In 8 months I’m 60 years old.
My goal is to be in the best mental and physical shape I have ever been in.
Two steps forward, one step backward…at least I’m heading in the right direction.
Last week I got my first vaccine and my body took the intended mission seriously. I experienced Operation Immune Response complete with fever, aches and nausea. Thanks to the army of antibodies now coursing through my veins I am at least partially protected from the enemy C-19.
Well, it does seem that this newsletter has morphed into my twisted and tortured journey to some form of wholeness and healing.
I am currently experiencing the wobbly-confused state of a very recent breakthrough in understanding my struggle. Therapy truly is the secret sauce for a better quality of life.
The door to a better, easier way of being in the world has opened and Shelley has stepped through the door and into the light…unsure of how to navigate this new pathway.
Talking about myself in the third person helps create a gap in the time and space continuum of my healing journey. I know it’s weird but sometimes I need to look at Shelley from a distance to see how hard she is trying and how scared she is..and heap a whole lot of compassion on her sweet soul.
As it turns out my anxious nature clings to stories I tell myself in an effort to stay safe. The stories don’t actually keep me safe but this practice began at a very young age when I needed to take bits of information and predict an outcome. The stories I craft are from previous experiences and the warning messages are an attempt to adapt and adjust to stay safe.
I imagine I have an inner storyteller sitting at a big desk frantically crafting stories from little tiny scraps of information landing on her desk. The scraps of paper have cryptic messages that range from simply tone of voice to more detailed words and actions. The stories have one common theme…a warning that my safety, peace and wellbeing are at risk. It’s time for this storyteller to retire. Pack up her SOS typewriter Sister Storyteller I don’t need you anymore.
Or do I?
I knew I had a tendency to extrapolate situations into full-blown warnings. Heck, I was the first one nodding when Brene Brown recommended fessing up to the stories in your head so you can truly connect with others. I guess what I didn’t fully understand is just how the tiny little girl in me used these stories as a survival tactic with her anxious mother. Stopping these stories cold turkey left me feeling exposed and afraid. No surprise that a long-time habit would be tough to let go of without repercussions. I kept that storyteller busy my whole early life and then I officially chained that poor woman to her desk while I lived with a narcissist.
Letting go of these stories in my head has proven to be an uncomfortable undertaking.
Letting go, clearing the decks (my therapist’s metaphor) and letting life and those around me just be….sounds easy enough but holy panic attack, it’s like taking away a little girl’s blankie (yes, I had one of those too) and telling her to grow up.
I’ve had moments of feeling untethered anxiety (something new for me). I found journaling, breathing and walks with Finny provided a reset. Without my ongoing storyteller sounding the alarm, I feel exposed and in danger.
On a positive note, I’ve been here before with previous breakthroughs and I know the transition from unhealthy habits to healthy ones can be really uncomfortable but totally doable if you stick it out.
One of my earlier breakthroughs was realizing I was a codependent people pleaser of epic proportions. Without these old habits buffering my anxiety I felt like an addict crawling out of my skin. I had to reframe my relationship with others and my role in helping them navigate the hard parts of life. A monumental struggle that changed my life.
The sad truth is my stories are a strategy to keep me safe and they do the opposite. They keep me from truly seeing the truth while I spin a narrative based on bits and pieces of old experiences. The stories kept me married to a dangerous partner and the stories also kept me from trusting good people.
I am leaning on my mother’s words of wisdom….”Never give up”..
I will continue to notice when I’m crafting a story and replace it with open curiosity.
Wish me luck!
Do you tell yourself stories?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.