The Story that is My Life

My life as it has been and as it continues to unfold is a story. One story made up of many stories. One complex, yet simple story. One sometimes messy, but so beautiful story. One story that I wonder if it might be interesting to be told.

This blog is my attempt to put part, or parts, of that story into words, pictures, or whatever form my mind can wrap itself around or create from within myself to express what it is like to be the one inside Cindy's Story. This is an exploration on my part and on yours in reading, and seeing, and maybe even hearing. It is not necessarily chronological. It might not always make sense, but it is my expression. It is me.

You are invited to see how my story unfolds.....

Friday, May 22, 2015

OCD: Reflections on Skin Picking and Hair Pulling #2

The following three questions about resilience were proposed to me in a second email by the OCD Center of L.A. as it relates to skin picking and hair pulling.  This is something that I have and do struggle with.  It seems to be in reaction to anxieties, known and unknown, that I carry in my life.  After answering last week's questions and coming up with some good ideas of other ways to cope, I still had trouble stopping this compulsion.  I have gotten frustrated by how difficult it can be to follow through with simple changes.  Maybe you have some compulsive behaviors that have broken into your life that you could use to answer these questions also. 

The OCD center of L.A. says:
A setback is a crucial opportunity to learn resilience by understanding what triggered the behavior, what techniques did not work in a specific situation, and how you can change your behavior in order to reduce the likelihood of having a similar setback in the future. Resilience is the cornerstone to making effective change during your recovery. 
"Choosing to get up and try again."

1) In what situations have you stumbled and found yourself needing a greater level of resilience?
  • I found many flaws in my skin this week and picked at them.  They became bigger flaws.   Also, I ate lots of sugar this week at work.  There was a party for a coworker on a day that I was not at the office, but for the rest of the week I found that I could not resist the many sweet things that remained every day.  I think I even gave myself a headache from it.  By the end of the week I felt ugly and fat, and like I was failing.  I did do my exercises on a number of days, but not every day like I intended to do.  So, I guess a little good, but I needed that greater level of resilience to do better and be more consistent at the good intentions I have.
2) In what situations have you effectively exhibited resilience?
  • A couple years ago when I lived within seven miles of work, I decided that I would ride my bicycle to work each day, since I did not have a car, and I had to get to work anyway.  I began riding.  I found that there were hills to climb and traffic to look out for.  I continued slowly pedaling up the hills a little faster each day, and I learned how to find which roads were designated as roads that were safer for bicycles.  Then it started raining daily.  I did not quit riding.  I bought rain gear (waterproof pants, coat, gloves, backpack, and shoe covers) and also put fenders on my bike.  I did not quit riding.  This activity every day, though difficult, made me feel healthier, refreshed, and good about myself.  Being resilient in this situation was worth it and made me proud of myself.  It also distracted me from having the time to pick at my skin.
3) What specific techniques have worked or not worked after previous setbacks?
  • Techniques that have not worked for me in the past after previous setbacks include telling myself that I am stupid for having weaknesses and believing that I am a failure because I could not be perfect at what I was trying to do or not to do.  Both of these subconscious "techniques" have only had the consequence of making me want to quit.  I may have been partially successful and done better than I had before, but I did not take that into account.  I just got frustrated.
  • A technique that has worked for me after previous setbacks is to enlist the help of a friend or family member that I trust.  Now that I live too far away from work to ride my bicycle each day, I have gotten out of shape and put on more weight than I care to admit.  I recently decided that I wanted to join an Athletic Club because I wanted to start doing some yoga classes and swimming.  My husband and I can now say to each "lets go to the gym together".  Going together gives us more companionship and makes it fun to encourage each other and even try new things.  I also am going to a trainer for a little while to help me know how to work out my whole body and integrate health and balance into my whole being.  This is another person who encourages me not to worry about setbacks, but to start each day with good intentions and follow through with them as much as I can with a positive "Yes, I can" attitude.  It is helping me to restart a new day each day by choosing to get up and try again.  I can remember the small joys of releasing the negative parts that I built up inside of me.  It helps to remember the smiles.  I am also hoping that this technique with it will bring other changes as one part of myself affects all the others.

On another note, I must put forth to you the truth that without it I cannot have the continued resilience that I need:  
I am a fallen being in my core, as it says in the Bible, so no matter how hard I try, I will at some point lose my resilience.  But there is good news.  God says he is faithful, and he will complete the good work that he has started in me.  God sent Jesus, his perfect Son, to rescue me from my sin.  I can receive that salvation by just my confession and belief in him.  I cannot do this on my own, no matter how hard I try.  And as God has made me a whole person, not a person of disconnected parts, I believe that when I give myself wholly to him, his saving grace reaches me as a whole person, in my spiritual self, my emotional self, my relational self, my mental self, and my physical self.  God has started good things in the various parts of me, and I pray that I can trust him as he continues, in his time, to complete the good work in me.  Jesus is how I am resilient.  God's is the hand that I reach for to help me get up and try again.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

OCD: Reflections on Skin Picking and Hair Pulling #1

The following three questions about happiness were proposed to me in an email by the OCD Center of L.A. as it relates to skin picking and hair pulling. This type of coping behavior can be very embarrassing, but this is something that I have and do struggle with. It seems to be in reaction to anxieties, known and unknown, that I carry in my life. I have decided to fill out the answers to the questions to see if it sheds any light on why I do what I do. Maybe you have some compulsive behaviors that have broken into your life that you could use to answer these questions also.

  1. What types of messages do you tell yourself about happiness in day to day life? 
    • If I can have smooth skin and not see or know about the imperfections on and under my skin, I will be happier.  I will feel more pure and like there is not poison inside of me.
    • I don't feel as good when I am overweight, so that makes me unhappy.  I feel like people are looking down on me and thinking that I have no control over myself and the temptations that come my way.  I think that they think I am a bad person.  Also, I feel ugly and want to hide myself.  I get sad because my clothes do not fit, then I feel guilty if I spend any money to buy clothing that is bigger.
    • If I can get everything that I believe is helpful from my life experience written down, then more people will be helped.  When people are helped my life will be worth something.  I will find happiness from hearing how other people who are struggling are helped by what I have gone through.  If I cannot get what is in my head down in words, then people will not be encouraged.
  2. What behaviors do you do when you feel unhappy that provide short term gratification, but ultimately lead to more distress?
    • I pull the few whiskers on my chin and tweeze my eyebrows.  I pick at the marks I see on my legs and arms and face.  Then I get embarrassed because these spots get worse and get infected, which means that I have to deal with them even more.  Picking makes me feel like I am getting rid of the bad that is under my skin.  It makes me think that I will heal, and things will be better than before.
    • I eat one more cookie or piece of cake when it is put in front of me.  I finish the entire unhealthy meal at a restaurant or catered event.  I think, at least if I am feeling heavy and bad about myself, I will enjoy this moment of enjoyable sugary and fattening food.  I put more garbage on the inside hoping that somehow it will make the outside clean and beautiful.  I try not to think about what I am eating because I don't want to become obsessed about it.
    • Sometimes there are too many thoughts running through my head.  I write one sentence down, and then all the thoughts come rushing in as a crowd all at once.  It is like having a massive amount of friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers running haphazardly all around me. They all keep bumping into me until I become dizzy.  This is when I tell myself it is useless to try to think straight.  Inwardly I tell myself I am stupid and useless and leave that first sentence alone so that I feel guilty.
  3. What behaviors could you choose to do instead that might be more likely to lead to long-term happiness?
    • Instead of picking my skin, I could put pretty smelling lotion on my skin.  By doing this I am giving my skin the moisture it needs to heal, rather than making it harder to heal.  I could also turn from gazing at myself in the mirror where I focus on any tiny flaw, and I could look down at the wedding ring on my finger.  Looking at this beautiful ring that was given to me as a symbol of the covenant that my husband and I made to each other reminds me of his love for me.  Through his eyes, he sees a beautiful woman that is perfect for him.  He loves me with all my flaws.  When I am accepting of this, I allow him in even closer to my inner self, and we see even more of the beauty of each other.
    • The issue of food is a difficult one for me to think of alternative behaviors to.  I do have to eat, and I don't want to have to be obsessed and thinking about bad and good food at every moment.  So instead of behaviors to do with food, I will switch to behaviors to do with the idea of putting garbage on the inside hoping it will make me clean and beautiful on the outside.  I am a whole person, not just a body.  I have a mind and a soul.  I want goodness and truth going to the center of me so that what comes out of my life is clean and beautiful for all to see.  The behavior that I want to do is to read the Word of God and to listen to people's stories of salvation and rescue from sin through the blood of Jesus.  This, I believe, will make me more joyful knowing the truth, the hope I have, and the hope that is there for others.  More joy will fill my life, and I will delight in sharing it with others.
    • Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts running and swirling through my head.  Instead of getting overwhelmed and thinking that I need to deal with every thought that comes or instead give up, I can breath and calm my mind.  One way I do this is through mindfulness meditation.  I choose one thought or object or subject and sit quietly, only focussing my mind on that.  It is like being in a crowd and being overwhelmed and deciding to grab one friend's hand and just focus on them.  This makes the craziness in and around me slowly move back from view, and a calmness can come.  This may help me to be able to write an email or blog entry or just calm my mind, but even if I am still unable to calm my mind, I can trust the fact that God does not think any less of me for not writing that email or not putting up that one more blog post.  Yes, God delights to use me with writing, but that is for him to do through me.  I cannot force God.  It is not my power that I can use for God.  It is God's power that works through my weakness.  So instead of feeling stupid when I cannot do something, I will praise God for my weakness, that when I am able to write, it will be because of Him alone.     Amen.