Books were my favorite escape from the chaos of relentless domestic violence fueled by parents with drug and alcohol addictions. Books were my connection to HOPE. They gave me something to dream about and fueled my faith that there was a better way to live. Life could actually be peaceful…and I was determined to figure out how to make that happen, for myself and for others.
I was determined not to end up like my mother with 5 kids at 28 years old and already on her third of 6 marriages, on welfare and moving every few months because we couldn’t pay the rent or the landlord got tired of having the police show up at our apt.
Through it all, the “dreamer” part of me (the part that other people always labeled as “idealist” or “You think too much” ) was the part of me that enabled me to not only survive but to strive for a better life.
It has not been an easy journey – even harder than I ever thought it would be. I was not left unscarred by the traumas I endured trying to find my way to healthy relationships with myself, men, work, food, sleep, money, my body, my home, my stuff. I had attachment issues and addictive relationships with everything in my life.
But there is a huge difference between being “hurt” and being “defective” as a human being.
All the diagnoses I received on my journey to healing made me feel worse about myself – like I was damaged and defective. All my acting out, from compulsively over-achieving to multiple addictions to desperately trying to give people the impression that I was normal” were attempts to simply feel okay in my own skin; to not stick out, to find a place or relationships where I “fit in” and could feel worthy of love and peace.
I can see now how I was searching everywhere to find an external source of approval to fill the empty holes in my soul that I did not know how to fill myself.
The key here is that I was not defective, I did not KNOW HOW to live in peace. I had never felt it. I was looking for someone to teach me a better way and what I got was prescriptions, advice, and diagnoses of “what was wrong with me.” All the “symptoms” that my doctors and therapists were trying to “eliminate” so that I would be “fixed” I finally realized were actually things that couldn’t be “fixed” – because I wasn’t broken – I was unskilled. I had not cultivated personal agility in the places I needed it most: in my heart, my view of myself, and my ideas about how to accepted. I still had hope and I still had the ability to LEARN.
Learning design thinking, needs assessment, the art of self-cultivation and emotional agility saved my life. Learning how to accept, like and value myself as I am…with all my strengths AND my quirks. Learning how to feel satisfied.
- Learning what “enough” was.
- Learning how to cultivate myself – to value myself enough set boundaries with people and advocate for my “self.”
- Learning how to allow people to get close to me and to love me.
- Learning how to listen to myself — to see past the “content” of my behavior so that I could understand what needs were going unfulfilled. Once I could identify my needs without wishing I didn’t have them, I could set about figuring out how to meet those needs in a more effective way.
- Learning how to communicate with others without trying so hard to win their approval and understanding.
- Learning how to process the intensity and sensitivity of my emotional life without being overwhelmed and depressed by my inability to “control” life.
Ironically I was simultaneously “too independent” and didn’t want anyone to help me with anything, but I was also extremely emotionally needy and dependent – but trying not to show it.
My insight addiction – the fuel for my drive to learn – was what saved me. Learning everything I could about everything and connecting the dots that no therapist or other person could connect for me.
No matter what I got treated for, no one was looking at the WHOLE me. No one saw the connections between my clutter, debt, eating, drinking, smoking, perfectionism, procrastination, addictive relationships, workaholicism, sleep disorder, nightmares and more. No one ever even asked me about my disorganization or chronic lateness, or frequent sick days at work. Every therapist I saw gave me a different diagnosis with the disclaimer that I was a mild or high functioning case of something. Each one disagreed with the last one, or said I was all of the above or none of the above.
No one caught the ADD or ever connected my challenges to my positive traits of being highly creative, intelligent, sensitive, multi-talented, ambidextrous and having a high speed mind that was constantly trying to make meaning of EVERYTHING around me.
What healed me most was learning about all of these labels and seeing what they all had in common so that I could truly understand myself in a gentler way.
Synthesizing the whole me with a compassionate inner vision instead of analyzing myself into bits and pieces till I was in a fetal position over how many things were “wrong” with me. The more I see the whole, the less defective I feel. The shame dissipates and in it’s place the drive to share my story and what I’ve learned with others that I now know are also hiding out there – all trying to seem normal.
The hole in my soul now has a bottom and is refillable. It doesn’t stay full but neither does it ever get completely empty. Just like eating regularly, I nourish my soul regularly without depending on any one thing outside of me to do the nourishing.
My journey to overcoming PTSD, depression, anxiety, addiction and making peace with myself was a roller coaster with lots of highs and lows. There will always be ups and down in the creative evolutionary life, but I know now for sure that it is possible to live life with a LOT less drama and chaos.
I am sharing my life journey with you just in case it might give you hope that there is another way to live where the roller coaster is a lot more manageable, meaningful and even fun!
I will be posting here for the next year as I’m writing my own autobiography – a story of 8 transformations I made to becoming agile – free to live life and flourish on my own terms, my own way, with love and respect for myself and for all of humanity.
To me that’s what Agile is about:
- Anticipating the bumps in the ride so that you can become more ready for them.
- Leaning into them instead of struggling against them.
- Bouncing back more quickly from setbacks and disappointments.
- Learning from both successes and setbacks.
- Learning how others are different from you and stretching yourself to understand their needs, while ALSO insisting that they respect your needs and not minimize your needs just because they are uncommon.
- Savoring the moments of personal victories – even though your hard won triumphs are easy accomplishments for others.
- Making small incremental adjustments instead of giving up.
- Trusting yourself to dance as needed.
- 5 Steps to Cultivating the Power of Habit – How to Transform Self-Limiting Thought Habits with Agile Thinking Habits
- Handling Emotional Overwhelm the AgiliZen Way
- The Truth about Chronic Disorganization: What Causes Chronic Disorganization – How to Heal the Trauma
- Chronic Procrastination and Resistance: The Truth about How we Learn to Procrastinate.
- Agilizing Your Mind: Unlearning Clutter Producing Thinking Habits
- Is it Adult ADHD or Creative Personality Type?
- Are you an adult with ADHD or ADDish traits?
Ever thought you might be “gifted”? How about Neurodiverse?