Leaning into the Emotion (Also known as I Hate Change)

Today was my last day of my internship. This sounds like a celebratory thing, doesn’t it? I feel like that would make sense, because people keep asking me how I feel. Am I excited? Is it awesome to be done?

I’m just going to be honest. It’s really cool that I made it through a year as a school psychologist intern. I’m proud of that. But no, I’m not excited to be done.

I’m sad.

This has been building ever since I graduated last month and my team surprised me with a basket full of gifts, a “school psychologist survival kit” if you will. That day, I broke down crying in J’s office because I knew that change was coming.

Part of it is that I still don’t know what the future is going to look like for me. I am waiting to hear whether or not I will be offered a job that I made it to the second round of interviews for. The stakes feel high here, and I don’t really have a plan if this one doesn’t pan out yet because I don’t have any other interviews scheduled right now and everything else I’ve interviewed for has been filled. Did I mention that I’m competing against my best friend for this job?

So yes, that’s weighing on me. I am oscillating between feeling like bad news is right around the corner and feeling hopeful that they will pick me, between just about to tip over the edge and stable. I hate this waiting game. Schools shouldn’t be allowed to put us through this.

That’s not all of it though. I think the bigger part was knowing that after today, it would never be like this again. I was blessed with a team that I loved working with. My supervisor, the learning disabilities consultant, and the social worker were each wonderful in their own way. I took something different away from working with them, learned different skills.

I’ve been working with my supervisor on and off for three years. He mentored me through all of my practicums and I’ve learned so much from him. I respect him as a school psychologist and I really like him as a person. Our personalities meshed well and we spent so much time joking around.

So many times recently, I tried to insist that I would stay in touch with all of them. We’ve made assurances that we will have lunch, that I will text them with updates on the job search.

The truth is though, no matter if that happens, it will not be the same. There is quite an age difference between myself and them, so I can’t imagine spending too much time with them outside of the walls of work. They have families and responsibilities. And now we do not have work to connect us anymore.

I knew all day that I was living my life as an intern on borrowed time and once I walked out that door it all changed. Which made me so sad, because for all the stress and questioning of my own abilities, I really loved my internship overall.

Not only that, but these are the schools I went to as a kid. This is the district that taught me for thirteen years before welcoming me back as a graduate student.  There’s a personal connection there.

I went in this morning and just soaked it up. I joked around with my teammates, we went across the street to where the intermediate school was having a fair day and played games with the kids. Then we came back and got ice cream. My colleagues teased me about being a “quitter.” Eventually, it was time to part ways. I gave everyone hugs and made it out the door and to the car before I burst into tears.

I let myself cry the whole way to my babysitting job. Being with the girls reenergized me, gave me a distraction, but the sadness is back again now. As I type this, I’m feeling my eyes well with tears.

I’m heartbroken to leave. I really am. And it’s killing me.

I’m not used to letting myself feel my pain. It feels counterproductive to healing for me to express anger or sadness or fear, even though I know instinctively that they need to come out. When emotions threaten to rise, I stuff them back down.

Except J tells me that I need to give myself permission to feel. She tells me this all the time, and I’m trying to listen to her. But it hurts so much. It hurts to let the emotion work its way through your body. To feel without fighting it.

And I wonder, why is this such a necessary evil? Why do I have to feel pain to feel better. It makes no sense. I don’t want to let the feelings of loss and fear overwhelm me. Yet I am. It’s a brand new experience.

So the tears come. The sadness radiates. I’m sitting here waiting for it to get free of me so I might feel some relief.I’m sensitive enough as it is on a good day.When your emotions are as intense as mine, the wait to survive sadness like this is interminable.

Hopefully tomorrow I’ll wake up feeling better. I really hate change.

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Self-Love Challenge Day 23: My Support System

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It’s been forever since I made a post in respect to this challenge. In my defense, there has been a lot going on in my non-blog life. However, part of the reason that I haven’t been completing the prompts is because I haven’t felt like loving myself. I’d think about it, and I’d know what I could say, but my words didn’t feel genuine. I don’t want to write something that feels false to me because I can’t believe my own words.

I have promised myself that I will finish this challenge and I know that I will get there, even if it takes until July. No rushing, just letting it happen as it happens.

But in the meantime, I’m actually feeling somewhat optimistic about my ability to be kind to myself in this moment. So here we go, my support system:

  • J. My therapist of nearly two years. I am undeniably attached and perhaps idealize her too much in some moments. After all, I have never had someone make me feel as heard and safe as she does. We have our moments and issues, one of which I am currently sorting out my feelings about. However, J has proved time and time again that she genuinely cares about me and is in it for the long haul. Our working relationship has given me numerous insights and skills to better my life.
  • My parents. As the only child of two people from whom I am very different, my relationship with my parents is complicated. I harbor a lot of resentment towards them for not modeling the appropriate ways to exist in friendships, resolve conflict or deal with negative emotions (anger especially). We still navigate our differences daily, with many missteps. Despite all that, they are my parents. In their own way, they have always tried to support me, even if they don’t quite understand my mental illnesses. Whenever I’ve needed them, they’ve stepped up. There’s no question in my mind that they love me and I know that if the chips are down, I can count on them to be there.
  • My grandfather. He is strong-willed and cranky man who sees things very differently than I do, but I love him with all of my heart. We have spent so many hours together in the last three years since my Nana died and developed a close relationship in that time. While he will never be someone I confide in about the mental health stuff, I find that being in his presence almost always improves my mood.
  • My cousin. My cousin C is more of an older brother than a cousin. And like an older brother, I’ve always vied for his attention. We grew up only a few miles apart and were together for much of that time. He used to tease the hell out of me…and he still does sometimes. That’s what almost-brothers are for, right? But these days, I can also confide in him with things that I’d never tell my parents and know I’ve still got him in my corner. I don’t talk about the deep stuff with him too often, but I know that I can. I’m grateful for the relationship that’s grown between us.
  • Friends from graduate school. These are the five women that I have had nearly every class with since beginning my program. They are good people. They are maybe the first group of people I have had real functional relationships with. Unlike many of my friends from college, there is none of the gossip and drama. I’m sure part of that is a maturity thing, but I also feel like we are well-suited to each other. These are the people that have seen me in some pretty questionable states and have still stuck around. We’ve struggled through grad school together and it has bonded us. Now, they are my support through weekly phone calls and wine nights and after-internship smoothie dates. Although I often wish that there was a reciprocal communication about the more personal things, I confide in them some of the deep stuff when I can and have found that they’re worth the trust.
  • My supervisor, the LDTC, and the social worker. The three members of the intermediate child study team, with whom I work closest. Each has been a mentor for me in their own way and helped me develop my skills. When I’m stuck on a problem at work, they are the ones I go to get perspective. I’ve found that each of them has their own set of strengths for me to learn from, from how to be an effective problem-solver, to collecting data, to working with parents. I really enjoy working with them.
  • H & S: The two little girls I babysit. Although they are not a support system in the traditional sense, they are valuable people in my life because they provide a sense of purpose. I get to be a member of their support system, for which I am repaid with the opportunity to watch them grow and experience some of their contagious magical laughter.
  • All of you. The people that I have met on WP have been far and away some of the most inspirational and insightful I’ve had the privilege to interact with. I’ve learned so much about myself from reading other blogs. And I have been gifted a sense of solidarity with those I follow and who follow me. The value of knowing I can post about something that is deeply personal and receive validation and understanding cannot be overstated. I’m grateful for the support system I have here.

I was actually surprised how many different people I came up with on this list. There are others in my life too. A couple friends from my undergrad, another one of my cousins, members of my cohort.

What I really want to do to strength my support system is to expand it. I’ve spoken before about wanting to make more friends. That’s actually on a list of goals that I just made is to expand my social network. Even if these aren’t friends that I talk to about truly personal things, I think that the support of different people with different perspectives could be really helpful.

I’ve found in the past that different friends provide support in varying ways. Some friends are good at making me laugh, others can see things from a very logical point of view, and others are great for venting. The more people I can add to my support system, the greater the continuum of support.

And I’d like to strengthen the relationship I have with my parents. The issues are complicated there for sure. I think that I can only accept support from them once I learn to stop resenting them for not living up to my expectations and not having the same values I do. I’m not there yet, but I’m trying. Like I said, I love them.

Most of all, what I’m working on in therapy is becoming my own support system. That self-care box I made the other day was one way of trying to help myself and be there for myself. J told me yesterday that I am incredibly good at being harsh or mean to myself. Obviously, this isn’t the goal. The goal is learning kindness and truly believing that the kindness is deserved.

Don’t they always say that you have to love yourself so others can love you? Well, that’s what I am going to try to do.

The Price of Absent Boundaries

$325

That is the amount, give or take, that I have spent on the two little girls that I babysit since September. It equals what I would make in roughly seven days of working for them. Which means that I have essentially paid to be their babysitter for seven days.

I’m seriously embarrassed to admit this. It came as quite a shock when I added it all up today, so please no judging me.

This money has gone into birthday and Christmas gifts, treats on Halloween and Valentine’s Day. It’s gone into the candy I’ve bought for scavenger hunts. The keychain I bought H when she came off the bus crying after a classmate stole hers. Holiday window clings that I bribed S with so she would just go to bed.

My spending is often something that happens in the spur of the moment. I’ll suddenly have an idea for something cute to do for them, get really excited about it, and head to the store or make an Amazon purchase before I can think twice about it.

So why have I chosen spent that amount of money on them, you ask? As much as the girls love the fun surprises, they certainly haven’t asked me for these things. Their parents don’t ask me to do it either. I do it because I love them and want them to feel special. The money has almost always paled in comparison to their faces when they see that there is another scavenger hunt awaiting them or that there is a fun surprise on their desks. In that moment, it has always been worth it.

Part of this is my impulsivity. Spend now, entertain the excitement, regret later. Part of this is the fact that I have always communicated my love in gifts. Not just to the girls, but to anyone in my life. Gifts speak my affection more easily than words. Is this me trying to make sure they still love me? That’s ridiculous to admit, but maybe.

There’s also the mental barometer I’ve spoken about before that drives me to purchase a certain combination of items before I feel satisfied in the quality of the gift and can relax. That doesn’t help.

Sometimes I tell myself things to make me feel better. Their mom pays me even for days off. Like when they went on vacation. By taking her money and spending it on her kids, I’m basically breaking even! I also tell myself things like: Money is just money. If I choose to spend it on H & S, then that’s my choice and I can stand by it. What’s so bad about loving two kids I spend almost every day with?

The truth is though, I think it’s worth coming face to face with the fact that some of the reason I’m so willing to spend my money on children I’m paid to take care of, all love aside, is because I don’t have appropriate boundaries in place.

I mentioned the other day that I have an issue with projecting my attachment needs on the family I babysit for. They are a happy, functioning family that provides their children with a space to make mistakes and the opportunity to have and constructively deal with feelings anger. When I see them interact, I grieve the childhood experiences I did not have. Being around them feels comfortable for me. And so same way that I accuse J of “not caring enough,” I frequently feel saddened at the knowledge that I cannot and will never be a part of their family. No matter how much they like me and how much I am around, I am separate from them.

But! Part of me will try to reason. I’m just showing them that I care and that they are important. How is that bad?

When I was younger, from the time I was in my early teens, I didn’t think there was such a thing as caring too much. Caring was a good thing! It meant that I was doing things that showed my affection for someone. It meant that I was prioritizing them. Someone who cares is a good person!

Reading that back, the BPD thing really shouldn’t have come as such a surprise to me. But anyway…

I think that allowed myself to care so much, with such a distinct longing to be a part of this family,  that I’ve neglected to keep the boundaries in place that I promised myself would be there. They were there, in the beginning, but I’ve let them slip.

J and I talked recently about how it wasn’t something that happened consciously. Babysitting is a job, but with a very personal undertone. When you spend hours and hours in someones home, tending to their children, the lines get blurred. That manifests as me staying 20 or even 30 minutes later than I’m supposed to sometimes, just because the girls and I are doing something. And it manifests as spending money.

This was a problem with the family I used to nanny for last summer, too. Only instead of spending money, I was neglecting my basic needs or eating or drinking just to make sure the kids got fed and got what they needed. And I was sharing too much of my personal life. I’ve worked on those boundaries, and now I need to work on these.

I can love these girls and I can develop a positive relationship with their parents, but I stand firm with the boundaries set in place. It’s a kindness to myself, respecting and prioritizing my own needs first and foremost.

That means if I need to be out the door at 6:30, I make an effort to get there, because my time is important too. That means that if I want to plan a scavenger hunt, and really feel the need to spend money, I need to budget appropriately and stick to it. None of this going overboard thing anymore.

They are not my family. There is a level of distance that needs to be kept, for my own mental sanity.

At the very least, my wallet will thank me.

Change is Coming

Everything in the future that makes me anxious is coming.

I know that it’s coming and I can’t stop it. As happy as I am to finally, finally be on my well-earned break, I know that as soon as real life resumes next week, life is about to get pretty crazy.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about finishing my portfolio, so that I can apply for national certification. I’m talking about finishing my assignments, so that I can pass my class. I’m talking about updating my resume and practicing interview skills, so that I can apply for jobs.

Namely, I’m talking about applying for jobs.

I’ve been putting it off. My friends look at online job postings, purely out of curiosity. My supervisor alerts me to districts that will be looking. People like to talk about it. A lot, it seems. I don’t. Every time someone wants to talk about jobs, I completely shut down. I’ve been bringing the conversation to a grinding halt with these words: Not until after break. 

After break I will start pushing myself more at internship. After break I will figure out what the hell goes into making a portfolio. After break I will find the time to see the career center to critique a CV or resume. After break I will learn how and where to look for jobs. After break I’ll start figuring things out, so that I have an idea of where to go to develop a future in this career.

Well, guess what? That all was fine and dandy when it was October or November or even two weeks ago. But it’s about to be after break now and I’m starting to freak out.

I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to be at the starting point. I dread Sunday nights because the prospect of a whole week’s responsibilities ahead of me overwhelms me to the point of an internal meltdown. So can you imagine what having all of this awaiting me once January 2nd rolls around is doing to me?

Well, right now not much because I’m still pretending it’s not happening. But in a few days the anxiety is going to be crippling.

There’s just so much to do on top of everything I’ve already been doing. I know how mentally and physically draining it is going to be. Maybe if I knew how the hell to do a portfolio or what I need for my resume then that would ease the burden a bit, but I’m completely clueless. I don’t want to devote my already little free time to figuring any of this out.

I’m good at planning and organizing. I’m great at compiling different pieces of information from various sources. What needs to get done always gets done. I know have the work ethic to make sure the pieces fall into place the way they need to. It’s just going to be a lot.

Day by day. That’s going to be my mantra. Hopefully it’ll let me sleep a little more peacefully.

The worst of it is the fear. Fear of the unknown. What if I don’t get a job? What if all my friends get jobs except for me? I literally do not have a plan B. What if I get a job and I’m terrible at it? How am I going to do this all on my own? Sure, things are getting easier at my site, but I’m still completely supervised. How will things change when I’m in a brand new district with new programs, new teachers and a new team? I’m going to have to fend for myself. What if I screw that up?

You can see how this is a lose lose situation. Even if I win, and by win I mean I get a job, there are going to be some serious feelings to deal with. Insecurities to overcome as I navigate independence in my chosen career. There is very little that will calm the storm of these fears but actually getting through and living the experience.

So that begs another, very important question. What if I get a job and I have to move somewhere far away from my therapist?

The transition into internship pushed me to a whole new low, an amalgam of anxiety, hopelessness, insecurity and a depression so deep that I was actively thinking about the potential for suicide as I adjusted to my new schedule and new role.   I only just recently emerged from that hell and come next year, it’s going to start again. I don’t think that I can face that without help. Without her. She already knows everything about me and I don’t know that I’d be interested in starting over with someone else in addition to everything else. I’m currently just telling myself I’ll cross that bridge if it comes, but part of my brain registers the thought intermittently. And it’s a terrifying one.

I’m scared. Change is coming and I can’t avoid it. Can’t pretend it’s in the distant future. I have to face it head on. There will be support, people helping me figure it out. But ultimately, I’m on my own.

 

A Letter to My Therapist

Dear Therapist,

18 months ago today I sat in your waiting room. Restlessly tapping my foot. Unsure of what was to come. I had been told repeatedly by friends that I needed to seek help, that it was the best choice for me. And I hoped, desperately, that therapy would mean change, growth, happiness. But I was still skeptical. Anxious beyond words. Fighting every impulse not to flee.

Then you came out of your office. I couldn’t back out anymore. I was going to have to commit to this. So our work together began.

It was awkward at first. You were a complete stranger to me and I couldn’t imagine an hour of talking about my most vulnerable thoughts with you (or with anyone, really). Somehow though, I did it. That week and many others.

What I don’t think I’ve ever told you is that, while trust took time, I had a sense of comfort immediately with you. I had liked you when we spoke on the phone, but I knew after about three minutes of talking to you in person that I wanted to come back again. You made me feel safe.

You still do.

I think back on that now and I am amazed by how much has changed.  I think about how I went in there expecting to tell you all the ways I was falling short, to have you provide avenues to fix me. Because I certainly felt broken. Your reaction to all those things? You are too hard on yourself. 

You’d think that might have been obvious to me, but it wasn’t. When I told my friend you said that, and she laughed at me. Gee, you think? 

My awareness of what I tell myself has since drastically shifted. I have learned new methods of self-talk. I have begun to give my permission to make mistakes, to allow room for imperfection. Sometimes I still need to be reigned in and reminded when the harshness starts to take over, but I think we could both agree that the general tone of that inner voice has become kinder and more accepting of my own struggles. I have absolved myself from some of the guilt of not meeting my own ridiculously high standards.

Related to patterns of thinking, my awareness of black-and-white thinking has also grown. The amount of times I catch myself splitting things into dichotomies (a good/bad day, a good/bad friend) can be a little crazy. I have learned that healing isn’t an all or nothing thing, but a path of gradual growth, a series of successes and wins. It includes setbacks, relapses, periods of feeling the lowest of low. I have started to celebrate those wins where I can. Therapy has shown me the grey area, and empowered me to search for it myself.

Our relationship has given me an outlet for dealing with my issues in attachment, in relying on other people to validate my feelings, and never feeling like the support they had to give was enough. I have learned how to be there for myself, how to sit with my feelings and contain them. I have strategies now to self-soothe and am better at turning inward for emotional validation. It’s a complicated issue, one we both know is far from completely resolved, but the progress is there without a doubt. I am proud to say it is getting easier to survive that chunk of time between each session.

The list doesn’t end there. I now communicate my feelings and needs to family. I have resolved issues with certain friends that I had been holding onto for years. I have explored and tried to overcome relationship issues. I am working on curbing my impulsive, dangerous behaviors: the self-harm, drinking too much, reckless spending.

I am making steps towards dealing with the uncomfortable feeling I get when things are feeling good or better. Not fighting it. Persisting in the face of that uneasiness.

Because of therapy, I have a label to describe facets of my personality that I thought were just character flaws dooming me to a life of misery and challenges no one could understand. That label which paved the way for forgiveness for some cycles of behavior that have been present since I was a teenager. I appreciate that you were willing to discuss BPD with me, knowing you don’t like labels, because some of that isolation and loneliness vanished. That conversation gave me a community of people who put words to feelings I had never been able to describe. It gave me this blog, where I started developing my own words. Words that you’ve called powerful. Words that have enhanced what we do in session together.

We have come a long we since that first night. It hasn’t always been easy. In fact, it rarely is. But our time together has proven repeatedly that it is worth the effort.

The roadblocks are still there, I still deal with thoughts of being unworthy, a failure, a messed up and terrible person. You know this. On the whole though, I have a better sense of my own identity, what I value, what I want out of life. I am moving closer towards valuing that person, liking her, even thinking that she is deserving of a good life. I am moving closer to making decisions for me and not to make someone else happy. And you are the person that is helping get me there.

We have had our struggles. Miscommunications. Differences in opinion. I still deal with feelings about our relationship and boundaries that are difficult to discuss. The nature of being human, I suppose. There will always be things to navigate, but I believe that we can continue to navigate them as long as we continue to work together.

Thank you for taking whatever I threw at you, never flinching. Thank you for gently reassuring me that you were in it for the long haul, both with words and with actions. Thank you for validating, not judging, my thoughts and feelings. Thank you for your silly metaphors, because they always stick with me and always make me laugh. Thank you for showing me a strength I didn’t know I had, for helping me tap into it. Thank you for giving me a safe space, and for being my support person, nearly every week for 18 months now.

I hope that you understand what a profound difference you have made in my life. I hope you know that I appreciate it, I recognize it. I know how therapy has changed me, in so many ways, even on days when that is very difficult to see.

I genuinely believe you have saved my life in some ways. Or helped me save myself. I think you would like it better if I framed it that way.

I remember how once you told me that you were very glad we met. I hope you still feel that way, because I am glad too. No matter what the future brings us, I deeply respect you and value what we have done together in these 18 months.

And I am so, so very grateful.

The Pickle Jar

One of the many things that I love about therapist is that she is absolutely crap at metaphors. Whenever she tries to think up something on the fly, it usually ends up making no sense and sending us both into laughter. I’ve found that her attempts at metaphors usually just end up being one of those genuine moments of connection between us. Maybe because it makes her seem a little more human. I love that she tries (and fails) to create these metaphors often.

Therapist may not always strike gold with metaphors, but sometimes she offers one that is exactly what I need. It’s one of those golden moments that has stuck with me for months after she first said it.

Ladies and gentleman, have you heard of the pickle jar?

The metaphor of the pickle jar illustrates how our environment can so gradually cause us to absorb it’s beliefs and values if we aren’t vigilant to it. Imagine a pickle jar with pickles inside. Now, a cucumber goes into the pickle juice. At the start it’s different than it’s pickle counterparts, but it slowly transforms into one of them as the pickle juice invades it. After that, you can’t tell which one was the cucumber before, no matter how hard you look.

Sound familiar?

When she told me this, I felt like it encapsulated my experience living in this house. I talk about the blame game I play with my parents. I talk about my fantasized escapes to a different life.

I’ve noticed more and more lately how the atmosphere of being at home can pervade my thoughts. If things are calm, if I am home alone, I have a much easier time existing here. Sometimes everyone is busy with their own thing or we’re laughing at an old cartoon and I’m at ease. But unfortunately, that is not always the case. When there is yelling, complaining, negativity or if there is any contention between us about boundaries, that’s when my emotions start to build up. I’ll begin itching to get away, physically and mentally, from the space that I’m in.

There’s another thing that happens though; it’s the sneaky thought spiral a la the pickle jar. A lot more negativity and judgement: towards my parents, towards myself, towards others. Less satisfaction with who I am and where I am in my life. Easier anger and the impulse to explode.

For years, this was my primary environment. It was all I knew. And as I grew up within it, I took on the qualities that were ever present around me. I learned my father’s work ethic, my mother’s loyalty to family. I got Dad’s love of Christmas and mom’s skill in organization. On the flip, I also learned anger as a coping mechanism, I learned strict perfectionism, I learned to expect the worst from people. I was extremely negative in view. And guess what? I had a lot of mental health problems that for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to fix. There were flaws the size of Alaska in my thinking, but my parents and I, of the same mindset, weren’t going to catch them.

Then I went to college. Three things happened. 1. My relationship with my parents drastically improved 2. I realized that there were other life perspectives and 3. I learned where the flaws were.

As I was exposed to this new environment, I fell in love with the liberal arts culture and the headspace of psychology. My classes taught me to be able to open my mind to different perspectives (or to even understand that there were other perspectives). Many of these new ideas suited me and I learned what I had always valued in people but never been able to express. I still struggled with depression and anxiety; it still resulted in many many relationship issues. But at the same time, studying psychology helped me realize where the gaps were between my thinking and theirs. I learned terms like rumination, black and white thinking, cognitive behavior therapy. I started applying it to my own patterns of thinking. It gave me the courage to seek help for the first time. And though my relationship with that therapist was short, I don’t know that I could have done it if I hadn’t had my own space to explore the option.

I grew as a person when deferred my own space to find out who I was and what I believed. Because we had the space to grow separately, I found myself able to appreciate the parts of my parents that I love and make the most of phone calls and visits home. I remember coming home the first year to the smell of mom’s cooking, the sound of her favorite music, and seriously enjoying that dinner with both of them. I was home for short enough intervals that I didn’t feel like I had to compromise who I was to mesh well with them. We just did it. I miss that feeling.

Then I came home for graduate school, with all of those different values and beliefs bursting at the seams.  In the pickle jar again, old habits crept up quickly. Although I had some new tools that buffered the negativity some, it wasn’t long before I was back into periods of depression again and emitting the negativity of the past.

This time, I added something different in the mix. Therapy round 2. Therapist became a source of support almost immediately; I very quickly started a positive transformation as she taught me skills leaps and bounds beyond what I’d known. And my picture of who I was and what I needed became even stronger. The problem? Home no longer felt like it fit me and I felt suffocated. It wasn’t long before our differences seemed to push us miles apart.

This is still a struggle, every day. Parents aren’t who I need them to be at any given moment. I feel resentment. Subtle tension escalates from both sides.

I think part of the reason I have so much trouble letting go of my feelings of blame towards my parents is because I’m still in the center of their world all the time. As much as this is my home, it’s more the realm of my childhood than my adulthood. When I’m here, I feel like a kid. I feel like there’s not as much freedom to express or advocate for myself because I’m living under their roof. Plus, the alienation or disappointment I can feel from having my needs dismissed is so much greater when I can’t physically leave after a confrontation.

I’m emotionally ready to go, to strike out on my own. But I can’t. That leaves me stranded in the pickle jar, fighting against it. Fighting against them, in essence. And emotions build and build until I implode. I hate it.

Some days, I think that the pickle jar goes beyond my home to my whole neighborhood. Some days, I think if I could just get away and start fresh, everything would change. This is an idealization, of course, but I do think there are a lot of opportunities for growth in my own home in a new town.

I think that sometimes being where you’ve always been is an impediment; if you’re comfortable in your environment you don’t take risks and that’s when progress is least likely to find you. I love my town for many reasons, but there’s a certain level of boredom here. Every inch of it has been explored and that leaves me where? Stagnant. I was the kid who moved her bedroom around every other month because I needed a change. And so I look forward to a year from now when I can truly break out of the pickle jar and see what happens.

Until then? Well, here I am. Thankfully, I’m also realizing that therapist and her office are their own type of pickle jar. That pickle juice is built of kindness, reframing, positive evidence, acceptance of mistakes, and most of all, healing. Ever so slowly, I’m transforming in its likeness.And I think that’s a great change to make. 5bfa2fd0470e5deecb954e71e258b63e--salt-water-pools-biology-jokes