I am Going to Write Something True.

secret chapter

Let me first clear the air about the title of this piece. Me sitting down and saying I am going to write something true does not mean that everything I have written before this post was false. Tonight I felt the familiar tug to write and when I sat down to start this is the title that flashed across my mind. In that moment I knew it was time. I am ready to be seen in a truth I have not shared.

In this post I am going to share a chapter of my story I have never read out loud before. I have held this pain, I rescued this piece of myself many many moons ago, and now I am ready to share this small piece of a guarded part of my soul.

When I was 23, almost exactly this time of year 10 years ago I was raped.

I was raped by a friend. I did not call it rape, I called it complicated.

Complicated in that I blamed myself, complicated in that I knew him personally so who would believe me?, complicated in that when I told one of my best friends the very next day she also blamed me and minimized it – you should have known better, you know how he is.

He was excused and I was blamed. I never spoke of it again. I threw away my ripped shirt and bra, I made peace with the fact that I was never getting that missing earring back, and put healing ointment on my ripped ear that the earring had been torn from.

I got tested a month later and every month after that for 6 months to ensure my body was safe from what happened. He used a condom but still, this felt like the one way I could control something when everything else that had happened that night made me feel powerless.

By 23 I was so skilled at disconnecting from my body in times of trauma that it did not take me long to adjust and “get back to normal” as if nothing ever happened.

As if nothing ever happened is the lie I have been telling myself since childhood, I knew how to play this game.

I don’t know what my feelings are towards him. He shared his darkness with me that night, AND I know he is more than just that moment, he is more than just that darkness. AND I do not ever have to be okay with it.

I can know all of this AND I am not obligated to forgive and forget. My healing does not depend on my forgiving him or forgetting anything. My healing does not depend on him at all. My healing happened when I finally went back to that moment and rescued that girl who I abandoned that night when I was scared and in pain. It happened when I allowed myself to finally hold the pain, and shame, and fear, and rage I had spent a decade ignoring.

I am one of countless women who have experienced sexual trauma. We each narrate and make sense of our story and experience in different ways. This is the first time I am sharing this piece of myself so openly and while I am not sitting in shame about allowing myself to be seen in such a raw form, writing it and this sharing feels clunky.

Many of our stories we tell so often that they have a natural flow and ease rolling off the tongue or falling from our finger tips. My truth is: trauma stories rarely do. They feel clunky and misshapen, sometimes uneven and without that flow. I believe that is because these are our unspoken truths, we have never given these experiences words so when we finally try I think it takes time to find the words that fit, and sometimes there just aren’t any words for experiences – that is okay too.

This is my raw, unfiltered truth:

I was raped by a man who I know now was never my friend. I was shamed into silence by myself and (knowingly or unknowingly) by my friend. It may have taken me a decade but I went back for myself and I saved that girl. I took that shame and like an alchemist transformed into love. Nothing that I have ever done or that has ever been done to me in this life has made me unlovable. I am love.

 

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Nelsonian Knowledge

I am alternating between two books right now, both from the little free library near my home. Both Sides Now was my book of choice last night mainly because I accidentally left my other book in the car and I was not in the mood to go retrieve it in my nightgown.

Both Sides Now is an enthralling read, it is the kind of book that makes you lose time because you are so in it, AND it is intensely anxiety producing for me. Last night I could feel the palpitations wanting to start, my levels of panic rising with each mini chapter I would complete.

It is a memoir that details the intimate moments of excruciating loss. Loss on a level that most of us hope and pray never to experience. Loss that we do not want to even recognize can exist because then we have to see a truth no one wants to face: if it could happen to them , to could happen to me.

This morning I woke up thinking about how I do it, the thing we all do. I sit secure in the knowledge that I am going to live to see the end of this day, that everyone I love is going to live to see the end of this day. That my health will be with me for years and years and years to come because I am only 33 and have my whole life ahead of me.

I do know better.

I have worked with individuals and families that had their lives uprooted by a new reality when death and illness came to their doorstep in unexpected ways. I have been of the front lines of a cancer diagnosis, I have been in the fox hole with the families and individuals during certain aspects of treatment, I have co-facilitated caregiver support groups for other terminal illnesses, I have experienced the fallout – sat in the emotional aftermath of loss with family members and loved ones.

I have also experienced much of this first hand in my own life with family and friends.

So I do know better.

I know better because I have sat in the hospital room with my 20 something year old family member who was about to undergo treatment when just a few days before the news came that the cancer was back. I know better because I carry the stories of a close friend who lost all her hair because of the meds she had to take, I know better because time and time again in my young life I have witnessed and experienced my own suffering stemming from this broken illusion of time, and control, and certainty in a future that none of us have ever truly been promised.

Still, I sit in my willfulness ignorance as often as possible because I am not ready, and I am not sure I ever will be ready to face the truth: All we have is now. That is all we ever have. This exact moment. That is it.

This morning I sent my husband to work with a silent prayer on my lips that the Universe will bring him home to me this evening. I prayed for this today and that everyday this will continue to happen until we are old and ready to face our mortality with many happy full years behind us. I said this silent prayer to the Universe all the while secretly knowing that there will never be a time in my life that I will feel as though I have had enough, I will always want more from life no matter my age or experience.

So I will go on making plans, and planting gardens, and dreaming dreams of things to come. I will look to the future with hope and certainty AND I will be thankful right now, this very moment, for all that I have. Love, connection, the privilege of knowing what it feels like to be wrapped in my husband’s arms, every experience I have had in this life of mine because none of it was promised, not one day, not one minute. To argue with my husband is a privilege that I take for granted while another person might be willing to give up everything to argue with a loved again. When we both return home tonight I will remember this and I will  be grateful.

Sitting with this uncomfortable reality, allowing myself to set down my willful ignorance about life’s harsh truths, makes it so clear just how truly entitled we all are every single day. One of life’s fundamental truths is that nothing is ever promised yet we walk around every moment of every day so sure of the next.

now

 

Candida

I am still recovering from my junk food bender a few weeks ago. For years food has been my numbing tool of choice. I had a rather extended relationship with shopping, a brief fling with different drugs, another extended relationship with social media/the internet.. The one constant has been food though. Problematic relationships with other numbing tools may come and go but food, food is always there, riding shot gun, just waiting for the cue from me to step in and provide the void needed to consume whatever overwhelm I do not want to feel.

This is not one of my prettier truths. A truth it is though, and this truth belongs to me. To love myself here I have to first own it, and with reluctance and shame I do.

For the moment food and I are okay again and our relationship is balanced; I am not trying to control food and food is not stepping in to numb/control me. That balance is about to experience another shift.

As a result of the two week long binge I went on last month my gut is now completely out of whack.

Last year my allergies became so intolerable I finally broke down and went to a specialist. I have had allergy issues since I was at the end of high school, in recent years it has been hard to manage. The year I got married it was so bad I thought there was a chance I would not be able to wear make-up on my wedding day due to my constantly itchy watery eyes.

So I saw the allergist, did the scratch test and some blood work, and discovered the underlying issue was candida overgrowth in my gut. The solution: 1 year of allergy shots once a week (no thanks!) or 3 months on the candida diet to rebalance my gut. I chose the latter.

The candida diet sucked. It felt super complicated, I went through terrible withdrawals, my mood was over all over the place. It was not fun AND it absolutely did the trick.

My allergies cleared up, my symptoms of IBS (that I would never talk about out of embarrassment) went away, my mood improved, and I felt more alert/clear headed.

I went off the diet and started reintroducing certain foods to my diet while others I have given up permanently because of the way they make me feel. Mushrooms for example, I have a major mold allergy – mushrooms are no good for me.

In the last few weeks I have seen the signs that my candida issue is an issue again. The texture of my nails, my mood, bloat, craving certain foods that I know cause a reaction/overgrowth issue, and most of all severe allergy symptoms even with my meds.

So I am restarting my efforts to bring down the overgrowth and restore my gut to healthy functioning. I am not hitting the issue full force like I did last time. This time I am doing it for about a month, compared to 3 months last time. I am not going to be completely rigid about following “the rules”, I am just going to be mindful about avoiding foods that feed the candida in my gut.

When I was spiraling last month I allowed myself to have my moment with food because I knew I could stop. I knew I was struggling AND I knew I would not continue to struggle. I believe that I will get to a point where I can experience overwhelm, and struggle, and pain AND not feel the need to rely on numbing to get me through. I am not there yet and that is okay. I can see my progress. I am aware of my emotions, I am aware of my numbing, AND I am making a conscience effort to avoid judgment for how I take care of myself.

I am still figuring this out and these are darker parts of myself that I am working with. What is important is that I am showing up and trying to work with them. Rather than shutting down in my shame and judging myself for this numbing behavior, I am showing up in compassion and curiosity and trying to get know myself better here so I can love myself well in this space.

At the end of the day eating well or not eating well is not the thing that will make me feel better or worse. I cannot cure this with kale the same way I cannot cure it with chocolate. It is not about the food, it is about me and my relationship with myself. It is about showing up for the piece of me that is suffering instead of abandoning her in her pain. Loving myself well is the only cure to what ails me, that is my truth. Nothing from the outside can make this feel better; whether that be love/validation from another person, food of any kind, medication, my career, having children, my material possessions. That is just not how it works. It is inside work.

So I will mend the parts of my body that need mending, once again find my balance, and travel into that dark emotional space of pain to find whoever is hiding there needing to be seen and loved. So often self-love is a rescue mission, and today I am here to do that work.

whole.jpg

Labeling

light and dark

This theme has come up quite a bit within the last week or so. This might be the first of multiple posts on this topic because I feel the direction I want to go is only half-baked, I may have further insights at a later date. Let’s call this a first draft.

It came up first when discussing an ex with other women who were also discussing ex’s. One of the women labels her ex a narcissist and while she and I discovered similarities in how we both experienced our ex’s this is one place where we differ. I do not label my ex anything other than an ex. Maybe that is not true. I label him a liar, and a manipulator, and a betrayer of sacred trust, and a phony, and insecure – AND at the end of that sentence I say: Me too. If I label my ex I do so knowing that anything he is, I am too.

I did not express this to her because I felt no need to. People have different reasons for why they do or do not choose to use labels, my truth about this belongs to me and I felt no real need to voice it in this instance.

Later we talked one on one in further detail, her separation from the ex is recent so I know she is still processing. My separation occurred over a decade ago. I am still processing as well but my processing is coming from a different place. My processing is less about him and more about me. There are unresolved emotional wounds from that relationship that have been left unresolved because:

  1. In the moments where I was experiencing his darkness I abandoned myself.
  2. I was not yet ready to experience my own darkness that I brought to the relationship.

So now my work is going back and picking up all those pieces of myself that I left behind and have not wanted to see because they feel/felt unlovable AND now loving those parts of myself well.

It is not about the other person, it is about the pieces of you that you left behind. This is my truth and my first reason for not labeling him in this way. Because at this point it is not about him so what difference would a label make? None.

Here is my bigger underlying truth about labeling:

Labels are used for lots of different reasons. For example it feels to me (I could have this wrong) that the woman I have been speaking with is using a label with her ex because it is helping her detach and make sense of what she experienced with him. Labels can absolutely help understand something that feels confusing.

Related to that detachment is another reason I believe people use labels, to create a sense of separation. Us and them. In this case narcissist and empath.

This is where I get uncomfortable. I do not believe in us versus them. That concept eliminates all the possibilities that exist in between and that is just not my truth about the world at this point.

I do identify as an empath. That is a label I choose for myself, that does not automatically make this person who I was emotionally wounded by a narcissist though. He is no more narcissist than I am and I am no more empath than he. We both possesses qualities of each.

In that relationship we both experienced the darkness of the other. Empaths are not just beings of light. They are not only as capable of manipulation as narcissists, they are masters of it. That is what comes with the power of feeling others on this level, you can misuse that power and go into a shadow space with it. There is this notion of a divide between empath and narcissist..

That divide says:
One of us is good and the other is bad.
One of us is the abuser, the other is the victim.
One of us is light while the other is dark.

I am sorry but I call bullshit on all that. It is just not my truth. Narcissism is a real thing, absolutely. And if you have ever been the victim of a narcissist than you know how painful their darkness can feel. I am not meaning to minimize anyone’s trauma or experiences. I only mean to underline one of my personal truths and that is: in adult relationships we ALL show up in both shadow and light, some of us lean more one way than the other, sure, it is always both though. I know individuals who have been emotionally wounded by diagnosed narcissists, I am not trying to take that experience away or make it invalid; I am merely trying to bring to light a fuller picture which includes those who have been emotionally victimized by empaths as well. If you think that is not a thing I know my ex would disagree with you.

Another place where labeling has come up recently relates to how labels can make us invisible. I am going to continue with this example of my ex and the label narcissist to avoid outing the other people I spoke to about other labels they experience in their lives. It all applies just the same regardless of the example I use.

So relating to labels and how they make us invisible:

Calling someone a narcissist allows us to strip them of their humanity rendering them invisible. He is no longer (insert name here) he is my ex the narcissist. The moment I say that I no longer have to experience him as a complex human being made up of both shadow and light, I get to detach all of that truth and see him just as a monster. Well I do not believe in monsters. And my truth is if one person in this world is a monster than we all are. Whatever one person is capable of, we are all capable of.

The reason labels exist in the first place is to help sort and understand commonalities. It is not black and white though and that is why it is so important to never lose sight of the person.

Think about all the different labels you identify with- truly take a minute and bring these labels up in your mind – now imagine if you were only seen by everyone else through that lens:

I am someone’s wife AND I am not just someone’s wife.
I am a social worker AND I am not just a social worker.
I am someone’s sister AND I am not just someone’s sister.
I am manipulative AND I am not just manipulative.

I am light AND shadow.
I am grateful AND entitled.
I am you and you are me AND we are no different AND we are completely different.

It’s all of it, everything in between and then some. There is more than one way to add to nine, the possibilities are infinite, and one measly little label will never be able to contain the vastness of a human being. That is my truth.

 

I Choose Shadows AND Light

shadow work

Last night I was having a conversation with my husband and this morning there it was, my exact feelings put out into the world by another. You can read the post I am referring to here.

I strongly identify with this writer’s perspective on spirituality and life in general because what she is talking about is the AND. I had a hard time in my younger years with my experiences in formal religion because there was no AND allowed, even then I knew that was not my truth.

There are times even now where I struggle in interactions with individuals who claim to be spiritually enlightened. I show up with my shadows AND light and I feel shunned. I have been made to feel on occasion that there is only one right way to experience myself this way, and again, I know that is not my truth.

My version of spirituality, my whole life, will always include both. I will always choose my shadows AND my light. All parts welcome, no parts left behind. That is how I will love and how I will heal and that will be my life’s work.

Holding On to What’s Mine

pain

I gave myself time this weekend to further process my feelings around the events I outlined in my last post. I checked in with my mentor, the person who first showed me what holding space looks like and who held space for me as I found my own voice as a clinician in that space he provided. Then I checked in with myself. As mentioned in my prior post there was a lot of counter transference taking place in that session, both the other clinician’s and my own.

I have no way of knowing if the other clinician is aware and doing her own work on this AND that is none of my concern. I am only responsible for me and my work. I know I am still sitting in my shadow of judgement. In my last post I led with that judgement because that is where I needed to start, now I would like to process a little deeper and go to where these judgements are coming from.

The reason I allow myself to show up in my shadows of self-righteousness, and arrogance, and judgement, as well as any other shadow that pops up based on how I experience the world and myself, is because that is where my work is. I can deny that any of these shadows exist so that way I appear pretty and palatable to the outside world and become consumed by them OR I can allow them to exist out in the open, allow them to bring me my work, and learn to love myself there. I choose the latter and my truth is if my shadows are too much for some to stomach, that has everything to do with them and very little to do with me. I will do my work to love myself wholly and worry not what the world thinks about it.

While sitting in the space of heavy judgment I was feeling towards the events that unfolded in front of me during this session I was able to identify where some of my feelings were coming from.

Above all it was this: I am someone who is doing my own healing work and I projected my truth about what that means to me onto this situation.

Being held in your pain is sacred. I have allowed myself to be held in my pain. Since I started my own healing work years ago what I have not done is allowed anyone to hold my pain. There is a difference.

When I am being held in my pain that means I am allowing myself to be supported while I hold my pain. I am not asking anyone to hold it for me. I have to be the one holding it or the healing is not happening.

Here are some examples of what that has looked like for me:

Sitting in the ocean. Allowing the sand beneath me to hold and support me, allowing the water to support me, as I hold my pain.
Sitting on a front porch swing next to my therapist. Allowing my therapist to energetically hold space for me, allowing the swing to support me, as I hold my pain.
Sitting in my walk in closet next to my husband. Allowing my husband to energetically hold the space for me, allowing the walls and floor of the closet to support me, as I hold my pain.
Sitting in a healing circle with other women. Allowing each of these women to energetically hold space for me, allowing the floor and the wall to support me, as I hold my pain.

This is what being held looks like for me. This is how I learned to hold space.

I do believe that you can be both energetically held AND physically held while holding your pain. I have absolutely curled into my husband’s lap and allowed him to physically hold me while I hold my pain. Whenever I allow myself to ask for support in this way it comes with conversation – that is what was missing from the situation I witnessed. When I allow my husband to physically hold me while I hold my pain I am clear about what my needs and boundaries are first, I tell him exactly what I need from him and then ASK if he is comfortable with my specific request. He has a right to say No AND if at any point I feel like he is trying to hold my pain rather than hold me while I hold my pain, I have the right to disengage. If there is ever a time that I am allowing anyone else to hold my pain then I am not healing. That is my truth.

In school when we talked about counter transference and becoming triggered while working with a client I think there was this idea for some that this only relates to trauma or our biases based on how we were raised to view race, religion, sexuality, etc. I believe it goes far beyond that. I experience it all the time with clients. It happens in moments when my client reminds me of my nephew or my husband based on something they say or a mannerism they possesses. It happens when my client is struggling with a part of their healing that I previously struggled with. And it certainly happens when I see something that goes against one of my personal truths.

There is nothing wrong or shameful about being triggered and experiencing counter transference. My admission of this does not make me a bad or ineffective therapist. My truth is: the counter transference itself is not as important as  what you do with it.

In that session both myself and the other clinician experienced counter transference. My truth based on what I saw and how I experienced the situation is: when I became triggered I sat there with the piece of myself that was experiencing the counter transference and I HELD HER. The other therapist did not hold her pain. She did not hold the piece of herself that was triggered by our client’s emotion. She got up, crossed the room, and essentially made the client hold it for her. It was never about how the client was feeling, it was about how what the client was feeling MADE HER FEEL.

Each therapist has there own style and approach to practice. I feel very deeply connected to my way. That does not make me right. That does not make other therapists wrong. Part of my practice will always include showing up for myself like I am right now so at no point am I ever trying to hold my client’s pain for them or energetically asking them to hold anything that belongs to me, including my opinions on how this work should be done. Even my approach to practice belongs to me alone and I am responsible for holding that piece of me.

 

Holding Space Not People

It is important to me that I acknowledge that in this post I may show up in my shadow of self-righteousness. I was triggered yesterday and when triggered any number of my shadows may rise to the surface. As I process out this experience I am sure self-righteousness will show up as well as any other shadow that has something to say.

Yesterday I was meeting with a new client. Rather than start this story at the end, let’s go back to the beginning. Last week I was informed I was getting a new client who would be transferred from the therapist who had been working with this client because the therapist was leaving the agency. My supervisor requested the therapist and I touch base with one another so I could be brought up to speed on treatment goals and progress thus far as well as anything else pertinent.

When I spoke with the therapist I was informed that the client has severe abandonment issues and the therapist informed me they would like to attend the first session I schedule to make introductions, answer any questions, and ensure a smooth transition for the client.

I am new to this job so at first I did not question this. I assumed this was protocol, when a client is transferred both therapists go to meet with the client and do a warm hand off. Plus I was willing to trust the current therapist’s judgement. A few days later, however, I did start questioning it.

In the days leading up to the scheduled session I had a few interactions with the therapist that on the surface seemed normal, yet I was picking up on something. I started wondering, is this proposal of going together really for the client.. or is it for the therapist?

Attachment goes both ways. The bond between client and therapist does go both ways and that is why boundaries are so important.

I believe my intuition was right this time. This was about the therapist, not the client. I believe there was unaddressed counter transference happening.

What I witnessed during the session was, in my opinion, outside of appropriate boundaries. At one point I asked a question that elicited a strong emotion from the client, when this happened the other therapist left the couch we were sitting on together, walked over to the client who was seated on an adjacent couch, and half held them. This was done without warning and without permission.

In that moment that therapist was not holding space for her client she was literally holding her client and my truth about that: we cannot let go of pain we do not allow ourselves to experience.  We cannot set down/let go of something we never held, literally and figuratively speaking. That is what our work is collectively as a human race. In that moment my client was attempting to hold her pain so she could finally put it down/let it go and the other therapist prevented my client’s healing moment due to their own personal need to comfort the client. They were made uncomfortable by the client’s pain, maybe it reminded them of their own – who knows, either way they took this opportunity from the client and that was incredibly hard for me to witness.

Outside of my own personal truth about what I saw take place, touching is a big gray area in therapy.  For example, in a Hospice setting hugging is a regular occurrence you see happening. Still, you ask before you touch – that is my truth. In a traditional therapy setting you do not see touching as often. There are many reasons for this and I am not here to write a report on the significance of physical contact in therapeutic settings, just know that this is a delicate area. And again, to be clear, my truth is: I would never touch a client without asking permission first and in most cases I would probably just never touch a client.

What I witnessed felt, in my opinion, like an unhealthy attachment between the therapist and client (that may or may not go both ways). It felt to me like the therapist was having trouble letting go and that was why they requested to be present. Now it could absolutely be both; the therapist felt this was the best way to help the client transition AND they wanted to be there for their own personal reasons related to trouble letting go. The latter aspect made me feel very uncomfortable and made my part of the session challenging.

It is difficult to build a connection with a new client when they are trying to process the loss of a former therapist they felt connected to and that former therapist is still present. It is difficult to connect with a new client when they are literally physically connected to their former therapist during the session. It was a weird situation to find myself in and I was definitely regretting not listening to my inner knowing and asking the therapist not to attend.

Here is my truth about this, and this is where my self-righteousness will undoubtedly show up: I think it is important for all those who want to step into this very sacred role of holding space for others in this way to be doing their own work, or have done their own work. I am human, not robot, which means during a session, all of my pieces are still present in the background and can become triggered by a client or the environment or anything really. My truth is: me doing my own work is what has made me effective at holding myself AT ALL TIMES so I am able to hold space for my client and protect against counter-transference.

Transference and counter transference are absolutely a thing that happen in a therapeutic relationship. Transference can actually be a great way to process and explore deeper topics in a way that feels surface level and safe with a client. Counter transference is also a natural thing that happens, what is important (in my opinion) is having a place to process it when it happens. Supervision is a great place for this, that is a big part of supervision, AND I still believe in therapists having their own therapist to hold their deeper work.

For example, I totally see where I am experiencing my own counter transference in what took place during this session. I am processing a surface piece of that here and I will be doing my real work around it when I see my therapist.

Something that I heard a lot when in school had to do with meeting our clients where they are. I think we also often times meet our clients where we are. Just like Brene Brown says you cannot give your children what you do not have, relating to parenting, I think the same can be said for therapy; you cannot give your clients what you do not have.

I cannot hold space for my clients to do work I have not personally done. That is my truth. It is not every therapist’s truth, many never do their work and do not feel called to and are still effective at practicing in their way. My truth is: I could never hold space for the deep healing work my clients are called to do if I am not walking my own path towards healing.

I do not know what this is going to look like going forward with this client. This client’s very first experience with therapy has sent them the message that when they cry their therapist will literally hold them. I am hoping to show this client that they can still feel held energetically through use of empathy and healthy boundaries AND show them how to hold themself and comfort themself.

inner shit

#This-is-my-truth.