The 'Right' Decision

I remember being paralyzed as a teen/young adult by trying to figure out the “right” decision, “so much so I’d be in tears. I’d repeat to myself, “I don’t know what to do! I don’t know what to do!” Most decisions felt detrimental to my future success or consequently, failure. My faith also played into this process. Doing “God’s will” was so important to me. If I wasn’t 100% certain that choosing “A” versus “B” was God’s will, I could’t make the choice. 

Certainty is a funny thing. The more and more I grow, the more and more I am tolerant and accepting of uncertainty. It doesn’t bother me as it once did. I think there are many factors that play into this. I embrace the fact that I don’t know everything. That, I could, and will be “wrong” from time to time. Me being certain, on some level, implies I have all the information. So, when I was worrying myself sick about choosing“A”  versus “B” in my teens/twenties, I thought I knew everything that I needed to. Information is always changing and growing. Iremember sitting in therapy one time, getting so upset at the concept that how we were doing therapy may not be how we’d be doing it in 10-15 years. That perhaps, a more effective way could emerge. Of course ongoing and future research will reveal more as it evolves with time. Can you imagine if it didn’t? 

Uncertainty made me doubt. Not only myself, but the people and life processes around me. Does doubt have to play into the equation though? Could it be possible to accept uncertainty as just uncertainty, taking “right” and “wrong” out of the equation? I’m not saying throw all caution into the wind (although, that’s not always a negative thing), making impulsive decisions. Still take into account logic and rational, balancing the emotion, when decision making. It’s really hard to move forward if we never take the first step. A lot of life is what you make it of. There will aways be things that come our way that is out of our control. Just remember, in those experiences, we usually have a measure of control with how we react to it. 

Experiment a little this week. When you catch yourself in those moments of “I don’t know what to do”, take a step back, balance the emotion with some rational (perhaps this involves talking with a therapist or trusted confident), and then take a step. Whatever happens, there will be more steps to take after that. Not everything in life is determined by that one decision. Happy decison making!

A Farmer Had a Horse

I came across this fable the other day as I was reading Dr. Jackie Gardner-Nix’s book, The Mindfulness Solution to Pain. The title is the perfect description of the essence of the book. Whether one is experiencing chronic pain or emotional pain, mindfulness has been a proven resource to help manage, tolerate and in many cases reduce pain. What I also appreciated from this read, is that it falls in line with the evidence based therapy for eating disorders, DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy). 

Radical acceptance, a skill from DBT, is all about accepting a situation, as it is, without judgment. Stuck in traffic? Getting ticked off and inpatient you are not where you want/need to be will not change the reality that you are not moving as fast as you would like. It is what it is. Might as well, in this situation that you can’t change, use another DBT skills: intentionally creating positive experiences. Turn on the radio to your favourite station and rock out (safely of course) while you wait. Did you just binge or engage in an ED symptom? Accept it without judgement. Remind yourself that shame and guilt will only make you further engage in ED symptoms. Accept that it happened, without judgment towards yourself or the situation, and forge on. 

I digress… what I like about radical acceptance, and other DBT skills, is that it encourages one to go with the flow and be more flexible in thinking and behaving, a sign of health and wellness. As the fable will show, and is an important reminder, things may not always be what they seem, nor have the costs or benefits initially mourned or celebrated. Therefore, take each moment as it is and not get ahead of ourselves. 

Check it out:

“A farmer had a horse. One day, his horse ran away.

All the neighbours came by saying, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.” The man just said, “We’ll see.”

A few days later, his horse came back with twenty wild horses. The man and his son corralled all 21 horses.

All the neighbours came by saying, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!” The man just said, “We’ll see.”

One of the wild horses kicked the man’s only son, breaking both his legs.

All the neighbours came by saying, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.” The man just said, “We’ll see.”

The country went to war, and every able-bodied young man was drafted to fight. The war was terrible and killed every young man, but the farmer’s son was spared, since his broken legs prevented him from being drafted.

All the neighbours came by saying, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!” The man just said, “We’ll see.”’

- Unknown

Ah! My Therapist is Going On Vacation...

I used to hate when my therapist would go on vacation. It disrupted my routine and familiarity of our weekly sessions. I felt like I had to keep everything in until they returned. I became fearful my recovery would go down the tube as if they were the one that magically kept it all together. At times, I felt a little abandoned. Funny though, I didn’t really think this way when I was the one going on vacation. I know not all clients feel this way, but I was one of the one’s who did. The ironies and insights of now being a therapist, as well as having grown as a person and in recovery. Here’s why your therapist going on vacation is a good thing:

  • It Models Self-Care. Therapy is hard work. Breaks allow both parties to return refreshed and re-focused. By going on vacation, l am also modelling self-care to my clients. Just as I have needs, so do you and it is okay to meet them.
  • It Breaks Patterns. I think it is healthy for clients to feel a little planned chaos every now and then. All to often it is easy to fall into patterns and routines that do not address current or future needs. By entering planned chaos, one can learn how to navigate these times a little more successfully, giving one a foundation for when they occur without warning. Maybe this time is a good time to try knock off some of those items on your bucket list you've been meaning to get to. Don't just sit back counting down the days, try doing some safe activities to help pass them time as well as engages you in life.
  • Assesses and Puts Into Use Other Available Resources. It is important to have a variety of resources established within one’s recovery. No single person is the key that will make or break one’s recovery. Each has a part to contribute and play. When one resources is not available, it is important to know who else is available for support. You also don’t have to keep everything in when your therapist goes away. Talk with a friend or fellow support group member. Call a distress line if need be. Sure it may not be the same, but it can be good enough in the interim. Remember, It is important to not throw all your eggs in one basket. 
  • Assesses Strengths and Weaknesses. Vacations can be viewed as ‘test runs’. It allows for clients to see which areas they have progressed in, and which areas need a little more attention. However it goes, It is all information that will aid in strengthening your recovery. 
  • Opportunity to Build Self-Trust. This is a big one. It is important, along the way, to build self-trust in your recovery. To know and realize, you have the ability and skills to tolerate your emotions and get through the situation as best you can. If we are never put into situations that foster self-trust and confidence, it is hard to fully believe and know YOU CAN DO IT!
  • Challenges Abandonment and Reaffirms Object Constancy. Remember the peek-a-boo game.  Really young children have difficulty knowing that you are still there even though they cannot see your face behind your hands. As their brain develops, they start to realize that you are still behind ‘there’ and in fact, aren’t ‘gone’. Just because your therapist goes on vacation, they are still rooting, supporting and caring for you. Just because they are not available, does not mean what they represent disappears as well. Unless something tragic happens, therapists return from vacation, challenging in smalls ways, the thoughts/feelings of abandonment. 

So, this time when your therapist preps you for their vacation, check in with your feelings.  Remember that you can tolerate whatever uncomfortable feelings that arise, and remind yourselfthat it can be opportunity for skill building and implementation. You will get through it :)

I Know You're Going to Struggle...

To My Clients:

I know you're going to struggle from time to time when you see me. I don't expect your recovery to be perfect. And when you struggle, and make choices and/or decisions that aren't in line with the goals we have set up in therapy, I hope you use it as an opportunity to learn something, instead of beating yourself up for it. I recognize, it may take more than a handful of times where you stop working, go backwards, act impulsively or lose hope. And when this happens, I hope you can trust the support team (myself included), who are still there holding hope for you. 

I want you to know... that even though it seems easier to go back to what you know... you don't have to. I know this doesn't sound easy... but it is that simple. Even after messing up, you can still show up to your next session if there's an inkling of wanting to keep working towards recovery. It's also okay to take time to figure out what it is that you really want. I won't chase you though. And, this might seem like I don't care... I'm just trying to teach you the skills we practice in session... like boundaries. I'm trying to teach you to challenge that voice in your head that tells you that I'm mad at you or that what you've done is "too bad". I want you to make the choice... to get to the point where you're the one making the decision... for yourself.... because YOU want it. And, if you think you still want to work, however don't think it's with me any more... that's okay! You have that right as it is your treatment. You won't hurt my feelings... maybe we could talk about this decision before you go though... but I know that's not always the case. 

My understanding and expectation that you will struggle doesn't mean I don't care. It's the opposite. Knowing you will struggle from time to time, and that the door is still open for you to come back (as long as it's not enabling), is a way to show compassion, understanding, empathy, concern, patience, hope, commitment and so much more. And if coming back was thought to be enabling, we would talk about that... Again, not because I don't care, but because I'm trying to do my part in helping you get better. 

I want you to know that you and I... we're not so different. When I was on the other side of the couch, I fought against this idea the entire time... until I realized it was true. I truly hope you get to the place where you realize that you matter... that you have value and worth... I hope you get to the point where the times of struggles become farther and farther apart... Until then... I'm willing to work if you are. You know where to find me.

-Karen

Autobiography In Five Chapters - Portia Nelson


1) I walk down the street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. 
I fall in. 
I am lost... I am hopeless. 
It isn't my fault. 
It takes forever to find a way out. 

2) I walk down the same street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. 
I pretend I don't see it. 
I fall in again. 
I can't believe I'm in the same place. 
But it isn't my fault. 
It still takes a long time to get out. 

3) I walk down the same street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. 
I see it is there. 
I still fall in... it's a habit. 
My eyes are open. 
I know where I am. 
It is my fault. 
I get out immediately. 

4) I walk down the same street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. 
I walk around it. 

5) I walk down another street.