Sunday, November 2, 2014

11/2/14: And Also...

Along with the self of the therapist work that's been consuming my life, we've been living a life of craziness lately--more than ever if you can believe it!  Dave's managing the iPad project at the MTC and it's led to 12-14 hour days pretty frequently for him and little to no time to just relax and hang out with each other.  He goes to bed around when I get home at night and leaves before I wake up so it's a lucky day when we actually see each other long enough to hold a conversation. Hopefully things will slow down for him here soon so we can enjoy thanksgiving with my family up here!!! YAY!

My semester has just felt insane for some reason as well. I was about to say that on paper my life doesn't seem that crazy, but then I started counting up the hours and it's definitely crazy. There's about 14 hours of class, 15 hours of work(research), and then 10-15 hours of clients a week. So without accounting for homework in there that's already 43 hours. So it's crazy. Not as crazy as Dave, but still a bit much--especially when it's taking an emotional toll as well.

Next I was going to talk about a PhD, but after listing the craziness of school right now that seems sort of insane. But we've both had some pretty amazing spiritual experiences lately giving us very firm guidance about when to start a family and the PhD has never felt out of the picture for me, so I'm going for it.  I have no idea how it is going to work in the plans, but this was more of a spiritual decision than logical. My application is due Dec 1st (I think..) and I'm working on it. I'm not sure which professor I want to work with and that's been part of the stress of this semester, but I think at least one of them will take me, haha. There are some studies I'm more interested in than others, but at this point, I just want a PhD, so I can get excited about whatever research they want me on. The professor I originally wanted to work with is sending me to an externship in Salt Lake next week to learn more about and start getting certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy. I. AM. STOKED. I love EFT and want to become good at it (it's hard because you have to be soft and slow things down a lot--2 things that are not my forte...), so this is amazing he's paying for me to go get trained. And I feel like if he's spending the money to send me, I have a pretty good chance of getting into the PhD program to use the skills in his study.  Crossing my fingers!  It would mean three more years at BYU, and 1 year longer than Dave. He'll graduate in about 2.5 years. But we're okay with that :)

Um...what else? I'm loving and hating therapy. For the first time it feels like "work" to see clients instead of fun. I think I'm just getting a little burned out trying to balance it all. But once in a while I have awesome things happen like a couple bringing me a card on our last day together with a picture of their family and telling me to never forget how much I've changed their lives and especially their kids' lives :)  Sometimes it feels like I'm hitting my head against a wall with my clients, but other times it's the most exhilarating thing I've ever felt. It's amazing to watch clients' lives transform before my eyes.  I obviously love it enough to go on with a PhD, right?

Dave is really loving his research for his dissertation. It's much better than his classes, but he's getting close to being able to be done with classes and just do his dissertation :)  As long as work calms down and he can stay in school...just kidding, but not really...

I think that about sums it up right now for us. In other news, here's our life through the lens of my iPhone!

Trying to eat healthy lately!  We're doing a fitness program at BYU together to help us be
 accountable to being healthier.  It's going...alright...but that's my fritatta breakfast I've been making!
Tastes better than it looks :P

Fishing with Dave and Corbin!

I needed Fall decorations because I was feeling like our house was too bland.  

Fall decoration :)

And the wreath that I've been looking for forever!  It looks great on the blue door I think!

11/2/14: Self-of-the-Therapist--Family Style...

I don't think life as a therapist is ever going to be easy.  I think I had this naive hope that there would just be a huge start-up cost of figuring out my own issues and working through them and then from there it would be easy.  I mean, I understood that it would never be easy to listen to people's most difficult struggles in life and it would never be easy to stick with them even when everybody else had abandoned them.  But I think I hoped that the emotional journey would at least slow down at some point.  But maybe that's part of what's made the last few months so difficult--they were unexpected.

The rest of this post is sort of a compilation of a lot of the self work I've been doing this semester and it's personal and also irrelevant to most people, but I wanted to be able to put into words for my family what has been going on for me all semester and why they've been peppered with questions nonstop since September.  Feel free to keep reading, but I don't expect most people to get all the way to the end :)


So, we're in a few classes right now that have really delved into our families of origin (the family we grew up in) so we can relate to our clients better.  The first project was about facing our adolescence and understanding the parts of us that haven't healed yet from the pain (because any way you put it, adolescence is painful--from school, to work, to home, to extracurriculars, to social lives, etc.).  I thought I would go into this project and it would be a breeze.  "No problem", I thought, "I had a pretty happy childhood/adolescence!"  I didn't expect to start writing my paper and feel emotionally transported back to the stress of high school and navigating the social dynamics there, and I definitely didn't expect to feel so sad about realizing, once again, that I'd struggled with bouts of minor depression when I was younger and that none of us really knew what it was at the time.

So that first project brought up some pretty strong emotions for me, but the hardest part wasn't the painful emotions themselves--it was my questioning them.  Was this really how I felt when I was younger?  Am I imposing my adult self onto my child self right now?  How do my parents see how this all went down?  Siblings? etc.  It was kind of like a knife to the heart to realize that I didn't even trust my own experience of things, and I didn't know why it felt like a knife at the time--I just knew it did.  Needless to say, that presentation was severely interrupted by tears upon tears and I think my professor just gave me a pity grade because you couldn't really understand what I was saying at all when I was presenting, haha.  There were just a lot of powerful, raw emotions I had never addressed before that were coming out before I was ready for them.

So I sort of put this project out of sight out of mind when it was over because I didn't really want to think about it again, but I did go back to therapy to start working through it all with someone.  (This was important because I can't really help my adolescent clients if I'm too scared to go near my adolescent self emotionally.)  But then in another class shortly thereafter I had another family of origin presentation to do!  This one was more from the lens of gender and ethnicity in my family.

I already knew I didn't trust my perception of things from my project before, so this time, I sent an email out to all my siblings and my parents and asked them the questions I had to answer for my presentation--How were women treated in your family?  How aware was your family of privilege?  Did you experience any oppression due to gender or ethnicity? etc.  I was pleasantly surprised by the responses of my family and also intrigued by the fact that everyone had a slightly different experience of things.  I think I obviously expected this, cognitively, but somehow I still felt like my perception was the "wrong one" and reading everybody else's would clear it up for me.

Only my two oldest siblings and my parents responded because I think my other sisters didn't really want to engage long enough to come up with well-thought out answers (I don't blame them).  But I was surprised to see that my experience was most similar to my brother's and then not completely different from everyone else's, but there were subtle differences, and certain things that stood out to each person that the others didn't even mention.  My mom wanted to read everyone's responses at the end and I was nervous to let her because everyone had written knowing that I was the only person who was going to see them.  But they all said I could share them so we all read each others'.  When my mom was surprised by some of the things we'd said about emotions being handled at a pretty cognitive level, she explained to me that with 6 kids (5 girls) it was a necessity to keep things even-keeled--especially when she was pregnant for most of that time.

Her comment really caused a break through for me.  Not because I needed to understand why emotions were handled the way they were--I was kind of already past the point of curiosity on this front--but because when she said that, I realized my immediate reaction was to get defensive and invalidate her experience.  I hadn't ever understood before that to feel like my experience mattered, I needed to invalidate everyone else's.  I mean, I had understood this last year after some feedback I'd gotten from friends and supervisors and I had put it into practice obviously a lot with my clients and with my friends and things, but I had never applied it fully to my family because I hadn't even realized it was happening in that realm of my life.  I think I've been fighting so hard to prove that my experience matters in my family that I've been shutting everyone else's out.

It was a really liberating moment to realize that before I can validate my own experience I have to validate other people's.  It helped me 1) recognize maybe why I'd had such a hard time accepting my emotions surrounding my adolescence, and 2) actually listen to what my mom was telling me about her experience because I was listening to understand, rather than to retort.  It's mostly liberating I think because now I don't feel like I have anything to prove to anyone.  I can live my life how I want to live it and I can think and feel what I want.  It's okay if someone else has a completely different experience.  That's because everyone is different and sensitive to different things.  They don't have to be right or wrong, and neither do I.

^^Reading that last sentence it sounds so obvious and simple, but I can't figure out how to convey the import of that realization for me.  Life affects everyone differently.  It doesn't mean someone is right or wrong.  This was huge.    


Just in case anyone but my family actually did make it to the end, I just want to clarify that nothing really bad ever happened to me in my childhood or family.  I had a ridiculously blessed and privileged life with little to no trauma and amazingly committed and talented parents, as well as connected and engaged siblings.  Which is why I'm able to focus on such seemingly tiny things like validating my own experience--I don't have trauma I'm trying to work through simultaneously.  And for that I am incredibly grateful.  So please don't walk away from this thinking there was some huge thing wrong with me or my family.  It was just day to day stuff I'm talking about here and just differing experiences of it.