Post Therapy Thoughts // Recognizing A Narcissist

When I got into therapy on Tuesday, it was a regular session. We discussed smaller triggers I had experienced throughout the two weeks, such as the fight about money with my father and even former hook-ups of mine starting to message me again, and not really being ready for that kind of male attention.

However, it wasn’t until I began to discuss a certain person in my life (who I am choosing not to name due to sensitivity) that the real discussion started. We’ll call her Sally. I had been in several fights with this person over the last month, and for me – it’s always difficult to handle.

I needed space, and Sally just hasn’t been able to respect that. Calling and texting me every single day, I would grow more and more anxious and angry at even the thought of picking up the phone. Writing a new blog post on money anxiety, Sally texted me with her opinion of what she read, and it was borderline emotionally abusive – according to my therapist. I was shamed for even having money troubles to begin with. Rather than seeing how much vulnerability it took to write the post, she focused on tearing me down. The relationship can be described as my therapist states,

“They pull you in with charm, only to slap you then kiss you.”

This is a narcissist.

Whether it’s a friend, partner, or even family member, narcissists can have a serious, negative impact on everyday life and relationships. We tend not to see narcissists in our lives until confronted with the cold, hard facts about their personalities. Sometimes, we are just too close to see, but once you do – it all becomes very clear. You stop feeling the shame and guilt, and start seeing that this is their problem, not yours.

After the session, my therapist emailed me a handout that helped me to better understand narcissistic behavior, and validated my experience all these years. The information below is loosely based off that handout by Elisabeth Caetano.

 

They’re likable, at first glance. 

Narcissists tend to be well versed in first impressions, coming across as personable and charismatic. In the beginning, all you see is the positive, but over the long term more and more negativity seeps through.

They always manage to make it about themselves.

While they engage initially, they always eventually turn the conversation around to talk about themselves, their accomplishments and achievements and typically don’t ask about you and your life or interests.

Not all stories are victorious ones. 

Narcissists often tell stories about themselves – sometimes even repeating the same story over and over again – and many times, the story will be surrounding an instance of personal heroism or an exploit. But, even when the story is something negative, it will never be the narcissist’s fault. There’s an air of entitlement in the victory story and victimization in the failure.

The key is seeing through the facade, as they never take responsibility for anything negative.

Appearance is everything. 

While they aren’t necessarily more attractive than other people, they do take care of their appearance and place an importance on looking good. This doesn’t just apply to physical, the emotional has to seem perfect all the time as well.

Making sure everyone knows how hard they work, how much they make money-wise, how much they have, and how deserving they are of it is essential.

They are hyper sensitive to criticism.

Fragility of the ego is paramount in narcissistic behavior. They simply cannot be wrong, or responsible, therefore – you cannot give them even constructive criticism without it turning into an argument.

With no ability to see themselves as less than, or flawed, they are almost delusional in their “truth” of who they are. It’s not your fault if you can’t help them see.

They love to make excuses. 

Tending to externalize blame, pinning the blame on everyone but themselves, narcissists are skilled at making excuses and not taking credit for mistakes.

They even tend to get extremely defensive and then go on the attack – sometimes in an aggressive manner – to prove it’s not their fault. This usually involves tearing others down to make their “point.”

They do not honor boundaries. 

This one I have experienced all too well. While this is more of an informational post helping others to understand when a narcissist might be in their lives – I still think back to my own situation. I have someone very close to me who fits the bill in most of these traits. While I love her, it’s incredibly hard to handle. She has always been problematic with this specific behavior.

Narcissists do not honor boundaries because they simply don’t believe it applies to them. That’s where the sense of entitlement comes back into play. Healthy emotional boundaries are essential for any relationship – especially for people suffering with mental illness. To disrespect that is toxic, inconsiderate, and potentially dangerous for another person.

It’s likely they have no clue they are a narcissist. 

With no real insight or ability to see themselves at that level, it’s likely they will never understand how their behavior effects the people around them.

Because they feel so superior and may even have some success, they’re unlikely to seek treatment. In itself, this issue is a double whammy because the things they see in themselves prevent them from seeing they have real problems that need to be dealt with.

Flattery maintains the peace.

Have you found yourself resorting to flattery to maintain the peace in a relationship? You’re dealing with a narcissist. While it’s the best way to avoid conflict, it can cause you to doubt yourself – your feelings, perceptions.

 

Did any of these situations above feel all too real? If so, it might be time to make some changes. If you don’t feel emotionally safe with someone, cut the cord.

While it can feel like being in a relationship with a narcissist is necessary for survival, your mental health is worth more.

It’s a long process to recover yourself after being in any type of relationship, but it can be done. You can rebuild your life, emotional health, and come back from being lost in the toxic world of a narcissist.

 

Have you dealt with a narcissist in your life? Share your story in the comments below. 

4 Tips on Removing Toxic People From Your Life

One of the first things my therapist taught me was this:

Erica, you’re an adult. You do not have to do anything that makes you uncomfortable or anxious, regardless of the circumstances. 

While this has been a harder one to learn, this lesson has stuck with me over the year and a half I’ve been seeing my therapist. Whether it’s a relationship or a friendship, toxic people are like a thorn in the side of our already challenging mental health.

Toxic people force you to get stuck in the past and focus on the negative. They are selfish, and normally not able to fully see our mental illnesses, the issues that you suffer from every day. For years, I put up with friends like this, friends who only focused on themselves and played the victim when called out on their behavior. Blame placing, projection, passive aggressiveness. Then, after a really triggering argument with someone I thought was a close friend, I paused and asked myself:

Why am I giving so much of my time and energy to fix a relationship that is broken to begin with?

Why am I sitting here doing 90% of the compromising? Bending over backwards to please, and for what? So I don’t have to have a confrontation? My anxiety fears these forms of arguments with friends because it digs into my own self worth, and the need to be liked. I found it was when I pushed past that fear that I came to this realization – I don’t need these people in my life. 

I don’t need people in my life who refuse to understand my anxiety. I don’t need people around who attack and project their own anxieties onto me, and aren’t able to own up to it. I don’t need inauthentic friends who shy away from being real with me. What’s the point? It took a few emotional breakups to teach myself that saying goodbye to one thing can sometimes open the door to self preservation, growth, and a deeper understanding of our worth.

Here are a few tips on cutting toxic people out of your life, once and for all:

Establish & maintain boundaries 

The more you try to please them, the more you drain your mind, energy, and spirit. Compromise after compromise will just leave you exhausted – it’s time to set some healthy boundaries.

Now, there are circumstances where you can’t completely remove a person from your life, or with the help of boundaries, the person can remain.

Give some serious thought to what you will tolerate and what you won’t, whether it’s from partners, family members, coworkers, or friends. When your instinct tells you something’s not right in your interactions with someone, refer back to your already established mental boundary checklist and enforce it.

Reduce their power over you

Part of removing toxic people is understanding projection – recognizing that they’re not actually seeing you when they hurt you.

As an extremely sensitive person who has a great deal of emotion, I used to let most of my toxic friends control my entire mood. The truth is, it’s likely they are projecting onto you the parts of themselves they aren’t so stoked on accepting. See their immature behavior for what it is – weak. 

Once you start to see this, it won’t be so difficult to move on.

Pick your battles

This is a big one. I’m still learning this one every day. In the past, I would charge into every argument guns blazing – big or small. More recently, I’ve learned when to stick up for myself and when to let it go. Sometimes, saying no is a positive thing. It’s okay to protect your emotions and walk away. 

Know it’s not your job to save them

As a people pleaser, I’ve had trouble accepting this. Toxic people are really great at showing up in times of need, or in a crisis. For example, I had a friend who would come to me for anything and everything from advice to a shoulder to cry on, but when I called her out on her toxic behavior, I suddenly did nothing for her and only talked about myself, which just wasn’t true.

Not only is this blame placing, it’s problematic. Solving their problems is not our responsibility, it’s their own. Even in my own breakup recently, I’ve come to this realization. It’s not my job to save him from the issues he is facing, it’s his.

A wonderful quote that I actually heard on my drive to work recently, listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Last Podcast on the Left, said:

“Mental health is not your fault, but it is your responsibility.”

While I never judge or blame someone for having mental health issues – I clearly have my own – I do consider them responsible with managing it. If they’re not able to do that, or at least trying, I have to remove myself. 

 

Distancing yourself from toxic people seems like a no-brainer, but it’s really not. It’s taken years for me to come to this conclusion, but I’m so glad I’ve seen the light because once you cut off these friends or partners who do nothing but trigger you, you make room for all the people who deserve to be in your life. The people who respect you and take joy in watching your growth, and vice versa. The people you can be completely raw around – mental illness and all.

Surround yourself with healthy, like minded people – you deserve it. 

 

 

 

Have you had to remove toxic people from your life? Share your story in the comments below. 

 

Post Therapy Thoughts // Setting Healthy Boundaries

Going into today’s therapy session, I was really excited. Because of the long holiday weekend of 4th of July, it’s been roughly three weeks since I’ve had a session. While I handled my anger well during that time, I was itching to sit down and discuss all the different situations that had occurred since the last time we met.

I’ll be honest – I was a like a middle schooler handing in my well thought out essay in therapy. I was so proud of myself for the way I’ve set clear boundaries and removed triggers the past few weeks that I deserved a little praise.

When I told my therapist of all the things I experienced over the past few weeks and how I handled them on my own, she was more than proud – she was moved by my newfound ability to see a potential trigger and remove it before it became an issue for me.

Here’s a few examples:

A week or so ago, I found out that my ex-boyfriend has posted on social media for the first time since we broke up. I wrote about this in a previous blog post, but I’ll explain it again. My close friend called me to give me a heads up that he had posted, so I was very grateful I didn’t scroll through my feed on Instagram and have it pop up – instant trigger.

Turns out it was a photo of him settled into his new apartment. This triggered my anger – I was hurt. Hurt that he was “moving on” and doing exciting, fun things without me when in reality, that’s life. It moves on. He will have endless experiences in that new apartment that I will never be part of, because we aren’t in each others lives anymore. And that’s where I needed to rework my focus – shift the focus from him, and onto myself. What new experiences will I have? How do I feel? 

Because honestly, he doesn’t matter anymore. It’s not about him – it’s about me and how I react, how I handle my anxiety.

So, from this event I made the decision to unfollow him on all social media. I set a very clear boundary for myself. No more temptation to go “keep tabs” on what he’s doing, no more potential triggers when he posts something and I randomly see it. No more.

This is how I will move on, and stay there.

Another example of setting a healthy boundary for myself was about a week or so after my breakup. It was a random Saturday night and I was spending it alone at home. I got a text message from an old hookup – I say that because we never actually dated, just had fun – just saying hi. I hadn’t spoken to him in over a year, so I knew what his intentions were. I was so not in that place to have sex with no strings attached, and honestly I felt uncomfortable even talking to him about it, so I spoke up. I was upfront and direct with him – I appreciated the gesture but I’m not ready to be in that place. Being the very nice guy that he is, he was completely understanding and civil, but it’s so important to set these boundaries when we feel overwhelmed or that uncomfortableness sets in.

I’m proud of how far I’ve come. Just a year ago, I would never have had the ability to send a text like that, it would have sent me into a spiral of anxiety. I’m proud to know what I deserve and know my emotional boundaries. Could I have accepted his invitation that night? Absolutely. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but I wasn’t ready – and that’s okay. 

In response to all this, my therapist said something that truly resonated with me:

“It’s okay to make mistakes, but we need not repeat negative patterns.”

Creating healthy boundaries is the key to managing my mental health, and keeping up with my triggers.

In addition to discussing my emotional boundaries, I also read my therapist a second letter that I wrote to my ex. This time, it was based in anger. While I have no intention to sending it to him, it’s important to put pen to paper for me when I’m overwhelmed with an emotion. It helps me to process that feeling, and move on from it in a healthy manner.

While I read the letter to my therapist, she noticed that I was starting to cry. She told me I could get angry and yell while reading it, but my knee jerk reaction was to be hurt. I still have trouble expressing anger publicly, but I’m proud of myself for getting through the entire letter. My therapist told me that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed because for me, this is new. It’s a new emotion to be expressing and it’s not always going to go my way. She also said:

“Don’t be afraid of your anger – it’s appropriate.”

She’s 100% right. I’m afraid since I haven’t been in this place of anger for as long as I have, that it will never fade. That’s my anxiety speaking – I will move on from this emotion. As long as I sit with it and acknowledge the lessons that come from the pain and the anger, I will move to the next stage.

 

 

Have you set some great emotional boundaries for yourself lately? Share them in the comments below! 

A Lesson in Loss // Christy

Loss of a loved one – no matter how they are lost – can be the most debilitating pain. For Christy, loss came all at once. When she lost her father in 2011, it wasn’t something she saw coming.

Recovering from two surgeries with the doctors happy with his progress, he passed from a genetic blood cotting disease no one knew he had. Surgery had made the risk even higher.

“He was here and then he wasn’t. None of us got to say goodbye. I think that was the most difficult thing to deal with. I had so much more to say and it didn’t help to say it to him in my head.

I was angry. I was bone-numbing sad. I cried. A lot. Then, just when I thought I was getting a handle on it, something would trigger another bout of grief. Sometimes it was nostalgia, but sometimes it was more like depression. I needed to write my feelings down so I could let the deepest part of my sadness go.”

First drafting a poem about how she wanted just one more day with her father and what specific day or memory she would return to, Christy went through several different versions before she found her voice.

Wanting to express her own interpretation of the stages of grief and how it changes, grows, her poem resonates with any kind of loss we may suffer.

 

 

Loss

 

At first it steals your breath –

your very reason to live. 

It feels like you’re trapped in a box. 

Your heartbreak closing in and making you feel claustrophobic. 

You can never seem to catch your breath 

and you gasp between sobs. 

Your heart hurts like someone reached inside your ribs 

and easily sliced a section of your soul off while you were sleeping. 

 

One day, you wake up and awkwardly say hi to your loss,

like a new neighbor who’s just moved in next door. 

You wave and begrudgingly acknowledge 

the ever-present nature 

of the new guy next door who wants desperately to be your friend. 

“Let’s chat! How’s life? Pretty sucky, right?” 

he seems to say every time he gets a chance. 

You hate him and his friendly smile. 

 

Then the loss seems to come in waves. 

You’re fine one minute and then crying the next. 

Who knows what sets you off:

the movie you wish you could talk about together,

the memory of a debate about a book character,

the intense need to hear a voice because you can’t quite remember the timbre of it,

the ache of needing one more hug.

 

Eventually, with time, love surrounds you

like a soft, warm blanket. 

You don’t hurt as much;

you think more about the good times. 

You smile as memories dance before your eyes. 

Loss doesn’t feel so lonely anymore

because love keeps you company.

You don’t sit in the dark

because now you can walk out into the light and feel alive again.

 

 

How do you handle loss? Share your story in the comments below. 

Handling Heartbreak With Anxiety

Recently, I wrote an article for Inpathy Bulletin about dealing with a breakup with anxiety, and it made me realize that I haven’t dedicated a post to handling heartbreak. Now that I’ve had a few weeks to distance myself from the more intense emotion and pain that comes directly after a breakup, I feel comfortable talking about it in depth.

Although it’s become clear by now, a few weeks ago my ex boyfriend broke up with me. The reasons were scattered, but in the end it came down to this: he just couldn’t come with me. By this, I mean he wasn’t the right match to go down the same road I’m on in my own mental health journey. While that’s hard to accept, it’s something I must. Like myself, he has issues and they just became too much to handle, so it was time to part ways.

Most people think breakups are the stuff of sad songs and romantic comedies, but in reality it’s a visceral and sometimes even suffocating pain to end a relationship in which you’ve most likely invested all of your emotional energy. Cue anxiety, depression, and other mental illness and it can be almost impossible to breathe.

Healing a broken heart is difficult for anyone, but for those of us who are constantly battling mental illness, it can cause us to question our self worth or even trigger. While this is not my first breakup, each one comes with its very own set of memories, which in the beginning, can be painful to relive. Even though I did not feel like anything was my fault during the breakup, it can be easy for anxiety to latch onto such a traumatic event and start to poke at your self worth with thoughts of whether this is your fault or you could have done something differently: maybe he/she would have stayed if….

Stop that thought process before it turns into a spiral. As someone who is hyper sensitive, I see you and feel that pain wholeheartedly. Fear the stress of this breakup could lead to a breakdown? Here are some tips I’ve learned while navigating my heartbreak.

Take Care of Yourself

Healing always starts with self care. No matter the form of loss, you must nurture your emotions and heart. Whether that means going to bed early, taking a day off to lounge on the couch, of reading your favorite book for the 20th time, do what you need to do to soothe your mind, body, and soul.

While you used to have someone to take care of you all the time, now you don’t. That person is gone but it doesn’t mean you stop the care. You are always first priority, relationship or not.

Feel It Out

If you want to cry, cry. If you feel like screaming, whip out a pillow and do the damage. Feeling relieved, or even happy? Don’t bottle those emotions up. Meet them, don’t feel guilty for having happy moments – it doesn’t diminish the time you had together. 

It’s okay to not be okay, which is something we hear a lot in this community. More recently, I’ve learned that it’s also okay to be angry. Anger is an emotion I’ve always had trouble with, so it’s important to feel all the range of emotions. It will help you move on in a healthy way.

Learn to Let Go

Change is a bitch. No matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to shake her. Grieving is random, it comes in waves but you have to learn to let it go. We struggle to accept loss. We constantly fight reality and avoid the truth of the situation: they aren’t a part of our lives anymore. Try not to dwell on what could have been, or if you should have done something differently because in the end, it happened how it happened. You can’t control it. If you find yourself spiraling and ruminating, write it down. Battle with reality.

Protect Your Emotions

While we have to let our emotions, I truly believe that it’s important to protect those hyper sensitive souls from trivial things that will only cause suffering. A good example is social media. In the aftermath of a breakup, social media is toxic. It’s a space where – in a way – you can still be in each other’s lives without actually speaking. If it’s too triggering to see your ex over social media, unfollow. Unfriend. Block. Whatever you need to do, do it so you can be in a safe space and move forward.

Little things will hurt the most. Although I’ve been in a much better place lately, something small crept up on me and brought me to tears. I was lugging something gigantic up the stairs to my studio and while my neighbor was coming down, he tapped me on the shoulder and said, “you dropped this.” I looked down and the keychain my ex boyfriend got me had broken off my keyring. While it’s trivial, it still really hurts. It’s a memory. Even though it’s a sweet one, it’s painful right now. I let myself feel the sadness, and afterwards I realized it was a sign. It needed to go. Time to shed that memory in order to create new ones.

Lean On Your People

Although you must deal with grief and loss at your own pace – there is no set timeline for moving on – there are plenty of people who understand what you’re going through. Let them help. Yes, you must deal with this emotionally on your own, but support is healthy too. In the first few days after my breakup, I had an outpouring of support from close friends and family. Sometimes it can be unexpected, but it can help ease anxiety to know you have a support system who is on your side – no matter what you’re feeling.

 

I will leave you with this quote from Becca Lee, an inspiring poet who beautifully states the true purpose of pain:

“So often we associate pain with darkness because that is how it tends to feel – all-encompassing, overwhelming and never-ending. But pain is not sent into our lives to drown us; pain illuminates the parts of us that need our attention and it makes us acutely aware of the parts that are broken, hurt and sore. Not so that we may suffer, but so we may heal and grow. So that we may give our wounds the love, care and treatment they so desperately need and deserve. Pain shows us where we do not want to be. It holds up the parts of our lives that are not aligned with our spirit and soul and creates discomfort so as to bring about the desire to change. Our pain moves us towards the light, towards who we truly are – but only if we are brave enough to look beyond the darkness and allow it to do so.”

The aftermath of heartbreak is intense. That pain is real. The sorrow is real. Your anxiety invading your mind, telling you you aren’t good enough or how you could have done better, is not. Breathe, and remember these feelings won’t break you – they can only make you stronger. Move towards the light, towards who you truly are. 

Everyday, I get closer and closer to my true self. If you’re suffering from a broken heart, I hope you realize it’s not your fault, and that real change can come from this. Be patient with yourself – grow from the pain. 

 

 

How do you handle heartbreak with anxiety? Share your tips or stories! 

The Deal With Dads // Father’s Day Post

Today is Father’s Day, so let’s talk about it: what’s the deal with dads? To start, I know that for some, this day of celebration is triggering and painful. Some may have lost their dads, while others never had a father figure in their life to begin with. That being said, here is my story with my dad and how far we’ve come.

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Growing up, my dad wasn’t exactly around. Being a second generation Greek, he was taught to be the man of the family. He hustled, overworked, and came home to his family exhausted for dinner each night. Working at several different law firms while I was little, he left a lot of the parenting to my mom – which she gladly took on. Don’t get me wrong, I had a very happy childhood, but I didn’t always get to see my father as much as I would like.

It wasn’t until I was 19 years old that my entire worldview came crashing down. It isn’t until something traumatic happens with your family that you start to see your parents in a new light. The summer going into my sophomore year of college, my parents sat my sister – who was 23 at the time – and I down to tell us that my dad would be moving out. My parents were getting divorced. 

I had listened to my parents fight for the last year before I got this news, but I was still shocked. I had been naive for so long and it took an event like this for me to realize my parents aren’t perfect – they’re flawed.

Young, immature, and unable to handle my anxiety properly, I hit a wall. For over a year, I couldn’t even be in the same room as my father. Assuming that all the fault was on him, my intense feelings could not be contained. Whenever he entered the room, I could feel my anger boiling over. He ripped apart my family. 

It took some time, but my father and I found each other again. I don’t remember a specific day, or month that we started our relationship again but this time it was different. We both grew up. We had gone through so much as people and it has brought us together. Whether it was a road trip picking me up from my college in San Francisco and driving back home to San Diego together, or our now ritual breakfast and a movie, he’s my best friend.

It took struggling through some of the worst, life-altering events to bring us closer than we really ever have been. Since my parents split, my dad realized his own anger issues, and it made him not only a more understanding person, but an emotional one. I had never seen that side of him before. My father and I have the same brain, as he says, and I think that might be why it’s so easy to talk to him and tell him any negative thought or high anxiety issue I may be struggling with: he’s gone through it too. 

More recently, I’ve gone through a breakup and one of the only things getting me through it – other than therapy – is the support of loved ones. When I’m not spending time with myself, or friends, I do the usual breakfast with dad. The first corned beef hash and eggs of that weekend ended in me sobbing in the middle of the deli. When I looked up and apologized, feeling the slight shame of crying in public so intensely, my dad just took my hand and said, “It’s okay. You’re okay – let it out.” I don’t think I’ve ever loved him more than in that moment. While all I had was fear about my ex-boyfriend leaving me because of my anxiety or mental health, I feel incredibly grateful that those thoughts have never once entered my mind with my dad. He will never leave, he will never give up or think I’m a burden. 

We don’t always get it right, fights happen but in the end we never say goodnight without an I love you. While I hope for the right match in a man in the future, I don’t know that I’ll ever find someone like my father. Like a bull in a China shop, he storms through life but it’s in the quiet moments I’ve realized that loud exterior is masked by a human with depths of patience, understanding, humor, and unconditional love for someone who doesn’t always feel good enough. Thank you for making me feel enough, Dad. You don’t know how much you do.

 

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Do you have an inspiring story with your father? Share it in the comments! 

Post Therapy Thoughts

Going into therapy after work today – I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and safety. It’s been an emotional, draining weekend and I was looking forward to getting those intense feelings off my chest. Since I had cried myself silly the past few days, I really thought I was finished with the waterworks, but that wasn’t the case. And that’s okay. 

Since I’ve been through heartbreak before, I know this feeling and lately I’ve been preventing myself from feeling fully sad because it’s a hard emotion to constantly feel, but I have to. When I got into therapy and felt comfortable, I told my therapist what happened and it wasn’t until I read her the letter I ended up writing and sending to my ex boyfriend that I started to cry.

It was through talking it out with my therapist that I realized just how proud of myself I should be. Throughout the rough weekend I experienced, my anxiety did not raise its voice. Yes, I cried so hard that I almost couldn’t breathe and it felt like someone was consistently punching me in the stomach but guess what? I knew it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t personalize and I’m proud of myself. Just a year ago, my anxiety could easily have latched onto a highly stressful and triggering event like this and told my mind that everything was my fault, but through my own personal growth and self-awareness, that anxiety never roared. It will likely spike down the line, but I’m ready for it – I have the tools to handle whatever is thrown my way.

From listening to me talk about my anxiety and feelings for the past week or so, my therapist discussed the possibility that I have intuitional anxiety, which means I have a sense of what is to come before it actually occurs, but I label those feelings as anxiety, rather than embrace them as reality. I’ve done this with almost every relationship I’ve been in and it’s about time that I view this as a gift for myself. When I’m feeling worried or insecure in a relationship, that’s a red, flashing NEON sign that I should be paying closer attention to. Lesson learned. 

The last thing my therapist had me do was an exercise where I generate a list of what I’ve learned about qualities I look for in the right match. Here’s the list I’ve come up with:

What I’ve learned about the right qualities for me in a partner: 

  • Respectful of my time
  • Ability to compromise
  • Healthy work-life balance
  • Emotional communicator & insight

As I continue to think about it, I will learn more from this entire experience and have a better handle on what the right match looks like for me in the future.

For now, it’s all about self-love. I need to allow myself to feel whatever I need to. It’s never easy saying goodbye to something or someone – there’s no deadline for moving on or “bouncing back.” It’s okay to not be okay. 

I don’t regret one minute of my relationship. I learned important lessons from it and will hold some very special memories with a person I still truly believe is a wonderful human being. It’s like I said in my letter to him:

We all slip and fall, sometimes we just need a new plan for getting back up.

Here’s to more personal growth and finding even more of myself in these next few months. I welcome it.

 

Have you gone through a breakup recently? How are you handling the anxiety associated with it? 

Cassiopeia // Thriving In The Face of Motherhood & Anxiety

When I set out to create this blog, I really wanted to cover topics that I might not fully have knowledge in. While I have an understanding of anxiety and mental health when it comes to my own journey and therapy, there are certain aspects I cannot speak to. This is where guest authors come in.

I am beyond grateful to my coworker and friend, Cassiopeia Guthrie (aka the creative blogger behind Free Hands Full Heart) for sharing her story on becoming a mother while navigating her own mental health. Filled with eloquence in each word she types, Cassiopeia has a magical way of making everyone feel warm, welcome and that they are enough.

Read Cassiopeia’s journey on finding her way as a new mom while teaching herself patience in her guest blog post below.

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I see it in your eyes and your posture. The moment you come up to me, I can see that you are struggling. I see it in the way you react as your baby gently calls to you. He might just be dreaming, might be readjusting his body in the cradle of your arms, might just be mewling softly to let you know that he’s almost ready to eat, but it’s like you’ve been burned. Your breath speeds up, your eyes dart from side to side, your shoulders tense. Your thoughts are racing; I can tell you’re worried. “Am I doing this right?” you wonder. Or you think, with certainty, that you are not. Maybe sometimes, in the wee hours of the morning, you wander the halls, babe in arms, pondering things that make no sense, like banging your exhausted head into a wall or a door to help to stay awake. But then, in others, you sit staring at her wondering: “Will she wake up?” I have been in your shoes.

When my oldest son was just 4 days old, an earthquake rocked our world. Coming in at 7.2, it was the largest earthquake to have hit the region in 18 years. As my little guy slept in his rocking seat that Easter Sunday, I recall the ceiling fan beginning to shake violently above us all. Without thinking, I grabbed him and ran outside to the driveway and sobbed as the world continued to roll and shake around us for over a minute. It was the first moment I realized that I was not fully in control and that I had a small person who needed me, completely and utterly. I was terrified of failing him.

Six days later, we found ourselves in Children’s Hospital to have his little heart looked at. A couple of days after that, I cried at a La Leche League meeting, completely overwhelmed, wondering if I’d ever be able to take a shower or do dishes again. When we struggled with breastfeeding, I drove all over the county seeking support groups. But when we left our house, I wondered if I’d turned off the oven or locked the door. I stressed about other drivers on the road, certain that our lives were in danger all of the time. I was inexplicably exhausted, and yet struggled with sleep. I wore a smile, but it was false; insecurity echoed in empty chambers of my mind.

I want you to know that I understand. I know that you may internally be questioning your decision to become a mother while, with every breath, you claim that you are overjoyed by it. You may feel unable to focus and concentrate, disconnected, overwhelmed. You may sit listlessly, or be unable to find the drive to eat. You may look at your baby like a stranger or an obligation. You may not be able to find the words you used to have at your very eloquent disposal. You may not care about brushing your hair, washing your face, or going outside. I just want you to know that you are not alone. You are worthy of love. And there are resources for you.

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I found my way into motherhood intentionally, and yet those first months were an incredible challenge. I felt isolated, helpless, and at times incapable of being the strong mother I’d always imagined. I attended workshops, classes, doctors appointments, and therapy. I worked hard to find my sense of self and to bond with my child. Although I returned to work full time when my son was only 4 months old, being the mother I wanted to be took constant attention and sacrifice, but it also took something more: it took community. That’s why I was honored when Erica asked me to guest blog on my experiences as a mother and postpartum care provider; I know exactly what made the difference when I was in those dark early days. It was human connection.

What made the difference for me was connecting with support groups… connecting with other mothers. It was gathering tools for my toolbox like babywearing, nursing lying down, and not being afraid to ask for help. It was creating experiences that my baby and I could enjoy together, whether taking classes or simply getting some fresh air. It was learning patience: not with others, or with my baby, or with my circumstances, but with myself. It was in finding the bits of sunshine in every day, the love for spending time in fresh air at the park with other mothers, the cups of tea in the evenings that soothed my soul, the quiet moments tucked in hot showers that helped me find the deeply buried pieces of shiny me that were hidden under the layers of motherhood. It was a reintroduction: the woman that I once was coming to terms with the experience that I had now. And it was a catalyst for growth, change, and support as I would eventually embark on a new adventure: providing love and care to other new families as a babywearing educator.

And this is why we are here now, you and I.  You, with your tired, anxious eyes. Me, with a soul that aches to take you in and mother you, anxiety level at a 10 and all.

And, at the end of the day, I just want you to know that it’s okay to reach out. We are here as a resource for you. It’s going to be alright.

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A special note: you are not alone. If you feel that you are struggling with challenges related to postpartum emotional health, know that this happens to 1 in 7 of us, and it can even happen to dads, too. Please do not hesitate to call the Postpartum Health Alliance Warmline (619-254-0023), visit the website to learn about where you can go for help, or email me directly. I am happy to help anytime.

 

Want to read more from Cassiopeia? Head to this original blog post on Free Hands Full Hearts for mental health musings from this momma!