We often think of rape as happening in a dark alley with a complete stranger. In reality, it’s usually someone you know or have met before, or maybe even someone you trust. It may even occur somewhere you consider safe, like your home. For me, it was my boyfriend who raped me, at our home. We even lived together. I had given consent before. But this time I said no, multiple times. He tried to convince me, coerce me, change my mind…. then just took what he wanted anyways. It took me a long time to realize it was actually rape. It wasn’t violent. I didn’t scream. I just waited for it to be over because that was the easiest thing to do. I couldn’t overpower him, or get away. I basically just froze. I had no power or control. I was in denial and disbelief. This was the person I deeply loved and was suppose to love me and care for me. This was someone I trusted.
When you say no, but they try to coerce you or convince you, that’s still rape. Even if you’re dating the person and are intimate, you can still say no and they should respect that. It is not your duty or obligation as a partner to cater to their “needs.” Just because you’ve said yes before doesn’t mean they will continue to have rights to your body whenever they want. There should be a mutual, enthusiastic YES! You can change your mind in the middle of sex and that is ok, they should respect that and stop. It took multiple rape awareness classes through work to learn this many, many years after the fact.
In an extreme situation, you either fight, flee, or freeze. Your mind is so overwhelmed and not prepared to handle what is happening, so you go into survival mode. In these situations what most people don’t talk about is how the easiest survival instinct is simply freeze.. to wait it out until it’s over and pretend nothing happened. But the body remembers. There is no time to process the emotions because the body and nervous system are in overdrive and shock. So, like with all trauma, the unprocessed emotions get stored in your body. Prolonged unprocessed emotions and your nervous system remaining in a heightened state for a prolonged time can turn into PTSD, anxiety and/or depression. So for a time after an event/s you may still be in freeze mode, or even fight or flight. You’re still in shock. You don’t know what to do – how do you go on living a normal life? You may feel like you’ve lost a part of yourself or it was taken from you. You may be lost, angry, deeply hurt, numb, apathetic, etc. You may feel like this for years if you don’t actively work on healing the trauma. That’s what happened to me.
Rape stays with you, no matter how it happens, no matter with whom. It is an invasion of your body without your consent. It can make you feel unsafe, unworthy of love or affection, make you not comfortable being touched with other partners, feel like to can’t trust others, can’t trust yourself, hate yourself or your body, avoid certain places or people, hate a song you use to like, feel out of control, feel scared constantly, alone, ashamed, isolated, or blame yourself. You may feel like the whole world is no longer a safe place. You may do the “if I did____, then it wouldn’t have happened,” or “I should’ve not said___ or done ____.” It’s a vicious cycle going down the “should’ve, could’ve, would’ve” road and it will get you no where.
Remember that everything you experience is a normal reaction to trauma. You did the very best you could. You did absolutely nothing wrong nor did you do anything to bring it on yourself. It was not your fault. That remains solely on the perpetrator.
Start talking about with with someone you trust who will remain calm and allow you to talk rather than trying to “fix it.”
Talking about it will help you regain your power and control.
You can also call a support line or join a support group. Learning for yourself that you aren’t alone and other people have had similar experiences helps a lot.
Forgive yourself. This was not your fault. There was nothing you could’ve done. You did the best you could given the situation.
You must FEEL to HEAL
Journal how you felt during and after the event/s. Name the emotions. Sit with me and allow yourself to feel them and anything that may come up. You may feel the need to cry or feel angry or scared – whatever it is that comes up, it is a chance to heal.
Reconnect with and get back into your body.
Yin yoga is really great – it’s soft, slow, meditative, low impact, and allows you to get deeper into the body.
Dance. Any kind of dance. Just move your body however feels good and whatever you feel it needs.
Do any activities you use to enjoy but maybe don’t do as much anymore. Reconnect with yourself and your interests.
Tai Chi or QiGong
Practice mindfulness – this keeps you present instead of stressing about the past or having anxious about possible future what ifs. Be aware of what’s happening in the moment. Using your 5 senses is a great way to start. Paying attention to nature and little things and finding joy in those things – like watching a squirrel play or a flower blowing in the breeze. Take time to slow down so you can notice and appreciate the little things.
Practice meditation – It takes some consistency but meditation can drastically decrease anxiety that comes from trauma. Remember the point isn’t to clear your mind, but to notice your thoughts and feelings, acknowledge them, and allow them to pass. You want to observe without judgement. It will be challenging to sit still with yourself and your thoughts – most of us have never done this before and it can be scary to be alone with yourself. But it’s a good first step towards relearning who you are, letting go of who you are not, accepting yourself, and loving yourself again. At first you may have a ton of thoughts and it can be overwhelming a to take a look at what’s actually going on in your mind. You can try imaging each thought as a thought bubble floating by, a cloud or a wave in the ocean. You can simply say, “I see you, thank you for sharing with me,” and wave goodbye. Focus on your breathe coming in and going out and each time a new thought comes up, acknowledge it, then return your focus to your breath. This actually trains your mind and rewires your brain. Anxiety is from living in the future, depression from living in the past, peace comes when you live in the present moment.
Be kind and gentle to yourself. You are not a victim, you are a survivor, and one day you will be a warrior. You will be stronger that you’ve ever been. Our traumas tend to shape us, help us grow, and eventually be able to connect with others on a deeper level. It helps us have more compassion and empathy. You sharing your story with someone else could help them not feel so alone and give them hope. That’s why I have this blog – I’m turning my mess into my message, my past pain into my purpose. I’m sharing how I overcame and healed, and that it’s completely possible for you to as well. But you have to want it, really want to heal. It starts there.
If you’re anything like me, you sometimes get these grand ideas of what you want to be doing with your life. Whether it’s passion related, purpose, a hobby or interest, or a way you can use your unique gifts and experiences to contribute to the world and help others in whatever way you can. I’ve always loved to write – songs, poems, short stories, journaling, blogs, etc. I’ve also been taking photos since I was a wee little thing, snapping awkward photos at the zoo of all the creatures, including the ambitious squirrel that bravely approached me, hoping for some of my lunch. I was never very good at processing the photos, editing, and posting them in a timely manner, granted there wasn’t much of that back in the days of myspace and cameras you had to manually crank to get to the next picture to take and then get it developed at your local CVS. I just enjoyed taking photos, I never imagined had I continued to pursue photography, I could make a career out of it. It’s hard to fathom how much social conditioning we undergo starting at a very young age – the biggest lie being: you have to graduate high school with good grades so you can get into a good college, then work your butt off, so you can graduate with a good GPA, and don’t forget those extra curricular activities , especially the ones you show off your leadership skills. Then you land THE JOB, the big kahuna permanent career position. One of those good paying, permanent, full-time with benefits and paid holidays and vacation positions. That’s the goal. That’s how you become successful and happy.
That’s the biggest crock of shit ever.
I did all of this. I landed a great job as a Project Ecologist working at a successful firm in Georgia. I started by renting a 2 bedroom townhouse and lived all by myself and felt good and successful, like I had made it.
Then all the demons I had been running from my whole life caught up to me – and I fell HARD.
A depression that had been a part of me the majority of my life finally made itself very real and very apparent. I just always thought those darker sides of myself were just who I was and it was normal. It wasn’t.
After running away after a horrid relationship then an equally bad and traumatizing breakup, I started experiencing symptoms that made me feel like I was going crazy: intrusive, brief flashes of awful memories and emotions, crippling anxiety (I didn’t even know it was anxiety at the time), nightmares, inability to focus, paranoia, extreme hypervigilance and exagerated startle reaction to name a few symptoms.
I ended up losing my job because of all this, and because I didn’t know what was happening to me, so I didn’t communicate with my employers about my struggles. I started doing group therapy shortly before this happened, but after I lost my job I knew I needed a lot more help, so I self committed. By doing this, I had the option to do an intensive outpatient program rather than be an inpatient. Maybe staying there would’ve been more beneficial.. I’ll never know.
It helped to know I wasn’t alone, and that other rather normal people also struggled and suffered. However, since it was a young adult program, and we weren’t allowed to talk about the traumas that needed some light shed on them for fear of triggering other patients, so it only helped so much. They loaded me up on all kinds of drugs to control the symptoms, the problem is, they never tried to address the root of the problem.
I stopped going after week 5 of 6 weeks, so I could go to my first music festival, and I’m glad I did. A whole new world revealed itself to me. I danced alongside many others in the forest at my first silent disco. I felt joy and happiness in my soul like never before. I discovered a more natural method of healing. I decided I needed a big change in my life, so I moved to Colorado for a much needed change. Probably not the best idea given the state of my mental health. But I soon learned that Colorado had really good programs and help for what I needed, which my previous states of residence did not. I was able to start seeing a therapist, I did EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy, got a doctor that actually made sure I was on the proper medication for what I needed, I volunteered for causes I felt passionate about, made some friends, and slowly started improving.
EMDR set me back because it opened those trauma doors that had been completely blocked out that I didn’t remember them at all until the memories came flooding back. I started having very public extreme panic attacks. Often, the fear of having a panic attack would keep me from doing things I enjoyed. EMDR is a very effective form of therapy, but I don’t believe the therapist who I saw for it was qualified or prepared for what she got. I scared the shit out of her. And she did not want to see me anymore. As someone who struggles with rejection, getting dumped by your therapist, a mental health professional who should be equipped to handle the demons they dig up whom you grow to trust and let in, well that seriously sucks. I urge anyone seeking professional help to do your homework and make sure they are extremely qualified and well versed and experienced in what they claim to be, especially for the specific type of trauma you seek help for. However, I do not regret doing it, because it awakened me to the origin of my deep depression and fear, and it was not from that relationship; you guessed it, it was from my childhood. >Insert eye-roll emoji< Shocker.
Needless to say, I had a lot of work to do on myself. I was determined to get better, to overcome the symptoms that ran my life, and to be able to be normal and live a normal life. I knew there had to be more to life than this. I was determined to prove the first doctor wrong that said I would be on 3 medications for life. I did not accept that. There was no way I was going to let some random psychiatrist I had but a 15 minute talk with tell me how my life would be. I was on a mission to grow. Western medicine, doctors, and techniques only did so much for me. I knew I needed more, and some different techniques.
I tried equine therapy, and loved it. I didn’t make much money then, and often only found seasonal work in my field of study, so I got resourceful and found a nonprofit in Colorado Springs called the Colorado Springs Therapeutic Riding Center (https://www.cstrc.org). I was hesitant to reach out because I wasn’t exactly their typical client; many were young kids with developmental or physical disabilities, but I called and visited anyways, desperate for anything that could help. And it did. It helped me learn awareness, trust in other beings as well as myself and my body, it improved my confidence, it helped my posture and the pain and misalignment as a result of a lifetime of unaddressed trauma and stress in the body. Mostly, it gave me hope and something positive that I enjoyed to look forward to. Horses are magical creatures. They are incredibly in tune, they sense your emotional state, and can be really caring, sensitive and healing. At the time, I was really struggling at work with my mental state and the work environment and people deeply triggered and made it much worse. Equine therapy was a safe haven I got to go to away from it all where I finally felt happy and peaceful. I really enjoyed this time, and got a lot from it.
After this time, I landed a good position in my career field as a land manager at a Buddhist retreat center in Northern Colorado called Shambhala Mountain Center (SMC). It was complete with an elaborate Buddhist temple and even an onsite resident monk. I finally was stable enough and had enough tools in my belt to manage my symptoms on my own, so I went off all my medications, and haven’t gone back.
The pay and housing was absolutely terrible, but the location was beautiful, pristine and far away from the daily distractions and stressors of modern or city life. It was exactly what I needed at the time. It was challenging in way I had never experienced – in my work, community, and personally. So much healing, growing and self awareness happened there. Healing isn’t exactly pretty. It’s hard, otherwise everyone would be doing it instead of checking out, but it’s so worth it to take control back of your life. *Check out my other post to hear more about my experience living and working at a Buddhist retreat center and everything I learned while I was there.*
For the last few months there, I was really struggling with not feeling like the work I was doing was very meaningful or fulfilling. I always had a feeling I was meant for big things, but just wasn’t sure what. The desire to figure out what I was meant to be doing with my life, who I really was, and what I loved became my highest priority. I read books, watched tons of ted talks and youtube videos, listened to podcasts, talked with others and everything else I could do. *I recently did a blog post about figuring out your passion, so if you’re stuck there, take a read to discover all of the information I devoured and everything I discovered on my own about the subject.*
I was applying to other jobs, and trying to make a change in my life. I wanted to be happier, and for that, I need a purpose to my existence. Then – BAM – COVID-19 hits. The center freaks out. We are on a strict lockdown with many new intense sanitation changes to everything. This happened right at my one year mark, and before I knew it, I no longer had a job and would soon have to find somewhere else to live. So much was changing and I started feeling out of control. I had slowly been working towards stepping into my creative interests (writing, photography and music) but it was slow going and I was hesitant to really start. I decided to move back home and I’m so glad I did. What I had really been missing and needing was a community, or tribe if you will, that I fit in and belonged in. I didn’t have that at Shambhala. I had been hearing the term, tribe, all throughout the spiritual and self help world and really wanted to find mine. The thing is, I had it all along, I had just fallen (and moved) away from them. My tribe were my old friends I had grown up with, people that were more like family, people I reconnected with that it just happened so randomly. Coming home and reconnecting with all of these wonderful people was exactly what I was missing and desperately needing in my life. Colorado was amazing, but it wasn’t home. I didn’t have any super close friends; it was lonely. Home is where the heart is, and where your people are.
Since being back home, I’ve come out of the funk I was in, I no longer feel stuck, I’m more active, have more energy, working out again, eating better, and I’m finally motivated again after many years of being in a funk. I’ve given myself permission to finally be me, and give no fucks about what anyone else thinks. And that feels so good. It’s kinda terrifying to step into yourself and live your life for you. To be you, completely and fully allow yourself to be seen and heard as who you are. I wasn’t living my life in my truth of who I am before, and now I finally am. I’m finally writing again (as you can tell), I’m singing in front of people (made me super anxious), I’m pursuing photography and have been doing photoshoots with my friends, I’m spending quality time with my friends and family, and I’m constantly out adventuring and exploring new areas (with my camera of course). I feel like a whole new person; that extinguished fire that use to exist within me has returned. So, if you saw yourself in any part of my story, I want you to know it will get better. There is hope. You can be free from suffering and live a happy, healthy life. Reconnect with your soul and the essence of who you are and start living your life for you. You deserve a life of happiness and bliss. ❤
Trigger warning: Some material in this post may be difficult for some individuals to work with at this time. And that’s totally fine! If you find the material to be too much for you, do whatever you need to do take care of yourself, whatever that may mean for you.
Someone tried to tell me something along those lines years ago. I scowled and turned my back and walked away. I was an asshole. My thoughts angrily stirred inside as I walked away,
“You don’t have a clue what I’ve been through. There’s been too much pain, sadness, trauma, heartbreak, loneliness, and suffering. I’d love to be happy, but I have this thing called depression and anxiety that won’t let me be.”
“Such bullshit! Maybe that’s possible for you, but there’s just no way. What does happy even feel like? I don’t even remember…I remember feeling happy, like when I make chocolate chip cookies…”
I guess it pissed me off a little when I saw other people being so happy and joyful. How easy they have it. No stress, no worries, no therapy, no medications to take every day to stay sane, no medical bills – nothing! What the hell?! Why can’t I be like that? Why can’t I be happy? Why did I have to get dealt such a shitty hand in life? Why me?
Since then I have dedicated my life to healing and to helping others so they don’t have to suffer like I did for as long as I have. I have done A LOT of self work, in so many ways. I have tried everything I could find, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, and I can honestly say, it’s working! I’m a completely different person than I use to be. That darkness in me is probably still there in some ways, but there is a beautiful light now that keeps shining brighter and brighter with each day. I don’t fear the darkness like I use to, nor do I cling to it either. When all you’ve known is sadness, detachment, pain, and darkness, it’s excruciating and terrifying trying to pull yourself out of it. It’s like those shiny black sludgy creatures from Kingdom Hearts or the creatures from the bottom of the lake in Harry Potter, grasping at you, trying to pull you below the endless black water, when you’ve already accepted that this is your home, where you belong. It takes lots of conscious effort, choosing positive thoughts when all you notice are negative thoughts and thinking patterns, and it takes having faith in the universe that you were not born for this, that there is something so much better out there you might not even be able to fathom or believe in right now. With each positive choice, to choose positive thinking, supportive and good friends, following inspirational people on social media and removing yourself from anything that causes a negative reaction, giving yourself permission to pursue whatever you have been wanting to do or experience or try (for me it was singing, piano, writing, photography, belly dancing and painting) and release whatever fear is holding you back.
What I didn’t know then, was I suffered from another illness, called victim mentality, that I imagine many others share in this thinking pattern who have also been through any kind of extremely painful experience or trauma.
Now don’t write it off just yet. Let’s think about it. Every single thought I had after someone told me to choose happiness, love, light, or positivity was a choice, right? I consciously formed those thoughts in my head. I decided happiness, joy, and love weren’t options for me, because of X, Y, and Z. Couldn’t I have made the choice then to be open to it instead? Technically yes, realistically, not at the time. And here’s why:
I didn’t value, care about or love myself. So how could I truly value, care about or love someone else, romantically, as friends, family or otherwise? I wanted to, but I found it so hard to even tell my friends and family I loved them, or even my dog! I lost faith in myself and no longer saw my value and worth. I felt worthless and unworthy of anything, especially love.
I didn’t believe in myself. I had lost myself at this point. I had lost hope in life and in myself. I couldn’t see a future that was anything other than darkness and pain.
I didn’t trust myself. Therefore I kept making decisions based on my negative subconscious beliefs that didn’t align with what I said and thoughts I wanted. My actions were often self-sabotaging and not in my best interest, that was not helpful to what I said and thought I wanted.
Usually I just did whatever I could to feel better, to feel normal, to feel happy, to forget, to numb the bad feelings, to run, to hide, or to escape. I would go to the local pub and drink excessively til they closed and kicked everyone out, I would shop and spend money I didn’t have and buy things I didn’t need cause I hoped they would make me happy or help me figure out who I was, I’d spend an obscene amount of time playing open-world role playing games (World of Warcraft anyone?) to escape my reality, I’d smoke lots and lots of weed when I could get ahold of it (which wasn’t exactly easy in the Bible Belt – thank you Colorado!). I would constantly either eat my feelings or starve myself and often go to extremes to lose weight and many other worse things for my mind and body I’m definitely not proud of.
I didn’t see the point in life anymore. Some days I felt empty and numb and other days I felt tremendous pain, overwhelming anxiety, hurt and sadness. I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t continue to live this way, and feel this way every single day. I saw no light, had no hope, and just wanted the pain to stop. I knew how I wanted to go, by the only light that made sense to me… a bright beautiful light given off by a ray of hope! A train.. a quick and seemingly painless ending and the end to all of my problems, or so I thought.
I stood there in the middle of the train tracks in the dead of night staring longingly at that light as it came closer and closer towards me. I actually felt at peace for once in my life. I didn’t have any worries or pain, there was somehow peace for once. My mind was clear, the chatter was actually quiet and I felt a small glimmer of hope. It was getting so close, not much longer now. Then a hand grabbed mine and pulled me off the tracks right before it reached me by a complete and perfect stranger I had met earlier that night.
When we are stuck in a deep state of depression and hopelessness with our lives run by fear, it sounds odd – but we are actually incredibly selfish! Had I taken my life that day, that would’ve been the end. No goodbyes, no explanation, no do-overs, no nothing. The end.
I wasn’t thinking about the locomotive engineer whose life would forever be changed by the trauma of killing me and witnessing that. I wasn’t thinking about the kind stranger. I wasn’t thinking about my dog or bearded dragon, the friend I was with that night, or even the people I knew that I wasn’t really close to that would still be impacted by that decision to end my life. I wasn’t thinking about my friends or my family and what kind of impact that would have on them; they didn’t know anything really about what I was going through, and what I had shared with only a few people only made me feel more alone, invalidated and depressed. It felt like no one got it, no one understood, and no one even cared. Some people would dismiss what I did share, minimize it, find reasons to blame me, or would just turn it around and talk about how they had it worse, or that it wasn’t that bad and I needed to just let it go and get over it.
They all seemed too busy with their own lives either way and didn’t seem to care let alone just be there for me. And so we’re clear, anyone can be there for someone simply by sharing space and even just silence with them, authentically listening, holding their hand or giving them a long and loving hug (ask first), validating their experience and feelings, or even just by asking how you can help or what they need, etc. Advice in this state often isn’t needed or wanted and will quite possibly just fall on flat ears. For me, I really just needed to speak, to let it out and talk about it, to be hear, seen, cared for, and that the pain I was feeling was valid and mattered. That it wasn’t my fault and nothing I could’ve or should’ve done differently then would’ve changed the outcome by much, if any.
I had often thought, maybe they’d be better off not having to deal with me, that I was a burden. These were all simply thoughts based on my perception – my perception that I was unworthy, alone, unloved, that no one cared about me, that my feelings weren’t valid and didn’t matter and therefore that I didn’t matter, but it goes way deeper than that.
Our perceptions about life and ourselves begin forming when we are only infants. We don’t understand words yet, but we pick up on feelings and emotions, touches, noises, tone of voice, presence or absence of others, and energy for instance. We literally get a sense of the world and how it works and this continues as we get older. Yelling and screaming, abuse, neglect, being dismissed, not being held and loved, not feeling safe – it all shapes how we view the world and ourselves later on in life. It may show up as anxiety as an adult and feeling unsafe. It could present as a deep distrust in men or women or even in relationships if you are subconsciously taught that they only bring pain or abandonment, so you subconsciously push love away to protect yourself. It may show up as a deep sadness and depression when your needs as a child for love, attention and affection aren’t met. Or, you may feel unworthy of these things at your very core and develop self hatred rather than self love and go through life seeking approval, validation, love and happiness outside rather than within. I did all of these things and it actually did get me somewhere – to check in to a mental institution.
I had just suffered a horrendous heartbreak and breakup after living with the abusive fuck for a year. I was lost, alone, broken, hurting, confused, and had hit the deepest state of depression I have ever known, which was badddd. I had to get out of that town so I jumped on a great career opportunity that presented itself as my shining ray of hope to get out of the state, leave it all behind and start over. I ended up running away from everyone and had no one for support. I truly was alone. I knew I seriously needed professional help at this point so I started with group therapy once a week but after various symptoms of a much larger issue started running my life and affecting my ability to work, I was fired and then realized I needed a lot more help and fast.
The outpatient program taught me a few things though, it introduced me to meditation, art for a creative outlet of difficult emotions or memories, mindfulness, music therapy, and yoga – I still to this day find all of these incredibly helpful, healing, and imperative to my recovery. It also taught me that I also suffered from complex-PTSD in addition to major depression and generalized anxiety, which gave me the validation I needed that there really was something deeper and much more complex going on inside of me, cause I just thought I was going crazy and losing my shit. My diagnosis was a hard pill to swallow, metaphorically and quite literally. It took a long time for me to accept it all and make peace with it, but that was the first step. It made me feel so broken and messed up. But I finally did accept it and was able to identify with it. I started to find my tribe, of other “broken” individuals with an equally sad sob story, a “woe is me” attitude and a pessimistic outlook on life. It started to become a part of my identity, my crutch, and ultimately my reason and excuse to not heal, to sit in my misery and not really try to get better. I had developed the victim mentality. I’m not saying it was all bad. It was part of my healing process just to know that I was a victim of someone else’s undealt with shit and the anger, manipulation and abuse that came with that. I about drove myself crazy trying to figure it all out in my head, going over and over everything, what I should’ve done differently, what I did wrong, blaming myself, and so on in a never ending monologue that only tortured me further and solved nothing. I had to learn that it wasn’t my fault, I didn’t do anything wrong, and nothing I thought I should’ve, could’ve, or would’ve done would have changed a thing in the grand scheme of things, because you can’t change people, especially when they can’t be honest with themselves, and hurt people hurt people, plain and simple.
The next hardest thing was learning to forgive myself, as well as my family, and that abusive fuck. I did these all separately in their own ways and on their own separate timelines. I was able to forgive my family by working on myself, and over time I was able to see events and the situation they were in from a different perspective. I could put myself in their shoes and see how they got the way they are. I was able to use an outside perspective without emotional attachment and hurt involved so I could see clearly and have compassion and empathy. I asked myself, what could’ve happened to this person for them to get this way, or for them to act in certain ways. I found this to also be particularly helpful for forgiving the abusive fuck as well. The signs were subtle and hidden when I was with him, but still there. He had suffered too and possibly been abused in his youth. As a young adult, he wasn’t able to stand up for himself to his father and he wasn’t allowed to be his truest self because he had to be who his dad wanted him and expected him to be. It is quite sad really. I learned that forgiveness doesn’t mean you are accepting or excusing any poor behaviors, it doesn’t really even have much at all to do with the other person, forgiveness is for you ultimately. To free yourself from the ties to a person, their actions, words, endless chatter in your mind and hurt in your heart. For me, forgiveness meant seeing things from an outside, unattached perspective and finding understanding and compassion in where and what they were coming from and how they got that way. I was able to forgive myself because I found compassion and love for myself and my younger self, and knowing I did the best I could in many tough situations with where I was and what I knew at the time. I was so hard on myself – why?!! I compared myself and my life to other people so much. Social media is the worst for this reason! We only see snapshots of only what other people want us to see. Do they post all of the bad times, bad days, burnt meals, bad hair days, plain black coffee, microwave dinners, screaming and crying children and all of the other less than stellar things people experience? Generally, no. So of course if you compare all of the real life crap to someone else’s seemingly perfect picture of a seemingly perfect day, you’re likely to find yourself feeling FOMO, anxious, upset, envious, depressed, lonely, unfulfilled, etc. You aren’t doing yourself any favors there.
The doctors said the diagnosis is a permanent condition. The doctors said I will be on medication my entire life. The doctors said it will affect me the rest of my life. And I believed them all. What they didn’t tell me what how incredibly powerful and resilient our minds are, how strong willpower can be, and how the human body is designed to heal! How much it really just wants to heal! But it starts in your mind. If you believe you are broken, guess what.. you will feel like you are. If you believe you can’t do something, you won’t. It’s that simple. Your life, your body, mind, thoughts and feelings might feel completely out of control right now, and that’s ok. We all start somewhere, but you do have some control. You have a choice in what you choose to believe and if you choose to listen to naysayers or choose to carve your own path. You choose what you fill your mind with, what kind of content you let influence you, what kind of people you keep space for in your life. You decide what you will put up with from other people and how you will be treated. You can choose to set boundaries for honor your needs and you can choose to communicate those needs with others or you can choose to let things slide and not speak up for yourself. You can even decide today, right now even, that you are so sick and tired of being sick and tired. You can decide that you want a different life than what you’ve been living. You have the power to decide that you’ve suffered enough, done enough damage to your mind and body, and have wasted too much of your precious life wrapped up in your misery, blind to the light that resides in you and the beauty and wonder of life and this vast wonderful world. You have everything within you already that you need. You have love and light, confidence and a strong heart, and I’m willing to bet you also have something to say, something to share, that others desperately need to hear. Because we all just want to feel connected. Your pain can be what destroys you or what connects you. You can bury the pain and allow it to isolate you rather than using it to connect to others, or you can begin to open your beautiful vulnerable heart to others. When you share your story and your truth, others begin to feel more comfortable sharing their hearts, and through this process, we start to learn that we really aren’t as alone in our feelings as we thought. We meet others who can relate to your experience and real connections form. Remember to connect from a heart centered place rather than from that inner child that may still be seeking validation and acceptance. You know your story. Any and all hurts are real, are deeply painful, and only you know how it felt and how it affected you. Your validation, acceptance, and forgiveness is the only one you need. Your own health, happiness, hope, joy, and love is the most important thing you can ever give. When you let go of all the things weighing you down, you create room and space for new things, new people and experiences to come in!
Deep down I always felt I was meant for something much greater; my big ideas and thinking were often too much for others to wrap their head around, but not me, I lived for that. I think part of why I was so depressed for so long was I wasn’t living life the way I knew I wanted to be, and craved so desperately to be. And honestly, I’m still not quite there. But I’ve learned something… your pain is your power. And if you run, hide from, and numb it, you will never be free of it and you will never discover your power. You have to feel it, sit with it, sit with the feelings and emotions of your past traumas and really feel them if you ever hope to be free of them.
Practically our whole lives we are taught that darkness is bad and that dark and heavy experiences and emotions are not something to share. We learn to bottle these things up and to run and hide from them. We get this false belief ingrained that we won’t be liked, accepted, or even understood if we share our struggles with others, and oftentimes we learn this because we experience this and that is a sad truth.
I’ve experienced this my whole life. I’ve felt tremendous shame over things about my life I can’t change. I buried these things deep within and never mentioned them to anyone; just pretended as best I could that it wasn’t my truth and distanced myself from those things, thoughts, feelings, people, places, etc. however I could. Over time the mind may not remember, but the body does and the subconscious has ways of trying to get your attention. Sometimes this manifests in the form of disease, injuries or illnesses. For me it was major depression and anxiety, and after many more years of not confronting my demons and adding more to the mix, it became complex PTSD. Funny how that happens.
It’s just like a wound, you must clean it, apply antibiotic, dress it, and repeat until it heals. You may end up with a gnarly scar and a fun story to go with it, but chances are, you will get through it, have the scar to remember the lesson, and you will move on and hopefully not make the same mistake again. If you don’t clean it and take care of it properly, like maybe just put a band-aid on it or even just clean the blood with a t-shirt and go about your business, it doesn’t heal properly, it might get infected and become a festering disgusting mess that could’ve been easily avoided had you taken the time to deal with it when it happened. The longer you ignore the problem the worse it will get. Your mind is the same in this sense. It needs tending to, and if you ignore whatever is hurting you, it will only fester and become your own personal nasty demon that lives to torture you.
So how does this relate to how you relate to others, how you connect with others and develop relationships? Imagine that little demon sitting on your shoulder talking into your ear non-stop while you are on a date, hanging out with friends, or any other social situation. This voice makes you second guess yourself and who you are, your worth, your wants and desires, how other people feel about you and so much more.
Now get this – you already have this little voice! It’s that little voice in your mind and in your head. It’s the voice that’s constantly judging, questioning, second guessing, self-sabotaging, keeping you awake at night and so much more. This voice can ruin your life if you believe everything it says. So what can you do about it? Start by becoming aware of it. Notice when it’s blabbering on and what it’s actually saying. Is there any truth to what it’s saying? Start to question those thoughts and put them to the test. Try to trace back where the thoughts and underlying beliefs originated or where they stem from. Do those thoughts, beliefs, or values actually belong to you or are they actually someone else’s who pushed them onto you? What are your actual beliefs around the topic? What is your truth? Not your parents, your teachers, your friends, siblings, significant others, etc. – what do you believe? Begin to break apart all of the layers of yourself and you may discover they were never you all along, it was who you were told to be and who you thought you had to be.
Start to uncover the truth of who you really are, aka your authentic self. This can seem difficult, but start small and take baby steps. Start by noticing your thoughts and questioning their truth. Let go of any negative beliefs you may have about yourself or anything someone else may have led you to believe that you may not really resonate with anymore.
Try to notice when something happens that tends to affect you in a much bigger and deeper way than whatever it actually is about. Dig deeper into your emotions and feelings about it. Notice how the situation is making you feel, like really feel. What other times or situations in your life did you feel this before? Is it possible whatever is happening is bringing up old memories perhaps with some unresolved feelings? Instead of pushing it away, think of it as a blessing. Your mind and body is trying to help you heal. Find the humor in it if you can – “ah hell, AFGO strikes again (another fucking growth opportunity)! Be gentle and compassionate towards yourself. Healing takes time, so allow it to happen rather than fight it and be thankful for it rather than beating yourself up or getting upset or angry about it. It may help to keep a notebook and track your progress of how you’re growing over time. It may look like symptoms you suffer from including a time period and how those symptoms change and resolve over time. It may include feelings you are struggling with (feeling journal) or it may include medications and dosages as well as how long you take them for, or it could include ways you are healing and things you are doing or learning and implementing and all the ways you’ve noticed you’ve changed and grown. Whatever works for you! It can be helpful to look back on when you are feeling discouraged or like you haven’t made much progress.
The darkness, heavy and traumatic experiences, and dark feelings and emotions all have a place. They are part of what makes you feel vulnerable, scared and unworthy. When you are ready to open up and share things that make us feel this way, you start to learn that other people may have had similar experiences. You start to not feel so alone. You start to feel less broken. Now, don’t fall into the “woe is me” trap. Find a way to connect to others where you aren’t just bitching about your shitty stories. What did you learn from your experiences? How did you grow? What happens here is you learn to connect with others. You start to step into your vulnerability, and you may even find it’s not as scary as you thought. People can surprise you and they can be accepting, loving, caring, kind, and genuine especially when you share from your heart. This is how deeper connections can begin, by being vulnerable and real and unapologetically you. You may realize you were never broken, you just felt like it and that’s ok, because you were just doing your best with sometimes an impossible situation. You are still here for a reason. You may still have some figuring out to do on that, I know I do, but there is a big beautiful world out there and everyone has something to share, to put out in it, to help others with, or a way to help in general. Keep at it. You’re doing great!