Don’t we all just want to know what we’re worth?

So many of the conversations we’re having these days are really just about what we’re worth. Too often, those conversations centre around why others don’t value us the way we think we should we valued (bosses, spouses, friends, children, etc) but really, it is a conversation about how we feel about our own value. The truth is, many of us don’t value ourselves enough. We wait and hope for others to do it for us, to tell us what we’re worth. We look for our worth in our salaries, our work, our status, our homes, our children, our marriages, our stuff. None of this is going to do us any good.

The only thing I’ve learned in recovery is that our self worth belongs to only us. We may not have gotten any help from our parents with building our self worth but we’re the only ones who can dig in and figure out what we’re made of. The truth is, our worth isn’t contingent on external factors despite what our culture tells us. Our worth isn’t contingent on how good our children are, or how much we make. Our worth is our inner strength, our character, our resilience, our humanity. We are worthy because we exist. We’re worthy because we have thoughts, feelings, aspirations, goals, challenges, just for ourselves. This isn’t meant to sound narcissistic or ego driven. It’s a battle cry for self esteem, self love, self appreciation. So many of us put our worth into things we can’t control and when those things aren’t available anymore, we spiral down. Or accept less than what we want. Or make excuses for bad behaviour, ours and others. When we don’t love and accept ourselves for who we are, the good, bad and the ugly, how we will do that for others? For our children? For our partners or friends?

I stopped making excuses for myself only recently but I also stopped accepting the lie that I was somehow defective, broken, unsalvageable. I am broken and battered, physically worn down, sometimes unable to manage feelings of burnout. But that’s me. And I’m fine with that because I know what I’m worth, without the job or title or house or family. I’m just fine because I’m me. My self worth is a work in progress, it probably will be for the rest of my life. But I know that I’m on much more stable ground now that I was even two years ago because I don’t need the approval of others to know what I’m worth. And I hope you do too. xo Janet

Recovery takes time

When I think about taking time to recover from depression/anxiety, I realize that the feeling of wanting to rush through it was so powerful. I wanted the whole thing to be over. I wanted to be well. I wanted to stop feeling like a major inconvenience. I wanted to stop feeling ashamed of being broken. But there was no way of hurrying the process up because everytime I thought about going back to work, I would get heart palpitations and break out in a cold sweat.

The thing about recovery is that there is no timetable, no rule book or manual. It depends on the supports you have in place, how skilled your therapist is, whether you have a therapist in the first place, and your family system. The best thing about being away from work on parental leave was that I had lots of time to think about other things than work. The not worrying about work stopped after about eight weeks, by month three, I didn’t care about work at all. I had completely disconnected myself and that felt amazing.

Unburdening myself from work was so freeing and allowed me to focus on other things like exercise, therapy and being with my children. We had a newborn and I was trying to sort out my terrible mental health, my broken back and be a good mom. I was barely functioning emotionally but wanted to be present for my family and it took me several months. At least four or five. By the time I went back to work after my parental leave it had been eight solid, blissful months of being at home, taking care of myself full-time and I felt better. But I still wasn’t ready to go to back to work. As soon as I went back, the insomnia kicked up again, my anxiety spiked and it was hard. I realized in retrospect that I should have gone back part-time, progressively. But I didn’t even give myself the space to think that would be an acceptable solution. I thought I was better and threw myself back in full time.

Eventually, the return to work became a new normal but that took time too. So if you’re in this space or thinking you need a break and have the ability to take one, I encourage you to think about it. If it’s possible to give yourself any space, even a day or two, take it. You’ll feel better as long as you give yourself permission to not feel guilty. xo Janet

Make room for the hard stuff

Credit: Pete Souza

We do a lot of avoiding hard stuff. There are genuine reasons for this. As Obama’s sign on his desk in the Oval Office tells us that hard things are hard. I think we covered this before, right? Well let’s keep talking about what it means when we face the hard stuff and when we don’t. Yesterday, I talked about what we learn as kids if we’re shamed for having normal emotions and trying to express them. As adults, if we continue to run from those genuine emotions, our health, both mental and physical takes a toll.

Let’s stroll down memory lane back to 2015 when my midlife crisis really hit. I was completed burnt out at work and yet continued to go every day. I had a huge herniation in my spine and couldn’t walk. Still went to work every day. Stopped sleeping due to anxiety and severe low back and leg pain, still went to work. Until I couldn’t anymore. I stopped being able to go to work, my only coping mechanism. I couldn’t admit that I had serious health issues. I had severe pain in my back. I had insomnia. I still couldn’t tell anyone at work the truth. I still felt huge amounts of guilt about not being able to work. That’s what I felt bad about, not being able to work, which is really messed up. And no one at work asked me if I was ok. No one at work asked me if I needed to take time off. No one at work asked me if I needed help. What I learned through therapy was that I had a lot more healing to do. Many, many hard truths to face.

Unfortunately, the worst was yet to come. The bottom dropped out several months later, after the depression and insomnia really set in. And that’s when I finally went to get help. I learned how to help myself. But the truth is, the only way I learned how to help myself was to face the hard stuff. To do the hard work, to lean into the toughest stuff I have. To unlearn the hardest parts, cry my eyes out with grief, feel the anger and be ok with it. I learned to let the feelings out in the safety of her office. That’s where I learned that it was ok to feel my feelings. But I’m still learning how to feel my feelings outside of Jill’s office. This is the really painful part. I don’t really know how to be in my feelings, in the moment. But I’m learning. I’m getting there, but it’s still hard. So if you want to unlearn the stuff in your life that doesn’t work anymore, lean in to the hard stuff. But my advice is don’t do it alone. xo Janet

Feeling the feels

The feeling that we are often told to feel is fear. We are so often told, especially as kids, that we’re supposed to feel the fear and do it anyway. What about sadness, grief, anxiety, remorse, jealousy, worthlessness, joy? As humans, we are wired to feel and yet we numb like crazy with drugs and alcohol, sex, shopping, food and our phones. We numb so we don’t have to feel the feelings. We numb so we don’t have to process our trauma, memories, feelings of insecurity, lack of confidence or general sense of malaise.

We are in tough times folks. For many of us, times are physically easy, historically speaking. Psychologically, we are in tough times. The news this week has been awful, and that’s saying something for 2019. We are in a collective free-fall, psychologically speaking. And I’m really worried about what all of this trauma is doing to our psyches. I’m worried about what all this trauma is doing to our alcohol intake and credit card balances.

I’ve had plenty of trauma, plenty of pain. I’ve had more than my fair share of alcohol, credit card debt and numbing. I will use my phone to distract myself, worry about my level distraction and then get more distracted. There feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day to be sad or worried or fearful about what’s happening in the world or what has happened to us in the past. There often aren’t enough hours, life is busy and stressful. But there are small windows where we can find a space to feel our feelings. Therapy helps. Meditation is good. Exercise can really be helpful. Journaling helps some people although I’ve always found it tedious. I started writing this blog to get out a lot of the stuff that has rummaging around in my head for the last twenty years.

The difficulty with not feeling our feelings is that numbing results in anger, frustration, depression, anxiety, perfectionism, overachieving, micromanaging and a host of other dysfunctional ways of coping. We yell at our kids, spouses, sometimes or coworkers or employees, we anxiously meddle, we try to control our surroundings. So in the hopes that some of you may be open to feeling your feels, know this: it’s not as scary as you think it will be. What feels like our crazy is only scary to us; therapists don’t scare easily unless they’re not good at their job. So go ahead, feel your feelings. Dip your toe in the feelings water if you’re not used to it, it just takes practice. The more you do it, the easier it gets, I promise. xo Janet