Mental Health Matters: Feeling My Feels

When I first received a packet of information from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services outlining the events that led to my adoption, I called my then best friend to read her the contents. At first, her sniffles were low, but eventually they began to drown out my words.

“Why are you crying?” I asked.

“It’s just…so sad,” she began.

“Don’t cry,” I insisted. “Don’t cry for me.”

By this time, I was 32 years old and had mastered muffling and numbing my own sorrows. I wasn’t going to sob about my own life, and I certainly wasn’t going to allow anyone else to mourn for me.

I suppressed the pain of discovering I was an abandoned five-month-old baby with the other emotional trauma I’d endured. The only thing about stuffing emotions into an abyss is that they’re never really gone. Pain. Sadness. Anger. Whatever emotion you’ve attempted to ignore stays with you. I learned this nine years later when I was 41.

moon_womanI’d decided to do a relationship meditation hosted by Oprah and Deepak. I thought the meditation would help me have a better relationship with my husband, father, cousins, and in-laws. What was surprising is the meditation really focused on the relationship I had with myself. This was achieved through chanting mantras and answering journal prompts. One of the questions asked this: What, if anything, are you afraid of finding out about yourself? Or something like that.

At first, I didn’t want to write the truth. But, after realizing I’d be the only one reading it, I decided to be as honest as possible. I scribbled these words: There must be something wrong with me for me not to have any parents.

And then, I cried.

I cried for the five-month-old version of myself, who must’ve been terrified being left in an apartment for days. I wept for a baby who was separated from her mother. In that moment, I realized I didn’t need permission to empathize for myself. So, I also cried for being adopted and not told to feel anything about the finding years ago. I grieved losing my adoptive mother. My final tears were for my adoptive father, who, no matter how much he uttered, “I love you,” had shown otherwise.

That day was pivotal. I’d waited my entire life for someone to green-light my emotions when really, I held the power all along.

moonAfterwards, I stopped stifling tears and emotions. I began using honest communication in most situations. I refused to follow family and society’s made-up rules of engagement. From that day forward, I knew it was better for me to share emotions than it was to harbor resentment and damage myself further. This ranged from answering simple questions, like “How do you like working here?” to harder ones, like, “Why haven’t you invited me to your parties?” with truth. With many people, I ceased hiding my emotions, and subsequently, protecting theirs. I don’t mean to say that I trample on others’ feelings; that would be insensitive, but rather, I don’t hold back for fear of what others will think. I don’t owe anyone a lie or a watered-down answer because they’re ill-equipped to deal with how I feel or because they’re not used to hearing a different opinion.

Since that day, I’ve also learned how to move through emotions and determine why I’m experiencing a specific response. I have a phrase: I feel (fill-in-the-blank emotion) because of (fill-in-the-blank reason). It might look like this: I feel resentful because my family doesn’t consider how I feel around holidays. Sometimes I share these sentiments; other times, I don’t. The important part is to know how I feel and move through it.

Sometimes tears arise because I’m triggered by past life events, like the time I was watching TV and a woman and her mother were shopping for wedding dresses. I remembered how I shopped for dresses by myself and it made me sad. Being able to acknowledge that emotion and then pause for a second has been more supportive for me than pretending feelings don’t exist.

Finally, because I’m now more inclined to feel my feels and process emotions, I’m less likely to use unhealthy coping strategies. I no longer rely on people, relationships, or sex as a means to improve my mood or self-esteem. As a result, my relationships have improved because I’m interacting from an authentic space, not from a place of suppressed hurt and anger.

For me, an ability to feel has been liberating.

Source

 

Corona Chronicles: Meditating

I typically don’t share much about my personal spiritual practice because I know that even in the 21st century, people still consider some things a little woo-woo, and I’d rather not get into a back-and-forth about validity. But, after a couple coronavirus weeks and listening to people, I think a conversation about meditation may be helpful.

meditating_1In the early part of 1998, I had a miscarriage that resulted in a D&C. Shortly after that procedure (and against the doctor’s advice), I was pregnant again with my firstborn. In order to calm my mind and focus on having a healthy baby, I read a book my mother-in-law had passed on to me about creative visualization. The internet calls creative visualization a cognitive process. I’m not sure if that’s different than meditation, but for this post, I’ve decided they’re the same. Whatever camp it’s in, creative visualization is what first taught me how to focus my mind on a subject.

Sixteen years later, when I wanted to understand why my relationships weren’t going so well, I downloaded a guided meditation led by Deepak and Oprah. This meditation lasted 15 minutes a day for 21 days. Deepak provided daily mantras and journal prompts centered on specific traits of the theme, which in this case was called, “Miraculous Relationships.” Quite honestly, this worked for me and I discovered more about myself and how to engage in healthier ways with everyone. The relationships I currently have are my testament.

After the relationship meditation, I began reading about chakras. I was intrigued by the information, which I’ll briefly summarize. In short, chakras represent the body’s energy centers. They can be blocked, spinning in the wrong direction, or too open. The idea is for them to be open and aligned.

chakraAs soon as I read about each chakra, I related immediately to how the explanations represented different parts of my life, which had slipped out of alignment. For example, I knew my throat chakra, which is associated with self-expression, was too open because symptoms included gossiping, arrogance, and condescension. For those of you who only know me through this blog, it may seem uncharacteristic, but at one point, these described me perfectly. Conversely, once I began chakra-based meditations, I began to speak a little differently and learned to communicate in kinder ways (i.e., this blog).

This leads me to our current times. Everything from trending hasghtags, like #staythefuckhome to a man dying from eating fish tank cleaner because it included ingredients of an alleged cure is evidence to me that the coronavirus has the world functioning in fear. I understand why we’re so afraid. I totally get being worried, considering life seems unstable. But, I also know it is unhealthy to remain stuck in these emotions and fully believe feeling unsafe and anxiety ridden are examples of our root, sacral, and solar plexus chakras being imbalanced.

So, last week, I focused on me. I meditated on balancing my own root, sacral, and solar plexus chakras to remind myself that everything is okay, because it is. The one I like to practice is by Late Blooming Light Worker. Her meditations include a 10-point process, which I’ve found to be a comprehensive way to:

  • breathe mindfully,
  • remove body pains,
  • focus on one chakra at a time,
  • learn mudras (hand positions),
  • practice affirmations, and
  • chant.

Meditating on the three chakras above helped me to listen to coronavirus news, while maintaining a calm sense of understanding about the present status of my own life, which I control no matter what disease is spreading.

So what say you? I try not to give advice, but I do think using creative visualization could be a great way to envision the type of world in which you’d like to live. A guided meditation may help you understand yourself a little more. Aligning your chakras could prevent you from slipping into fear-based living.

Either way, please let me know how you’ve been coping and what you’ve been doing. If you meditate, let me know which kind. If not, then feel free to share how you’ve been staying above the fray, while corona is among us.

Be well.

~kg 3/24/20

Monday Notes: 14 Days of Non-Communication

From June 18th to July 1st, I decided not to communicate with people I know (and love). With the exception of my husband, two daughters, and a siSTAR video I’d committed to, I was silent. This included my not responding to text messages, DMs, phone calls, emails, and social media.

24034dc7-4131-431d-8cb2-6db42fc5d233First, I alerted everyone I could through social media so that people didn’t think I was ignoring them. In this social media age, people’s feelings are hurt quite quickly if they don’t hear instantly from you. This worked for the most part. For family, like Grannie, who are not on these platforms, I simply left a message on her answering machine asking her to please wait until July 1st to speak with me, unless of course, there is an emergency. For others like my father, who sent photos of his grandson’s kindergarten graduation, I replied with the photo you see here. And for my cousin who called with news of their newborn baby, I begged Dwight to call him back so I could listen, but not respond.

Why, you might be thinking?

I needed time, space, and silence to disengage so I could hear my inner thoughts.

Recently, my sister gifted me with a numerology reading. In our conversation, the reader said, “Everyone isn’t worthy of your time.” That is one of the most poignant statements I’ve heard in 2019, and it really made me pause. Aside from thoughts about friendships, I decided to use my fourteen days of silence to assess the many collaborations and projects with which I’m involved. Will I continue with Project A, B, and C? Are these projects aligned with my personal mission? Even if they are aligned, are they worth the time/energy investment to continue? To make these decisions, I needed time, space, and silence.

Also, I wanted to focus on how I would generate extra money for the remainder of the year. Contrary to public belief, many professors do not make a huge salary. Like other professions, it is contingent on lots of factors: discipline, rank, and institution. Being quiet allowed me to think deeply about how to attract money and from where.

wooden_plankAlong with these fourteen silent days, I also decreased my sugar intake. This isn’t new to me. About four years ago, I did a 21-day detox that excluded all sugars. This time, I followed the recommendation that women have no more than 25 grams per day. Initially it was challenging, and I hovered around 24-50. But overall, it was a success. When I remove sugar, my brain becomes clearer; subsequently, my thoughts and dreams are also lucid. And combined with silence, it’s like a veil was removed, revealing the direction in which I needed to travel.

Although I wanted badly to celebrate the birth of my cousin’s baby, and although it took everything out of me not to respond to email plans for our DC reading or to text Bree to find out how she did at the Daughters’ Lives Matter event, or to comment on blog posts, it’s okay. It’s okay not to be at everyone’s beck and call in each moment. It’s okay to tell people you need a minute…away, just for yourself. In this instant communication society we’ve created, it’s okay to say, hold on wait a minute while I get myself together.

Trust me…their good and bad news will still be there for you to praise or lament. Their worlds will not crumble. And, you my friend, may feel more healthy and whole.

Friendship and the Expectation of Support (Part II)

Yesterday, I shared how disappointed I was when close friends didn’t ask me how an important event went.* As I mentioned, I processed my feelings for several days. Meaning, I talked to Dwight about it, until every angle was exhausted; I removed myself from speaking words to anyone outside of my husband and daughters so that others’ thoughts didn’t influence my intuition; I lit some sage incense and meditated for fifteen consecutive days; and I journaled about the answers that came to me.

During meditation, I heard a very distinct message: Do not be concerned with affairs of the ego.

My understanding of “ego” comes from Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth (2005). Loosely summarized, he says that it’s the I, which we all develop, but which none of us really is. Tolle calls it “a misperception of who you are, an illusory sense of identity” (p. 27).

Our egos are stories that we’ve told ourselves about ourselves. This can range from the type of mother you think you are to the type of co-worker you appear to be, good, bad, or otherwise.

I was steeped in my identities.

I am an author.

I am a writer.

I am friend.

I was swimming in my stories.

I am an indie author, who doesn’t have major names behind me offering marketing, etc. I need a different type of support. I’m a writer, whose main purpose is to raise consciousness by sharing my authentic self. Is this noticed? I’m a good friend, and if I’m a good friend to others, well then, they will be an equally good friend to me.

I’d gotten lost in my ego.

moon

Yesterday, I also said that my close friends were in their ‘life’s bubble’, but quite honestly, so was I. I was in my oh my god, I can’t believe we’re having another reading in a different city, like a book tour bubble. My look at me being a different type of indie author bubble. I was also in my people cried and began to think about their circumstances in a different way bubble. Is this what raising consciousness looks like? And in my good friends ask each other about important events bubble of judgment.

You might be wondering what I’ve done as a result of these revelations. I’ve returned to two things I’ve been working on the past five years: having no expectations and not judging others. Neither is an easy task, but I do want to clarify.

Having no expectations doesn’t mean not having standards for people. In this scenario, it simply means I shouldn’t have expected my friends to call or not call. Subsequently, if someone did ask me how everything went, then that’s fine; if not, then that’s okay too. Also, for me, not judging means not passing judgment on my friends’ actions. If a person doesn’t reach out and show interest, it doesn’t mean that they’re a “bad” friend; likewise, if a person does ask for an update, it doesn’t mean they’re a “good” friend.

So, this is my second conclusion: Identity + Story = Ego. Don’t be concerned with affairs of the ego. And stop making up stories about yourself and others.

Tomorrow, I’ll share my third conclusion.

*Since writing this but before publishing it, someone I consider a friend did text me and ask about the reading 🙂

PART I

21 Days

For 21 days, I had no sugars and carbs. I deactivated my Facebook account. I exercised. And I meditated. Why? Why would you do this to yourself, friends and family have asked. The simple answer is it’s a form of discipline. More in depth answers are below. 

Image. © 2015. K E Garland. All Rights Reserved.
No sugars and carbs is a great way to stop craving sugars and carbs. The thing about me is that I’m a real food eater. Meaning, if I had to choose between a full-course meal and a slice of cake, then I unequivocally will choose the full-course meal. But after vacation eating in June and then stress eating in July, I began requesting and making multiple visits to Sweets by Holly for mini red velvet cupcakes. Detoxing from this stuff started my re-set button.

Deactivating Facebook for at least 21 days is mandatory for me. Each social media site has its own perks and drawbacks, but I find Facebook to be the most time consuming because of personal connections. Having multiple inbox conversations, liking and questioning friends’ and family members’ posts is fun. But sometimes it’s a huge distraction. Detoxing from this site forced me to pick up the phone and actually check on people when they floated across my mind. And most of the time, direct communication felt better.

Exercising for 21 consecutive days helps me to practice listening to my body. Some days I practiced yoga. Other days I ran. Functional exercises occurred somewhere in between. And on those lazy weekend days when my body wasn’t used to working out? I took a 3-mile walk outside. The point is I used intuition to determine what would be an appropriate way to move. No app. No trainer. Just me. And it worked. I felt good about what I was doing and there was no burnout.

A 21-day Meditation quiets my mind so that I can focus on one particular aspect of self-improvement. For example, last year I chose to concentrate on relationships. During that one, I learned to love my core self more; consequently, other relationships began to flourish. This year, I meditated on the energy of attraction. I’ll keep you posted on those benefits as they occur.

Focus is important. Whether it’s ditching sugar or unplugging from social media, adding exercise and meditation, or something else altogether, doing (or not doing) an activity for 21 days helps to jumpstart mindfulness. Being aware can also spark a bit of consciousness as you deliberately think about your SELF and how you’re living. Depending on your activity, those small changes may not only positively impact you, but also those around you.