Sharing My Story

My therapist recently contacted me to ask me if I would participate in an interview about my experience in therapy. He would then want to use bits of that interview in a promotional video for his practice. I said sure. That interview was last Friday at 11 am. I wore jeans, converse, and my Ellen sweater that says “kindness” on it.

When I arrived at the little studio on the westside of Atlanta, my therapist was just finishing up a photo shoot with the two other therapists he works with.

Once they were done, the helpers moved the furniture and replaced the couch with a glass table with a chair on either side that were facing each other. I was also given a microphone to clip on my sweater and on the back of my pants.

Now, days before the interview . my therapist sent me an email with a list of possible questions. I, of course, typed out answers to all of them just in case I got tongue tied during the actual interview.

Here are those questions:

Thoughts leading up to therapy. 

“Man, I hope this works.”

Why did you choose therapy? 

I was unable to “deal with it” alone anymore and I wanted another opinion. It had also been 10 years without significant progress, so I figured therapy wouldn’t make it any worse.

What were you looking for?

Initially, a cure; however, I recognized that that was unrealistic and unlikely, so I adapted it to “new ways to get through anxiety without making me stop living my life.”

What did you think about the phrase “all of you is welcome”?

It gave my “undesirable” parts an invitation to participate and be heard. I never invited them.

Do you remember me saying let’s “unbraid your narrative” or paying close attention to how the “researcher” was managing anxiety? —what changed (realization that I was capable in chaos)

I heard, “start from the beginning”. The realization that I excelled in chaotic parts of my life was validation that I could get through anything and that I would continue to get through anything.

How did kindness help/facilitate this process?

The act of being kind to myself opened many emotional doors. It made me feel more vulnerable and exposed because I think I knew exactly what parts I had been suppressing and invalidating; I didn’t want those parts to make all the parts I was so proud of look bad.

Where you afraid to talk about the parts of you? Did you think this would mean you were crazy?

I don’t think I was afraid per se, but I did have to make a conscious decision to share very personal accounts and thoughts about my life and myself with a complete stranger. I was hoping that I would be pushed to think about things differently than I had been. In the end, I think the reason therapy worked so well with Jon is because we are fundamentally very different personalities; I can’t say that I would’ve been as successful as someone who was as logical as I was. Jon challenged me to welcome and embrace the “softer” sides of myself and this was very helpful in the healing process.

There was never any concern about me being “crazy”.

What did you think about the 3 steps: Tell the Truth, Set Intention, Tell a Different Story?

I am honestly drawing a complete blank.

Being kind to self? Was that something new for you? 

Are you still using kindness today? 

Being kind to myself in the way Jon wanted me to be kind to myself was new, yes. I thought that I was kind, but I quickly discovered that the standards I held myself to were significantly higher than what I held other people to. I was also more forgiving of other people’s emotions; for my own emotions, I limited myself to an allotted slot of time for me to be sad, cry, and wallow in grief or whatever other emotion/feeling I deemed to be negative [for me].

Today, I am kind to myself. I don’t really have to think about it anymore, my body and mind now know that they are free to feel whatever they want without punishment.

Thoughts leading up to therapy. 

Man, I hope this works.

Why did you choose therapy? 

I was unable to “deal with it” alone anymore and I wanted another opinion. It had also been 10 years without significant progress, so I figured therapy wouldn’t make it any worse.

What were you looking for?

Initially, a cure; however, I recognized that that was unrealistic and unlikely, so I adapted it to “new ways to get through anxiety without making me stop living my life.”

What did you think about the phrase “all of you is welcome”?

It gave my “undesirable” parts an invitation to participate and be heard. I never invited them.

Do you remember me saying let’s “unbraid your narrative” or paying close attention to how the “researcher” was managing anxiety? —what changed (realization that I was capable in chaos)

I heard, “start from the beginning”. The realization that I excelled in chaotic parts of my life was validation that I could get through anything and that I would continue to get through anything.

How did kindness help/facilitate this process?

The act of being kind to myself opened many emotional doors. It made me feel more vulnerable and exposed because I think I knew exactly what parts I had been suppressing and invalidating; I didn’t want those parts to make all the parts I was so proud of look bad.

Where you afraid to talk about the parts of you? Did you think this would mean you were crazy?

I don’t think I was afraid per se, but I did have to make a conscious decision to share very personal accounts and thoughts about my life and myself with a complete stranger. I was hoping that I would be pushed to think about things differently than I had been. In the end, I think the reason therapy worked so well with Jon is because we are fundamentally very different personalities; I can’t say that I would’ve been as successful as someone who was as logical as I was. Jon challenged me to welcome and embrace the “softer” sides of myself and this was very helpful in the healing process.

There was never any concern about me being “crazy”.

What did you think about the 3 steps: Tell the Truth, Set Intention, Tell a Different Story?

I am honestly drawing a complete blank.

Being kind to self? Was that something new for you? Are you still using kindness today? 

Being kind to myself in the way Jon wanted me to be kind to myself was new, yes. I thought that I was kind, but I quickly discovered that the standards I held myself to were significantly higher than what I held other people to. I was also more forgiving of other people’s emotions; for my own emotions, I limited myself to an allotted slot of time for me to be sad, cry, and wallow in grief or whatever other emotion/feeling I deemed to be negative [for me].

Today, I am kind to myself. I don’t really have to think about it anymore, my body and mind now know that they are free to feel whatever they want without punishment.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about going therapy but is unsure?

It never hurts to get a second opinion. Maybe this isn’t as good as it gets- go find out. Except for the co-pay, you’ve got nothing to lose.

So, the actual interview went well; it was a lot shorter than I thought it would be. I don’t know when the final version will be completed, but I was told I’d be sent an email.

They gave me flowers, a candle, and a bottle of red wine for my time. There was also a thoughtful card from my therapist.

I guess I feel fine about the interview. I was nervous about too much personal information being released, but it was actually very surface level. Whenever it is released, I’ll put it on here or at least share my thoughts on it.

I got 4 teeth pulled yesterday.

I woke up at 6:30am and my girlfriend and I worked out for 30 minutes. I made some oatmeal, got dressed, and soon it was time to leave for the dentist.

I pushed off this appointment for an entire month due to me being sick for basically the entire month of January, so it was time.

My girlfriend, Chelsea, came with me to the dentist and I was hoping she’d be able to stay in the room with me, but the nurse said she would not be able to.

They immediately started with the nitrous oxide and that was fine…at first.

Then I got my mouth numbed up with gel so the actual shot [used to numb my entire mouth] wouldn’t hurt, but I could not feel my tongue or throat, so I might have freaked out a little bit and insisted that the mask come off and I would wait for the gel to wear off because I didn’t like not being able to feel myself swallow/breathe.

The gel wore off in about 5 minutes and I put the mask back on. The doctor came in and got ready to numb me up with the shot. She warned me that I wouldn’t be able to feel my tongue with this either and did I want to just be completely knocked out?

I had eaten breakfast that morning, so being put under was not an option. It was also more money [that I do not have] so I opted out. I said it’s fine, let’s continue, let’s get this over with.

She numbed me up with 8 shots in my mouth (she poked me in 8 areas) and I was soon very numb. To my relief, though, I could feel the back of my throat which meant I could feel myself breathe and swallow. I was still nervous beyond belief, but this was better than the gel.

The whole time I was waiting for the oral surgeon to come back I was shaking. I was vibrating a lot and I tried to breathe and count and let my body “shake itself out”, but it wouldn’t stop. It was only when the doctor started pulling my teeth that I stopped shaking.

I must say that the actual pulling of teeth was fine. No pain, just pressure. The most disturbing part of it all was the fact that I could hear right in my ear the crunch of the root being ripped out of my bone. That was freaking gross. Like REALLY gross.

She spent maybe a minute max on each tooth. It was out FAST. The hardest part for me was just getting over the fact that my mouth was numb. Everything else was fine.

I am now at home rinsing with salt water and eating soft foods. I really hope I am able to avoid dry socket. My mother said she got it about 10 years ago and it was not pleasant.

Here are photos for your viewing pleasure 😀

A Rough Start to 2020

January 2020 has not been a great month for me. From being extremely sick and dealing with an ear infection to my grandfather dying and a new school schedule, my anxiety has been through the roof.

It all came to a head when my girlfriend drove us to the theatre to see a movie. Long story short, I had a lengthy emotional breakdown in the parking garage which ended in us driving back home where I cried more. I was physically sick, mentally stressed out and emotionally exhausted.

I am still sick- coughing my way through the day. It is getting better, though. I think I’m finally in the home stretch. My ear infection is finally gone, too. I went to the doctor to follow up about it about one week ago and they flushed it out with a syringe and water. It was extremely uncomfortable (but did not hurt) and my ear felt weird that entire day, but then it cleared up.

My mother has been in Germany for what seems like weeks. She’ll be back on the 27th of January. I hope to go to Germany in 2021 with my girlfriend and spend some time visiting with my grandmother and showing Chelsea around, of course.

I am in my second week of classes and I finally don’t feel as stressed. I have come up with a solution to my parking issue and I’ve established how each professor wants work to be done/turned in. Mostly, I just read a lot. Only two of my classes have textbooks and only one of the textbooks is interactive with built-in required quizzes and tests.

Work is still going well, but things are picking up some speed now that we are approaching conference season. This is where we meet a lot of new clients and schools, so it’s really important that all things are in order.

I shall now continue working. I hope everyone is doing well.

What’s the “right amount of time” anyway?

Many articles, people, and even licensed therapists recommend to wait at least 3 months after meeting/dating someone to put a label on the relationship. I, too, have followed this rule in my previous relationships, but this one feels quite different.

After having only known her for 3 weeks, I was ready to call her mine. I’m not normally so bold, but this just felt SO different and so right.

Well, it’s been 6 weeks now, and I have restrained myself from bringing up the conversation. I’ve decided to wait another 2 weeks. Maybe 3. My heart is sure, but my mind is still cautious. I also want to be respectful and cautious of her emotions and feelings towards that.

I had a long conversation with a friend about what I’m currently feeling towards Chelsea and she told me to “jump in”. She knows how cautious and how guarded I normally am, so my enthusiasm and quick attraction/attachment to this person was quite out of the ordinary for me.

As you all know, I have also been in therapy and that has also given me the courage to live my life more vulnerably- especially when it comes to love. I haven’t had the best examples of romantic love (my parents and my own relationships were not ideal exemplifications). When I met Chelsea, everything about her felt so foreign (in only the best of ways), it was like a lightbulb went off, “Oh, THIS is what it’s supposed to feel like!”

So, currently, things are still going really great. I’m so incredibly happy when Chelsea and I spend time together. I feel like I’m being 100% my authentic self and I don’t have to “act” or fake anything. It’s truly fantastic.

I am fucking proud of myself.

I got off of work at 1pm. I drove home, changed, and walked right back out the door to head to the city my new girl lives in. She doesn’t get off of work until 6pm, but traffic is so bad if I leave anywhere after 2pm, I’ll be sitting for over an hour. So, I made it to the nearest Starbucks in about 30 minutes with minimal traffic.

Once at Starbucks, I ordered a venti decaf white peppermint mocha. Man, that’s a mouthful. I went to bathroom while they prepared it and when I came out, I grabbed my drink and headed for one of the couches. There were not many people in here at this time.

I started by going through my work email and responding to them. I checked my personal email as well. Then, I moved to my blog- the one you are currently on. I wrote 3 articles about topics that are at least somewhat emotionally charged. I went to the bathroom once more.

When I came back, I started to get the familiar unwelcome shortness of breath feeling. I thought that maybe my coffee was caffeinated after all. I tried to stay a little while longer, but eventually I had to pack up my things, pee one more time, and nervously head out the door. I still had about an hour to kill, though.

I walked to my car and breathed a small sigh of relief as I sat down. The simple thing of not being around other people is already enough to take a huge weight off. I drove to a nearby parking lot of a shopping center and parked. I pulled up some YouTube videos and wrote in my journal. I also talked to myself trying to rationalize the situation in my brain.

I was not able to completely shake that anxious, heavy feeling in my chest- even once I got to her apartment. It died down a little bit, but it was still very much present. I was nervous to drive home. Having a panic attack while on the road is a huge fear of mine.

Anyway, it did finally come time for me to drive home. I got in my car and drove away. It’s a 30 minute drive of nothing but highway. I got about 5 minutes in before I felt that feeling again. I started biting my nails and I hiked my left leg up on the seat- my go to position when I feel anxious in the car. Then, I decided to try and focus on my breathing.

I counted about 4-5 counts inhaling and 8-10 counts exhaling to counteract my hyperventilation. It was working. Then the feeling came back. I tried again to really focus on my breathing and the road. I felt myself calm down a little bit and I was able to get home quickly and safely with a lot less panic than if I had not focused so much on this breathing pattern.

This is big for me. I am rarely able to focus enough on my breathing to actually slow it down, but I did it. Practice makes better, I guess. I’m just proud that I made it home alright.

I’m in bed now. It’s late. I have work tomorrow. My roommates are both out of town and sleeping alone in this house makes me nervous. My neighborhood is not exactly the safest, but that’s Atlanta for you. My doors are all locked and I left one living room light on. We also have all 3 of our cars in the driveway, so it looks like their are plenty of people here. I’ve done this before, I think I can do it again.

Goodnight, all.

Meeting Number 4

Today I will be going to my date’s apartment. I’ve been there once before, this past Monday. I feel that I will be writing about this development quite a bit so let’s call her Chelsea so we have a name.

We started talking via Bumble on July 16th. We met for the first time in person on July 23rd. Since then, we’ve seen each other twice, so today will be the fourth meeting.

She’s funny and kind and considerate. She’s very attentive when I tell stories. I made her take the love language test because I suspected that she would have similar results to me and I was right. We both score 10 points or more towards Quality Time and both of our second category was Acts of Service. Her Myers Briggs type is also INTJ, so that was also interesting to discover.

I think there are many people who struggle with long term dating because they’re addicted to the feeling they get during the first few meetings. I, too, find the first few weeks, maybe first 2-3 months, the most exciting, but I also greatly look forward to being fully comfortable with someone. Nerves are fun and tingly, but they also create a lot of anxiety for me.

I feel that this is the first time in a long time that I have been fully myself with someone from the beginning. In previous partnerships, I often had a wall. A large wall. A large concrete wall with spikes. It wasn’t great and it was draining to keep up, but I was doing it to protect my feelings and heart. I don’t feel that I have a wall with Chelsea. She makes me feel very comfortable and I feel free to be however I want to be in the moment.

Without giving away too much of her personal information, she hasn’t had as much experience with women as I have, and that made me nervous at first. I think she has a fear or concern of not living up to my past experiences, but she should know that I have a fear of fucking it up as well. It goes both ways and I think that’s a healthy discussion to have.

Right now, there is a definite safe space to have any conversation and I hope we are able to maintain that. I really like her and I’m excited to see where this goes. I’m allowing myself to feel giddy and I’m embracing it.

Fear of Failure

I have a fear of failure. I have a fear of failing those I care about. I have a fear of failing to be what they want me to be. I have a fear of failing to live the life that I have envisioned for myself. I have a fear of failing to live up to the good things people have said about me.

I fear that I am failing my [very conservative, anti-abortion, anti-gay, pro-Trump, Christian] grandparents and hometown community by not dating men and attending church.

I have a fear that my dad fears he has failed as a father by not bringing my sister and I to church more often. When I first came out, he asked me if it was something he did to make me feel this way.

I have these fears. They get a little a crazy sometimes. I know that I can’t just flip a switch and become a heterosexual Christian. I suppose that I try to make up for these “flaws” by making the rest of my life look as proper and perfect as possible.

I want the people (my family) who disagree with my “lifestyle” or lack of Christian beliefs to see that I’m not a bad or immoral person. I try very hard to live a moral life and to be kind and helpful to those around me. I’m trying to show them that I don’t live my life for attention. I don’t live my life to convert other people. I don’t live my life to brag about it and rub it in people’s faces.

I just want to live my life. I want to have normal conversations about things I’m passionate about. I want to visit family with my future partner and I want them to ask us when we’re getting married.

So I have a fear of failure. I have a fear of failing to be a person that does not and cannot exist. It’s been mentioned before and it will be mentioned again, I promise.

Thanks for stopping by, I really appreciate it!

Insomniac or nah?

I started having issues sleeping right around the same time my anxiety and panic attacks revealed themselves (about 10-12 years ago).

With that being said, bad sleep/insomnia also runs on my mom’s side of the family. My mother does not sleep well and neither does her mother.

For me, the issue doesn’t seem to be falling asleep. In fact, that happens quite quickly sometimes. However, I wake up multiple times throughout the night. This leaves me feeling frustrated and exhausted when I have to get up for work.

I actually function quite well and don’t feel much of a drain throughout the day, but it’s annoying not sleeping completely through the night.

What have I done to combat my sleeping issues? Let me list them for you.

  • Weighted blanket- I don’t actually know if this makes a huge difference, but I love it. I love the weight and warmth. It was one of my best purchases.
  • Melatonin
  • Baldriparan
  • Cooler room temp- This has helped the most.
  • Noise machine set on white noise- I would like to note that I wear earplugs at night AND I still have the noise machine on because I can hear it through my plugs and still reap some of the benefits (it drowns out the other sounds in my house like my roommate getting off of work at 2am)
  • Ear plugs- Happy Ears. Buy Them. Now. They Are Amazing.– I spent years going through a multitude of earplugs ranging from foam to wax to this silicone version and I’ve made my choice.
  • I find that taking a hot shower (just body, no hair washing) right before I go to sleep is nice.
  • I stop drinking liquids at 7pm so I only get up once to use the bathroom during the night.
  • I sleep in complete darkness.
  • I have made my bedtime 9pm every single night whether it’s a weekday or weekend.

I’ve never actually been diagnosed with insomnia, but I’ve also never asked my doctor about it because it seemed normal to me. I will probably ask my doctor about further options the next time I visit just to get that professional opinion, but I don’t see much changing.

My Anxiety

My anxiety always feels like I can’t take in a full breath. It always feels like yawning and then not hitting the “top” of your yawn. It’s a heavy weight on the top of my chest. It’s shallow breaths. It’s a fear of not being able to breathe and not having anyone there to help.

Once on the brink of a panic attack, my legs and arms get tingly/partially numb. Everything around me begins to sound like white noise.

From there, it goes one of two ways: either I sit down somewhere and ride it out or I start trying to implement my coping skills and hope it goes away.

I have a few coping skills/tools and some of them are silly, but when you feel like you can’t breathe, there’s not much you won’t do to relieve it.

  • sitting down/squatting in an almost fetal position seemed to calm me
  • applying makeup, specifically eye liner or mascara that would require more concentration
  • eating food
  • brushing my teeth
  • shaking my hands and arms to get feeling back into them
  • podcasts for distraction
  • calling someone on the phone
  • writing in my journal

I also have collected prevention tools over the years and I don’t use them all, but I’m sure it would help.

  • When I first went into therapy I was told to use something called the Alpha Stim SCS.
  • Since the end of May of this year, I’ve also been trying CBD oil. Honestly, I haven’t felt much of a difference, but I also haven’t been taking it regularly for the past 3 weeks.
  • I’ve been drinking more water and eating more healthy foods.
  • Sometimes I take lavender pills.
  • I try my very best to get good sleep and enough of it, but that has been a lifelong challenge that I can expand on in another post.
  • I do not consume a lot of alcohol, and when I do, I limit myself to a single glass of wine or beer.
  • I stay away from caffeine.
  • I’ve been trying to move more through stretching, just getting up more at work, and actual exercise, but I’m lazy and sometimes I can’t be bothered even though I know it would probably help immensely.
  • I continue to push myself to do things that make me a little uncomfortable because you have to conquer the things you fear to overcome that emotion.

My anxiety has never kept me from going on adventures or living my life, but it has limited how far I would travel for those adventures and it gets annoying when all you want to do is enjoy yourself, but these “what if” questions won’t stop buzzing.

It’s a struggle, yes, but yesterday’s therapy session felt promising. Read more about it here.

Why Therapy?

I went to therapy for the first time when I was about 9 years old. It was shortly after my parents divorced. I had my first panic attack around that time as well. I think most of it stemmed from separation anxiety I had when my mother wasn’t close by.

When I got a little older, I didn’t continue therapy because I didn’t notice much change and I was also told that I would probably “grow out of it”. To some extent, I think I did. I don’t have separation anxiety anymore, but I do have anxiety towards other things.

Not dealing with loss and grief has been a huge issue for me that I was recently made aware of by my current therapist. If we define “loss” as the “ending of something” (not necessarily death), then I have experienced a lot of loss in my life that I have chosen not to emotionally or mentally process/deal with. As a result, my body stores those emotions as anxiety and it gets periodically released as symptoms of anxiety, such as panic attacks.

For a while, I thought I was able to track my triggers (loud music, crowds, thunderstorms, tornado sirens, yelling/shouting), but over time, the attacks seemed to be more random.

I was able to count the number attacks I had during 2018-2019 on one hand up until the end of May of this year. As I was looking for a home, a job, and I was also dealing with (I actually wasn’t dealing with it at all) a fresh breakup, I found myself hyperventilating at the nail salon. The old familiar feeling was back in full swing.

2 weeks, a house, and a job later, the panic attacks and anxious feelings subsided. I’m 99.9% sure that my anxiety was caused by the stress of not having a home or being employed.

Let’s fast forward to today- to today’s therapy session to be exact. Today was one of the best sessions I’ve had since starting. I’ve discovered a lot of things in the past 2 months. I’ve also acknowledged a lot of things in the past 2 months.

  • I am hard on myself.
  • I have a fear of failure.
  • To me, setting goals+achieving said goals=success/life purpose

Today was the first step of me including all parts of me in an acknowledgement. What that looks like is: “I acknowledge that when I think about [insert whatever makes you anxious/scared here (for me it was elaborate solo travel)], I get scared and nervous, but I also have powered through similar things that have also made me scared and nervous.

Instead of saying “X makes me feel scared”, I’m including the fact that yes, I feel this fear, but I’ve also fucking powered through fear before.

I’ve shut parts of myself down over the years. I’ve shut down Grieving Megan. I’ve shut down Angry Megan. I’ve shut down Sad Megan. I’ve even shut down Excited/Hopeful/Optimistic Megan because I have a fear of getting my hopes up and then being let down and feeling stupid for letting myself get them up in the first place. I’ve silenced all these parts of me and the voices that belong to them. Today was a step in letting them be heard.