What was said; What I heard

I read something that had a pretty big impact on me at a pretty important time which has led to the inspiration for this post. I have not spoken to my mother in a week. This would not generally be note worthy but this time it is. The last time we spoke ended badly and the space I thought I needed to take care for myself expanded from a half hour to multiple days to now a week.

During this week my Dad showed up in his normal role in our family: peace maker/mother fixer. My Dad picks up the messes of others so everything can stay neat and tidy and we can all pretend there is no mess. Dad also takes care of Mom, Mom comes first. Always.

The space has been painful. I feel like a terrible daughter, I feel like I am the problem, I feel like I am breaking my mother’s heart, I feel guilt, I feel shame, I feel like I will be a terrible mother. I feel self-doubt. I worry that my actions are manipulative, I am constantly second guessing myself. I feel unstable, out of control.

As the space has gotten bigger so has my truth; I feel rejected. I feel used. I feel blamed like a scapegoat. I feel resentment. I feel more stable. I am starting to gain clarity. I am starting to truly understand how much bigger than me this is. I am learning how to care for myself since the focus is not constantly on caring for her. My heart is aching. I feel let down.

Yesterday or the day before, I honestly cannot remember now, I was reading a blog that I have been following for a long time. It is a blog similar to my own; personal, searching, honest. I appreciate the honest part most. I admire and appreciate people who are willing to say out loud that life is hard, families are hard, relationships are hard. I see enough posed photos with perfect smiles, sometimes I need the honesty of how devastating losing a pet can be. This blogger shows up in her truth.

So I was reading this post that true to form was painfully honest and I definitely identified with parts of it. My truth is different from hers but I saw myself, my childhood self, in some of her writing.

I wasn’t sure I had the courage to be so honest but right now seems like the time. The only way for things to be different is to do things differently. That means honesty and stepping out from the shadow of denial. Last week my mother and I broke another vase, metaphorically speaking, and despite all his efforts my father was not able to sweep these pieces under the rug like so many broken pieces before it. So now I am going to stand here in the mess I helped make and accept Alma’s invitation to be seen in my truth.

What was said and What I heard:

Calm down: You are acting crazy. You are crazy.
This isn’t going to work: You can’t do this. You made a mistake. You did this wrong.
Your mother is really upset: Your mother is really upset and it is your fault. You need to apologize to your mother. Please fix this for me. I am scared.
Your brother _____________: I love him more. Your accomplishments, life, words, ideas, problems, are less important than his.
Mother-daughter relationships are hard: This is what it is, get used to it. Stop trying to change things. Stop upsetting the apple cart.
What is most important is that we love each other: Do you still love us? Are we good parents? Please don’t leave us. Family comes before everything, including your emotional well-being.
*Silence*: Fuck you. You are the worst. I will not bend. You will give me what I want. Who do you think you are? You owe me this. You are not stronger than me. Don’t make me angry. How dare you. I do not love you.

What I needed to hear:

This started long before you.
This is not your fault.
I own my part.
Take all the time you need, I will be here.
I am ready to really work on this.
The truth, the real honest truth.

 

There are a lot of ANDs that exist in this space of pain but this time I am going to keep my ANDs to myself. I know what they are and that is what matters. I do not feel compelled to make this mess pretty to make myself or anyone else more comfortable. Not this time.

mom

The Girl and the Sea

Once there was a girl who had been holding on too tightly. This was a girl who had always been afraid of losing; losing what, she never quite knew. Her mind, her heart, her self, her future, her favorite doll.. There was just always this nagging feeling that the world was not safe and so she needed to hold on tightly to make it through.

What this girl did not understand is that not everything can be held so tight. Holding too tightly can  make what looks like love feel like suffication. Holding too tightly can leave you white knuckled and arthritic, a body cannot withstand the constant pressure to hold on so tight.

This went on for a long time and for all her efforts she still experienced devastating losses. She never loosened her grip on the things she cared about or needed to hold on to but it did not keep her safe from losing like she had hoped. Still the girl held on too tightly because she knew no other way.

One day the girl went to the ocean and was invited to step out into the crashing waves. With trepidation she followed the leader and felt overwhelmed by the power. She could not hold on out in the current, she had no control. She grasped at the sand on the ocean floor but it slipped from her fingers.  She reached out for her leader and together they were tossed by the incoming tide. She realized there was nothing else she could do so finally she let go.

For a moment she let go of everything she had been holding too tightly and watched as the ocean washed it away; in it’s place she opened her hand and found an acorn. The symbolism she did not understand at the time.

That day the girl learned that when she let go of the things she was holding too tightly her hands were then open to receive what she was truly meant to hold.

the girl and the sea

Soft Pink Underbelly

puppy

Okay let’s all take a moment at the beginning of this post to just bask in the cuteness of puppy.

I chose this photo deliberately to highlight a point for me. When dogs lay on their backs exposing their soft pink adorable bellies it is not because they are trying to be cute, it is an act of submission. They are exposing their most vulnerable parts and pretty much doing exactly what this photo says, yelling I surrender!

I was thinking about this today as I processed some feelings and got to know a new shadow that surfaced. The feelings were anger and frustration.

Personally I do not see feelings as anger and frustration as “true” feelings. I think they are masks. They are protector pieces that show up for us so we don’t have to experience the true feeling underneath that is much more vulnerable and in turn, painful. Anger and frustration are the dog snarling and barking as a way to protect it’s delicate pink underbelly.

When I peeled back the first layer I saw what my anger and frustration were trying to distract me from: rejection. In that moment I had so much gratitude for the feelings of anger and frustration I had been feeling because rejection is a lot harder to sit with. It is much easier to get angry and frustrated and blame others and ignore the rejection all together.

Admitting that I feel rejected hurts. It is painful. Why?

I peeled back another layer and found shame. When I am really sitting in my true feelings around rejection then anger and frustration and blame fall by the wayside and what I am left with is shame.

Shame when I consider things such as was I not good enough? If that is true that means I do not deserve this. Then come questions like, What is wrong with me? and What could I have done differently?

Rejection is no fun at all. I am ready to be angry and just stay there, that is safer, it is less painful.

There is clearly more shadow work to do around rejection, and shame, and even entitlement (which absolutely shows up with rejection).

Right now I feel like the helpless little puppy. My pink underbelly is exposed, I have let down my guard, I surrender to these feelings and am open to the lesson they hold.

Reclaiming Righteous

mask

It was as if a flood gate opened in me yesterday after I wrote about my intention to work on my relationship with my shadow pieces leading up to soul camp. Suddenly a million voices rose ti my surface ready to accept my invitation to be seen. The first in line, self-righteousness.

Apparently some of my shadows are very open to a relationship, it was just up to me to send the signal. So I spent the day with self-righteousness yesterday listening to my own inner wisdom and exploring my truth a little deeper.

I started my relationship with this piece here, where I explored my initial reactions to the word righteous. Towards the end of the post I spoke about reclaiming the word righteous, and I still have that intention; getting to know my own self-righteous piece has helped me understand there is more work to do before I am able to get to that point.

First things first, get out of victim mentality. I wrote that post with an outside perspective. “I am uncomfortable with this word because of others”. That is true, but it is a partial truth. A fuller truth is I am uncomfortable with this word because of my own sense of self-righteousness. I have to be able to see myself in all of this to fully embrace this shadow and reclaim this word.

Here is where I am going to start..

When I started this blog 5 years ago I was absolutely caught in a trap of dichotomous thinking patterns. I was judgemental of others while unwilling to process the source in myself where the judgement stemmed from. Therapy helped me with this, so did being in the two social work programs. I recognized something though while I was spending the day getting to know self-righteousness; while I may have moved away from black and white thinking and judgement into the gray area of AND there is still room for judgement to exist here in the form of self-righteousness.

This kind of judgement might even be more toxic actually than the judgements I was casting previously. I remember when I first started back in college I was making observations and judgements about all kinds of stuff, “these millennials and there addiction to their cell phones”, “her clothes are not professional”, “that professor isn’t qualified”. My professional piece is a pretty judgemental piece I admit. I really had to reign her in.

Now as I have been waking up to my higher spiritual self and my own truth I cast aside these judgements and have been much more open to different ways of doing things and allowing each person to be as they are rather than as I think they should be. At least I thought I was doing this.

Apparently my spiritual piece has some shadows as well; enter self-righteousness. I sat in front of a man the other day who was caught up in his own victim mentality and I judged him for it. That is my truth whether I want to see it or not. My thoughts were not “this guy is bad or wrong”, no my self-righteousness does not pass those kinds of judgements. My thoughts were “this poor man doesn’t even realize he has the power to change this”. My self-righteous piece passes judgement disguised as pity.

I look around and see a world full of people that have not woken up to this thing or that thing that I think they should be waking up to and I pity them. I pity them from my place up here on the top of the mountain of enlightenment. And while I just tried to say it is not a judgement of right vs. wrong or good vs. bad, that’s a lie. It totally is. I am up here and you are down there, and I am right and you are wrong.

This is why people do not like to do shadow work. It is not fun to be this honest with yourself. We like to let our happy flag fly, and our freak flag fly, and our I’m-a-great-mom flag fly.. However, we certainly don’t want anyone to see our judgement flag, or our manipulation flag, or our I’m-over-here-being-a-jerk flag.

Well that is the flag I am flying right now. I’m over here being a jerk.

My truth belongs to me. It makes me feel good and centered and connected. The things that makes me feel this way may feel like utter torture to others. I do not need tolook at others and pity them or judge them in order to feel sound in my truth. If the words I am speaking are truly my truth they should make me feel this way on their own.

Old habits die hard. I thought I was shedding judgement and instead I was just dressing it in new clothes.

I am grateful that my own self-righteous shadow piece rose to the surface and accepted my invitation to build a healthier relationship. I will definitely being working with this piece while at soul camp. I am curious to see what a little unconditional self-love will do for my self-righteous/judgement pieces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Victim Mentality

victim mentality

As I take the next month to prepare myself for soul camp I thought it might be a good time to really sit down with some of my shadow pieces that I try to deny and ignore and get to know them better. I have been doing this for a while; I have gotten to know my manipulative piece pretty well and in doing so have found love and gratitude for her which has resulted in her not having to work so hard. I have also been doing a lot of work with my entitled piece, that relationship is a work in progress but there is progress so I am satisfied with that. I am finding the same truth with each shadow piece I work on/with; the more attention I give my shadow pieces the easier it becomes for me to find compassion for myself in these dark places. In addition I realized the more compassion these pieces get the less I need them.

This is what wholeness looks like for me, talking openly about my darkness and showing it light by not keeping my shadows as dirty little secrets that I am ashamed of. There is no reason for me to be ashamed of my shadows, everyone has them, everyone. Your shadows may show up differently but they are there, just beneath the surface, just like mine.

One shadow piece that I am aware of but have had trouble building a relationship with up to this point is my victim mentality. This is my piece that allows me to be innocent and untouched by the events of my life. This is the piece that keeps my hands clean and points the finger. “It wasn’t my fault, he was a habitual liar”, “I was the victim, I had no control”, “This happened to me, pity me”.

I have made some progress with this shadow piece over the years, the truth is though it has been slow going and I have been stuck for quite some time. The first step towards showing this piece light and love came roughly 5 years ago when it finally sunk in that I am the common denominator to everything that has ever happened in my life. I do not get to have clean hands when it comes to failed relationship after failed relationship, I do not get to have clean hands when jobs do not work out, I do not get to have clean hands in regards to why I struggled in college my first go around. I do not have clean hands. My hands are dirty.

Taking accountability for how I show up in relationships was a huge step forward for me. I credit this epiphany for the success of my marriage thus far. My husband came into my life just as I was starting my journey into self-discovery and from the beginning he has been on board with all that comes with my process of rebuilding and putting my pieces back together. By me taking accountability for how I show up in our interactions with one another he has been willing to do the same. We don’t have relationships all figured out by any means, although owning our stuff and recognizing when we are projecting or trying to play the victim is part of what has made this relationship different and healthier for both of us compared to any relationship either of us experienced previously.

Aside from holding myself more accountable in my social and intimate relationships I have to admit I have experienced very little growth with this shadow piece. There are relationships where I know I still play the victim, like with my family. There are parts of my past that I still view through the lens of victimhood, unwilling to take any accountability. I recognize this to be true, it does  not mean I have any insight into how to pull back that curtain and show these shadows light though. I am stuck and I know it. I have been for some time.

One of my intentions for soul camp this time around is to absolutely work on my relationship with this shadow. She has been surrounded by darkness for a long time and I would love to bring her the light and remind her the goodness and fullness of love. I know I will continue working with my entitled shadow piece, and my self-righteous shadow piece as well as any other shadow that rises to the surface ready to feel the light again. I say again because I believe that every piece of me was born in light and love. The process of loving my shadows is a process of guiding long lost family members home.

soul work

Wild Geese

One of my soul friends sent me something that instantly brought tears to me eyes. I feel compelled to share it so others can feel whatever it brings up for them and so I will always know where to find it.

wild geese

The very first line spoken aloud caught like a hook in my throat.

You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees.

Let those healing waves crash over you.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air are heading home again.

Home. A tear falls from my eye.

The world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like wild geese..

I see those geese flying in my minds eye. I see the blue sky, I feel the breeze. I read these sacred words and know I am okay. We are all okay.

Thank you for this my kindred soul. It meant more than you know.

Truth Speaking

truth-speaking

If my family had a a hashtag right now, it would be #truthspeaking. The best part is I did that. Me. The girl with a thousand secrets, the girl with the constant shadow. I brought truth speaking home.

After the ordeal that took place in my family early last week I spoke my truth via email to my relative and then emailed the rest of my extended family to offer love and support as well as encourage each of them to speak their own truth in this moment. The title of the initial email sent was The Truth, it felt very ominous. This relative shared their truth and although I think they believe it to be objective truth I know that is not how truth works. So I took this as an invitation to share my own truth which I did. Now what I did not share with most of my family is that the truth I chose to share was just one piece. I have many truths about what is taking place in my family right now, I chose to share the truth that I thought would do the most good and bring the most healing which is what I believe is needed right now.

As a result of my emails some of my family members did choose to speak their truths as well. Their truths did not look like my truth and that is okay, their truths belong to them and mine belong to me.

After all was said and done the situation is no closer to being resolved but maybe it is on a path towards healing. You can heal without resolution, that is another one of my truths. Truth speaking breaks down barriers that keep us from healing. Once those walls come down it often becomes less about “fixing the problem” and more about healing the hurt.

So as I family I think the focus now is supporting one another as we apply ointment to the emotional wounds that were inflicted from this fire. I am sending each person in my family light and love as they take care of themselves during this time. I hope that as a family we are able to move forward in our collective and individual truths and feel connection and love as a result.

Sometimes it takes hearing someone else’s truth that is not our own to wake us up to what our truth is. I think my relative did that for my family last week. By speaking his truth he allowed each person the opportunity to wake up to their own truth in that moment and speak it.

Entitlement and the Illusion of Scarcity

One of my early morning epiphanies had to do with something that took place back in November. You can read the full back story on this event here. For the purposes of this post I will give a quick recap.

During group supervision one day.. Let me pause for a second because it just occurred to me most of my readers are not social workers. A quick side note for my non-social workers; supervision is when the entire social work/clinical team comes together to discuss cases, ethical concerns, and all other pressing matters at the agency and that impact our clients.

Okay so at the end of supervision when the clinical team was getting ready to leave our supervisor asked us to stay for a moment longer so she could get something off her chest. She then spent the next 10-15 minutes pretty much berating the team for not being fully committed to the work and our clients. She even went so far as to call some of us entitled. This lecture came without warning, there had been no issues that any of us were aware of at the agency that triggered this. It also came with no explanation or clarification. She made it clear that she was not talking to everyone but what does that matter?

The truth is she was talking to everyone. Literally. Everyone is here. You are talking to all of us. If this message is not meant for everyone then it seems pretty inappropriate that you are sharing it with everyone. If you need to have a private conversation with someone then by all means but right now, you are in fact talking to everyone.

There was a lot about this incident that bothered me. It felt incredibly passive-agressive first of all. If you have something to say then say it, to the person, directly. This whole talking in shadows to the entire group as a way to shame one person into submission did nothing but spew that negative shamey energy all over everyone.

Second was the use of the word entitled. Apparently that word bothers the shit out of me and I did not know this about myself until it was being thrown at all of us from left field.

I have been sitting with that word ever since to explore what exactly it is that bothers me. I have processed some of my feelings in prior posts but this morning I feel like I finally put my finger on it.

That day when my supervisor pulled the rug out from under us in the way she did, I believe she was operating from a place of scarcity. Scarcity has a direct connection to shame which is why we all felt covered in it after supervision that day.

The definition of scarcity is:

 noun: scarcity; plural noun: scarcities
  1. the state of being scarce or in short supply; shortage

It is the idea that there is not enough to go around. We all like Brene Brown here right? Right. What does Brene teach us about shame? Shame thrives on the feeling of not enough.

shame

 

Now lets look at the word entitled, what does that word even mean?

en·ti·tled
inˈtīdld,enˈtīdld/
adjective
adjective: entitled
  1. believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment

So that day my supervisor told us a story based in the illusion of scarcity. And followed it with a shame chaser by calling us entitled. As a result here are the messages we received that day in supervision:

Scarcity: What you are doing is not enough.
Shame: You are not worthy/not good enough.
Entitled: You are asking for things you do not deserve.

Here is the thing about shame, there is only one way to balance it: with love. Loving all parts of yourself. Believing that you are worthy. That you are enough, what you have is enough, and what you give is enough.

That is why the word entitled bothered me so much and this whole incident was hurtful. This might be her own truth, but it is not mine.

The work will always be there. There will always be more to do. It will never get done. There is no finish line in social work or pretty much any profession, there is just wrapping up one thing and starting the next.

I give of myself every day while I am with my clients and I know that what I give is enough. That is my truth.

I do not ask for special privileges. I know my worth though and I honor myself the same way I honor my clients, by making myself a priority in my life. I deserve my time and attention as much as any other person in my life. That is my truth.

When you find yourself operating from a place of scarcity and shame I encourage you to look inward and listen. What is your truth in this moment? What voice needs to be heard?

I am grateful that I have been open to having an honest relationship with the parts of myself that have been struggling lately because in doing so they felt heard and as a result they quieted so I was able to hear something else, my truth.

scarcity

I Knew This Day Would Come

badgut

One of my biggest fears when I first made the decision to become a social worker was that I would not be able to do enough to help/protect/save/fix/serve my clients. Then I started the BSW program and my own therapy and realized that is not what this all about. Help, yes at times. Serve, yes we do that. Protect, we would love to be able to do this, and maybe sometimes we do but the truth is we are not super heroes. Save/Fix, nope, not part of the job description.

Learning boundaries helped me a lot in this area. It gave me a much healthier mindset about the work we do. Still, I have always known that a day would come where these feelings of not-good-enough in the realm of social work may pop back up for me. Well my friends, that day has come. That day has come and gone actually.

I did all the things I am able to do, I followed protocol, I worked with my client to ensure they were safe and gave them a few new tools for their emotional tool box. At the end of the day though I had this nagging feeling that I made no impact. I had to sit with that feeling, take it to tea, and get to know it better.

What does it say about me that I was not able to make a difference? Am I a bad social worker? Is this person’s suffering my fault? Did I do enough?

The answers are: Nothing. No. No. and Yes.

Here is my gratitude now that I have finally had the client that brought on these feelings and this day has finally come..

I am grateful that I have been doing my own work so when it did finally come I maintained my boundaries.
I am grateful that I was able to recognize these feelings belong to me and they actually have nothing to do with this situation. My client did not make me feel this way, this is my stuff, not my client’s.
I am grateful that I am comfortable enough with my darkness that when I feel my shame pop up I am able to show her love and support. Love is inside job.
I am grateful that  I self-aware enough to recognize how I was triggered in this case and check-in with myself.
I am grateful that I am in place in my life where I make taking care of me a priority so I am able to offer my support to others in a healthy way.

At the end of the day I did all the “right” things and did not get the outcome I hoped for. That is okay, this is not my life, it is theirs.

I was enough. I am enough.

 

 

Soap like Erasers

soap

The universe has been sending me a message for a while and I have known this but was not ready. It has been woven into my life disguised as the ordinary; a conversation here, a sign or symbol there. There were three major signs recently and that is what finally made me say okay enough, I am ready.

I was working with client recently and the conversation led to me using validation and body positive messages. After I felt good about the work we did together AND I felt like a bit of a phony.

A few weeks later I was with my love and he said something that I feel like all women want to hear (myself included) but the truth is it hurt to hear it because I did not believe him. It is not that I did not believe that he felt what he was saying, it was that I do not agree and I do not feel that way about myself.

2 days ago I was in the shower, the night before I had been painting and as per usual I still had paint on my legs and fingers. I took the bar of soap and rubbed it up and down my thigh until the streak of black paint faded into nothing and the water washed away the soap. This led to the literal inspiration of this post (although the larger inspiration has been building for some time). As I watched the paint on my leg disappear under the bar of soap I thought about how the soap looked so much like an eraser in that moment. It made me wonder.. How many times have I gotten in the shower and used the soap like an eraser to wash away pain?

We all do it. Showers have never been just for washing our physical body.

If we have a bad day we can step into the shower and wash it away.
If we are sick we step into the shower and let that hot water cleanse us and wash away the germs.
If our heart is broken we step into the shower and cry so no one can tell the difference between the water from the spout and our tears.

The thing about this though is that it doesn’t actually work. The shower is not some magical portal where when you step in it erases bad days or illness and last I checked it does not have magical healing properties that allow it to mend a broken heart.

Me using the soap to erase the paint from my body did not take away the fact that the night before I painted, it just cleaned the paint off.

Suddenly it hit me. All these showers I have taken over the years to erase awful things that have happened to my body have erased nothing. My shower is not a portal that can undo trauma my body has experienced. Until I go back and be with my body in these places of hurt I am not going to feel authentic when having a body positive conversation with a client, and I am never going to be able to believe my husband when he compliments me because I cannot see what he sees.

Something I have said for a long time is that is important to me that I am not asking my clients to do anything that I am not willing to do myself. Up to this point I have been not been ready to do this part of my work but now I am.

I know this next year will be transformative for me and I know with my whole being that this part of my work is going to play a very big part in that transformation. A very big, painful part.. And I am scared. I am scared to go back to some of these places with my body. I have gone back emotionally and started the healing process that way but this is different.

What I can do to help myself prepare for this next part on my journey inward is to remind myself of the progress I have already made in having  better relationship with my body.

I listen better. This shows in little ways like what I eat and when, taking breaks when needed, even in what I wear. Some clothes hurt so I have stopped wearing them. High heels for example, it they are uncomfortable I will not wear them. I set the intention a while ago that I will not cause my body pain for vanity sake. I can feel beautiful and be comfortable.

I am more accepting of my body as it is. I do not feel the need to wear make up or paint my nails for others. If I am doing either it is for me only and I have checked in with my body first. Personal grooming, I have talked about this before, I will not feel shame for the fact that my body naturally grows hair. I shave when it feels right and am not mean to myself when I don’t. My hair has a right to be there and I am beautiful either way.

This is a good start these two things but I know there is much work to be done and I am ready. I have to do things for myself so I know how to helps others in these same places of pain. You do not learn these lessons from the text book, somethings can only come from the soul.

I love hot showers, hot baths, the cleansing nature of water in general. I love the way it can wash over me and hold me and make me feel whole. I also recognize that by doing this work I may no longer need water for this and I certainly will not look to soap to act as an eraser any longer. What if I could hold me and make me feel whole. What if I had the power of water?

 

Martyrdom is Manipulation

Martyrdom: a display of feigned or exaggerated suffering to obtain sympathy or admiration.

Martyrdom is a form of manipulation.

Parents use it to guilt their children into doing what they want. I gave birth to you! After all we have done for you! Enter the martyr.

It is a used in relationships. I would do anything for you and you can’t bring yourself to do this one thing for me! 

It is used in religion as a way to shame followers into submission. He died for your sins.

It is used at work as a means to increase productivity without incentive. Look at Sue she works 10 hour days and weekends and never comes in late, why can’t you be more like Sue?

Manipulation at its simplest is about control. It is about getting needs met. It usually refers to negative, underhanded ways of getting needs met, but at the core that is what manipulation is.

Martyrdom is an exaggerated form of manipulation that uses guilt trips, and shaming, and extremes, and generalizations to get these needs met or exert control.

martyr

In my life I have personally been the victim of this kind of manipulation and I have used this kind of manipulation in past relationships. I am not proud of that fact of course but it is true and I am at a place now where I can show that piece of myself love.

This form of manipulation is very triggering for me none the less. It reminds me of times I have been hurt and times I have hurt others. Neither are memories I like to go back to.

Martyrdom is a thing in social work. It is not only a thing, I feel that it is glorified. I feel it used against us as a way to keep us down. To keep accepting low pay, and high case loads, and long hours, etc. etc. These things become expected and we become the martyrs.

Part of what took place in supervision the other day was manipulation. We listened to a long story of martyrdom and were told that we were not as good because we were not doing it this way.

I was triggered for two reasons mainly, for a moment it took me back to the absolute worst employment experience of my entire life.

I worked for a company for 5+ years that was completely toxic because I loved the work and the population. I finally left after my papa died. That is when I realized I had totally lost sight of what was important in life. The night he died he was surrounded by his family. I was not there. I had worked a 12+ hour day and was too tired to make the drive to hospice. He was stable, I would go to him first thing in the morning. He did not make it to the morning.

Following his death I took no time off to grieve. I was in charge, I could not take time off. I thought my job was the most important thing. I realized after experiencing prolonged complicated grief that I had that all wrong. It took me a long time to forgive myself for the time I lost at the end with him. He was more important. I don’t even work there anymore. How could I have ever thought that work, no matter how noble the work I was doing, was more important than the people I love?

The other part of the trigger for me has to do with my mother. Growing up and even into my twenties my mother used martyrdom, shame, and guilt to control me and get her way. It took years for me to recognize it for what it was. It was not until I recognized it in myself that I was able to see it in our relationship. She no longer has that power over me but the pain is still there. It takes a while to heal that kind of wound, especially when you are trying to learn to love and forgive yourself at the same time.

Social work is a primarily female field. Guess which gender struggles the most with work-life balance in general? Guess which gender is the most over-worked and underpaid? I think it is sad that we do not see this as the feminist issue that it is. It is true that many of us, myself included, do not enter this field for the money but that does not mean that what we do is not valuable and I do believe that we should be advocating for ourselves here. It is not just social work either. I feel the same way about teachers. It is another field that is heavily populated with female workers and is very demanding and treated in a similar way.

As women we are programmed by society to feel shame for wanting to be heard and seen and to have a place at the table. How are we supposed to break the glass ceiling if some of us do not even see how we are being manipulated and controlled by those who would rather keep it in place?

Martyrdom is manipulation. I will not believe anyone who tries to convince me I am not worthy of being seen, and heard, and that I have a place at the table. I will not be a martyr, I will be an advocate for myself and minorities like me who are being manipulated into believing we deserve less.

martyr

A Soft Place to Land / A Bed of Nails

I am very tired but as I lay here trying to drift off there is a piece of me who desperately needs a voice and I feel compelled to give her a platform. I keep a notebook in my bedside drawer for inspiration that comes to me at bedtime, it happens often, but this one does not feel it can wait until tomorrow morning.

                          Sometimes dark stories prefer to be written in the dark.

When I was sharing the story earlier today about my elevator encounter I mentioned my ex for a brief moment when I was calculating the math since the last time I had talked to this ghost. With out realizing it I think I triggered someone deep inside of me who now needs to be heard. She is piece who holds a lot of my darkness from that time.

My ex and I brought each other darkness. We had dated a briefly a year prior to when our true relationship began. He re-entered my life in the  middle of one of the biggest traumas of my life. At this time I believe he was in a dark place as well although at the time he was more focused on my crisis. We started in crisis and that is also where we ended. There is something tragically poetic about that I think.

A few months in the turmoil was already present. It continued through out our 3+ years together. It was apparent at this point that we were dealing with our own darkness and we were inviting it into our relationship, and I believe with my whole heart that at the time neither of us had insight into what we were doing to the other person. I may have been able to see his pain, and he may have been able to see mine, and on some level we may have been aware we were both personally struggling but not enough to step back and truly acknowledge it. On occasion his pain would bubble to the surface in a moment of vulnerability and I would do my best to be there with him and give him a gentle place to land. Occasionally I would show up in my pain in a vulnerable moment and he would console me and attempt to give me a soft place to land. More often than not though we were more like a bed of nails to one another, magnifying the ever present pain we were both experiencing. The root of our suffering was not grounded in each other at all, it went much deeper than that, it was present in each of us before either one even knew the other existed. Our relationship was a long process of two hurting humans suffering together. Unfortunately instead of healing each other’s broken pieces, more often than not we amplified the other’s suffering.

Our relationship ended in a explosion of glass and emotions quite literally. I took him to his emotional edge and he scared me to a point of no return. I have never held this moment against him but it was very clearly the end. Or so I thought. So we both thought I am sure.

A month or so went by and we reconnected very briefly, this too went up in flames. Then many months went by. I had the best year of my life up to that point. I was single for the first time in a long time and after a little of mourning the loss I realized that single is my happy place. I was so much better on my own. I know now it is because I was suffering and it was much easier to hide that suffering when there was not another person always around reflecting it back to me.

Fast forward to a few weeks before my birthday that year, he reaches out, and I faltered. I thought I was past him, I thought I was in a different place. It was one of the biggest back slides of my entire life. With one text message we fell right back into each other. This went on for a while until it stopped once and for all. Our final breaking point came in light of the largest betrayal I have ever experienced by any human being in my entire life. In that moment he brought me a darkness that took years for me to overcome.

I did though. And in time the hurt began to hurt less. And even more time I began to see my part in it all. And in more time I no longer saw him just for his darkness. And in more time I started to recognize my own. And even more time I was able to find compassion and love for both.

I have many regrets about the time I spent with this person. Most have to do with pain I know I caused. I have since forgiven him for his part. I know we are good people at the core who were hurting and did not know how to heal at the time. I hate that I made that time in his life worse for him, I hate that he made that time in my life worse for me. I have gratitude for light in that time that we both brought each other because it was not all dark. We were never friends though. That is the only relationship I have ever been able to say that about. I have been friends with every person I ever dated except for him. During our relationship we were never friends. We were just two lost souls sharing space.

It bothers me a little bit that I am coming back to this. I moved past it quite a while ago. I guess there are still pieces of me holding this pain somewhere buried deep though. Tonight I show them love and light. I send the parts of him that I injured love and light. I send the younger versions of ourselves who caused each other so much pain love and light.

There are things I regret about that time in my life but I would not change any of it. That darkness was meant to be. I hate that this is my truth but it is. We all have to show up in our darkness at times in our life to truly get to place where we are in our light. I grateful for his part in my journey and my part in his. I think we both moved on to better places of true love and comfort and that is all I could ask for either one of us.

 

Shadows and Reflections

triggers1

Over the summer when our soul friend was visiting she and I stayed up most of the night her first night talking about everything. I was thinking about her today while I was on campus.

There is a colleague in the program who seems to be triggering a lot of people, at one point I was included in that. I feel like once a week at least I am hearing something about him, there are lots of stories swirling around. At first I really struggled with him as well but I processed it in therapy one week and realized what the trigger was for me, since then it is much easier for me to have compassion for him. Each time someone is venting about him I encourage them to figure out what their own work is around him. We are not triggered for no reason, he is bringing us all our work and that is what this post is about.

When I am triggered I usually know it. My feminist piece shows up, or I might become more sarcastic, or I might curse more, or I get really passionate in general however that manifests.. Look at the last post I wrote before this one, it is a perfect example. I know I was triggered while writing it, you can feel the energy shift in a post like that versus a post where I am processing something from a less emotional place.

There is nothing wrong with being triggered, it happens to everyone. When it happens for me I look at it as an opportunity to do my work. For example, I may have already written about this I do not remember, with this colleague.. I processed my being triggered by him with my therapist and realized it was specifically his insecurities that I was being triggered by. I was triggered because this aspect of him showed me a piece of myself that I do not love or have a great relationship with. I am insecure too and do exactly what this guy does, I try to hide it or overcompensate in some way to make up for it.

That is how triggers work. Our triggers show us what we should be working on. If someone triggers us it has less to do with that person and more to do with us, whether we want to admit that or not is a whole other thing. When this happens it is usually time to pause and ask ourselves what is this person showing me about myself that I do not want to see right now?

triggers

This happened to me today which is why I bring this up. I was walking between classes with a colleague and this colleague was sharing the latest scandal with me about this other colleague (the one who triggers so many people). Apparently he said something that offended a lot of people, it sounds like he was passing judgement based on his own biases. She was upset about it and I was thinking to myself, that is probably where her work is.. I do understand how what happened is upsetting and offensive, I also understand that part of the reason we get upset and offended in these kinds of situations is because they remind us of pieces of ourselves we do not want to be reminded of.. Our shadow pieces..

Shadow pieces are the darker sides of ourselves people hide and try to deny they have.. They are our manipulative pieces, our jealous pieces, our judging pieces, etc.. Everyone has these pieces, some maybe larger or smaller etc but they exist in everyone and we REALLY do not like to be reminded of them which is why people like Donald Trump trigger so many people. We do not like to be reminded that we all have a little inner Donald Trump in us somewhere. Go ahead and deny it, but he is in there buried in all of us.

So for my friend I was thinking about how she might need to work on her relationship with the parts of herself that judge other people because right now those pieces are being super triggered by the judgement they witnessed this colleague pass.

This work is not super fun I am going to be honest with you. No one is super interested in getting to know their manipulative parts, most people want to deny they even exist. It is so much easier to walk around being offended and triggered and not having any ownership over it. I am not even saying there is anything wrong with it, it is how most people function and who am I to question that. I am merely pulling back a curtain to reveal something a little deeper that is there beneath the surface for anyone who is interested.

Take away from this what you want, even if it is nothing.

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Letting Go of What Does Not Serve Me

borrowed identity

You know that voice in your head, the “not good enough” voice, the bully?.. Where did that voice come from? Who gifted you the negative messages that you play over and over? Does your truest self actually believe these negative things or are they someone else’s words or actions that you absorbed and have turned into your own personal torture device?

Maybe it is a little bit of both (most things are after all). Our internal bully can be made up of social messaging from society, messages received in close relationships, and things we say to ourselves that have a foundation in one of the first two.

Listening to one of our clients in group yesterday made me think about this. What the client was sharing made me wonder, Where did they first receive that message? As I was processing the day on my way home I was thinking about some of my own messages I have internalized over the years and who they came from. I had some major I show myself love moments on the drive home and have decided it is time to release some of these messages because I no longer believe them and they do not serve me.

I am crazy. That was a gift from a former intimate partner that could not cope with my depression and grief after the death of a loved one. I was in pain, a pain so deep it scared him. I release this message. It is not my truth and it does not serve me.

My body is not good enough. This was also a gift from a former intimate partner. My body belongs to me alone and I know she is worthy of my love. That is my truth. I release this message. It is not my truth and does not serve me.

I am manipulative. There were times when this was other’s truth about me. I recognize times in my life when I was without and did what I needed to make myself feel safe and loved. I am grateful to the pieces of myself that took care of me during that time. I send love and light to those I hurt with my actions when I was trying to take care of myself. I release this message. It is not my truth and does not serve me.

I am not deserving, I am not worthy. I release these messages. They are not my truth and do not serve me.

I am unlovable. This was one of my most painful messages, and one that I have had the longest relationship with. This is not my truth now because I love myself. I am worthy of love and I show all the pieces of myself unconditional love. I receive love from without and within. I RELEASE THIS MESSAGE. IT IS NOT MY TRUTH AND IT DOES NOT SERVE ME.

I know my truth. These messages can no longer hurt me. These words no longer have meaning in my life and no one will ever be able to use them to hurt me again. I am stable and safe, my body belongs to me and I am in love with it just as it is, I have everything I need to take care of myself, I deserve to be here and I am worthy of the goodness of life, I feel love, I give love, I am love.

You Are So Much Just As You Are

capable

Yesterday one of my girlfriends from school texted me with questions about an assignment she felt unsure of. Of course I stayed in my bubble of safety in terms of academic integrity in my responses, what it came down to is that she was just overthinking it and needed some outside validation. I get that. I used to, and sometimes still do, live in that place.

When we were wrapping up or text convo one of the last things she said to me is that I was her “student goals”. I texted her back one more very important validation, You are so capable. I have never known you to get it wrong. trust your gut and instincts, I do.

I am her student goals. That is silly to me, not in a dismissive way, in a You are already there! way. I know she gets better grades than I do. She is in the honor society, I am over here getting regular old average A’s, not the A’s at the tippy top.

At the beginning of the semester I was sitting in a small tucked away lounge reading before class. This is part of my Tuesday routine, it helps feel grounded and focused before class begins. One of my classmates walked up and I waved her over to sit with me. She and I bonded last semester of undergrad over our shared love of working with older adults. We spent a little time catching up, talking about our impression of grad school so far. At one point she said told me how much she admires me and that I am the standard she holds her self to in certain ways when it comes to school and social work. I was flabbergasted. I reminded her of how much life and work experience she has and how much she has to offer a program like this in terms of intellectual contribution.

This classmate is in her 60’s I would guess. She has so much more life experience than I do which will make it feel natural when engaging with clients across the lifespan. She brings so much to the table.

I am flattered and humbled when I hear two strong women make comments like this but I am also a little confused.

My first friend I mentioned is in her mid twenties, is an activist for women’s rights, is intelligent, sharp as a nail, and probably towards the top of our class academically. She brings a lot to the discussion, why is she overthinking? Why is she experiencing the self-doubt?

I already mentioned quite a bit about my second friend. She also appears self-reliant, well-versed in matters of healthcare social work and life in general. She also receives high grades and I have never known her to get it wrong either. Why is she experiencing self-doubt?

I do not have the answer for each of them individually but universally I think we all do. Whatever out truth is it is in each one of us. Sometimes maybe it feels scary to admit that to ourselves though, even scarier to admit it out loud. Admitting out loud I know I am capable, I know my worth, I can do this and anything else, is a vulnerable declaration. What if someone says, You’re wrong. You are not capable, you are not worthy, I cannot do it.

To that I would say, why does that person get to make that determination for you? The only person who needs to believe you when you say I am capable, I am worthy, I can do this, is you. It is your truth, it belongs solely and wholly to you alone.

I do not believe that people would deliberately choose a life of suffering. That means that somewhere along the lines someone else made you feel incapable, unworthy, like you just can’t do it. That message was internalized and now it a toxic narrative you play on repeat in your mind. It is time to take that record off.

I say all of this while openly owning the fact that I still play this record from time to time. I am more aware of it and try to care for myself gently during those times. When I am truly ready to retire that old record once and for I know I will able to. I may not be there yet but I also know each day I am getting closer.

Labels

My soul friend has arrived!

Yesterday evening Todd and I went to the airport and picked up his best girlfriend from college who also happens to be one of my favorites. My soul was dancing inside my body the moment she joined us. We immediately began talking about books, and life, and all other things that felt good and right in the moment.

When we arrived home Todd and Lucy went to bed, he still has to work this week, but she and I stayed up. We talked all night until today became tomorrow and my heart felt full.

Our conversation was everything I love about a good conversation, it was deep, it was authentic, and it was limitless. One of the topics we broached had to do with how labels are problematic and how we both struggle with their existence.

It is the idea that instead of saying someone is a bad person it is often more accurate and kind to maybe say they had a bad moment. You did something bad, that does not mean you are bad. One is probably most compassionate just not to make the judgement at all, to maybe say nothing, or if you must say something let it be some form of I love you.

As a person who has been prescribed many labels without my permission I am well aware of how problematic labels can be. That does not mean I am always as mindful as I  could be though when it comes to placing labels on others.

Last week I deleted two people from my FB account because in my head I labeled them. Here is what is maybe closer to the truth in both of these cases, neither of these people are racists or homophobic, they did express privilege and prejudice that was a problem for me though. It was more than I could sit with. But still it is recognizing the difference between this person is a racist and this person is struggling with prejudice thoughts.  And the truth is maybe they are not struggling with their thoughts, maybe it is me that is struggling with their thoughts.  All I can do is be honest that those thoughts and comments made me uncomfortable on a level that was more than I could tolerate and rather than look at them as a problem I need to look within myself for what opportunity for learning and growth exists in this place of discomfort.

This is absolutely a growth piece for me. I say that in my career as a social worker I am not comfortable with diagnosing clients and that kind of centers around this idea of not wanting to label people but then here in my personal life I may do it without much consideration. I do not know that I will ever be completely without judgement, it is a lofty goal, but it is one I will work towards.

I will try to make a conscious effort to be more mindful of labeling which means recognizing that the men I encounter in life may not be sexist as much as they may hold some gender prejudices, and people on social media who I have previously looked down on as narcissists or vapid ninnies are just regular old people who hold different values than I do.

I guess that is what this really comes down to. People hold different values than I do and for some reason that makes me feel that I have the right to label and judge.

You are sexist. You are a narcissist. You are a bigot. You are homophobic. You are wrong. I am right.

I need to step back from this pattern of thinking. How can I really have compassion for others when I am playing this narrative in my head? I know I have made major progress in this area but there is always room for more growth. I think many of us have room for growth in this area if we are willing to look critically at ourselves rather than remaining critical of others.

I will be honest that this may be an uphill battle for me at times. I am an activist and a feminist and I have a tendency to get fired up and want to call things out. If I can learn to channel that energy in a truly positive way I bet there would be no limit to what I could accomplish.

This morning I grateful for time for quiet reflection, I am grateful for my soul friend and the lesson she brought me last night, I am grateful for time off this summer to recenter, and I am grateful for my ongoing journey.

labels

Turning Another Page

transition

Six months ago I wrote this post about journaling and growth. When I was thinking about how to begin this entry it was the first thing that came to mind. I feel like everyday I am learning more about myself, about my relationships, the world, humanity.. I have been actively taking steps to make positive changes for a while now and I do not think that is something I will ever stop doing. Keeping an open record on this blog of my thoughts and feelings at times feels … I’m actually not sure how I want to finish that sentence.

Well as I open this back up and start what feels like another new chapter I wanted to reflect on the post above as a way to give myself permission to make mistakes and show up as my authentic self in this moment.

What I can tell you about the last six months:

There was a lot of traveling. South FL, North GA mountains (my favorite vacation thus far), Washington D.C. for an NASW conference and second honeymoon, and IL for Christmas.

I was sick a lot. I was sick pretty much the entire month of October and into the beginning of November. Then in December I got the flu the day after Christmas. Todd and I both got the flu while in IL actually and it prompted a bit of a life style change for us upon coming home.

Todd and I have gone almost full vegetarian. I think after being sick so much last year it just made us realize we need to be taking better care of ourselves. We still eat meat but only chicken or fish once or twice a week at dinner. I stopped taking in all dairy at the beginning of the year and my body has felt much better since making that transition. I also stopped eating red meat and processed meat as well as most processed food in general. I have had more energy and felt less run down since making these adjustments.

Last month I started my internship with the hospital I used to work at. I am so grateful for my placement, it is so relevant to my areas of interest in healthcare and I caught on very quick (not to mention I have a wonderful supervisor). By the third week I was flying solo and I have been ever since. I love the opportunities for engagement with the patients and their caregivers. I really feel like I have to say again just how overwhelmingly grateful I am.

I am in my last semester of classes. I graduate this May. The amount of joy I have in being able to say that in a whole other post in and of itself.

Todd and I bought a new car, a family sized SUV. No plans to expand until after grad school but we are starting to talk and prepare. In the interim Lucy is loving all the extra room when she goes on car rides.

The last part of this update surrounds my on going therapy. I have a separate hard copy journal I keep for therapy purposes, this blog will not act as a place for me to process what comes up during sessions. What I will say though is that the space I have given myself to address past trauma is probably the best thing I have ever done for myself. I think it is important to say that out loud like this because there is so much stigma around seeking out professional help, especially in the field I am going into. We want others to come to us for help but are unable to ask for it ourselves? That doesn’t feel right to me and I am not ashamed of the work I am doing so there is no reason to hide. My greatest lesson so far has been self-compassion and while everyone talks about the idea of self-compassion and it looks good on paper what I have personally learned is that actually getting to that place of self-empathy takes work. I am getting there, I love myself and my story in a way I never knew possible.

So going forward I have some more calamity Jill stories to share, including one in which I almost lost a finger nail (ouch!), I will share a bit more about our vacations last fall, I have lots of gratitude to share around different aspects of my life, as well as thoughts and insights as they come to me.

 

 

 

Getting to Know the Real Atticus: AKA Loving my Father and all of his Imperfections

atticus

If you have read To Kill a Mocking Bird you are familiar with the beloved character, Atticus Finch. My father has always been my Atticus, strong, fair minded, intelligent, and supportive. If you have read the recently published Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee you are now familiar with how Atticus’s character lets down not only his daughter, who narrates the story, but all of America by not living up to the impossible ideal we set for him. I am not proud of this but I will admit there have been times in my life that I have felt let down by my father as well.

It is for the same reason Scout’s character felt let down in the second book. When we are children we idolize certain adults and as we age we start to realize that these adults are human beings not super heroes, and they are flawed like the rest of us. Reconciling these flaws when they reveal themselves is difficult, suddenly this person is not exactly who or what you thought they were and in that moment you feel like everything has been tipped upside down. A girlfriend recently explained how she experienced this on more than one occasion growing up when she discovered things about her mother’s former life.

When I talk about the former life of our parents I mean who they were before we came along and demanded their sole identity be Mom or Dad to us. For me this occurred for the first time when I learned that before my parents had my brother my father used to smoke cigarettes. Now other members of my family smoke so this is no great taboo, I even smoked briefly when I was in my late teens, but my father, never. I perceived this as a flaw and my father, my very own Atticus could have no flaws. I laughed it off with him when I found out, it came up in a light conversation but I was surprised and if I am being honest it shifted my view of him ever so slightly.

As time went on and I aged from teen to young adult to full blown grown up I began to see my father more as the man he is rather than just my Atticus. And although our relationship has changed now that I see my father as a human being with flaws and vulnerabilities I know this place is better, it is more real, and it allows me to love him more wholly than I ever had before. I am reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly right now and when she discusses the shame experience of men one man expresses that the women in his life, his wife and daughters, would rather see him die on his white horse than catch him as he falls off. That statement hit me like a punch to the gut. How many men feel this way? Probably more than I want to know. And why? Because of the messages society and the ones they love send them. I would much rather see my father as the man he actually is and love him in that place than hold him to an impossible standard and watch him crumple under the weight of my expectations.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately as I shift each night between reading Go Set a Watchman and Daring Greatly. I read about the shame Scout and Atticus experience in the novel and understand it more fully as I read Brene Brown’s research surrounding vulnerability and shame. I am able to apply all of this to my own life and understand on a deeper level the pressure put upon men in our society. Pressure to never show a weakness, pressure to provide, to be successful, to be strong and never show emotion. I know growing up I put this pressure on my father. The first time he showed true vulnerable emotion to me I was scared by it just as Brene Brown says women usually are. Her research is helping me to not only better understand my own shame and struggle with vulnerability but the struggle those around me might be facing as well. Her research helps me to approach my own struggles as well as the struggles of others with a deeper level of awareness and empathy.

My father is still my Atticus but no longer Atticus the ideal from the first book, Atticus the human being with flaws from the second and I think I am able to love him better now because I understand this.

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Building My Support Team

shame

That first little step I took towards owning my story and finally letting go of the power it has over me was a powerful one. I received empathetic, honest feedback that I needed to hear. It was hard because I knew it required me to stop being in denial, to stop hiding and to face my fear head on. That first step left me with a major vulnerability hang over, one of the worst I have ever had. Brene Brown talks about the vulnerability hang over in her talk about shame. It is the feeling after you allow yourself to let your guard down and then you regret it and want to take everything you said back!

I am very familiar with the vulnerability hang over. For me it is the terror and intense feeling of needing to hide once I have shared my story with someone new. It is also the shame that resurfaces and fear of judgement and ridicule.

When Todd and I talked about what it would mean for me to take this first step a suggestion he made was for me to share my story with my brother. Part of the trouble I have with sharing my story is the shame and stigma attached which is why very few people know, that includes even my family.

Todd felt very sure that my brother was safe. Safe for me means someone who will understand, accept me and love me. Brene Brown talks about the importance of being loved not despite your story, but because of it.

Last night my brother and I were talking about difficulties both of us are having with various things. My brother feels stigma about a certain aspect of his life as well and we talked together about how these stigmas make us feel. My brother never asked what part of my life caused me to feel this way so I asked him, “do you know what my stuff is?”

The truth is I don’t know if he knows. I certainly never told him and I cannot imagine he would have found out any other way but I cannot be sure. He said he did not. I asked him if he wanted to know. He said that if I felt comfortable talking about it that he absolutely wanted to know.

We sat together for an hour and talked. I was afraid to tell my brother for a different reason. I was afraid because I am his little sister and I did not want to spoil any idealistic image he might have of me. I did not want to burden him with my story, I did not want him to feel bad for me. While I understand that as I work through this I need the support of others I have trouble asking for it. In this part of my life I have always been an island.

Our talk was healing. This is one more person I love in my corner, one less person I love that I have to hide from. A wall came crashing down last night. He completely supports me and as one of the only members in my family who knows and the only one I actually feel like I can talk to about this he may be one of the most important allies I have.

I do still have a small vulnerability hang over this morning. Even though that was one of the best experiences I have ever had when telling someone my story it is still hard. I still feel shame and a want to hide, it is just less than usual.

Baby steps. The next step is trauma recovery counseling. The few times I have been in counseling I have never allowed this area to be a focus. I did not want to touch it, I down played it’s significance and opted to stay in denial. It is time to make it a focus.

I am nervous about what comes next. I have tried to disconnect myself from this for so long that I know it will be painful to focus on it in counseling. I have my small support team though headed up by my husband and brother. It feels good to have them both in the background cheering me on and offering support in whatever form I might need as I go through with this next step.

It is not easy to truly give way to vulnerability like this. Even talking about it in the shadows like I am doing here is hard. I don’t want to admit the areas in my life where I struggle. I do not want to feel exposed. I have to believe though that doing this will lead me to a healthier place where I can be the most authentic version of myself. A place where I am not crushed under the weight of secrecy and stigma. A place where I am finally able to give and allow myself to receive real love. A place that has no room for shame and where I feel worthy.