Thursday, August 25, 2011

Time to Own Up....

I stopped seeing relapses as failures and just stopped putting so much stock into whether I cut or not. Cutting is a symptom, not the problem. Keep treating your underlying issues, that's what will bring your cutting to an eventual end. Obviously, you want to try your best to use other coping skills, but beating yourself up is counter productive.

This was the answer I needed to hear yesterday, in response to the question I posted about how to love yourself when you screw up. I found it on reddit.com, and though the response wasn't meant for me, it spoke to me.

You see, I struggle with this. With harming myself on purpose. I pick at scabs so they take much longer than necessary to heal. I scratch at bug bites or the leftover residue on my arm from a band-aid until the skin breaks open. I have never purposefully cut myself with a blade or the like...but I don't let myself heal, which amounts to the same thing in the end.

Two questions to ask to see if you have a self-harming issue:

Do you deliberately cause physical harm to yourself to the extent of causing tissue damage? Yes, I do.

Do you cause this harm to yourself as a way of dealing with unpleasant or overwhelming emotions, thoughts, or situations? I believe so, though that's not always the case.

I'm a bit borderline, I think, but it's close enough. What I've been trying to figure out for months is what triggers me to harm myself. Sometimes it's simply boredom - my fingers want something to do, and instead of grabbing my phone or a puzzle, my fingers mess with my scabs. Yet there are other causes as well, and last night I finally think I pinpointed the main causes - feeling invalidated or vulnerable.

(Even as I'm typing, I'm having to fight the urge to pick at my face.)

I've always been a sensitive soul. I take criticism hard. I can't stand arguments or making other people unhappy with me. (This is deeper for me than a mere dislike of them - I do everything in my power to avoid them.) And for as much as I can fully remember from growing up (especially once I got to the jr. high/high school age), I was shown that I was basically always wrong, always being bad, never doing what I was supposed to or how I was supposed to. I feel bad even typing this, because I don't want my parents to read this and feel bad. How messed up is that?? I don't blame my parents for anything. They are good people, and I know they did the best for me and my brother that they could, and I thank them for sticking with us and giving us all they could. (My parents got divorced when I was about 5.) I love my parents, and I'm closer to them now than I ever was growing up with them. Still, the problem started there, and I can't deny that.

And so it seemed no matter what I did, I was never trying hard enough, never caught on fast enough, never did things right, never expressed what I was supposed to express in just the right way. My mom yelled at me, and my dad guilt tripped me. Loud voice, soft voice, it didn't matter - it was all telling me just what a screw up I was. And so I hid inside myself. I clammed up, rarely bothering to state my opinion or ask a question, since I knew that 8 times out of 10 the response would be negative. I only answered what was asked of me, and tried to give the answer I knew was expected. I let people (family and friends alike) walk over me like I meant nothing...in my mind, my thoughts and emotions were always wrong anyways, so it was much easier and better to simply go with the flow and let other people think for me, to stick with the ones who clearly enjoyed being with me regardless and simply let them rule. In high school, I don't remember picking often...I was still in marching band then, I wrote poetry then, I had ways to work out my frustrations, and friends who seemed to like me for the me I was.

(I can't stop messing with my hand and arm, my fingers desperately searching for something to pick that's ready.)

And then I moved to college. On my own, no friends coming with me. And this is where I think I started to harm myself. I had never really learned how to deal with things. The only lessons I really remember from growing up is to always do what your parents (or elders/those in charge) say when they say it, to keep your mouth shut and smile, and make others happy. To let someone else make your decision, because if you don't choose fast enough then they'll do it for you anyways. And for a girl who's basic nature is already sweet and kind and quiet and passive, I didn't know how to handle life. My first few years I think I did alright, yet the longer I was there, the more I had to deal with, the more I was on my own, the more heartbreak I'd dealt with, and the more I started to pick. It was so gradual that I'm only now, 6 years out of college, realizing just what I was doing to myself. Sad, sad, sad.

I don't like the pain of a picked scab, by the way, or the blood that tends to come when the scab is picked off - that's not what makes me do it. The attraction for me is to have the scab off, to feel the smooth skin. I like it when the scabs are gone. It's like I feel it's the one thing I can fully control myself, the one thing I KNOW I can do right - because I can see when a scab is fully off, when the edges are smooth and it's done. I can't screw it up.

My major epiphany from last night - feeling vulnerable is the biggest trigger for my picking obsession. All my life I've been told that I'm wrong, that I'm selfish and irresponsible. Especially when it comes to cooking and being in the kitchen...it honestly terrifies me. I was never sure of myself, I always asked too many questions (and the same questions too many times) and took too long, was too soft, and as a result was constantly thrown out until I was never even asked to help anymore. What a lesson for a young girl to learn. And so when I start to feel vulnerable, when I start to notice just how out there I'm putting myself, the urge to pick at myself becomes ridiculously intense.

And I have gotten better at being vulnerable, at putting myself out there. My confidence in myself has definitely grown over the past few years. Yet it's still a struggle for me. I started to notice this yesterday...I pick at myself a lot when I'm processing photos. And believe me, deciding that you want to become a photographer and working to make it happen definitely makes you vulnerable. You're putting your vision, your work, your heart out into the world, and all you can do is hope that someone will like it. I pick at myself a lot when I'm opening up in a conversation, when I'm sharing a viewpoint that is opposite of the person I'm talking to. The more vulnerable I feel, the more exposed and open for pain, the more I pick at myself. To try to hurt myself before someone else can? To help me focus on a different pain so I can hear the actual response and not hear negativity? I don't know. But this is the key for me.

Sharing like this, forcing myself to be open and honest about a serious issue that I struggle with, has been driving my fingers and brain crazy with the urge to pick. The good news is, I'm getting better. I'm aware of the situation, which is a huge step. And I've been spending months trying to work through my insecurities, trying to be more comfortable simply being me and loving myself for who I am. And the better I get with that, the fewer scabs I tend to have, the more shallow they are when they do come. Someday I know I'll have it beat, at the very least have it much more under control.

Please remember - everyone you meet is fighting a battle. Not everyone's battle is immediately obvious. There are people who will struggle with something that makes no sense to you, that comes naturally to you. Please realize that simply because it's easy for you, doesn't mean it's easy for somebody else, and that doesn't mean you should talk down to them or make them feel like less of a person simply because they have a different struggle than you, or take longer to get a handle on it.

Love each other. Support each other, even when you don't understand why it's a problem. Listen to each other. Be encouraging. Tell the harsh truths when they're needed - just make sure you're telling them out of love, and make sure that love is known and felt. Don't judge.

I've fallen short of this many times, and it's something I'm trying to change about myself and to put out into the world. We need more love, more support, less judgement, less hatred.

I haven't shared all of this as a plea for attention. My scabs have always been pretty easy to see. It's simply a coping mechanism for dealing with my own feelings of vulnerability and invalidation. Anyone could have asked me about them any time they wanted to. Some people even have - though it was more about my physical beauty and the damage I'm doing to it than what the underlying cause might be. What I needed from this was the admission to myself, and the hopeful chance that maybe someone else who's struggling with this can identify and keep trying to get better. I KNOW THAT WE GET BETTER. Good things are coming my way, I'm growing stronger and more confident in myself and my abilities, and I know I have a wonderful life ahead of me. I'm on a good track. I simply have an easy, destructive distraction.

If anyone has any questions for me, any comments, let me know. If I can help clarify something, help support you, help encourage you in your personal struggles - please let me know. I want to be able to help and encourage others. And I know that this struggle I've got is a part of my life that will help enrich the way I see the world, can help me reach others and spread my message of love and joy.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Watch your Mouth....

I am a caring person. I honestly care about others, about how what I do and say might affect them, how I can help them, how I can be a better me to be better for them. Not for the entire world - you can never please everyone, never be fully understood or helpful to the entire world. Yet I'm so ridiculously tired of hearing people tell me not to care, not to be affected by others. All that will do is lock up your heart, pull you away from those who can be the biggest comfort and strongest supporters - or else associate you with people who are equally locked away in their own little world of me first. You might save yourself a small measure of heartache, save some indecision - yet what will you lose by refusing to let others in? I don't want a heart that's cold and unreachable, a mind that's closed and inconsiderate of other opinions, regardless of if I agree or not. I want honest conversation, a respect for differing opinions, the ability to share with others and grow together, learn together. I want to be changed and affected by others.

I am stating, right here and now - I choose to care. I choose to be respectful and considerate. Not everyone truly deserves it - yet I choose to be so anyways. Because we are all human, and we all need someone to care about us, someone to listen to us and love us.

Sometimes a girl simply needs to vent, and needs a shoulder to lean on while she catches her breath. Pushing forward into an uncertain dream, working to better yourself for yourself, and working through the inevitable discouragement and disagreements and heartache that will come is tiring and trying. And lately, I can't seem to find anywhere that I can simply rest, simply let myself be. I feel I am constantly needing to be on my guard, constantly watching and ready to defend myself. I am weary. I refuse to give up the good fight, to let myself give in to all the fears and bad thoughts...there are simply some days that are more difficult than others. And it seems no one can understand this idea, no one will support you unless you're being all positive, all the time. (And I am an overwhelmingly positive gal saying this.)

All I ask is that before people jump onto bashing whatever I've said, they consider that maybe those few words are not the end of the thought for me. They consider that there is so much more going on behind the scenes than what I put on paper. And, if for just a moment, they think about what they're about to say, and if it will really help build me up, or if they're only trying to pull me down. If you want to build someone up, if you want to honestly share knowledge that you have to help make someone's life easier or better - consider the way you use your words. Simply throwing any old words down to get your point across, or using language that is obviously not suited to the individual, will either get you nowhere or get you ignored. Creating waves and friction does not mean that people are paying attention to you and honestly listening to what you're saying...it means they are responding to the way you've said it.

Choose your words wisely, friends. I promise to do the same, and better the way that I speak with those I love and want to build up. I choose to respect your opinions, to be considerate of what matters to you, and to pick my words with care as often as I can. I will always try to be honest and upfront with you, and I will let you know if I disagree with you on an important matter - yet I will always try to do so in a way that is meant to encourage and build up, and not to make you feel small and ignorant.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Dream Girl

Some days I could swear I see myself in a movie in my head. There are moments in time where I can almost picture a video montage of my life, of me working, driving around, doing everyday things. I can almost even hear a soundtrack sometimes. But it's not really me...at least not yet. Because often, it will be an improved version of me that I see.

Sometimes I can see myself typing at a computer, working on some photos, doing some office work, keeping things organized and together, being productive. I can see myself running and doing yoga and making healthy food choices, while still allowing myself to splurge every so often without feeling guilty for it. I can see myself helping other people, being able to share my soul and my story and having it help and encourage others. I can see the beauty project I have in my mind going strong and really making a difference in people's lives - I can specifically picture parts of my initial work, ladies I want to have a portrait of, a general idea of the composition, the song I want in the background - all of it. I can see myself making dinner and laughing with my strong, handsome man, working alongside him, sharing with him, gaining strength from him - and also see him learning from me as well, opening up, encouraging each other.

I'm not always certain, in my head, how much of what I see is really what I want, and how much of it is simply me daydreaming of a person I'll never be, as a way of dealing with the pressures this world throws at us. But these images come up so often, so strongly, so randomly, that I can't help but feel that I'm seeing visions of the life I'm truly meant to live, the girl I'm really on my way to becoming.

The main thing I notice about the girl in my daydreams is that she completely accepts herself and who she is - she loves herself and the life she's been given. She's happy every time I see her.

One other interesting thing I notice - my scabs are never something I think about in my daydreams. I never honestly notice if the scabs are there or not - there is no conscious thought of the girl in my dreams noticing how she doesn't have scabs to mess with. I think the scars are there, and she simply doesn't pay them any mind anymore. Really, for me, I see them in my dream as a mark of what I've put myself through, and how I've come out on the other side. Of a time when a girl who had a pretty sheltered life went through a period of time where she was silently begging for help, her pleas for attention and interest in herself clearly marked on her skin, where others could only see a physical blemish. There is a story to tell for me through these scars, these marks I've inflicted on myself. I don't know when that story will be finished, when it will be ready to be told. But I can feel the story building inside me.

I really want to have a good story to share, a way to help others accept themselves and love themselves just as they are, to see the true them and set them free. I feel it inside of me. I just have to keep walking, step by step, keep dreaming of the girl, and I know that I'll wake up one day and realize that I am her.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hey...it actually works!

I have a confession to make, one that makes me feel pretty silly and girly and ridiculous, but I want to share this with you today. It feels necessary.

I've been off on vacation for the past five days, and they've been so very wonderful...waking up when my body is naturally ready, playing some games, having some lunch, playing some more games, working on some photos, taking some photos, having dinner or fun times with my family and close friends, relaxing some more before bed, and repeating. For five glorious days. I didn't go anywhere fun like the zoo or a show like I had planned. I didn't do too much of anything most people would consider fun or productive, to be honest. But it was absolutely perfect for me.


So this morning, when I realized that I had to get up to an alarm and go to a day job (which, I should mention, has been very good to me and for me and absolutely realizes that I have value) that my heart really isn't in...I cried. I didn't want to give up the cushy lifestyle I'd lived for the past five days, even though it was only possible because of the day job I have. I didn't want to stop hanging out with Jon and my sweet furry babies. I didn't want to go back to not having a computer at home and being able to work on my photography. I think it was pretty natural that I was going to tear up. And I should let you know, I'm not talking a full out breakdown cry here lol...just a steady stream of my eyes welling up as I got ready.

So as I'm standing there, getting ready with tears filling my eyes, I made myself refocus my thinking. I reminded myself that this should be more fuel for my fire, that I should take the feeling of loss for my sweet vacation and use that to help me push myself more in my day job, so that sooner rather than later I can get back to my ideal life. I've already made my decision to go for that life - I just had to remember that I'm not there just yet, that I have to walk a little farther first and get some more things straightened out before I can confidently do what I want to do.

This thought helped me a little, but not quite enough. And then my memory verse for this month popped into my head - "Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." And with that verse running through my mind, the tears dried up. I needed to be joyful today. I needed to remember to be thankful for the situation I'm in and the good I can do here and now, the benefits I can gain and the knowledge I still have ahead of me to learn. I needed to say yet another prayer that morning - that I could focus and remember what I'm working for, and not be discouraged as I work, but instead keep my head up and my eyes on my finish line and the start of the next chapter in my life. And it honest-to-goodness helped me refocus my thinking and dry up my tears.

I think I know the frustration a baby must feel, when they've learned to crawl yet want to walk so badly. I want to be able to just run straight into the life I'm feeling lead to, yet I know that I'm not prepared for it yet. I'm still in training, still learning, still growing, still strengthening. If I tried to go for it now, I would fail. Without a doubt. I'm meant to be where I am right now, doing what I'm doing. And I decided to turn my thinking around and be thankful for it.

It may not have totally changed my feelings and my mind - I'd still much rather be enjoying myself at home right now. But it helped correct my thinking so that I can still be productive today and feel good by the time I get to go home. All because I had something positive to refocus my attention on. It does work, my friends. :) I hope you can find the positive in your day today, that can help you keep moving forward!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

On Second Thought...

I want to share and get these thoughts out on "paper" before I forget yet again. :) I've been thinking that I might have been a little too rash in my blog titled "Anything is possible if a person believes." I most definitely have the same drive inside me, but I've since tweaked my game plan a little bit.

I'm choosing to stick it out with the steady paycheck for a bit longer than I at first decided. Mostly, I want to get myself to a position where I feel a bit more comfortable before I jump into the completely unsteady territory of having my own business. So, here are my new plans:

* My Care Credit balance will be paid off before the end of the year, and hopefully sooner than that. The past few months I've been paying what I can over the minimum to get it down faster, and so I really think it's possible it'll be done by August or September. But regardless, it will be paid off by December, and able to be a medical backup should something bad happen.

* I have a few things I want to buy before I'm on my own, and a few things to get started. I've even got a general idea of when I want to have these things by, though only God knows if it'll actually happen when I want or if my goals are a little too high. At least I've got a goal to aim for. :)
I want to get a new portable hard drive to keep with me and have my photography library on (then the larger drive I'm using now and our other, older portable can be backups and kept somewhere separate so my photos are safer). Goal - get this by the end of the year.
I want a new computer for myself (my work is trying to get me something to use at home until then, but even that will take awhile, and I really need something all my own and reliable to work from). Goal - get this by the end of 2012.
I want to save up enough money to cover at least 3 months worth of bills before I'm all on my own (3 months isn't a ridiculously long time, but at least then I'll have a little less to worry about while I'm adjusting). Goal - start saving more after we move, and keep saving as much as I can until I leave.
I want a new car. My current car gets me from place to place, and it's nice that it's paid off so I don't have a car payment right now...but the ac simply can't keep up with this Texas heat, and it was used when I got it and I'm hard on my cars...so it's healthy but pretty worn in. lol And I've had my heart set on a new VW for a long time. Lots of the ones I'd like wouldn't be too hard to fit into my budget either, especially after we move and Jon can get more firmly settled financially somewhere. Goal - get this before summer of 2012.

* I also would like some more photography gear if possible before I start my own business...I know there's at least one or two lenses I would like to get, plus I'd like to make sure that all my current equipment is still functioning well and won't need to be replaced. The longer and harder I work here, the more I feel I pay off the equipment they've already bought me anyways. If I can at least get one lens before I leave, I'll be happy.

* My other plan is to start doing some photography on the side after we move at the end of July - I'm hoping I can start in either August or September. I'll be starting with my child and pet photography, since I already feel that I've got a good handle on that side of my photography and a lot of the ones I want to shoot are getting older all the time! lol I'm going to take the time to set up my own brand name for it and have a little site set up to share on, and I'm going to start pretty reasonably priced - just enough mostly to cover my expenses to get there and the process of shooting and processing the photos afterwards. This will give me a little extra money each month (hopefully) to start saving and using for the items I mentioned above, and also get my portfolio and some client relations started, and ease me into interacting with clients and the like there, a chance to figure out what works and what doesn't on a reasonably low key scale before I go full hog on it. It's going to mean a lot more work from me, but it's work that I truly enjoy doing, so I don't think I'm going to mind. I will have to have a computer at home before I can start, so somehow I'm going to have that figured out by then, at least something temporary since my photos always stay on my own hard drive. But I think if I hold off on this too much longer, I'm going to miss some great chances and hurt myself more than help myself. I will find a way to make it work and get it started. :)

So...yeah. lol Sounds like a lot, huh? Yet it's really just day to day life, simply making myself be better about saving and spending wisely to advance where I want to be and what I want to do. I'm excited to see where this road is taking me...I definitely feel good about it, even though I know I'm going to struggle some, even though I know that it may not happen right when I'd like it to. The process feels right, and I have to follow it to the end. :)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Some quick info...

Hi friends! Just a quick little blog post here, that will hopefully help me win an iPad2! :)

There's a blog I follow called MCP Actions...the lady seems really sweet, and they usually have pretty cute photoshop templates and actions designed just for photographers. And since we all like to try and help each other out and share, I wanted to share this sweet little giveaway with you! I could really use an iPad...it would help me with inventory work at my job, and also by having something at home to play around on and possibly even help me keep up with my photos! All in all, a win win for everyone...if I win. lol :) But a gal's gotta try!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

It's Time.

The time has come for me to step into the unknown. (Cue Sara Bareilles' song Uncharted. lol)

I know I'm being dramatic, but I don't care. lol Sometimes some drama is called for. I'm loving myself and who I am. I'm going to let the real me completely out of her cage, trusting that those who truly love me will only love me more, and that if things and people don't stick around I will make it through that as well. I'm choosing to see the beauty in myself, choosing to see the confidence, choosing to believe in them.

Sometimes bad things happen, things you don't want or don't like. Sometimes we're stuck in situations that seem unfair, or situations where we wish we could just hide our heads in the sand until they pass us over. I'm refusing to think like that. Not anymore. This girl is going to change hearts, one day at a time. Problems don't go away by ignoring them and hoping they will. You have to face them head on, with truth and love and confidence, and work your way through them no matter how painful, no matter how bad they might make you feel. Only then will things start to get better, start to heal. If you run away, you only leave the wound open to keep getting infected and keep dragging you down. You have to close it off so that it can heal.

I really don't like feeling useless, and having to stand by and watch while others I love are struggling and in pain. Yet I know that the most I can do for them is to love them, be honest with them, and let them know that no matter the outcome of their situation, I'm not going anywhere. I stand by those I love. I have always tried to do this, though in the past I've fallen short. I get up and do better next time. And I hope to encourage others to do the same, to pick themselves up from their mistakes and try again, to heal the past mistakes and do their best not to repeat them. Hope is possible - recovery is possible. A new life is possible. You simply have to be open to seeing it, and going for it. Believe in yourself.

"What do you mean, if I can?" Jesus asked. "Anything is possible if a person believes." -Mark 9:23