Category Archives: stories

Climbing Mt. Everest

This writing was shared with me by one of my clients. With her permission, I am sharing it with you. Enjoy!!!

I watched the Everest Imax movie in high school.

Climbers buy the best quality gear to help them in their quest to the top.  They search out the warmest, lightest outwear to protect themselves from the elements.  They hire the most experienced, capable guides to lead them.

Yet still, they need to climb.  They need to put one foot in front of the other.  They need to trudge through snow, and balance themselves on ice covered cliffs.

True, without the gear, the protection, and the guides you wouldn’t last thirty seconds moving towards your goal.  But all the money in the world, the best guide and the latest model gear cannot get you up to the peak of the mountain if YOU are not willing to climb.

This is how I sometimes feel about battling my anxiety.

I have the best therapist, an awesome doctor, a sensitive husband, a supportive and understanding family, and the sweet love of my children.

I have researched and found medicine that works for me, increasing my serotonin to normal levels.  I do stretching and breathing exercises, and occasionally get a massage.

But I still need to be the one to climb the mountain.  I need to put one foot in front of the other when I feel like I’m about to throw up from the intense anxiety pushing at my chest.  I need to trudge through my thoughts and feelings to figure out if there is, and if so, what might be the source of why I feel this way.  I need to carefully balance my priorities so I don’t waste precious mental energy and time.

It’s so different from my experience with a physical illness.

Sure, having Crohn’s disease is no picnic.  It’s painful, embarrassing and can get quite annoying (yes, I can make a directory of all the public bathrooms in the city.)

But really, it’s more like a very long international flight that gets delayed about half the day so you almost miss your connection.  You wait for hours in a stuffy, dirty, overcrowded waiting area.  You sit in a narrow seat on the plane flanked on either side by people who could either use a shower or are wearing a nasty smelling deodorant.  And sometimes you even have to run through an airport to catch a flight.

It’s not a pleasant experience, but you are not the one physically doing the work.  There are pilots flying the plane, and flight attendants who actually offer you a drink.

It took time to find the right doctor, and alternative care, but really in the end all I had to do was show up for appointments and make it through the prep for surgery without vomiting, (ok so I did vomit, but who cares?).

And people understand physical pain.  They get it.  They are sympathetic.  And somehow, that helps.

But even if everyone in the whole world understood emotional pain, if I didn’t put one foot in front of the other, there is no way to get any closer.

How To Rewrite Your Life Story

1441629557172I wonder what messages you might have attached to my prose poem, Bronx Child, shared with you last month. You might have felt sorry for this little girl who ate her lunch alone everyday, or you might have experienced her as an independent, self-reliant child who could take care of herself. Maybe you had a different reaction. Children aren’t rational in their story telling. They are just trying to make sense of their experiences. Whatever meaning children attach to these stories, these meanings stay rooted in our unconscious minds and have a direct influence on our behaviors as adults.

It’s so important to review your life story to see where the words you speak to yourself are enriching your life or limiting it. Anyone can change his or her life story. The first step is realizing you have one. The next step is to challenge your beliefs about it. The final step is authoring your life.

Our stories express what we believe we are and who we believe we can be. They define us.  Stories can be positive. Narratives like “I’m great with kids,” or “Kids are my calling,” can inspire us, they encourage us to show up confidently and authentically in our relationships with others. Often though our stories have less positive effects. Stories like “People always let me down,” become self-fulfilling prophecies. They convince us we’ll never get what we want. They are absolute.

It’s important to see your story. Look at the life you’ve created and the patterns that have played out. What are the most meaningful moments? Write them down.

If you find a pattern where you are habitually putting yourself down that may signal a story of unworthiness and this limits and  disempowers you. Write down those negative patterns as well.

Examine what you’ve written down and challenge your thoughts to see which of them reflects who you are now and who you’d like to be.

Begin writing your new autobiography incrementally. Rome wasn’t built in a day! Small steady actions are more effective than big dramatic affirmations. Create a reasonable story that you can grow into.

Caution: Stress will make us more vulnerable to negative thinking, likely to fall back into old patterns. The moment you hear an old story rumbling around in your head, STOP LISTENING!  Do something different, helpful and healthy. Remember my favorite saying: “In times of stress we all regress!”

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Rewrite Your Life

1441629557172Throughout our lives we carry stories; stories that dictate what we think about ourselves how we view others and how we see life in general. There is something intrinsic in our drive to explain, order, and extract meaning from the chaos of our lives, says Susan Gregory Thomas in this month’s Psychology Today. The stories we tell ourselves do not get fact checked but they do feel authentic to our personal experiences. Accurate or not, we believe them and they color our lives. Our ability to make sense of and create meaning from our memories defines how we feel about ourselves and shapes the identity we create throughout our lives.

I want to share a prose poem I recently wrote about my childhood. I wonder what story you would tell yourself about this little girl?

Bronx Child

I have the only bedroom in apartment 3B, 1815 Monroe Avenue.   On school days I walk three blocks home for lunch.  The first block is the longest, with brown stone row houses.  I pass my dentist’s, and apartment houses, each one different: colored brick, white, yellow, and red.   My apartment house has an elevator I take to the third floor. Most of my friends are afraid to ride by themselves! I am seven.

My lunch is usually soup in a Thermos, Campbell’s Chicken Noodle, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I have no watch but I know that after Love of Life and Search for Tomorrow I turn off the TV, lock the apartment door with the key I wear on a string around my neck. On my way back to school, I head for Julie’s Candy Store.  I get a Nestlé’s Crunch for  six cents. I eat it one square at a time, so it lasts. I’m in no hurry to get back to Mrs. Gold’s class. She’s so mean.

On hot summer nights Julie’s is the place to go for cones—sugar or plain, with or without sprinkles. My favorite is a sugar cone with coffee ice cream and sprinkles. It costs twelve cents, two cents extra for the chocolate sprinkles.  Next door is Fedderman’s Pharmacy.  Fedderman’s has a soda fountain, too. Red and black twisted licorice sticks stand in glass jars, wax lips make you look like you’re wearing smeared lipstick. Sugar Dots are pasted on white paper: Sky bars, Clark bars, Bonomo Turkish Toffee .  My mother says I grow cavities like weeds!

Events don’t inherently contain meaning. It’s the meaning we give our past that matters. This is how our stories get created, and themes begin to emerge.

Next monthy we’ll talk about the meaning you attach to the stories you tell yourself, and you can decide if you need to rewrite your life story.