Unf#ck Your Brain, The Book

Unf#ck Your Brain by Faith G. Harper, PhD practically screamed my name when looking for something different to read while vacationing. Maybe it was the bright yellow cover or maybe it was just the title. Either way, I’m grateful as f#ck because this has turned out to be yet another one of those life-changing books.

Harper is a licensed professional counselor who uses a holistic approach to help readers and her clients understand the physical factors behind their brain-induced woes. She also understands and relates how unresolved trauma can set us each up for difficulties in our every day. Her analogies of how trauma affects the physiological functioning of the brain help readers to understand why we can perseverate and even feel like we’re losing our shit; and how to change it. Traumatic events can include witnessing an event where we feel helpless, it doesn’t only include trauma that we experience directly.

I also happen to love that she cusses, a lot, especially in the beginning. It actually helped me to more fully appreciate some of the humor behind how our brain processes trauma, especially compared to more scientific (and stuffy) descriptions of the same processes. While Harper doesn’t make light of trauma, her well-placed curse words and labels help call out the process in a way that helped me to lighten up. Such as when she calls the amygdala an asshole…. So if you don’t enjoy foul (or colorful) language, I’d say this book may not be for you.

In my new understanding of the neurology behind trauma, I also have more compassion for myself. For me, this always translates into more compassion for others.

She also offers many tools on how to overcome trauma, some of which I was familiar and have even mentioned in this blog. However, one tool alone was worth the price of admission for me. This was writing from the stories I have told myself instead of from the details and feelings evoked from the situations.

One example is how I have told myself that I am to blame for when others treat me poorly. While I have seen this pattern pan out in multiple areas in my life, writing this story out gave me a new perspective of it. Also, tying it directly back to the early sexual abuse helped me to uproot it.

Harper also shares her broad research and clinical experiences in this book. She shares that trauma-conscious therapy often helps to unravel the sources of depression, anxiety and even mental health disorders that most believe are medically-based.

So if you feel like your brain is f#cking you up or hijacking your life, I strongly recommend this book. If you read it and practice it, I can guarantee that you’ll see some positive shifts, and far more quickly and painlessly than traditional talk therapy. And if you don’t see shifts and you’ve done the work she outlines, then she shares that sometimes we need some outside help: from friends, from family or even from a trained professional.

I love that Harper shares tips on how to find the right professional, and what to do if you’re not seeing changes. She adds what pits to avoid, including feeling obligated to remain with someone who isn’t helping you.

As someone who has sought various mental health and counseling services over the decades, I wish I had had this trail-guide sooner. This is about therapy and getting better, not just regurgitating and reliving the hurt. Nor is it about staying with someone who isn’t helping us to move forward. I feel that bears repeating: this is about getting better, not just talking and reliving the fucking past.

May we each find and use the tools we need to shift our perspective of our wounded and hurt places. May we each rediscover the wholeness within, taking back our power and thus showing others the path to wholeness.

Namaste

When Feeling Stuck…

The past few months life has moved forward much like someone learning to drive a stick shift with a mixture of smooth sailing, lurching forward, stalling, bucking, and screeching halts. Work demands increased, and home life demands seemed to, as well. While I kept up fairly well with much of my self-care, more so than ever during a time of stress, I still felt like I was treading water or drowning more than not. Simply put, I felt stuck in this perpetual liminal or in-between space.

From this extended purgatory of sorts, I’ve learned some new perspectives that can help make the road less bumpy for you.

  • Self-care during this time is crucial. At times, I was resistant about some items yet open and consistent about others. I say, do what you can here. Choose your battles wisely; know who you’re fighting, too… and know that when life “hits the fan,” self-care is needed even more. (I like to use the NASCAR analogy here, that racing around means those cars get more care in 1 race than most of our cars receive in a year or more… maybe I could look up some stats about that one day.)
  • Embrace the slowdown. These transitory rest breaks allow us to rebuild our energy after the ending of one chapter. These spaces also make life seem less clear, and driving faster because we can’t see clearly doesn’t generally work out well for many, for long. I also believe that this slowdown is to allow for taking life differently.
  • Create or find a supportive mantra and use it. Simple ones like, “this too shall pass,” or “this is the breakdown before the breakthrough,” or “I’ve survived this, and more, before. I’ve got this!,” or “that which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger/wiser, etc.” Find or create a supportive mantra that meets your needs.
  • Journal. Writing can be very helpful during this time to help gain perspective. Personally, I write some dark poetry during this time. It’s therapeutic to “poop” out the thoughts that are no longer needed.
  • Find a new perspective or analogy.
    • It is in this void, this space, where we also get to choose to live life differently.
    • This time is for clearing the path for the next adventure. I recently began to imagine my guides laying down new stepping stones… 

IT’S SO AMAZING when we choose to look at this “mysterious” (and scary) time less as an “undoing” and more as a “remodeling.” If we’re tired of our kitchen, we can choose to keep it just as it is. OR, we can choose to remodel it which involves breaking down the old. There will be some dust and mess, this is part of the process.

Remodeling also takes time. Yet it is in our desire for change that we accept that this is part of the process. We sure as hell don’t stop during this in-between kitchens phase. We know it will not do us ANY good. And we also know that something better is on it’s way so we “suck it up” and go about our day. Of course “we can’t wait” (but we also want it to be right, so we do).

SO! When we find that our path is suddenly not-so-clear, when we feel we are stuck and things seem completely confusing… IF we can begin to see this as part of the remodeling process, we learn to accept it for the “breakdown” that it is. You know, the one that precedes the breakthrough!

May we move with ever increasing grace through those confusing liminal spaces, knowing that while it all seems chaotic now, that a new path is being laid out for us to take. It’s our choice in how we take it: with grace or kicking and screaming all along the way. Mine is often with a mixture of both!

Namaste

In Lack of Control & The Miracles that Followed

One primary persona of mine is to walk with confidence and appear to be “calm and under control;” the emotions pour out later. In this “mode,” I can hear my father’s mantra to be “calm, cool and collected” reverberating in my cranium. Recently, that persona broke wide the eff open for me. While it’s been an ongoing process of chipping away at this persona, on this particular day I had a very significant breakthrough.

My son was having an escalating series of temper tantrums. My attempt to control the situation and de-escalate it was only causing further … escalation. Based on a recent read of the book, Dark Side of the Light Chasers, by Debbie Ford, I saw where my need to seem in control was a direct result of my feeling that I lacked control. Literally, a light went off in one of the deepest (and darkest?) recesses of my mind. Once I affirmed that I was, indeed, not in control, I surrendered to my higher power and asked for guidance. I spoke to this event in the post Learning to be Secure.

The M.O. from the Past

In trying to prove to myself and to the world that Tiffany had it under control, I hid where I was not under control. Or tried to. I have had an emotional eating addiction for … probably my whole life. This is one of the ways that I both punish myself for my feelings (eating ’til it hurts) and then hide my feelings by stuffing my emotions down, down, down…

In trying to prove to the world that I had it under control, I learned to smile and put on a good game face; well kinda. One practitioner poignantly described me as being “zippered up.” Yet the muscles of my body reveal my guarded and “under control” tendency. Even with regular massages, I have held onto a great deal of tension; more than most.

In trying to prove to the world that I had it under control, I would attempt to control myself, my environment and … even those in it. Wow! That last one is a challenge to admit. Yet, as a physical therapist I develop (and control) treatment plans everyday. What a great profession to be in for someone who secretly wants to control everything and everyone… understand, I believed it was an act of self-preservation, not mind-control.

Where & why the control most likely started

This control is not so much about power for the sake of power, it’s more about my feeling safe. As a child, I was in situations where I was abused by “trusting” adults who manipulated and controlled me. From this, I believed that my body was not safe, that I had to control others – and myself – to be safe. From this abuse, I also didn’t believe I could trust people; especially those who were meant to protect me. Further more, I felt effing powerless, and hence the cycle starts over, feeding into itself. So for me, being in control has meant that it was harder for someone else to harm me.

Back to the Breakthrough

Yet on this fateful day, I chose differently. In recognizing my lack of control and giving up control to my higher power, I received greater clarity in everyday things. This has helped me to make wiser choices. The irony! Instead of being ruled by my fear of loss of control, I’m seeing that I have little control outside of my own choices, and now my choices are more clear, thus giving me …. more control! Yet in a different way, in that the control factor is no longer based in fear.

It is my hope that in sharing, you will find a greater understanding about yourself or perhaps a “control freak” that is in your life. The more we can understand and have compassion, the less turbulence we each create in our world.

May we each find a greater sense of peace in better understanding ourselves and others. 

Namaste

Celebrating a New Path

This was originally scheduled to post yesterday on 6/1. However, in light of the events in Virginia Beach the day before I felt it was not the time to celebrate. Overnight, I had some breakthroughs and recognized it’s even more important to celebrate life at this time. We must each choose to be the light and celebrate life while we honor the tragic deaths of others, this is what leads to healing. #VirginiaBeachStrong

Have you ever looked back on your life and seen how one new opportunities arose based on prior choices; ones previously unseen or unimaginable? Perhaps the first one was a choice you were afraid to take… yet you took it anyway… then more and more pathways opened up.

Well, in looking back over the last five years, I can see where new opportunities and choices that arose after a seemingly simple career path change. However, little did I know at the time how that one change would lead to a cascade of changes; literally, so much of my life today is very different than it was on 6/1/2014.

The first step was when I moved out of the field and back into the clinic. In doing so, I freed up more time and energy for life, living and seeing… Almost immediately, I changed my diet (at the time to Vegan) which lead to my spurt with running.

Since 2014, I’ve removed over 60 pounds from my frame. Yes! I said 60 (and no, removed does not mean surgery!). Though this has taken me most of the 5 years to accomplish, the final 10 or so has been through intermittent fasting; not running nor being Vegan, although I’ve given both a go now, twice each…

Within a few months of my job change, the shifts also lead me to see that my nearly 15-year-old marriage was failing; miserably. Had I stayed in “the field” of home health, I would not have had the energy nor emotional capacity to go through such an upheaval as the divorce required. The running I mentioned earlier lead me to meet many friends who were supportive during this time of separation & divorce, as many had endured or were enduring the same! It’s still amazing to look back and to see all of the support I had all along; though I often felt lonely…

The separation and subsequent divorce lead me to start blogging (just passed the 4 year blogiversary in April). Blogging has pushed me to explore greater depths of understanding and it has introduced me to new concepts through being able to see life through the eyes of others, too. I’ve also made some interesting and supportive connections over the years.

Five years later and  my work has expanded to include 2 clinics, mentoring of 4 other therapists, numerous public health and physician education events and acquiring my certification as a pelvic rehab specialist. When I started, I worked part-time in pelvic health and part-time in general orthopedics. Now, my caseload is nearly 100% pelvic health. It’s an amazing journey to summarize in one quick paragraph.

During this time, I’ve also moved twice and changed cars twice. Before this, I had never lived “alone” meaning without another adult in the house, much less purchased nor leased a car on my own. Needless to say, these years have taught me a great deal about myself and much of this learning has been chronicled in the 688 blog posts to date. So today I celebrate the many changes. And wonder what the next 5 years will hold. Even as I have set some personal goals, I’m confident surprises are in store.

5 years from now, I’d like to look back and see where I have:

  • Published a book or two giving guidance to others on their journey.
  • Given TED Talks (or similar) on navigating through change.
  • Reduced my hours in health care to 20/week or less.
  • Paid off consumer debt.
  • Maintained my weight loss, my meditation practice and increased my consistency with working out.
  • Continued to actively expand how I support my children in their growth and development.
  • Improved my relationship with my parents.
  • Settled into a deeper relationship with myself.
  • Invited a compatible partner along for the journey.

So stay tuned! Who really knows what tomorrow will bring?!

May we each follow our natural curiosities, discovering new opportunities as we travel through life. May we each give ourselves the freedom to choose change, even when at the time it may seem tough or a mistake, knowing more chances await …

Namaste

Learning to be Secure

My son was having a difficult time with self-control this evening. Even with knowing the consequences of his behavior, he choose to act out; losing his coveted tablet time for the rest of the day. So there I was, having my feathers ruffled by a 7-year-old throwing a 7-year-old temper tantrum, because I did not feel heard.

Earlier in the day I had done a guided meditation which asked me what my most burning desire. My answer “to fully express myself;” as in a no-holds-barred, completely authentic way. This has been something I have never felt safe doing. In feeling insecure in honoring my own voice, I had not been able to honor my son’s voice, either. Hours later, there we were, pitted against one another; neither of us feeling heard nor respected.

Silently, I said a prayer, asking for guidance as I was myself beginning to feel ready to verbally explode. Insights then began to flood in as I sat and watched my son’s behavior. Miraculously, my mind calmed down and, from my heart, I began to tell my son what I was seeing; a boy who was angry and who needed love. Perhaps I could have also said confused (that’s my judgmental voice right there!). I then heard my wise inner voice tell me that my son needed to know that above all that he was safe.

Yet, my calm disturbed him further. He upped his efforts to upset me, kicking a ball at me. I calmly told him he needed to go up to his room and I walked upstairs with him on my way to my own room. At the top of the stairs he shared that he didn’t want to go alone into his room, so I changed tack and, still calm, I sat down with him.

The inner wisdom kicked in again, showing me that he needed me to be connected and open (vulnerable) with him. So I sat with him and held the space while he calmed himself down. I also felt further soothed. What do any of us really want when we are upset and hurt? Someone who loves us who can be there with us in “our ugly,” judgment-free. Or maybe it’s just me?

Later, in looking back, I also saw how he was seeking connection with me even within his inner chaos. He was looking to me to be the adult, to remain calm and connected while he sorted through his feelings. Instead of closing my heart and feeding his and my own anger, I chose to stay open and calm. At first, this was a break from my norm after such an escalated point; this made him feel uneasy and he chose further destructive behaviors. Then, after he saw I was choosing to remain calm, he felt able to tell me he didn’t want to be alone. After sitting with him through his storm, we both felt more at peace. Later, he was even able to joke about his tantrums during a game of Uno.

It is my hope that next time I’ll be able to be as, or more, calm and open-hearted as I was tonight when he has one of his fits. While I am sure there will still be times when my anger gets the best of me, I will do my best to remember how much better things felt with opening and connecting instead of closing down.

Later, I also saw a new solution to an old problem.  He has a tendency to procrastinate on his nightly homework. Then, suddenly it’s bedtime and I’ve had little time with my daughter. While she is older and more independent, she still needs time with her mother. So I discussed with them both what would change this week with the evening routine and why.

This miracle allowed me to be able to see life from a bigger picture, to see solutions in-the-moment and to connect calmly with my son through his storm. It helped foster a stronger connection and  strengthened my compassion for him and for myself. In surrendering my knee-jerk reactions, I was able to chose differently and more wisely.

May we each be more present and calm during the seeming chaos of life and parenting; as we relate to others, our children as well as to the child within each of us. 

Namaste

Moving from Resentment into Freedom (it’s easier than you may think…)

In working to bring forward more inner light, there was an exercise in The Dark Side of the Light Chasers (Debbie Ford) that instructed the reader to write letters to people in their lives who needed to be forgiven; to be clear, who the reader needed to forgive. I found myself thoroughly procrastinating on and resisting this exercise.

Finally, I started to write out to the first person on my list that I was willing to forgive him. Immediately the memories flooded back along with the emotional anguish and heartache. My next sentence was something akin to “eff that, there is part of me that absolutely doesn’t want to forgive you.” In my mind, I felt like a young child crossing her arms after stomping her feet and chanting, “I don’t wanna.”

This mental tempter tantrum went of for several moments. Then the miracle happened: it was as if the scoreboard was wiped clean; I no longer felt the resistance to forgiveness. It was in acknowledging and allowing myself to NOT want to forgive this man of his trespasses that I was able to forgive him and my emotional burdens were also released.

Later, I started write a forgiveness letter to myself. Almost immediately, I began to feel sad and angry about some work-related and financial aspects in my life. Things for which I have felt that had I “chosen differently” would not be factors holding me back. I then allowed myself to throw another mental temper tantrum about how I didn’t want to let go of my anger and sadness at myself. I wanted to hold onto my pain because it was all I had known. Yet, once again, the miracle of fully allowing my resistance actually freed me. After all, we cannot rebel where there is nothing to resist against….

I share these experiences with you in the hopes that you will see that holding back your “negative” emotions just holds you back from being free of them. A wise woman repeatedly told me “the pain is in the resistance.” These experiences have shown me, on a deeper level, just what she was telling me.

May we each give ourselves permission to acknowledge and allow the emotions that hold us back, so that we may be free of them.

Namaste

I find that shredding paper and making mosaics can be very helpful when I’m feeling stuck. The beauty is more in the creatively destructive process than in the final products.

This is my chained and unforgiving heart

This is my open, crowned and passionate heart

Overcoming Grief: Being Beside Oneself

This blog is peppered with various strategies for moving through emotional turmoil. Tonight, I experienced a new strategy that was more efficient than others I’ve used so far.

Wednesday’s are transition days for me, and they stand as a reminder of where my life is not how I had planned. Having the day off made today a less distracted and thus a more emotionally charged Wednesday than usual.

While sitting with my emotions, I used my usual alchemy techniques and while the edges were less sharp, the heaviness of grief still weighed on me. It was then that I felt myself “beside myself.” Then I began to assure my “beside self” that I had every right to feel every bit of what I was feeling; even down to my desires to smash things, which weren’t okay desires to follow through, yet I acknowledged they were okay to feel.

So now I sit, no longer needing to be beside myself, reintegrated, and more at peace with myself and this situation. Yes, there is still some work to do, yet it already feels that much better.

May we each find our inner path to peace, understanding that what we feel is what we feel and it’s really okay to feel; self-validation. Understanding that just because we feel it doesn’t mean we must live it. And that blocking our feelings prevents us from fully living.

Namaste

Faith in Receiving

It is very easy for me to give, ’tis much harder to receive. I give of my time, patience, efforts and knowledge to others everyday. Sometimes I get paid for it and sometimes I don’t.

Religious dogma and society support giving more than receiving. “It’s better to give than to receive,” Acts 20:35 (KJV). Welfare recipients are shamed for being “needy.” Yet I wonder if there are deeper reasons…

Receptivity means having faith and surrendering. It also means being vulnerable and “accepting” what we receive. Receiving is also being, which is actively “doing nothing.” (that was triggering to state). Receiving is very much a divine feminine trait; where being feminine is often associated with being weak. Again, where religious dogma and society can play a role in how we perceive things. 

In sitting with my discomfort today around being receptive, I saw several “forces” at play. Being receptive means “getting what I deserve.” There is still part of me that wrestles with that aspect of my personality where I believe there is “an irredeemable deficiency” about myself. With that in mind, to get what I deserve could mean more discomfort for me. This belief also discounts Agape or unconditional love. 

Being receptive also means being vulnerable and feeling unprotected. In service to others, I have repeatedly “put myself out there” and have often felt used, abused, taken for granted and unappreciated. I see where I have done this to myself, to make up for my “irredeemable deficiency” where I feel I must “go above and beyond” to prove my worth… I call this trait “super size me,” where I must “give more,” to make up for my deficiencies. Which again, discounts Agape. 

Yet staying in this place of “keeping a lid” on who I am here to be, I feel as if I’m wearing a shirt several sizes too small. It restricts my movements, my breathing and keeps me from being the person I am here to be. There is great sadness in feeling my own suppression. So I’ve resolved to reach up to the stars and have faith in receiving the greatness that supports who I am here to be; this is vulnerability. 

May we each find new freedom and faith in receiving and in being vulnerable; it takes more strength to be vulnerable than it does to power through everything. May we find peace in our own vulnerability, receptivity and femininity. (sounds much like sea anemone, and with that in mind, may we also laugh at ourselves more!) 

Namaste

Healing the Sense of Brokenness

When we feel broken or incomplete, we seek external fixes from which to feel whole. Maybe we seek this “fix” from others, through our behaviors (shopping, chemical dependencies and even positive things such as working out) or we may even just outright deny there is even a problem. Maybe we lash out and and get short with the bank teller, our loved ones or another motorist; thus creating more trauma. Until we go within, these external “fixes” are merely band-aids.

When we feel broken, we rarely take the time to look at the beliefs that lead to this feeling, this perception. To heal this feeling is to give the hurt what it needs. Often it is love, sometimes it is recognition, or it may be attention or something even as simple as breathing into it. Each of these is a form of surrender.

It is in seeing our pain for what it needs and giving it just that thing which allows us to heal. Sometimes we may need to reach out and ask for help and support from our Higher Power, or from friends and family. For it is in asking for support that we also surrender. In asking for support we also allow the vulnerability of connection, helping others to identify their own needs and meet them…thus perpetuating the healing.

May we each see our wounds for what they need and then meet those needs, with or without the help others. With each wound that is freed from bondage we, as a collective, are also set free.

Namaste

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑