Fear Fuels OCD and 4 Ways You Can Defeat It

The fuel of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is fear. Fears that come in an endless array of shapes and sizes………

If I touch the door knob without washing my hands, I will contract a deadly illness……..worse yet, I may pass it to my children, and then they may die…

OR

If I don’t check to see if the gas stove is off, then my family and I will die from the fumes while we sleep…

Fear Fuels OCD

Fear Grows

 

We believe that the fears can be abated if we take some action (i.e. the compulsion). While many people wash their hands after touching a door or checking the stove once to be sure it is off, persons who suffer from OCD often do these tasks repeatedly. The problem is that the abatement doesn’t last before either that fear or a hundred others rear their ugly head. In exhaustion, we run through vicious cycles of obsessing over a myriad of fears and doing compulsive acts to try to stay the impending doom.

Notice, I say we. I was hit head on by OCD around the age of 13 and spiraled out of control until I finally got help when I was 18. I battled for several more years through counseling, medication, dietary changes, prayer, journaling, education, and exercise until finally I no longer qualified for the diagnosis.

But thinking in terms of fear and worst case scenarios is still my default mode. I have to battle to not let fear run my life. Here are some things I have learned about fear…………whether it be the fear that fuels OCD or a general feeling of anxiousness:

1. Unless someone has a gun to your head or you are in immediate physical danger, 9 times out of 10, fear is a liar.

2. If you give in to assuaging one fear by completing a compulsion, that same fear or 10 others will rapidly take its place.

3. Fear is a bad decision maker. Decisions based on fear usually don’t work out so well.

4. While we generally think courage is the opposite of fear, I find that love is the antidote to fear. Focusing on our love for and from others, for oneself, and God (if you so choose), helps make much wiser decisions.

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If you struggle with fear, try this journal exercise: Write down all the things (big and small) that you have been afraid of in the last week. Now ask yourself, how many of the fears came true?

27 Aug 2014

3 Things to Consider if You’re on the Fence about Medication

There are a vast number of self-help books, peer led support groups, and various other options out there to help yourself, and though there are great benefits to these options, sometimes it is time to do something more.  Many people (and sometimes very rightly so) are hesitant to try the medication option when it comes to mental health.  This is very understandable.  It is not a decision to make lightly.  So, what do you do when you want to do something more than what you’ve been doing, but are either against or on the fence with medication?

meds

Is Medication the Only Option Left?

First of all, therapy is highly recommended.  Yes as a therapist, I may be biased here, but there is an infinite value of a third party person able to objectively help you get some perspective, or reflect on areas of need or progress, or even be a voice that lets you know at what point it is time to reconsider the medication option (if it is something you are willing to reconsider).  I can definitely empathize with trying to avoid using medications, but there are legitimate things to keep in mind if this is your plan.  Read on…

 

No Medication Means:

It is likely going to take a lot more work.  Therapy is hard work with or without medication.  Depending on what concerns you are working on, your thinking process, your social interactions, your emotional experience or more may all be affected by said concern.  For example, depression can significantly impact your ability to see things clearly and to really focus on the positives or progress.  Without that boost of assistance from medication (i.e. increased mental clarity, improved emotional stability, etc), it will likely be harder. With regard to children (with whom I specialize), this means it is harder work for both the child and the parents (and possibly also the school and the daycare, depending on age).  This does not mean progress is not possible, but do know that it will be harder.

It is likely going to take longer to progress.  Again, depending on what you are working on, this can vary greatly.  Medication or not, some people may stay in therapy for years to maintain their mental health, while others may only need 4-6 sessions.  If you choose to give it a try without medication, you are going to have to be patient; whatever the medication might have done to help your thinking or emotions is likely going to take longer to catch up.  Be patient!

Monitor yourself: set small goals, and if you are not progressing, reconsider the medication option.  Not everyone may be receptive to this one, but if things are not getting better, you’ve got to do something!  Everyone is different, which is why any good clinician is going to individualize your treatment.  Yes, some people can make progress without medication.  But, there are others who may discover in this process that they need it.  At the end of the day, it is a quality of life issue.  If you have given it time and effort and are not happy with your progress, then reconsider medication.

 

Medication Is Just Another Tool

In summary, it is a difficult decision whether or not to try medication.  Consider your options and keep the above things in mind.  Should you end up deciding to give medication a try, remember: it may take some trial and error.  Communicate with both your therapist and physician to ensure you are on the right medication and dosage for you.  Also, remember that just because you try medication does not mean you have to stay on it forever!

 

18 Jul 2014

Tango to Happiness

Follow your passion. Do what you love the money will follow.  These are fundamental to having fulfillment and success say the personal development gurus. When they actually appear, it is a real treat.

Tango Dancers on Las Ramblas

Tango with passion

 

Recently I decided to learn the Argentine Tango. That was a surprise on its own but what I found in a dance studio downtown was extraordinary.  There was a pleasant atmosphere as people from all walks of life gently approached me and introduce themselves.  I learned that my $15 dollars not only paid for my one hour group lesson but also for an hour and one half of practice that took place immediately afterwards.  As I was taking in what a great deal this was, our instructor approached me.  Would you like to spend a few minutes prior to class learning a few basics about the tango? Sure.

Thus began the first dance lesson and lecture on the essence of the tango. I was stumbling all over myself attempting to learn something so it took me awhile to realize how different this place was.  This woman was not just teaching me about the tango she was sharing her love of the dance. Once class began I realized that we would be continually changing partners.  Not only were the instructors teaching me but other more advanced students would teach me as we danced together.  I kept stumbling on.  I kept apologizing for wasting the time of the more skilled dancer but they all smiled and told me they had been a beginner once themselves.  At a break someone told me that this was a good group of people.  They told me I would enjoy myself here.  They were right. The instructor, Marie Roil Roach, continued to attempt to bring the love of the tango alive in me.  I and these people were all drawn to the spirit of this extraordinary woman.  I could see how her dedication to the tango and to bringing it to our community had awaken something within her that drew us to her.

Later during another break I overheard her telling one of the students how it all began.  She told of deciding to learn the tango.  She talked of the moment that her instructor asked her to dance with him as an example for the class. Her eyes lit up as she talked of her experience in his arms and how the Argentine Tango is like no other dance.  You could see in her face how that training and that instructor had changed the course of her life. It was an unexpected moment that she acted upon.  We often think that we have to figure life out.  Sometimes we need to be open and to act.

Being around a teacher who is open, has integrity and passion not only attracts us but can open us up.   Several people lately have told me that I was trying too hard. I sort of listened. “ I am building a company. I have to work hard.”  I would think.  Yet when a teacher I trust told me. “You are working too hard. Relax let the music guide you.” I was able to hear her advice differently.  As I let her words in and relaxed.  I noticed my dancing improving.  I remembered times where not trying so hard helped me be more successful. She said nothing profound.  Many instructors have said similar words to their students.  Yet when we let down our defenses and allow someone to touch us, we can hear things differently.   Her passion, integrity and trust is creating different responses not only in her life but also in the lives of others.

Tango Kiss

But this story is about more than love of dance, passion and openness, it is also about dedicating yourself to something greater than yourself.  Marie did not set up a strategic marketing plan dedicated to maximizing her profits as she brought the tango to Indy.  She asked how can I bring the tango to Indy?  The price and instruction is set up to accommodate a variety of people not to maximize her finances.  As you look into her eyes and see the love and passion in them and as you look at the people surrounding her, you will quickly know that she made the choice that was right for her and for our community.

Have you come across someone who is following their passion? How have they affected you? What has it been like to be around them?  I would love to hear about them.

If this blog post has increased your curiosity about the tango.  Riolo Dance‘s web site is www.riolodance.com and Marie’s email is marie2dance@comcast.net.  If you are interested in discovering your passion, then call us today at 317-471-8780 and ask for an appointment with Allen Rader!

 

Image credits: Louise Leclerc via CompfightPatrick McDonald via Compfight

28 May 2014

Meet Judy Bannister, LCSW, LCAC, SAP, NCCE!

I am pleased to introduce Judy Bannister, the fourth member of our executive team and a terrific therapist. Judy’s dedication to professional growth and development cannot be overstated.

Therapy, Addictions, Child Custody – Oh My!

Judy Bannister, LCSW, LCAC, SAP, NCCE

The Fabulous Judy!

Let me start by explaining all of the letters after Judy’s name:

LCSW – Licensed Clinical Social Worker: Like all of us here at Integrative Health Resources, Judy is a state-licensed, masters-level mental health therapist. This means she is able to assess her clients, give them a diagnosis and work with them as individuals, families or couples. Judy can help you discover the best your life has to offer.

LCAC – Licensed Clinical Addictions Counselor: These letters mean Judy has experience and expertise in treating drug and alcohol addition problems. She can provide assessments and treatment that will be accepted by nearly all judges for court purposes. The best part is Judy can help you without increasing your sense of shame or embarrassment. If you are wondering if you have a problem with drugs and alcohol or if you have received a DUI, Judy is the professional for you.

SAP – Substance Abuse Professional: This credential means Judy can help you if you get in trouble with your employer for drugs or alcohol. Those of you who work the Department of Transportation (INDOT) know you need the right person to help you get your career back. Talk to Judy!

NCCE – Nationally Certified Child Custody Evaluator: Now that you see it spelled out, I bet you can tell what this specialty means! Judy is qualified to complete child custody evaluations. With over 15 years of direct experience at the Children’s Bureau, interacting with and training professionals in the child welfare field, Judy knows questions about custody and guardianship inside and out. Now that she has completed mediation training, Judy is the best resource we know of for divorced or divorcing parents.

Phew! I told you Judy’s commitment to professional development was huge!

Judy the Therapist

I’d like to tell you about who Judy is as a person. Judy is really good at asking the right question. The question that reminds you of what you already know, without making you feel like an idiot. She sees broken hearts, troubling behavior, and strained relationships with clarity. She is passionate about her clients, yet she keeps her excellent sense of humor. A parent herself, she understands the importance of strong attachments in a very personal way. I encourage you to take advantage of her personality and expertise right away!

Judy has available appointments now! Call 317-471-8780 to make an appointment.

02 May 2014

Look Away from the Screen! (Not Yet – Read this First)

If you’re in the majority, you probably have more than one technological device (smartphone, tablet, gaming system).  You or your loved ones also are probably inclined to be on any one of these devices more often than not–instead of actual human interaction.  Our “family time” has become people sitting near each other, each in their own techno world.  Why is that?  Why do we look at a screen instead of a person?  Well, I am just as guilty as the next person and admit that it’s convenient, entertaining, and rewarding to be able to answer any given question at any given time (I love to google everything!).

Seriously: 3 little kids with tablet computers on the Q train.Michael Monello via Compfight

However, I find myself thinking often about how it is sad that my family and I cannot get through a dinner without someone checking their phone, or complaints about dinner at the dinner table instead of in front on the television.  What happened to good ol’ conversation?  Well, I have compiled a list of ideas to help combat this ongoing and ever growing concern of family relationships in the digital age…

6 Ideas to Reduce or Improve Screen Time

1.  Think about instituting a no tech time: maybe at dinner, one night a week, or one day over the weekend.

2.  Incorporate technology into quality time: ask and be interested in what each other is doing on their various technological devices.

3.  Make a point to slow down, appreciate the moment and be present when a non-tech opportunity to interact arises: your son/daughter is playing a sport, instrument, etc.

4.  Get creative!  Use ideas from technology (pinterest, facebook, etc) and get your family involved in something that might get them a little messy and give them a chance to express themselves creatively.

5.  Model for kids (the younger, the better) interactions without technology.  If you are making a point to not take calls or emails after a certain time, kids will pick up on that.

6.  Use waiting times to engage with your child, either with or without a tech device.  We know this happens to us all: waiting for a table at a restaurant, waiting at a doctor’s office.  So, let’s use that time for things other than checking our email.

 

Remember, your kids will take their cues from you.  If you are making the point to engage and interact, then this will be their norm.  If you make it a standard to set aside technology, even for just a short time, then they will see that.  Lastly, keep in mind that this is an ongoing challenge, especially with more and more technology options.  It sounds easier than it is, but you can do it!

15 Apr 2014

4 Destructive Relationship Habits

Relationships are complicated and require daily work to maintain. When we maintain healthy relationships the payback can be quite fulfilling and rewarding. Often when couples get together they believe the fairy tale of happy ever after. There is a happy ever after for those willing to put the work in and look at their individual part in maintaining the happy ever after.

John Gottman of the Gottman Institute has studied relationships and has identified four criteria in couples that are predictors of success or failure in the relationship. He calls them the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” and names them this because relationships do not end because of anger and conflict but how the individuals communicate in their relationship. Gottman believes anger and conflict can be good for the relationship if the communication helps them clear the air. Anger and conflict can become destructive when the four horsemen ride into the communication. Gottman calls the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness and Stonewalling. (Why Marriages Succeed or Fail by John Gottman)

First step to ridding your relationship of these four horsemen is for you to observe and recognize when you use these tactics. With recognition comes the opportunity to change these behaviors so communication goes from destructive to constructive.

1. Criticism is the overgeneralized complaints that attack your partner’s character. Criticism uses phrases like: “You never,” “You always,” “You should,” “Why don’t you ever,” and “Why are you always?” When we criticize we set up a scenario where one partner is right and the other one is wrong. Criticism inevitably invites in another horseman: Defensiveness, because when we are criticized we feel we need to defend ourselves.

2. Contempt is psychologically abusing your partner with hostile words and body language. Contempt is more destructive then criticism because contempt is meant to harm and hurt with words and body language. When someone uses contempt they often will use putdowns, insults, name calling, yelling and screaming, sarcasm and hurtful phrases. Phrases like: “You’re no good”, “There is something wrong with you”, or “Why can’t I get you to understand your thinking is wrong”. Contempt can also be conveyed by how you respond to the person non-verbally. Examples are; eye rolling, looking away, not making eye contact, stomping out of the room. These behaviors, words and phrases send a clear message you do not see your partner as a full participating person in this conversation. The message is meant to demean and take away from the other person’s self-esteem and self-worth.

3. Defensiveness is a way of protecting oneself from a perceived or real attack. People will say they are feeling attacked and have become the victim. Defensiveness is a way to block a verbal attack. Defensiveness leads to flooding of emotions, which leads to blocking out what the other person is saying. This is where blame and hardening of your stance grows and you no longer hear what your partner is saying, you simply defend. This can then lead to escalation of out of control behaviors. Anger is matched with anger, blame with blame, excuses increase and phrases become black and white; “You never feed the dog”,” It’s all your problem”, You never do what I want you to do”, “Yes but”, “It’s not my fault I…” Defensiveness keeps you from solving issues and impedes communication.

4. Stonewalling is withdrawing from the relationship in order to avoid conflict. When the discussion has digressed to yelling or nonproductive communication stonewalling is a way of shutting down the possibility of any resolution. Leaving the room, giving the other person the silent treatment, turning away and focusing on something else, turning up the volume on the TV are clear signs the situation has digressed to disrespect, mistrust, accusations and nonproductively. Sometimes the person stonewalling thinks they are calming things down, in reality it sends a message of displeasure, disconnection, division, complacency, arrogance or self-riotousness. Stonewalling is a behavior that predicts a relationship is in trouble.

Do you experience any of these patterns of behavior regularly in your relationship? If so there are things you can do to change how you communicate so there is an increase in healthy communication and enjoyment in your relationship. Please call us if these behaviors have become too familiar in your relationship.

(Four Patterns that will sink your Relationship: Review of Gottman’s Four Horsemen by Michael T. Halyard, MBA, MS, MFT)

12 Mar 2014

6 Ways to Help an Anxious Kid

Do you believe your child has issues with anxiety or stress? Kids are supposed to be carefree, right? In today’s world, stress and anxiety are common in everyone—including children. There are many things we can do as parents and adults working with children that can help an anxious kid manage things better.

First, it helps if you can determine the triggers that may be contributing to creating an anxious kid:

1. Stressful Environment-Is the home and/or family experiencing stress? While it may seem obvious, it is important to notice how much stress is going on around your child. Children are very sensitive and often pick up on the slightest bit of tension (especially those that are more sensitive!) Think about how you can sense if you walk into a room and can immediately tell two people were arguing—there is a tension in the air. Children are very adept at picking up on our energy!

a. Be aware of the level of stress your child is exposed to and try to limit it as much as possible.

b. Make a point to manage your own stress appropriately so that it is less likely to impact your anxious kid. Plus, you will be modeling stress management!

2. Changes-If there are a lot of changes occurring in the home, school, family, friends, this could be triggering the anxiety. Is your family going through a divorce? Moving? New baby? Some children struggle more than others with change.

a. Pay attention and validate his or her feelings. I always tell kids that their feelings are never wrong, though I also go into how intensity and frequency can create a problem.

b. Prepare kids for changes! You can keep it simple and kid-friendly. For example: “mommy needs to stay at the hospital with the new baby so the new baby is not lonely. Mommy will visit us and you can visit her. Mommy and baby will get to come home in ___ weeks.” Allow your kids to ask questions, too!

3. Transitions-Some kids, especially those that are more likely to experience anxiety, struggle with transitions. You may see this more often when they have to stop one thing and transition to another (especially if they like the first). There are ways to help this!

a. Prepare kids for changes and plans. Give them a heads up and timeframes when transitioning (i.e. in 5 minutes, it will be time to clean up).

b. Keep a routine as much as possible, so kids know what to expect. Post a visual schedule so they can anticipate what is coming next. If it is “in writing” then it helps diffuse arguments. For example, “the schedule says that after dinner is homework time which is before TV time.”

Therefore, after you determine anxiety may be an issue, the first step to helping your child is figuring out possible triggers and trying to limit them. Stay tuned for more on coping strategies for anxiety in kids!

03 Mar 2014

Mindset and Mindfulness

One of the most significant areas in which individuals can work to improve their well-being has to do with how we focus on what we are thinking. Whether you are considering therapy or are actively working with a professional, it’s likely you spend much of your time reflecting on what you are actually thinking. This process is sometimes called metacognition, or “thinking about thinking.”

Researchers have known ever since the earliest days of psychology that there is a connection between feelings, thoughts, and actions. New data shows that being actively aware of your thoughts can have either a positive or negative impact on your life. The two terms to keep in mind are “mindset” and “mindfulness.”

What is mindset?

Carol Dweck, author of the book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” explains that people tend to have one of two basic perspectives about their own capacity. With a fixed mindset, people believe that their basic qualities–such as intelligence, skills, or talent, are part of their identity and cannot be changed. People with fixed mindset tend to spend their time cataloging what they can and cannot do, and assume that talent is the main force behind success.

However, people with a growth mindset believe the opposite. Their view is that basic qualities can be developed through hard work and devotion. Someone with a growth mindset is not concerned about the talents they started with, but the talents they can grow over time.

What is mindfulness?

According to the Mindful Awareness research center at UCLA, mindfulness is “paying attention to present moment experiences with openness, curiosity, and a willingness to be with what is.” Unlike mindset, being mindful is not about holding a perspective but about taking in experiences without judgement or evaluation.

Considering mindset and mindfulness together

A healthy person is one with a growth mindset who is also capable of mindfulness. That means when they are working on their life, building their career, or developing relationships, they are doing so with an eye toward what is possible. But at the same time as a mindful individual, a healthy person is able to relax, enjoy life’s experiences without judgement or discomfort, and be happy without the immediate need for external validation or support.

If you feel you might be stuck in a fixed mindset, consider picking a copy of Dweck’s book. And if you’re struggling to find moments of peace in which you can be with yourself, perhaps it’s time to seek help from an expert. Call the therapists at Integrative Health Resources today to make an appointment and find a path to a better you.

 

 

 

19 Feb 2014

Moving Forward after Grief

The pain of saying good-bye is something most of us have experienced. I often have clients come to me for assistance in handling the process of losing a loved one due to death, divorce, moving, losing a job, having a child move out or simply moving to a new stage in life. I am frequently asked how to “get over” the pain. Just as frequently I have people tell me that their friends or family have told them they need to “get over it” and move on in life. Grief and loss is not about getting over the loss but learning how to live with the wound loss leaves in our heart. With time most wounds heal but leave a scar as a reminder.

Grief and loss comes in many ways. When someone or something triggers our sadness we may cry or get angry that this loss has happened. Sometimes grief will hit us when we least expect it like a wave of sadness moving through us. Frequently, after my mother died I would be at the grocery store and see a food item she loved and tears would well up. When I stopped the tears it just made it worse, so I learned to allow those tears and as time went by the pain lessened. I still miss my mom, but time is the great healer and has allowed the sadness to fade. Remembering my mom is now more about the joy and love she gave me. Time has allowed me to make room in my heart for the sadness of missing Mom and the joy I experience remembering the love she gave me.

Clients often ask what the worst kind of loss is. My answer is; “Your loss is usually the most difficult because you are the one experiencing it”. Sudden loss is difficult because we have no time to mentally, emotionally and physically prepare for it. When one loses a loved one due to a prolonged illness the loss is great but often some of the grieving has already begun. The loved ones have been able to talk about their impending transition. When there is a move from one city to another the planning of the move and the chance to say good-bye facilitates the mind and spirit to prepare for the change. Change may not have been our choice but adjustment has already begun.

So how do we move through the process of living with grief? Talking about the loss is helpful, seeing a therapist, keeping a journal, writing letters to the ones we loved and lost helps even when we cannot give the loved one the actual letter. Often I tell people if the loss was sudden find a way to express pain through music, art, writing, walking, create a ritual/ceremony to allow you to say your good-byes.

Invite your support system to help you. One client reported she would run every day. She felt like her husband had abandoned her by dying. She was angry and needed to work out the anger. She would put pebbles in her pocket and when she got to a pond she ran by she would throw the pebbles into the water and watch the ripples move out. In the beginning she threw hard and fast to release the anger.

Pebbles

After a time she was able to throw fewer pebbles and began to realize the loss was more bearable and the anger was dissipating. She no longer felt he did this to her. He died because he was terribly ill and his body could no longer sustain life. She still missed him but she also knew she was going to be able to pick up the pieces of her life and move forward. I have had many clients tell me planting a tree has been a way to honor and ease their loss. Finding a means of expressing grief is paramount to healing.

When we experience a sudden loss the challenges are different. We have not been able to prepare for a sudden, swift and irrevocable change. Our bodies go into shock as a way of insulating us from the sudden pain. This type of loss happened to me recently. For fourteen years I went to the same place to work, met with many of the same clients and then due to financial realignment and reorganization in one day it was gone. There were no good-byes! I worried terribly about how this was going to affect those I had been treating. How were they going to survive without me? There was anger, tears, some choice words and a sadness that simply swallowed me up. The shock insulated me from my own pain. I became caught up in how my clients were going to manage. I forgot to do just what I had suggested to so many clients over the years, cry and allow yourself to feel the pain, even if only in small doses. I became preoccupied with finding a job, finding a way to say good-bye and also a way to avoid the pain.

I am fortunate because I have a wonderful support system; I have a faith that carries me when nothing else does and with time I have the ability to see that change is necessary and forces one to grow and see life from a different perspective. With nudges from my support system I have remembered the skills I so often taught others to help them move through pain. I have the ability to write about my loss and hopefully my story will reach others that have not had a chance to say good-by, so they too may find a way. I have written this as my way of saying good-by to so many wonderful people who shared their lives with me, both clients and co-workers. I have written this because loss is no small matter when it is my loss and healing means the wound gets better but the scar is always there as a reminder of the treasures I experienced. People came to me with their pain and trusted me to walk with them in their healing. My heart reminds me of those courageous folks and their example helps me move forward.

Grief and loss is no small matter and each of us experiences it in our own ways. It always hurts worse when it is yours. What I know is if I do not deal with my grief I cannot ask others to deal with their loss. Will I “get over the sadness” probably not, but I will learn to keep moving forward allowing time to heal the wound in my heart and the scar will gently remind me of the good things about the past 14 years.

If you have experienced loss in any form feel free to contact me at Integrative Health Resource 317-471-8780 kathleen.maxey@ihrindy.com.

Image credit: Creative Commons License aussiegall via Compfight

04 Feb 2014

Struggling to Succeed? Everyone Begins As a Novice

Remember when you were young and learning to ride a bike? Maybe you tried it first with training wheels. Eventually you were ready to ride on your own.  Think about the first time you rode by yourself. Did someone help you get started by giving you a push?   No matter whether you had help or not, we all know that you fell over.  No one ever does it perfectly the first time.

How did you feel after you fell? Did you feel discouraged, maybe even embarrassed? But encouraged or not, humiliation and teasing or not, at some point you got back on the bicycle and tried again.  Because if you did not, you would not know how to ride a bicycle today.  Because the only way to learn to ride is to get on the bike and ride until you know how.  People can give you pointers.  They can support you so that learning is easier. Or you can do it all on your own.  No matter what, eventually it is just you and the bicycle.

Through the struggle of figuring out how to balance yourself and the pain of falling, something begins to happen.  You begin to realize that you can do this.  Often that understanding or feeling comes long before you actually can ride by yourself.  You begin to realize that the embarrassment of the laughter or the aloneness of trying on your own is going to be over soon.  You are going to conquer this.  You are going to succeed.  You get a glimpse of the freedom ahead.  You feel the wind blowing in your face and hair.

Then it comes.  You can stay up.  You may still be a bit wobbly but you are doing it.  You are riding.  You let in a deep breath.  Riding is no longer so hard.  You know how to balance yourself.  You are free.  You are no longer bound by how far you can walk.  You can now journey into the world as far as your bike can take you, or at least as far as your parents will let you go.  And occasionally maybe even a bit further than that.

Ah but that was then and this is now.  You are an adult now.  For many of us, we are no longer willing to allow ourselves to feel embarrassment as we learn.  We must hide when we don’t know.  We shy away from letting others see us struggle.  If we cannot get it quickly, we do not try.

Yet whenever we do not face the struggle, we lose a bit of ourselves.  Whenever we shy away from the hurt and pain that comes with taking risks and falling until we succeed, our world shrinks a bit.  One day we wake up and wonder what happened.  Where is the wind blowing in my face and hair?

We have forgotten that struggling may not be bad. It can be part of becoming more alive.   I hope that you will find your adult version of a bicycle and struggle with it.  Figure out what it takes to succeed at whatever your bicycle is.  You know that you can do it.  You just have to find the way.  Remember the aliveness that lies ahead as the wind blows through your hair.

25 Jan 2014