S2E7 Tools For Mental Wellness w/ Shara Sandusky

Updated: Apr 18

What do you do when you're in the grips of a downward emotional spiral? How do you confront the collateral damage post-freakout? What does self-care for mental wellness look like when you've been diagnosed with something as scary-sounding as Borderline Personality Disorder? Get the answers on today's episode, or ask Miss Shara herself at mistressprsphne@gmail.com. You are not alone! Highlight Reel: 11:08 - What it means to be in "wise mind," and how to get and stay there

14:38 - Why you shouldn't believe everything you think

15:45 - What you resist, persists: radical acceptance as a tool for wellness

18:39 - Finding your reason to change

20:00 - Why it's 100% OK to let relationships end

21:51 - Self care is not cute

24:00 - The Inventory: a powerful tool for self-empowerment and self-responsibility

25:36 - The meaning of life and why middle age is awesome

26:18 - Therapy as medicine

28:57 - A new, more intuitive way to set goals

33:02 - The key to having "the wisdom to know the difference"

35:29 - A simple trick to transform negative self-talk into radical self-acceptance


Adrienne MacIain 0:41 [Intro] Welcome to the That's Aloud podcast! I'm your hostess with the mostest, Adrienne MacIain, and this week's guest is Shara Sandusky: a brave, badass bitch goddess who was recently diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. In this episode, you will learn: - how to pull yourself out of an emotional spiral - what true self care really looks like, and - how to instantly transform negative self talk into radical self acceptance. I hope you enjoy listening to this as much as we enjoyed recording it. Cheers and stay loyal to your joy. Hi everyone! I am here with Miss Shara Sandusky. Shara is a legal professional, mother, writer, and a survivor of childhood trauma, which she now processes using dialectical behavioral therapy and occasionally rage baking. Welcome, Shara. Shara Sandusky 1:52 Hi, Adrienne, right? Adrienne MacIain 1:54 Yes, that's correct. Shara Sandusky 1:55 Yeah. Hi, thanks so much for having me. Adrienne MacIain 1:58 Thanks so much for joining me. So Shara, is there anything else that you want the audience to know about who you are before we start in talking about your story. Shara Sandusky 2:07 So I am 38 years old this year and I was diagnosed in the last 12 months with Borderline Personality Disorder. Okay. So, and that's going to be a cornerstone to today. Absolutely. How has that diagnosis affected you? You know, I always used to hear people who were chronically ill say, after they had gotten a diagnosis, "But at least I know." Adrienne MacIain 2:37 Yeah. Shara Sandusky 2:38 Right? Even when the diagnosis is bad, even if it's terminal. One of the things that they count among the slim silver lining is, well, at least I know what I'm fighting, right? One of the reasons I wanted to do this is because there's a lot of conversation about mental wellness and mental health. There's been a lot of awakening, I think, over the last decade about how very real the need to take care of your mind with the same intensity and focus as one takes care of their body. Adrienne MacIain 3:18 Absolutely Shara Sandusky 3:18 That that's *real.* Adrienne MacIain 3:20 Yeah. Shara Sandusky 3:22 And I think every time I wonder whether or not the times that we are going through as a society are really stressful, I think, "Yeah, but, but humans have been through stressful times before. The Bay of Pigs was a thing the Cold War was a thing, World Wars One and Two. So it's not necessarily that humans are under more stress or pressure, arguably, I don't think, I think we're just becoming more aware of what it does to us. Adrienne MacIain 3:50 Yeah. Shara Sandusky 3:50 And with that awareness comes a certain amount of responsibility, really. I did survive a lot of childhood trauma. My mom--who I am I actually have a pretty good relationship with now--when I was young had a methamphetamine addiction for a good portion of my childhood, and she did not have great taste in men. There was a lot of-- Adrienne MacIain 4:12 I hear that. Yeah. Shara Sandusky 4:14 Yeah. So all of those things plus a few others that I mean really, childhood trauma encompasses a lot of things. And without wasting too much of our valuable time on the details. It was there. Adrienne MacIain 4:27 Got it. Shara Sandusky 4:28 That led to maladaptive personality changes to try and just cope, you know? To survive. Adrienne MacIain 4:36 Yeah. Shara Sandusky 4:37 Those things aren't useful to you anymore when you become a grown up and you have to carry on with healthy relationships. So my whole life, I just felt like something was wrong. But I couldn't figure out what and I was in and out of therapy and I was on and off medications and none of it stuck because none of it rang true. I was not quite bipolar I was not--I was just above the ADHD line. I was sort of clinically depressed. It was all very, all felt very wishy-washy. And it was hard to kind of believe in any of it because every new therapist I saw had a new diagnosis. So we would try something for a little while and that wouldn't work and I would just feel frustrated and really broken... Adrienne MacIain 5:25 Yeah. Shara Sandusky 5:26 ...all over again. And then every relationship around me started to fall apart. In the last 18 months, like *really* fall apart, my relationship with my husband of 10 years just disintegrated. My relationship with my best friend imploded. We have this group of people, five women, we call the Ya-Yas, right? After that great book. Adrienne MacIain 5:40 Wow. Like the Ya-Ya Sisterhood! Shara Sandusky 5:52 Yeah, like the Ya-Ya Sisterhood! I would have these huge emotional outbursts where I would push them all away or I would say hurtful things and I would... I really started to take a pickaxe and attempt to destroy all of those relationships. And I couldn't figure out why. And I have a child! I have a 10 year old son. So it's not like it's in anyone's best interest. It's certainly not in mine. But again, when you're a mom, these things impacts the people around you so much bigger. Adrienne MacIain 6:22 Yeah. Shara Sandusky 6:24 So, it all came to a head probably about nine months or a year ago. And I couldn't function. And I'd just started a brand new job, I had gone back to work. I really love what I do. And I was super excited about it. But I was numb, and I couldn't see any way out. And I was like, I gotta do something. So I tried therapy again. And I found a woman who introduced me to the idea of Borderline Personality Disorder, which if you've ever read up on is quite terrifying. Think of every bad relationship you've ever had, people with Borderline Personality Disorder are terrified of abandonment. So they will do things like push people away, say hurtful things, pick fights. But then they'll try and pull you back in, because they don't really want you to go. They actually want to make sure that no matter what they do, you're still going to be there. Adrienne MacIain 7:22 You're gonna stay, that's right. It's a test. Shara Sandusky 7:25 It is a test, but it's a constant test one right after another. Adrienne MacIain 7:29 And it's an unfair test. Shara Sandusky 7:31 It's entirely unfair. And it's a lot of really toxic behaviors kind of compiled into one really vicious disorder because what happens is, the behaviors are enough for any healthy person to look at you and go, "Look, if you're not on medication or therapy, then you should be and until you are, I'm gonna go ahead and exit stage left." People don't feel safe around you, because you're emotionally erratic, and you see things in very black and white terms, so people are either with you or against you. So the sad thing, I think, about people who suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder is that they want very much to be loved and accepted. Adrienne MacIain 8:17 Doesn't everyone? Shara Sandusky 8:19 Yeah, well, that's absolutely true. Yeah, I believe that. Adrienne MacIain 8:23 I think I really have to believe--and, you know, I come back to this a lot--I have to believe that everyone is just doing the best they can to have a good life and connect with people in their broken way. That everyone is just trying, with their messed up set of tools, to do the same thing, which is to have a happy life. And... Shara Sandusky 8:46 I think that's true, yeah. Adrienne MacIain 8:47 ...it really helps me to have compassion when I think in those terms; that this person is just using a tool set that is not working for me. It's not that they're a bad person. It's not that they're a toxic person. It really bothers me when people talk about people as toxic. No humans are toxic. There are very toxic behaviors that people pick up. And there are abusive behaviors that people employ. But again, I think everyone is just trying to do their best, as messed up as that sometimes is. Shara Sandusky 9:21 I think that that's fair and true and correct. It's one of the things that you learn-- once I got into therapy, once I really kind of looked around and I was like, I, "I can't continue to function like this. I need to get some help." I found someone who practices Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, which is a subset of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It's really about rewiring the way that you think. And, and so I was lucky enough to find a very no-nonsense therapist. Like one of my very favorite kind of anecdotes of the early part of our therapy was that she said to me... I had lost my work badge, or thought that I lost my work badge over the weekend and I'm in law, I deal with really sensitive information. So I was panicked, I spent two days deep in an anxiety well over this. Then I walked in Monday morning, and I realized that my badge was on my desk, and I was elated. I was on the top of the world. And I had taken my therapist with me through this emotional journey. Like every time I was worried over the weekend, I would text her. And so when it was all over, she was like, "Okay, so let's talk about the fact that I have a string of text messages from you where you were freaking out, certain that you're going to get fired, calling yourself horrible names, saying horrible things about your ability to function as an adult. And then you come into work Monday morning and all of a sudden, what, you send me dancing lady emojis because you're that happy?? We need to get you some balance." Like that was-- and that is a lot of what Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is and brings. We call it being in wise mind. So Borderline Personality Disorder does this thing where your emotions will just take you over. They hit you like a tsunami, and you don't really stop to rationalize what's behind those emotions... Adrienne MacIain 11:27 Well, you can't. I mean, I I know from personal experience when you are really in that emotion storm when you are IN it. You hear-- it's like you're standing outside of yourself watching yourself do this crazy shit. Say these mean things. Throw shit. Whatever it is that you're, you know, the little tantrum that you're throwing... but you can't seem to stop yourself until the emotion blows over. Shara Sandusky 11:53 That's so true because I've had moments in the middle of those--I call them spirals. Adrienne MacIain 11:58 Mm-hmm. The spirals, yeah. Shara Sandusky 11:58 I've had moments in the middle of those spirals where I, I've been like, you're gonna regret this. You know that you need to turn this around, you know exactly what you need to say in order to stop. Adrienne MacIain 12:09 Yep, yep. Shara Sandusky 12:10 Or to make someone forgive you for what you've already done... and I can't. Adrienne MacIain 12:14 And you can't do it. And so that I mean, I think the most important tricks and tools to learn are how to, in that moment, be able to just step out of the situation. Get yourself out of there, however you can. Go for a walk, look out the window, take a deep breath, whatever it takes. Just tear yourself away and force yourself to be in present time. Look around you. I have a little thing that I do where I go for a walk and I narrate my walk, I say... Shara Sandusky 12:44 Oh that's a good idea! Adrienne MacIain 12:44 "And then she stepped over a crack, and she saw the green tree and she..." and it's like I'm talking about myself as a character. And it brings me to present reality, where I'm looking around. I'm not in that emotional storm anymore. I'm just taking a walk. And I'm observing the world around me, and myself. Shara Sandusky 13:04 And it kind of gives you a little bit of a fourth wall too, by narrating your own story, you're able to kind of take an objective observation of what you're saying and thinking and doing and sometimes that is enough to jog your emotional-- you'll say something and you'll be like, "Wait a second. That was really ridiculous. I mean, how far have you let this go?" I do, I have this really great trick given to me by a dear dear old friend who suffers from anxieties. 5-4-3-2-1 take stock of what's like five. I think it's been I interchange them all the time. But it's like, sure you use all of your senses, five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can touch, two things you can smell. One thing... you know. And it brings you back to observing, and that's very much a property of of DBT is this observing mode. It brings you back to a grounded space. The other thing we talk about too is, and this was mind blowing for me, it sounds so simple, but it really was very powerful when I got the full extent of what it was, but I remember in my therapist telling you one time, thoughts are not real feelings aren't-- they're valid, but they're not real. If you feel like your partner doesn't love you, that's not objectively true. All a feeling is, is a thought. And thoughts are wrong all the time. Adrienne MacIain 14:38 Yeah. Don't believe everything you think. Shara Sandusky 14:40 Right. So when we, when she really kind of was able to get that hammered home, into my head. I started visualizing my thoughts differently and they have different ways that you can do this. I personally view the inside of my head is this gorgeous Venetian ballroom. Just gilt ceilings and beautiful parquet floors. And all of my thoughts are these beautifully brightly clothed couples waltzing by. And the nice, the thing that DBT really talks about is the fact that if you are in the middle of a spiral, if you're in the middle of a storm, and you need to get back to a space where you feel like you're better. You need to be able to look at everything going on in your head, and just let it go. You can't stick on any one thought because that one box is going to shoot you down to the bottom of the spiral. Adrienne MacIain 15:32 Absolutely. Shara Sandusky 15:34 Without judgment, without rancor or malice or trying to fix anything. Let them go. Acknowledge them, because sometimes they won't leave until you acknowledge them. Adrienne MacIain 15:46 Exactly. What you resist, persists. It's like don't think about an elephant. What are you going to do? Immediately think about an elephant. Shara Sandusky 15:53 Right? In my psychology class? The number seven on the board. Don't think about this number for the next three days. The number was only thought about. Adrienne MacIain 16:00 Everywhere you go, that's right. And that is how our brains work. We don't accept negatives. Negatives are not real to our mind. We only think in positives. And so even if you say don't do this, all your brain hears is "Do this." Shara Sandusky 16:15 Right! Adrienne MacIain 16:16 That's it. And so you have to focus on what you want, not on what you don't want. And that can be, that can feel so impossible in those moments. And so that's why, like you said, you can't fix anything from that space. You have to get out of the the idea that like, this is a time or a place to to fix anything, especially when you're in a relationship and it's an argument that you're having, or you're trying to fix a problem between you. When you're in that emotional space. Nothing is getting fixed. Shara Sandusky 16:47 Oh, and so often it gets so much worse. Adrienne MacIain 16:50 SO much worse. And I've had partners who insisted that "No, no, no, we're going to talk this out. Until you--" No. Bad news, bad idea. You really need to let people know in your life, when I'm in this state, nothing is going to get fixed. So until we get me out of this state, we cannot move forward. Nothing good is going to result. Shara Sandusky 17:12 Right, and what's really hard is that in my personal experience, I am both the partner that pushes for an immediate resolution and the partner who desperately needs to step away. So, so often and and here's the thing. As previously stated by you, we're all doing the best that we can with whatever crazy tools we have. My ex husband, I believe, is a good man. I did not get the help that I needed in time and my disorder really kind of killed big parts of our marriage. Because how do you handle something like that? Especially if the person that is being ravaged by the storms inside their own head isn't really fighting to fix the weather. You know? I was too scared of what would happen, I was too afraid of I was too afraid of really kind of what I was going to find when I really started digging in. And so I put it off, I put it off for ages and ages and ages. And I remember every adult in my life saying when I was a child, "You're going to need therapy. You're gonna need therapy your whole life." And I was like, whatever. I can do without it. [laughter] And I could for short periods of time. Adrienne MacIain 18:29 How'd that go for ya? Shara Sandusky 18:33 Well, I'm 38, and now I've just had this revelatory year. So... Adrienne MacIain 18:38 Hmmm. Shara Sandusky 18:39 The thing is when you ha-- when you're a m--, I don't want to say when you're a mom, for me, the thing that did it was being a mom. And here's the deal, like, it's different for everybody. Maybe it's a partner. Maybe you find a dog you super like, and you just want to stay around for the dog. But everybody, hopefully, will have that thing that makes them less afraid than they are determined. Still afraid. Still terrified! But less afraid than you are determined. Adrienne MacIain 19:13 That is so true. And so beautiful. You know, I'm just realizing now, as you're saying that, that it was my daughter that had the same effect on me, that I realized I can't keep having these fights with her father, I can't keep throwing these tantrums in front of her. That is not the example that I want to set for her. I need new tools. Shara Sandusky 19:36 That was pretty much verbatim the conversation inside my own head too when I realized once again, I was in a space where you know, my ex-husband and I weren't communicating clearly, I wasn't happy, I cried all the time. And here's the thing, now that we are apart and we're moving on and going our separate ways. We both now have new loves in our lives. That are, I think, a lot more suited for where we are as people and what we've been through. And that's that's the thing so many people see the ending of one relationship as a need to demonize someone else. If someone isn't with you anymore, it's not that you're not enough or that they found someone better. There is real truth to the idea that people are like, jigsaw puzzle pieces. Like it doesn't it's, it's not a bid deal if-- Adrienne MacIain 20:27 And also, you change. Your shape changes. Shara Sandusky 20:31 Yes! Very true. Adrienne MacIain 20:32 What started as a perfect fit, it turns out, you know, your insecurities fit perfectly, or you know, you were looking for something in yourself that has been taken from you or that you just never connected to, and you found it in that other person. And then eventually you find it in yourself. And so it's time to move on. And that's totally natural. There's nothing-- Shara Sandusky 20:54 That's so true! Adrienne MacIain 20:55 --there's no failure in that every relationship has its meaning and has its purpose while it lasts. And you don't have to force something to survive past its expiration date. Shara Sandusky 21:06 No, and I think there's... That's such a revelatory thought. And I love it so, so much. Like it's something I've come to in the end of my marriage here. But having it voiced that well, I think is really, it's helpful. I'm a person, like you, who tells stories and deals in words. Sometimes you can't always shape something in a way that sounds good to your ear and sticks on your soul. That I--3 yeah, I've been meaning to find a way to say that for a while. It's true. And we've talked about the good things that came out of us. My son is someone I'm very proud of,. Like if we have no other reason to be together except for that, like, that's enough. Adrienne MacIain 21:50 Absolutely. Shara Sandusky 21:51 But the thing with really going to therapy, and I think I wrote this like when in the kind of the shape up for the episode. I'm so annoyed by this cutesy ideas of self care, like the, "Oh, let's take a day off and binge watch Netflix." Look, there are days when, okay, whatever, that's real, like, but I've had more days where Netflix is just on in the background for some kind of noise and I've cried for two hours. Like and so self care on those days becomes getting up and taking a shower. Adrienne MacIain 22:23 Absolutely. Shara Sandusky 22:24 It becomes making sure that you eat food that is not crackers and cookies and a can of soda. Adrienne MacIain 22:30 Yeah. Sometimes self care looks like getting some fucking exercise. Sometimes self care looks like making a business plan. Sometimes self care looks like going to bed at a reasonable hour and then getting your ass up out of bed in the morning and getting shit done. Self Care is not always coddling yourself. It's like when you deal with your kids, when you deal with your friends, the people that you really care about, would you advise them like, "Hey, stay home all day and drink soda if that makes you happy, and makes you feel better. Shara Sandusky 23:05 No. Adrienne MacIain 23:05 No, of course not. Because we know that in the long term, that's not self care. Shara Sandusky 23:11 Right. Adrienne MacIain 23:11 That is very short sighted self care. Shara Sandusky 23:15 And here's the thing, once I got into therapy, and it was really like within two or three sessions, and I do my therapy on my phone, actually, so I have access to my therapist whenever I need her. Adrienne MacIain 23:27 That's great. Shara Sandusky 23:28 Yeah, it's super nice. I really do love it. It doesn't work for everybody. Some people need that face to face interaction, but I'm okay with it. So, but within like two or three sessions, I also realized sometimes self-care is womaning up and taking a look at the battlefield behind you and the damage that you have done. And accepting both that it's there, and that you have a lot of work to do to make sure it's never like that again. Adrienne MacIain 23:59 I had this really big revelation a few years ago, about 10 years ago now I'd say, where I, I wrote down every shitty thing that I had ever done to another person, including myself. I went through and I just looked at all the harm that I had caused. And just, I didn't plan to necessarily fix it. I just needed to see it and to confront it. Shara Sandusky 24:24 Right. Right, right. Adrienne MacIain 24:26 And when I got to the end, I thought I'd be all like, you know, overwhelmed and apathetic and crying. And instead, I felt surprisingly strong, because I looked at all of that, and I said, and yet, I still have people who love me. And yet, if I could do all of this bad stuff, think about all the good shit that I am capable of doing. Look how powerful you are you caused all of this. Now, what do you want to cause in the future? Shara Sandusky 24:53 Right? And that is empowering. It took me a little bit longer like when I sat down-- And I think it's because I went into therapy and I started taking stock so soon after a point in my life where I had done so much damage, so for me like those wounds were super fresh and I spent a ton of time crying and guilt ridden and-- Adrienne MacIain 25:18 Right, the shame and the guilt and... yeah. Shara Sandusky 25:21 Which, by the way, like, if you've never read Brene Brown, she does some amazing work on shame and shame therapy and love and acceptance and her work, Braving the Wilderness, specifically-- Adrienne MacIain 25:35 Absolutely Shara Sandusky 25:36 --really got me through. Yeah, amazing author, amazing self-help system. And she-- I think it's her, it's either her or Elizabeth Gilbert. She's got this great quote where she says: "Middle age is where life grabs you by the shoulders and whispers I am not fucking around anymore." Adrienne MacIain 25:50 Yeah. Shara Sandusky 25:52 Find your place. Find the thing that makes you come alive and sparkle and impact the world and go fucking get it done. Adrienne MacIain 26:01 Absolutely. Shara Sandusky 26:02 You don't have much time left. Adrienne MacIain 26:04 Yeah, stop fucking around trying to please a bunch of people who are never gonna be happy with you. Let them go make themselves happy. Go figure out who the fuck YOU are and what makes YOU happy and then stay fucking loyal to your joy no matter what. Shara Sandusky 26:19 Right. And so much of that, for me, when all of this started really came from figuring out what my life really was. What did make me sparkle? What did bring me joy? Where did I find my greatest happiness? And then getting goals that genuinely reflected making sure that those things were in my life every single day. So like for me, freedom was a big deal. Freedom was huge, like my own financial freedom, my own emotional health freedom. And here's the deal. I know now, that therapy is like my medicine. So like as a diabetic needs to be on insulin for the rest of their life, even if they eat well, like their level of insulin will go up or down, but the insulin is always there. I may only talk to Amy once a month. But I will still talk to her. And that's okay. There are days that I talk to her every other day, and I'm on my phone going, "Okay, you need to answer, please answer." And she's great. She's always back to me in 24 hours. But the point is, it ebbs and flows. But it-- I don't take medication, because I don't like the way that medication makes me feel. So this is my medicine. And, accepting that was a big deal for me. And so getting goals and recognizing how I need to keep myself healthy and take care of myself. That's my freedom. I wanted freedom. I wanted healthy relationships that were strong, that I felt like I was contributing to in a good, healthy manner. I wanted to lift the people around me up. I wanted to be more socially aware and to do more and be more of a voice in social awareness campaigns and talk about things that I think are important. So a lot of my last month especially has been in setting goals and making goals and having a clear idea of where I want to be. And that has been so empowering because I think, for the first month after I, you know, really kind of realized the scope of what this disorder was and how it had affected me, how it will continue to affect me. Nothing feels possible. And that's really kind of sucky because I still have kids like my boyfriend is amazing. He brings me flowers every Monday he loves and supports me like to look at all of those gifts that you've been given and just go, yet none of that crap matters. Now I have this stupid junky disease. Like, that's so silly. Adrienne MacIain 28:51 Yeah, yeah. I mean, we know gratitude is magic, right? We know that. Shara Sandusky 28:56 Oh my gosh, such big magic! Adrienne MacIain 28:57 Big Magic. And so the more you can focus on what you do have and want more of, is what creates more of that. I, you know, I've stopped kind of setting goals for myself in the sense of like, I want to get a car or you know, like stuff. I don't set stuff goals anymore. I set emotional goals. There's a great book by Danielle Laporte called The Desire Map. That's right. Goals with soul is like the tagline. And what it's all about is getting your core desired feelings, finding out what you want to feel more of, and what will bring that into your life. And then doing those things. Shara Sandusky 29:39 That is intriguing... Adrienne MacIain 29:40 It really helps me to think of it in that way. Because, you know, I don't know what's gonna make me happy. Like, I think this might but I don't know. And so instead well what does happiness feel like? What are the actual emotions that make me think "Oh, I'm happy! This is good." Shara Sandusky 29:59 Right. And it's not always what you think, is it? Adrienne MacIain 30:01 No. No. Shara Sandusky 30:01 Yeah, like people like people say happiness and they think like the pleasure principle immediately comes into play. And you start to think, "Wait, is that really what you're looking for? Or are you looking to--" Adrienne MacIain 30:13 I mean, joy is wonderful bliss is wonderful, but what about satisfaction? What about-- Fulfillment! --peace? What about balance? You know, all of those things, you and it's so specific to who you are right now. And it changes over time. Shara Sandusky 30:32 And that's so beautiful. Adrienne MacIain 30:33 And that's beautiful. Yeah. Shara Sandusky 30:35 Yeah. It's been an interesting journey of acceptance. Because you can't you can I compare it to diabetes a lot. Because it feels... diabetes is one of the things that most of the time like people would look at you and never know that anything was wrong. But you know, and so you have to take care of your eating and you have to do all these things and you, YOU personally are responsible for behaviors that maintain your health. And if you are not doing those things, then you are going to adversely impact the lives around you. Adrienne MacIain 31:08 Absolutely. Shara Sandusky 31:11 This is the same thing to me. So I'm responsible for these things that make me mentally healthy if I have to do them every day. And if I don't, the people around me are inevitably going to suffer because I will suffer. I will be sick. Adrienne MacIain 31:27 Yeah, you have to make that commitment to yourself. Shara Sandusky 31:29 Yeah. And it really is one because here's the thing again, therapy's not cute. It's not fun. It's not funny. I can't tell you how often I have said, "I hate Amy," only to say like two days later, "She was right. Goddamnit." Like and be like, okay, well, you know, because there are things that happen inside your head you're not necessarily ready to talk about or to deal with, but that choice isn't always yours. Like, it's there. And just like diabetes, again, if you ignore it, it's going to make you really, really sick. And so you have to accept that you have it. Because that's it. Like, that's it, you do. All the evidence is there. And so if you don't, you're never going to be able to take the steps that you need to get better. I have never been good at self-acceptance. I can't wait to give friends links to this podcast because I'm excited to hear what they think. Adrienne MacIain 32:25 Awesome. Shara Sandusky 32:25 All of them will tell you, I think horrible things. Like all the time, my level of self acceptance is just stupid--excuse me--is just crazy low, crazy low. But you have to accept it. And then you have to accept the self care that comes with making it better. Like, because there's a lot of that. Like, you have to dig deep inside yourself. You have to make sure that you're taking care of your emotions and your body and all of those things, and that can lead to a good bit of self-acceptance. And that, yeah. Adrienne MacIain 33:05 This has become a big theme in my life in the last couple of years, but especially in the last year--is recognizing that fine line between acceptance, and doing something about it. When do we, you know, it's like the Serenity Prayer. When do we accept the things that we cannot change as things that we cannot change? And how do we have the wisdom to know that difference, to change the things that we can, and what I've realized is that if I push gently against something, and what I get back is fear, maybe a little bit excitement, but mostly fear, I need to keep pushing. That is a place that I need to go. And if I push against something, and all I get back is grief, and all I get back is pain, then that is something to just let alone. Let it heal. Leave it be. It's not the time to push right now. And when I really respect my own ability to change and recognize where I'm ready to change and where I'm not--and in a relationship when you look at the relationship and you go, "Okay, am I willing to accept it as it is right now? Can I love this person exactly as they are and where they are?" And yourself, too: "Can I love me, exactly where I am, exactly where I'm at? Or not?" And if not, something needs to change. Shara Sandusky 34:27 Right. And I know for me personally, sometimes the thing that needs to change are my expectations of myself. Adrienne MacIain 34:35 Right. Absolutely right. Shara Sandusky 34:36 Again you get back to that self-acceptance. I am one of those people who has a very clear vision of who she wants to be. And the way that they want to deal with my friends. I'm, for example, a terrible flake. Terrible flake. I really wish it were different. I'm working so hard on it, but this is the reality of what is. I hate that about myself. I have to accept that about myself. Adrienne MacIain 35:01 Well again, what we resist persists. So the more you think of yourself as like, "Oh, I'm this flake and I have to fix that," the more that's going to happen. Instead, if you can just recognize that your friends still accept you, your friends still like you, even though you flake out sometimes, and just radically embrace that, like that radical self acceptance of just going, "Okay, I'm flaky right now. That's just where I'm at right now." And the people who are in it, are still in it. Shara Sandusky 35:29 Right! Amy says, whenever I have a bad thought about myself, I should add, "and I love that!" Like, I'm such a klutz, I'll trip over the subway or the escalator in the metro or whatever. And I'll be like, ugh, I'm such a klutz. And then I hear Amy's voice going, "and I love that!" Adrienne MacIain 35:45 And I love that! Shara Sandusky 35:47 Because it is funny. I can't tell you how many times, how many stories we have of me falling across entire hotel rooms trying to catch myself. Adrienne MacIain 35:55 That's fantastic. Shara Sandusky 35:56 And we all-- right, it comes with its perks. You have to, you do have to be kinder to yourself. Healing is not linear. And it takes a lot of emotional energy. And if you're busy beating the crap out of yourself, how are you going to heal? You're just giving yourself new bruises. It's counterproductive. And the cycle's gotta stop somewhere, man. Adrienne MacIain 36:21 Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, we've covered a lot of ground and that's awesome. And the funny thing is, I haven't gotten to any of my usual questions. And I love that. I love that this has just been such a completely organic conversation. Shara Sandusky 36:35 Yeah, it's been so much fun! Thank you so much. Adrienne MacIain 36:38 Yeah, but I do want to ask you. So is there a specific story that you came to tell? Shara Sandusky 36:46 Not one specific anecdote... Adrienne MacIain 36:49 And that's okay! That's okay. You don't have to have that, because this definitely is a story. It definitely is a story. Just the story of your recognition of needing recovery, and the story of your recovery, is beautiful. Shara Sandusky 37:03 Yeah, I think for me, that was really kind of what it was. And it was a scary story to tell, because it's not like I've been really super open with going-- I'm at work right now, in an extra office, like it was the only place I could find to do this. For all I know, my HR person is on the other side of this wall, having heard this entire podcast and is now like, "Wow, do we need to look at Shara's credentials?" Adrienne MacIain 37:25 How enlightening! Shara Sandusky 37:26 Right. But again, it's a part of me. Not everyone deserves your shame story. That's really key. Adrienne MacIain 37:32 Very key. Shara Sandusky 37:33 But you should not be afraid to stand in your own truth either. Adrienne MacIain 37:36 Exactly. Shara Sandusky 37:37 And I think really knowing the difference between the two is the beginning of some healing wisdom. Adrienne MacIain 37:41 Absolutely. Yeah. I always say the difference between a therapy session and a story is that a story is something you have enough distance on to be able to tell it as one. It has a beginning. It has a middle and it has an end. Shara Sandusky 37:56 Yes. Super smart. Adrienne MacIain 37:58 If it doesn't have an end yet? That's not a story yet. That's just therapy. Shara Sandusky 38:03 Yeah, that's... That's true. That's really true. Adrienne MacIain 38:06 Yeah, you have to know what the moral of the story is what you learned from it, how it changed you. And the lesson that you can impart now, because you went through that. Shara Sandusky 38:16 Right? And I think really, for me, my biggest lesson has been: be radically brave... Adrienne MacIain 38:24 Yeah. Shara Sandusky 38:25 ...in the pursuit of your best mental health. And I mean radically brave. Like, you look at everything you've done, you take all of your stocks, you take all of your whatever it is, but you also be radically brave in the way that you allow yourself to heal. The kindness and the empathy and the compassion with which you treat yourself on that journey is also a form of radical bravery and it is crucial. And I think a lot of people don't get one side or the other. They either think it's all drudge and terrible and tears, or they think it's all coddling. It is a mixture of both. And you have to face both of them with equal courage. Adrienne MacIain 39:09 Absolutely. I mean, if you want to change-- if you want to transform your body, you're going to exercise, and you're going to need rest. You need both. If you overtrain, then you're going to get injured a bunch and you're not going to build that muscle because you won't give yourself the chance to rest. If you just rest, nothing's going to change. Shara Sandusky 39:28 I definitely tried that second one and can attest to it's virtue. [laughter] That's very true. Adrienne MacIain 39:35 And there's nothing wrong with that, don't get me wrong, but you need both; you need balance. You need action and you need inaction. You need the yin and the yang. Shara Sandusky 39:43 Yeah, absolutely. But I think I think that's maybe the most important lesson: that radical, *radical* courage and bravery when it comes to facing your mental health. And what you want your best mental health to look like and that journey to get there, because it's hard. It's really hard. But it's worth it! Adrienne MacIain 40:00 And so many people who think that they're being helpful will actually stand in your way, without realizing it. Shara Sandusky 40:06 Yeah, that's a whole other podcast. Adrienne MacIain 40:08 People who try to keep you in it, because that's more comfortable for them. Because that's what they know. And that's how they know how to interact with you and, and they're in their own stuff. And yeah. Shara Sandusky 40:19 Yep. Yeah. For sure. Adrienne MacIain 40:21 It can be really challenging to know who to spend your time around, when you're around someone and they make you more of the person that you want to be? Man. Connect with that person as much as you fuckin' can. Shara Sandusky 40:33 Right. It's a key indicator for sure. And I've also found that, people who are fiercely protective of your mental health on the days when you can't be... Like I'm really lucky enough to work with a fantastic group of women who are younger than me by quite a bit, more than a decade, I think, almost all of them, and they are--wow--they are *fiercely* protective of the things that I say to me and my Mental Health and also my actual health because I do have a coke addiction and so they're constantly trying to get me to drink water. Adrienne MacIain 41:08 Oh! I though you meant cocaine. I was like, "Wow, that's a whole other podcast isn't it?" [laughter] Shara Sandusky 41:12 Totally would be, but no. Coca Cola. Adrienne MacIain 41:16 Also very highly addictive, don't get me wrong. Shara Sandusky 41:18 Definitely. So yeah, it really is about... because here's the deal, especially when you're in the beginning of your healing journey. You don't always know what a healthy you feels like. Yeah, or what have you that's making wise decisions feels like, and so surrounding yourself with people who do, like who have that objective step back to be like, "Hi, this is your seventh bottle of Coke. Have some water and actual food." Like, there are people out there who will take care of you like that while you're healing. And I'm lucky enough to have several of them. So the burden is not on any one person. Adrienne MacIain 41:56 Right. But it's that willingness to accept the help. It's the willingness to reach out and say "Yes. I appreciate your help. Please, keep it coming." Shara Sandusky 42:04 And here's the thing if for those people out there who feel like they don't even have that option, like they've alienated someone else. There are people like you out there. I am a people like you, which means that there's a community that you can draw upon. If you, if someone I didn't even know, like DM'd me and said, "This is what I felt, and this is what I did. And this is how I feel now." I would take the time to have that conversation. I know dozens of people who would take the time to have that conversation, because when you know what it feels like to be alone? You don't ever EVER want anyone else to feel that. So you make yourself available. There are people out there, all over. Adrienne MacIain 42:48 This is a perfect segue. How would you like people to reach you? If they want to reach out, if they want to talk about this, if they want to contact you, what's the best way to do that? Shara Sandusky 42:57 Wow, I didn't even expect that. Honestly. So I think my email [mistressprsphne@gmail.com] is probably the best way to do so, or a Facebook message [https://www.facebook.com/bits.smith.7] and I can can send you links to both of those so you can post them with the podcast. Adrienne MacIain 43:11 Great. I will do that. Shara Sandusky 43:12 We are all each other's keepers. Right? And that doesn't mean I'm your therapist, it doesn't mean your punching bag. What that does mean is when you come to me and you say, "I'm scared, and I'm alone," I can take you by the hand and take five minutes to have that conversation with you and go: just thoughts. And not all thoughts are real. And you're not alone. Because look, we're talking, I'm a person. And I will be here with you until we can get you to a point where you can get help or you feel better or whatever it is, but nobody is ever alone. Adrienne MacIain 43:48 And also, you know, take stock of your body. Are you in physical danger right now? Look around the room. What do you actually see? Are you being-- Shara Sandusky 43:56 So important! Adrienne MacIain 43:57 Yeah. Just coming back into that present time and going, "Oh, that's my dresser. This is my teddy bear. These are not threatening objects." Shara Sandusky 44:08 That was a huge thing for me that, again, another one of those things like Amy saying thoughts are just feelings, Amy saying: you to recontextualize what the word afraid means, because you use it inappropriately all the time. Are you in danger? Is someone that you love in danger? Do you have no time to stop it? Is somebody, like-- these are real things that cause actual fear where it's a valid response. And learning the difference between those takes some power out of the things that that tend to terrify you and make you freeze. For sure. Adrienne MacIain 44:42 Thank you so much. Shara Sandusky 44:45 Well thank you! Adrienne MacIain 44:45 This has been absolutely wonderful. Shara Sandusky 44:47 I've had a great time. Thank you so much. And honestly, there was a lot-- this was very therapeutic for me, quite frankly. Adrienne MacIain 44:54 Good! Shara Sandusky 44:54 But also just knowing that maybe there's somebody else out there who's like, "Holy crap, I can't-- I don't even know where to start." You start with being radically brave. And then maybe the next step is realizing that even though it's a part of you, it's not the only part of you. Like, it's probably not even the most important part of you. Adrienne MacIain 45:15 Unless you let it be, because it's your story, and you get to narrate it. And you get to decide what is important. So. Shara Sandusky 45:23 Exactly. Thank you so much for this. Adrienne. It was wonderful. Adrienne MacIain 45:27 It's my pleasure. Shara Sandusky 45:28 Okay, thanks. Adrienne MacIain 45:29 Have a great day. Bye! Shara Sandusky 45:30 You too. Bye. Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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