How to be Self-Employed

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I’ve (almost) completed my first week of being in private practice, and I have to say – so far, so good! I was worried I’d lose my mind from too much freedom (like when I was unemployed a few years ago), but I’ve actually been somewhat busy, which is fantastic. There’s definitely been more downtime than what I’m used to, though.

Hopefully, I’ll soon have a full caseload of clients and my day will naturally be more active. But until that happens, here’s what a typical day has been looking like for me:

7:30 – Wake up and curse the morning’s arrival, just like every other day

7:30-8:29 – Put on make up, run a rake through my unruly hair, and get dressed

8:30 – Decide it’s time to leave my apartment to begin my 45-minute commute to the office

8:30 – Remind myself that I’m too anal about scheduling and time, because I always think that I need to leave super early in case there’s a car accident or earthquake or avalanche on the way,  and then there’s never any kind of disaster, so I arrive to my destination way too early, and end up feeling  bored as I wait for my first client to show, and then have remind myself for the millionth time that I could be a little more laid-back. I can leave in a few minutes.

8:30 – Leave for work.

10:00-10:50 – Intake session. As my client is leaving, she mentions she’s headed to a popular kolache joint down the street from the office

10:50-11:00 – Daydream about kolaches

11:00-12:00 – Finish completing paperwork and updating my calendars. Feel I deserve a kolache as a reward.

12:01 – Mentally congratulate myself for choosing not to get a kolache. I’m so healthy and grown-up.

12:01-12:45 – On the commute back home, have this argument in my head:

Rational Brain: “Okay, we’re not going to spend the afternoon watching TV. Think of something productive to do.”

Irrational Brain: “Netflix!”

Rational Brain: “NO! No. Let’s work on the book. You haven’t done that in awhile.”

Irrational Brain: “Or…. we could bake cookies.”

RB: (rolls eyes) “No. You got to bake yesterday.”

IB: (rolls eyes) “That was banana bread. This is cookies. They’re very different.”

RB: “Yes, I KNOW there’s a difference between —- Okay, you know what, we’re getting off-    topic. Why don’t we compromise? You can bake the cookies, and while they’re in the oven,        you can do something important, like –“

IB: “BAKE MORE COOKIES!”

RB: “For the love of God, STOP IT with the cookies!”

IB: (pouts)

RB: “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have yelled. But you really need to get some things done.”

IB: (thinks for awhile) “I could…send an email to that one person about that one thing.”

RB: “Yes! That’s good! What else?”

IB: “I could…turn on Netflix and watch it while I dust the living room?”

RB: “Not the best, but I’ll take it.”

1:00-1:30 – Stop at the grocery store for a prescription and some lunchmeat. Leave with more Ferrero Rocher chocolates than any normal human being would require. Remember that I didn’t get a kolache earlier, and feel justified in my purchase.

1:30-1:45 – Make a to-do list for the afternoon. Spend inordinate amount of time making the wording look fancy.

1:45-2:00 – Call the licensing board to notify them about my change in address. Become so hypnotized listening to the “hold” music, that I temporarily forget why I’m calling and feel startled when someone finally answers. Spend fifteen minutes on hold, only to be told that change of addresses now have to be completed online. Consider setting fire to things.

2:00-3:00 – Accidentally lose a big chunk of time on meaningless activities. Not even sure what I did here.

3:00-4:00 – Watch Joe Biden be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Feel weepy and proud, as though I know him personally. Also feel a little jealous, as though maybe I should have won the medal myself. Cheese blogs save lives, too, you know.

4:00-6:00 – Watch a marathon of That 70s Show and remember for the millionth time that I don’t find the show very funny and in fact, almost find it irritating, and yet, I can’t seem to stop watching it. I’m stuck in an infinite loop of terrible characters and weak plots.

6:00-7:30 – Play Sudoku on my phone. Feel triumphant when I beat my previous scores. Take that, lesser self!

7:30 – Turn off TV and put away phone in an effort to ground myself. Lament about today’s youth being too connected to technology. Open new library book.

7:38-10:30 – Watch more of That 70s Show.

 10:30 – Go to bed suddenly feeling anxious that I didn’t get enough done during the day, and that maybe the whole world will fall apart unless I check my work email RIGHT NOW, so I check it and there’s nothing there, so I feel a little relief, but then the light from my phone sends a message to my brain that it’s time to be awake now, because that’s how brains work, so now I’m too alert and twitchy and I spend half an hour trying to relax, but I feel like I don’t deserve to be relaxed because I didn’t do much today. Resolve to be more productive tomorrow.

 

Ten Facts about Mental Health Professionals

  1. We always make healthy choices
    Every night, I prepare a well-balanced meal of lean meats and vegetables, and then I follow it with a jog around the block. If I’m feeling sassy, I might enjoy half a kit-kat. I have never been known to eat nachos for six days in a row, and then followed them with piles of oreos.

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  1. We follow our own advice
    You know how I’m constantly reminding you of the importance of sleep hygiene, and the evils of using technology right before bed? I totally listen to my own advice. I never text my friends or watch youtube videos in bed. I get a perfect 8.5 hours of sleep every night, no matter what. And I’m also never groggy the next morning!
  1. We’re organized
    My office supplies are so organized, I don’t have any junk drawers in my desk. Okay, I have one. Well, two. Okay, all of the drawers are junk-filled.

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  1. We’re always calm
    True therapists never experience anxiety. We also never curl up under a weighted blanket that was technically made for clients, but is used way more often by us. And none of us have recurrent eye twitches or neck spasms during times of increased stress. That’d just be weird!

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  1. We lead perfect, trouble-free lives
    For me, a bad day means tripping over my bag of diamonds, or having to give my personal masseuse  the night off. I was raised atop a rainbow, surrounded by poetry-reading unicorns. Nothing has ever made me feel scared, or sad, or confused, or angry, or numb.

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  1. We never get into stupid fights with friends or family members
    Everything we say comes out eloquent and respectful, even when we’re frustrated. We never make comments we don’t mean, or silently wish our loved ones would spontaneously disintegrate.

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  1. We’re robots without personalities of our own
    Our idea of fun is to finish a Sudoku puzzle in our plaid pajamas while listening to the sweet, sweet sounds of soft jazz playing in the background. We don’t taste-test cheese-related dishes, and we certainly do not blog about them while sitting on our sofas pantsless. And none of us have dark senses of humor.
  1. We’re always professional and appropriate
    We never challenge our fellow therapists to chair races in the hallway, nor climb on filing cabinets during a rousing game of “lava floor.” We NEVER doze off in our comfy therapy chairs. And we definitely do not trek to the grocery store in stained yoga pants and unwashed hair in order to buy a bottle of wine and a package of premade tamales.

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  1. We always have our shit together
    I don’t know of any therapists who have procrastinated simple tasks for months on end. And none of us have ever drunkenly burst into tears in public, or made choices our mothers would groan at.
  1. We have exceptional insight into ourselves
    Just like we ask you to analyze the reasons behind your behaviors, we’re always doing the  same for our own. We never find ourselves pushing down uncomfortable feelings, putting on a fake smile, and insisting that everything is okay.  And we certainly don’t delude ourselves into thinking that because we’re mental health professionals, we’re suppose to handle all life events with grace.

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5 Characters Who Might be Narcissistic

For reasons that I won’t bore you with now, I’ve been researching the ins and outs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder over the past week. According to the DSM (abbreviation for Damn Sassy Manual), this disorder involves a sense a self-importance and entitlement, a need for admiration, and a lack of ability to identify with the feelings of others. Narcissists expect others to cater to their needs, and they get angry when this doesn’t happen.

Truthfully, most of us are a little self-important. If you’ve ever fantasized about becoming famous, or if you still sometimes brag about crushing your opponents in the 3rd grade spelling bee, congratulations – you’re narcissistic.

Don’t worry, though. A certain amount of narcissism is normal, and even healthy, in people.  A small dose of self-centeredness keeps you confident and assertive, and reminds you to take care of your own needs now and then.

However, if you’ve ever fallen in love with your own reflection, and then died because you couldn’t tear yourself away from it, you may have a tiny problem. I’m looking at you, Narcissus.

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All of this reading and writing about selfish, exploitative, and entitled people has got me thinking about celebrities. If we think about it, there are quite a few famous people who could meet the criteria for NPD. Now, I could point everyone’s attention to a certain orange-skinned, fox-haired blowhard of a politician, but that would be too easy, wouldn’t it?

For lighthearted funsies, I say we keep the focus on non-real characters that appear in movies and TV. This activity will not only help increase my understanding of the personality disorder, it’ll also be good typing practice, because my fourth finger forgets to type that third ‘s’ of narcissism Every. Single. Time.

Get your shit together, finger.

5 characters who might be narcissistic…

Regina George, Mean Girls

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Evidence for narcissism – She obviously has a sense of superiority, and is controlling, deceiving, and uncaring. She demands admiration from others, and cuts down her friends’ successes with negative comments.  She strongly believes that others are envious of her.
Evidence against narcissism – None. She and Narcissus would make a great couple. You know, if either of them existed.

Also, as a side note – where the hell has Lindsay Lohan disappeared to for the past few years? I’m thinking aliens.

Miranda Priestly, The Devil Wears Prada

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Evidence for narcissism – She’s demanding and cold. She expects perfection from her employees, and harshly criticizes their mistakes. She insists on having the “top” or “best” of everything (i.e., restaurants, hairdressers, etc).
Evidence against narcissism – Miranda seems to have some level of awareness of how she’s perceived, which isn’t typically seen in the self-absorbed crowd.

Michael Scott, The Office

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Evidence for narcissism –He exaggerates his achievements, and fantasizes about being loved and admired by all who know him.  He is often shallow and callous, and is oblivious to how his remarks affect others.
Evidence against narcissism – Michael does occasionally express real concern and empathy toward his coworkers, though he usually follows it with an insensitive joke of some sort.

Jenna Maroney, 30 Rock

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Evidence for narcissism – She’s attention-seeking and self-centered, and is threatened by anyone else with talent. She’s even in a relationship with someone who dresses and acts just like her, which I feel like is proof enough.
Evidence against narcissism – She shows some care in her relationships with Liz and Paul.

G.O.B. Bluth,  Arrested Development

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Evidence for narcissism – He’s arrogant, and constantly seeking others’ approval. He’s always “on stage” – both literally and figuratively. He expects others to take care of him, and struggles to maintain friendships and romantic relationships.
Evidence against narcissism*crickets chirping*

In defense of G.O.B., Jenna, and Michael, I have yet to finish their TV series, so maybe these characters blossom into warm, grounded humans. Maybe not.

So friends, what did you think of my list of narcissists? Can you think of any other characters who might meet these criteria?

 

Diagnostic Manual of Annoying Child Behaviors

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Last week, I traveled to South Carolina to spend a few days at the beach with my parents, niece, and nephew. My brother and his family live in SC while I’m in Texas, so I only get to see them once or twice a year. Needless to say, I really look forward to these trips, and always have fun with my niece and nephew. They’re sweet, funny, and charming little children.

However, they’re also children. Meaning they do irritating things sometimes.

In a previous post, I’ve talked about the fact that I question whether or not I want to have kids of my own. Before you throw rocks and pitchforks at me, just know that I happen to love kids, and even work with them in my job. Willingly. But I haven’t yet decided whether I want to subject myself to the never-ending, 24/7 responsibility of raising kids of my own.

As much fun as  I truly had with my little look-alike minions, some events of our vacation last week further reminded me about my hesitance. From an academic (read: nerdy) viewpoint, I was sort of fascinated by some of their behaviors.

“Why are you doing that? It’s weird. Stop.” – Me, every few minutes.

Part of my role as a therapist is to make diagnoses, and I found myself wondering whether some of my niece’s and nephew’s “quirks” might fall under brand new disorders. Feeling intrigued by this idea, I decided to create some new disorders all on my own.

Again, before you throw rocks and pitchforks, this is all in good fun 😉

Selective Speed of Movement
This is similar to Selective Mutism, an actual diagnosis in which children are unable to speak in certain settings due to intense social anxiety. You may also have heard of “selective hearing,” a phrase typically assigned to middle-aged men who seem to hear only what they want to hear.

Selective Speed of Movement applies to children who (at times) can move very, very quickly, such as when you tell them, “Go change into your swimsuit so we can go to the pool.”

Other times, these same children appear to become like sloths in a vat of maple syrup: Every. Tiny. Movement. Seems. To. Take. A. Great. Deal. Of. Effort. This hasn’t yet been studied in a lab, so it’s possible that syrup-covered sloths are actually quicker than the children.

This phenomenon is most likely to be triggered when you say something like, “Go brush your teeth.”

Overwhelming Urge to Press Buttons
Children with this mental disorder have an extreme desire to press any kind of button – microwave, elevator, figurative, etc. If you come across a child with severe OUPD and happen to push a button before they got the chance, prepare for their wrath. There will be whining, there will be angry faces. There may even be dramatic proclamations that you’ve ruined their day.

Misunderstanding of What Constitutes Fun for Adults
Symptoms include:

  • Asking you to watch them play their video game
  • Wanting to poke you in the face with various objects
  • Farting on you
  • Using your body as their personal diving board in the swimming pool
  • Expressing disappointment when you turn down any of the above activities

 

Inappropriate Internal Clock
This is a seasonal disorder that applies to children who wake up on summer days at 6:32 a.m. for no reason.

Pointless Competitiveness
Sometimes it’s good to have a little competition – it fosters hard work and determination, and there are lessons to be learned about both winning and losing.

 

But Pointless Competitiveness applies to scenarios where it makes no sense to compete, and there’s no clear winner. Children exhibiting PC might do any of the following:

  • Ruthlessly fight their way to be out the door first, despite arriving to the destination no quicker than anyone else
  • Passionately argue about who is the better “shuffler” (of cards)
  • Loudly declare that they have the smelliest feet

 

 

For those of you who have kids, know kids, or were once kids yourselves, what do you think of these (fake) disorders? Did any of them ring a bell for you? What would you add to this list?

 

Thoughts I Have When Texts Go Unanswered

You know when you text one of your friends or family, and they don’t respond for awhile, and you spend those minutes or hours agonizing about the reason for their silence?

No? Just me?

Okay, I’ll admit that occasionally, when my texts or phone calls go unreturned, my brain goes a tiny bit haywire. Unanswered texts feel a tiny bit like rejection, and like most homo sapiens, the emotion center of my brain doesn’t like this feeling.

So what does it do?

It employs a number of strategies to decrease this icky reaction. First, it tries to distract itself. Then, it attempts to figure out the reason for the lack of response (and this guessing game can go on for quite a while.) If those techniques don’t work, my brain will devise a list of bullshit reasons for why I should try to make contact again.

Here’s an idea of what this internal dialogue looks like:

  1. They must be busy. No big!
  1. I HAVE been texting them a lot lately. Maybe I’m being too needy
  1. Nah, they’re probably just busy. Cooking dinner, maybe. They’ll text when they can.
  1. Unless they’re mad at me. Didn’t I say something weird to them four days ago? I probably upset them with my strangeness.
  1. Did they have some sort of big event or task to do tonight? I feel like a better friend would remember these things.
  1. Perhaps this is their gentle way of letting me know I text them too much. I’ll try to stop.
  1. Unless maybe I should text them again and ASK if I’m being too clingy? No, don’t do that.
  1. Just going to casually check to make sure my phone isn’t on silent. We’re good.
  1. OH MY GOD WHAT IF THEY’RE IN A DITCH SOMEWHERE?!
  1. They’re probably not in a ditch. There aren’t a lot of ditches around here, anyway. It’s mostly just hills and cliffs.
  1. Seriously, what if they’re mad at me? I shouldn’t have said that vaguely teasing thing a couple of weeks ago.
  1. Okay ya little narcissist – not everything is about you. There could be about 100 different reasons why they haven’t responded, and most of them don’t involve you.
  1. You know what, maybe they were in the bathroom when I texted and they just didn’t hear the phone go off! Maybe they desperately want someone to reach out to them tonight, and have no idea that I tried. I’ll just send another text…
  1. Wait, what if they’re with another group of friends, and they’re all sitting around laughing about me, and placing bets to see how many times I text them? Well, I won’t give in to that game!
  1. Dude, get a hold of yourself. They’re probably busy, or maybe they just don’t feel like talking right now. You understand that.
  1. Think of something else. Think of something else. Think of something else.
  1. Crocheting is FUN! I’m totally focused on learning this new stitch. In fact, I feel so fulfilled by this activity, I’ve completely forgotten that my loved one is ignoring me!
  1. You know what, I can’t blame them. This is what I get for being such a clingy weirdo. A clingster. A cling-meister.
  1. What if this is a test of my friendship? What if they’re feeling really sad, and the lack of response is a challenge to see how hard I’ll try to help them? A really good friend would keep texting until they got an answer, right? Or would they call? Maybe go over to the house?
  1. That’s it. I need new hobbies. I’m going to make myself SO busy that I don’t even have time to send text messages in the first place.
  1. Just going to casually check my phone to see if I missed a response. Totally don’t care if there’s not one.

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Anyone else occasionally feel this way when a loved one doesn’t answer your phone call or text? (Please tell me I’m not the only one!) What sorts of thoughts do you have when this happens? What do you say to yourself to gain control?

Therapist Me vs. Real Me

For those of you who don’t know, I have a day job as a mental health professional. One of the interesting things about this career path is that it sometimes feels like there’s a difference between the version of you that acts as a therapist, and the version of you that is just…you.

In other words, while “Therapist Me” is an educated professional who spends a great deal of time encouraging self-care and guiding clients toward healthy coping skills, “Real Me” is a human being who is just as prone to flawed coping mechanisms as everyone else.

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Sometimes, Therapist Me gets into heated arguments with Real Me. Therapist Me is compassionate and understanding with clients, but she’s a bit judgey with Real Me.

On bedtime…

Therapist Me: “You need to go to bed at a decent hour. Sleeping is important for your mental and physical health.”

Real Me: “But I wanna watch another episode of Golden Girls!”

On healthy habits…

Therapist Me: “Go to your yoga class tonight. Sometimes you think you don’t want to, but you always feel better afterward.”

Real Me: “OR………I could just eat Chinese food in my yoga pants. It’s almost the same thing.”

Therapist Me: “No. Yoga will help relax you.”

Real Me: “So will Chinese food.”

Therapist Me: “Will the Chinese food make you feel more limber?”

Real Me: “MAYBE! YOU DON’T KNOW MY LIFE.”

On feeling frazzled…

Therapist Me: “You seem stressed. Why don’t you use your Calm app?”

Real Me: “Nah. Chocolate.”

Therapist Me: “Amanda…”

Real Me: “What’s that, chocolate? You’re lonely in that dark drawer all by yourself? I have just the solution….”

On navigating work relationships…

Therapist Me: “You encourage clients to advocate for themselves all the time. Go to your supervisor and ask for what you need.”

Real Me: *Makes unintelligible noise of discomfort*

Therapist Me: “Stop it. You are confident and assertive and you can do this!”

Real Me: *Makes panicked face. Slithers out of the chair and onto the ground.*

As much as I’d like to say that Therapist Me usually wins out, the truth is that Therapist Me and Real Me are probably about tied. But sometimes they compromise with each other: I’ll go to my yoga class, and then pick up Chinese food on the way home.

(Or maybe that’s not compromising so much as just canceling each other out.)

Does anyone else feel like the more grownup, rational part of your brain gets into quarrels with the whiny, poor-decision-making part? Which part usually wins out? What are your favorite healthy (or unhealthy) ways to cope with stress?

ALSO – on a side note, you should definitely check out the Calm app. It has lots of soothing scenes and sounds, like waves crashing on the beach, or a crackling fire place. It also has guided meditations – even ones as short as two minutes if you don’t have much time. This thing really does help me get grounded and calm when I’m stressed or anxious. AND IT’S FREE! (except for the fancier stuff, but who needs that).

Sandwich Personality Test

In the mental health milieu, there are about a bajillion different tests and scales that can measure everything from emotional symptoms, to substance abuse problems, to personality traits. Most of these tests involve paper and pencil (or the occasional ink blot), but I’ve recently started thinking – what if they involved sandwiches?

I’ll pause for a moment to let that sink in.

Imagine yourself walking into your kitchen, hungry for a sammich. You go to the fridge and push aside the expired yogurt in order to get to the lunchmeat. Or maybe you simply pull a jar of peanut butter out of the cabinet. You put your fillings of choice between two slices of fresh carbs, and then step back to briefly admire your handiwork.

What does that sandwich say about you? What does it reveal about your personality?

Maybe your answer is: “Nothing. It reveals nothing.”

But maybe you’re wrong.

Clearly, formal research needs to be done on this subject. I picture myself in a white lab coat, sitting behind a two-way mirror while my research subject is on the other side, perusing a table of sandwich ingredients.

I’d take careful notes while the subject assembles their sandwich. When they make a mustard smiley face on the bread, I’d nod thoughtfully and make a note on my legal pad. Just as I suspected – subject is whimsical and child-like.

Even if my research didn’t return any significant results (which is doubtful, because this idea is genius), at the end of the day, the subjects and I will be able to EAT the results. It’s really a win-win.

Although I haven’t yet performed this research, I’ve developed a few hypotheses about what personality traits might be revealed by one’s choice of sandwich ingredients. Scroll down the list to find your favorite sandwich (or the one you make most often), and see how well the personality description matches you.

Note: Please do not make any drastic relationship or career changes based on the results of this personality test. There’s a very tiny chance that I could be wrong.

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BLT – You lead a very busy life – so busy, that you don’t have enough time to say this sandwich’s full name. You’re stable and secure, but you also know how to have a little fun. BACON fun.

Turkey with nothing but a little mayo or mustard – You dislike loud music and fast cars, and enjoy reading anthropology books in your spare time. People call you by the wrong name a  lot.

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Tuna or egg-salad – The ultimate rebel: you know your food smells, but you don’t give a rat’s ass what other people think about it. You believe in living life loud and proud.

Ham & cheese – You’re trustworthy and an old soul; you have an appreciation for oldies music, and you’re considering taking up knitting.

Peanut butter & jelly – Your life is falling apart, and the only thing you have left are the comfort foods from your childhood. Keep calm and sandwich on.

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Grilled cheese – You are a people-pleaser who chooses comfort and safety over taking risks. You’re probably best friends or in a relationship with a PB&J fan.

Bologna – You’re extremely laid-back and hate anything that seems pretentious  or uppity. Like dentists. You’re PROUD to eat on-sale mystery meat.

 

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Fancy ingredients (lobster, pesto, sprouts, etc) – You have too much time and money on your hands, so you spend both on sandwich fillings. You probably don’t get along well with the bologna crowd.

Veggie only – You’re concerned about the environment and your health, though not as much as the people just eating salads. You also drive a hybrid, and you’re into yoga and meditating.

 

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Multiple meats (turkey, ham, salami, etc) – You’re insecure in your masculinity, and need a sandwich to show just how much of  man you are. When you eat, you puff up your chest and say things like,  “I didn’t kill these animals myself, but I totally could have.”

 

So, tell me – which sandwich did you pick? How well (or not well) did the descriptions match up with your personality? Be warned, I may use your results in my formal research study, which I’m totally going to do maybe.

 

This Probably Isn’t Normal: A Poem

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One night in college, after a series of relatively minor but unfortunate events, I found myself unable to go to sleep because I couldn’t stop checking my alarm clock. I was sitting up in my bed, lights out and sound machine on, unable to put down the clock, no matter how sleepy I got, or how crazy I felt.

The thoughts and behaviors I was experiencing back then are often associated with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, BUT I am not assigning this diagnosis to my situation, because I never actually sought help for the issue, nor received a professional opinion. Also, I do think that the label is casually tossed around way too often, and I don’t want to contribute to that.

This post started out as a regular ol’ narrative, but I soon found myself wanting to make a poem out of it. If you’ve read my previous poem, you’ll know I’m no poet – but I have fun with them anyway, even when they’re relatively serious 😉

Once upon a time
During college – junior year
I developed a nasty habit
That sprouted from a fear

I overslept one morning,
And this bothered me to my core
Because I would be very late for class
By the time I walked out the door

I fretted my professor would hate me,
Or at least find me careless or daft
I made up my mind to be more careful
And this is where the universe laughed.

You see, as “fate” would have it,
I had set my alarm wrong again
What kind of person makes this error TWICE?
That thought got under my skin.

I knew that I was only human
And humans make mistakes
But I was really angry with myself
And I refused to give me a break

The habit started simply enough
At night, I’d double-check my alarm
Then “just one check” grew to two, then three
I didn’t think it’d be any harm

I’m sure you can tell where this is going:
My “checks” snowballed to 50+ times
I couldn’t stop thinking about my alarm,
And I became anxious at every bedtime

What if the time is set wrong?
Or what if it’s set to p.m.?
What if the clock somehow turned off?
…Maybe I’ll just check it again

I’d make myself exhausted
I’d cry from the aggravation
My rational side tried taking power,
But the logic train had left the station

My body’s primal need for sleep
Would finally, blessedly, take over
But should I awaken in the night
The thoughts would just carry right over

Anxiety is its own kind of torment
A prison from which there’s no escape
I often felt I was holding myself together
With Elmer’s glue and pieces of tape

With some time and a lot of effort
I broke myself of the madness
But I still get nervous that it wouldn’t take much
To just slip back into the practice.

 

Therapy is a Mental Work Out

In my yoga class the other night, I had an epiphany. Yoga-induced epiphanies are probably pretty common, but I’m going to guess that most of them revolve around how to achieve inner peace within our chaotic world.

Mine wasn’t.

Let’s back up. I attend a yoga class on Tuesday evenings after work, and over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that there have been quite a few more yoga-doers than usual. Considering we’re still early into 2016, I’m guessing my suddenly-busier class is the direct result of New Year’s resolutions.

Although I don’t usually make a resolution myself, I genuinely admire those who do. Resolution-makers want to live healthier, happier, more-enriched lives, and are (hopefully) taking the steps needed to make that happen.

These courageous souls are attempting to cut back on wine or delicious fattening foods.

They’re joining gyms.

They’re…gulp…exercising.

I’m especially in awe of the people who just jump right in and go from Couch Potato-ing to Insane Psycho Spin Class-ing overnight. That shit’s admirable. The closest I get to taking a spin class is attending a yoga class that happens to be held in a spin studio.

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Even if the new routine doesn’t last as long as they’d hoped, at least the resolution-makers are giving it a shot. Meanwhile, I’ll growl and punch you in the face if you try to take my chocolate away.

Getting a gym membership isn’t the only way that I’ve seen people attempting to help themselves or others – as a children’s counselor, I’m seeing more kids in therapy now than I was last month. Granted, this is probably more of a Susie-needs-help-but-let’s-get-through-the-holidays-first phenomenon more than an actual “resolution,” but the idea of making positive changes and starting over fresh in the new year is still much the same.

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Keeping all of this in mind, I was in the middle of downward-dogging in my class when this epiphany hit:

Attending therapy is a lot like working out at a gym.

The more I thought about it, the more similarities I came up with. After all, both (may) involve:

  • Acknowledging that there’s some sort of challenge or problem
  • Seeking out a means to working on that problem
  • Talking with a professional to get support and/or guidance
  • Being honest about uncomfortable and vulnerable things
  • Giving up flawed coping mechanisms in favor of healthier ones
  • Doing a lot of “heavy lifting” (whether mentally or physically)

Call me biased, but I do think the mental work involved in therapy is a bit more intense than the physical work of being at the gym. At the gym, you might do several different exercises in one trip – maybe you warm up on the elliptical, move to free weights, and then cool down with stretches on a mat.

But being in therapy means doing a lot of exercises at the exact same time. Imagine your hippocampus jogging on a treadmill, while your Broca’s area does bench presses and your prefrontal cortex swims some laps.
Nevertheless, both activities can be really scary, especially in the beginning. Both might be accompanied by a loss of hope and motivation when there are setbacks. Both might make you feel worse before you get better.

And both take a lot of courage.

Zero Shades of Gray

So many issues in life are not simply black and white.

 

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Our society is incredibly and beautifully complex, and it’s not always possible, or even preferable, to divide things into two clean columns. Whether you’re deciding on the moral decency of the death penalty, debating nature vs. nurture, or ranking the deliciousness level of a queso, the truth is almost always broader, richer, and “grayer” than we give it credit for.

On the other hand, a lot of things in life really are dichotomous.

Call me divisive, but I do think that some issues can be split into black/white, either/or categories, and there’s simply no room for “happy mediums” or shades of gray.

Things such as:

• The Friendliness of Squirrels  
All squirrels are either lovely woodland creatures straight from Snow White who come up to you with their tiny little squirrel faces, and are so cute that you just want to put a couple of them in the pocket of your sweatshirt and take them home and make them your babies and live happily ever after, and they’re totally worth writing a rambling run-on sentence for because they’re just THAT adorable,

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The squirrels at the Austin state capitol are especially charming.

 or they’re mutant beasts who block your path and glare at you with murder in their eyes. There is no in-between.

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• My Manners at Walmart
I dread ALL trips to the grocery store, but my ability to conceal this feeling varies from trip to trip. Sometimes, I am the epitome of grocery store etiquette: I smile at everyone, I offer to reach things that the height-challenged folks can’t get to, and I graciously allow others to go by when it’s really my right of way.

If I’m feeling jazzy, I’ll even throw in an “after you, fine sir!” for good measure.

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Other times, my grocery cart becomes a weapon that I use during a fit of road rage. I dash down the aisles like a madwoman, and obnoxiously careen around people who dare get in front of me on my way to the lunchmeat. If I come close to genuinely running someone over, I shoot them semi-apologetic eyes. But I don’t slow down.

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• People’s Opinions about Cilantro  
No other herb is as polarizing as cilantro. Hell, possibly no other thing on Earth is as polarizing. I’m in the camp of people who love it and gleefully add it to tacos and other dishes, but lots and lots of people seem to really, really HATE it. They loathe the stuff with a passion that is almost admirable.

No one, no one, feels just “meh” about cilantro.

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• People’s Opinions about Texas
There are some strong feelings out there about the good ol’ Lone Star State. Find any Internet article about anything happening in Texas, and scroll down to the comments section to feast your eyes on the contrasting opinions. People either express great fondness and pride for the food, friendliness, and fun…

 

 

…or they absolutely detest what they perceive as a lack of education and open-mindedness. And/or they hate the gun culture. And the unpredictable weather. And the fact that other people love it so much.

People in this group are basically crossing their fingers that the entire state will just fall into the Gulf.

• All Things Australian
One thing I’ve learned through reading countless Reddit discussions and Buzzfeed articles is that the world really doesn’t like the Kardashians. But on a more relevant note, I’ve also learned that that every single thing in Australia is either amazingly wondrous…

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… or it wants to kill you in a slow, torturous, painful way. There is no gray area in that place.

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And the last true black and white issue:

• The Accuracy of Those “Psychological Facts” that Circulate the Internet
We’ve all seen them. Those colorful squares that display sweet and interesting statements about the human brain, feelings, and relationships. Their messages vary, but they almost always include the words “science” or “psychologists” or “fact,” as though that automatically validates their accuracy.

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Nothing says “fact” like an error in grammar!

Even people who are usually skilled at thinking and discerning get sucked into the heart-tugging statements, because they so badly want them to be true.

To be fair, some of those “facts” really are accurate, as they come from ACTUAL research studies that have been replicated a zillion times.

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I’m a little bugged by the use of “happy chemicals” in this one, but at least the idea behind it is true. Source

Unfortunately, most of the statements are wildly and bewilderingly false.

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You know facts are true when they’re spelled with a Z.
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Seriously, how did someone get the idea that human dreams are all interconnected somehow?
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You just can’t make this crap up. Oh wait – apparently, you can.
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This one MUST be true, because it’s written in such a serious-looking font. But seriously – how did this one even come to be? Maybe my eye is tearing up because I have something in it. You don’t know my life!

I may have gotten a bit carried away with the  examples, but that’s okay, because it’s a scientific fact that getting carried away on projects is a sign of genius-level intelligence. See what I did there?

Anyway, where do YOU stand on these controversial issues? Have you actually come across a squirrel that was neither friendly nor terrifying? Or perhaps you don’t have strong feelings (good or bad) about cilantro?

What issues are black and white for you?