Skip links

A Work In Progress

Working on Yourself is Ongoing

hands molding clay

I am 29, but my progress actually started last May. It was around that time I found ITA.

May 2018 was the biggest change and shake up in my life. My wife of five years had betrayed me, was trying to isolate me and use me. When I realized how unsafe she was, the voice in my head said, “you gotta fend for yourself.” Naturally, I retreated and started reading every treatise on the shelf — that is, anything I could read about abusive families, abusive marriages and codependence.

I learned I had C-PTSD stemming from emotional neglect. My mother is a narcissist. My childhood was not safe for me emotionally. I lost my trust in other people. My wife had been using me, manipulating me and isolating me for years.

Then I found ITA and it WAS the mental health comedy podcast that I needed. The jokes, games and openness helped me throughout the last year. I found out about Brene Brown and vulnerability being necessary for wholeheartedness.

Beyond Surviving

During this past year, I’ve done what I can to take care of myself: drink water, go outside, take care of pets, meditate, eat healthy, exercise, etc… All of that is for surviving. But surviving is not growing and surviving was what I had been doing for 28 years. I started therapy to recover and try to live instead of survive.

I needed to find that intuitive voice that had told me to fend for myself. It was hard to find that voice; toxic messages of shame and criticism echoed in my head. Those echoes hurt and sounded like me but they weren’t really my voice. The real me had been silenced, restrained, repressed and locked away by the toxic people that had hurt me before. The echoes were from a toxic imposter the abuse had left me with. I started reaching out to that silenced part of me, trying to build up my relationship with it and helping it push back against the negative echoes. I did my best to act towards myself with compassion, patience and kindness.

That voice was small but it was still there and trying to reach out to me. It had always been there and I started to act on every feeling from it that I could. It was hard to understand. As I acknowledged this intuition, the voice became louder and stronger and I was better able to listen to and to work with it. It was like I had found a teammate who always had my back.

I had some help figuring out how to be mindful of my feelings and intuition. RAIN is the acronym my counselor taught me for this:

Recognize the feeling.

Allow it to be.

Investigate what caused it or think of times that you felt this way before.

Nurture yourself.

That can be reassurance of “it’s ok to feel this way” or trying to fix the cause of the feeling. Do whatever you think will nurture and validate yourself.

By doing that, I have discovered a lot about myself. I regularly ask myself “Hey, how are you doing?” or “Something wrong?” and try to be vulnerable with my self as I answer. It helps me gain insights into myself, my interests and my desires. Self-talk may seem silly, but I think it is a lot better to have a bad mood get interrupted by a concerned question than by a critic piling on. Maybe self-talk won’t work for you but if you have someone else in your life that can ask those questions, try to do that for each other. Mental health check-ins FTW.

I now know that I’m autistic; I’m working to understand, accept and nurture that. I also know that I’m agender and I’m working to understand, accept and nurture that too. I have a lot of baggage to work through, it is not always pleasant and it probably will take much longer to process than I want it to but I am working towards building a home and life for the actual me as I sort through it all.

I am in the middle of trying new looks, new hobbies… new everything. I feel like I’m still an adolescent trying out different roles and identities. I was in survival stasis for my actual teen years, and I’m trying to catch up. I know I’ll have rough times and good times ahead. But Every Time The Rain Comes Down or I struggle to get out the Silent Scream, I will try to RAIN myself in. Yes, those were references to Anna Blue’s music and a punny joke. Like I said, I’m an adolescent trying to catch up.

“Is This Adulting?”

Zachary Ainsley

A few words about me

I am the Zachary A mentioned in Episode 96 and in Jingle Time 22 Eggos. I use They/Them or He/Him pronouns. I have been diagnosed with Level 1 Autistic Spectrum Disorder.