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Day 1 Question to Ponder...Freedom?

Discussion in 'Structured Educational Program' started by Lilibet, Jun 12, 2013.

  1. Lilibet

    Lilibet Peer Supporter

    Before I move on to Day Two, I want to post my answer to this question from Day One: "What would life without TMS mean to you."

    The first word to pop into my mind is "freedom." I feel so limited by pain, depression and anxiety that it sometimes seems that my life is closing in on me and limiting my options.

    But the interesting flip-side to having more options is that throughout my life I have often felt relieved to be able to avoid doing some things I don't want to do because I've had colds, migraines, foot pain, back pain, etc. The limitations have been a handy excuse when I don't feel comfortable saying "No."

    So, to be honest, life without TMS could be kind of scary! Yes, I would be able to do things I WANT to do, but I would have to learn to say "No" to the things I don't want to do...without guilt as a people-pleaser perfectionist. Lots to ponder! Has anyone else found this to be a challenge?
  2. Leslie

    Leslie Well known member

    Oh yes, most definitely. It has all come down to a lack of self-compassion for me. My perfectionism, my goodism, both stem from fear for me, and as I dug around to find out what I was afraid of (I thought it was guilt) it turns out it's all generated from shame. I recently learned there was a difference, as I thought they were synonyms. Turns out guilt is actually healthy, shame is very unhealthy, can be deadly. The difference is your self-talk. When something "bad" happens, for instance, you forget to do something that leaves someone else disappointed, do you tell yourself you are horrible, forgetful and stupid (all those adjectives directed at your self) or do you tell yourself that mistakes happen, people forget things, perhaps it might have been wise to write down what you were supposed to do so you had a reminder and take a lesson for next time (kindness to yourself, any disapproving adjectives directed at the ACTION, not the person) The first one, adjectives directed to the person - that's shame. Adjectives directed to the action - that's guilt. Guilt is healthy because we can take action on it, we can apologize to the disappointed person, attempt to make amends, and take steps to have a different outcome in the future. Shame is paralyzing, we're attacking ourselves at our core, we're defining ourselves by our failures. We're treating ourselves in a way we would never, ever treat a friend who had committed the same act of forgetfulness.

    Baby steps have been key for me. I've had to suck up every drop of my minimal courage and open my mouth and "tell on myself" to an understanding friend when I've done something that's spinning around in a shame spiral in my head (shame feeds on silence and secrecy). Once it's out of my head other people enter the conversation, I quickly realize how hard I am being on myself. Once the spiral is stopped then the logical brain can kick back in again and formulate a plan to attempt a remedy for whatever the error was.

    As for saying "no", it's funny how that is almost the first word we learn as children, and we use it over and over until our parents have practically pulled out every hair on their heads trying to get us to stop...and then all of a sudden we do (usually to our detriment). The word leaves our vocabulary entirely as if it's part of a foreign language. Baby steps have been really helpful for me here too. Refuse a coffee refill at a restaurant (some people's inability to say no is actually that extreme that they would feel badly refusing a refill if the waitress was standing in front of them with a coffee pot) and watch the waitress' reaction, it's unlikely that she is going to call you a name or run from the table in tears. As you see that people who are more distant from you can hear the word "no" unharmed, move up to trying it out on those close to you in the same small ways, refuse an extra helping of something you don't want to eat and see that the chef also doesn't run off in tears (even if she's your mom). Little by little you confidence will increase and you will discover it is becoming safer (yep, I said safer - anti-fear) and safer to use that word.
    Lilibet likes this.
  3. Lilibet

    Lilibet Peer Supporter

    This is great, Leslie. Before I forget, I love your avatar cat, posing like a meerkat! :)

    As I read what you wrote about shame, I was thinking how hard I work to avoid doing anything that might cause me shame. It's exhausting! And impossible, of course, if one is a perfectionist. I frequently feel like I'm letting people down, even if they never expected something from me! Aaaaaaarrrrrgh! LOL I can see that this will be quite a journey, but that's OK.

    About saying "No", I see that I really have the hardest time feeling comfortable saying "No" to my own internal expectations for myself. That does cause me shame. If I feel sort of backed into a corner by someone's unreasonable expectations of me, I feel angry. Thankfully, I'm OK saying "No" to the waitress or the sales clerk, but I do know someone who agonizes over stuff like that, and it's torture for her.

    Thanks so much for your very thought-provoking reply.
    Leslie likes this.
  4. Leslie

    Leslie Well known member

    Thanks for the avatar compliment! I think he's the cutest little guy and I've never met him. I saw him one day and he just struck me as the most incredible combination of my favorite things, cat, penguin, and BLACK & WHITE! Isn't that what we TMSers truly love most - black and white!! It's all that gray junk that screws us up. Every time I log in and see my avatar it reminds me that black & white with very clear boundaries only exists in the animal kingdom and that life as a human is mostly in the gray.

    I can relate to the difficult in saying "no" to your own internal expectations. My eye-opening moment came several months ago when I was in some sort of anxious, manic state because my loving husband was picking from the basket of clean clothes that I had folded several days ago (because it was out of my ability to let them sit in the dryer) but did not have time to put away. Rather than put them away in his spare time, he was perfectly happy taking what he needed from the basket. When I expressed my dissatisfaction over his choice, his response was a very sincere "who cares?". That was the moment my eyes chose to open. "Who cares" repeated over and over in my head and my inner voice was screaming "I DO". That was the first time I actually "sat" with an uncomfortable feeling. While I was "sitting" with it and acknowledging the truth in my "I do" response, I asked myself "why?". When it got right down to it I had some misconstrued idea that I was a failure and not good enough as a human being because I was not able to summon the energy and time required to transport those clothes to their "proper" location. What really helped was having a conversation about all of this with my husband because he very sincerely is not the slightest bit affected by "where" his clothes come from. He was grateful that I had done the laundry to that point, the clothes he wanted were not only clean, but folded rather than a wrinkled mess in the dryer - which according to him is where they would have been if he had done the laundry, assuming of course he had remembered to move them from the washer! Realizing that it was my own irrational expectations of myself (and having someone I love agree that I was expecting far to much from myself) was extremely valuable in helping me to learn self-compassion. In fact, there is a basket of folded laundry in that hasn't been put away in almost a week as we speak. I may even take something from the basket before it gets put away, and I can honestly say the answer to the "who cares" question about it now is....no one :)
  5. Lilibet

    Lilibet Peer Supporter

    I like your avatar symbolism, Leslie. I zeroed in on the meerkat pose because meerkats and I are hyper-vigilant. :) So I will look forward to that "who cares" epiphany. Your husband sounds delightful. Mine is too.

    Time to fold laundry.
  6. Leslie

    Leslie Well known member

    I can totally see the meerkat pose, and the hyper-vigilance symbolism is accurate for me as well. Funny how this little guy is even more symbolic of me than I even realized. The "who cares" epiphany is an interesting one. It's not the kind where you wake up one day and say, hey, I don't care about that any more...it's more the one where you're totally not paying attention to something you used to care about and it suddenly pops into your head more like "when did that stop mattering to me?"

    Yes, I agree, fold the laundry...just don't put it away :)
  7. Lilibet

    Lilibet Peer Supporter

    After I wrote about Meerkats and I being hyper-vigilant, it occurred to me that they are exactly as vigilant as they need to be for their environment. So, for them, it's not "hyper," but for me, it is. Apologies to the meerkats LOL. I'm not potential prey, but I have the same alertness to danger (fear) and startle reflex as if I were! So tying that together with what you wrote, I would love to get to the point where I wonder "When did I stop being a meerkat?" :)

    Maybe my avatar will be a meerkat, for now. I'll see what I can find...after I iron...nah, the ironing can, and always does, wait.

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