Designed to Feel

The time of Covid has been a learning experience for us all. For me it has inspired deeper reflection around grief and connection and healing. I have been processing this through in my art and in my relationships, now I want to lay some of my discoveries down here.

In my twenties when my grief was heavy and the darkness felt too scary to go near, I didn’t. I did not dare take one step towards it, I was certain it would eat me whole and I would not survive it. So I chose disconnection over healing. This is what that looked like:

  • Staying busy. Stillness led to my Truth creeping up on me and I was running hard from those Truths, busy kept those thoughts and feelings at bay, there was no room for them in my life.

I stayed busy at work. I stayed busy after. Social plans and errands and any possible thing I could think of to not be still. It worked. I rarely felt anything and if I did find myself still long enough to start feeling, there was numbing that could take care of that.

  • Numbing. I turned my feelings off with alcohol and drugs, benedryl and red wine were a go-to during my darkest moments, usually though it was beer, vodka and/or marijuana. This relationship was drugs and alcohol was short lived for me, my real go-to, as I have shared previously, has always been food and shopping. I also did not realize until more recently, TV. After I gave birth to little bubby we would not have the TV on in our home from 7am-7pm and I went through major withdrawals.

When I am numbing nothing gets through, it is even more effective than staying busy, it is like a kill switch for emotions.

  • Self-abandonment. Numbing and staying busy are two examples of how I would self-abandon. It was most pronounced in my relationships though. I would chose others over myself again and again. I was not attuned to Self, I was not aware I had needs so zero effort was being made to get them met. I did not experience myself as having value so it was very easy for me to invest myself outside and abandon all feeling inside.

For me self-abandonment meant avoiding conflict to keep others happy, which translated to them accepting me rather rejecting me. It meant forming myself into molds to “fit in” with expectations placed upon me by family, by partners, by friends, and by my employer. It meant hustling for my worthiness because it was always attached to something outside of myself. The outside world had the final word on whether or not I was enough.

Choosing healing was the beginning of my untangling process from these ways of being.

Covid is a global crisis, the whole world is experiencing this massive trauma together. So friends, you better believe we are ALL in our work right now. Whether we are choosing to show up in connection and healing or disconnection and darkness is a personal choice each person is faced with right now.

This is what surviving this trauma through choosing connection and healing has looked like for me.

  • Being aware, consciousness. Everyday I wake up I am faced with all of the same choices I was faced with in my twenties (and earlier in life) – feel it or numb it. Connect to Truth or run from it.
    Let me share this friends – You CANNOT run from your Truth. You cannot run from your Truth anymore than you can run from your SELF. It lives right here (I am pointing emphatically at my heart), it will always be with you and you cannot out run it. You completely unable to live outside of it, just as you cannot live outside of your body. The denial, and the numbing, and the trying to out run it – that is not living.

With that said, I have been choosing connection, I have been choosing to feel. I have chosen healing and Love.

Now before I outline how I do this I have to give you all sides – there have been moments I have chosen disconnection, this is where the consciousness comes in. I am aware of the choice I am making and I am allowing myself to have these moments because the body and the spirit needs breaks. Because I am aware of the choices I am making I know what I am feeling that is bringing on the desire to disconnect and have compassion for myself in these moments. I am not punishing myself for going to the chocolate or turning on reruns of The Office, I am allowing myself grace, and like any good parent I am setting limits with myself. This is the difference between then and now, unconditional love and belonging with Self.

  • Emotional, Mind, Body, and Spiritual self-care. My list is long on how I practice self-care, I do not feel a need to outline it. What is important, the real take away, is knowing what your needs are and taking the steps to get them met. Some of your needs can only be met by you, others require you to show up True, and sometimes vulnerable, in your relationships to voice and advocate for them.

This is what it means to not self-abandon. It is about knowing what you need and making those needs priority. It is about valuing Self first. And before you can denigrate yourself or this idea I am going to stop you and say – No, this is not selfish.

Let me give you an example – I meet with soul friends at least once a week on zoom for deep connection and emotional processing. I am committed to this group, I committed to getting my needs for outside connection met with them. I am committed to the promise I made to be someone in their life they can show up True with. AND I have cancelled and rescheduled with them when needed when another inside need took priority. Like sleep for example. If my body is telling me it needs rest more than outside connection, I listen. I will not self-abandon for these people I love. And my constant hope is that they would not self-abandon for me, because my Truth is, I am no longer interested in being in that kind of relationship.

There is one last piece I want to cover before closing this out. The reason the self-care and the awareness are so important is because connection hurts. It is why we do not choose it, it is why we choose to numb. It hurts to feel the grief, the loss. It hurts to be exposed to suffering and violence and panic and fear.

Making the choice to heal, to be connected, to feel it all – it will hurt.

So this is what I leave you with:

You do not have to feel it all at once, and you do not have to walk this path alone. Set limits with yourself. Give yourself times of day when you feel safe to tap in and hold the all of what is coming up for you. Give yourself safe spaces where you can feel everything you need to feel ( a lot of people love the shower). Give yourself permission to be held in safe relationships while you hold and process it all. You do not have to do it all at once and you do not have to do it alone.

Human beings are designed to connect. We are emotional beings designed to connect, this is our evolution and it is a beautiful design. It is why we have these feelings, all of them. It is why we are born into families and live in communities. We are designed to feel and to feel together.

Denying our feelings, choosing to numb and disconnect, it goes against our nature. It is the true root of suffering. When you numb you are going against your true nature.

You are not a rock. You are not a couch or a chunk of pavement. You are not inanimate. You are alive. You are meant to grow and have experiences (all kinds) and feel and process and connect.

These are scary times. There is sorrow and so much fear. And here you are, already surviving it. You are not alone in this. Take this time to lean in and be with yourself. Take this time to reach out and connect and speak Truth with those you love. This is an invitation to the entire world to Live, really Live. Give yourself permission to accept the invitation and feel.

With BIG Love and an open heart,

Jillian

I Promise.

I am in a place of promises right now. Reflecting on the sacredness of this level of intention.

On retreat in the spring I was guided through a deep meditation and while inside of the space that is neither here, nor there, I had a very clear vision. It was two little souls crowded around a daisy making a plan. This was my spiritual remembering of the soul contract my brother and I made before beginning this human experience. In this space of dark and light where our souls existed first we made promises to each other; mine was to do the job I came here to do – his was to keep me on my path, no matter the personal cost, by showing up in his darkness when needed.

I can tell you friends, this sweet soul who is my beloved brother kept his promises. And these promises came with great personal cost. It is why I try each day to peel another layer back, to go deeper, to stay on the path. I have a promise to keep.

Fast forward to now –

I was given the news that surgery is needed to remove my gallbladder. I have multiple conditions happening at once that cannot be fixed holistically or with medication. Surgery is the best path towards healing.

… I wanted to write “whole body healing”, but that doesn’t feel quite right knowing that a part of me literally has to be removed from the whole for me to heal.

I am going to have to sit with this outside of this post, there is something to explore deeper here.

So I am preparing for surgery. Preparing for surgery goes beyond cleaning my house and meal prepping so I can rest with ease as I recover. It is more than dietary changes and making plans for my mother to be with little bubby while his momma is away.

There are things I am doing for myself that go beyond the surface level details.

I am preparing an honoring ceremony to thank my gallbladder for the ways she held me when I struggled to hold myself. I am taking time to feel everything that I feel in the wake of this news; my shame, my grief, my fear, my gratitude, my love, my anxiety. I am balancing myself between the pause and the urgency given the severity of my condition. I am taking time to plan my path forward, making space for fluidity – this piece is especially important because in the face of the unknown I certainly have a part that shows up wanting to control anything she can. I am holding her and listening to her concerns, she is part of my processing but she is not in charge of this part of my self-care.

There is more happening inside this space of love and care but this enough for now.

A soul friend and fellow momma gave me a beautiful piece imagery to hold onto while my gallbladder and I complete this last chapter of our story together –

“I am picturing your gallbladder taking along with it anything that does not energetically belong with you anymore”.

Yes.

Yes and Amen.

My gallbladder held so much for me, it was so strong for so long. It shutting down and saying “Enough” is not some reflection on lack of strength – it is a very clear message to me that it is time.

It is time. You are ready. 

It was holding me until I was able to fully hold myself. Now that I am here my gallbladder finally gets to rest, her job is done.

So I count my gallbladder in my gratitude this evening, for all she has done for me, my gratitude is immeasurable.

This is my promise to you, sweet organ who held me so devotedly these last 36 years, I will Love. I will Love so deep and so True that every part of me will feel it and every part of me will know – I will Love so purely that the power of it will explode out of me like delicate particles of light and all those who encounter me will know.

I am a soul with promises to keep and I will spend my life doing just that.

 

Alchemy in Body Work

I feel it is time to acknowledge some shame I have been carrying around because it is heavy on my heart and I am ready to set it down and heal with Love instead.

I have shared a little bit about how my husband and I are taking some time at the end of the year now to figure out what our relationship with food as a family will look like going forward. When little bubby started eating solids we realized real quick there would not be a point where we suddenly say, okay let’s feed him fat, sugar, and sodium. This means my husband and I, who are well meaning but not completely intentional, needed to make changes to meet little bubby where he is and join him in healthy eating.

In August I had a health scare. I had some kind of gastrointestinal episode that was very painful and found me in my doctor’s office the next day. Labs and testing done came back negative so I assumed it was something I ate and moved on. Two months later, almost to the day, I had another episode but this time it was much worse. I was debilitated by it. I will not get into the details but I was very sick. Again I found myself in my doctor’s office and more testing was ordered. Results have not come back yet, and based on these findings the spectrum of intervention could be from dietary change to surgery.

It is clear to my husband and I though that at the very least we will be applying the dietary change, in fact we already have. My body is literally telling me it is time.

I have gone full vegetarian with most of my meals being fully vegan. I have been off dairy for a while but I do still eat fish. My husband is practicing this with me for the meals he eats at home but for the time being still takes a sandwich for lunch that includes deli meat. Little bubby is eating this way with us because we are the ones preparing his meals obviously but we are not against him having lean meats such as poultry when we are with family.

So here is where my shame has been weighing on me; I caused this. I have been using food to hold my pain for most of my life. It started as the example set by my parents but as an adult I had the choice to parent myself better and that is not the option I have been choosing. I have been sitting in shame while I process the fact that now my body is struggling because of the damage I have caused with my choices. I am ashamed I did not Love myself better. This feels like self-harm. I knew better and continued to make these choices from a place of victim mentality, scarcity, and fear.

Love was always a choice here, and it still is, I just wish I had made this choice sooner.

Here is where I call in grace; I am here. The darkness that came before was then, this is now, and I am here, choosing Love. The pain that I experienced in that darkness still yearns to be felt which is why I think I was still having a hard time choosing Love. I recognize now though that I can go back and touch without actually being there. I am not there anymore, now can be different. It is my choice, I have the freedom of choice now and I am choosing Love. I am choosing connection. I am choosing me, and my family, and peace.

I choose gentleness and healing. I choose to be kind with myself as I pick all of myself up and walk my path home to Love.

I close this with gratitude. Gratitude for my body and the way she has always held me.

Thank you for all you have done to care for me, everyday, never stopping, never failing, no matter how bad it got, no matter how many times I abandoned you, no matter how unloved you must have felt. You have showed me the most unconditional Love just by doing exactly what you do, going on. I Love you. I Love you and going forward I am going to speak to you with Love, I am going to nourish you with Love, I am going to hold you Sacred with Love. It has always been you and me and it will always be you and me. I Love you and I am grateful without end for all the wonder that you are.

The Last Touch

Following my throat’s collision with little bubby’s foot, my therapist helped me see that while I have done some work around the emotional wounds caused by my brother’s abuse, it is time now to focus on healing my body.

We start with ground zero, my throat.

I understand now that if I walk around for the rest of my life saying to myself, my throat is off limits, then it will be as if his hands are around my throat forever – it will be the last experience my throat ever has.

OR

I can lean into the truth of this pain, as I have started to do, heal my hurts, and allow LOVE in.

Here is what I am clear about;

  1. I have spent enough of my life running from Love, now I only want to run towards it.
  2. No part of my body is off limits to me.

 

A few weeks after my PTSD episode I was laying in bed with my husband at bedtime. I talked to him about the need to allow myself to be Loved in this place of hurt and we discussed what that might look like. Then I asked him if I could practice this Love with him.

First we set boundaries. Safe Love for me always has boundaries.

  1. This is serious, no sillies. Our inner children are best friends, I did not want his inner child popping up and getting goofy while we practice something sacred.
  2. We discuss how you will touch me and that is the only touch that will take place.

 

I asked him what him Loving my throat would look like; he said, a kiss.

He asked me to lay on my back and then he leaned over me and gently kissed the middle of my throat.

Even a light embrace such as this felt like consider pressure to this part of my body, AND, it was beautiful.

He rolled over to his side of the bed and laid on his back, I rolled into him and buried myself in his neck.

From my hiding place in his neck I felt safe, enveloped, no light peeking in.

I thought – here I am again, crying in the dark.

This time was different though, this time I was not alone.

A Kick to the Throat and an Onslaught of Memories

A few weeks ago little bubby and I were tumbling around together tickling and giggling and having the best time. While playing, he zigged when I zagged and he accidentally kicked me in the throat. My PTSD reaction was immediate. My eyes welled with tears as pain across my entire body came crashing over me like a wave.

My throat is my number trigger one area in terms of the physical trauma I have experienced. I have others as well but my throat is absolutely my place of vulnerability above all else. I paused and tried desperately to stay inside myself and the moment long enough to allow my husband, who was standing near us, to take over while I cared for and comforted myself.

Once little bubby was with daddy I scooped up all the parts of myself that had risen up with stories to tell and I listened. I listened to each part as they shared their truth with me, and with each truth shared I repeated to myself over and over – I believe you.

These three words have been so powerful when it comes to my healing. They have been an emotional salve, mending all my wounds. They are exactly what I needed to hear in the moments when my wounds were created, I say them now each time I am repairing a hurt with myself.

My body tells me – this happened, and I say – I believe you.
My inner 5 year old tells me – this happened, and I say – I believe you.
My inner mother tells me – this happened, and I say – I believe you.

The healing starts here.

After I listened and validated all parts of myself in these resurrected stories of hurt, I took a shower. It was time to care for myself and honor my body for what she has been holding for me. It was also time for release, which I did in the form of a heavy cry under the warm water. I allowed the water to hold me while I held all the pain of my truths.

I was strangled, his hands on my throat, until I blacked out.
I woke up to see him walking away from me, leaving me alone, still choking, on the floor.
My father found me.
I was not comforted.
I was alone.

After my shower and my cry I found little bubby and my husband in the kitchen having dinner. I kissed little bubby on the head and checked in with him. I told him I was sorry that our playing ended the way it did and that I bet that was confusing for him and maybe even made him feel sad. I told him I loved him and he did nothing wrong. I told him mommy accidentally got hurt and had to take care of herself. I told him accidents happen and mommy is okay now and is ready to play when he finishes dinner. I thanked him for the way he shows up as a teacher in my life.

After little bubby went to bed I made myself some lavender chamomile tea and painted to finish releasing anything related to this incident as well as the original trauma, my body re-experienced what it was like to suffer a throat injury and it brought up a lot of other physical pain from the original trauma – my back hurt, my shoulders, my pelvis.. My body was telling me that when this happened it was not just my throat that experienced it – I was held down, there was intense pressure on all these areas. Now that all of this had risen back up to the surface, I wanted to make sure to acknowledge it all and release it from my body. I do not want this pain trapped in my body any longer.

At bedtime I processed with my husband. While it was a difficult night, I was immensely grateful for the clarity and information I gained from the experience. When this trauma originally took place I dissociated to survive, I not only literally blacked out from lack of oxygen, I blacked out many of the memories as well. This is how I have survived all of my traumas, through disconnection. Reconnecting my dots as I heal has been challenging; the more Love and acceptance I show myself the more I get back, I don’t know if I will ever know my full story though.

What I am the most proud of is how I mothered myself through this PTSD episode. I did not disconnect, I did not shutdown, I did not numb. My pain came on swift and fierce and I held all of it. I held all of myself and loved myself and I stayed present with everything that was happening inside, even when the truth was awful. I did not abandon any part of myself.

I am also proud of how I handled my repair with little bubby. My commitment to owning my imperfections and staying in my connection with myself while in my relationships with those I love makes me a better everything – a better partner, a better mother, a better friend..

In moments like these I know this truth for certain – this little soul and I, we chose each other. I am so grateful for that. So so grateful.

 

Kisses Can Hurt

The story will be told in parts because that is all I have had for so many years, parts, not the whole. I am working my way back towards the whole, I am working my way back to being whole.

I don’t know how or when I arrived at my high school boyfriend’s home. I do remember laying on my back across the width of his bed staring at the ceiling, disconnecting, as tears rolled down my cheeks. The light was out, it was night, his room was dark, everything was dark and stayed that way for a long time.

He cried when I told him. I don’t know what I told him. I don’t think I had told my mother yet so the decision about the abortion was not yet made. I could have the timeline wrong. I just don’t know.

I do know that he did something that broke of a piece of my heart.. He brought his crying face down onto my belly and kissed it.

……I need to pause…..

 

 

 

 

He fucking killed me when he did that.

Up to that point I was actively disconnecting from my body and this reality AT ALL TIMES. There was no denying this truth when he did that.

For one excruciating moment this was true, and we were an accidental family, and I was a mother, and he was a father, and this was our baby.

I remember nothing after that. Nothing.

The curtain came down hard and all I had was the safety of my ability to completely disconnect from this.

I see now how I dishonored this life. He existed. I do not get to deny him that. My boyfriend acknowledged him immediately. That was the first time I did and it was only because my boyfriend’s action made it impossible for me not to. I could not handle it the truth though and I immediately turned everything off.

The only other time I acknowledged this life was the day of my abortion. I do not remember waking up, I do not remember getting dressed, I know my mother dressed me because I do remember what I wore. I do not remember seeing my brother, what lie had they tole him about this day? I do not remember seeing my parents at all until my mother is ushering me into the building passed the protesters.

That morning I am sitting in living room in the dark, it must have been early. I am alone on the couch and I am nauseous. This is my acknowledgment that life exists here. I am eating a saltine and I am with my baby, aware he is with me too. I can only be with him in that dark. This has always been true – until now.

I am getting closer now, closer to love and connection in this place of darkness and pain. I will find myself, and my babies, and hold it all in love. I know I am getting close because it hurts so bad, which means I am finally feeling it. I have to feel all of it to feel the love. I am getting close.

I buried the piece of my heart that broke off when he kissed my belly and forced me to acknowledge my baby and this connection. I am ready to bring that piece home. I want that connection back.

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We All Go Together

Little bubby woke up crying before midnight. This is unusual for him. I went in, changed his diaper by the glow of the salt lamp in his room, and cuddled with him and his velvety bunny in his chair before putting him back to bed asleep.

I don’t think I will ever get tired of sleepy cuddles, even when I am sleepy too.

More than two hours later I am still awake. This is unusual for me. Sleep is valuable in our home, we savor it.

I had a breakthrough in my work today and I am unraveling from untruths. This is what keeps me up tonight.

What I realized today is that

  1. There are still ways in which I am playing small.
  2. There is at least one small part of me that needs to be welcomed home for the first statement to no longer be true.

The part(s) of me that play small does not magically disappear when I get to the point where I am fully connected to myself and am in my BIG place. In order to be fully connected to myself this part(s) of me has to be there, without her I am missing a piece of myself and remain in disconnection.

This is tricky.

This part(s) is small. She does not understand what being BIG is. Moreover, because she is small and being small is her whole job, being BIG feels scary.

Being BIG, truth speaking, loving myself without shame, holding myself sacred and worthy, allowing everyone else to hold themselves.. That was not allowed in the place she came from. Doing these things meant intense rejection, it meant not belonging, it was wrong and bad and forbidden.

BIG feels scary.

She is the part that shows up and whispers warnings in my ear about the danger of my mission to be BIG.

Pssstt.. Be careful.. You will only get hurt.

I hear you little one. I see you. I know you are scared.

Please know that my lap is open to you when you are ready to be held.

Until then please hear me, we are going to be okay. I love you. I am your belonging. I will not abandon you. You will always belong here.

You will always belong here.

I am home. I am safety. I am belonging. I am love. We no longer have to look outside for these things – they are here.

Please know that the door is open, my lap is open, I welcome you home when you are ready to be held in love.

I Encourage You to Write – Repurposed

This post was originally published February 2017 in my former writing space. I am bringing it home to Adding to Nine because this is where it is meant to live.

This post was born when I was a mentor and working as a therapist to teenagers at a youth shelter. It is my two pieces of advice for anyone wanting to heal, especially those who want to hold space for other’s as they heal.

As I welcome this post home, I do so with my dear friend in mind. I am so glad you are writing and am HONORED you are sharing your truths with me. Don’t you dare stop writing, your fight matters.

————————————————————————————————–

Something has come up a few times now as part of the mentor-mentee relationship, I am being asked for tips/advice on this or that as it pertains to healing/holding space for those who are healing. I realized I have two tips/pieces of advice that are universal no matter who I am speaking with.

  1. Start seeing a therapist
  2. If you don’t have the funds for therapy then start writing until you do and then keep writing once you do.

That is it folks. That is my sage wisdom about life and feeling fulfilled and whole.

The see a therapist part is important because you need to have one person in your life that has no other role in your life than to listen. To listen to it all. Anything you have that needs to be heard that is your person across the board.

This is coming from a woman who has a husband, soul friends, girl friends, trust worthy co-workers, mentors.. I have a lot of people in my life that are here to listen. It doesn’t matter. None of them can hold it all for me. Not even my husband.

And here is my truth about that: I would never want them to. Again, not even my husband.

My therapist is my person that helps me with my relationship with myself so I can learn to listen to myself and be the one person responsible for holding all of my stuff. My truth is that if there is any aspect of myself that I am asking someone else to hold because I don’t want to then I am doing it wrong.

There is nothing that my husband, or friends, or family, or co-workers, or mentors can do to make me feel better about something if I am not first willing to hold it for myself and help myself feel better about it.

So I say again: Tip #1: Get a therapist.

Tip #2 is of equal importance. Start writing.

I realize there are a lot of reasons/excuses that are out there for why you aren’t doing this.

I am not a good writer. My grammar isn’t great. I don’t have time. I don’t have a computer. I don’t want anyone to read it and judge me. I don’t know what to write about.

Keep making that list folks. Write down all your reasons/excuses so every piece of you that is fighting against writing has been heard and then START WRITING.

Start writing right now. Don’t even feel pressure to finish reading what I am writing. You have my full blessing to close the window to my blog right now. Just start writing.

Write about whatever you want. Start making lists. The first list can be that list of reasons you don’t want to write. Make your grocery list. Make a list each morning of who you want to be today. Make a list of your heroes and what draws you to them. Write anything just write. Write everyday until you get to the point where going a day without writing feels like going a day without air.

This is how you get to know who you really are. You are not processing your thoughts and feelings with anyone but yourself. You don’t need anyone else’s opinion or input on your life, you only need to be with yourself. Write.

Write and learn who you are. Write to find yourself. Write to learn your own truth. Write to be heard. Write to heal. Write to get it out.

Writing gives you time to be alone and quiet so you can hear your own inner wisdom about your life.

It does not matter how you start. Write on napkins. Write on whatever is next to you, as long as it is not living because that would be problematic. Just write.

If you do only one thing today I encourage you to write.