Dear people of the world,
This is account of my life as a 27 year old has been created since I recently turned 28. (I have a tradition of doing these once a year now)
This past year has faced me with many surprising challenges: health complications (Mono, and appendicitis which landed me in the hospital for over a week), the passing of my grandmother, and health difficulties with my family on the East Coast –all of which afforded me missing about 2.5 months of work racking up a bill of $3500 (the max that my insurance can charge me within one year.)
My response to each of these challenging occurrences has been one of growth and appreciation. Grandma taught me to be a truly loving –almost magical person. With her passing I have been propelled into taking the first major steps toward enabling myself and hence my potential family to likewise engender the same love that grandma afforded me (e.g., I made a firm commitment to go to graduate school so that I can build a career to support a family, I made remarkable progress on my journey of self-understanding, and I sought to fully commit myself to a relationship (which, by the way, is going great in part because I was lucky enough to meet an amazing woman.) My health complications reminded me of how precious life and health is. Facing the reality of severe health complications will really prompt a fellow to examine what is important in life –and in many ways it can inspire you to wake up. My East Coast family’s difficulties really illuminated how much I love and miss Mom, Ivan, and my brother. My experiences with helping them have removed any remaining doubt that I may have had about making psychology and therapy my career of choice.
It surprised me to have many at my work comment on how great it is that I have been able to claim that this year, despite all the turmoil and struggle, has been my best year in a long while. I suppose this has illuminated that I have a strength that enables me to turn almost any situation into an opportunity for positivity.
This year has been what I refer to as “my personal Renaissance.” Since graduating in 2006 I’ve felt mildly depressed and in a slump –content to float around for a while. In fact, I think I needed the past 4 years to be low key to rest and establish a baseline from which to launch (as I have this past year). Back in 2006 I felt pressure from family to move on to starting a career. It made me mad when my father practically insisted that if I didn’t start grad school right after undergrad, then I’d never go. I think I needed to have time and space to reclaim my own desire and accord to continue moving forward on my own. I needed to know what it would be like to not be pressured and to not have anything in particular to challenge me. What I learned is that being in such a state makes me miserable. This realization, combined with the challenges mentioned above, helped to fuel my launch into full adulthood.
To aid in my quest of “being all that I can be” I have made a markedly increased effort to make myself more healthy. I attended therapy about once every two weeks for just over one year and was able to drag myself out of my mild depression and gain awareness and perspective of how I perceive and function in the world. I no longer attend therapy and I’m seeing how well I can make it through life on my own now that I have some extra tools (e.g., greater understandng, internalized skills, some phrases my therapist used to say that still resonate in my head, etc).
I learned about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a style of therapy that challenges you to notice and reprogram your thoughts in such a way that, hopefully, will be more to your benefit. I have incorporated CBT into the work that I do with my clients as well as into my own life. I now know what “Automatic Negative Thoughs (ANTS)” are and I try to crush them when I see them arise.
I realize that I have many automatic negative thoughts –particularly in the realm of “mind reading.” Many times I will assume that people are thinking things which, in reality, they are not. I have come to be aware of just how inaccurate my perceptions of what others are thinking are. I now recognize that it is helpful for me to have reminders (both internal and external) to help keep me from making inaccurate and potentially detrimental assumptions about others. I still struggle in this area.
Since I did not get into graduate school as early as I would have liked, I decided to pick up the department chair’s book and read it, anyway. The book is excellent –a wonderful blend of how you can use improv as therapy. The book has me very excited to start the drama therapy program –and now I feel as though I’ll have a little leg up from having read the main teacher’s book.
Having Kristin in my life has challenged me in new and exciting ways: I have a completely re-designed stream line view of aesthetics that I find more satisfying. I have matured my professionalism and desire to achieve in my career. I have re-examined my connection with my family and found a more comfortable direction to go in my experience of fitting in. I have re-examined my family history and the way that it has formed the man I am today –including how it affects my relationships with others. And finally, I am venturing into uncharted territory with our relationship because I am ready to be fully available and I’m hoping to find mutual love.
This year, with the help of Myers-Briggs, it has really come into focus that I am primarily an internalized person. I can spend hours inside my own head and be sufficiently entertained. This affects my perception of time –when I go in my head time feels as though it speeds up (this is helpful when I have to wait for things like public transportation or doctor appointments (of which I have had plenty of in the past year.)) Where my being “internally preferenced” causes difficulties, however, is when I get triggered or upset and I tend to withdraw and shut down to the outside world. My ability to mange interpersonal interactions gets retarded when I am under stress.
My job has had me working with, and learning about somatic therapy, a therapy that examines how internal states affect our emotions and behaviors. Somatic psychology has illuminated new awareness of stress and anxiety that exists within my clients and also, to my surprise, within myself to a heightened degree. By looking at my own internal physiological symptoms of negative emotions (stress, fear, anger, sadness) it has been revealed that my baseline emotional state is one of elevated anxiety. Since this realization I have started medication to help me address and facilitate a leveling-out of my baseline state. I have been supplementing my medication (or vice versa?) with stress reduction skills and cognitive restructuring (CBT as I mentioned above) –the very tools that I work to empower my clients with.
In addition to anti-anxiety medication (which I just started in December), I have had very successful results with taking anti-ADHD medication for the past several months. It would seem that I was correct in my suspicion that, for most of my life, I’ve struggled with reading and remaining organized –an occurrence which has made me feel resentful towards education and task-oriented achievement. In the relief of some of my focusing difficulties, I feel as though I have developed superhuman abilities to complete tasks. While this has greatly helped my self-esteem, it would seem that, at times, being a “task-terminator” has begun to cause me harm. In the thrill of being better able to “get things done” I’ve over compensated to the point where I feel anxiety when I’m not checking things off my to-do list. At times I have found it challenging, now, to relax and simply spend time with the people I care about. This realization has gone into my decision to investigate medication as a way to help reduce my baseline anxiety.
I love blogging and I have missed it. It has been immensely satisfying to start blogging again. Thank you, Mono, for giving me the idea to investigate re-starting a blog. (2006 being the last time I kept a blog.) I have also gotten a lot of positive feedback for my writing and that really makes me feel good. I still struggle (as I am sure you can tell by now) to keep things short and simple. I keep two blogs: one for my self development and one for my love of movies, tv, internet, books, and other media.
I really love movies and TV and one of my greatest joys is using media as a means to explore myself and my perceptions of the world. I feel accomplished and actualized when I write about such experiences in my media blog. While there is a part of me that yearns to make films, my recent exploration of dramatherapy, it would seem, has revealed that perhaps I can achieve the same satisfaction that I imagine filmmaking would give by helping people work through their difficulties in a theatrical and playful environment. Heck –it is even conceivable that once I’m established I can help others make films about the challenges that they are facing!
This past year I was able to re-connect with one of my close friends to work on my first ever official drama therapy project: A self-revelation project wherein a main actor creates a live theatre piece to process through current difficult psychological content. The experience was challenging on many angles –but, as expected, the rewards turned out to be more plentiful than any setback. Helping my friend with her self-revelation project illuminated areas where I continue to struggle in my relationships with women. I was able to unearth a hidden dynamic which has been adversely operating in my life in a detrimental way that I was, before now, unaware of.
The dynamic that I speak of helped me to see how -and perhaps why- I idealize certain women, why I frequently seem to not reach my own expectations, and why (partly, at least) there has always been some illusive force holding my back from a more fulfilling life. Where I have practically demonized certain people from my life –I have neglected to note the human flaws of others. Seeing this more clearly will help me to move forward in a more realistic and balanced way. With awareness and forgiveness I will continue on.
In closing, the words of my former therapist come to mind: “The road we are given in life will always turn out to be the best road for us to take.” With these words, we can all take peace in knowing that the challenges that lay ahead aim merely to shape us all into stronger, more content people. And so, with my deepest sincerity, I wish due prosperity for you and all the people of the world. “Let’s do this!”