Home Is In My Heart

I recently went on a trip back home – to the Philadelphia suburbs where I grew up!

I haven’t been able to go back for almost 3 years, and I have been aching for it so much.

So, when I managed to find a $250 RT ticket from Salt Lake (absolutely unheard of!) I jumped on it and was on my way!

Her Heart Is In Our Hearts

I spent my first night back in Wallingford, PA with my mom’s best friend and her husband. We spent hours catching up, and reminiscing about my mom and all of our memories from when we all lived down the street from one another. We laughed a lot, and we cried a lot too.

I needed that, I desperately needed to spend that time with her and feel as if my mom were in the room with us too, laughing at the old stories and remembering all the good times. Being around her, I feel so close to my mom because she carries a huge piece of my mom inside her heart and I needed to be close to that for even just a few hours; it was so healing and so vital.

My heart felt a little less heavy from sorrow and a little more full of joy after I spent that time with them.

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The Court House in Media, Pennsylvania all decked out for the holidays 

Holidays are the Hardest

After Thanksgiving, my heart has been holding this heavy sadness for my mom – I mean, I miss her all the time but the holiday season is always just a little bit harder. After dinner was done and all of my siblings and I left my Dad’s house, I went home alone. But, instead of going straight home and putting on some holiday movie by myself, I decided to take a detour and go visit my mom in the cemetery.

I brought her a Diet Coke like I always do, because it was her drink of choice. It was freezing, about 29 degrees and it was very dark except for the few grave-sites that had lighted fixtures on them around me on the hill.

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Cheers Mom. Miss you everyday.

There in the darkness I cried – and not just some tears, I full on ugly cried. I felt pathetic, but I think I needed to let it out and feel my grief in that moment. Sometimes I try to hold it all in and just deal with it, when in reality I need to own my pain and my sadness and feel it – really feel it. Because the reason it hurts so damn much is because I loved her, so damn much. And that love will never change.

My House

The next day before meeting up with a friend, I had to go see my childhood house. I can’t  go to the place I grew up and NOT go see my house!

I drove down the familiar roads, not even needing GPS even though I haven’t lived there for 15 years; it is all just so deeply ingrained and I remember it all!

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I will never forget this house!

Finally pulling up to my house, I pulled the car over across the street and just stared at it. I wanted to go knock on the door and ask if I could go see the inside of it, but I didn’t want the people who live there (in MY house) to think I was some kind of crazy person.

So, instead, I sat across the street and admired it, remembering so many memories as they all rushed over me. I lived there from 18 months to 18 years old, so almost half of my life! Remembering the girl who lived in that front window, she seemed like such a ghost compared to the girl sitting in the car now.

Feeling so sentimental, and still missing my mom and my family being all together for so many years in that place, I was suddenly crying there on the side of the road. And I’m sure anyone driving by must have thought something was wrong; but I mean, wasn’t there?

And one man actually was worried, and he stopped his car next to mine and waved me to roll my window down. He was a gray haired older man with an incredibly kind smile, although his eye full of concern.

“Are you ok sweetheart?” he asked in his thick Delco accent.

“Oh… yep! I’m Okay, thank you!” I responded, feeling stupid for crying on the side of the road trying my best to wipe my face.

“Are you lost? Can I help you with directions somewhere?” He offered.

I wanted to respond no, because I knew where I was and where I needed to go, but in the moment I responded, “You know, I am a little lost. But I think I can find my way.”

“We all get lost from time to time, but remember there is always someone around that can help you find where you need to go!”

After profusely convincing him I was ok, he drove off, but his words stayed with me.

Lost But Not Forever

I stayed there in front of my old house for awhile, just thinking about life.

That man’s kindness and his words meant more to me that I think he could have known in those moments we spoke.

The truth is, we are all lost sometimes – but not forever. And we even lose pieces of ourselves too – but they aren’t lost forever either; not always.

And just like that kind man said, there is always someone around who can help us find where we need to go.

Finding My Way Back

This trip home for me, I hoped would help me recover pieces of myself that I have lost. This town, and area, was where I was raised, where I figured out the beginnings of who I was and what I wanted.

Important steps and parts of myself were created and developed here; some of my most painful memories also culminated there. But you need the hard times to help you see your own strength and resilience, and to appreciate the good times more.

Going back to your home – to your roots wherever they may be – is important. It is an necessary place to return to occasionally, to feel that part of yourself again. If it’s been lost, you can try to replace it where it all started.

Or if there are painful things associated with your home, you can also go to face those old demons and finally let them go. This is also an important step on the road to self-discovery.

Home Is In My Heart

I ended that portion of my trip to the east coast with a dinner in Media with 3 of my closest girlfriends from high school.

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We laughed, reminisced, and caught up with each other. I hardly ever get to see them, and every time I do it is magical and so healing to my heart. I am continually grateful that we are all still friends and keep in touch, even though we live so far apart.

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3 of the best women on the planet

That night as I lay in bed I thought of that old saying:

Home Is Where Your Heart Is

And as sappy as I always used to think it is, it is so valid and so true; especially now that I live so far from the place I consider home.

My home is inside my heart, I carry it with me everywhere. My friends, my family, the places I hold such fond memories of, the ones I’ve loved and the ones I’ve lost too; they’re all in there in my heart.

So maybe in a way I’m not really lost, I think those pieces of myself are still in there inside me, they’ve just become buried under everything else that I’ve been facing and dealing with.

But my home, the place where the real “me” resides, is always with me in my heart.

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Walking through Linvilla Orchards in Media, PA

 

Believe

Last year I volunteered to help at an event during the annual Sundance Film Festival that takes place in Park City, Utah.

The reason I was helping was because, at the time, I was friends with the person who asked me to. I had already worked a long day at my job during the film festival and I was definitely tired, but I told him I would be there; so I went.

I was supposed to work the front door with another girl, to make sure the right people were getting in who were on the list. After everyone made it inside, I stood by the front door leaning against the bar.

The event was not all that interesting to me, and I was counting down the minutes until I could go home and go to sleep. As I stood there an actor approached the bar to order a drink, and then casually started making conversation with me. In all honesty, I had no idea who he was, but he seemed nice at first.

However, he became a little too forward for my liking. He started off by asking if I was an actress, and I said no. Then he commented on how beautiful he thought I was, and that I should consider getting into the industry. I laughed it off, and hoped he would walk away soon – but he didn’t.

“So, you single?” he asked, giving me a real hard look up and down for the 50th time.

“Nope.”

“Oh, you gotta man? Is he here?” He looked around real quick to see if anyone was watching him.

“No, not a man; I’m dating myself. It’s a very committed relationship.”

I was hoping my sarcastic yet fairly obvious answer that I wanted to be left alone would stop his efforts, but they seemed to challenge him to try harder.

Things escalated very quickly, because he began to proposition me to go into the backroom bathroom with him where he guaranteed to “show me a good time” because he always “satisfied the ladies with no complaints.” He also tried to grab my hand to lead me back there.

I jerked my hand away. “Please leave me alone and don’t touch me, I’m not interested.” I was literally backed into a corner of the bar and the wall next to the front door, and felt slightly panicked. If he managed to drag me back there, would anyone even notice or care? The music was super loud and it was very crowded… maybe he really could?

He laughed and waved his hands in front of him as if trying to signal that he was stopping, and he reached into his coat pocket to retrieve his wallet and pull out a business card. “Why don’t you give me a call when you change your mind and want to have a good time,” he said as he proceeded to shove the card down my shirt into my bra. I snatched it immediately and ripped it up in his face, and left him with some very choice words as I ran to find my friend to have this guy kicked out.

I went and found him, and told him what happened. I expected him to be more upset, to go have security kick him out, and to have my back. But unfortunately, he didn’t. He looked first at my chest, because I had a low cut shirt on, and then he said, “Well, look at what you’re wearing.”

That’s all he said.

Because this actor was apparently a ‘somebody’ who mattered and was important, and I was this lowly little ‘nobody’ that didn’t matter. I was furious, disgusted, and disappointed.

The Blame

Society continues to put the blame and the shame on the survivors and not the attackers. In that moment, when my friend pointed out that I had a shirt that showed a little cleavage, he was telling me “because you are wearing something that shows a little skin, he has the right to try to force you to have sex with him in the bathroom.” And this gross logic of thinking is something that many in the world share.

So, let’s test this logic then, shall we?

Historically, women have been raped since the beginning of time, right? Think back to the dark ages, where women had to be covered from pretty much their necks down; Yet, rape was still happening. Interesting, considering they were mostly covered up.

Think of the Muslim women who wear Burqas, where literally everything is covered on their body except their eyes. Do you think that stops rape from occurring in their communities? No, it doesn’t.

Or, do you remember those supposedly cute little scenarios that often show up in any cartoon portraying the cave men? You know the one, where the male clubs the female over the head and then drags her into his cave by her hair? I have to wonder that the cavewoman was probably minding her own business, trying to forage and gather food in her animal-fur outfit just trying to stay warm and alive; not wanting any sort of sexual conduct with that caveman hiding in the bushes with his club. Yet, he took what he wanted when he wanted it.

My point is, the clothing that someone is wearing does not give someone else the right to rape them, or sexually assault them.

Yet, for centuries, we are blamed for “asking for it” with the way we dress. Fairly stupid logic, since even when we do fully cover up it seems to still happen.

You know why? Because clothing does not rape people – rapists rape people.

And putting the emphasis on the way women ‘need’ to dress and ‘should’ dress is putting the blame even more on us:

Well if you dress immodestly, you’re making us have impure thoughts, then we act upon those impure thoughts… and whatever we end up forcing on you, well that is your fault for how you dressed.

Is there a scenario where any of this makes sense? I haven’t found one yet.

The Shame

Back to Sundance…

I was beyond disappointed with my supposed friend’s response to what happened to me. I told him later in the car that just because I have a low cut shirt on does not give anyone the right to touch me or proposition me to have sex in a bathroom.

I don’t give a damn who that man was – he had absolutely no right to do what he did. And I am grateful that nothing beyond what did happen, happened. Because to the movie industry in Hollywood maybe he is a “somebody”… but so am I! Shaming me into silence or letting him do whatever he wants because of who the world thinks he is wrong. Every survivor of sexual assault and rape is a somebody to someone! We all matter! 

We can’t keep shaming people who come forward, and then supporting those who attacked them. Why does society immediately believe the accused rather than the one accusing? Everyone immediately thinks they are lying for attention, instead of being horrified about what they are actually claiming happened.

It makes me sick that society is always more willing to believe the attacker over the survivor. And that we then try to shame them to remain silent. And if they ever do find the courage to come forward and try to report it, no matter how long its been, they are always ridiculed and cut down.

If you’ve never been in the shoes of surviving sexual assault, then you’ll never understand how scary and difficult it is to come forward to tell someone what happened. Look at what we have to fight against just for people to believe us!

When Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward with her allegations against Judge Kavanaugh, everyone ridiculed her for coming out now. Why now? Why did she wait so long to come forward about it? To many in society, it seemed just a smear campaign to ruin his run at becoming a Supreme Court Justice.

But, right now was the time. Because if her coming forward can help stop such a man from gaining more power, and protecting the future generations, then it is indeed the right time.

If we keep filling important and powerful positions in our government at this rate, we will eventually be ruled, governed, and groomed by Brock Turners, and Trumps, and Kavanaughs. So, Blasey-Ford stepping forward now will hopefully prevent that from happening. I stand with her, I believe her, and I want this to be another stepping stone on this #metoo campaign to continue to change the world.

“May our daughters have none of her trauma,

and all of her courage” – Jessica Clarendon

Believe

We all deserve to live in a world where we feel safe, loved, believed, and heard. Yesterday,  Blasey-Ford bravely testified in court about what happened, and she had the support of millions standing behind her holding her up. Her voice carried the silent voices of so many victims before her, who have never had the chance to speak their truths to try and take down their attackers.

Unfortunately her testimony did not stop him from being voted into the supreme court. Even so, I am still hopeful that maybe… just maybe… this will still be a good stepping stone to help us be heard.

As I’ve said before, I am a survivor myself. And I refuse to ever be silenced again about it. Because maybe there’s nothing I can do about my own rape that happened 15 years ago, but my courage to speak out may help someone else find justice for themselves. My voice may bring comfort to someone struggling with their own painful darkness. My words can help calm someone who is feeling triggered through all of this being blasted in the media right now.

To anyone reading this now, just know that you are not alone. Together we rise through this, and together we will break down the walls that oppress us. Because enough is enough. Keep going, keep fighting, and hold each other up. #timesup #believesurvivors #metoo

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It’s Just a Phase

If you know me, you know something that I love is the moon.

It always fascinated me as a child; I remember staring at it out the car window or my bedroom window, watching the phases grow larger and then smaller.

And it’s the phases of the moon that have particularly become most relevant to me in my life, the deeper symbolism behind it all.

The reason I have come to relate so much to the phases of the moon, is because of my history of cutting (and yes… I promise I will make the two connect!)

For those of you suddenly feeling uncomfortable about the topic of self-mutilation, self-harm, cutting etc… I’m not going to say sorry about it, because mental health needs to become less of a taboo topic and more freely spoken about. So for that reason, I invite you to keep reading. The more we know, the more we can understand and help those in our lives who are struggling!

The Beginning Phase

My own thoughts to cut started back when I was in middle school in the suburbs of Philadelphia. My mom had been diagnosed with terminal cancer the year before, and I was still struggling everyday because of it all.

I had no name or even an idea yet of what these internal, emotional issues I was dealing with every day were. How could I? I was only 13 so at the time I still didn’t fully know what depression was supposed to look like or feel like; or that those awful bouts of feeling like the world was ending and I couldn’t breathe and I thought I was having a heart attack were really panic attacks.

Sitting in health class one day in 7th grade we were in the part of our curriculum where we learned about eating disorders, depression, suicide, and self-mutilation (which for the record: suicide and self-harm are two separate things. However, sometimes self-harm can morph itself into suicidal thoughts and tendencies; it’s just good to know they are initially two separate, but both very serious, things.)

There it was, I finally had a name to the dark face I was dealing with.

It was scary and relieving at the same time to finally know that what I was feeling, this urge to cut myself, was called -self-mutilation; and it was something so many people also dealt with! So I wasn’t going crazy like I worried about all the time.

Once I knew what it was, I did some research in the school library (because yes… I’m old and this was before the days of Googling everything…) and I felt more able to handle all of the feelings I was dealing with in a healthier outlet.

Now I don’t recommend this at all, because I think everyone should talk to someone in their family or a friend or a teacher, or whoever if they are feeling the urge to cut themselves, or are very depressed, or having panic attacks and/or anxiety. But just for me, I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone about it. At the time, my sister was dealing with her own emotional demons stemming from my mom’s cancer, and my dad was so stressed and busy and sad with it all too, that I didn’t want to bring that on him. My older brother was currently living in France as he served a Christian mission for the LDS Church, so I couldn’t really talk to him about it either. And of course, I didn’t want my mom to know, because she was the one with cancer. And honestly, for most of the time I didn’t even know what the hell I was feeling or how to even express it, even if I wanted to.

So, brave little 13 year old me decided to deal with things on my own, and I internalized it all. I created ways to calm myself down when I was feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, or the dark thoughts of grabbing any sharp objects in my house and cutting myself. I’m not even sure how I figured it out at such a young age, but I figured out a way of what I can only call meditating, to ground myself when my thoughts began spinning and spiraling to dark places.

Honestly, I can only attribute it to God – hearing my constant pleas for help and peace. He saved me more than I think I’ll ever even know.

The First Cut

Now, fast forward to about 3 years ago.

I was deep in the belly of the beast of my miserable marriage. My husband was a narcissistic, abusive, alcoholic. We had a horrible fight the night before, similar to most nights, and I was feeling worn completely raw from the physical and verbal abuse and trauma.

Standing there in the kitchen, I was food prepping for my new Whole30 diet I had decided to start a few weeks prior, because I felt like the only thing I could control in my life anymore was food. I was cutting some sweet potatoes and I accidentally sliced the top of my middle left finger.

Instantly it hurt and the blood went everywhere on the cutting board. But in a strange way, it made me feel a little better. It sounds so weird and so barbaric, I know, but feeling that sting of the cut and then seeing the blood released from me made me feel better. (Which is actually from the dopamine and endorphins that are released in your brain when you cut yourself. This is your body’s way of trying to trick your mind into not feeling the pain you’re feeling; instead you feel that quick shot of happiness from the endorphins and you feel “good” from the dopamine.)

So… I cut another finger. I only just barely sliced the top of my left index finger, but again I felt that almost euphoric feeling.

Then, I panicked and was like HOLY SH*T WHAT AM I DOING? and I cleaned my hands off and bandaged both fingers. I felt weird, and I felt ashamed for doing that I had just done… but I couldn’t shake the feeling of relief I felt when I did it.

Well, that was the gateway cut for me, to begin a short lived but very dark period in my life. Quite honestly, I think that for sure was my rock bottom. I was beyond depressed, I had been isolated by my partner from my family and my friends, and I had no outlet or way to deal with all the trauma and pain.

I continued to randomly cut my fingers, because it was easy. Eventually, I started using razor blades to cut on my upper right hip, and then moved to my inner left elbow. I’m not sure why I chose where I cut, it was just where I felt inspired to do so in the moments it happened.

And when I say “inspired” it was not an uplifting thing, it was quite the opposite; it was as if my body were taken over by a very dark presence and I was out of my body watching myself do it. It’s so hard to explain.

Finally, one night after I had cut my arm, I broke down completely in tears in the bathroom, and was afraid I would wake the sleeping drunken beast in the room, so I went downstairs. I felt so crushingly alone, as if the entire universe were pressing down on me. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t even think straight.

I texted the one person I knew would answer, and I knew would be there for me in that moment: my twin sister.

I can’t remember exactly what I had texted her, but it was something along the lines of “I’m Ok, but I just wanted to reach out to someone and let you know I cut my arm tonight. I’m just feeling really sad.”

Of course, immediately she called me. It was around midnight from what I can recall. The worry and panic in her voice made me feel ashamed for what I had been doing, because I felt awful I was hurting her by hurting myself. She talked to me for awhile, and listened while I cried, and I promised her I would never do it again; and if I ever felt the urge to do it, I would call her. The most important thing she said, though, was that she loved me and would always be there. That snapped me out of the isolated gas-lighted prison I had been trapped in, and I realized she would always be there for me; and had been this whole time. All I needed to do was reach out. I hadn’t been alone, like I’d been manipulated and controlled to feel… of course my rock, my twin sister, would never leave my side.

Having her keeping me accountable, definitely helped me control my urges to cut. It made me think more logically about what I was feeling, and then of course I never wanted to hurt her again by having to tell her I had cut myself again.

It made me think of this quote I heard once…

If you can’t tell your best friend what you’re                                                                    doing, you probably shouldn’t be doing it!

Now, again fast forward to the present. The last time I cut myself was what I just described, 3 years ago. Granted, the urge to do it still rears its’ ugly head every now and again, but I have the emotional stability and strength to not go there again for relief.

Also, I attribute a lot of my recovery to therapy, self-love, and making an effort to only surround my life with positive and uplifting people and activities. I also finally plan on starting EMDR therapy, which specializes in PTSD  and trauma specifically. I will definitely post about that when I start!

Just a Phase

The reason I love the moon so much, is because of the symbolism behind the phases.

The moon constantly fluctuates from being whole, to diminishing into completely darkness. Yet, no matter what, it always phases back to become whole again, and back to it’s full light potential.

This resonates with me, because that part of my life, that uttermost darkness I was barely surviving in; it was just a phase. It was not my forever.

So I have been able to slowly build myself back up, to come back from the darkness, and become whole again in the light. It’s symbolic of reincarnation, a new beginning. An ever forward moving cycle of life.

Because of this, I have been considering for a long time about getting a tattoo in that spot on my left inner elbow (which I briefly talked about here) which would help me remember where I am now, and not remember that dark phase before. I have a tiny scar there, and wanted to put something there that would inspire me and strengthen me, and remind me that I am in a new phase of my life, a wonderful and amazing phase; instead of remembering how sad and hurt I was when I created that scar.

I finally went, a month ago, and got my tattoo. If you’re in the Salt Lake area, Alex Gregory is fantastic and I recommend her to anyone!

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This is the day I got it! Right when I walked out of the tattoo parlor

If you, or anyone you know, are having thoughts of cutting, suicide, anxiety, depression, and feeling impossibly alone… I urge you to please reach out to someone! Don’t deal with it alone like I did, there are so many resources and so many people who love you and want to help you!

Also, if you are in an abusive and/or dangerous relationship, there are resources for you too. There are places you can go to be safe.

I will list a bunch of hotline numbers you can reach out to you, and I beg of you to please do. Also, I know many of you don’t know me, but I am here as a resource too. I will help you as best as I can, and get you directed to where you can go for the best advice or care possible. My email is: aly.paintedwithgold@gmail.com

Remember, it only needs to be a phase. It doesn’t need to be your forever. The darkness can always change orbit again, and you can become full and whole again in the light.

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National Hotlines:

 

Utah Hotlines:

  • The CrisisLine : 801-587-3000
  • Utah Domestic Violence Coalition : 1-800-897-LINK (5465)

 

 

 

#sorrynotsorry

Why do we live in a world where we constantly feel like we need to say sorry?

“Sorry I’m late”

“Sorry I missed your call”

“Sorry for if what I said offended you”

“Sorry for telling the truth”

“Sorry I made a mistake”

“Sorry I’m not good enough”

“Sorry I can’t afford that”

“Sorry I can’t make it”

I mean, the list can obviously go on and on.

Why do we say sorry so often? Why has this become a core factor in our communication?

The Bad Day

I started thinking about this the other night, Monday night, after I had an epically frustrating and awful day. It was one of those days where everything seems to go wrong, and the universe seems particularly focused on making you suffer. Things had also been building up for a few days that had been wearing on me, and finally it just broke me.

Because of everything seeming to go wrong, and that had built up, I ended up being in the worst mood. I was easily defeated and frustrated, and had the worst attitude about everything. I snapped at people. To say the least, I was not the most pleasant person that day.

After such a day like that, I felt like I had been an emotional tornado ripping through everything and everyone I had crossed paths with, and I felt this intense guilt and need to apologize for being in such a foul mood and having had the worst attitude.

Later that night, I was hanging out with a few girlfriends and one in particular brought up the subject of how we as a society, especially women, feel the need to apologize too often and when its not even necessary.

She said something so simple yet so profound, and I thought about it so much since then:

Don’t apologize for being human, and for what you’ve done. Embrace who you are, accept what has happened in that moment or in that day, learn from it, and move on. Own who you are, own your choices and your mistakes, and let them refine you.

So no… I did not in fact owe anyone from that day an apology. It is only human to have a bad day, to be in a grumpy mood sometimes, and to every once in a while lose my cool.

In essence I did nothing wrong, but why did I feel such strong guilt about needing to apologize for the way I handled it that day? In reality I just had a bad day, and everyone has bad days. Instead of feeling sorry or saying sorry, I needed to adjust my perspective and just learn from the ways I reacted and move on.

Tired of Being Sorry

So the truth is, I’m tired of being sorry.

Why am I allowing society dictate how I should feel? How I should act, or what I should be doing?

I don’t believe I was given this life, just to have to apologize for it constantly. Should a fire apologize for burning? Or the water for being wet? No. So why then, do we feel like we should apologize for being human?

I’ve made a resolution that from now on I will live unapologetically as my authentic self. At least I will try my best!

No one gets to decide when I’m “too much”; no one gets to tell me when I’m “too loud” or that I’m “wrong”, or decide my passions in life.

It is my humanly given right to make mistakes, to have control and ownership of my choices, to be messy and sometimes reckless, to be a bit wild and untamable; and I won’t apologize for it anymore. This is me, take it or leave it.

That being said, though, of course this does not include instances where I do end up making a choice or mistake that does hurt someone else. Then of course I will own that and apologize to them. I’m not a monster, people 🙂

Things We Need to Stop Apologizing For

I’ve compiled a list of things I think we all need to stop apologizing for, especially we as women. I’ve also included some examples to help clarify the points behind them:

01. Your Personal Priorities

They are yours, and you get to decide what is important and what is not. The end.

02. Your Flaws

We are all uniquely made, and given unique purposes and skills. So something we end up lacking or failing at, shouldn’t be something we have to be sorry for. It just means we are one step closer on our life path to discovering our true selves. So flaws should be celebrated because of that, and not something we should be shamed for.

03. Following Your Dreams and Passions

Just like 01, your dreams and passions are not up to anyone else. You get to decide! So never allow the world to make you feel sorry or ashamed of what you want and how you’re going to achieve them. You want to put your blood, sweat, and tears into starting a new business but your friends/family are giving you grief because you’re ‘never around anymore’ or ‘never return their calls or texts’? Tell them you can’t keep people in your life that don’t support what you’re working your booty off to achieve.

Ain’t nobody got time for negativity!

Or, someone tries to tell you the thing you want most in life is stupid or not worth it? Or that you’ll never be able to reach it? That’s not their decision, and not their right to dictate to you how you should spend your time and effort. It’s your life, it’s your passion, and your dream; never be sorry for going after what your heart wants. Even if you fail, at least you tried, you learned, and you will continue on your life path.

04. Saying No

This one is a big one. People always try to convince to me go do something I don’t want to, and then make me feel guilty or bad for not wanting to. Why has this become OK?

If I don’t want to go to a party or an event, no one has the right to make me feel like I’m a ‘bad friend’ for not wanting to go. Doesn’t that seem hypocritical, since they’re technically being the bad friend for trying to shame me into going to something I don’t want to?

Its OK to say no! Never apologize for standing up for yourself, and saying no. Say ‘yes’ to saying ‘no!’ You will feel so much more in control of your life and your happiness when you stop allowing others to choose or tell you what you should do.

05. Telling The Truth

Just like the saying goes, the truth hurts sometimes. But in the end, the truth is more important than sugar-coating things or telling white lies to avoid offending or hurting someone’s feelings.

Now, don’t go around purposely being mean or nasty, but stop lying. Lying never leads to anywhere positive or good. Just tell the raw, honest truth but do it in a nice way. I promise it’s better! But… stop saying sorry when you do it. The truth needs to be said.

06. Loving Someone

And here’s another popular saying, “It’s better to have loved, and lost, than to have never loved at all.”

It sucks, but it’s true, people. We need to allow ourselves to be open to loving others, even when it ends up breaking our hearts, because that is also a continual rite of passage and path of growth as humans that we must travel on.

Yes, we all have at some time or another loved someone we maybe shouldn’t have. Me? yeah, I’ve done it twice. But I won’t apologize for it, even if the world wants me to feel bad or even stupid for doing it. “Well, you should have known better,” the world might say. Or, “Don’t make that mistake again.

But, in all honesty, I don’t regret anyone I’ve loved, even though both of them hurt me tremendously and broke me down to almost nothing. I don’t regret it and I will not apologize for it. The beauty about choosing to love, despite the potential of rejection, pain, heart-break, and sometimes trauma; is that it opens us up to love on new levels that we only can reach through choosing to love someone. It’s the necessary evil our hearts need to experience.

So, even if it ends in a heart break, it is always worth it to love someone, and it’s never something you should apologize for.

07. Standing Up For What You Believe In

This has been one I’ve felt like I need to apologize for my whole life. I am a member of the LDS Church, or better known as, I am a Mormon. I grew up outside of Philadelphia, where the members of my church were far and few between. In high school, my twin sister and I constantly dealt with feeling ashamed or having to apologize for what we believed in because of our religion. “Sorry, we don’t drink.” “Sorry, we don’t have sex.”

Etc, etc, etc….

It’s ironic that as a society we all want to believe in something; yet if that something we choose to believe in is not up to “society standards”, then we feel like we should apologize for it.

Why are we being so straight up #savage to one another guys??

If you believe in something (granted it’s not something hurtful to others, extremist and/or violent, hateful, or anything of that nature,) don’t let the world make you feel sorry for it.

One of the most beautiful things about everyone on the planet is how we all believe in different  things, yet we can (sometimes) find ways to coexist and support one another.

If we all believed in the same thing, conformed to the same ideals and standards and thoughts, this world would be a boring, awful place.

08. Being a Strong, Intelligent, Confident Woman

Historically, we as women have been apologizing since apparently the apple situation with Eve. We’ve needed to apologize for having voices, for wanting power, for wanting to show some more skin, for having emotions, for wanting to vote, for wanting to not need a man in order to have worth.

In more modern day scenarios, we live in a world of business tycoons and a world catered to men, who want us to live in a certain check-listed set of ideals or else we need to apologize for not being that type of ‘woman.’

Just like the whole feminist supportive uprising and #metoo movement that has recently been gaining momentum, we are finally standing up for being assertive, powerful, intelligent women; and we don’t want to apologize for it any longer.

There is nothing wrong with being confident, feeling sexy and beautiful in our own skin, and being a go-getter business woman. Stop apologizing for it.

Ladies, we need to stand up for ourselves, speak our truths, and go do the damn thing! We do what we want, we work hard for what we want, and we won’t say sorry anymore about it.

09. Having Emotions

For some reason, it has become socially normal to make people, especially women, feel ashamed for having emotions.

Personally, in my ex-marriage I was told I could never show my emotions in front of my ex, and that if I needed to cry I could do so in our closet upstairs with the door shut. You’re probably thinking I’m making that up, and I wish I was!

The world, just like my scenario, wants us to hide our emotions as well. If you cry you’re weak and vulnerable,  or if you get upset or angry you’re a crazy bitch.

Emotions are another beautiful part, built into our DNA, that allows us as humans to love, to feel, to enjoy, and to grow. Feeling ashamed of them and apologizing for reacting a certain way or feeling a certain way is literally going against the way we are designed. We have emotions for a reason!

So if you want to laugh at something inappropriate, do it. I do all the time! Cry if you’re sad or hurting, and get upset if you need to about that guy that just broke up with you after a year in a weak, selfish text message (because hellloooo that’s so lame!)

Emotions are beautiful, they are cleansing, and they are necessary. Stop saying sorry for them!

10. For Not Being Perfect

We all seem to be trying to live up to impossible standards, and then feel the need to apologize for not achieving them.

“Sorry I’m wearing too much makeup,” “Sorry I’m not skinny enough,” “Sorry

I’m not smart enough,” “Sorry I’m too feisty,” “Sorry I have too many opinions.”

It’s a vicious and exhausting cycle of empty sorries and never met ideals. This one definitely correlates with 02, and quite honestly anything I’ve listed here, but sometimes it is the hardest one to break the habit of.

If we make a mistake, we feel shame and guilt, and feel like we are no longer good enough. If we can’t reach a certain standard we feel defeated.

We have to stop feeling and saying sorry for not being “perfect”, and instead embrace ourselves the way we are, and celebrate the things we do achieve and the things we do have. Comparison is the true thief of joy, and we can’t keep measuring ourselves up to the social media picture perfect agenda that is constantly shoved down our throats.

Life is not all kittens, rainbows, donuts, and incredible vacations like we see on our feeds; its messy, dirty, painful, and awful sometimes but that is why it is amazing.

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So how do we avoid saying sorry? It seems kind of hard, but that’s because we have habitually been saying sorry for everything. An easy way to try and break yourself

of the habit, is to replace a “sorry” with a “thank-you.”

   –  Instead of saying, “Sorry I’m late,” say, “Thank you for waiting for me.”

   –  Instead of saying, “Sorry I missed your call,” say, “Thank you for understanding that I

      have a busy schedule and needed to call you back when I had time.”

    – Instead of saying, “Sorry I made a mistake,” say, “Thank you for understanding I am

      not perfect, and for helping me learn and grow from my mistakes.”

 

See? I dare you to try it.

I’ve been doing it since Monday and I’ve noticed a HUGE change! It’s very freeing to not feel so constricted within this awful apology society we have been living in.

If we keep saying sorry, even for the things we aren’t even sorry for, we are continuing to enable to societal problem, and digging ourselves deeper into this shame/guilt culture.

Like are you really sorry Carol, that you’re late to lunch? I don’t think so, because

you’re always late! If you were sorry, you would change your behavior and not be late

anymore. How about instead of apologizing every time you’re late, just embrace that

you’re an always-late-kinda-person and just show up when you can and say, “Thanks

for waiting guys!”

Don’t be like Carol, guys. Just own who you are an stop handing out empty apologies.

#SorryNotSorry

Back to my original story about this past Monday, and my awful, terrible, no good mood.

I decided that night as I laid in bed and replayed everything I had done in my head, and all the stupid reactions I had had, that I wouldn’t feel sorry for it.

Instead, I contemplated how I could have better handled the stress, the frustration, and the maddening amounts of flights I had to change and angry emails and texts I was getting blaming me for things that were not my fault… instead I would choose to react differently next time and just let it go and move on. I would learn and grow from it, but not be sorry for how it played out.

 

The only thing I will be sorry for from now on, is not being sorry. I own who I am, and I unapologetically embrace and love the woman I have become. I didn’t walk through the hellfire I’ve experienced just to be sorry for the incredible strength I’ve gained and the places it has led me to. This is me, and I’m not sorry for it.

maybe one day we’ll finally
learn to love ourselves and
stop apologizing for the things
that make us who we are
-r.m. drake

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Suffer In Silence

I’ve always hated crying. I think mostly, it’s because I don’t like feeling emotionally vulnerable. I have always liked to be the strong, tough girl.

It started back when I was 12, when my mom was first diagnosed with terminal cancer. At such a young age I was dealing with an incredible amount of sadness, grief, and fear. Those strong and overwhelming emotions were more than my little heart could handle at times.

So, I started to internalize things, and try to just silently suffer through it.

Mostly, I think I wanted to be strong for those around me who were also struggling; especially my mom. I felt like if I could be strong and not cry or show my fear, that maybe I could help her be stronger through it all too. I also wanted to be a strength for my twin sister, and my dad too.

It’s so interesting to me now, looking back, at how much that habit of internalizing my emotions has affected my life. Because it became somewhat of a toxic habit to silently suffer, and never ask for help or never let people in when I was hurting.

But, it wasn’t until I went to college that I realized how dangerous silent suffering could really be.

The Moment That Changed It All

I have briefly written about what happened to me when I was 18 before, here, but I wanted to bring it up again in this post for a specific reason. It’s difficult to do so, but I have felt very inspired to share my story in the hopes that I can help others who are going through something similar, or who might in the future.

As a freshman at Utah State University, located in the gorgeous mountains of Cache Valley, I was eager for what my future held for me. College is supposed to be fun, new, and exciting; and my 2 years spent in Logan definitely were all of the above.

However, there was one event that literally changed my life forever. Even now as I start to type it out my palms sweat, and I feel anxiety rising in my chest. I will never, ever forget those few moments. This moment literally poisoned my time in Logan with this thick, choking darkness that in the end forced me to move away and never return.

I made many friends in Logan, including athletes on various sports teams for the school. As an athlete in high school, and a lover of sports in general, I loved being around anyone else who shared my passion for sports.

One friend in particular was a hockey player, a very popular and friendly one at that. He had friends throughout the campus, especially since that year the hockey team was playing particularly well and the student body enjoyed going to the USU Men’s Hockey games.

We would talk often, and I trusted him. He was funny, charming, attractive, and an all around nice guy.

Spring break came around that year, and my sister and I and a few of our closest girl friends decided to borrow a mini-van and go on a fun road trip through Las Vegas, and then to Huntington Beach in California.

After spending a few sunny days on the beach it was time to return back to Utah, but our friend (Mr. Hockey Player) offered us a place to stay outside of Las Vegas on our way home at his parent’s house. We went with him to a local house party with his friends, and it was there that he told us he would not be returning to USU because he had been diagnosed with testicular cancer and was starting treatments soon, starting with surgery the next morning.

We were all upset for our friend. We ended up going back to his house early, while he stayed out on his self-claimed “last night of fun” before the cancer treatments. We went to sleep in the living room, but I was woken up around 3 in the morning by him when he came home. He asked if I would come talk to him for awhile because he was nervous and scared about everything, and I of course agreed, because he was my friend.

It was very clear he was intoxicated, because he was stumbling up the stairs to his bedroom. Still, I felt no danger and followed him. I was worried for my friend and wanted to talk to him and help him through whatever he was dealing with. As I walked into the room and turned to say something to him he came at me from the door he had just locked behind him, and pushed me forcefully onto the bed.

He was normally not aggressive in this way, and I was beginning to feel panicked. He was very drunk, and much larger than me, and I was starting to worry about being able to get out of the room. He kept saying things like “This is my last night, I want to enjoy it”. He was also becoming more and more physical, not allowing me off the bed, and when I started to push back against him to get up he eventually held me down by digging his elbow heavily onto my chest, while holding my my hands down above my head with his other hand.

Many times I begged him to let me leave, telling him we could talk in the morning when he wasn’t drunk. When my pleas went unanswered, I started physically trying to fight him back. The more I pushed and started to fight him, the harder he held me down. He tried to kiss me and I bit him as hard as I could. It made him angry, and more aggressive. I started to think he was literally going to suffocate me because I felt like I couldn’t breathe anymore. I tried to scream out but since my chest was being pressed upon so forcefully I couldn’t get more than a whisper out.

And then just like a scene in a horror movie, that you never think will actually happen to you, he quickly ripped down my sweat pants, held down my hands again, and proceeded to rape me. Everything hurt, my entire body was tensed in my fight-or-flight situation, and I prayed to pass out at one point from not being able to breathe so I wouldn’t have to consciously remember what was happening. I was living a real nightmare, pure hell that I would never wish upon anyone.

In one last effort to fight back I was able to slide my right leg up just enough that I could knee him as hard as I could in his stomach. It shocked him just enough that he let up on my hands and I threw a right hook across his face and then kicked both of my feet into his chest and pushed him off of me. Due to how drunk he was he lost his balance and stumbled back across the room.

I had no time, I quickly jumped up from the bed, pulling my sweats up from my ankles as I ran down the hall. I found a bathroom downstairs by where all the other girls were asleep, I locked the door, and shook violently on the floor fearing he would come after me and drag me back upstairs. I also feared he would harm the girls sleeping just on the other side of the wall.

After what felt like an eternity, I hoped he had passed out upstairs when I hadn’t heard anything. That’s when I threw up twice. Afterwards I tried to pee and was horrified with how much blood there was everywhere down there and in the toilet. I laid in a ball on the floor and cried. I was still worried about making any noise, so I tried my best to cry quietly. I wanted to scream and let it out but I couldn’t.

I finally emerged from the bathroom some time later, I’m not sure how much time had passed, but I could see the sunlight starting to come through the windows in the living room. I checked on my sister and the other girls, and they were all safely still sleeping there. No signs of my attacker.

In a delusional haze, I laid back down next to my sister, and I remember snuggling up really close to her. I wished I could wake her up but I didn’t know what to do. I never fell asleep I just laid there up against her, shaking and fearing he would come down any minute.

Eventually everyone woke up, and thankfully we had planned to just get up and leave. Some of the girls went to say goodbye to our host, but I of course did not and immediately climbed into the van to hide.

I know my sister knew something was wrong, but she didn’t ask me on the ride home. I was quiet, and tried to sleep through most of it. At one point when we stopped at a rest area I noticed there was blood on the front of my sweats. I felt nauseous, and it all felt like some awful dream.

The Aftermath

I hoped it would all just disappear. I did tell my sister what had happened when we got home, but I decided since he was not returning to school because of his cancer, that I could just brush it under the rug and forget about it all.

I stayed silent and told no one besides my sister; I was afraid to tell my parents because I didn’t want to hurt them. I was afraid to tell my church leaders because I worried about being blamed for what happened, or getting in trouble with violating the chastity laws I was supposed to abide by. Because of the fear and the shame I stayed silent.

But, as cruel fate would have it, the following fall semester my attacker did return to Logan. I didn’t know he was returning until I literally ran into him on campus. It had been almost 6 months, but seeing him face-to-face brought me immediately back to that horrible night.

I panicked and ran from him, not knowing else what to do. I thought maybe I could just avoid him, but unfortunately for me that would not be easy since we had a lot of the same friends. He texted me and asked why I ran from him, and wanted to hang out. I just ignored him and hoped he would stop.

He didn’t stop though. He persisted on bothering me, sending me texts, calling, and eventually ran me down on campus about a week later. I asked him as bravely as I could to leave me alone, that I wanted nothing to do with him. He asked me why and I didn’t want to answer, but when he kept following me and asking I finally snapped and said something along the lines of, “Do you really need me to tell you why? You should know why.”

With a confused look on his face he said, “Why, because you’re embarrassed we had sex?” It was like a knife was stabbed through me when those words came out of his mouth; so nonchalantly, so casually, as if that night had not been the nightmare I had been replaying in my mind since.

“We didn’t have sex… You raped me.” 

When I said that, something visibly changed in his stance, and he responded with;

“Yeah? Well no one will believe you, because

I’m an athlete and you’re a nobody.”

I walked away, shaken to my very core. I hadn’t been planning on reporting what had happened, but I thought maybe I should. I was worried he would come attack me again, or start spreading the rumor that we had consensual sex. I talked to my sister about it all, and to a few of our roommates. Somehow, a friend of a friend of a friend (who was not my biggest fan) heard my side of the story and decided to tell the hockey player.

That’s when versions of my nightmare story spread across campus, and that’s when I became the center of a witch hunt. Because this guy, this popular athlete who played on the hockey team with the winning season record, had so much support around campus, and according to him I was a “nobody”. So who would care what this nobody says? This girl accusing one of their favorite athletes of something so horrific, so terrible?

To make a long story short, the rest of that year I was bullied almost every day on campus and on my phone by friends of his. I was called a liar, I was called a slut, I was blamed for it happening – people said I wanted it and I asked for it. I even heard a rumor that I actually took advantage of him, because he was drunk and I wasn’t.

To say this was a living hell is an absolute understatement. I feared for my safety anytime I left my house to go to class, which became the only time I ever really left towards the end of the year. I was so belittled and so beaten down that I remained silent and I never came forward and reported the rape. He got away with it, while I eventually decided my only option was to move out of Logan, Utah and start over new somewhere else.

I was bullied and shamed into silence. 

Silent No More

I refuse to ever remain silent again. I was silenced for so long, and now I want to share my story in hopes that someone else out there will find the courage to not be silenced. I hope someone else out there who is reading this will find the strength to report their rape, to turn in their sexual abuser, or to tell someone about the person who is sexually harassing or assaulting them.

Silence actually has noise; it is filled with grief, pain, despair, loneliness, and everything hurtful that can be imagined. It’s filled with voices wanting to be heard, women and men who are being abused and mistreated who want to scream out for justice for what’s happened to them, and stories of people who just want to feel safe again.

When we succumb to the silence we allow the rape culture that has taken over our world to win, to continue to enable this toxic and corrosive way of living.

So I am refusing to ever be silent again.

This is why I became involved with The Rape Recovery Center in Salt Lake City.

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It’s a wonderful sanctuary where anyone can go to receive help if they’ve been assaulted or raped – there is a 24/7 hospital team that accompany anyone.

There’s also a 24/7 crisis hotline with trained volunteers on the line waiting to help anyone who calls in. The number is:

801.467.7273

You can also speak to advocates at the office. Professionally trained advocates offer information and support to survivors as they navigate the impact of sexual violence on their daily lives.

Trauma therapists are also on-site offering help to survivors to address the long-term impact of post-traumatic stress on their health and wellbeing.

Survivors can also join in on a variety of group services, to help one another through the healing journey together.

This coming Friday (June 8th 2018) is the center’s annual Hope & Healing Gala, which I have been helping to organize the silent auction. All the proceeds go towards the services I have mentioned – it all goes towards helping survivors heal from the traumas they have been through.

If you would like more information about The Hope & Healing Gala, or The Rape Recovery Center please feel free to email me! aly.paintedwithgold@gmail.com

I am also here for anyone who needs help navigating their way through their own hellish nightmare like mine. I am here to help anyone I can, in any way that I can!

Breaking the Rape Culture

While my attacker will never be charged with what he did to me, I hope other survivors out there will be able to bring theirs to justice.

Once we as a society start making changes, then maybe the sickening amount of sexual assaults and attacks will diminish.

  • We need to hold the attackers accountable for their actions. No more victim blaming or shaming.
  • The trivialization of sexual assault needs to stop. No more of the excuse that “boys will be boys” that so often gets thrown around.
  • Too long have we become tolerant of sexual harassment. Why is it ok to treat anyone in such an abusive and demeaning way?
  • No more scrutinizing the way a victim dresses, blaming that for why they were raped. “She was asking for it, look at the way she was dressed.” It’s total BS. (I was wearing sweats and a t-shirt the night I was raped, definitely was not ‘asking for it.’)
  • Society in general needs to take rape accusations more seriously. So many times I have heard, “Oh, she probably made a mistake and slept with the guy and is trying to cover it up by lying that he raped her.”
  • Why do we continue to teach women how to not be raped? There are self defense classes offered everywhere. How about instead, we start teaching people TO NOT RAPE OTHER PEOPLE?

My list could go on and on.

Can’t Silence a Survivor

The #metoo movement was an incredible step towards preventing sexual violence, but it was not the reason why so many people have started to step forward. It gave survivors, like me, the strength and courage to finally feel brave enough to say something – because for once we felt like we had enough support on our side to do so.

That’s part of the problem too – so many people criticized the women coming forward with past assault and rape claims when the #metoo movement went viral online. Doesn’t that seem odd to anyone else? Instead of criticizing the people coming forward, maybe take a step back and see how horrifying it is at the sheer amount of people that have been silent for so long until now, afraid to come forward? That should be criticized.

Feeling that I have support from others, and knowing that someone else out there might also find courage to say something too – that’s why I chose to speak out now and break my own silence publicly.

I speak out for me, a survivor, and I speak out for anyone else who has also survived sexual assault and/or sexual violence.

If enough of us speak out, the silence of the survivors will become the loudest voice out there.

So speak out, find your support, report what’s happened to you, and start the healing process to let go of it all.

I continue to make progress towards never silently suffering again, and I invite all of you out there who read my words to do the same. You do not ever have to suffer alone again, in the toxic silence of sexual violence. Share your story, raise your voice, and be heard.

“You’re not a victim for sharing your story. You are a survivor setting the world on fire with your truth. And you never know who needs your light, your warmth, and raging courage.” – Alex Elle

 

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Photography: Troy Kolterman MUA: Julie Artistry 

 

My 5 Truths and No Lies About PTSD

I knew I needed to go to therapy; in fact, I’ve needed it for years. But, especially after all of the things I have experienced in the last few, I definitely needed to finally go.

For some reason, I found it so hard to make the appointment and go. Maybe it was a mixture of the whole social stigma surrounding ‘needing therapy’; but I know for a fact it was also because I just wasn’t ready to go.

These demons and monsters, buried deep inside my emotional subconscious, are scary and blood-thirsty. I knew once I started drudging them up to my surface that it would be difficult to fight through them, to say the least.

But, a few weeks ago I was finally feeling prepared to go face them.

I won’t go too much into my therapy as of yet – but I will say that I am glad I finally got up the courage to go. I think anyone can benefit from going to see a therapist! It’s nice to have someone unbiased listen to you and give you good feedback to help you work through whatever it is you are struggling with.

After my initial appointment, my therapist warned me that working through such dormant emotional traumas came with the potential risk of triggering PTSD.

For those of you who don’t know what that is, PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. You may have heard about it pertaining to anyone who has served in the military or armed forces, has witnessed violence or death, or has been a victim of sexual or physical assault. According to Wikipedia:

In the United States about 3.5% of adults have PTSD in a given year, and 9% of people develop it at some point in their life

Unfortunately for me, I fall into a few of those categories myself, and as I start to unwind the complex strands of the trauma nooses that are bound around me internally, I am also beginning to experience certain side-effects from my own PTSD.

So today as I struggle to make it through work on about 2 hours of sleep (due to a fairly traumatic PTSD triggered episode) I wanted to write about something to help bring more awareness to this topic. It shouldn’t be something NOT talked about, and there needs to be more support for those who are suffering through it. Just like all forms of mental illness, this is one that is best treated with support and understanding. So here are 5 things you need to know about PTSD.

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Photography: Michelle Madsen 

1. Stop the Stigma

Just as I said, there is a stigma surrounding all forms of mental illnesses and disorders. I’m not really sure why the world has always had such a hardened heart towards these things.

Back in the “olden days” of Ancient Greece and Rome and Egypt, things were actually fairly humane when it came to treating these conditions. Mental disorders were thought to be connected directly with the person and the Gods; a true reflection of a fight between good and evil. There were special meditation rooms in their temples, herbal treatments, and ceremonies all specifically to help bring back the “balance.’

As time went on, things became less humane and more barbaric. Up until as recently as the 1950’s, lobotomies were still being performed as ‘treatments’ for mental disorders. People were locked away in asylums, children abandoned, electric shock therapy was done; so many horrific and terrible ways people considered as treatments to help.

Nowadays, treatments have progressively become more effective and especially more humane. However, there still remains this stigma about mental health. People suffering are afraid to talk about it or seek treatment, are made fun of for being “crazy”, and according to society should just be able to “suck it up” and “get over” whatever it is that is  affecting them.

This stigma around mental health needs to stop. Even I struggled with just deciding to go to therapy (which I DESPERATELY have needed!) because in my mind I felt like I could work through all of the trauma on my own. Its not true, and I waited longer than I should have because of social stigmas.

So a word of advice to you, someone who does not struggle with depression, anxiety, PTSD, being bi-polar, schizophrenia, or anything else under the mental illness spectrum: be as open minded and understanding as you can towards those who are. Don’t tell them to “just get over it” or that it’s “all in their head” and that they can easily feel better if they work out or eat better. NONE OF THAT is helpful, or even true. (Yes, working out and eating healthy can possibly help with some symptoms, but if someone is truly suffering they need actual help and actual support.)

2. Not All PTSD is the Same

While over 8 million Americans suffer from PTSD, not every case fits into a cookie cutter mold.

Because every case and cause of PTSD varies, so do the symptoms, and the treatments that help. As you venture through these turbulent waters of recovery, just like I am right now, listen to your body and mind and see what helps you the most. There are many different medications, meditations, therapies, and techniques out there. Do what works for you!

3. Not all Triggers are the Same

Going along with #2, everyone is triggered differently and from different things.

For instance, I get triggered often from nightmares. Last night I had a terrible nightmare that someone was physically attacking and choking me, and I woke up inside my closet shaking and coughing as if someone was strangling me.

I also suffer from a newly formed social anxiety when I am around people I don’t know, or large groups (which, for the record, I never used to have issues with until after my marriage.) Panic attacks also plague my nights as well, keeping me awake or causing nightmares like the one I described.

While we all have different triggers, once we realize what they are we can begin the work to overcome them or help lessen their severity. If I have anxiety in large groups, I should definitely avoid large groups when I’m feeling triggered or feel anxiety coming on.

Set boundaries for yourself so that you can avoid feeling triggered. If you don’t want to go to a social activity, then don’t go! You shouldn’t let anyone make you feel like you need to do something if you know you won’t emotionally be able to handle it. Listen to yourself and what makes you feel safe, secure, and in control.

So for those of you in my life who have given me a hard time about me being ‘anti-social’ lately… this is why. I’m doing my best to get back to being my old self, and I’ll come to things when I can! You have to be patient with me, just like I am with myself.

4. Know How to ‘Ground’ Yourself When You Feel Triggered

I came to know the term of ‘grounding myself’ back when I was married and dealing with emotional and physical stress and abuse on a daily basis. And no, it doesn’t mean I sent myself to my room to think about what I did… it’s a mental technique I learned from my sister to help ease the oncoming triggered anxiety or panic that would crash over me like a tsunami.

She deals with panic attacks and anxiety every day, and she explained that in order to feel more grounded she would go through her 5 Senses to help reign in the spinning thoughts or racing heart, and panic that was beginning to take over. I have started calling it “5 Senses in 54321“, but I’m sure there are other names for it too:

5. Name 5 things that you can see around you (a chair, trees, a succulent…)

4. Name 4 things you can feel/touch around you (the grass, wind blowing on your skin…)

3. Name 3 things you can hear around you (traffic driving, birds singing, music…)

2. Name 2 things you can smell around you (perfume, food, flowers…)

Now when it comes to the last sense (taste) if I am not able to name 1 thing I can taste currently, then I would supplement it by reciting a positive affirmation or mantra to myself. Here is my current mantra of choice:

I am strong, I am resilient, I am a survivor

Doing this technique helps to bring me back to solid ground, to feel balance and in control. Seriously, try it out next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or panicked.

Another grounding technique was one I learned from my energy healer from a few months ago. She showed me how to ‘clear away’ or ‘break off’ any energy surrounding me that I didn’t want to be a part of. Like if there was negative tension in the air from a fight between 2 co-workers, I would simply hold my hands out in front of me, palm forward, and swipe them in unison in circles towards my center and back up into place. Essentially, the right hands moves in a counter-clockwise circle and the left is clock-wise.

Now, this energy grounding technique can feel a little funny, especially if done in public (because honestly when I do it I feel like I am trying to mimic Dr. Strange from Infinity War with all his fancy hand gestures and ‘wizardry’ according to Tony Stark). But, when I focus in on my inner energy and want to feel fully grounded, sometimes it honestly does help to physically break away the negative energies that are poisoning my own.

5. You Have the Right to Detox Your Life; of People, Places, and Things

Life can be filled with all different kinds of toxicity; whether its a frenemy who likes to spread mean rumors about you or others, a place that might trigger bad memories, or an activity that gives you social anxiety.

Whatever it is, you have the right to cut it out from your life.

For me, right now all I want is to feel in control of my life and to feel emotionally secure. There was someone I used to hang out with that just was not a good influence on my energy and on my emotions; they were bringing me down when I just want people who raise me up right now (… and I know y’all started singing Josh Groban’s You Raise Me Up in your head when you read that.. don’t lie!!)

So, I cut them out of my social life. I wasn’t malicious about it, and I still see them and consider them a friend. But, I don’t need to let their toxic energy affect me and bring me down.

Same goes for any place that might trigger bad feelings or memories, and send me spiraling into a PTSD/anxiety episode. I avoid all the places my ex and I used to go together, because for now it still stirs up emotions I can’t handle. It’s not that I necessarily miss him, it just makes me sad and hurts me to remember it all.

I also avoid anything that feels negative or toxic to me right now. Generally I love dark, twisted movies and tv shows but right now I can’t seem to handle them. Like the new season of The Handmaid’s Tale just dropped on Hulu, but I just can’t bring myself to watch them just yet.

And you know what? It’s ok to cut these things out and avoid them. Because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what other people think or say you should do or be doing to be happy; all that matters is how you feel and if you really are happy. Because you wouldn’t keep eating something if it was filled with cyanide and slowly poisoning you, right? So same goes for toxic people, places or things; cut them out!

Listen to yourself and what you need to feel in control, secure, and of course happy.

Live Your Life

The good news in all of this, is that PTSD is a totally manageable thing. You just have to put the work and effort into managing it.

On the days that I am more consciously making the effort to feel good energy and be positive, I notice a huge difference. It’s not easy by any means, but it’s definitely doable.

Beyond medication there are plenty of ways I can help myself overcome and fight through the stormy waters of PTSD, beyond what I’ve already listed:

  • I have my person. The one who I can call day or night, 24/7, show up at their house in absolute tears, and the one who I can depend on to always be there for me. My person is my twin sister, Heather. I have talked about her a lot, and for good reason. She is my rock, my yin to my yang, and my forever voice of reason.
    • Designate your person, so that you always have that comfort and support whenever you need it!
  • Find creative ways to release your angst, your pain, and your voice. For me, it’s my writing. I have found writing to be so incredibly therapeutic, that’s why I started this blog last year! I journal privately, and I also write on my blog.
    • You could write, paint, play music, garden, dance… anything that helps you release everything building up inside!
  • Find a therapist you feel comfortable with who can help you work through everything internally. I promise you won’t regret it!
  • Go outside. Break away from being in your office all day, or from isolating yourself away from it all. Feeling distant from the world may help for awhile, but eventually it can end up being harmful to your emotional well being. So, go outside! Get some fresh air, go for a walk or a hike, or even a bike ride! The sun and fresh air will do you some good!
  • Every day, take some time for “you” time. It’s easier said than done, I know. But I feel a huge difference when I carve out even just 20 minutes a day to do something just for me, that I know will make me happy. I come home from work and like to unwind by reading, meditating, or honestly even just taking a 30 minute nap. Whatever it is, take the time for you! It’s not selfish, it’s taking care of yourself.
  • Remember that any road to recovery takes time, and to not be too hard on yourself. There will be plenty of bad days ahead, but there will also be good days too. Just be patient and don’t give up.
    • Just like breaking a bone and never getting it fixed; you have to go back to the Dr’s office and have them re-break it to set it into the right place. That is how you should see yourself as you are on this road to healing. You are re-breaking through all the old injuries, and re-setting them into the correct place.
    • Its gonna hurt like hell before it feels better. But it will eventually feel better.

Love yourself, take the time to heal, and you will eventually be to the place where you want to be.

Just as the Philadelphia 76’ers are saying these days in the NBA playoffs, #trusttheprocess !

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Photography: Michelle Madsen 

 

Life: Don’t Quote Me On It

Every time I walk out of my gym, there’s a white board by the protein shake bar that they will write motivational quotes on. Most days I kind of just pass by it and don’t read it, because they’re usually pretty cheesy and cliche. Like:

” You Gotta Hustle for That Muscle”

“Don’t Wish for a Good Body; Work For it”

“Sweat + Sacrifice = Success”

But honestly, the last few have been different, and I have thought very deeply about them. So much so that I even wrote them down in a note on my phone to save them!

“If It Doesn’t Challenge You It Won’t Change You”

“The Speed You Move Doesn’t Matter, Only the Direction”

“Positive Thoughts Breeds Positive Results”

As silly as I felt writing these gym quotes down in my phone, they really impacted me. But it’s always the small and simple things that we aren’t expecting that make the difference in us. Just like these quotes, they started small but has snowballed and escalated within me into these thoughts I am writing now.

All of these quotes can of course be applied to my life (and yours) outside of the gym.

If It Doesn’t Challenge You, It Won’t Change You

This particular quote has been on my mind the most since I saw it last week, due to all of the traumatic experiences and trials I have faced in the last 3 + years.

I have been challenged so much, that it’s literally almost killed me; my entire life burned down around me and I somehow survived and have dug myself out from the ashes.

And because I survived what challenged me, I have changed. I will never be that woman again, nor do I ever want to be her again.

Last week I got an email from the online print company Shutterfly  reminding me “Hey! Remember these photos from 5 years ago?” They were bridal/groomal photos my ex and I had taken, that I had used the website to put together into a printed book. And to answer your question: No, Shutterfly automated email, I didn’t remember those photos until you sent them to me. In fact, I never wanted to think about them or see them again! But there they were… showcasing me in a beautiful last wedding dress that I had picked out with my mom and my sister, posing with my ex at the Castle Amphitheater in Provo.

It was like a punch to my gut to see them. Memories flooding my mind of that day and how excited I was to take those photos, and then printing them so we could cherish them forever. I was looking forward to our wedding day coming up in May, looking forward to marrying who I thought was the man of my dreams.

Quickly, I deleted the email, but I felt dizzy and sick. It’s always a trauma trigger to see any photo of my ex for me. After talking to my sister Heather I felt a little more calm, but my feathers were definitely ruffled for the next few days.

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The thing that disturbed me the most, though, was not so much seeing my ex, but seeing that stranger who was with him in those photos. Yep, the stranger I’m referring to is me; or was me.

I am no longer that woman, and like I said earlier, I never want to be her again. She was manipulated and trapped into a sadistic and abusive relationship; she was co-dependent on the unhealthy behaviors and patterns within the marriage; she nearly lost everything including her own life trying to make it work.

I am a changed woman, and I will never… NEVER… let someone control me again like that. I am stronger, wiser, and most cautious than I was before, and it will not happen again.

And for that, those changes that have been forever made within me down into the very marrow of my bones, I am grateful. The challenges I faced changed me, all for the better.

The Speed You Move Doesn’t Matter, Only the Direction

Lately I have been struggling with feeling like I’m stuck in this weird funk. And I do not use the word “stuck” lightly at all; I feel literally trapped in this stage of my life that I can’t seem to figure out.

I wrote about it here a little bit I feel so unfulfilled right now in what I am doing and I wish I could figure out what I really want and what I really want to do with my life!

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Me…. everyday!

I guess that’s the problem everyone deals with, figuring out what to do with our lives! I’m still trying to answer that question, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” Well here I am, a grownup, and some days I just don’t have a damn clue!

 

To try and help guide myself on to the right course, I started making an outline of my life, which includes my goals (small and big), when I want to accomplish them, and then I went through and filled in ways I can make these things really happen. For me, visually seeing them I front of me helps a ton!

To make this outline of sorts, I actually use the incredible online organizational tool called Trello. If you haven’t checked them out, do yourself a favor and go look now!

There’s Always Time

While I sort through figuring out what exactly I want to do and what I need, I have to remember that there’s no time crunch or clock that I’m trying to race; there’s plenty of time!

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Society likes to make us believe that everything these days is fast-paced and fast-tracked, and if we don’t know what we want to do before we enter 3rd grade that we are super far behind. OK, that was an exaggeration, (and if I wanted to be what I aspired to be in 3rd grade, I would be an astronaut veterinarian, which sounds kinda cool I guess!)

Life might seem like it is racing by us, but we really do have time to figure things out at our own pace! We shouldn’t ever let anyone, or anything, pressure us into something we are not ready for or that we don’t want.

Stop to Smell the ___ (Insert Whatever You Wanna Smell Here)

The old saying about stopping to smell the roses will always be good advice, because we will always need to be reminded to slow the hell down and enjoy the present.

Too often I have felt pressure: to figure out what I wanted to do in college (even though I still wonder if I really graduated in what I should have or could have); to get married (the first time), and now to get married again; to be better, smarter, braver; to be more social and to go to more social events.

But by farrrr… my favorite pressure pertains to the trauma I am still recovering from. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard a variation of the pressured advice to “just get over it” and “move on already.”

Gee, thanks… great advice! Easier said than done unfortunately…

In my defense, I am trying to get over it! It’s not as if I am just sitting around doing nothing and hoping it will all go away. I’m doing everything I can, but at my own pace. I go to therapy, I do energy healing, I meditate, I’ve ready numerous articles and blogs and books about healing and recovery, and everyday I continue to work on “me” in my own way!

And the most important thing in recovery and healing is not the speed of it, but the direction of it. If you’re going in a good direction, then you’re doing just fine. Stick to the middle lanes and let everyone and everything else zoom on past you in the fast lane.

I’m not writing this to sound mean or spiteful, I am just trying to put the awareness out there for anyone else in this situation. Don’t rush anyone through their recovery or grieving! Support them and love them, but definitely don’t try to tell them what to do.

If you’re reading this and  you’re working on recovering from something traumatic or heartbreaking, or if you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, by all means TAKE YOUR TIME! Because the bottom line is there is no set timeline to work through any of these things.

My only advice to anyone out there is to just take your time, listen to your body and your heart about what you need to recover and heal, and honestly take the time to stop, not just to smell the flowers, but just enjoy where you’re at and take your time getting to where you want to go!

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Positive Thoughts Breeds Positive Results

Boy oh boy, do I have issues lately with my attitude. I’ll definitely be the first to admit that I have just felt defeated and super down about everything. I’ve retreated into my anti-social cocoon and been very distant and uninterested in my own life sometimes.

I think a lot of it relates to how I just feel so stuck in place right now, and can’t seem to find that light at the end of my tunnel that I’m moving towards, and gives me a purpose. Like why do I work? To just pay bills? To just exist? I want to feel like I have a reason for everything I am doing right now, and as of lately I just feel very blank and empty.

And as easy as it sometimes is to just wallow in my grouchy cloud and just feel sorry for myself, that isn’t helping me one bit. I make an effort to climb out of it everyday; some days I succeed and some days the darkness does. It’s a constant battle.

There is a saying about how Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe, and I think it also means that in general the energy and vibes you put out into the universe will reflect and then attract back to you the same.

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You can’t litter your life with negativity, and then be surprised when your attitude turns into a pile of garbage!

So, if I want to be happy and find my true happiness, I have to put that out into the universe. If I believe I can find what I want and feel happy and fulfilled through that, then it can happen!

Some days it is harder for me to break away from the negative thoughts and the fears that seem to weigh heavily on me, but eventually as I continue to work through therapy and my own self-healing processes I can be rid of them forever. It just takes time and work, and I just need to be patient and loving to myself as I do it.

What Is Broken Can Be Fixed

Going back to my initial post on my blog about Kintsukuroi  brokenness can be considered a blessing sometimes, because sometimes it takes being shattered down to pieces to be able to re-assemble your life the way it needs to be – and should be!

As I do piece myself back together from everything I’ve been through, those cracks everywhere tend to leak and let in the negativity and self-doubt that can end up breaking apart my progress again. I have to be strong, and hold those pieces together with all the good vibes and positivity I can muster up!

I won’t be broken forever, and I know that day when I finally feel whole and completely new is something definitely motivating me forward.

But go ahead and be broken – you are allowed to say you are not OK and that you’re hurting! You dont need to pretend that everything is roses and rainbows! Let yourself be broken, and start the process of putting your pieces back together.

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Just Around the Corner

So as I continue to navigate my way through my life, I’ve decided to focus my perspective and change my attitude towards what’s ahead; and not fixate so much on where I am now.

If I live as if good things are always around the corner, it gives me motivation to keep going!

And honestly, good things really are always up ahead. Life won’t always hold you down under the water trying to drown you, sometimes life will be your best friend and you’ll live holding hand dancing under rainbows and riding unicorns.

Ok, obviously not really. But life won’t always be so bad. So as I give myself a major attitude adjustment, I ask those of you also struggling to try to do the same.

And just like another motivational white board quote said once;

“You Only Live Once? False. You live Everyday! You Only Die Once.”

So friends, let’s live everyday. Be in the moment, enjoy everything (good or bad) and find the joy that’s just around the corner.

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Photography done by Amy Bischoff  amy.b.bischoff@gmail.com
Women are amazing.
Seriously, think about the women in your life, the ones who have shaped you, and made a difference. The ones who took a stand in the face of opposition for what they wanted and believed in. The ones who changed the world, changed society’s ideas of human rights, or even just the ones who changed your own life. The intelligent and brave women who have carved new paths in history, or made great new discoveries and inventions. The women who have literally grown you inside them, endured unbelievable pain, birthed you into this world, and raised you to become the people you are today.
See what I’m saying? Women are amazing. We can endure pain, heart break, and failure with only the grace that a woman can. Did you see this articlecomparing menstrual cramps some women deal with monthly on the same level as the pain of a heart attack? Thats right… we aren’t faking it when we say it hurts! And yet, we survive and we thrive, through all the things life throws at us.
And hasn’t life continuously thrown opposition in the path of women, since literally the beginning of time? Even if there is never proper recognition of overcoming them.
For instance, in the Old Testament of the Bible, so many women go un-noted or even unnamed in their roles. One in particular, is Noah’s wife. Literally, she is referred to as “Noah’s wife”. Now, clearly we all know that she probably played a significant role in Noah building that ark, because let’s all be real here… that man I’m sure needed a woman’s perspective and organizational skills to get that ship built and all those animals in their places. I know Noah did not built that damn ark without a woman’s help! I know he was an incredible blessed man, and was chosen for a reason by God to take on such a task, but I also know he surely had the help of “wife” to do so.
Now in all seriousness and sincerity, though, women have historically proven time and time again through all the adversities put in their paths that they are capable to overcome them. And, women are just as capable as the counterpart sex to do so.
Did you see this articledepicting the recent discovery that a viking tomb previously unearthed in Sweden in the late 1800s, one of a prominent, high-ranking male war officer, is actually female! There were stories and legends of female warriors in ancient Viking armies, but never DNA evidence to prove so until this study was completed.
Again, women are just amazing. And we continue to progress forward towards more equality in the world.

The Top Two of the Totem Pole

In my own life, I have been so surreally lucky to be surrounded by strong, incredible female role models who have helped to mold and shape me into who I am. As today is International Women’s Day, I’ve been reflecting on how much I’ve been influenced daily by these fierce females.
Of course, the two that are the most important to me are my mom and my twin sister, Heather.

My Mom

It goes without saying, my mom was one of the best people I have ever known; and I’m not just saying that because she is my mom. She truly was one of the kindest, wittiest, most stubborn, Christ-like, and loving people ever. Despite being in terrible pain from her cancer every day for 18 years she never complained; NEVER! Until her last day, she always put her family first.
I feel so blessed to have had the years I had with her, and to be able to witness her legacy in my every day life. Somedays I feel humbled, thinking that I didn’t deserve her as a mom. Since her passing, I try to live my life in a way that I hope will make her proud, and I continue to walk in the footsteps she’s left for us to follow. I hope I can be even a 1/1000 of the woman she was!

My Sister

Heather is more to me than my twin sister, she’s my soul mate and my saving grace. We have always said God knew how much we would need one another here, so that’s why He sent us together. We are #wombmatesfor life, and I wouldn’t survive a day without her.
She has been my literal rock most of my life, more than she could ever possibly know. I look up to her in so many ways, watching her continue to progress more and more into such an inspirational person. Not to mention, she is the best mom to 3 of my favorite tiny humans on the planet.
She is the kindest, most thoughtful and loving friend to everyone in her life. I tell her all the time, most of her friends don’t deserve her because she is too good to them and most of them take advantage of her kindness. Despite that, her larger-than-life heart never gives up on anyone, even those who don’t deserve her.
Just like she never gave up on me. Even as my darkest days in my abusive marriage caused me to try to push everyone close to me away, she never gave up on me. Right when I was about to drown her hand was there and she pulled me back to the surface. Heather, you saved my life, and I’ll forever be grateful to have you by my side.

The Pride of Women

Like a Lioness

Beyond my sister and my mom, there are so many other important and influential women in my life.
Heather and I embarked on an incredible journey a few years ago, one we had been waiting literally our entire lives to do, and we met our birth mom and our 3 half-sisters.
We were adopted when we were born, and had wondered and searched for our birth-mom since we turned 21 and were able to open our state records in Utah where we were born. Finally a few years ago, we finally met her and our new sisters. This is all a long and beautiful story on its’ own, one that deserves more than just a paragraph, so one day I will give it what it deserves.
With meeting our birth-mom and our sisters, we formed an incredible bonded circle of love, a protective and honest group of women who love one another fiercely. We started calling ourselves a Pride, just like a group of lionesses.
Did you know the lionesses are the ones who run the show? That’s right, the lady lions rule the plains of Africa. That’s why we women decided to embrace the name of the pride, because we are also all powerful lionesses too. And what better circle to be in than a Pride? Name a better one, I’ll wait.
My own pride is filled with so many incredible, strong, loving, and fierce women. My grandmothers, my aunts, my female cousins; my girl-friends through high school who have remained close and dear to me; my mom’s friends who inspired and supported her through her battles and I love so dearly; my girl-friends I made throughout college who will also be life long friends; and my newly made circle of friends I have create post-divorce made up of divorcees and single moms who are all incredible survivors.
This pride of women is a strength to me everyday, one that influences me and keeps me moving forward.

Make it Bigger

So continuing with the whole pride idea, wouldn’t it be amazing if all of us women in the world could continue to support and lift up one another? We can all be a part of this female Pride circle.
Because there is strength in numbers, and sisterhood should be global. We all face adversity and together we can overcome it all.
Each time a women stands up for herself, she stands for all women
– Maya Angelou
Each of us has coded within our DNA the strength of our ancestors before us, meant to help guide us in today’s world as the women who will make a difference. Alone, we are a warrior, but together as women worldwide, we are an unstoppable army.
She was a tribe
She, by herself
on her own
She had the strength 
of an army
embedded within
her bones
– r.h. Sin

Their Time Is Up

A few weeks ago, I had someone of a debate with a man (who will of course remain unnamed for soon-to-be obvious reasons) about the significance of the #metoo movement, and everything it stands for and is hoping to accomplish.
Part of the problem, as noted with this particular man, is the ignorance about the real issues women are fighting against everyday. He told me #metoo was a “bunch of crap women are using for attention, to get what they want and to not have to face the consequences to decisions they have made or situations they have put themselves into. It’s a phase and it will fade out just like every trend on social media.”
Cue in my absolute inner rage. I was beyond furious, especially for him to be so ignorant to the problem. Quite literally, the ignorance is the problem! Blaming and shaming women, those of us who are the victims, into thinking we are actually the ones causing it all. Silencing us with fear, and pushing us into inferiority by forcing us to think the only way to get to where we want to go is through them and how they want to give it to us.
That, my friends, is the problem.
Society has become incredibly ignorant to the rampant issue at hand that women are facing, including (but definitely not limited to) sexual harassment, rape, abuse, and inferior mistreatment. When the #metoo started on social media, I was truly heart broken to see how many women I knew were also posting it, because most of them I had no idea. Just like I’m sure many of you had no idea. But it just goes to show how far-spread and how out of hand this issue has become.
The sad truth is, probably every woman you know has had to deal with something I listed above to some degree, or they will.
But Just as Oprah said in her recent speech at the Golden Globes referring to those who continue to mistreat women (or turn a blind eye to the problems at hand), “their time is up.”
“And when that new day finally dawns it will be
because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are in this
room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make
sure they become leaders that take us to the time where
nobody has to say ‘me too’ again”
– Oprah

Not Just A Trend

It needs to be more than just a trend on social media, though. It needs to be the movement we want it to be, to make the changes we deserve and need. We have started the ground work to finally push free and move forward, we just need to keep going. We need to do more!
Think of all the amazing women again, the ones in your life who have made the most impact on you, and mean the most to you (and yourself included if you are also a woman!)
Don’t you want the best for these amazing women? Don’t you want them to be treated fairly, to not be abused and harassed? Don’t you want those changes for you too, and for your daughters and their daughters; to have them live in a world where they feel valued and safe?
The answer should be YES.
We can all do something to make these changes a reality. The tides are definitely shifting, and with the whole #metoo campaign it has created a larger awareness of the issues at hand. Now we need to ride that current into this new age, and continue to draw the waters to the newly formed tides.

By Small and Simple Things, are Great Things Brough to Pass

My sister and I are both so honored to volunteer to help plan the upcoming Hope & Healing Charity Gala for the Salt Lake Rape Recovery Center. It is an incredible place, and all of the proceeds from the gala will go towards treatment for the victims who come to the center.
My contributions right now may seem so small towards the greater picture of the changes that need to be made, but great changes are often made through small ones.
If each of us makes an effort to push these changes, things might actually change.
We need to stand together, support one another, and fight to make it happen. We can march peacefully to show our support for changes, push for HR departments to fulfill their legal duties to protect women in the workplace, and from here on out discontinue our too-long tolerance we have had for female inferiority.
We are women, we are strong, and we are powerful. Hear us roar.

Affirmation for Women

I’ve started a new habit every morning with reading daily affirmations to inspire me with positive vibes and ideas. It’s something I recommend all of you do! It has made such a difference in my days over the past few weeks.
To go along with this idea of affirmations, I wanted to finish this post with an incredible affirmation/poem I came across on Instagram this morning, written and shared by @labohemehouseofthewishingtrees
May today be the day you rise up out of fear & adversity & the challenges that life offers us…
May you grow & keep growing…
May you see & know the importance of your existence…
May you step into your personal power & truly claim it…
May you walk tall, chin out, chest up, knowing, without a doubt, that power, strength, intuition, compassion, & passion is your birth right. You can own it now…
Follow your gut, it never lies…
But most of all, my women friends, forgive yourselves. Be kinder to you. Know that you are loved beyond measure…
Where there is great strength, there is such softness too & life cannot harden you…
For in the centre of your heart, are flowers unfurling. Stars pulled from behind the moon. Sunshine pulsating & creeping its way through to the marrow of your bones…
Remember the little girl you once were. The child’s hopes & dreams. We were so much closer to our own evolution then…
Call upon all the women within you, every version of yourself & allow them to love one another. Cradle one another lovingly & purposefully…
You are incredible…
We are the light bringers…
The bearers of life…
The keeper of love…
Save the very best of yourself, for you…
And reach out, to the women in your life, the girl-children you are raising, the mothers who raised you… & fill them with light & gratitude today, offer them hope, lend them your strength & gift them your love…
True wisdom grows, from the ruins…
And sometimes, only when you’ve broken apart completely, can all the worlds light fill you…
My friends, beautiful women, glorious beings…
You are not alone…
You are never alone…
We rise & we fall & we break open together…
Today & every day, I am sending you light & so much love…
Your power, your resilience, your fortitude, your softness, is breathtaking…
AWAKEN.
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Progression, Not Perfection

This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to watch my NFL team, The Philadelphia Eagles, win the ultimate underdog Super Bowl against the Patriots. It was an intense game, played well by both teams, but the Eagles managed to outplay the New England team and come out on top. It was honestly one of the best games I have watched in a long time! I was beyond stressed, especially during the last 4 minutes of the game; so much in fact that I was shaking from the adrenaline! As soon as the win was finalized, my eyes teared up and my heart was so proud of my hometown team.

One of the greatest things about this win, was that the Eagles have never won a Super Bowl before. I’ve waited my whole life to see this happen, and it was sooo worth the wait! Now hopefully we won’t have to wait that long again for the next one 🙂

What’s even more impressive, though, is the underdog factor. Statistically, Philadelphia should have never made it to the championship game. In fact, they were not expected to take the NFC East; but they did.

We lost our star quarterback, Carson Wentz, in the 14th week of the season during a bittersweet win against the Rams, clinching the NFC East and proving sometimes the underdog shouldn’t be underestimated.

When Wentz tore his ACL and LCL in his left knee, it was as if the entire Eagles’ nation across the country felt his pain. Everyone was worried we couldn’t keep going without him and his magical passes.

In came another underdog, our backup QB Nick Foles. As a backup, he hadn’t seen much playing time and the speculations began that the season may end sooner than we’d all hoped.

But, it didn’t.

Clearly, it’s not about who you are and where you’ve been; it’s how much you want to get to where you want to go. In the case of the Eagles, they wanted that win. They left everything they could on the field, playing with everything they had. In fact, they outplayed the titan team, especially with one amazing trick play that even Tom Brady himself couldn’t do in the same quarter.

I have always been so proud to be from Philadelphia, and my heart has been swollen with pride and love for my city and my team ever since Sunday night. I am still in shock that we won!

And honestly, who doesn’t love a great underdog story?

Rocky Knows Best

Another quirky pride thing about Philadelphia is the fact that we love and worship a fictional character from one of the greatest, classic sports movies ever; Rocky Balboa. It honestly makes me laugh sometimes how much we love this person, and act as if he is real! There’s even an iconic statue of him at the base of the famous stairs he runs up in the movie, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Go ahead and be a tourist and run up them next time you’re there, you have to!

Besides being a great movie franchise, there is another reason we love Rocky: he is the epitome of the ultimate underdog who works hard for what he wants, and more often than not he succeeds!

Yesterday scrolling through social media, seeing dozens of posts about the Eagles from friends back in Philly, I saw one in particular that stood out to me. One of my best friends used this quote from Rocky:

“You, me, or nobody isn’t gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

See… this is why we love Rocky!

While of course this advice can be applied to not only boxing, but any sport in general, it clearly can apply to life as well.

Life is definitely going to hit us hard at times. Sometimes it will even sucker punch us when we are least suspecting it, before we can block and counter it. Things happen.

But, its in those moments that are truest character is tested, because when we choose to get up and keep going, thats when we see our real strength we may not have known was there before. Just like Rocky said, you have to keep moving forward!

nolite te bastardes carborundorum

The thing to remember, though, is that you haven’t failed if you have been knocked down. Because like I said, it’s going to happen from time to time. In fact, it’s inevitable! It’s one of the necessary evils, otherwise we would never learn and become better.

But just because you’re down doesn’t mean you can’t get back up. It means life is testing you and your ability to succeed and you NEED to get up. You should WANT to get up, and get back out there and fight even harder against whatever is pushing you to the ground.

And we will get knocked down from time to time, because we are not perfect, and neither is life.

But what we are moving towards shouldn’t be perfection;

Instead we should be striving for progression.

What I mean is, progression forward is more important than doing something “perfect” according to whatever stupid worldly standards you’re being held accountable against. The Eagles will I’m sure admit that their game on Sunday, as well as their entire season, was not perfect in anyway; but they won because they continued to fight and get up when they got knocked down. They proved that no matter how many times you get knocked flat on your back, you can always get back up and move forward. Even Rocky wasn’t perfect either; sometimes he lost!

But all that should matter, is if you are progressing forward and learning from each time you do get knocked down. Maybe next time you’ll see the hit coming, and you’ll block it. Maybe next time you do get pushed down, it won’t take so long for you to get back up.

We can’t let life keep us knocked down, or as the title of the section is called, “nolite te bastardes carborundorum.” If you’ve seen the amazing show on Hulu, The Handmaid’s Tale, you’ll recognize this Latin phrase.

Apparently it is not translated entirely the way it should, but for the purposes of the book and the show they translated it to mean “don’t let the bastards keep you down.”

So, don’t let the bastards of life hit you and keep you down. Be a fighter; get back up and progress forward.

You may be the underdog at times, but as history shows us time and time again, the underdog can win! Keep fighting, and keep getting back up, and as we say in Philadelphia… Fly, Eagles, Fly!

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Photography by: Angela Marie Photography  Hair/MU: Kathy Lynch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Together, We Climb

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for quite sometime, and I have been going back and forth in my mind about it; what I should even say, or if I should even share it.

I must say, I am so humbled when I see that anyone even reads what I write on here. Mostly, I write for myself, for therapeutic release. But, learning that someone out there may get something significant from what I write down, continues to inspire me to share my thoughts and feelings.

So, here I go into another very deep and personal post; and I’m hoping maybe someone out there who is struggling with the same thoughts or feelings can find some sort of peace or strength through my words as I have through others’.

The Pit

Slowly, but consistently, I was pushed further and further down towards the bottom of a dark pit; one where I felt transparent and like I was nothing.

It all started when I was raped my freshman year of college by a friend. I explained all of this in this post  here so I won’t rehash those details; but that’s when my descent into the pit began. I can only speak for myself about how I felt after what happened, but I think anyone who has also gone through that sort of trauma can relate to my struggle with feeling confused, scared, broken apart, and lost.

After months and weeks of agonizing over the guilt and shame I felt, being told it was my fault and I was at blame, my spirit was weakened and I felt like I lost my worth. I felt like a car that had been driven off the lot, and immediately lost a significant amount of value.

In the years since, I have consistently noticed that I was falling into a pattern of trying to feel self-worth or validation through men. Society manipulates us into thinking we as women are nothing without the attention or endorsement of men. This goes back to my recent post about being whole and happy on your own, and not needing to rely on someone else to complete you. But to me, I was trying to fill in those cracks and open wounds that I had sustained with nothing more than water; which eventually evaporates.

Following my destructive cycle of finding myself attracted to abusive men, I was in a major relationship with a controlling narcissist in my early 20’s, and then of course fell into the false arms of my ex-husband. The path that led me there of course was well lit with the best of gas lamps and empty words.

Breaking an Elephant’s Spirit

I watched this horrifying video yesterday, about the abuse elephants endure to be used as tourist attractions for rides in Thailand. They are stolen from their mother’s as small babies, never to see them again. For the majority of the rest of their life they are isolated, abused, beaten, shackled in chains, and starved. All to be ridden by tourists.

The video showed how stressed out, heart broken, and alone they become. There was footage of a young elephant swaying back and forth, almost as if it was dancing. But, really, the baby was showing signs of incredible anxiety and stress from being alone, and especially being mistreated. It also showed an adult elephant reaching it’s trunk back and holding it’s own tail for comfort. That image literally made be burst into tears. These animals are such family oriented and social creatures, and they are literally being beaten and reduced to nothing. The video at one point described it as literally breaking the spirit of these elephants. (So please… do your research before you go to a country where you can ride elephants, or spend time with any wild creatures. 99.99% of the time they are being cruelly mistreated and severely beaten!)

I could relate in a way to those elephants, because my spirit too was completely broken from what I had endured from my own abusive life.

Among many things, I was told I was never good enough constantly, in any aspect: he thought breasts were too small, he often commented on how he hated the way I dressed and did my hair, he criticized my dreams and told me I would never succeed, he tore down my religious beliefs, he talked down to me and called me every horrible word and name under the sun, he called me stupid and spoke to me like I was inferior, and at one point he even told me I deserved and probably even asked to be raped when I was younger.

To say my spirit was broken, was an understatement. There I lay after escaping my marriage at the bottom of the dark, and lonely pit of absolute worthlessness.

Worthless

Among my constant unwanted companions of fear and depression in those first few months after my divorce, I have also consistently received unwanted visits from the darkest of them all, worthlessness; who in fact unpacked their bags as soon as they arrived and seemed to have no plans to leave anytime soon.

Almost every day, they poke me in the back of my mind and remind me, “Hey, remember how worthless you are? K, cool, just checking.”

I was contemplating feeling worthless again last night in fact, when all those familiar painful memories resurfaced like emotional vomit burning in my throat. Then, as I scrolled through social media to try and fall asleep I came across the video that had been posted of Oprah’s acceptance speech at last night’s Golden Globe Awards.

If you haven’t watched it, do yourself a favor and take the time to do so now. You can click here to watch.

Not only is Oprah the first black woman to win the prestigious Cecil B. de Mille award, but she gave one of the most inspirational and powerful speeches, to go along with her incredible achievement.

Last night everyone wore black to support and continue to raise awareness for the #metoo campaign that has been quickly rising with powerful force over the last few months around the world. Oprah reenforced this movement with her own words, all of which struck deeply inside my healing heart.

She spoke of Recy Taylor, a woman who was brutally abducted and raped in 1944, and whose abusers were never prosecuted.

She lived as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up.

Their time is up. And I just hope — I just hope that Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth, like the truth of so many other women who were tormented in those years, and even now tormented, goes marching on.

And she went on to finish with this powerful quote:

In my career, what I’ve always tried my best to do, whether on television or through film, is to say something about how men and women really behave. To say how we experience shame, how we love and how we rage, how we fail, how we retreat, persevere and how we overcome. I’ve interviewed and portrayed people who’ve withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights. So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say “Me too” again.

As I finished the video, and the tears rolled down my face, I was shaken with a strange new sense of strength and an urgency to make a change. Not just in my own life and perspective, but in the lives of others who are also victims, who also may feel worthless and lay at the bottom of their own despairing pits.

Together, We Climb

I know that in reality I am not worthless. But, feeling so victimized and beaten down for so long, it is difficult to shake such an unwanted emotional companion. But I am not worthless.

I am worth everything. I am the strong and resilient woman that my parents raised. I am worth fighting for; pushing against the dark tides that abuse and harassment of every kind carry in to drown us. And I am worthy to feel my worth; I will no longer let anything keep me down again. Because I am worth everything.

I have been progressing forward towards a new hope, and this new day as Oprah said. Or, should I say, I am progressing upward. I will rise from the ashes of the rock bottom of this pit and I will never return to it.

And this climb is one that many of us are making, many of which you probably have no idea. When the #metoo campaign first started across social media, I was completely heartbroken to see just how many people close to me posted about it, and I had no idea they were also victims of some sort of harassment, rape, or abuse.

Whatever it is that has led you to this overwhelming feeling of not being good enough, worthless, or carrying the heavy burden of shame or guilt for something that was not your fault; know that you are not alone anymore and that the climb is easier with another set of hands and feet helping you find your own footholds up and out. You are never, ever, alone.

I am excited and humbled to be able to help with a cause so near and dear to me in the next few months; my sister and I are helping with the upcoming Hope and Healing Gala for Salt Lake’s Rape Recovery Center. I want to help others, others who I have been where they are and have felt what they are feeling. If nothing else comes out of my own pain and suffering besides me being able to empathize and help someone else climb out of their own pit, then I am grateful to have endured it.

Again, in the words of Oprah, the time to live in the dark shroud of a world powered by manipulation, abuse, and harassment is up. And my old frenemy worthlessness? You are no longer welcome around these parts.

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