The Self-Growth Measuring Stick .
How do you know that you’re growing, recovering and healing if there’s no measuring stick?
Last week my therapist told me that I don’t give myself enough credit. She says that I’m self-critical, don’t acknowledge my growth and downplay my successes. She’s right.
But, to give myself credit for doing something, accomplishing something, being successful, I have to see a physical result. Working on my mind doesn’t fit because I can’t see the results. Besides, self-work is ongoing so there’s no end. How can I know that I’m being successful or accomplishing something if it never ends?
I can see the growth in my children and in others when they are doing self-work, why can’t I see it in myself?
How do I even start to do that?
I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating this this week and finally landed on something to try. I decided to spend some time going through my old journals, so I could see where I was before and thought that might give me a measurement of sorts from then to now, then maybe I would be able to see how far I have actually progressed.
I don’t usually open my old journals. Once I run out of pages in one, I close it up, put it away in a wooden box and open a new one to start fresh. I don’t like to look back at them because I’m afraid that I’ll see how fucked up I really was then or be pulled back into the depression, CPTSD or bipolar episodes that I was in at the time. But that doesn’t have to be the case. The more I contemplated it, I realized that the old journals had lost their fearful power over me and that looking at them at all is a measurement of my growth all on it’s own.
So I came up with a plan of action, because that’s how I do things:
1. Look at old journals.
2. Find patterns/specific issues.
3. Where am I now in comparison?
4. Write about it.
I opened up the journal that I started on January 1st, 2020. I like to start a new journal on the first day of the new year, a book full of blank pages and possibility. This particular page was, well, a bit of bummer. I’ll share a little:
“I’m so ready to start this new year. Fuck 2019 and all the shit that happened. I’m starting a new life and a new year and I’m ready for anything that 2020 throws my way.” I laughed hysterically when I read that. I challenged the new year and it brought on a fucking pandemic!
After that first page, I got into a lot of pretty deep stuff. I started yoga teacher training and was in a manic episode though so my writing was kind of all over the place. Incidentally, if you look back at the writing in my journals, you can actually tell where my mood was by my handwriting. When I’m stable, it’s neat, tidy and easy to read. When I’m depressed the letters are bigger and loopier and I press my pen harder into the paper. When I’m manic my handwriting is manic too. It’s kind of scribbly and fast and angry looking. There are places where the pen doesn’t touch the paper in the middle of words and it’s kind of difficult to read, even for the person who wrote it.
After reading about twenty pages I already had so much to go on.
I realized that:
I’ve finally left a few ghosts behind.
I now listen to my body and take breaks when I need to.
I don’t judge myself as harshly or call myself “lazy” when I’m sick or need a break.
I’m not having panic attacks on the daily, weekly or even monthly anymore, in fact it’s a pretty rare thing for me to have a panic attack at all.
I don’t have flashbacks or panic attacks anymore when the men who sexually abused and assaulted me come up in my mind. In fact, one was in a dream I had a few days ago and while I woke up annoyed that he was there, I quickly forgot about it and moved on with my day. That is huge for me because panic attacks and flashbacks have been running my life for the past five or six years.
So yeah, I guess I have grown a bit. I am progressing. I am healing. I am recovering. And now I can actually see it and acknowledge it. Apparently, that is self-work success.