Pendulum Swing

Photo by lilartsy on Pexels.com

Dear Friend,

Hello again. I hope this finds you as well as possible. I’ve been thinking lately about the idea of “one step forward, two steps back” – kind of feels like that’s what my life has been over and over again this year. More realistically, I know I’ve made far more progress than I tend to give myself credit for making. I’m in a far different place than Katie of November 2020 would have imagined. I’m far more aware of my limits and where my boundaries stand – or maybe simply more quickly aware that they’ve been violated. It’s strange, somehow I feel a bit like I’m a teenager again, discovering who I am – but isn’t that something we do over and over again as we grow and change, anyway? Of course, it’s been many, many years since I was actually a teenager, but sometimes I still feel like I’m not the adult-ier adult I want to be, though I do have evidence to the contrary which I use to remind myself I can, in fact, handle the situation at hand, whatever it happens to be. I guess it’s more in the way I feel myself swinging between moods so quickly, if you know what I mean? To be fair, there’s been a LOT that’s happened over the past few months, on a personal level, so maybe swinging between moods so quickly makes sense. It’s exhausting, though, you know? I remember being excessively exhausted as a teenager, so maybe that’s why it feels so similar. I’m okay, just struggling a bit right now, and that’s okay, too. I’ve been working a lot on managing my stress and anxiety to try to be more resilient to the sudden shifts that keep happening.

If I’m honest, I think this particular post is mostly a way to remind myself that it’s okay to be struggling right now. I hope it helps remind you it’s okay to be in the struggle, or at the very least helps you feel seen in your own “one step forward, two steps back” dance, too. In my Handling Hard Emotions post, I talked about pitching a tent instead of building a house in the blue zone. I’ve been using that analogy a lot lately, and the affirmation “Keep moving forward” – but I’ve also been saying I feel like I’m in the blue zone, but the exit is nearby. Almost like I’m in a forest and I can see the clearing through the trees, but sometimes a new set of thornbushes block my way and I have to pause, rest for a bit, review the map, and find another way out. Last week, I spoke with my counselor about feeling like I had made it out of the woods, but like I was still walking the path beside them. I feel like the path turned back into the woods for a bit, and that’s okay. It’s frustrating, though, isn’t it? When we feel like we are back to good (or at least better) and then slip backwards again. I don’t know about you, but my initial reaction to backsliding is often self-recrimination. “Dang it, we are better than this. Stop backsliding. We should be able to handle this.” Does your inner critic say similar things? That sneaky “should” is something I’ve been working to avoid – looking at what IS not what I think it SHOULD be. I’ve been countering these thoughts with “Hey, it’s okay. It’s like a pendulum. Remember we thought about moving the base of the pendulum higher so we don’t swing as low? We’ve done that. Even if we did swing far lower, we know we’ll swing back to good, better, far better, too. It’s okay to be in the backswing right now, it happens, it’s normal.”

Healing isn’t linear – ha, I know we’ve seen that shared over and over and OVER again. But we WANT it to be linear, don’t we? It would be so much easier if we could move straight from Point A to Point B, but that’s not the way the journey goes, you know? It’s a long distance path, full of twists and turns, mountain tops and valleys, too. I’m trying to remind myself – and you, too! – it’s okay to pause and rest, to backtrack and take detours and sometimes stop and shake our fists at the sky and the map because we’d like to have a word or two with the cartographer. Because jeez, who thought this was the best path anyway? 😅

All jokes aside, wherever you are on the journey right now, I’m rooting for you. If you are lost in the woods, or deep in the valley’s shadows, I’ve been there, too. I know how hard it is to keep trusting the path will wind back toward nicely paved roads and clear skies and flowers as far as the eye can see. I’ll be there again in the valley and the woods from time to time, and that’s okay. Because I know – and I hope you know, too – that we’ll make it back out into the sun soon. Maybe not as soon as we hope, but soon enough anyway. We just have to keep moving forward, while also allowing ourselves the space and grace to truly rest.

Speaking of rest – have you been getting rest in ways other than sleep?

Check out:

Nine Types of Rest

Nine Types of Rest 2.0

The 7 Types of Rest That Every Person Needs

I know I often realize I’ve been neglecting several forms of rest when I’m feeling rundown, overwhelmed, and/or less resilient than I like to be. Worth checking out and seeing where you might need additional rest, yeah? I know I’m currently lacking in the nap, safe space, and spiritual rest at the very least, so I’ll be focusing on remedying those shortly. Naps are almost always a surefire way to recharge and recenter myself – what’s your go-to recharge method?

Until next time, my friend, I hope your map is leading you to a lovely meadow or mountaintop view soon, or at least a decent place to rest, and that you have comfort when you most need it. Rooting for you always!

Love,

Katie

Handling Hard Emotions

Pitching a tent instead of building a house.

Dear Friend,

I hope you are doing well. I received some news that upset me recently, which provided me with the opportunity to review my current response versus how past me would have reacted.

In the past, when I found myself sad or deeply upset, I would often fall subject to “ugh, why does this always happen to me?” or “I’m so unlucky” types of thoughts. I’ve worked very hard over the past few years to at least identify when I’m having those thoughts – to observe them and counter them. Not easy, right? Necessary though, I think.

With the news that bummed me out a bit recently, I decided to allow myself a few days to grieve what could have been before facing what is. I think a lot of us have been faced with these moments of “I wanted things to be different but here we are” throughout the course of this pandemic. It’s hard, isn’t it? And that’s putting it excessively mildly, right?

I keep going back to this post I saw on Instagram months ago, where @yasminecheyenne was talking about healing/shadow work and how it’s important to remember you can’t live in that energy of processing trauma and inner healing 100% of the time – it’s important to come up for air, to take breaks, to pause and recenter and notice what’s happen here and now. To focus on what’s still good. To practice the self nurturing care that we need, especially while working through hard emotions.

Lately, my sister and I have had many discussions about how heavy things have been – on a personal and on a world news level – and we’ve both noted that it is so easy to become overwhelmed and to find ourselves spiraling and focusing solely on everything going wrong. We’ve actually been having weekly “What worked, what didn’t, what can we change moving forward” meetings every weekend for the majority of the pandemic, just as a way to force ourselves to pause, acknowledge what’s happening, how we are handling it, if there are any ways we can make things easier for ourselves, and also making sure to try to balance our “what didn’t work” list with an equal or higher amount of “what worked” – it has been very helpful for us to create those gratitude lists alongside the acknowledgement of everything else. It’s helped us pitch a tent in the bad moments instead of building a house and living solely in the negative.

It’s like this song, which comes to mind for me when things are especially hard:

I really like the tent vs. house analogy. Sure, it is easy to get stuck in the blue zone, even so deep in the blue zone that it looks black and inescapable. But if we look at our presence in those feelings as sitting in a tent, well then, sure, we still have a lot to carry with us – sometimes so heavy that we can only move forward by a fraction of a millimeter, moving so slowly forward that it can feel like we aren’t moving forward at all. But each increment of a millimeter forward is still forward. Looking at it as a tent instead of a house helps me remember that progress is progress is progress – and progress makes it easier to maintain hope.

I hope allowing yourself to camp in the blue zone when necessary gives you the space and safety to process the hard emotions while knowing you won’t be there forever. Regardless of where you are on the road out of the blue zone, I’m rooting for you.

With love,

Katie

Life Update & Spoon Replenishment

Photo by Aphiwat chuangchoem from Pexels

Hello Dear Friend!

Thank you for your continued patience with me when it comes to updating this blog. It’s been a weird couple of months, but I feel like I’m growing through them. To catch you up, I did take a new job from April to June. I really enjoyed the quality assurance/editing portion of the new position, but the changing scope and deadlines quickly triggered memories and feelings from my previous job that left me feeling like the new job wasn’t the best fit. It didn’t help that the content to be reviewed was rather graphic (medical devices & their uses) – apparently I am far more squeamish than I previously thought, but hey – learned something new about myself, so that’s a win! Biggest takeaways are: editing the work of others is fun for me, offering quality assurance suggestions to ensure the best product delivery is fun for me, working on multimedia video edits is NOT fun for me, shifting deadlines and scope is NOT fun for me, medical content is NOT fun for me. All good things to know as I continue to try to figure out what I want to do next.

I’ve done some freelance writing through textbroker.com, some transcription work through Rev.com, and I’ve started sharing my creative writing on Vocal (check it out if you’d like!). I’ve also signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo this month. It has been really nice getting back to writing creatively. That’s another thing I’ve noticed over the past few months – when I’m not making time to be creative, my mood tanks much more quickly. I’m sure I’ve talked about spoon theory on here before, yeah? Anyway, I have a lot of self-care/mental health toolkit tasks I can do that are neutral in terms of spoon drain (neither add nor subtract – reading, watching a film, playing a game), I have some that subtract in the short-term but add in the long-term (cleaning, exercising, etc.), and I’ve noticed being creative (crochet, sketching, writing, etc.) is a good activity for actually replenishing spoons/helping with the ongoing deficit (time with friends, playing with my pup, and actually resting help replenish spoons, too). I was talking about it with my therapist (I rejoined BetterHelp in April) and discussed how spoon drain kind of works like credit card debt rather than washing spoons in the dishwasher. Every time I borrow spoons from future self to deal with various crises, I increase the deficit. I often feel like I’m at a constant small spoon drain – like carrying a small amount of debt from month to month – sometimes the drain is higher and sometimes it is low enough that when I am able to do activities that actually replenish spoons/leave me feeling energized afterward, I feel like I am actually making progress to someday being at “full spoons” again. So I’ve been trying to make creative activities a priority lately. There’s something really rewarding about seeing something you’ve created take shape and come together – maybe that’s today’s dinner, a dessert recipe you’re finally trying, finishing that shawl, responding to a writing prompt, coloring in a coloring book, whatever – there’s a joy in the creating and a joy in the finishing that I think is really beneficial.

I should probably get back to working on my daily word count for Camp NaNoWriMo now. I hope you take time this week, or as soon as you can anyway, to do something fun and creative for yourself. I hope you find time to play, to learn something new, to make low-risk mistakes (for example, working on art skills and turning to a new page or erasing and trying again), to do something that helps replenish your spoons. I know sometimes it can be hard to find enough spoons to even have the energy to do something that will actually help, and that’s okay, too. Please be gentle with and kind to yourself right now, friend. You deserve to be treated with kindness, especially from yourself. Wishing you ease and comfort on your journey and sending you so much love and supportive energy, always.

With love,

Katie

Burnout recovery continues

Hello again, dear friend,

I had another “Aha!” moment in my burnout recovery today. I mentioned in yesterday’s post that the first “Aha!” came from realizing I feel motivated to respond to writing prompts again (finally!!!). Today’s moment has me laughing at myself like:

Setting the scene: I received an email from a recruiter today for a temporary contract position requiring only 2 years experience in my field – I have 11 years experience – and the pay is close to the hourly rate of my former job. Note that the job description is for editing documents and standardizing formatting and cross-references – easy-peasy-lemon-squeezing level of effort for a technical writer, yeah? I replied I was interested and received a callback pretty quickly. After a little back and forth, the recruiter pointed out the preferred qualification for 2+ years experience in the field of material handling equipment – emphasis on preferred qualification not required qualification, right? “Well, we really want to present you as a strong candidate, so could you whip up a writing sample in that field?” the recruiter inquired.

…well, sure, of course I could…but I already have samples of a redacted user guide, training video, and quick start guide that I’ve produced. I also went looking for existing user guides in the field requested and realized I could write them oh-so-easily. Now, Katie of severe burnout and need to please regardless of cost of time and impact to mental health would absolutely have written a sample as requested, right? But Katie of recovering burnout and renewed confidence decided it was better to write up an “overview of services” with details on how I work and how I can port my skills from a decade of writing for website usage to other forms of instructional writing. Why? Because recovering Katie noted the recruiter reached out to me, not the other way around, so clearly – they need me more than I need them, right? Katie of today knows my worth and has faith in my skills and work ethic. Katie of today doesn’t feel the need to bend over backwards for any job that hasn’t actually hired me yet. Like, hello??? I have better uses for my time than writing bogus writing samples? Like recording a video for the first time in months (started recording again today, woot woot!), like taking the classes I have purchased, like writing things I actually want to write, like spending time with Gunny, like – oh, I don’t know, continuing to focus on fixing the life part of “work-life” balance?

I don’t even know how I reached this level of confidence, my friend, but wow am I glad to be sitting in this moment. I just keep giggling to myself, you know? Goodness, summer 2018 Katie – heck, all of 2020 Katie, too, just wished she could feel the way I feel today. Progress!!! I am so proud of how far I’ve come. I’m so happy with how I’m continuing to change since leaving my job and focusing on life enrichment and recovery for a bit.

I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this post – I just wanted to share in case someone else needs the reminder that signs of burnout recovery can sometimes be so little but so joyful, I guess? Not to say our journeys are at all the same, but kind of a reminder to wait for those little “Aha!” moments as signs of feeling better, right?

As for me, I found I couldn’t recover while at my old job, even after switching teams in late 2018 – it helped a bit for a little while, but the requirement to return to responsibilities from my old team starting in summer 2020 was just…progressively deeply detrimental to my mental health. I promised myself I wouldn’t let the job be such a trigger after 2018, so when I started slipping further and faster, it was time to finally call it quits. That whole “no job is worth the cost of your mental health” thing, you know? Like – I’m never, ever going to be the one to tell you that “you should quit, oh my god” unless we have discussed your situation together and it feels like the right advice based on the discussion, but if your mental health is suffering, maybe at least consider it? Reflect on if removing a situational stressor can help at all, you know? Because, my friend, I absolutely, positively, without a single doubt, know that you deserve to feel safe and supported and content more often than not. If your situation isn’t supportive of that, I’m always, always, always going to be here rooting for you as you work to change it. You deserve to feel good. You deserve to wake up without dreading the day. You deserve to feel inspired and hopeful and confident.

I think that’s all for today, my friend. Wishing you ease on your journey and sending you so much love and supportive energy, always.

Love always,

Katie

Hello again!

Dear Friend,

Thank you so much for being patient with me and my prolonged silence. I’ve felt so stuck and blocked for so long. Have you ever felt like your voice, both literally and figuratively, is trapped in your throat? Like there’s a boulder that lets a little bit trickle through, but the stream is blocked? That’s how I’ve felt when it comes to writing or videos or anything creative for far too long. Gosh, I have so many drafts with prompts saved. I sincerely planned to be more dedicated to writing here, but January 2020, I was still struggling to get the spike in my anxiety under control.

February started off nicely – my mom, sister, and I took our annual Disney World trip and we were able to see our friend who lives in the Orlando area. Gosh, that trip…my sister and I had our dining and fastpasses already booked only for BTS to announce the Map of the Soul Tour tickets would go on sale while we were in Florida. I remember we were SO EXCITED to get BTS ARMY Membership verified preorder and we were so, so, SO THRILLED to snag tickets to the concerts we wanted to see. We even had our annual trip to visit relatives planned around the Chicago tour dates. And yet even as early as that, we were hearing news of COVID spreading overseas and I was already starting to worry about how quickly it was spreading. When we got back, I went on full-time telework after discussing my ongoing heightened anxiety with my manager. By early March, my sister was on full-time telework, too. I was still working on videos for my channel in March, April and May, but with each week that passed, it felt like just going through my daily routine was taking more and more energy. I remember literally crying when BTS postponed their US tour instead of cancelling – being able to keep the seats we snagged was such a small thing, but such a blessing for us. By mid-May, I was noticing symptoms of backsliding further in my progress with my mental health, so I stepped back from the videos as well, fully intending to return once I had my symptoms back under control.

Summer and fall are kind of a blur, honestly. I know so much happened, but I don’t even know what to cover. Staying with the theme here of discussing my mental health journey, I guess, right? Summer was a lot of struggling to get my mental health symptoms under control – lots of self reflection, trying to better understand myself and why I react the way I do. Lots of naps and migraines, too. So many migraines. I started to feel a bit better in August, but the closer the election got, the higher my anxiety climbed, so September through January were spent juggling work and migraines and anxiety attacks and trying to find new ways to cope. My sister recommended we attempt a 90-day challenge – pick something to do for ourselves, for enrichment and joy, for an hour a day from October to January. I had signed up for a few classes, so I planned to spend my hour a day learning – of course, I didn’t realize exactly how much work each class required, so I ended up pausing on two of them and focusing solely on the third – I still have one podcast left for that one. Honestly, the best things to come from the challenge were:

  • Weekly review – what worked, what didn’t, what can we change moving forward to make things easier? This has been so helpful in identifying little ways we can make life easier – like buying a misting bottle for our all purpose cleaner since I was noticing extremely heightened anxiety when we finally ran out of Lysol spray. I know it is silly that such a simple thing as buying a misting bottle made such a difference in reducing my anxiety, but goodness gracious, it really helped.
  • Getting an air fryer/toaster oven combo to replace our toaster. It has been worth every single penny, my goodness! We’ve severally limited ordering DoorDash delivery since starting to play with recipes for the air fryer.
  • Replacing our old, sad, beat-up tea pot with an electric kettle – we’ve had hot tea daily, which has been lovely, honestly. I forgot how much tea really does help me feel more calm and centered. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still devoted to my morning coffee because I love it, but I didn’t realize how much I missed having tea, too. We’ve been making a pot of tea when we brew our coffee, so we can enjoy the coffee while the tea cools to drinkable temperature.
  • Habit- linking – it is sooooo much easier to add a new habit to an existing routine, like adding in running the essential oil diffuser at night – I linked it between dropping my phone on the charger and brushing my teeth. We’ve been gradually linking additional habits as the weeks go by.

January 2021 was a bit of a rollercoaster, with anxiety spikes around the attack on the Capitol and the inauguration, and – the biggest personal change – leaving my job of 11 years. Shocking on a personal level, right? I don’t have another job lined up yet. I spent all of February recovering from burnout – lots of naps, cuddling with Gunny, catching up on fanfics I follow, and spending time on Pinterest for the first time in a long time. I knew I was finally making progress on burnout recovering when I was saving pins to my writing prompts board and thought “Oh, that’s a good one, I could work with that” – it has been SO LONG since I felt that creative spark so easily. I’ve started job hunting now, though I’m leaning toward freelance or short term contract work, I think. I have so many ideas and plans – I can’t even fully explain how…I don’t know, lighter? brigher? grounded but free?…I feel now. I also know things are turning around again since I’ve started noticing little manifestations coming through again – like finding another German Shepherd crystal carving after searching for two years, and like thinking about one of my favorite fanfic authors and having a new fic posted from them the same day.

I’m planning to write again soon, dear friend. Until next time, please stay safe and as healthy as possible. As always, sending you so much love and supportive energy. TTFN!

Love always,

Katie

Myself, A (formerly?) Distorted View

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

Hello dear friend, 

Have you ever had one of those moments that stops you in your tracks and leaves your cheeks burning and chest tight as guilt/shame/regret sit sour upon your tongue? Have you ever been suddenly presented with a view of yourself so at odds with your own self-perception, that it leaves you wondering what other flaws in your personality are still hiding from your own view? A moment that makes you feel slightly sick to your stomach as you are faced with a proverbial mirror that reflects a “you” that you thought you would never be? I sincerely hope not, but if you have, too, maybe this will be relatable for you… 

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