax. I agreed, but told her it will be a short meeting. I’ve also decided that after this, I’m going to start charging her for any new work on her website. I’ve shown her how to do certain things herself, but she keeps losing the papers she writes the instructions down on. That’s not my problem. I’m going to make this clear to her on Friday. I just can’t continue on like this with her. It’s draining me. I know I’ve been enabling this behaviour lately by giving in to her demands. But at least I realize this. Being assertive doesn’t come naturally to me, so it’s okay that I slip up from time to time and don’t have it down perfectly. It will take time.

I left early last night as I was exhausted, and while I enjoyed talking with Jasmine, there were two other people there as well so we couldn’t just ignore the others. In the past I’ve always been afraid of leaving early, not wanting to offend anyone, but these days I find it much easier to excuse myself and not feel bad about it.

Assertiveness had always been a foreign concept to me. I took on the passive, people pleasing role in all of my interactions with others. Now that I learned there’s another way, I’ve realized just how much damage I was doing to my own self-esteem and mental and physical health. Assertiveness is vitally important, but it’s also damn hard if you’re not used to that way of communication and interaction.

A lovely online friend of mine created a new course on assertiveness and kindly sent me a copy. If you struggle with assertiveness, this course will help dispel common myths and help you toward achieving a healthier style of communication. Reading through the PDF helped me cement my decision to stop being passive, and it has lots of helpful advice and action steps, complete with examples. If you’re interested, you can find it on her website here:

How To Communicate Effectively & Stop Being A People-Pleaser

This is one of those things that will only improve with a willingness to change and lots of practice. Oh, and lots of uncomfortable feelings at first. But it does seem to get easier each time.

“Be Kind To Yourself”

These were the words spoken to me by my therapist yesterday. I’m struggling, a lot, and needed that reminder. It’s times like this that I’m especially grateful for therapy and a great therapist.

My inner critic has been especially boisterous this past while, as have the critical voices from my childhood and beyond. Every attempt at positivity and self-compassion has been met with these negative voices shutting it down. Separating out the voices and recognizing which is my own inner critic, who is ultimately just trying to protect me, and which belong to those people in my life, who due to their own issues and projections have targeted me with their hurtful words, has been helpful.

“You’re useless, a waste of space, and will never amount to anything”, “you don’t deserve love, a hug, attention”. The voice of others. When these kinds of words come from people you love and are supposed to trust, who you are dependent on as a child, they build up and almost become like a part of you. It’s extremely difficult to challenge them.

“You can’t do this”, “it’s not good enough”, “you’re too much or not enough”. My own. To my inner critic I can say “thank you for trying to protect me, but it’s okay if I am unsuccessful at this. I’ll learn from it and do better next time”, “It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s good enough”. This voice is trying to protect me from rejection, shame and pain. See the difference? For me at least, it’s easier to deal with my own inner critic.

When I got home from therapy I was exhausted and wanted to take a nap. But the critical voices were so loud (“you’re just lazy, you should be working”) and I was struggling to tap into my own self-compassion. I then remembered C’s words “be kind to yourself”. In that moment I decided to pretend that she’s talking to me instead, and to speak to myself the way she speaks to me, with kindness and compassion. And it worked. So I ended up taking a guilt-free 90 minute nap, one I desperately needed. By pretending that C that was talking to me, I slowly started to find my own self-compassionate voice again. So that’s another simple little tool for my coping toolkit.

It’s so easy to get lost in all the voices of negativity. Both those around us and those within us. So if you struggle with this, maybe this concept can help you as well. I hope you have someone whose kind and gentle voice can help guide you in finding your own voice of self-compassion.