Reflections on Life Thus Far

My life. My story: Exploring mental health, spirituality, meditation & random thoughts I have


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Book Recommendation: Life after near Death

Buy the book here: Amazon.co.uk  or here: Amazon.ca

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I don’t know much German so Google translated the phrase out of curiosity. It translates literally as “Quick flees the time was ready” which I think may be better stated as “our time goes too quickly” or perhaps “Times flies before we are ready”. Sorry for the poor translation.

As a NDE (near death experiencer) this book is invaluable. I finally feel like there are answers to the questions I have had ever since my NDE in late 2000. The author has had her own NDE and interviews others including their experiences in her book. She comes from a research background so it’s not a book filled with ‘New Age’ concepts as much as personal stories and evidence based research (but don’t worry it is far from dry or tedious).

The book came out earlier this year and I just found it at my local library. It has given me a sense of peace knowing I am not alone in what I experienced and the after effects of the NDE. I even found myself thinking “aha! so that’s WHY I do/feel like that” and just generally feeling less crazy. Best of all is finding out about how all people who’ve had a NDE have muddy brown/black and white in their aura representing the trauma and shift in consciousness following the NDE. A friend able to see/read auras told me (before I found this book) I had a the black and white colours in my aura as described in the book. It really helped me feel better knowing everyone has that aura if they’ve had a NDE.

If you have had a Near Death Experience or know someone who has you should read this book! I’m not getting paid to promote or endorse or anything-I just want people to have something they can go to and find comfort/answers to some of their questions about the near death experience. You might find it in your local library or book store or you can order it on Amazon.

©Natalya for Reflections on Life Thus Far, 2016.

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Maybe I have Mice…

So I thought about it and decided I may have been hasty in my assessment of having rats. I looked up the size differences between mice and rats and viewed pics of house mice and it seems more like I have house mice. This is still bad but I feel slightly better because I figure (at least psychologically anyway) mice are somewhat less disastrous to have. They are still going to have to go though.

mouse_vs_rat

Image from: DoMyOwnPestControl.com

 

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A House Mouse.

House Mouse CC-BY-SA Wikipedia user 4028mdk09 Image copied from paws.org (https://www.paws.org/wildlife/having-a-wildlife-problem/mammals/mice-and-rats/)

©Natalya, Reflections On Life Thus Far, 2016.

 


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Changes

Discouraged. That pretty much sums up how I have been feeling lately. I think I am overwhelmed because I have been going through my possessions trying to become more minimalist; but in the process I have felt a mixture of emotions. Most recently, I parted with a garbage bag full of treasured books destined for charity and in doing so I wanted to pull some out and ‘save’ them…but I resisted. It feels like a loss to me because I love books and they’ve been my ‘significant other’ since I have never let real people close to me. So in parting with so many books I felt attachment to I went through a series of grief related feelings. Maybe not all of the grief related feelings/stages but definitely some anyway.

When you use books to satisfy your need for relationships giving away a large quantity of them feels horrendous. It’s not like I hoard books but I definitely value my books more than a person ought to. They aren’t historic relics suited to an archives department either so I don’t have any objective reason to view them so fondly. Perhaps it’s the fact I parted with books that had served as valuable references and comfort when I needed them; now I’m forced to either let go of anything I can’t remember or trust I will be able to call upon my brain to give me the knowledge when I need it. That’s scary given I dissociated for so much of my life to avoid pain. What if I can’t remember everything I read in the books I gave away?! Now I must trust myself to survive and have greater acceptance of my innate fallibility which also makes me face the fact I am imperfect. You see all these things connect to my sense of lovability and self-worth and that is terrifying territory. There’s little comfort in what I’m experiencing.

I want to crawl under my bed covers and not have to face the world. Maybe I am depressed but more than likely I am afraid of the fact I have nothing solid to stand on. All of my worldly identifiers are gone and I’m struggling to not concoct a new identity for myself knowing such a thing would be a production of my ego anyway. Part of the reason I fear social interaction is I’m afraid someone will ask me about myself and I don’t have any tidy, pat answers on tap to reduce my discomfort and the other person’s. The other reason for my social anxiety is I simply have trouble easily relating to everyone. Maybe most people don’t easily relate to others either and just hide it better than I do. Or maybe it’s a problem of ‘how’ I relate. I can relate at a human level but not at the social/surface level. After all, I don’t have a paid job, sports don’t interest me and I don’t have a husband or kids. So right there I am starting off from a disadvantaged position. Then again maybe I just overthink these things and should try to ‘relax’ more! Ha, if it were that easy I’d have done it by now. In some ways I have learned to relax about it a little bit but other times I get triggered by things like giving away some of my precious books. Who knew parting with a garbage bag full of my books would trigger me? Certainly, if I’d known it, I might have chosen to part with fewer books to ease the discomfort. The way I have done it feels like I just had a Band-Aid ripped from a tender sore spot. I suppose I shall have to go easy on myself. Trying to bulldoze my way through the pain won’t help me any if past experiences are anything to go on.

On a more positive note I did manage to dust my computer desk and tidy up my messy cords from my electronic devices. Well that’s it for now. Tomorrow I see my counsellor.

©Natalya, 2014. Reflections On Life Thus Far®


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Final Writing Exercise (Day 4)

Day 4 of my writing exercise was Tuesday but I didn’t get around to updating on here how it went. I saw my counsellor on Tuesday and told her I’d finished 3/4 of it but needed to still do the final day. Surprisingly I am one of the few who completed it or tried to anyway. Lots of her patients find excuses not to do it and she thought it was positive I managed to recognise why I procrastinated doing it and still managed to tackle it. It was a productive session so I am pleased that I made the effort to do as much as I could. I completed the final exercise when I got home. To my surprise I found myself expressing gratitude for the people I’d met who made a positive difference in my life. Initially I thought I might have some resentment to get out of me but I didn’t. Gratitude can help give an experience in your life that redeeming quality previously overlooked.

Have you experienced something emotionally painful that later filled you with gratitude?

 


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Writing Exercise (Day 2)

My counsellor gave me some exercises to encourage writing with emotional awareness. Often I get stuck in my head and miss opportunities to connect with my inner experience. So I have finished day 2 of 4 of my writing exercise and feel content with how it went. I wasn’t expecting it to take the turn it did but I’m pleased I thought of it and allowed myself to include it in the entry. Day 1 I settled on discussing being constantly infantilised by my mother throughout my childhood and teen years; today I continued discussing that a bit more but got into my issues with fear around men. Mom taught me when I was a child that pretty well all men were potential sexual predators so I never had boyfriends. She also talked about sex like it was something scary and repulsive so I avoided all intimate contact. Fortunately I am introverted and enjoy my own company but I felt like it would have been nice to enjoy a relationship instead of living like a nun. I didn’t expect for this issue to come up today in my second day of writing so I wonder how day 3 will go now! FYI-I am not afraid of most men now and have changed my views around sex in a positive/healthier manner thanks to therapy.

©Natalya, 2014.

 


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Healing & Freeing Yourself From Clutter

My kind of bathroom! Love this. Image found here: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/397724210815086850/

The more I heal emotionally and psychologically the less I need materially to be content. I have noticed that when I want distraction from something bothering me I seek out material things as though I actually ‘need’ them-in most instances I don’t need them at all. But thankfully this occurs much less now than it used to. In fact I did a big clutter clear-out last year and continue to weed out things I don’t need or want anymore. The less I have the better I feel! Of course I need some things but nothing like what I once believed necessary.

Personally, for me, clutter and excess things just drain my energy to the extent I feel restricted in my breathing and capacity to relax. I suspect this is from growing up with a compulsive hoarder for a mother and not having the power to do anything to affect change in my environment at home. Being powerless as a child to change your circumstances can often lead to rebelling against such constrictions and moving in the opposite direction. So I very much wish to keep my environment clutter free these days. Unfortunately, I did not have the energy or motivation to clear out the clutter for a long time because I was still ‘attached’ to it. The clutter was my mother’s and kept me connected superficially to her even though I didn’t want to be. It was as though I had too much emotional baggage I had to clear out first before I could tackle her clutter. For those of you who aren’t regular readers or have forgotten, my mother died in 2008. Thus, her hoarded possessions were left for my dad and I to sort through.

Dad doesn’t mind clutter so it was up to me to get rid of my mom’s accumulated clutter (aka junk!). As I mentioned, last year I got a lot of it cleared out and the difference was huge. It took me a number of months to do it because I was the only one doing it and dad sometimes felt overwhelmed by the shear volume of clutter I was removing. I knew I had to do it slowly so my dad wouldn’t be upset and ask me to leave everything where it was. Fortunately, as I got rid of more stuff along the way the positive changes impacted my dad and he saw I was making things better so objected less and less. That’s how it works though when you’re removing a lot of stuff and someone has been used to living with it so it doesn’t register for them as being a problem anymore. I think one has to be impartial or quite balanced to go through a load of clutter and not let it overwhelm you. You also need empathy for the hoarder or person holding onto the stuff or else it’s just too easy to tell them they need ‘professional’ help! LOL

Beautiful and true 🙂 Image found here: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/320951910916350560/

These days I tend to look at anything I want to buy long and hard before hand because I need to think about where it will go and if I actually ‘need’ it or not. Generally it turns out I don’t need it and I opt to leave it in the store instead of buying it. It helps not having a lot of money but even with a small amount of money you can buy things you don’t really need as such. So I’m learning to always ask myself when I’m in a store if the item will be of use to me or if it will become clutter. This method works for me because it makes me slow down and be mindful of what I am contemplating buying. Another thing I have started to do is try to follow a rule of ‘one item in one item out’-in other words if I buy one item I have to get rid of an item I already have (I put it aside ’til I have enough to donate to Goodwill or another charitable organisation accepting household items/clothes). This prevents me from accumulating more things than I have space for or actually require for my well being.

As I’m thinking about clutter in the material realm I am reminded to mention our minds can get cluttered too. Our headspace tends to be reflected in our living spaces and the more clutter in your mind the more you’ll have around you. I also believe people can end up talking too much about things that don’t really matter just so the ‘space’ can be filled with something. Silence is difficult for a lot of people to cope with so talking about anything at all is better than nothing it would seem. I prefer the silence though to incessant ‘noise’ caused by someone uncomfortable with it. My head starts to hurt if I’m subjected to listening to someone chatter non stop. It really does get to me at times. Of course I try to be polite and civil so will tolerate it for awhile until I usually have to interject abruptly in order to escape or regain my serenity. I’m working on trying to maintain my equanimity whilst being subjected to mindless chatter and am slowly getting better at it.

Still, I don’t see why I should have to be providing all the accommodation when I am just as worthy as anyone else. Guess it comes back to recognising if I dislike my situation it’s up to me to change it. Although I try to accommodate others it’s not a given it will be reciprocated, nor is it actually mandatory. So if I have an issue with people talking too much about ‘nothing’ it’s ultimately my problem and I have to find a way to deal with it. This applies to anything we have problems with because we can’t change others behaviour, only our own.

How does clutter affect you? Do you struggle to maintain a ‘clutter-free zone’ or are you not bothered by it until it reaches a point where you *have to* do something?

 

©Natalya Lyubov, 2014. Reflections On Life Thus Far®

 


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Speaking Out Heals Shame

Rev. Jordyn Morrison Clason, Ph.D. ~ http://www.RealClairvoyantPsychic.com

Experiencing trauma can lead to shame depending on the nature of the trauma endured. When we’re filled with shame we retreat inside ourselves and fear having others know what we’ve been through; as though we were somehow to blame even though we intellectually know that’s not the case. It’s ironic really because if you experienced trauma from a person or group of people, they, not you should be feeling the shame. Yet they lack the moral conscience for this so the survivor of the trauma ends up with it instead. This seems terribly unfair in my opinion. But we see it all the time with abuse survivors; they think they were at fault somehow no matter what their head tells them. It’s difficult to reason with your emotions because they aren’t reasonable! So you have to muddle through the emotional baggage ’til your head and heart are on the same page. Not an easy task no matter who you are.

In my experience, speaking about my traumatic experiences sort of relieves the pressure inside me; it’s like the steam from a kettle being released. For all the years I carried around the shame of my past I believed keeping it to myself would be easier but it wasn’t. Instead I had unrelenting depression and anxiety never feeling at peace for very long. When I started psychotherapy I didn’t talk much about the abuse I’d suffered because I couldn’t allow it to surface. I thought if I did then I might fall apart (which I did later). So I wasted years talking about my symptoms never discussing the causes of my chronic depression and anxiety/panic disorder. All this because I carried so much shame inside me that I figured no one could accept me due to abuse. How sad that I had so little self worth and love for myself that I couldn’t imagine telling anyone what I’d been through. I’d also minimised what I’d experienced a great deal too so felt unjustified in feeling the way I did; like we need to have reasons for our emotions! Sometimes they are irrational but we aren’t robots so that’s just how it has to be.

When we don’t confront our past it tends to show itself in maladaptive patterns until we recognise where they’re coming from. For some this means abusing one’s self or others so it can be serious. Once the trauma can be remembered and processed it allows us to stop looking for distractions. Our minds don’t have to spend so much energy on repressing what happened to us. If you’re like me sharing what happened to us can be scary or even threatening; yet that’s what’s needed for one to end the behaviours destroying us or other people if we perpetuate the hurt inside us onto others. You can’t be free ’til the secrets are outside of you because that’s what loosens our abuser(s) hold on us. They wanted us to keep quiet and hope we took responsibility for what was never our fault to begin with. If we had had the coping tools to know better we would have done better but most abused children aren’t lucky enough to have the resources or simply are too young to process what happened in a meaningful way.

Ideally, our abuser(s) would recognise what they did to us as wrong and make restitution but too often this never happens. Usually it doesn’t happen because the abuser was also abused and can’t face their own painful past, it takes courage to confront painful memories and process our hurt emotions. So sometimes our abuser(s) just aren’t courageous enough to deal with their own pain and continue to make others suffer. Or maybe the abuser(s) aren’t alive so restitution isn’t an option. But you can still face your pain and know you are making a difference because you won’t be perpetuating abuse/pain onto more people. In fact you can also come to appreciate you are stronger than your abuser(s) because you’re choosing to confront your pain. This might also be an opportunity for you to see that your abuser(s) felt so awful they couldn’t bear to face what happened to them so took the ‘easy route’ by hurting other people. It really isn’t easier to hurt other people than face your own pain but I think it takes less effort because it doesn’t require that you challenge yourself. For that reason I consider it the ‘easier route’.

Anyhow back to my main argument of talking about your trauma or ‘spilling the beans’; personally, I prefer ‘airing the family’s dirty laundry’ as my preferred term because it just sounds ‘spicier’ and a bit titillating! But I digress… Once I finally told my therapist about the sexual, emotional, psychological, physical abuse and neglect I felt free. The shame had begun to dissipate like morning fog when you live by the coast. I still felt some shame when I had to hide my past in front of other family but it was beginning to be more manageable. Once you open the proverbial can of worms there’s no putting the lid back on. The secrets you protected from your conscious mind won’t be forced back into hiding. You can try to deny it happened for awhile but usually the truth wins because you can’t really ‘unknow’ what you know once you’ve confronted it. This is a good thing even though it doesn’t feel in the least bit good to begin with! I felt so awful I reverted to my eating disorder I’d been in remission from for a couple of years because starving temporarily numbed me and took my focus off the new awareness I had concerning my past. I think it’s fair to say any addictions you had in remission may flare up temporarily until you can ‘digest’ what you’ve learned. Mine gave me a respite from having to face things I didn’t feel capable handling. In essence it was easier for me to deal with my eating disorder and try to manage that then it was the horrible reality of my mother sexually abusing me.

Busyness is a way to escape ourselves. My family suffers a lot from this in order to avoid their childhood abuse coming to the foreground of consciousness. Idleness is not a ‘sin’ but an opportunity to go within and understand yourself better.

I’m feeling stronger these days internally but it’s been four years since I ‘discovered’ the type of abuse I’d been through and I haven’t been employed the entire time either. In fact I quit paid employment because I felt I’d been delivered such a huge psychological blow I couldn’t possibly continue my job. For quite awhile I worried about what I would end up doing with myself since I was no longer employed or a university student. My identity came crashing down. The pieces were flimsy to begin with so it’s likely for the best I had to reconstruct my idea of who I was again. What I’ve discovered along the way is you’re a lot stronger than you ever imagined. I didn’t think I could survive the distress I was in yet I did and I am healthier now than I have ever been. Yes, I am still unemployed but people should not base their value on their employment status. You are not your job, car, house, or any other material/external thing. It took me until recently to realise I could be worthy as a person without a paid job. I was always brought up to believe you had to be educated and wealthy to be worthy but that’s not true at all. What’s in your bank account doesn’t make you wealthy because wealth ought to be measured by happiness and love, not dollars and cents (or Euros, Yen, Pounds etc.). One can give back to society and/or their community through volunteer work or helping family. I won’t elaborate on this though because it’s too much for a post meant to discuss trauma and shame. Perhaps I’ll do a post on economics another day!

What do you think about the ‘truth setting you free’? Does sharing what happened to us with someone we trust heal us from our shame? Have you experienced abuse/trauma you kept hidden from others (perhaps yourself as well) then discovered/shared it and experienced relief?

©Natalya, 2014. Reflections On Life Thus Far®

 


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Transgenerational Trauma & Transmission

http://www.humiliationstudies.org/documents/ValentTransgenerationalTraumaHolocaust_15.pdf

You can see I posted a link directly above my writing that is about transgenerational or intergenerational trauma. Although it is about Holocaust trauma it is easily generalised to other groups having experienced long periods of trauma. For my situation I am using the term to refer to childhood abuse passed down through the generations. In the linked article it talks about the unconscious and unwitting process of the traumatic transmission to the next generation. This means parents are unaware they are passing their traumatic experiences onto their children because they have not consciously dealt with their grief over having experienced horrible things. I really feel the article opened my eyes to how I ‘picked up’ on my mother’s trauma even though she avoided speaking about it when I was very young.

Growing up I was abused and traumatised by my mother. Much of it happened unconsciously in so far as mom didn’t recognise her behaviour as abusive due to her own experiences. Usually children think their parents are perfect but I was only too aware mine were anything but that. They did their best but you can’t give what you don’t have. I was long aware mom was treating me badly which caused me to have a lot of anxiety as a child. I’m not sure how I ended up without that protective buffer most kids have that allows them to think its their fault not the parent’s. In any case I didn’t have that and felt very depressed and anxious growing up. It wasn’t easy because I reacted with anger to my situation but was basically told this was inappropriate; I beg to differ! From my perspective the anger was more than appropriate considering what I was being subjected to on a regular basis. It was not my fault I happened to be the poor kid that shouts “the Emperor has no clothes!” and my family didn’t appreciate my honesty.

Most kids learn to cope with their situation through denial or some other defense mechanism like repression or the like. I didn’t seem to have the capacity for this so went emotionally numb instead. It was the only way for me to cope that didn’t involve me lying to myself about my family situation. By 18 I’d already attempted suicide seriously three times and was on antidepressants. I also had an eating disorder that helped me feel like I had a bit of control along with the side effect of leaving me emotionally numb. Following my suicide attempts I entered psychotherapy for the first time and never looked back.

Unfortunately my first few years in therapy were spent on trying to get me stabilised from my depression, anxiety and suicidal impulses. Had I known about transgenerational trauma, boundaries and female to female sexual abuse I might have fared slightly better. If I’d known of these things I wouldn’t have felt so ashamed for being something of an emotional train wreck. To my mind I felt I must have been overreacting since I hadn’t been sexually abused by a man, physically beaten or anything I could pinpoint anyhow. As I stated I knew nothing of transgenerational trauma transmission, nor boundaries. Thus, I continued to feel ashamed for being “weak” thinking I’d “only” been spanked, slapped on the hands and endured messy living conditions. It wasn’t until years later I realised mom had been a compulsive hoarder. I did know she had a Narcissistic Personality Disorder though as I’d come across the disorder in a book when I was 17. The impact of her NPD on me however was unknown until I came across another book in my early 20s on the disorder’s effect on children of NPD parents. That opened my eyes and made me feel much less crazy for feeling the way I did. I won’t bore you further since this is meant to be a post not a book! LOL

Transgenerational trauma transmission was first identified in survivours of the Holocaust but has since been applied to those in other groups as well, notably Aboriginals in North America and genocide survivours. The phenomenon also applies to families where abuse has been passed down to subsequent generations. The German psychoanalyst Alice Miller described the phenomenon in her term ‘repetition compulsion’; this applies to abused children having their own children and repeating the abuse unconsciously on them. In this way the abuse is literally passed down from generation to generation until someone has enough insight to get help to stop transmission. Incidentally, Alice Miller is an excellent author with lots of books available on child abuse. The only complaint I have is she doesn’t address compassion for one’s self or parents. Otherwise she is excellent in her championing of abused children through her books emphasising truth above all else.

Can you identify transgenerational trauma in your family?

©Natalya Lyubov, 2014. Reflections On Life Thus Far®

 

 


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PTSD & Attachment from Advances In Psychiatric Treatment (journal article)

http://apt.rcpsych.org/content/15/3/172.full (HTML version)

Post-traumatic stress disorder and attachment: possible links with borderline personality disorder (PDF version)

Cover for the article linked to.

I read the above linked article (8 pages) and found it really interesting in its exploration of PTSD and complex PTSD. There is a smaller focus on Borderline Personality Disorder but the article focuses primarily on ‘simple’ and ‘complex’ PTSD and the ICD-10/DSM-V exclusion of complex PTSD as a formally recognised diagnosis. Given I was diagnosed with BPD at 18 and PTSD in my mid 20s I was interested in what the article had to say, especially since it explored it through an attachment lens. As you can probably tell I agree with attachment theory so had no ideological issues with the journal article. It’s a positive read and doesn’t ‘bash’ anyone with the discussed conditions.

The journal is open access (you don’t need to pay) for articles 3 years or older. The one I linked to is from 2009.


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Chicken Skin & Fish Scales (Keratosis pilaris and Ichthyosis vulgaris)Skin Conditions I Have

Keratosis pilaris on the upper arm.

Finally I found a name for the skin conditions I have had my whole life! I was doing a search on adult acne and came across these two skin conditions in the process. Fortunately, I seem to have the milder form of both conditions judging from the photos I saw of some less fortunate people living with the condition(s). Why my skin is so bothersome I don’t know-what did I do to you skin to deserve this? (being silly) No, I know it is genetic so there’s nothing one can do except try managing the condition. I’ve had dry skin since infancy but I didn’t mind how it looked until I was a teen and thought my arms and legs were horrible looking. Seriously, I have adult acne, eczema (allergic type) and the keratosis pilaris and ichthyosis vulgaris all in different spots. It’s like I don’t have acne on my legs so I have “fish scales” (ichthyosis) on them instead and no eczema on my arms but keratosis pilaris instead. Gee wiz, did I ever win the genetic lottery?! lmao

Well, in the grand scheme of things it’s not so bad but I hate wearing shorts or skirts/dresses because of my ‘fish legs’!lol My legs aren’t too bad but super dry and discoloured (uneven skin tone) so whilst I dislike my legs it’s purely my vanity that’s taking the hit. I guess it’s easy to find fault with myself but I am gradually accepting myself more and more; with that acceptance comes less distress over a primarily ‘cosmetic’ skin condition knowing it could be far more debilitating if I had a different type or more severe form.

A mild case of ichthyosis vulgaris on legs. Image from Livestrong.com

Why do I even get upset over skin conditions that are little more than a nuisance for that is what they are. Having less than flawless skin is sort of trifling when I think of those poor Nigerian girls held captive by the Boko Haram. My best guess is I am looking for something to focus my attention on that is manageable. Whenever I focus my attention on my skin it’s usually because I am trying to find some degree of control in my life. But my poor skin doesn’t deserve my scorn! It is mostly doing its job and I attack it for not looking perfect! LOL Such folly. It’s really very silly when I know how much I have to be grateful for even with my skin.

Do you have medical conditions that are benign and mostly cosmetic that upset you? How do you cope with them? I’ve had my whole life to accept them (except the acne) yet I still fight an urge to cringe seeing my skin. Perhaps this is what some term a “first world problem”. For that reason I’m working on getting the courage up to wear shorts in the summer out in public. Why let imperfect skin ruin my ability to live life as I otherwise would? It’s just skin and it’s not causing me medical harm beyond dry skin so I am grateful really, grateful that I am otherwise okay.

©Natalya, 2014. Reflections On Life Thus Far®