This past summer while on a family vacation, my fifteen-year-old son informed me that his impression of me is that I am a forty-something year old feminist. (His words not mine). At first I was a bit offended, but I mostly shrugged it off. The boy couldn't even nail down my age, so what did he know anyway? I think the part that had me taken aback was his casual use of the word feminist when he described me. The term feminist can have such negative connotations, after all. I've never connected with that label, nor if I'm being honest, have I ever wanted to. After all, I've been a life long Republican. (Can Republicans even be feminists?) Upon further reflection, however, I began to ponder what it means to be a feminist, and whether or not I should have felt offended by my son's casual use of the term when describing me. Here's what I'm learning about women who carry the banner "feminist" a little more willingly than I do. They are good people. They are for women. Really, when I think about it, what's so wrong about being pro-woman?
Over the past several years, I've been pondering what it means to be a woman. Does it mean I'm less? Less worthy of respect, dignity, love? I have come to the conclusion that being a woman doesn't mean in any way, shape,or form that I am less. I am a prized and special part of God's plan. I wasn't born to be a slave. I was born to be a partner. I wasn't born to be subjegated, I was born to fly free. So, why do I sometimes feel like I'm less? Is it the curse? Because Eve ate the apple first and gave it to Adam, does that mean I've got to live with the load of crap that rolled out of that choice she made? (Thanks, a lot, Eve.)
In my ponderings of what it means to be a woman, I've begun a little ritual every morning when I slip a particular bracelet over my wrist. I say a prayer for women across the globe. The prayers vary, depending on what's in my heart. They include everything from women who have been victimized, to women who are in loveless marriages, to women who are in war torn countries. A few months into doing it, I felt empowered. I mean what's better than girl power? Then, a really brilliant plan struck, what if l created a list of 30 prayers for women and asked my friends to join me in my prayers? I'm calling it 30 Days for Women.
I want to take a moment to clarify, though they are prayers, I'm not identifying them as such. I don't want anyone to feel excluded from this exercise. I know many good people who don't consider themselves Christians who might be tempted, if my list were coined as prayers, to feel as if they couldn't engage in this exercise. In that spirit, I'm going to stick with the label 30 Days for Women. Beginning Monday, November 1st, whether you feel you have a "connection" to God or not, I invite you to band together as women and lift your hopes and voices high for women across the globe.
Though I won't list all of them here, I will share my first one:
I have attached a pdf of the 30 Days if you prefer to print it out, hang it on your mirror, and send up your daily request. I will also post my list daily on instagram, twitter and facebook, so feel free to follow me on one of those platforms:@nicismeyer
Two more things, if after the 30 Days are up, you want to continue the practice but need a daily reminder, please check out my friend's website: wemakeripples.com and buy a bracelet which would not only support a great cause, but also serve as your daily reminder to pray for women across the globe. Finally, if you've read this far, do me a solid and visit my About page. I recently changed my image to one that more accurately represents this 40-something-year-old feminist. Thanks to the incomparably lovely, Jennifer Ryan Eyestone, for capturing my joy that day.
30 Days for Women
Today's post is a wrap up in my series on getting fit mentally. I began the series with the intent of sharing the main elements, or pieces if you will, that have been fitted together to give me lasting wholeness and peace. The first in the Series, The Pieces of the Puzzle, was about my relationship with God and how that really was the frame that was assembled early on. The second entry, The Pieces Part II, addressed the role medication played in my mental health stability. The Pieces Part III, was last week's entry on how counseling and therapy have played a role in my recovery. Today's entry is exploring the role that a new tool, called Tapping Meditations, has played in the complete picture of finding mental health stability and wholeness.
As explained in last week's post, the most recent therapist I've visited with was the person who introduced me to this tool. She led me to an app, The Tapping Solution, which utilizes this technique. During our second session together, we went through one of the meditations - a meditation on anxiety since that was what I was struggling with at the time. What I appreciated most when we began the meditation was that the opening few minutes allowed me to acknowledge the anxiety I was feeling and to rate how anxious I was feeling on a scale of one to ten. There was no judgement in it. I didn't feel like I had to control the anxiety, it was simply a chance to explore the idea of why I was so anxious.
See, part of the power of the anxiety for me, was the fact that I was constantly condemning myself for always feeling so anxious. After all, as a good Christian girl, I had been taught early on to cast all my anxiety onto God. To feel anxious was, in my mind almost a betrayal of the faith I claimed to have. But in the introduction to this meditation, I experienced a sense of freedom in acknowledging that I couldn't control the anxiety. While I won't go into all the components of the meditation, I will share that the simple process for me was very powerful and effective. I also won't go into the specifics of tapping and the philosophy behind it. I simply want to put it out there in the hopes that it might be a tool that would be helpful for you.
Thankfully, I didn't have to subscribe to The Tapping Solution as a few of the free ones offered were particularly helpful. The one I want to focus on the most was a meditation called, You Are Enough. It is a meditation that I have come back to time and time again over the last several weeks. It has truly been that powerful for me. Again, at the onset of the meditation, there is a scale in which you rate yourself as feeling that you are not enough. Typically I have been rating myself in the 5's or 6's. The first time I did it, I'm pretty sure I rated myself at a 7 or 8.
Here's the deal with coming to grips with the understanding that I am enough. (No one in my life ever told me that. In general, I don't think we encourage one another to see ourselves as being enough. We only acknowledge one another's successes and triumphs. We don't affirm the person we are in this moment of time.) I grew up in a household where I was told I should be ashamed of myself every time I made a mistake.
Mistakes were something to be avoided at all costs. There was no learning from them, there was only the condemnation of knowing you were a bad person if you made one. I carried that baggage around with me for all of my life, because I internalized this belief that if I performed in any way that was subpar or substandard, I was simply a bad person.
When I discovered this tapping meditation, You Are Enough, it was like a lightbulb went off in my brain. I am enough, not because I'm perfect, or get it right in every moment, or always have the right answer, but simply by being who I am in this moment. For those of you who are struggling to see how a Christian can call themselves enough, let me put it this way. In the past, I thought because I was a poor, miserable sinner I constantly had to keep myself in this place of self-loathing. Lately, as I've reflected about the heart of God and why he sent Jesus, I've questioned, does he truly want me in this unhealthy state of constantly comparing myself to others and constantly feeling like I'm missing the mark? Does that sound like freedom to you? If Christ came to set us free, it seems to me He would want us to run in that freedom - to be unshackled from sin and fear and shame.
So there you have it, the pieces of the puzzle, my mental health puzzle. Faith, medication, counseling, and tapping meditations. To be sure, there are other pieces that have played a role in my finding a more healthy way forward, but these are the big ones to be sure. Here's my takeaway for you. As stated last week, if you find yourself living a half-life because you're not in a good place mentally, I encourage you to try one or more of these pieces to get yourself to a better place. It is worth the effort it takes to get there. As I stated in my first post in this series, my hope and prayer is that you won't let stubbornness and willfulness stop you from living the life you were always meant to live. 'Til next time.
My last two posts have been the beginning of a series titled, The Pieces of the Puzzle. This series addresses, among other things, the key elements that have played a role in helping me find a balanced life while living with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Today's post marks the halfway point of discussing my mental heath stability. In the first post in this series, The Pieces of the Puzzle, I explored the role my relationship with God played in my mental health stability. In the 2nd post The Pieces; Part II, I discussed the role medication played. In this post, I will examine how counseling and therapy have also been an integral part in my mental health recovery.
As far as therapy and/or counseling goes, the quality and type of person I met with wasn't nearly as important as simply taking a chance to meet with a professional. To be sure, some therapists that I've met with have been better than others. While I do feel it's important to like your therapist and to have some sort of connection with them, I think it's equally important to look for the nuggets of wisdom and guidance that person can bring to your life.
The first time I went searching for a therapist, I was a poor college student who couldn't afford insurance or the hefty price of a session. However, I was also a young adult whose parents were in the process of separating and who was awakening to the realization that my favorite person in the world, my dad, was abandoning his marriage vows in favor of a younger woman and his drink of choice, Jack Daniels. So, despite the fact that I didn't have a lot of cash on hand, I sought help. Thankfully, there were affordable options. Namely, Lutheran Family Services through which I could do a sliding scale fee. Basically, you paid what you could.
It was in this office, with a therapist whose name I don't recall, that I was first introduced to the term, hypervigilance. The medical terminology for it is as follows: Hypervigilance — the elevated state of constantly assessing potential threats around you. What it was, wasn't nearly as important as recognizing what it did to me. I was a hypervigliant person to a T, always assessing my situation and how I was doing in that situation. Was I keeping up with my responsibilities? Was I doing enough, being enough, performing enough? I was introduced to the term through a book about adult children of alcoholics. See, I don't blame my dad for all of the things going haywire inside my brain, but he did play a role in my desire to be a fixer. I wanted to fix what was wrong with him, so I was always trying to do better and be better - at everything. It was exhausting. While I didn't recover from being hypervigilant overnight, this new terminology did set me on a path to the awareness that something was holding me back from a life of freedom.
The next time I found myself in a therapist's office, I had been newly diagnosed bipolar. This time was more of a "forced to" issue. (When you're a newly diagnosed crazy person, they figure you need all the help you can get.) Once again, I found myself face to face with a person who would assist me in understanding the complexity of what it meant to get mentally fit. This therapist, knowing I was a Christian, recommended a book called, The Search for Significance by Robert McGee. While I don't remember the book in detail, I do recall the light bulb or "aha" moment when I realized that much of what I based my self worth on had to do with how well I performed in life - as a person, a wife, a teacher, a friend. Once again, I experienced an awareness of how exhausting it all had been, this life of always trying to "perform" well.
Most recently, I visited a faith-based therapist this past spring when I found that the remnant of hypervigilance and performance based thinking still had a firmer grip on me than I wanted them to. She introduced me to the final piece of the puzzle that has snapped into place and the topic for next week's post, tapping meditations. Next week, I will explore this final piece of the puzzle of finding lasting peace and freedom.
A few final words. If you find yourself in a place where you are living a sort of half life, I encourage you to step out in faith and find a professional to counsel you. Keep in mind, this person won't be perfect. But if there's even the slightest chance that they can throw you a life line isn't that a chance worth taking? (A drowning person doesn't care who throws the life preserver to them. They cling to the thing that saved them, not the person who threw it.) Getting fit mentally isn't for the faint of heart. It takes work and perseverance, but trust me when I tell you, it is worth the effort. And then some. 'Til next time.