Finding Myself Amidst the Clutter

SHARED BY ROBIN LYNN

Two o'clock in the morning. My mind pops awake, and the thoughts of what I should have done and what I could do better (the thoughts I avoid during the day and push to the side) come barreling in at full force like a bull coming out of its cage. The thoughts spin in a cycle, as if they are on a merry-go-round going around and around, only to wave at me as they are going past, never taking the time to stop and get off so I could have a moment of rest.

This pattern happens nightly. I’ve never been a good sleeper. I could fall asleep at the drop of a hat due to my constant state of exhaustion, but I would always wake up. I could never stay asleep. The thoughts were too powerful. The bull was too strong. One part of me was so exhausted, I would just lay there and take it. Yet another part of me was so frustrated that I was able to help hundreds of people as a mental health therapist but could never seem to help myself. Practice what you preach, Robin, I’d tell myself.

Imprisoned in My Mind

My self-esteem was in broken pieces on the floor beside my bed. My dignity was housed back in a shed along with all my belongings. Somehow that seemed fitting. I thought I should be over it by now. A year and a half later, everything was perfect. I had the job. I had the guy. I had the two-bedroom apartment filled with all the things I was supposed to have. But what many people didn’t know was I was miserable. I was stuck inside my own mind like a criminal stuck in prison for life. I couldn’t get out. I couldn’t do as I pleased without having these thoughts and memories of what happened.

Rape. The word was still hard for me to say.

Depression. The thing I should be over by now.

Anxiety. The manifestations I should have control over and know how to calm.

If I would have shared some of the thoughts I was having with the man I was seeing or my family, surely I would end up alone. Who would want to deal with that? Who deserved to deal with that? How could I explain that I needed constant reminders that I was liked or loved and that I was safe in order to feel secure? The fact was, despite all my training and work with clients, I didn’t know how, so I didn’t.

I started feeling really alone despite having everything. I take that back. I wasn’t alone. I had my dog. My dog was the only one that understood. He knew when I needed time to just sit without distractions. He was the only one I felt safe with.

Time for a Change

I had been into watching documentaries on Netflix and stumbled across one called Minimalism. The first time I watched it, I was intrigued by the message. It seemed like it could work for other people, but there’s no way it would work for me.

I couldn’t get rid of all my things and be happy.

So I watched it again. And I watched it again, and again, until I watched it with piles of my graduate school books in front of me and a trash can to the side. I could smell the pages of the notebooks in which I spent hours writing, and I could remember sitting in the classrooms eating up the words the professors were speaking.

And then I did it. I tore through the pages of the notebooks I thought I needed "just in case" I ever wanted to brush up on my psychology. I threw the pages in the trashcan, and I kept plowing through the bins of papers, office supplies, broken phones. I made piles: a pile to toss, a pile to keep, and a pile to sell.

That was just the start of my journey with an idea, a lifestyle called "minimalism." I'd had enough of being a consumer—of buying everything I was told to buy and still coming up short when it came to being happy. I sold extra chairs, extra pillows, countless decorations, off-season holiday decorations, and extra sheet sets. I sold an extra TV and donated all the DVDs I never watched but had held on to "just in case" I figured out how to use my DVD player and found extra batteries for the remote. I got rid of the extra shower curtains and countless towels I had to wash and rewash because I forgot they were sitting in the washer untouched. I donated extra pots and pans that were collecting dust.

I got rid of everything I could think of. And then I got rid of more.

Overcoming Avoidance

Although I would like to say my apartment is completely minimalistic, I will be honest and say it’s not. But that’s okay. Because what I’ve learned in the process is that I don’t need all the things. I don’t need the extra decoration to hang on my wall. I don’t need to go to Target twice a week and come out with three times as much as what I intended to buy. I don’t need it because it’s not going to make me any happier.

I now know stuff is not the answer. And since getting rid of the stuff, and thus eliminating the distractions, I am forced to deal with the one thing I have been avoiding the most: myself.

I am your classic avoider. I don’t enjoy confrontation, although I will engage in it if I feel the need. I avoid my feelings by hyper-focusing on everything else around me, and my environment was symbolic of that. Since getting rid of so many things that did not add value or purpose to my life, I have been more attuned to what my thoughts are. I have been able to hear myself for who I am, not push things aside for who I didn’t want to be. I have learned that my thoughts are simply thoughts, and I don’t have to have it all figured out.

I am able to spend more time doing things I find valuable, like creating art projects and enjoying walks with my dog. I did all these things before, but it was rushed. I hurriedly went through the hours of the day in order to get to the next hours of the next day, and doing so meant I couldn’t enjoy the moment I was actually in. I had difficulty just sitting still and appreciating what was around me.

Pursuing Freedom

I will admit this isn’t a done process. Is it ever? I will continue to get rid of things that don’t add value or purpose to my life because it makes me feel free. It makes me feel lighter, like I don’t have to clean the fifty books I haven’t touched in years.

I’ve made up a term for myself: aspiring minimalist. I’m not quite where I want to be with it all, but I know I am on the right path.

And here’s the best part: my thoughts are becoming less and less busy. I am finding more moments of quietness amidst the busyness in my head, and those moments are starting to last longer, rather than just fleeting.

The more I get rid of, the freer I feel, and the less weighed down I become. Maybe, just maybe, this is the beginning of becoming the freest I’ve ever been.

 
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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My name is Robin Lynn, and I am twenty-six years old. I grew up in a small town in Kansas and moved to Kansas City for my last year of graduate school in 2013. I have always had a heart for giving, for helping, and for talking with people who are going through trenches, so I became a mental health therapist. Throughout my career, I have worked with both children and adults who deal with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

I thought I had found my calling and had a distinct plan for my life until the summer of 2015 when I became a victim of rape. I later developed PTSD myself and have been figuring out what my life is going to be like living with this disorder and continuing to help those in the mental health profession.

I never thought I’d be on the other side of the couch. However, this event both changed me and empowered me to speak out, offer support and community, create a place of healing, and to work toward changing at least one person’s world through my story.

In October 2016, I created robinlynn.com, a website that offers all these things in addition to online coaching with me, where I help people transform their lives, overcome adversity, and become the people they have always dreamed of no matter what trials and mountains they have had to climb.

My mission is to help others rise by building resilience, finding identity,and cultivating strength and empowerment. I am determined to build people up in a world that is fighting to bring them down.

I am a mental health therapist in the Kansas City Metro at a private practice called Resolve. I am a recovering perfectionist, a Type A personality, and a survivor. I am a dog mama, a runner, and someone who struggles daily to overcome depression, anxiety, and memories from a traumatic event that forever changed my life.