Vulnerability and trust

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Today I was faced with stepping out from around a very thick, very strong wall into the most vulnerable state I believe I have ever been in.  Vulnerability is basically uncertainty, taking a risk with your heart, your soul, and emotions. Before I could be vulnerable I had to trust in someone else, completely trust in her. I knew I trusted T, I knew she has always had my best interests at heart, I knew that she has a passion for her patients, and her work, but I had only offered her little bits of my trust over the last three months. It wasn’t because I was trying to control anything, or hide anything even; I only knew how to give her little bits of my trust. I realized today I have never trusted someone, not the way she was asking of me, not enough to be completely vulnerable. She has been tiptoeing around this for weeks, making me think about our therapeutic relationship, what I was willing to do, to work on, to allow her to see. Every time I left her I would spend the next hour or so contemplating what it is she wanted from me. What did I have to give her? What could I give her? Then today in the middle of a session I saw it, I understood it. The power of what she was asking brought me to tears, yes even me. She wanted me to be vulnerable, to trust her in a way I have never trusted another human. It wasn’t a one way request though, in return she was there offering unconditional acceptance for whatever I brought to her. She was offering me the chance to grow in a relationship where I could trust even if I didn’t do everything she wanted perfectly she wouldn’t abandon me, wouldn’t give up. I must have asked her about 100 “well what if I did this, or said this questions.” She never flinched. How this is possible I have no idea. I never learned how to deal with uncertainty or how to manage emotional risk, how to allow myself to be vulnerable. I have spent a lot of years trying to outsmart vulnerability by making things certain and definite, black and white, good and bad. Now she is asking me to lean into vulnerability and trust, and much to my shock I think I have.

And so begins a new chapter? One I am sure will have drama, fear, rebellion and doubt. However today I realized it will also have the potential to be the greatest chapter so far. How many can say they have someone is willing to see all the scary stuff with them, to take and hold their fear with them, and not leave? I do. Now I cannot wait for the journey to expand. Am I scared? Yes, I am absolutely terrified and have already asked for reassurance from her. But at the same time I am amazed. When I come to a bedside, and truly meet that patient where they are, when I draw near, I am always in awe of their ability to trust that I am really there. Those connections no matter how brief still have an essence of magic to them for me, I hope they always will.  To hear, to feel that someone will, or wants to be that for me seems impossible.  To look ahead and see the depth of trust that will take on both sides is nothing short of incomprehensible, and humbling. It will be a trust beyond measure. Yes, it moved even me to the point of tears, because it is the greatest challenge and gift anyone has ever extended to me. I cannot tell you what emotions it brings to life to think maybe in these lessons I will be safe. That those lessons may come wrapped in shoulders to cry on, arms to hold me, ears to listen, lips to affirm and witness, and with a heart to care and believe in me until I am ready to believe in myself seems like God’s grace extended to me through T.

I have no way of understanding the power of knowing I will always be embraced and accepted, wherever I am on my journey. That she is willing to be there to reflect my thoughts and understandings back to me so that I can find my own answers, and to know that I can be totally real and trust that I can expose the raw and frightened parts of me, and not be judged, criticized or abandoned scares me and gives me hope.

My T has held me up, believed in me during my darkest days, and given me the strength believe I am worth the air I breathe, yes I trust you.

Now for the real work. I am ready.

One step forward…nine back

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Just when I started to believe I would find my way out of this…just when everything was back in place…when I felt like I was living a life I could be proud of…it all falls apart. It is my own fault. I should have known it was a mistake to dare to believe someone could really see me and not recoil in disgust, throw their hands up and tell me I need something else. I did believe it though, I fought so hard not to, but I did. Now reality has come back, no one really wants to see me. That is okay. I will come out of this just like everything else. Scarred,  broken but also stronger at the broken places, stronger at the scars. Next time I will not allow anyone inside, not all the way anyway…one step forward…nine backward.

Discovering unconditional positive regard

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Unconditional positive regard…a term, a way of being, I have learned from T since we began our work together. In all the books I have read, with all the degrees I hold, I have never heard of unconditional positive regard. The definition is not rocket science,  but the practice may as well be, at least for me. Carl Rogers defined it as a “basic acceptance and support of a person regardless of what the person says or does.” Rogers believed that unconditional positive regard is essential to healthy development. That those of us who have never known it may come to see ourselves in the negative ways that we have allowed others to make us feel.
It is an appreciation of the natural value of a person. To truly hold unconditional positive regard we must be able to isolate behaviors from the person who commits them (Fritscher 2012).
Do you have any idea how hard this is? I find in my nurse role I mostly have unconditional positive regard…empahsis on mostly. There are times when a patient or family member is yelling at me for things out of my control that I find myself looking at them as their behavior in that moment, and not as someone who is scared, tired and frustrated. Forget other people, try having unconditional positive regard for yourself. Makes having it for others seem like child’s play. This is a goal of mine in this metamorphosis. To be able to have unconditional positive regard for myself and those around me. Why? Because as Gilbert says in the quote above, when you find you have exposed the ugliest, messiest, darkest parts of your soul to someone and they still hold you in unconditional positive regard, it is an offering that can give you the strength to start the climb out of your dark places. My toilet paper family and therapist have given me this amazing offering over and over the last seven weeks, and that has been at times the only light I can see.

Somedays…

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Somedays…

Somedays your bank balance is red,

Somedays you wish you had not got up,
Somedays you cannot see the point,
Somedays you are pretty sure there is not a point,
Somedays you lose a battle in the war in your head,
Somedays you reach out and ask for help but nobody seems to understand,

Some day I will learn, I will heal, until then I will fight.

Now to convince myself I can fight.
Sometimes life stinks. A diagnosis catches you in its grasp and digs in out of nowhere and changes the course of everything. The dream you held onto for so long suddenly becomes painfully erased and rewritten. The plans and hopes you poured yourself into completely disolve.
Life is upside down for me right now, a stumble in my metamorphosis. I have done what everyone suggested,  tried to just muster on, find a purpose, make one up…but today is just not my day. I know a few things that would make me feel better, but they are not healthy coping mechanisms.
I want so desperately to believe the message in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 that even though on the outside it all seems to be falling apart, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. I have to hold onto the words that tell me “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” So I can truly fix my eyes not on what I can see, but instead focus my heart on the unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
I know this is but a stumble, that pain is not permanent, that I have only glimpsed the tiniest sliver of the amazing journey God has planned for me, that I need to trust Him to guide me, to write my story. I know, or I want to know, that one day this will all make sense. That all these days I wish I could erase, or at least rewrite, will be what makes my story perfect. Someday these days will be why my story is mine. Right now though my doubt is heavy, my fear unshakeable and the slience deafening.

Drawing near

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When I was a brand new student nurse I had an amazing professor. She reminded me why I had gone back to school for another degree to become a nurse. Under her wing I learned I possessed the healing power of  being able to “draw near” with a patient. So often in healthcare we are so wrapped in regulations, rules and procedures we forget that the person we call our patient is another human in their own journey. In years of mentoring nurses I have learned you cannot teach someone to purely draw near to someone, to truly just meet them where they are at in that moment.

In John 4:8 we learn essentially : “you cannot have the promise of God drawing near unto you, until you fulfill the command of drawing near to God.”  I have struggled at times to draw near to God, telling myself I was not worthy, that even God should abandon me. In those times though in some way God has shown me his Grace is unconditional,  not something I have to earn, just something I have to draw near to.

My therapist and my toilet paper family have that gift of being able to draw near to another, to enfold them in acceptance and love. I know in my heart it is that gift that has led me into this metamorphosis. When I am with them my spirit is drawn near to their healing presence, comforted, calmed and nutured. In sessions with T we have the meeting of two live, real human beings. In those sessions I found someone that breaks into my isolation, that can hold hope for me, and help me to fight when I just have nothing. Someone I can be vulnerable too and not be scared.

Those who understand the private hell that rages on inside my brain know the power of having someome draw near, they also know the fear, and the doubt, it can generate. Do not give up though. It took me years to find someone who could draw near to me, someone I would allow to give me that comfort.  And every other moment, or day, or when I seriously think about it it terrifies me. However, the power that simple act has is purely indescribable.  I have never believed in soul mates. Years of a emotionally and physically abusive marriage ruined that fairytale for me. Even when I did believe that somewhere out there was someone my soul could connect to, I for some reason thought it would be a man, someone I could love romantically.  In eight short weeks my belief has been restored, confirmed even and redefined. Turns out the one who your soul may identify with, feel safe in front of, and possibly even find the courage and strength to grow, may be in the most unlikely of places, like a therapist…or members of your toilet paper family.