dancing with the unknown

Sometimes I curl up in the dark night, wrap myself up with my own arms, and whisper lonesome-ly… “What do you want, baby girl?”

I stare into the darkness and wish it could stare back. In the way that the roots stare at the dirt, willing the nutrients to budge from those grains up into their tendrilled stalks. Looking for sustenance.

Uncertainty loves me like it loves wild things. Like it loves the open plains of Kansas, unzipping them from east to west with space, everywhere. Too much space until the glut of space drives one to the edge. It’s this teetering edge that holds me tight, the uncertain forces of maps and lines and attachments from all directions.

Here’s the thing: all this flowy writing smacks of the indirect way to say: I’m scared. I am terrified because I don’t know what to do. And I don’t know what I want. I think I should have known long ago. This is only the rest of my life. Deciding on where to go to graduate school feels to me like deciding if you want to marry the boy. Especially in my field. Where you go to school is many times where you settle, because licensure in counseling is notoriously difficult to transfer from state to state.

So, I made a decision almost 5 years ago that was a mistake… and it was marrying the wrong boy. Does that help with this situation? No.

What makes this harder is that there are several pathways to becoming a therapist. You can go to school for licensed mental health counseling. Or social work. Or a masters in Clinical Psychology. Or a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. Or a doctorate in Counseling Psychology. Or a degree in Marriage and Family therapy. And there are few differences between each of these choices. The most blurry are the differences between licensed mental health counseling and social work. Which one do I choose? Do I want more research base (clinical psych)? Do I want the flexibility of a doctorate? Or the extended flexibility of a social work degree (and higher wage)? Do I just want to be a plain regular counselor with training in trauma work?

WHAT DO I WANT?

This is what I lay in bed and ask myself at night.

I have applied to 5 schools. And I still don’t know if I applied to the ‘right’ places or am going in the right direction. I feel like I’m driving in the dark without any headlights on… which, on a country road at night, is gorgeous and exhilarating yet suffocating.

I’m almost nauseatingly uncertain and I know the spiritual answers but it doesn’t take it away. I visited school no. 2 yesterday and I think it made things worse… so now I’m right in the crosshairs of an existential crisis.

But I graduate in 2 days. I take my last undergraduate final tomorrow. So for now… it’s time to just be here and live these 2 days up.

Object Lessons

 I can tend to compulsively manage my life. I do this in three areas especially: finances, recovery, and school. If you’ve been reading this blog for a couple months, you know about the financial stress I put myself under. Each thing has its place, and each place has its thing. As I told my therapist in our session last week, my life is like a row of little boxes, spaced perfectly evenly. If I happen to knock one of them even 1/16 of an inch from its position, I have massive anxiety. In fact, this what what our entire session was about last week. The session got far more intense than even I expected, and more personal than I’m going to detail here.

Unsurprisingly, this week has been my object lesson.

It began Monday night, which was of course the night before I started my semester. Some recovery things came up where I wasn’t DOING MY RECOVERY PERFECTLY. Oh, and this did come up in the middle of the night, also.

For this situation, I texted a recovery friend the next morning, emailed my sponsor, and then had dinner with another recovery friend after a meeting that evening.  The consensus was clear – have compassion on yourself. All three of these individuals said that, and they hadn’t even talked to each other beforehand! Imagine.

The next day, I found out I had a massive problem with one of my classes that I am required to have to graduate; I was waitlisted, and all the caps were raised so it was absolutely impossible for me to get into a class. The associate dean of my department, who I just happen to be TAing for this semester, told me to go talk to some people about a portfolio I could submit in place of taking the class. She also very graciously gave me permission to use her name when I went and talked to them. I came away from the conversation with the student worker with an inconclusive answer, so I turned around and emailed the portfolio director, CC’ing the associate dean. Then I had to wait. Meanwhile I’d already decided to stop trying to get into the class and just enroll in something else, which caused me a lot of anxiety. But I made the decision based on the suggestion of the associate dean, choosing to trust someone higher up than myself. And I didn’t hear back from the director before I had to give up my internet connection (which I don’t have at home).

In the end, last night, when I could have been at my most anxious, I decided to do something new. I decided to trust powers bigger than myself. In this situation, that included the associate dean of my department, and my HP. I journaled my thoughts out. Then I turned the lights off and did compassion (metta) meditation until I fell asleep less than 5 minutes later.

Normally, when I am anxious about something, it keeps me up for hours and I have to take melatonin to sleep. It’s amazing what happens for me when I decide to let it go and trust that I am not the only one in charge of my life.

Needless to say, when I checked my email yesterday morning, my school issues were all worked out, and my schedule is now better than before. I am able to take a much funner class than my prerequisite class, actually. A class called Wellness, Resilience, and Emotional Intelligence. Irony, anyone? 🙂

What do you do when your anxiety takes over? How do you calm yourself down?

Rhythms

The past 2 days have been “down days” for me. I’ve been trying to keep track of when I feel depressed, to get an idea if there’s a rhythm or flow to it. It seemed to have more of a PMDD feel to it; but this isn’t PMDD. I’m wondering if it cycles every 2 weeks or so, because that’s what it’s starting to look like.

In part, I know it’s because I’m overwhelmed. Having finals, and then starting an intense 2 week class right after might not have been the best idea for me. But it seemed better to me than taking a class on Saturdays all semester.

I’m also really struggling on my self care. What doesn’t help is that I’m having to dip into my emergency savings until I get my summer student loans. So I feel insecure about money, too. It’s somewhat without reason, because I do have other savings built up for myself besides the emergency savings. But I’d really like to use that savings to go on another trip, not to live on.

Yet, I can’t decide if I should be using it right now for self care.

I really need to be doing yoga on a more consistent basis. I notice that it makes a massive difference in my mental state. If anything, I need to buy a yoga membership. It doesn’t make sense to buy it this week though when I’m going on vacation next week.

I am also realizing that I don’t feel like my life is fun. I go a lot of places alone and I don’t like it. I find myself at coffee shops, alone. I hike alone. It’s really kind of sucky. I want to find more fun things to do with other people. I’ve been meaning to go to City Rock and climb. I really need to work on having fun; I just don’t do it enough. And it needs to involve other people besides me.

It seems like life is always like this. I go through rhythms of realizing that I need more consistent self care. I start seeing the damage it’s doing not to have it. And then I have to adjust. Kind of like a surfer moving through the waves. The surfer reads the waves and adjusts their board to the flow.

I’m over here working on that… adjusting to the flow of my waves. I’m just having a hard time reading what they’re telling me right now.

How are you all adjusting to your “waves” right now? How do you adjust your self care when you need to? And how do you determine whether to adjust or not? Would love to hear from you!