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Tag: anxiety

Equanimity

I’m obsessed with equanimity. It’s an often sought out thing, but a little used word. And it’s the word I want tattooed onto my body because I value equanimity so much.

Equanimity is a mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.

For much of my life – until I entered therapy when I was 39 – I struggled with finding any bit of peace within myself. I was always in panic mode. Always dealing with low and high levels of anxiety. Always trying to control things outside of myself (impossible and so so so draining) in order to avoid feeling my troubling or scary feelings.

It took much work to find ways to nurture a sense of calm and composure no matter what comes my way. The waves of emotion did not disappear. I learned to ride them.

The less I implode or explode these feelings that I am “not allowed to feel”, the more of a moderate relationship I have with them. – Alanis Morisette

This is why I want a tattoo with the word. But where? My friend Christelle is very good at small freestyle tattoos. I will book time with her in 2017 and I’m sure she will help me find the perfect spot.

PS I wrote a blog post a while back on how nurture equanimity within myself.

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When you’re down what do you do to feel better?

The way I feel better is by acknowledging that I feel bad and I don’t try to deny it, fight it or turn it into something different.

This technique has had such impact in my life. Likely my most powerful strategy for my mental and physical health.

I say physical because as I age I want to mitigate the physical consequences of stress. My body doesn’t bounce back like it used to if I feel muscles tightening in my back, shallow breathing or acid reflux. It’s never too late to address this part of our human experience!

Here is what I do:

When I feel down I take time to recognize that I’m feeling trapped by a difficult feeling or negative thought and then I acknowledge the feelings without trying to change them. Sometimes I whisper to myself “yes and this too” as a way of accepting the feelings instead of denying or fighting them. Then I investigate the feelings and where they live in my body. I often find they are more nuanced than I initially think them to be. I try to get precise with the language I use to describe the feeling. I do this examination gently and with loving kindness. I ask myself what do I need in this vulnerable moment? What am I missing? And then I answer it as best I can with nourishing statements. This process helps me centre myself and feel more at ease with myself and what is going on in the moment.

This technique is called the RAIN technique. I discovered it in the work of meditation teacher Tara Brach and it has done me a world of good.

Now this is mostly a mental exercise. I also believe in the power of changing your physical state in order to change your mental state. If I feel emotionally or intellectually stuck, I like to move around. At home that might be doing some jumping jacks, pushups or dancing like no one is watching (great because no is). Out in public it might be walking to another place in a room and looking out the window or going somewhere private to shake it all out. Sometimes I wiggle my toes in my shoes and then wiggle my hands in my lap.

 

And when all else fails there is this kitten video on YouTube. ;-)

PS For a bunch of reasons I wasn’t taught how to acknowledge my feelings and manage stress, conflict and challenges in a healthy way. When these things occurred I would deny any difficult/negative feelings and then they would resurface in weird and ugly ways. You can read a more in-depth exploration here.

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What Sobriety Means To Me

I have not had an alcoholic beverage since December 27th, 2013. On January 4th, 2014 I went in front a room of strangers and declared that I was an alcoholic. This declaration was important.  A public reality check of sorts that helped me create a final ending of a specific pattern of behaviour and start a new one. It helped me find a community of similarly minded people and feel less alone in my experience. It provided me with access to resources as I started to live my life without alcohol as a part of it – without my culturally celebrated pacifier.

While I am now at ease with calling myself an alcoholic (it wasn’t easy at first), I do not think of myself as an addict. When I stopped drinking I did not experience any physical withdrawal. It was much more of a MIND thing than a BODY thing (though my excessive drinking was greatly affecting my health – something I will write about another time). I didn’t crave alcohol or feel compelled to drink. I did think about it a lot the first month, but it was all part of figuring out new ways to manage my time and energy now that I wasn’t dulled by booze, messily drunk or hungover.

Yes, alcohol consumption for me was a destructive and near impossible thing for me to control (especially once I get started) because I associated it with stress relief, avoiding pain and coping with anxiety. I thought of drinking as “relaxation”, as something owed to me for being so “good” or working hard. Rather than a physical addiction drinking was a habit forming activity based on faulty associations.

Booze numbed me and allowed me (for a short time) to feel comfortable and be social. I didn’t drink every day and there were times I handled suffering without it, went to events without drinking, but I couldn’t predict which times those would be. As the years progressed I couldn’t manage my drinking and subsequently I got worse and worse at managing my life. What I believe I had is a learning disorder around alcohol and emotional well-being.

Here is an article that looks at drinking through that lens. I found it really interesting and helpful.

This learning disorder began early for me. When I was younger, from childhood until age 40 (ah!!! half a lifetime!!!), I had very little tolerance for my suffering. Especially related to fear, anger and disappointing others. I also had messed up beliefs like if I was perfect (whatever that was) I would never feel pain, everyone would accept me, and I would always be happy. Read more about this, my old way of thinking, here. Then I entered therapy and learned new ways of approaching my anxiety and fear. I think if it had not been for therapy and working on my skills to observe, accept and view my feelings with loving kindness I would never have been able to stop drinking.

I really wished I had learned earlier how to manage my uncomfortable feelings in a healthy way. I think instead I learned to deny my difficult feelings by having beliefs like: look on the brighter side, other people have it worse than me, and the classic don’t cry out loud and keep it inside

If I look back – before alcohol was even part of the picture – I was an escape artist more than an addict. I was an avid user of not-so-healthy and sometimes even quite destructive coping mechanisms to soothe myself. The choice of strategies changed through out the years (hitting myself and others in my family when I was a child, cutting as an early teen, picking as a late teen and young adult *, then trying to be as disciplined and controlled as my ex-husband in my 30s). All very different things, but they were my attempt to make awful feelings go away.

I have stopped trying to find something outside of myself to deal with my fears, anxiety and struggles. The suffering will always be there and I allow myself to feel what I feel. No longer am I questing for perfection in hopes of it making me happy and pain free, to be accepted by others. I am now in a place of equanimity and resilience. With my mindful and compassionate practices AND my sobriety I am no longer twirling around in the vicious circle of trying to be perfect because I felt like a failure for being less than perfect.

* A good article on picking and how to cope.

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Fitness Journey

These photos were taken 2 years ago over the course of 6 weeks of working out and eating 80% clean under the supervision of my trainer Sophie P Fitness. I think the results were pretty impressive.

2014-03-10 11.23.50

At the start point in early 2014 I was at around 160lbs.  Over the past 3 years I had gained weight (30lbs) and lost muscle tone.  Post-divorce I did a lot of emotional eating and excessive drinking as well as dealt with all the anxiety, depression, fear and over all stress that comes with struggling over how to rebuild one’s life.

When I got sober in January 2014 I dropped 10lbs quite quickly and then I lost another 10lbs by eating well and working out with Sophie during my 6 week programme. I was feeling pretty good, but I got off track by the end of 2014. I spent much of 2015 stressed and working as a waitress and manager at a restaurant. While it brought some stability to my life, it also took up all of my time and my mental and physical energy. It was not my ideal work/life situation. My healthy habits disappeared. My meals were not plant-based or centered around whole foods as it was more economical and convenient to eat at the restaurant. Then in the summer I suffered a back injury and after that I didn’t work out at all. While I was not living the same unhealthy lifestyle as before, I wasn’t making my health a priority.

I decided in January to change that. I started with small changes in my schedule, doing less of what was not working and doing more of what I know does work for me. Now I’m moving to a new space, being more consistent in my exercise and healthy eating. I have a ways to go as I want to be able to run and lift like I did some ten years ago.

I decided to share this photo to keep myself accountable AND to remind myself of what I can do in six weeks if I am consistent with my healthy life routine.

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I Am Afraid of Money

Financial insecurity follows me around like a little pesky, taunting entity. It’s based in my reality. As a freelancer my income is inconsistent. I have debt. I was never taught money management skills and I never sought them out.

Above all, I’m afraid of money – having it AND not having it.

This is because I see my financial worth as a reflection of my personal worth. My heart knows this isn’t true, but my busy little poisoned mind likes to tell tall tales and say that it is true.

I’m working on it. Unpacking it. Observing it. Releasing it.

My bank account, my tax return, my debt – they don’t reflect my worth as a human being.


I wrote this entry about 1 week after I got the You Need A Budget app. A game changer for me.

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Avoiding Pain

I have circled around this for a few months (actually years but very specifically more recently). Not pain but the various strategies I have used throughout my life to try to avoid pain, why I have tried to do so and why none have ever worked. It’s been interesting to unpack this deep-set of wounds. Challenging for sure, but interesting too.

Perfection

When I was a teenager and into my twenties I thought that if only I did such and such a thing I would be perfect and then I would not be in pain, that I would be happy. I thought pain was something to be avoided (more on how I came to that false conclusion below) and perfection was the best way to do that.

Of course, as a teenager I was still forming my identity and I looked to others for my idea of perfection. I looked to peers I admired – the cool kids who seemed to never mess up except to be the perfect rebels with perfect hair and skin. I looked to movie and TV stars. I looked to pop stars. I looked to fictional characters I read about in those 1980s ever-so-popular teen series about cheerleaders and beauty queens.

I have long known that this strategy was useless. It actually made pain all the more prevalent in my life because perfection is a myth and unattainable. Trying to achieve it is a struggle that takes so much time and effort. It leaves you hollow and exhausted.

Parenting

In her manifesto for Wholehearted parenting Brené Brown writes…

Together we will cry and face fear and grief. I will want to take away your pain, but instead I will sit with you and teach you how to feel it.

My parents did not teach me to sit with discomfort, pain or suffering and this led me to have many bad habits and significantly damaging strategies to deal with grief, fear, hurt and other challenging feelings.

This is not a blame game. I have come to terms with how my childhood experiences encouraged this type of thinking. I have empathy for my parents and their upbringings. For them vulnerability was not part of being resilient. They wanted to protect me from suffering (impossible). I do not think they knew there was an alternative – to learn to experience it and use it to grow and connect with myself, others and Universe ( all the energy that surrounds us, is in us and things – I suppose you could say it is what I call my higher power).

Being with these emotions is something I have learned to do in my 40s. Never too late, but I do wish I had figured it out earlier. In any case, I am much more comfortable with the uncomfortable now. I am better able to ride the waves of the hostile and scary emotions and not let them be destructive. The waves are there as always. They do not disappeared. They never will. I am just a much more competent emotional surfer.

My Answer

Now I sit with my feelings – pain with regards to this particular post but this is useful for all of my feelings. I observe the feeling. I welcome it with curiosity. I ask it questions. Where are you in my body? What are your qualities? What are you trying to tell me. I hold it. I embrace it with loving kindness. I have compassion with myself.

The less I implode or explode these feelings that I am “not allowed to feel”, the more of a moderate relationship I have with them.
– Alanis Morisette

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Where Is Seska?

Wow! It has been a while since I have shared a personal blog entry. It is not that I have not had a personal life. I have. That is one reason I have not written a personal post in some time. I have been busy with living life that I haven’t had much time to write about it. What has been keeping me from writing?

Family

I have been spending A LOT of time with family and loving it so much. Being an aunt is awesome. It has opened me up to so much love that I feel like I might burst. It has also made me work hard on being engaged and present in a whole new way. I find that so rewarding. The downside is that it also involves travel as my niece is not in Montreal. When I am gone it means when I get home I have to play catch up on my different obligations and activities and some stuff has been at the bottom of the to do list. I have re-arranged some things and I should have a better schedule in 2014 once the holidays are over. Regular postings to come!!! Streamlining things!!!  Woo!!!

Burlesque

Speaking of streamlining, a bunch of that has been with regards to burlesque. I have combed through my costume collection a couple of times in the past year and focused my selection for my strongest numbers – ones that I can do at more upscale shows and for private events. This has been a smart move and for the past few months I have been getting more gigs and even making some decent money off of my burlesque activities (decent is subjective of course – in my case it means more money coming in than going out). I have also been hosting more which is something I very much want to pursue in 2014. I like helping to hold a show together and showcase other artists. It is a very good feeling to bring the community together.

Fear & Other Stuff

It also hasn’t been that pressing for me to write about the ups and downs in my life as it was before because there have been a lot less of ups and downs. After a few very tumultuous years things have settled down for me. All my personal work has paid off and I am feeling very grounded and focused. There have been some bumps in the road, but I have dealt with them with a new found sense of equanimity. Thank you three years of therapy and my Buddhist influenced personal development work (mindfulness practices saved my life – truly).

Though I would be really deceiving myself (and you, my readers) if I said I am not also dealing with some fears. Money has been an issue. Depression and anxiety kept me pretty much flat on the floor for many months (on and off) which made working and earning an income pretty inconsistent. I have had to take a hard look at my expenses and the meager ways I can earn in living with adult content these days and look at other streams of revenue.

Last summer things finally came to a head and I did some major emotional and physical housekeeping and have spent much of the past 18 months cutting things and people out of my life, tying up lose ends (filed for the divorce and ended that chapter of my life officially), and creating a new foundation for my life.

Then there is my love life. I have a better understanding of what I want, but I am lacking some confidence. The risk of dating is very real to me. I cannot go about it as discretely as I would like as I have lived a very publicly documented life since 1998. Online dating holds zero interest for me as having online profiles and dealing with emails and strangers reaching out to me is something I have done on a daily basis for many, many years. Playing it light and sleeping around also doesn’t hold much interest for me. You could say I am looking for something new which in this day and age of extensive social networking is not easy to find.

I am in the process of figuring out what it is. I expect I will know it or rather him or her – when I see it. I haven’t given up hope, but I am feeling cautious, even risk averse.  I want to make smart choices and right now being single and solo is all part of this new foundation of mine.

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Endings Lead to New Beginnings and I Am Afraid

I have been trying to figure out where my malaise is coming from. I have been sleeping so much and having a deep desire to disappear. I have been experiencing some anxiety and physical discomfort, but mostly I have felt stuck, still, passive, inert – dead. The only desire I have had is the desire to fade far into my dreams and away from my reality.  I have felt like this for a number of weeks. I was feeling so on the ball, so focused and excited in January and part of February and then heighten emotion hit me and then I froze.

The truth of my situation came upon me and I am scared. That is what it is. I am feeling a sense of healing and closure coming with regards to the end of my marriage and I am seeing the trainwreck of my rebound relationship truly for what it was and coming to terms with that.

Now, an unknown future lies before me and I am terrified.

In my darkest moments I feel as if there is nothing good and true  ‘out there’ for me. I am not smart enough, quiet enough, calm enough, strong enough, assertive enough, balanced enough,  and most definitely good enough to deserve anything of value in my life.  These are my darkest moments and wow, did I ever have that one last night.

This morning the darkness lingered, but I decided to think of my new toolbox.

It’s an invisible one filled with thoughts and actions that bring me an understanding to the suffering that is life and provides me with radical acceptance and even if I am sad, lonely, or angry I feel something deep inside myself resonate with a sense of YES.

YES to everything.

I cannot forget my toolbox again.

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Having a Rough Time

I have been having a rough time of it lately. I am dealing with lots of grief over the end of my marriage. I think it is because it has been one year and I am reflecting on what I have experienced so far. The pain that I didn’t deal with, couldn’t deal with, is re-emerging. I am having all sorts of dreams about it. Usually sleep and dreams are such a refuge for me. It doesn’t feel that way right now.

There is more to the situation than I am saying. I want to protect his privacy. But I can say that I am feeling so sad and powerless. It is overwhelming at times and I am having trouble functioning. This feeling brings back memories when I was in crisis and was living with so much fear and despair. So that makes it all worse.

One of the things I do when I experience a strong negative emotion is run away. I think of people who have it worse than me as a form of rationalizing my pain away. Escaping – I cannot do that anymore because it does not help me. It makes things worse. The pain comes out and it is worse than before. It is tainted with anger, bitterness and envy. So now I am sitting with my feelings. I acknowledge them. I let myself cry. I breathe. I treat myself with kindness. It’s really a new way of dealing with things for me. It’s going to take me some time to change my instincts and my behaviour.

The last few days have been particularly dark. I lost my appetite and I was often overcome with tears. I was worried I was going to slip back into how I felt in late 2009. Then last night by chance I went to see what Halycon was up to on his Hug Nation channel. I read a post of his that the current entry was about relationships. I always enjoy his insights so I clicked and listened. It was helpful.

It got me thinking that I need a plan, that I need to develop my map towards happiness. I thought of the things I have done in the past that make me feel grounded. I thought of the things that make me feel hopeful and loving. I thought of things that make me feel part of the flow of energy. I am going to take some time today to privately journal and develop this a bit more.

I am sure I will always feel pain and sadness, but how I handle this is changing. It has quite a bit this past year and it will continue to do so.

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