Friday, March 1, 2019

Look back but don't forget to also look within...


I started writing this post in December.  Year end, a time when I was feeling the need to take a moment to look back.  I wasn’t writing it as a “New Year’s resolution list” but am now realizing that ironically I am finishing and publishing it at a time when most people have usually already dropped the resolutions that they had set at the beginning of the year.  I wanted to take the time to identify what I have learned in 2018.  And I wanted to set intentions for 2019.  I prefer “intentions” to “resolutions” even if the word  doesn’t make me as accountable.  And I like being less accountable because no matter what I can’t fail, I can only learn.

Last year was certainly a milestone number year given that I turned 50 in September.  Usually not one to be impressed with birthdays, this one seemed very different.  It’s pretty mind-blowingly incredible when I think about it for a person to manage to stay alive for half a century.  When I was younger, I always assumed that I would grow old, but with every birthday I now realize that is in no way a given even if I do everything right.  Losing my friend Derrick Keith this fall was a bitter reminder of this.  I am grateful to have known you Derrick.  RIP my friend.


I have been seeing a psychologist regularly for a few years now.  At first it was  to deal with Adele’s Diabetes diagnosis.  Then 2 years ago I went to see someone new to help me with my concussion recovery.  The discussion strangely went from hitting my head to my many unresolved issues as a sexual abuse survivor.  My current psychologist was the first that suggested I needed to work on this.  That was one of the gifts that came from hitting my head.  If I had never crashed and suffered such a debilitating injury that literally brought me to my knees I am absolutely certain that I would not have done all the work to help heal my sexual abuse.  It blows me away sometimes how life works.  Whenever I take the time to look back, I always notice things lining up logically for me to learn and grow.  I don’t believe that there is a superior being up there somewhere calling the shots but I do believe that there is some type  of universal intelligence that exists that has our back and will guide and give us everything that we need in order to evolve and flourish. We need to look for it and then figure out what we’re supposed to learn.  And for this reason I am very grateful for my ever so slow post-concussion syndrome progress which has given me plenty of time to think and reflect.  Going through one of the most difficult periods of my life has also caused me to re-emerge on the other end more whole that I have felt in a very long time.

The whole concept of psychotherapy is very simple when you think about it.  It’s really just about telling your story to someone that you can trust and have no emotional attachment to.  Everyone has a story worth telling.  Everyone.  What happens is that whenever we chronicle the traumatic events in our life and hear our own words out loud we learn something.  Explaining the event makes us think about the details and enables us to step back and look at the big picture.  And eventually we start connecting the dots.  And the clarity that ensues is so very freeing.  In my unconscious mind, the details of my sexual abuse were so very convoluted, all mixed up.  Only by going back and getting into these details could I begin to understand how this trauma continued to affect me today.  And by understanding “why” I was deprogramming the fear and shame-based automated responses that I had unconsciously adopted since then.  Only by talking openly about difficult things can we begin to heal.  I couldn’t heal by avoiding the pain anymore.  I just had to step into my shit and work my way “through” it.

2018 was the year that I went public with my sexual abuse story.  As scary as it was, I am very happy and grateful for that.  To now be able to talk about it openly has been so very liberating but there are still a few steps remaining for me to become even more at peace.  My intentions for 2019 are to continue to work towards as much closure as I can get from this whole thing and make things as right as they can be at this point.

Through lots of self-reflection the past few years, I have gotten much better at identifying my feelings.  Like most males, I was taught to mask what was going on inside of me making me pretty much always clueless to what I was feeling.  I’d be in a bad mood and have no idea why.  I’m getting better at connecting with my feelings, definitely not perfect, but better.  I often know and understand where the unpleasant feelings are coming from.  And that’s the first step in freeing myself from their grip.  In 2019 I really want to practice expressing these feelings and letting them flow.  I remember as a kid feeling so much better after a good cry.  Why is it that most adults, especially males, have lost this ability to cry it out?  It’s sad that we don’t feel safe to express our feelings through tears.  We repress the urge so very much that eventually it becomes inaccessible even when we’re in a safe situation and place where it would be totally OK to shed tears.  In 2019 I would like to tap into this again.  In 2019, I would like to be able to cry more.  Some days, when I feel like shit I wish I could just isolate myself somewhere safe, either alone or with someone I can trust and cry it out.  I want to reprogram the automated response of keeping it all in.  I want to be able to let my shit flow through my tears.  Our emotions need to be processed before we can move on.  We need to feel it and pick ourselves up again when we’re ready.  It’s called grief and it’s not just for healing the loss of a person that we cared who has died.  

Surrendering to 2019 ! (Photo credit Don Ricker

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I also changed my diet in 2018.  I set an intention to cut carbs and over a year later I am still eating this way about 80 to 90 % of the time.  I wouldn’t call it a Keto diet since I still eat enough carbs to keep me out of ketosis.  I guess it would be closer to Paleo but I still eat yogurt and cheese (the Paleo diet doesn’t include any dairy at all).  I have pretty much cut pasta, rice, bread and starches.  I’ll “cheat” occasionally and will feel crappy when I do but most of the time I follow it religiously.  This dietary change was to help with my post-concussion syndrome recovery as well as being a role model for Adele (I truly believe that all Type 1s should be prescribed a low-carb diet to help control blood sugar in combination with insulin therapy which can’t be avoided with Type 1).  I lost 7 – 8 lbs and have kept it off.  I am leaner than I was when I raced bikes even if I am not even close to being as fit.  My intention for 2019 is to continue exploring this way of eating in order to continue to heal my brain and inspire Adele.

Did you make any resolutions (or intentions) for 2019?  Have you managed to keep them now that we are 2 months into the year?

Peace
Mike

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