premarital counseling

A few days ago my fiance pulled up this blog on his phone and said, “give me something to read!” So, this one’s for you, babe.

Premarital counseling is a really unique thing and I think it’s sort of relatable only to people who have done it, so I haven’t wanted to write about it because it’s such a unique experience.

All of my past experiences with starting therapy were focused on crises going on in my life. Family therapy was about family troubles, individual therapy was about really bad depression, and group therapy was basically so that I would have friends. Individual therapy has evolved into positivity and not just talking about shitty stuff all the time, but that’s beside the point.

We went into premarital counseling because we’d heard really good things about it and we figured it would be great for our relationship. It has been, and not in the ways I expected.

Jonny and I were built on a really solid foundation because we met in NA and we were both willing to be vulnerable, so all of our baggage and shame was on the table and we weren’t afraid of talking about it. I don’t know why. We got lucky. I was in a really good place and I was determined to break my cycle of idolizing men and keeping my mouth shut, and Jonny was ready and willing and so honest, so I think those things helped our relationship.

Anyway, we went in to premarital counseling feeling the happiest we have ever been. We just got engaged, we are totally in love, and things in our lives are going generally well. We weren’t very nervous because we talk about everything. Everything. Think of any uncomfortable topic to talk about in a relationship, and it’s probably topic in our family meetings- money, intimacy, jealousy, body image issues, weird eating habits, whatever.

We have hurdles in our relationship that are hard to talk about and scary to look at. I’m not going to talk about those here because those hurdles are sacred to me and I want to respect them. But they have been on the table for as long as we have been aware of them. And we talk about them because we respect each other and we respect our relationship and we really don’t want to get divorced. We love each other like crazy, and the things we are afraid to talk about are the things that will rot our relationship from the inside out. So, we talk about them.

All of that to say, we thought premarital counseling was going to be a breeze. ha!

Not a breeze, y’all. We are young. As much as we talk about things, it’s sort of like two toddlers discussing the economy. It makes sense to us, but we don’t know what it looks like because it’s just us. So, having someone who is more grown up than us, with 20 years of experience helping married couples, has been beyond eye-opening.

We have loved this experience. It has been totally mind-blowing. It has helped us grow as individuals and it has given us an even stronger sense of confidence in our relationship. I trusted our relationship before this experience. Now, I feel something totally different that I’ve never felt before. Total security. Total safety. So complete and honest.

Going to therapy with a significant other when there isn’t a major issue to discuss or some “problem” going on has been so interesting and cool. We love this work so much, we want to continue therapy together consistently (but not every week) when we are married.

We have taken an already stable, consistent relationship and turned it into something unshakeable. I am so grateful and I cannot wait to marry this man.

to meds or not to meds

I don’t usually write about taking medication because I feel like people judge me for it. I know that’s all in my head (or is it? I don’t know!). I used to be super anti-medication. I took meds for many years and still felt depressed for all of those years, so I sort of stopped believing in them. But, then my lifestyle changed. I got clean, I started taking care of my body, I started living my life in a more honest way.

So, let me fast forward to today, 4 years of consistent medication, and I still get depressed sometimes. I feel angry when that happens.

A few days ago I had a little crying fit to my fiance because I was so angry. I do yoga, I meditate, I write everyday, I take my meds, I share my life with other people, I eat regularly, so why was I still feeling depressed? I’m pretty sure I said the words, “it’s just not fair.” (totally okay that I felt that way, just sort of funny to me looking back on it because there is much more injustice than that going on today).

I don’t think it matters what medications I take or how much of them I take, so I’ll just say that on June 17th (I just looked in my calendar), I upped my meds a tiny bit because I am currently in the throws of a huge life transition and a lot of things are happening and in the past that has lead right into year-long depressions. I felt the depression seeping in, sort of like I could feel myself going a little bit numb. So, as a preventative measure, my psychiatrist and I decided to increase my meds by one notch.

Until I looked in my calendar 30 seconds ago, I was under the impression that I increased my meds forever ago and why the hell aren’t they working? It was four weeks ago, almost to the day. Six weeks is when I usually feel completely back to my normal self, so I’m right on track.

Yesterday, I had a long to-do list that all needed to be done by 3:00 because that has been the point of the day when I am done lately. I’m working on my endurance for being on-task and focused, but 3:00 is the cut-off right now.

After Little Compton I wrote this post about urgency, and I said I was going to try to take each moment at a time while living my life in reality.  I’ve been trying to do that. Every morning when I write in my journal I remind myself of that goal, and I really try to get in that mindset. I’ve still been easily overwhelmed and ready to shut down in the blink of an eye. Until yesterday. Yesterday, I had this long to-do list, most of which I did not want to do. When I was writing about it in the morning, I wrote that I wanted to be peaceful and ready, and I felt it happen. And the whole day was just fine. I didn’t give up, I didn’t get back in bed until around 10:30 pm, and I got the work done that I needed to get done.

This morning has been the same way. And that is the part that I thank the meds for. I need to do the footwork – therapy, exercise, talk, write, eat. When I am doing all of those things, allowing myself to feel how I need to feel, holding on to my lifelines, sweating, and I still feel like shit, the meds come in and get me the 3% further that I need to get.

And every time I start to feel better, I am full of gratitude. I usually don’t write about it because the first few days of my meds working are sort of silly. I feel things pretty intensely, I get really excited, one cup of coffee gets me through the morning, I get out of bed before my alarm clock, showers don’t feel like a terrible chore, and then it sort of evens out when I realize, “oh, this is just me feeling (in every sense of the word) like a human again.” I get a tiny bit bummed out when I realize that, and then things go back to real life and I feel good when I’m happy and I feel shitty when I’m sad.

My psychiatrist and I toggle between two modes of my meds: notch 1, and notch 2 (that’s how I think of them). The giant events of this year end with the grand finale that is my wedding and we’ll probably transition back to notch 1 around then. So, while I’m in notch 2, we don’t up my meds if I get depressed. I increase other things in my life, I add a day of working out, I increase therapy, I go to more meetings. In four years, I haven’t had to go above notch 2 (not that I am against that happening if it comes to it, I’m just saying that I recognize that meds don’t cure everything).

I don’t feel like I need to explain myself any further, but just for the inner-critic that is yapping away in my head telling me that meds are a lie fed to me by commercials and doctors* who pretend that they mean well: if it’s a placebo affect, I’ll take it over suicide any day, motherfucker**.

(*get a psychiatrist that you trust. Tell your psychiatrist you’re in addict (if that’s the case) and don’t agree to take meds if you aren’t ready to commit to them)

(**I usually don’t call my inner-critic a motherfucker. I usually say, “thank you for your concern about my well-being, I will take that into consideration,” so I call it a motherfucker today in the most compassionate way possible)

a solo vacation and other thoughts

I am currently writing from New Orleans. I am about to check out of my hotel and head home, but I have some time to kill. I spent the last three days at a very cool education conference. I learned a lot, and I am feeling inspired for the school year. I got a lot of really great ideas that I could see myself implementing in my future classroom.

I came here alone, and I spent most of my time alone. Almost everyone at the conference came here because they were sent by their schools, or they came with a group of educators that they already knew. I met a lot of great people during the conference sessions and it was neat.

What I’m trying to get to is that I don’t think I would ever do this again. I would definitely come to a conference again. It was awesome and it fed my inner-nerd in a way that I really needed. But I think next time I will come with a group of people. That way I can have people to hang out with and process what we learn when the sessions are done, instead of coming back to my hotel room at 4:30 and waiting for the next day to happen.

Also, my first night here was the night of the Dallas police shooting and everyone was going nuts and I had no one to talk to about it. Thankfully cell phones are a thing, but it wasn’t the same. People on social media were using the police shooting as a way to discredit the Black Lives Matter movement and that was pissing me off and I had no one to talk to about it. I thought the world was going to crumble and I was going to be all alone at an education conference.

I think the world is going to crumble all the time and then nothing changes.

And it was so interesting being at this education conference, trying to figure out how I can best serve my students to ensure their success, when the real problems they face have to do with the color of their skin. And there is nothing I can do about that. And I can’t tell them that I understand their struggle because I will never know what it’s like. I am a privileged white girl, and I grew up joking about being afraid of police because I was stealing from grocery stores and smoking weed. But I was never in any real danger. I wasn’t even in danger of getting caught, really. No one wanted to catch me. People want to catch my kids.

My students have trouble focusing in school for many reasons– boobs, popularity, family issues. And, if they say the wrong thing, or move the wrong way, they could be killed by police. I wish they could just enjoy being fourteen, and I wish I could protect them from the reality they live in everyday. They walk around town and people get nervous about what they are going to do.

Along with some cool classroom management techniques I learned this weekend, I am going to do everything I can to create a space where my students can feel completely safe. I am going to try to talk to as many people as I can in the next month, so that I can set up a place where my kids feel like human beings.

urgency

I just got home from a wonderful few days spent in Little Compton, Rhode Island. I have been there every summer, and it has become my favorite place in the world. As I grow up a little bit each year, I find a new appreciation for that beautiful, simple place.

Little Compton is a tiny little town with zero traffic lights and a lot of sandy beaches. My parents have this beautiful pond in their yard and I sat by it for over an hour every morning and just watched it be. I had an opportunity to be still. In that stillness, I found peace about a lot of things that I cannot control. I wasn’t so anxious.

I also found that I didn’t feel such a sense of urgency. When I’m in the daily hustle and bustle of my life, I look at my to-do list and I get it done. I take about an hour in the morning to write, be grateful, drink coffee, and meditate, and then I set off like a rocket through my day. My morning routine helps me with stress and perspective, but lately I have been leaving my morning routine in the morning and forgetting it for the rest of the day.

I’m always in a hurry to get a task done so that I can move on to the next one. I get frustrated with people who slow me down or get me off track and I have no time for small talk. Little Compton is the opposite of those two sentences.

In Little Compton, I would drink a cup of coffee and then ask myself, “Okay, what do you feel like doing next?” and most of the time the answer would be, “I want to sit and look at the pond for a while and then make another cup of coffee and keep looking at the pond.” When I was done with my coffee I would think, “okay, now I just want to relax and see what happens today.”

I have a hard time imagining playing every day by ear when I am in the full swing of things at home, but I think I could transfer that attitude to my daily life. I’m going to try it today (I leave for a three day conference tomorrow) as I go about my to-do list. I’m going to try not to be so urgent and serious about getting everything done. Instead, I am going to focus on each piece of my to-do list one thing at a time, because in that moment, that’s the only thing that really exists. I’m going to try to do each task without already thinking about the next one.

I know that’s going to be tough for me because I like to make all of my pieces fit together like a puzzle of my day, so I base each task off the other tasks – the order they’re in, the amount of time spent on each task, and setting aside things for later.

I’m just going to try to the best of my ability to only be in one moment at a time today.

Here’s a picture of that pond I was talking about:

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