Feeling Stuck? Dig your Way Out

It is time to come clean.

I have an awful sense of unhappiness residing in me. It is an unwavering feeling deep down, and I can’t seem to shake it. It makes me feel ashamed, guilty, and self-loathing. Really, how could I be unhappy? I have the safety of a home surrounding me, and not only that but a home filled with a loving and supportive family. Even though we’re not all together, I still feel everyone’s presence. I live in a comfortable and peaceful environment and I am free to do whatever I please. I have the ability to buy groceries every week, (no, several times a week). I am lucky enough to work a full time job as a registered nurse-a lasting career with endless opportunities. I have access to everything I could possibly ever need. I am blessed. So what’s the deal?

Well, to start, I’m far from where I want to be in life. I am 24 years old and I feel stuck. There is this void…it seems like many things are missing. I know that in terms of nursing, I am no where near where I want to be. I feel like I should be back in school already, obtaining my Master’s Degree. But let’s be real, why the hell would I ever want to go back to school, back to that life (this soon at least)? And let’s not get started on the cost of grad school.  It is difficult seeing everyone else around me settling down-people I grew up with saying ‘yes to the dress’ or accepting keys to their new home-others traveling the world and experiencing life outside the walls of Cleveland, Ohio. And then there’s me. I just started working in December and my school loans are killer so unfortunately my finances aren’t suited for a single living arrangement. Even though I am a very independent person and I love being on my own, right now just isn’t the time. So yes I am still lounging around with the Ma and Pa. But, I’m not ashamed and I really have zero complaints about my current roommates. I love being home. I guess I have to agree with my sis…I can be kind of a homebody sometimes. I love being around my parents, the older I get. Though they will always be my parents and have the upper hand, I get along with them as if they were my friends. I love nothing more than sharing an IPA with my mom and bonding over boring television shows. And I can’t imagine coming home from the grocery store without a treat for my dad.

I guess I am simply unsatisfied. I dream of life outside these four walls. I dream of being a travel nurse and meeting all new people-to run away from my past and the negative people who still somehow lurk in the shadows of my being. I hope and pray that I’ll meet my match and (God willing) have a child who I can care for and nurture. I crave change and am on a search for a meaning to my life. I have a reason for being here, but I don’t feel like I am fulfilling my role on earth to its fullest potential.

The answer to all these things is simple. I am going through a stage. It is a stage of growth, of transition, of change. I have a whole life to live and just because I am not 100% satisfied with my current situation, that doesn’t mean that I cannot still be happy. Yes there are things I wish were different, things I wish I could change right now. But I need to be patient and I need to be happy-do things that make me happy. In the past I used to feel like there was no point in trying to be happy. I was a miserable person. I spent my days unaware of the world and the people surrounding me. The only way to describe this feeling is that it felt like I had a haze around me at all times…like a gray shield. Smiling was actually painful. Clearly that is no way to live.

So, I have been trying to find my inner happiness. I decided to go through my old binder from treatment because, even though it brings back painful memories, there are a lot of helpful resources in there. That’s part of the reason why I hung onto the darn thing.

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Most of the information we received was taken from Marsha Linehan, an American psychologist and author. A major component of eating disorder treatment is Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) which helps individuals develop and maintain four behavioral skills:  mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness and emotion regulation. I love DBT. I believe that anybody can benefit from learning these four skills. I highly encourage you all to read about DBT and think about whether or not you practice these skills in your own lives. These skills weren’t created only for those needing psychotherapy. We could all use a little DBT in our lives. Besides interpersonal effectiveness, I struggle with all of the skills. I feel like I communicate well with others. Communication is a huge part of my job as a nurse. I use interpersonal effectiveness daily on the job so I’ve gotten a lot of practice and I think I have that part down.

Mindfulness is VERY hard for me. I get distracted fairly easily and I always have a lot on my mind so I usually end up doing too many tasks at once. I often find myself in the middle of meal prepping when I realize that my clothes are done in the dryer (clearly a pressing matter) and I stop what I’m doing to run and fold the clothes. I will literally drop the food in hand and shuffle to the laundry room. I try to make myself feel better by saying that I’m just good at multi-tasking but this is actually a really bad habit. It goes against all aspects of mindfulness.

Distress tolerance and emotion regulation: Life is stressful. We all know that. Some deal with stress better than others. I have gotten better at dealing with stress and emotional situations but I’ll be honest there are times I still feel negative and pessimistic about life, certain situations and especially about myself. I tend to focus too much on what’s ahead and I will have myself convinced that the outcome will be negative-“It will never happen” or “It won’t work out” are common phrases in my brain.

*Marsha Linehan’s solutions:

-ACT OPPOSITE of whatever negativity you are feeling. Do pleasant things that are possible NOW-AKA be in the moment!

-Be MINDFUL of positive experiences: I tend to think about when the positive experience will end and how upsetting that will be. Instead, I need to ENJOY the moment and I need to stop asking myself whether or not I deserve the experience.

-Refocus when your mind wanders to the negative. I’ve gotten better at this.

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Pages from that dreaded binder.

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Ways to improve the moment:

Imagery: I absolutely love guided imagery. I also love going to the metroparks or the lake and just admiring nature. There is something so calming about being surrounded by nature. One of my goals as the weather gets nicer is to spend more time in nature. It is like medicine to me.

Prayer: There is always room for improvement here. I try going to mass every Sunday but I work every other weekend so it is difficult. No excuses, I know. Another one of my goals is to MAKE TIME for prayer.

Meaning: I’m searching.

Relaxation: I find it hard to relax. I have gotten better at allowing myself the time to relax but I still need to work on this. I need to realize that is OKAY to take a nap if I am tired…it is OKAY to put off errands until later.

Doing one thing at a time: This is an issue.

Vacation: Boy I would love a vacation.

Encouragement: I try to encourage others more than I encourage myself. It makes me feel good knowing that I am helping others but I know it isn’t good to forget about myself. I preach positive reassurance to others. It is time to positively reassure myself.

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When it comes to distress tolerance, Marsha recommends finding ways to self-soothe.  Some suggestions include vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. For me this means:

-Music (hearing). There are certain songs I turn on I need to calm down or just relax. I love to just zone out and let the music take over.

-Incense, bonfires, flowers, coffee (smell)

-Coffee, fro-yo, quest bars, diet coke, dark chocolate, gum, a really good beer (taste)

-My bed, blankets, warm water (touch)

-Cute animals, lakes, trees, art (vision)

*I love self-soothing.

So basically I have realized that the only person who can make me happy is ultimately myself. It doesn’t matter who my partner is, how much money I have, what my job is, where I live, etc…If I can’t be happy alone, with life in general, right now—I will never be happy. I am on a quest for lifelong happiness.

Things I have been doing while on the journey:

-New hobbies

-Riding my new bike (not so much yet-need warm weather)

-Cooking

-Yoga

-Shopping at random stores just because

-Walks

-Journaling

-Volunteering

-Getting my nails done

-Saving money

-Smiling more

-Trying to be more aware of my surroundings

-Taking a nap if I am tired

-Offering advice

-Trying to paint

-Dancing in the car

-Dancing anywhere

-Savoring each and every moment

BOTTOM LINE: I am a work in progress. Plain and Simple.Happiness can be achieved and I am well on my way to getting there.

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