Monday, March 2, 2015

i've got a fever

I'm loving that HEALTH is our focus for February and March. In my last post, I broke down how I'd been feeling for a few months in relation to authenticity and negative experiences that had come back to haunt me. Let's be real, it was pretty raw and very humbling to open up in that way. BUT it was very cathartic to get those feelings out, even it is just Brooke and I following this blog. I'd never been so honest with myself about my own self-confidence, levels of hope and optimism, lack of vision and perspective, and a few troubling experiences. I'd been plagued with the "fake it til you make it" attitude, which was getting in the way of true healing.

At the beginning of 2015, I put on my brave face and told my husband and parents everything, and I mean everything, I was feeling and where those feelings were rooted. It was terrifying, liberating, excruciating, and incredible all at the same time to share those deep, dark, less-than-pleasant feelings and experiences. Tears were shed, I used words I'd never thought I'd have to use to describe things that had happened, I was left exhausted in every way possible. But once I no longer felt I had to pretend everything was okay, I felt free--able to be myself and all of the good and bad that comes in that nice little package. I don't know that I've ever felt as honest and authentic as I felt that day, and to my surprise no one was unsettled by what I shared. It's been a long, challenging, tiresome path I've decided to take but I know in the end I will be more than pleased I chose this path. I have a daunting amount of healing to do, and I definitely have those days where it's too much to take, but I can already tell I'm headed in the right direction.

Okay, so back to this health thing, I've decided to focus on my mental and emotional health for these two months. I think mental health and/or mental illness is so hush-hush in our society, almost too much. No one wants to admit that these illnesses are common and treatable and should be approached like any other illness. I've been amazed at the number of people who, after I've opened up, have shared their struggles with mental and/or emotional health. I've gained my own strength from hearing their stories and learning about the steps they took towards recovery. It's so much more common than I ever realized!

For privacy reasons and out of self-respect, I will not be sharing personal details about my mental/emotional health journey on the world wide web. Perhaps when all is said and done, I will feel more confident and capable of doing such, but for now that is not the case. If you're sticking around in hopes of getting some juicy gossip, you won't find any here. I do, however, plan to document steps I've taken and resources I've used in my recovery process in hopes that someone else can gain insight and strength. Below is a list of websites you can browse if you're interested in learning more about mental health and mental health resources.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

National Institute of Mental Health

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Friday, January 9, 2015

so basically spirituality has taken a back seat

I'm one of those people Brooke mentioned that lumps spirituality with religion. I was born and raised LDS (learn about the LDS faith here) and, for the most part, have enjoyed my experience with the LDS church and its people. It has taught me skills and helped me cultivate values that have largely guided me in a direction I want my life to go. Honestly, everything good I have in life I can attribute to my being raised LDS. I think most people struggle with their values and beliefs at some point, and I've had a few small bouts of that, but I would consider myself to have a strong testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and everything that comes with it.

The months of focusing on authenticity opened the floodgates of many memories of negative experiences and all the feelings that come with them. I consider myself a strong individual who has handled many difficult situations with grace, putting my faith and trust in my Heavenly Father to make sure everything was happening for my good. I've taken advantage of Jesus Christ's Atonement to seek forgiveness of my wrong doings as well as to overcome weaknesses and feelings of doubt, insecurity, confusion, and lack of self-worth. However, I've spent the last three years avoiding something that has affected me much deeper and more strongly than I ever realized. That specific situation, combined with my personal and family history, has torn my feelings of self-worth and self-confidence to shreds. I was once a confident, outgoing introvert with a love for serving and teaching others. I loved to make those I love happy. I took many challenges head on and possessed a strength I cannot describe. Things that were difficult for me I either learned to accept or dealt with them until they were no longer difficult. I easily moved on from things that did not work out, knowing that something better was in my future. I did not doubt where my self-worth came from, whose daughter I truly was, and that everything in my life was "for a reason". I had a bright spark and love for life.

Fast forward to today. While I still love serving and teaching others, I no longer feel confident in my abilities to do so. I try my hardest to make others happy, but it's difficult to do when I'm not happy myself. I shy away from new challenges because I feel like I have enough on my plate. I let myself get consumed and overwhelmed with the simplest of tasks. I no longer possess the self-esteem of a woman who does not care what others think of her; instead, I constantly strive to meet others' standards of happiness and perfection, regardless of the cost. I feel weak and incapable. I'm missing my Katrina spark. I doubt myself and my abilities every single day, I question my self-worth, I no longer know that better things are ahead, and I don't understand why my life has taken certain paths. I'm no longer the woman I was, and it kills me to admit that.

Last week, my husband asked me when I've felt happiest and most like myself and I'm so glad he did! Every summer from high school graduation to my wedding was spent teaching teenagers about the gospel of Jesus Christ and the LDS church. Every day was spent in authentic and honest prayer, feasting on the scriptures, fasting for ourselves and others, participating in uplifting activities, and teaching lessons focused on Jesus Christ and His mission. The entire time I was surrounded by loving, accepting, enthusiastic friends who all had the same goal--to teach others the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. My entire focus was on Christ and how to make it back to Him.

I'm still filtering through the last three years to pinpoint exactly when, where, and why the changes in my demeanor took place. I have a feeling it's going to be quite the process. I'm enlisting outside help and trying my darnedest to open up so I can receive the help I so desperately need. I'm terrified of what the next few months have in store, but I'm also ecstatic to figure myself and my issues out. I'm thrilled to move on. I'm exhilarated to feel like me again, to get my Katrina spark back. Posts may be lacking, but know that blossoming is not.

Spirituality in a nutshell

So I will be the first to admit I'm never good at keeping up with things like this blog. Despite not blogging about it though, I have been focusing the last several weeks on spirituality (that is the topic Kat and I are focusing on lately) because it's one of the larger things on my mind lately. It's not that I haven't wanted to write about it, it's more I don't have the words to explain the thoughts that have been rolling around in my head and I'm a little worried people will misunderstand what I'm trying to say, but oh well...

For most of my life I've lumped religion and spirituality into one category and I think that if you are religious they are without a doubt linked, but for this challenge I kind of wanted to separate them a bit. I had a hard time with that at first because without adding religion into the mix I wasn't sure what exactly constituted spirituality so of course I googled it. Wikipedia helped me out and gave me the definition that it was the process of personal transformation. Another website said it was a personal matter involving values and beliefs that provide purpose in our life. Those were the 2 definitions that resonated most with me and sort of matched what I wanted to get out of this month.

In the matter of my values and beliefs I've never really questioned what mine were, instead I just adopted whatever those around me had, which isn't a bad thing because they have really great ones and it's kept me on a good path through life. The older I get, however, I've realized, in terms of self-transformation, that who I am is the product of others beliefs and values and not due to a conscious effort on my part. I'm not saying that my values and their values don't line up, but I guess I'm at a point in my life where I want to make sure that my beliefs and values are really mine and really what I want my life to be about. In an effort to do that I've been focusing on a few things. First is meditation. I've always thought meditation sounded weird and a bit hippy dippy but I think it's a really great way to get to know yourself and get in tune with your thoughts. The real thoughts that matter, not all the voices in your head that try to pull you in all sorts of different directions. So I've been trying to do that on a regular basis. Take some time everyday to clear my mind and feel inspired. The second thing I've been doing lately has been to try and have an open mind.  When presented with situations or conversations that challenge my belief system or values, I try to think it through a bit more and ask myself why I believe these things, why I feel this way about something or why I'm responding a certain way. Is that really me responding or is it just an auto-response.

The older I get the more I have this fierce desire to be authentically me. I feel like a large part of that comes from knowing what you want out of life and what you believe. For me spirituality is often synonymous with finding peace and I feel most at peace and in harmony when I'm being true to myself. So to round this all out and try to sum it all up I've been trying to focus on making sure that the person I'm transforming into coincides with the person I truly want to be and that I'm setting myself up for a life I truly want to live.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

wrapping up authenticity, just in time for the holidays!

Embracing imperfections is hard. I don't think it's meant to be easy. We live in a world where society's definition of perfection is unattainable, yet we are expected to strive to reach it.  We are told to have the perfect body (not too fat and not too skinny) but to also be happy with the body we have, to juggle multiple responsibilities (not limited to a career, a family, a relationship, or our personal hobbies) with ease and grace, to never let anyone see our weaknesses, to be continuously happy and cheerful regardless of whatever may be happening behind the scenes, to have the perfectly decorated and clean home, to have a deliciously prepared meal three times a day, to have well-rounded children who are perfect in every way, etc. etc. Seriously, the list could go on and on.

Basically, we are told to believe we are never enough--we will never reach "perfection".

That's why I tackled the task of embracing my imperfections and cultivating the courage to show them. I, like everyone, am subject to society's expectations. I am constantly told that I'm not __________ enough (fill in the blank with the word of your choice). It's demoralizing to be bombarded with this message every day.

As I reflect on my authenticity journey the last two months, I'm pretty happy with the progress I made. I learned to start saying "I'm enough" when society tells me otherwise. I engaged in some difficult conversations regarding my imperfections and how I may need more support than I can give myself. I learned to look outward for strength when I need it most. I've started to be happy with little amounts of consistent progress and to stop expecting huge bounds toward perfection.

As with all of the topics Brooke and I will be tackling this year, authenticity is a journey--it's not something that happens overnight. That's why we chose the imagery of blossoming--it's a beautiful process. I will definitely keep thinking about authenticity and how to cultivate a more accepting view of myself and others, but for now I need to focus a little more on spirituality. Goals will be coming soon!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

authenticity: untitled

Does anyone else ever feel like life has a funny little way of handing you challenges at the exact moment you're thinking that you can't take anymore? Or that your current challenge seems to target whatever you're working to improve?

Story of my life. And probably yours too.

Let's be real here, we all have challenges and I believe they are specifically catered to what we need---in my experience, strengthening my weaknesses or imperfections or learning to embrace them as such. The last two months as I've been working on authenticity have been no different. I've shared a few experiences that have helped me practice authenticity or accept others authenticity, and I've dealt with even more that I've chosen to keep private. Whether these challenges have lasted a day, a week, or are still ongoing one thing has remained the same: I've always received exactly what I need.

In the past I would end there with my "someone's always got your back" speech and say that if you're doing everything in your power and being the best person you can be, it will all be okay. And I still stand by that message. But as I've been specifically thinking about authenticity and how I need to let others see me struggle and help me out, I've been trying to ask for what I need rather than "just dealing with it". For example, last night on our walk Wes brought up a topic that is really hard for me to discuss. After a few moments of putting on a brave face and sharing my thoughts, I'd had enough. In the past, I would just shut down then and there until Wes got the message. Instead, I told Wes I'd had enough of the subject and needed to change topics. He politely obliged and we were quickly discussing something much easier for me to handle.

My mother is famous for saying, "It never hurts to ask!" Like, really. I'm sure my dad has heard it more times than days they've been married. But it's so true! You will never know some answers until you ask, and you may never get some things you need if you don't ask. For example, sometimes my principal is terrifying (she doesn't mean to be, she's just assertive and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that), so you can imagine how a meek introvert like me has a difficult time asking for favors or other things I need that aren't the norm. But I've found that if I just ask her for what is needed, she almost always agrees and goes above and beyond to help. Case in point: I need to leave work early today to make it to a wedding dinner on time. It's not totally kosher for a faculty member to leave work before students, but I figured I would ask. You wanna know her response? "Oh sure! You can even leave earlier than that if you need to!" See? All I needed to do was ask.

Moral of the story is that sometimes the best way to be our authentic selves is to ask--ask for help, ask a question if we don't understand, ask for more time or space, etc. It's okay to be unsure of things or what to do. It's not okay to become stagnant because we aren't willing to ask.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

learning moments in patience

So I'm not into divulging personal details here, especially when it comes to the ones I love and hold most dear. Sorry if this post is vague, but I'd rather keep my relationships private. Hope you understand.

The past month has been a difficult one for my husband and me. Between the grad school applications and fees, family expectations, student vs. non-student workload, and general stress I have not been the most patient person on the planet. Who am I kidding, I'm never the most patient person on the planet! Regardless, I have not been as patient with myself or the husband as I should. It's taking a toll on me.

Sunday night afforded me the wonderful opportunity of exercising patience with Wes and myself. Like I said, no personal details, but know that Sunday night I began to understand the beauty of patience with one's spouse when they are feeling particularly vulnerable. Typically I jump to conclusions or try to create an immediate solution. I'm not sure if I do those things to avoid dealing with Wes's vulnerability or if I truly think I'm helping, but I rarely allow myself to deal with his vulnerability. That night, however, I took the opportunity to listen to everything Wes had to say without jumping in or creating "fixes" in my mind. I just sat and listened.  When Wes was done, I simply offered an apology of sympathy along with a hug and assured him that everything would be okay. You know what? It worked! My patience, reassurance, and faith in Wes was what he needed, simple as that.

I'm so grateful for the opportunities I've had to exercise patience with others and myself this past month. I've learned so many things about authenticity, both for myself and others. My eyes have been opened to what's really important and how much growing I have left to do. I'm excited to see what November has to bring!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

on patience

I'm not sure how to start this post, or even really what to write. I have so many thoughts swirling in my head regarding authenticity. We'll see how this goes.

A coworker and personal friend of mine attended a conference this week on cultural competence...aka accepting and celebrating differences. This coworker is very different from many of my other coworkers in lifestyle, religion, diet/exercise habits, priorities, relationship status, etc. Needless to say, the conference was not her favorite event; she told me she was made to feel "very shallow" and that she felt extremely disrespected by our other coworkers who were in attendance. She has participated in a similar activity before and loved it; this time--not so much.

Her experience got me thinking about how accepting I am of others' differences or their authenticity. Who am I to judge? Along with my voracious appetite for perfection from myself, I expect just as much perfection from others. (Ask my husband.) I tend to think that my way is almost always the best way and any other is ridiculous. I have a hard time letting others figure things out for themselves when I've "been there, done that" and can spare them from pain and loss. I get frustrated when friends and family members don't listen to my advice and choose contrary to what I recommend. Basically I'm a big ball of "I know what's up and you should listen".

So I've decided I need to work on accepting others' faults and flaws just as much as I'm working on accepting my own. It all comes down to being patient--something that is a major struggle and goes hand in hand with perfection. Accepting imperfection requires patience. Patience requires accepting imperfection. Simple as that. I'll keep ya posted!