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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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.

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I Will Never Cut Another Dress

That’s a good look.

I lifted my head and peered out at my husband from behind the scarf that was covering the majority of my face.

Oh yeah, think I should leave it like this?

Oh definitely.

We both laughed as I continued to tie my head scarf and put my glasses back on.

My husband and I have a rule in our relationship: no body policing.

That means I am allowed to be in my body however feels comfortable without worry of non-acceptance and so is he. This is one area in our relationship where acceptance is not conditional.

So I can shave or not, wear make up or not, do my hair or put on a hat or scarf, dress however I feel etc etc.
He can shave or not, get a haircut or not, dress however he feels etc etc.

This is an important rule to each of us in our relationship because we have both been in relationships where we did not feel this freedom and we agreed that not having this freedom makes for an unhealthy relationship. We have to belong to ourselves first and one of that fastest ways to autonomy is through feeling full ownership of one’s body.

That is not to say that we never say anything about one another’s body/appearance. When my husband’s finger nails start to get long he sometimes scratches me on accident, I let him know so either:

A. He can choose to trim his nails OR
B. He is more mindful when embracing me.

Me saying something about his finger nails does not mean he has to cut them, he can make that choice, I am allowed to set a boundary stating: Hey that hurts please be careful how you touch me when your nails are that length.

This morning as I got ready and was thinking about this aspect of our relationship and silently counting my gratitude for it I thought of the times in my life when I did not feel in control of my body/appearance and acceptance was conditional on meeting the expectations of someone else.

As children we experience this all the time. For me it was my mother doing my hair the way she wanted it done while I cried under her comb that was piercing my scalp.

I started shaving my legs in 5th grade because two of the boys in class made fun of the hair on my legs. I had never given it any thought until suddenly I was made to feel ashamed for something my body does naturally.

As a teen it was all about trying to fit in order to stay invisible and survive. My face was marked with noticeable scarring after my car accident freshman year so I was already getting some harsh unwanted attention, I did my best not to stick out by way of appearance.

And in my twenties when my identity was usually wrapped up in whoever I was dating I followed their lead. My boyfriend said he likes brunettes better than blondes so for the first time in my life I dyed my hair and played the role of brunette for a few years.

There is one instance that always come to mind first when I think of why this (whole body ownership/autonomy) is so important to me: my ex and the dress.

I have a few great loves when it comes to dresses over the years. In high school I had this denim jumper dress that I loved so much I have it saved in a box to hopefully give to my one day daughter. In my twenties it was the Joni Mitchell dress, so named by my then boyfriend. Now it is my long blue wrap dress.

These dresses were my go-to dresses during these periods of my life because they all possessed the same magic: no matter how I was feeling before putting the dress on, the second I was wearing it I felt beautiful and grounded and myself.

I remember when I bought the Joni Mitchell dress, I got home and put it on to go out with my boyfriend that night. I felt invincible, like the most luminous, stunning version of myself. I got to his house, walked in surrounded by the energetic light I was feeling, and was immediately verbally shit on.

What are you wearing? You look ridiculous. You look like a hippy. You look like Joni Mitchell (which was totally meant as a dig – but she is fucking fabulous so jokes on him)Did you bring a change of clothes? I hate that dress. Never wear that around me again.

Honestly I loved it so much that as hurt as I was in that moment I still felt beautiful. And this was during a very insecure time in my existence, so for me to be able to rebound so easily from this verbal attack when my feelings about myself were completely wrapped up in how others feel about me.. that just further speaks to the power of this dress.

I was faced with a dilemma though. My boyfriend hates the dress and never wants to be seen with me wearing it again and I love the dress and never want to take it off. I was desperate to find a way to make this work. I was desperate. Those three words pretty much sum me up back then.

Acting on this feeling of desperation I did something that I immediately regretted, I cut the dress. The dress was long, white, and flowy with explosions of color splashed all over. It looked like art on a blank canvas. When I cut it all the magic was gone. I was Delilah cutting Samson’s hair. It was awful.

My boyfriend loved it. He thought I looked amazing. I suddenly realized just how much that does not matter. I did not like it and every time I saw myself in it all I could think was how I ruined this amazing piece of art. I think what I was truly feeling but was not ready to see was how I had once again abandoned myself. No amount of outside love and validation will fill the void created when we abandon ourselves.

I kept the dress for a very short period after the alteration before gifting it to a friend with the condition that I never have to see her wear it, ironically enough. I did not want the reminder.

Clearly that relationship did not pan out and I had time to myself before meeting my husband. That time was spent getting to know who I am outside of other people, that time is when I took myself back to my foundation and started rebuilding. My husband has only ever known me as a builder, as a woman under construction, as a being of growth and transformation.

Certain boundaries were set very early on in our relationship to ensure we would always belong to ourselves first:

No body policing.
Our books will have their own bookshelves.
Time apart is every bit as important as time together.

More boundaries were added as the years went on and adjustments are made as needed. One of the underlying messages in our relationship being: freedom to be exactly who we are and that be enough. And with that freedom I hold this truth sacred: Never in my life will I cut another dress.

joni mitchell dress

 

Carrying My Brick

This morning I sat in a rocker in the sunroom of our home with a mug of decaf and my thoughts. I was thinking about some of the women that inspire me. The women whose books I have read and said to myself Me Too. Brene Brown, Glennon Doyle Melton, Cheryl Strayed. Women who were lost and found and hurt and loved and honest.

My husband and I listen to a podcast that is all about story telling. Week after week we listen to people across the nation, and sometimes across the world, tell their story on this radio show; and week after week I wait for a story like mine, a story that will allow me to say Me Too. This weekend while we were driving to my parents house we decided not to listen to the podcast and instead road in silence, each of us with our thoughts. It was in that 30 minute car ride that I had my epiphany, maybe I am the one who is supposed to tell the story. I am waiting in the sidelines for someone else to tell it, maybe I am that someone.

I don’t know what that will look like yet. Maybe it will be me sharing it here on my blog, maybe it will be me standing on a stage, maybe it will be me finally standing in my truth in front of my family, maybe it will be leading a support group for women like me. I don’t know.

I do know I am scared. The very thought of truly allowing myself to be seen is terrifying. That is what brought me back to these women, Brene, and Glennon, and Cheryl. These women paved a path by sharing their stories, a path for the next woman to walk down. Each woman who brings her brick to this path and allows herself to be seen in her truth and share her story extends the path one brick further for the next woman who will walk the path and bring her brick. I understand now that we are all connected, this path belongs to all of us and it is important that I bring my brick in love, without fear so the next woman will have the courage to bring hers. This is the path of women, the path of love and worthiness, the path of connection and infinite enoughness. This is the path we are called to walk and with courage I will pick up my brick and place it on the path in the spot that was created just for me knowing that one day my brick will support future generations of women bringing their bricks to claim their rightful place on this path of love.

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Womanhood

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I painted this picture today that made me feel completely overwhelmed. It brings up all these emotions around sexuality, and passion, and this energy and power I am supposed to have as a woman. Standing in these energy spaces do not make me feel strong and empowered, they make me feel overwhelmed and exhausted.

Suddenly I felt that flash of passion rise in me, it was frustration and resentment.

I sit in these women’s circles and allow myself to wear certain social labels such as feminist, and the energy behind all of it is a celebration of womanhood. That is just not my experience though, not completely at least. There is an “AND” there.

I am proud to be a woman AND I believe women are powerful AND I feel overwhelmed by my experiences as a woman.

My truth is that womanhood is not something that I stepped into, there was no sacred, beautiful right-of-passage. For me it felt like womanhood/becoming a woman was something that happened to me.

Before I even had the opportunity to process the fact that my body was changing the boys around me were taking notice. I never got to experience these changes and try to understand my new self before I was being grabbed at and taken from verbally, physically, and energetically.

I think of the idea behind the Red Tent, it was a place of sanctuary where women could take counsel with one another and celebrate their magic and be free from the shackles of womanhood placed upon them by society during their sacred cycle.

I grieve for the time I was not given. I grieve for the space that was never there. I grieve for all the parts of myself who have never gotten to call my body home. I feel like a child that has been trying to play catch up in a land of women.

I am tired of running, I am tired of having no where to call home. I am tired of being tired. I am just so breathlessly exhausted.

I Show Myself Love When

I went on a really terrible walk today. It is the second time in a week where an attempt at self-care has gone wrong.

This morning when I was getting ready for a client appointment I put on the pants I had picked out only to discover they would not close, at all. These pants that fit with a little extra room two months ago are now so tight I was no where near buttoning them, it was a total lost cause. I almost cried. I tried to make myself feel better, It is okay that you have gained a little weight, what matters is how you feel, not the number.. You washed these pants recently, maybe they shrunk.

I got myself through that moment and moved on with my day.

By this evening I still felt the cloud of self-loathing hanging over my head. I did not want to turn to food to fill this feeling of emptiness so I went for a walk with Lu. I always feel better when I meditate at the park, out in nature I would find my connection and come home feeling more balanced and grounded.

When we left the house I heard my neighbor across the street scream-talking to another neighbor. Oh God, No… I am not a big fan of the scream-talking neighbor. She seems to have trouble with appropriateness and has done things in the past that have made me uncomfortable. Luckily she was very engaged with the neighbor she was talking to so I just waved and walked on.

When I got to the park Lu pooped. Good girl honey. I took the poop bag from her leash and bent over to clean it up; while I am doing this I have both my cell phone and her leash in my other hand (I was wearing a dress and had no pockets for my phone). Right as I am bent over her poop Lucy pulls on the leash which results in me losing my grip on my cell phone, with that my cell plopped into Lu’s poop pile. This is my life folks, I could not make this shit up if I tried.

On a normal day when I am not under an emotional cloud and feeling more myself, I would laugh at this. The phone can be cleaned off, it is not the end of the world, it will make a good story. Not today. Today I wanted to cry. That was not very nice Lucy.

I picked up my phone, wiped it off on the bag, and proceeded to dispose of Lucy’s poop.

After the poop debacle we went over to our bench. It was sunset, the ducks were swimming in the pond, I could already begin to feel myself relax. I started my breathing to help clear my mind and sink into my meditation. Just as I am starting to drift away into nature I feel Lucy go rigid on the leash, a dog was coming towards us with its owner. I asked Lu to sit, which she did, and thought nothing more of it, Lucy is dog friendly and usually has good manners. Not this time. I have NO IDEA what got into her but she lunged and barked and acted like a lunatic. WTF Lu, seriously?

That was it. Clearly meditation at the park was not meant to happen. Lu and I walked home and when we came back by my scream-talking neighbor’s house she came outside. I do not want to rehash the entire situation because it was exhausting enough the first time but the long-story-short is: She asked me if I was pregnant, I said No.  Then she told me that I haven’t looked happy lately and that she can tell I have gained weight.

This woman does not know me. I was literally sitting there analyzing my recent behavior as I have been getting into and out of my car in the drive way because that is the only time she sees me. Have I looked any less happy as I get into the car? It is not like I was ever skipping and singing to begin with. Not to mention the comments about my body. WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!

I was so hurt, her timing could not have been worse. Really.

And as awful as all of this was, the worst part, the part that really broke my heart the most is that I did not show up for myself. She injured me so deeply, she said very personal things without right to do so – to be clear, NO ONE has a right to speak to me that way- and I not only took it, I agreed with her. I AGREED WITH HER. Yeah well I have gained a little weight and I did just start a new job, maybe I am a little stressed, maybe that is what you picking up on. THAT IS NOT MY TRUTH.

I have gained weight AND my body is no one’s business. I have been stressed AND it has had nothing to do with my new job. I have gained weight AND I have been stressed AND I am happy AND none of it is anyone else’s business.

I wish I could go back and say exactly what I needed to say to protect the part of me that she was hurting: That is a really personal question I am not comfortable answering.

I came home, let Lu off her leash and went into my closet and cried. I don’t feel like I loved myself well today and I am having a lot of judgements.

It is not too late for me to love myself. Last year I wrote one of my favorite pieces of writing I have ever done: I Love Myself Most When. It is all about celebrating the parts of myself that I love deeply and feel connected to AND it is a reminder to show love to the parts of myself I have a complicated relationship with and feel disconnected from. So now I would like to sit in that energy and love myself well.

I will show myself love when I feel out of control in my relationship with food.
I will show myself love when my clothes do not fit me the way I think they should.
I will show myself love when I am putting the feelings of others before my own.
I will show myself love when I feel abandoned.
I will show myself love when my attempts to show myself love do not go as planned.
I will show myself love when I want to give up.
I will show myself love when I feel empty.
I will show myself love when I am afraid to speak my truth.
I will show myself love when I back slide and lose conviction.
I will show myself love. I will show myself love. I love you.

Already I feel so much better. My well being does not depend on the weight I lose and gain, it does not depend on the messages I receive from the outside world, it does not depend on whether the ways in which I attempt to perform self-care are successful or not. My well being depends solely, exclusively, 100% on me. How I feel about me. When I am not loving myself well every part of me feels that. When I am loving myself well every part of me feels that.

Tonight I am grateful.

i will love myself

Obsession

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I have been doing shadow work for 8 or 9 months now. It started with my shadow of entitlement and once I built a relationship with one shadow many more surfaced. I was finally looking in the mirror and there they all were waiting to be loved, understood, and accepted.

I have worked on my relationship with the parts of me that are entitled, the parts that are co-dependent, the parts of me that are self-righteous, the parts that manipulate, as well as many more. My most recent shadow to surface is obsession/addiction. This shadow is finally ready to come into the light and be seen, loved, and accepted.

These are two very emotionally charged words, obsession and addiction. It is quite possible that someone reading this could make a lot of assumptions about me based on the fact that I am admitting I am made up of these two shadows.

These two words carry with them a lot of shame and stigma. I think many people would do whatever they could to distance themselves from their truth as it relates to their shadow pieces around obsession and addiction.

These shadows look different for everyone. For some it is the big ones you hear about; shopping, gambling, alcohol, food, drugs, sex, porn. For others it might be social media, their cell phone, work, exercise, a specific person, coffee, animals, a certain sport or hobby, winning or being “perfect”/the best at something.

Much of what I listed is largely considered socially acceptable, what takes it into this shadow place, for me at least, is the feeling of not being able to control the impulse/urge/need and the shame, the wanting to keep it secret. Shopping used to be a big one for me and while I didn’t mind people knowing that I shopped I did not want them to know how much or how often. If you are keeping any part of it hidden from yourself or people you love, you are sitting in a shadow. That is my truth.

What I am learning is that this shadow has deep roots, deeper than many of the others I have worked with. It seems that as I attempt to untangle myself from the root system of one obsession/addiction another will pop up to takes it place. The reason being that one way or another I am wanting to experience that comforting feeling of numbness. If I make progress with my shopping obsession/addiction suddenly I am binge eating ice cream, if I am able to put down the ice cream suddenly I am feeling the snoop around and waste time on social media.

My work with these two shadows is not actually with the surface level behavior of numbing, it is with the emotions and memories I am trying to numb. What is happening? What I am feeling when I suddenly feel the urge to snoop on social media or go for the ice cream or buy something I do not need? That is my work.

The deeper I go with embracing my shadows the harder to work becomes. It is like digging a hole, the dirt at the top will get you dirty but it is easy to get through; now I am down deep, covered in mud, and the digging is getting more and more difficult. There is still light though, shining down in this hole of mine and somewhere down here I will finally find it, the source. The place where me and all of my shadows come together, the place where my shadows were first created. The place where my biggest work is, the place where my biggest love will come to life.