I realize that I am not anyone special. I am not a psychiatrist or therapist or even a counselor, but I have experienced a lot in my life. I want to open myself up and share my experiences and my lessons in life so that you can see where I’ve been. I have always, for as long as I can remember, been big on self-help and emotional healing. Even as a child. I am not sure why, but it’s always something I’ve known and thought about.
I had a great childhood. One filled with adventure and parents who loved me and always put me first. My father was a career Navy man. ( He retired after 35 years as a Commander). Because of this we moved several times and to some pretty incredible places. Sicily, Guam, Florida and California. I spent the second half of my childhood in San Diego. We were able to stay there so that I wasn’t moved around through High School. (My Dad made sure I had stability in my teenage years. That’s how they put me first at times.) Although, I had a great childhood with wonderful parents, I experienced a lot of loss. When I was 10 a very close childhood friend died in a car accident. She was in a car that was hit head on by a drunk driver. That was my first lesson that we aren’t promised tomorrow. That even young, innocent, pure and good people die. After that I had a string of losses. More friends that died in tragic accidents or from tragic health conditions. It seemed every 2 years or so, someone close to me passed. I was in a constant state of grief for a lot of my childhood. I remember, being a child and not understanding the grand scheme of life, wondering why these things were happening to me. I struggled with depression for a long time and was stuck in that kind of self pity state. As a child, I didn’t understand how to process grief and those very heavy emotions. I still have, even in recent years, had close friends or important people in my life pass, but I’ve learned over the years how to process my emotions and I see life much differently than I did then. I learned from a lot of experience.
I got married at 20, had my first child at 22 and my second at 24. I was married for 14 years. Most of those years were filled with pain. I don’t want to speak badly about my ex husband, but I will say what I’ve said before. It was a very toxic relationship. I was angry for a long time, but I have had to find compassion and understanding. I know he grew up with family patterns that were abusive and toxic and he didn’t even realize he was doing it. But cut to now and I have been diagnosed with PTSD and am growing and healing now that that part of my life is over. It still sneaks up on me. Just when I think I have moved past something, it rears it’s ugly head again. This is how I know that healing and forgiveness is a process. It doesn’t just happen because you say “I forgive you.” But saying those words is the first step in the process. That process may take years to get through, but it’s a process and you have to give yourself the space and time to move through it.
Now that you know a small portion of my life, know that I have learned big heavy lessons in my life. These are those lessons summed up.
#1. I must FIRST Love Myself! For soooo long, I thought I needed someone to love me to give me value. I think a lot of young people think that having a boyfriend or girlfriend makes them someone. Makes them cool or popular. Shows that they are valued and important. I think young people really struggle with this. I remember struggling with it and now I have teenage daughters and they have those same feelings. I am trying to teach them that having someone doesn’t make you important. You already are. But teenagers don’t hear it. Maybe one day they will understand it, but everything at their age seems so detrimental and so final! It took me 36 years to see that I need to love myself. I know that I am important. That I am valuable. I am a loving caring person and I deserve love. So why didn’t I love myself. I was drained, exhausted, and completely used up after years of pouring myself out for everyone in my life. Even before my marriage. I always gave more than I received. I believe you shouldn’t keep score or only do something for someone if there is something in it for you, but there is also a line. A boundary I was not enforcing. I wasn’t honoring myself and was allowing too much. It almost killed me. Truly. The exhaustion actually created a lot of health issues and I now realize I have to create and enforce healthy boundaries. If I don’t take care of myself first, I can not take care of my kids or home or do the things I need to do. Also, we can only give as much love to others as we have inside of us. Which means we have to love ourselves in order to really love someone else.
#2. One really big lesson that was actually really brought home in my own therapy sessions with a psychiatrist, is to “Believe the pattern”. This is something that has almost become a mantra to me now. I was one of those people who fell in love with someone’s potential. I always want to see the good in people and believed that if someone was loved they would heal and grow. With this attitude I have found myself being used, hurt, betrayed and emotionally beat down by a lot of different people and again I always thought “why is this happening to me?” What I had to learn from looking back at my past was that I allowed it. Why? Because I didn’t love myself enough. I made excuses and always tried to see things from the other persons perspective. But I never stood up for me! There were a lot of times that I felt sad that someone didn’t speak up for me. But I needed to stand up for me. So now, I don’t think about someone’s intentions or potential. I believe what I see. When I see red flags, I believe them. When I see bad behavior or hurtful behavior I believe it. I still have moments where I fall into those old patterns myself, but I often have to stop and say to myself “what is the pattern?” and then see it for what it is and decide if I want to allow that in my life. The thing that you start to realize is that you do have full control over your life. What you allow and what your boundaries are is within your control.
#3. Another one of those important lessons I learned in therapy sessions is that “you can’t control how other people react, all you can control is how you respond.” This one is hard. I still struggle with this one. Part of my PTSD is that now confrontation really intimidates me. Like to the point that I freeze. I avoid confrontation at all cost. Quite honestly there are times when I need to have a serious conversation or be able to speak up and that terrifies me. I am a business owner and often struggle with enforcing my own policies or in my new relationship I am terrified to say something that might upset him. (He has never gotten upset with me or raised his voice, even, but I am terrified of that even being a possibility.) So this one is one that I still really struggle with. I know it intellectually, but those fears kick in and and my throat slams shut and my brain shuts down. I just can’t even do it. Lately I have been talking myself up and making myself speak up. My voice might shake and I might be terrified, but I need to speak up. I am working on it. But it helps to remember I can’t control how another person reacts, and that that is a reflection of them. Not me. How I respond is what I can control and what defines me as a person.
#4. Not speaking my truth is FATAL. This may seem like an exaggeration, but I learned the hard way that not saying what I needed actually can kill you. For 10 years I wanted a divorce. I told him I wanted a divorce, but guilt and shame and fear convinced me I needed to make my marriage work. Even though, I was in an emotionally abusive relationship. I don’t regret this because I had to be ready. I had to know I did everything I could to make it work. But I knew what I actually wanted that whole time. But I didn’t dare say to ANYONE how I really felt. After a few years I started having severe fatigue and mental fog. I went from working out every day and feeling great to being completely bed ridden literally over night. I went to doctors and had my thyroid tested, my heart monitored, I had ultrasounds and sonograms and mammograms and more blood tests and then had them redone. I just knew I was dying or had some kind of auto immune disease. I felt like I could just stop breathing at any moment. I was afraid to sleep for fear of not waking up and my 2 young children finding me in the morning. I felt like I was losing my mind and doctors kept telling me I was fine. Those words exactly. “You’re fine.” I knew I wasn’t, but I had no idea what was happening. After 7 years and my divorce, I learned that those are the symptoms of untreated PTSD. Always being on high alert and always being ready for something scary to happen brings your body to it’s breaking point. So in this way, not speaking your truth, not saying what you need to say, and holding your feelings and needs inside can very much be fatal. Not only your health, but your mental health. There were times I thought about ending my misery because I literally did not think I could take anymore.
#5. Living MY purpose! I must live my purpose. Not only live it, but believe it. Believe in my purpose. I know that I am a healer and an artist. As long as I am doing those things I am on my path. The path I am meant to travel. Things always work out for me when I am following my purpose. Now I am also an avid Outdoorsman. That is more for my spirit and myself, but my purpose in life is to heal and help others manage their pain. Physical and emotional. Being in the outdoors just feeds my soul and allows me to continue on with my purpose.
#6. LOVE. I, through my own pain and mistakes, have learned what Love really looks like. There is that scripture in the bible that is one of my all time favorites, that I’ve always tried to live by, 1 Corinthians 13:3-13:
—>3.If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4.Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5.It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7.It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8.Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9.For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10.but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11.When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12.Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13.And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
You may not be religious or spiritual, but this was something I learned young and have always tried to embody. It may also be why I allowed so much, but as an adult, I now know that you can love and still set boundaries to honor yourself.
#7. DO NOT make yourself small to make someone else comfortable. I have always been a little timid. Shy. But I also have been told that my energy shines. I have had friends tell me that I am a star that shines and sometimes certain people need to snuff out that light to make themselves feel better. This happened a lot in my life. I am learning now to keep my light ignited and not to hide who I am for someone else. I still struggle with this one too. Mostly my own fears. The fears of being made to feel bad about myself again makes me hesitant to step out of the shadows. I have to see when I am feeling this way and stop myself. I don’t need to try to out shine someone, but I need to not hide away as if I am going to offend someone just by being present. Sometimes I feel like a hermit crab. Afraid to come out of it’s shell. But I am coming out of my shell again. I am feeling the sun on my face and standing proud once more.
#8. Support from friends and family is sooo important. There are a lot of times I hear other people say they don’t need support. They don’t need anyone. I used to say this often because I had been disappointed a lot in the past. But since my divorce, I had sooo many people suddenly come back into my life. It was truly God bringing them back into my life at the right time. These people had no idea what I was going through, but just reached out or reconnected at the exact time that I needed support. I got through the hardest time in my life just because I had people around me to be there. To listen. To hold my hand when I needed someone to just hold space with me. It was truly amazing and truly a miracle in my life and I have learned the important lesson that having people around you is so important. Often we feel like we want to be alone or retreat when we are going through difficult things, but having those people around you who know you, and who can remind you who you are, really does get you through those tough times. I think a lot of times we retreat because we don’t want others to see us vulnerable or weak. But to allow yourself to be vulnerable with people you trust makes you strong and strengthens your relationships.
#9. We can learn from our children. Do not think you are too old or too good to learn from your own kids. I think we get caught up in our own authority and want to be “the one in charge” but our kids are smarter than we give them credit for and a lot of times they are more intuitive than we are. My kids have always, even as young babies or toddlers, given me insight, courage and strength. I try not to put the weight of my life stuff on them, but they tend to already know and they give me wisdom and understanding that I lack sometimes. I am not too good to admit that my kids teach me a lot of the times. My youngest is 13 and she is wise beyond her years. Always has been. And she always gives me the wisdom I am looking for. I don’t ask, but she is quite vocal (which I actually love about her. She was once EXTREMELY shy and decided she didn’t want to be pushed around the way I was. That was both a painful and proud moment for me when she was 10.) In my life I have always felt that God spoke to me through children. Children always say such profound things. An example of that was when I was 19. I went through a painful break up and my parents were out of town, so my mother (who taught Sunday School at their church) asked me to teach her class for her. I had been in a terrible place mentally and had not been dealing with the break up well. I was a total mess. When I went in to teach that class, no kids were there. None. All the kids in our church were either out of town or sick. I thought I might just get out of it and then… a little girl walks in. She was 6 years old and was visiting from out of state. I had never seen her before. Since it was just us and I was a complete wreck, I decided we would just color. I pulled out some coloring pages of Jesus. I honestly don’t even remember what the page was depicting, but as I am here wallowing in my self pity and heart break this little girl sweetly began speaking of her 2 year old brother. She said she couldn’t wait to go to heaven and “color and play Play-Doh” with her brother and Jesus. Her little brother was 2 when he died. She told me of his cancer and his treatments and about when he passed away and that she knew he was with Jesus. Suddenly my problems seemed insignificant. That was almost 20 years ago and I still cry when I tell this story. ( I am wiping tears off my key board as we speak.) Children speak from the heart without censors or veils. They only know how to speak what they think and it comes out as pure truth. Don’t be too proud to learn from your kids. They are individuals separate from you and have thoughts and feelings completely outside of yours and you may learn something profound.
#10. This is something I have always believed. Maybe I had to dealing with death and loss so early in life, but I not only believe it, I see it. It is the most important lesson. EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON. People say this all the time and it is almost cliché, but for me, when I look back, I see how everything is connected. Everything had to happen the way that it did. Really. Even the pain, abuse, betrayal, loss. It all had to happen for the next thing to come and the next chapter to unfold. Everything happens and leads to the next thing. I believe our true purpose in this life is for our spirit to grow and learn. We have to go through experiences to learn lessons so that we can grow emotionally and spiritually. If you look at everything as a life lesson. Ask yourself “what is this trying to teach me?” Even those terrible experiences teach you important life lessons. You just have to be ready to learn it. Until you are ready to learn from it, it will continue to cause pain in your life.
These are the most important lessons life has taught me. I hope that my experiences and sharing what I learned from them helps you in some way. Even if it is just to help you see something, even one thing, from a different angle… Help you heal in some way… Then I have accomplished my goal. I want to thank you for taking the time to read this and encourage you to read my other posts as well. Some are important healing messages, some are just good recipes. But I hope you find Empowerment, Strength and Recovery. That is what this blog is all about.