What’s My Name?

Have you ever really sat and thought about why names are so important?

Historically, last names would tell us what someone did for a living, or even what part of their country they were from.

Royal lineage was honored with the names handed down to them through generations of monarchs and leaders.

Nowadays, names become our image, our calling card, our business. If people know your name, you’re more successful or sometimes you are infamous and less liked. Either way though, those people out there still know your name.

Famous athletes hear their names cheered by thousands of fans in stadiums, or see their names worn on the back of jerseys everywhere.

So, what really is in a name?

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My Name

My twin sister Heather was named after the Heather flower in Scotland, where my dad served his Latter Day Saint Christian mission back in the 70’s. I always used to joke that they had her name picked out, and then just opened a baby name book and looked on the first page and said, “Oh, Alyson is perfect!”

But, it’s just a silly joke. Alyson was my mom’s choice, it was one of her favorite names. Although, for the record, I prefer Aly over Alyson. I feel like I only get called my full name when I’m in trouble.

My middle name is Leigh (pronounced Lee), and Heather’s is Lynn. Our parents wanted us to have twin middle names. I love that my first name and my middle name have unique spellings, especially my middle name. It originates from the Old English surname, which means ‘delicate’ and ‘meadow’. It makes me laugh because I am anything but delicate, but I do love myself a good meadow.

Maughan is my maiden name; my original family name. The name that shaped me through my childhood, and through some of the most important years of my life. I’ve loved being a Maughan, and everything that is connected to the name in my memories and in my heart.

Name Change

When I was dating my ex-husband, I remember telling him all I wanted for Christmas that year was his last name. I was so excited to marry him and to change my last name to his! I do remember feeling a little sad when I changed it legally, letting go of the name that had been a part of me my whole life at that point.

Fast-forward 4 years later, when I was finalizing my divorce. In my decree, it states I can legally go back to my maiden name. However, here I am 2 1/2 years later and I still haven’t changed it.

It might sound strange to most of you, but I hesitated on changing back to my maiden name, because I don’t feel like that person anymore. That name was who I was in the beginning phases of my life, but I felt to an extent that I had outgrown her and couldn’t just go back to being her. Of course I love and cherish the name and everything she went through to get to where I am today, don’t get me wrong; But I don’t feel connected to her anymore.

I also can’t stay connected to the name I changed to when I was married. But I felt stuck and wasn’t sure what to do; or if I could do anything but go back to my maiden name? Was it weird to change it to something completely different and seemingly random

I tabled the thoughts of name changes for awhile, until I received a very unexpected push in the right direction. I finally felt ready to read a book I’d been wanting to read for years; Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I knew it would be a beautiful book, but I waited so long because of her dealing with her own mother’s death would be hard for me to get through because of my own.

If you haven’t read it, please do yourself a favor and do. Her writing is so raw, so genuine, and so painfully honest that it moves and changes you. There were words I felt were written specifically for me, and resonated so deeply in my heart.

One particular part was where she explains how she chose to change her name after her own divorce to a new name, one that she felt connected to; Strayed.

This renewed my own choice to change mine to a different name.

Finding a Name

So, here started my journey a few months ago to try to find a name I felt connected to; a name I would change to. That’s right, I was going to change my last name to something else, something I chose.

Losing control over my entire life while I was married really put me in a tail-spin for years. I’m still trying to pull up out of it completely, but I’ve certainly come a long way. That’s why I want to choose my name. I want to feel in control of who I am, and choose a name that is totally me. And not the “me” from before, the “me” I am today.

I started a running list of words and names that connected with me, that I wanted to consider for my name. Some only resided on the list for short time. Others lasted weeks, others months.

Slowly, but surely, I began to go through each one and cross them out when I knew they weren’t right. I did research on each one; the historical meaning, any bad innuendos associated with them, and even used Google searches to see who else might have that name.

The names that made it to the final round of cuts went through a “Marie Kondo” session, and I thought profoundly about each one with my first name and decided if they brought me joy or not.

Finally, I came to a decision; a name was found.

Wednesday

Yep, Wednesday isn’t just a day of the week anymore. It’s the name I chose.

Sounds random, I know! Keep reading for my explanation:

Tuesday

Our birth mom told us the story about how when she discovered she was pregnant, our birth dad originally said they should name the baby Tuesday. This was of course before they knew we were twins, and before the decision was made to put us up for adoption.

If Tuesday had been the name choice, Heather would have been Tuesday since she was the first born by two minutes. I came out in quite the chaos apparently, feet first and devastating any opportunity they would have had to c-section me (which was the plan.) Apparently I’ve always made my own path even when I was entering this world, and I did so feet first.

Being second born, I like to imagine I would have therefore been Wednesday. Also, funny enough, we were born on an actual Wednesday.

It’s Not What You Think…

No, I did not choose this name because of Wednesday Addams. Although, for the record, I do adore her and her dark humor. The creator of the Addams characters chose the name because of the nursery rhyme that stated, “Wednesday’s child is full of woe.” I am not filled with woe, however.

In some cultures, including the Akan people of Ghana, they are literally named after the day of the week they were born on. Have more than one child born on the same day of the week? No problem, they also have a second name (like a middle name) to indicate which order they were born in.

But, I’m not changing my first name, just my last name.

What’s My Name

I want to point out that I am not changing my name to insult, hurt, or confuse anyone. This choice is literally just about me, just for me. Like the way I was born into this world, I am going to do what I want, how I want, and when I want.

That is the beauty of this life, our power to choose and our power to have control over our lives. I lost my control once, and I refuse to ever live that way again.

As I said earlier, I loved my maiden name. Being a Maughan will never leave me, it will always be a part of me. I just needed to choose a new name to represent who I am now. I like to think my new name contains my maiden name in spirit, as well as all the names ancestrally before it too. Every name has a purpose, and has a power within it, and I hope to feel all of that as I go forward with a newly named ambitions.

Wednesday Whys

Wednesday in the Bible is the day that the sun and moon were created; if you know me you know how much I love both the sun and the moon, but especially the moon!

In the Hindu calendar, the word for Wednesday is Budhavara . The root of that word is Budha which connotes the planet Mercury, as well as the Hindu deity who is also known as “the son of the moon.” (Not to be confused with Buddha of Buddhism, just to clarify.)

Wednesday is typically seen as the middle of a work week, and I am currently feeling as if I am finally in the middle of my own life’s work. Wednesday suited the work I plan on doing, and what’s coming in the future ahead.

Mercury was the Roman God of several things including travelers, boundaries, luck, communication, and financial gain, is the namesake for the day of the week from the original calendars. (Mercredi is Wednesday in French, Mercoledì in Italian, and Latin is dies Mercurii which translates to “day of Mercury.”) The things Mercury stood for and helped the people accomplish seem right up my alley.

If you’ve ever dabbled into astrology, there are some interesting things surrounding being born on the day of Wednesday: children of Wednesday are restless and questioning, always searching for answers and can’t sit still. They have a message they want to share with the world. Also, their lucky number is 5; my number all through middle school and high school sports was 5, and it’s still my lucky number to this day. Even if you don’t believe in astrology (…which I take it with a grain of salt but do find it very interesting…) it is a crazy coincidence!

While all the meaning behind the word is fascinating to me, what I went most off of was how it made me feel. Did I feel connected to it? Did I feel like this name could become a part of me, help me do the things I want to accomplish, and could I make something admirable of the name?

The more I thought about it, the more it felt right. I had finally after months of debate, found what I had been seeking.

So here I am world: Alyson Wednesday. Or, Aly Wednesday as I prefer.

Hate it or love it, its up to you. You get to choose how you want to react, but your reaction does not change my choice and my love for my new name. Like I said, this was a choice I made just about me, just for me.

I feel like I am finally getting back to my former self. The one who was in control of her life, and on the right path to where I need and want to get. I don’t have the same name as before, but I’m also not that girl anymore.

I’m honestly not sure if I’ll ever change it again; some people have asked me that. When the time comes and I do marry someone else, I’ll decide then what is right for me. I’m not a psychic so I can’t see into the future how I will feel.

Today of all days I chose to write about this, because 6 years ago this was the day my original name was changed (yep… the old wedding anniversary.) I used to feel sadness, or woe I suppose, when this day came around the past 2 years post divorce. But now, I feel inspired by how far I’ve come and how strong and brave I have been to break away from the things that were holding me back, and allow myself to be myself again. I was broken apart and lost myself under the guise of that name I took on, and I will never, ever be in that place again. With the new name I feel a new beginning. I have so much life ahead of me, I’ll never feel sadness again on this day. Only hope, and a future ahead of me.

I am a newly born woman; once again venturing out on the path of my choice, feet first. It may not be a literal Wednesday, but everyday is a Wednesday from now on for me.

My life, my choices,  my name, and my own beautiful journey. This is what life is meant to be!

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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)

 

 

 

The letter

2 weeks ago, I sent a letter in the mail. That’s right, good old snail mail.

I hadn’t sent an actual letter in quite a long time, but for this particular situation I felt it was the best way to send the words I needed to express.

This was an important letter. Maybe one of the most important letters I’ve ever sent, or will ever.

This was a letter of true and genuine forgiveness… to my ex.

Between Both Worlds

I started to write this letter last year actually. I had this really cool epiphany about it while I was in Sintra, Portugal , last October.

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Looking down from the top of the Initiation Well 

At the bottom of the Initiation Well at Quinta Da Regaleira , I was on top of the tiled symbol of a compass overlapping a Knights of the Templar cross, which was thought to have been Monteiro’s herald and a sign of his Rosicrucianism.

The cross has many different symbolic meanings behind it historically; I see it symbolizing finding one’s truth.

There were 9 platforms we descended on the stairwell, which these represent the 9 circles of hell in Dante’s Inferno. Unlike in the story, I don’t believe we were to “abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

The 9 platforms also represent the 9 Spheres of Heaven, from Dante’s Paradiso.

So standing there, between the 9 Spheres of Heaven and the 9 Circles of Hell, you are meant to reflect on your life and your purpose. It is a place you are equally between both ends of the spectrum, and you contemplate the disconnection between earth and the heavens as you peer up to the sky from the darkness below; and also feel the haunting closeness of hell as you are so consumed in the darkness.

As I stared up towards the light, my eyes following the curving stairs upwards towards the open sky above, I wondered what truth I was still searching for. I was drawn to the light above me, but I also felt a heaviness lurking within me that connected me to the dark tunnels of the labyrinth that surrounded where I was.

There were lots of tourists in there with us that day in the well, but for that brief moment I felt like I was completely alone, and was hit with the overwhelming epiphany that if I was to ever feel fully connected back to the light at the top of my own life’s tower, I would need to let go of what was weighing me down to the depths of it.

And that weight, was forgiveness.

I needed to let go of the bitterness and the resentment of what had happened in my past, to truly let myself heal from the pain completely.

While taking the train the next day from Sintra to Lagos, I pulled out my phone and started working on what I wanted to express in this letter.

I’ll be honest, the first few drafts I typed up on my phone were not very positive. In fact, I still only really wanted to convey some pretty bitter sentiments.

So, I deleted what I had and didn’t think about it again, until about a month ago when I was in Rwanda. With all the changes I am working towards making in my life, this idea of forgiveness resurfaced.

To me, it doesn’t seem possible to be able to fully move forward with any aspect of my life until I do officially forgive my ex husband… even though the idea of it sounds impossible.

How can I possibly forgive him for everything that happened?

Writing It Out

When I returned from Rwanda, I got to my apartment at about 2:30 am MST. We had traveled for almost 40 hours and I was beyond exhausted, not to mention a little delirious. But the problem was, I had to be to work in about 5 hours and I was worried if I went to sleep that I would never wake up for work.

So, crazy me, decided to just stay up.

I did all my laundry from the trip, tidied up my room, binged some Netflix, and finally took a luxurious shower.

By that point it was almost 6, and I was struggling to stay awake. Needing something to do to keep myself occupied and alert, I drafted my forgiveness letter. It was probably the best time I could have written it, because I was in such a delirious state of mind that I had no inhibitions and I wrote freely from the heart.

I was surprised with that I said, and how naturally it felt to write out such forgiving words to someone who had completely broken me.

But also surprising… was how much relief and weight I felt lifted from me just from writing them.

What To Do With It Now

Initially, I never intended to send the letter. I wrote it out for me, to release the toxic emotions from inside me and let them go.

But, as the days went by and I continued to look over the letter… I felt a strong urge to actually mail it.

I wondered if maybe he needed to know that I forgave him; maybe to help him on his own journey of recovery from his past and from his addictions.

I’m sure maybe some of you will argue that he didn’t deserve forgiveness, and that it was stupid for me to give it to him. But I think (depending on the situation obviously…) everyone deserves a chance to be forgiven. Who am I to choose who does and doesn’t forgiveness?

Back when I first left him, and was living in my dad’s basement, the nights were long and painful. I literally felt as if my chest was going to explode open and the shards of my broken heart would tear through the walls of the house.

In my moments of what I can only express as absolute Godly sorrow, the only thing I could do to find relief was to crawl to my knees and pray for peace and strength. But in those moments of some of the worst emotional pain, I surprised myself by not praying for myself, but praying for him…

…my soon-to-be-ex.

I knew ultimately  I would survive the pain. I had family and friends who loved me and supported me locally and all over the country. I had survived and escaped the depths of my own personal hell, and I knew I would recover and resurface from those dark moments. But for him, I wasn’t sure what would happen, or what he might do in his very fragile emotional existence at that point in time.

I knew it wasn’t my responsibility to take care of him or enable his addictions any longer, but I still loved him and I hoped he would survive me leaving. So I did the only thing I could do in that moment, and I prayed for him – I sincerely, and whole heartedly begged God to help him, and to give me the peace of mind to not worry about him anymore because I literally and physically couldn’t handle it anymore- and it was mercifully lifted from me.

Sending It

The urge to mail this letter lingered within my thoughts, but in a good way not a bad one. I knew I needed to send it, maybe more so for him than for me. But whatever the reason was, I couldn’t ignore it anymore.

So… I mailed it. Without a return address.

I’ll never really know if he received it, or if he even read it. But all I know is I feel the peace in my heart now where bitterness used to reside. I decided to forgive, because holding onto it all would never allow me to move forward. There is so much hate and negativity in the world right now, I didn’t want to harbor any of that inside my own heart for anyone.

I think my ex needed the letter too. Even if he never reads the letter, at least my good intentions are out there in the universe, and maybe will help guide him on a better path.

All in all, I never hated him – I hated his disease, his addictions. I hated the choices he made, but I never hated him.

Truly, I hope he can find his way to sobriety and recovery. Just like everyone else, he deserves to live a happy life. And I honestly, genuinely hope he can find that happiness.

I may have forgiven him of everything, but I will never forget it. The fact is those things have changed and shaped me and my life into what it is now, and that’s something I will never be able to ignore. I am forever altered and changed because of it all.

I can’t say I’m grateful for what I’ve been through, as some people tend to say after a big trial; but I am grateful to have realized my true strengths and seen my ability to survive whatever is going to get thrown at me.

And the most beautiful thing out of this is, I can no longer claim that my heart is dead inside like I used to joke about all the time… because I finally allowed it to be revived to open itself to forgive the person who had deadened it in the first place. If there’s a silver lining in all of this, this is it.

I won’t share the letter completely, because most of it is too personal. But, I will share this section that struck me after it came out of my heart and onto the paper:

“Despite all of it, a part of me will always love you, because the heart can’t just erase what was real, true love; even if it was not meant to last forever. And it is because of that, I have been able to come to the place where I am now, to tell you something that I think both of us need:

I forgive you.

I hope someday you can forgive me too, for the ways I’ve hurt you and wronged you as well. I hope one day you can understand why I had to leave, and I hope you will always remember that I loved you.

Go be happy, because that’s all I ever wanted for you; even if it wasn’t with me. Most importantly, love yourself and forgive yourself – of everything in your past and finally let it go. Because you do deserve to be happy.”

Forgiveness is a powerful, incredible thing.

What is most important about it, is that choosing to forgive someone –  even someone who has hurt you and broken you – allows us to break free from the darkness that can weigh us down, and prevents their choices and behaviors from destroying our hearts.

If you take anything away from my ramblings, choose to work towards forgiving someone that’s hurt you, and let it go. Even choose to forgive yourself. I’m working on that part myself, everyday.

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PC: Alejandro Araos 

A Cold & Broken Hallelujah

 

Do you ever have those days where there’s a song stuck in your head? And I literally mean days… the same song has been playing in my mind over and over since last Friday.

It’s a song I’m sure you’ve all heard, or at least a version of it anyway (because it’s been covered many times.)

This version in particular I have loved since 2004, the end of my freshman year of college at USU, when the first season of the iconic teenage drama show The OC ended its’ first season. The song , “Hallelujah” plays in the background in the season finale in a really dramatic and emotional ending (… seriously watch it if you haven’t…) recorded by Rufus Wainwright. Or it’s in the movie Shrek, which I’m positive all of you have seen.

It randomly came up on one of my playlists on Friday night, and it’s been stuck in my mind ever since. Especially one line in particular has haunted me ever since:

It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

A Mother of a Weekend

I knew Mother’s Day was coming, because for the past 3 years I’ve been counting down the days until it arrived again with growing dread and mounting emotions.

It never gets easier to celebrate a day for mother’s without mine. Memories rise to the surface, good and bad, and drown me again in the familiar deep pool of sorrow.

It’s not that I don’t want to remember her or celebrate her; I love thinking of all the fun memories and how much time we had with her despite her cancer.

The hard part is when so many others get to go see their moms, or call them or FaceTime with them; I’m driving to the cemetery with flowers and a Diet Coke. I wish I could get just one last hug, or one last phone call. Boy would she just get a kick out of all the dating stories and mishaps I’ve had lately! And the advice she could give me, or support through these strange dark days of re-building my life after my divorce… I miss it all and wish I could have that with her.

But, she’s gone. And so after visit her grave, and spending some time with my sister and her kiddos, I went home to be once again alone with my emotions and thoughts.

And right on cue that familiar song of ‘Hallelujah’ played in my head again. Especially that one line.

And isn’t it funny how sometimes when something is happening in our life, a song will pop up that perfectly correlates with what we are thinking or feeling?

Praise

The word Hallelujah is a translated from a Hebrew word, which can be an exclamation meaning, “God be praised!”

But in our moments of deepest heart break, pain, and sorrow, is it often our first instinct to still praise God?

Honestly, sometimes its not. It’s those times that we tend to push the heavens away, feeling disconnected and alone, and wanting to blame whatever and whomever we can, especially our heavenly parent.

In our painful times we question everything; the who’s, the why’s, the how’s, and the what’s. It’s part of our nature to do so, and as I have been working through my own grief of losing my mom I have seen a different perspective of this side of it all.

Why, in the moments that we need God the most, do we tend to push Him away and lose our faith? Maybe because it’s easier in the moment, and helps put some sort of bandaid over the giant, gaping, bleeding wounds in our hearts.

The thing I’ve realized so far in my life, is that it’s always easier to trust the process during the sunny great times… but when it comes to trusting in the dark times, that’s when true faith is tested.

Cold & Broken

The night that we lost mom, after we had all driven home from the hospital and I was laying in my bed, feeling completely numb and outside of my own life, I remember fighting the inner thoughts of being angry about it.

Her trial that was placed in her life to have cancer, was a long and painful for her. She was such a warrior, fighting through excruciating pain and constant sickness, not to mention hours upon days spent in hospitals at doctors appointments and undergoing treatments.

It was hard for us too. And many times I felt angry that someone so wonderful, and someone that I loved beyond words, had to go through such agony.

That night, as the realness continued to sink it’s sharp blades deep into my splitting heart, I fought the urge to be angry with God, and instead went in the other direction. Feeling to tired to actually get out of my bed and kneel like I normally do when I pray, I closed my eyes and in my head I prayed:

“I’m sad, and my everything hurts, and I’m too tired to even make sense. Thank you for the time we had with her.”

And that was all that needed to be said. It was my own cold and broken hallelujah. I was incredibly sorrowful, and parts of me were angry and questioning about it all, yet I still reached out what I had left to God and gave him the smallest ounce of praise that I could muster. And it was just enough to bring me some much needed inner peace, that in in that moment seemed impossible to feel.

Faith in the Darkness

The beauty of it all, that I’ve come to discover over these 3 years since losing her, is that if we offer whatever we have to God (even if it feels like nothing) He will fill in the void with His grace. Circling back to my favorite metaphor of Kintsukiroi here, God’s grace will fill in the gaps that we can’t ourselves, to make us whole.

And it’s nice to know during those times we struggle in the darkness, that we are never alone.

I was reading some of my favorite quotes on Sunday from C.S. Lewis, and these few in particular struck harmonizing chords with what I was sorting through internally:

“Always pray to have eyes that see the best in people, a heart that forgives the worst, a mind that forgets the bad, and a soul that never loses faith in God.” – C.S. Lewis

“Hard times, bad times, or tough times, I still have faith in God.” – C.S. Lewis

Honestly, I’ve never lost my faith. Sometimes it has definitely been tested to the extremes, but it’s never been lost.

I do have faith in the plan and the process for me. But as a human, an especially inquisitive one in particular, I have the tendency to sometimes question the why’s and the when’s on my path.

And it can start to escalate quickly: through missing my mom, onto being divorced and alone in my thirties, and even the heartache of not being a mom yet (and possibly never being one due to my infertility issues we discovered during my marriage.) You know, the whole “why me” pathetic thing that we all do.

But if you wallow in the negativity, you’ll eventually be drug out to deeper waters by the emotional undercurrents, and you’ll never be able to swim back to shore without drowning.

The funny thing is about these dark trials we go through, is how deceiving they can be. The darkness wants us to stay there, struggling for as long as possible, and to us we may think it is impossible to come out of it because we can’t see the light at the end of it in the distance. When really, if we just reach out we are already to the other side of it and we just haven’t realized it yet.

For example, when I was 7 my family went on a family vacation to The Outer Banks. We were there right before Hurricane Andrew decimated much of the Florida coastline, as well as further north towards the Carolinas, so the waves were larger than usual and the currents were stronger.

I remember playing in the waves with my sister, and I got knocked over and pulled under a wave. The current was strong and I struggled, and I remember panicking thinking I was going to drown. Then I reached my feet down and felt the sand there, and stood up…. in a few inches of water. I was already out of it, and safe.

Although I may never fully be out of the dark trial of losing my mom, I have faith and hope that I will be able to get through any others along the way.

One Last Hallelujah

As I have been playing this song on repeat the past few days, I looked up the original lyrics to it, which was written by Leonard Cohen. There were some secret verses he would sometimes perform at live shows that were not a part of the original score. This was one of them:

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Sometimes that little Hallelujah, all that I can give in that moment, no matter how broken or lonely or cold it is, is all I can give of my faith.  And it’s enough. And these hardships and trials I will keep facing are just shaping me and molding me into the person I am meant to become. At the end of it all, I will be a better person for what I’ve gone through; the good and the bad!

And on days where I miss my mom (which is everyday) I’ll just keep holding onto everything I learned from her while she was here, and give thanks for the time that we did have. And I’ll let all of these trails and experiences help me become a woman, maybe even a mother one day, just like her.

“God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way.” – C.S. Lewis

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Photography: Amy Bischoff 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Habits of a Boss Babe

You might not think that 106 degree weather in the Arizona desert sounds like much of a vacation, right?

Well, for me this past weekend in Scottsdale was just that!

Planning months in advance, our annual girls trip finally happened this weekend and I was so excited to see some of my best and closest girl friends. Some I haven’t been able to see in years!

And the time in the desert was just what my heart needed; 106 degrees and all!

Now, this isn’t any ordinary kind of girls trip. These woman, these 7 incredibly strong, brave, hysterically funny woman; they might never know how much I adore and look up to each of them. They are amazing each in their own way, and have all influenced my life for the better. These girls are essential members of my powerful Pride of Women that I explained in this post.

There’s a saying I heard back in the day that the people you meet in college will be your friends for the rest of your life, and with these women it could not be more accurate. I love these warrior women so much and I was so excited to spend an entire weekend with them!

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The real OG’s standing in the lobby of The Scott Resort before we all said goodbye

We were lucky enough to have found an incredible deal on newly renovated The Scott Resort (formally known as FireSky) in Old Town Scottsdale, Arizona. Since we were there for their re-opening weekend celebrations, they definitely rolled out the red carpets!

This resort was SO adorable! All of the decors was cute and thoughtful, and had the coolest vibe to it. It was definitely right up my aesthetic alley!

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There were amazing light fixtures everywhere
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One of the fancy pool cabanas

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Such thoughtful decors details all over

If you ever find yourself in Scottsdale, I highly recommend this place. The service was excellent (not to mention they offer a free shuttle service to and from the resort within a 3 mile radius which saved us TONS on money that we would have had to spend on Ubers!) Plus, the location was perfect for everything Scottsdale had to offer.

We spent our time laying out in the sandy beach at their pool, shopping at Fashion Square Mall right down the street, eating at so many delicious close by restaurants like Postino, and just spending some good quality girl time together.

On our last night, we were all hanging out in one of the many cute cabanas they had on the grounds. We were girl talking and taking turns answering questions to “get to know each other’. Even though we obviously already know one another, it’s a fun way to learn more about one another and get even closer. I laughed so much that my abs were literally sore the next morning!

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All but 2 of us hanging in one of the cabanas

One of the questions we asked was for each of us to say what we thought people came to us for, and then we would take turns going around the circle saying what we each went to that individual girl for. As we went around the circle, we each expressed the love and adoration we had for one another, telling each other what we needed and came to one another for.

One we go to for wise advice about health, food, deep convos, and funny embarrassing stories. One we go to for plants and crystals, cool vibes, and is beyond thoughtful. One is generally our leader when it comes to organizing plans and trips, gives logical advice, and is makes everything fun. One is the best listener, and has the biggest sweetest heart; not to mention is funny without even trying! Another has the ability to make you feel like the most important person in the world while she talks about you and learns all about you, and has the best sense of humor. One of the strongest-willed women I know, and despite it all continues to work hard and has the ability to always see the good on the horizon. The last is incredibly sweet, kind, and has a feisty hidden personality that we all love!

When it came to me, I was so touched by the heart-felt sentiments they expressed about me too. I honestly teared up!

As a collective whole, we are one amazing and powerful group of women. My heart was replenished, recharged, and is feeling so full after seeing all of them! I am counting down the days to our next girls trip, just like Stanley counts down until the next Pretzel Day at their Scranton Dunder Mifflin office.

Success Supports Success

There’s a quote I read the other day that I loved:

Behind every successful woman

is a tribe of other successful women,

who have her back

I love this, because we as women definitely need to continue to support and raise each other up! Sometimes girls and women can be so catty, negative and cruel to one another it just blows my mind! It’s hard enough being a woman in today’s world, can’t we all just support and love one another??

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Going along with that quote, my tribe of women all support each other, and have all helped one another be stronger; whether or not we have even realized it! We are total #bossbabes. Don’t know what that is? Here’s the definition (in my own words):

A successful woman who owns a business, or owns her own life ‘like a boss.’ She isn’t afraid to get what she wants, she is in control of her life and makes no apologies or excuses for who she is. 

So, I’ve put together a list of 10 things I believe every #bossbabe woman should be doing in order to be more successful and much happier in every aspect of her life. Each one was inspired from my girl tribe from this weekend!

10 Habits of a #BossBabe

1. Have a Personal Mission Statement

This one may sound a little odd, but if you have your own mission statement, it really does help you be more successful!

Think about it, every company or successful person seems to have one:

Walt Disney – “To make people happy”

Amazon – “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers

can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and

endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.”

Google – “To organize the world’s information and make it universally

accessible and useful.”

So, why wouldn’t you, a successful boss babe, have your own equally great mission statement?? Am I right?

The reason having a mission statement helps you, is because it forces you to have a purpose, and to clarify what is important to you. Through it, you express what you value most and what your aspirations are.

Also, seeing and repeating it to yourself everyday helps to drive you towards those goals, and to becoming that boss babe you know you can be!

What’s my mission statement? I’ve been thinking about it ever since I started outlining this post. For now, as it is still a work in progress, I think mine is this:

Redefine Yourself – Recover Your Pieces – Rediscover Your Life

This quote is on my main page of my blog. It sounds more like a mantra, but I think a mantra and a mission statement can be one in the same. I like it, and those are definitely things I want to accomplish in my life, and they are things I value tremendously right now.

What’s your mission statement? Feel free to share it with us in the comments below so we can see it! 🙂

2. Recite Positive Affirmations Daily

I’ve talked about positive affirmations a few times, but it’s because I really believe in them! The mornings that I read them I feel more confident, and feel more ready to take on my day. Sounds cheesy… but it’s true!

Improving your relationship with yourself is a major key when it comes to success, self-confidence, and being happy! And when you literally recite positive things, like affirmations, to yourself, you are making yourself happier by doing so.

According to the CBT (Cognitive Behavior Theory) your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all related. So if you are reciting and implanting those good thoughts and vibes into your mind, you are essentially going to make your behaviors and feelings equally as positive. The result? You are happier!

It’s science people.

What are some of your favorite positive affirmations? Here are some I’ve been reciting lately:

I have the power to create change

I am worth everything

Just be kind and brave. That’s all you ever need 

Know some good ones I can add to my list? Leave em in the comments!!

3. Recharge & Refocus

Life is pure chaos sometimes. So often I find myself feeling like I am in this insane wind tunnel, trying to focus on all the things I have to do and I can’t!

The thing that we forget to do is to recharge and refocus ourselves, so that we can have the energy and the dedicated mindset to focus on our tasks. If you are on 3 hours of sleep and needing to write a well punctuated and grammatically correct email for work, is that going to be easy for you? Probs not.

That whole “I can sleep when I’m dead” mentality may have worked when I was 21 in college and pulling all-nighters, but now in my ripe old age of 33 I know I need more sleep. Otherwise I can’t function, and I may as well be dead; but more like the walking dead because I’m a zombie.

It’s not just about sleep either though; recharging and refocusing can also be personal mediation. It’s important to take time for yourself very single day, to do some mediation. And it doesn’t need to be literally sitting cross-legged on a yoga map with your eyes closed chanting things in your head (although sometimes that is definitely needed and so helpful!)giphy-1

No, you can honestly just take the time for yourself everyday to just stop and slow down, and re-organize yourself. Think of it as a time-out during a crucial final quarter of a football or basketball game. Sometimes it gets a little hectic and they take the time out to regroup the team, and figure out their next plays; as well as going back in the game with a fresh mind-set.

So, take a time-out! 

Use time for yourself everyday to refocus your goals and your priorities, and recharge yourself!

4. Invest In Yourself

The most important investment you will ever make is in yourself.

That’s right; you need to invest more into Y-O-U!

For example, think about investing into buying a house. You shopped around and finally bought your dream home! You’ve poured so much money into filling it with beautiful furniture and things, making an necessary repairs or upgrades, and up-keeping it so it stays beautiful and feels like home forever!

Well, you are like that house. Except much… MUCH… more important!

So, to fully utilize your important investment in yourself, you need to take the right steps to keep up the value of said investment. How do you do that? There’s a lot of different things you can do:

  • Never stop learning! Take education seriously, even if you never go to college or earn a degree, just never stop learning! Because knowledge is powerful! And the more powerful you are and the more things you know, the more confident and successful you will be.
  • Fill your heart and soul with lovely, positive things. Pray, meditate, recite mantras and affirmations… whatever makes you happy!
  • Learn how to shake off the shame culture. Forgive yourself more easily, and move on. You’re going to fail and you’re going to mess up; it’s a part of life and it’s not worth holding onto. Let it go!
  • Take care of yourself on the outside too! Workout, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and sleep!
  • #treatyoself. That’s right, I said it and I meant it! If you want to treat yourself to hair extensions, lash extensions, or splurging on some expensive clothes or shoes… DO IT! Not all the time, you must have self-control, but sometimes you need to treat yourself! It will make you happier to every so often treat yourself to something nice. Also? Life is short.. so eat the damn donuts.

The bottom line here, is you are an amazing and wonderful investment, but you have to believe it and take care of yourself to continue adding more and more to your already incredible value.

Invest in yourselves boss babes!!

5. Read More – Screens Less!

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If you know me, you know I love to read books! I currently have about 5 books on my night stand I’m trying to read simultaneously… because I’m a nerd.

But, reading is important for your sanity and for your success! Here’s a list of 24 books successful people read just for some examples if you’re looking for something to read!

According to this article about Reading and Life Success :

The act of reading, particularly engaged reading, as opposed to the mechanics of reading, is a powerful predictor of life success by any measure. It is the best predictor of who goes to university regardless of socio-economic background. It is the best predictor of life income, career options, even life partner choices. And neuroscience is proving that reading fiction is one of the most powerful means of developing sympathetic individuals, with better social skills and higher levels of self esteem, resulting in increasing self improvement and prosocial behaviours.

My new goal lately has been to read more books and use my screens less – meaning my phone, laptop, and tv. It’s tough sometimes, I’ll admit it! But isn’t it scary to anyone else how reliant we are on just our smart phones alone? It’s like we can’t function as humans without a phone glued to our hands anymore.

So read more and use screens less, and you’ll find more success! It’s honestly that simple!

6. Accept Your Challenges Head On

This weekend my one girlfriend reminded me of one of her most recent Instagram posts about challenges and trials. Here’s the link if you want to see it, or below is part of it quoted:

I am going to take a lesson today from how buffalo and cows handle storms in Colorado.
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Only the strongest storms come over the ridge of the giant Rocky Mountains to the east. When a storm comes the cows see it & start to run from it. Seems logical, but the problem is they don’t move fast enough & before long the storm is over them, moving in the same direction as they are maximizing the pain & hurt
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Buffalos react much differently. They see the storm, gather together, and turn HEAD ON STRAIGHT into the STORM. Seems illogical at first thought, BUT they go the opposite way the storm is moving & make it out of the storm faster with less harm taking it head on in the long run.

If only we could be brave like the buffalo, and head straight on into our trials instead of trying to outrun them and avoid them for as long as we can.

In the long run, it’s better to face them head on. Sometimes its not easier to do so, but it is better and makes us stronger.

Just like in this post here I quoted, “What challenges you changes you.” At the time it may suck, and it might hurt, but in the end we will become a better and more successful person because of it.

Through challenges we grow, we learn, and we become stronger. So be a buffalo, not a cow, and handle those challenges like a successful #bossbabe.

7. Make Socializing a Priority

I will be the first to admit that I am the worst lately when it comes to being social. In fact, I always warn people about how I’m anti-social and to not take it personally! I’ve talked a lot about how much easier it is sometimes for me to stay home and not go out (with all my PTSD anxiety and such I explained in this post) but I know I need to be more social because it’s for my own good.

Not to mention, the more social you are the more successful you will be in life!

As humans, we need connection, affection, and communication to feel normal and happy. If you tend to be more like me, Ms. Hermit McHermitsen over here, you will feel more detached from the world the more anti-social you are. It’s just not good, you need friends and interactions!

Part of being successful in any aspect of life is having the ability to talk to anyone, anywhere, and to make connections with them. Networking is not just some word people throw around for fun, it’s a real thing! And it’s really really important for success.

Apparently your success depends on the people you know, and that could not be more true! The more people you socialize with, the bigger your network reach is, and the bigger your success potential is!

So go socialize already! Make new friends, go outside your comfort zone! Network outside of your own work circle, be spontaneous, and build up your social network! All you’ve got to lose is that dent in the couch you’ve been making thats forming around your body every night you stay in and binge watch shows.

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Successful people socialize, and they’re happier too!

8. Focus on One Thing at a Time

Easier said than done these days, right? There’s always so much happening at once.

But, if you can, try to just focus in on one thing at a time.

This weekend in our round-robin of girl talk, we each said one thing we wanted to work on in our lives. I said I wanted to start making smaller goals to accomplish at a time, instead of trying to focus on one huge goal that seemed impossible to ever get to.

I think I nailed it with that, because too often we have our eyes on the big prize at the end, instead of realistically focusing on the smaller prizes that will each act as a stepping stone to get us to the end.

In the wise words of Bob (Bill Murray from the movie What About Bob?), “Baby steps!” Or can we actually change it up? How about “boss-babe steps.” Sounds better 🙂

If we can take the time to re-prioritize our goals into smaller, more realistic and obtainable goals, we can get ourselves to the bigger ones later.

And, don’t forget to celebrate yourself when you hit your goals! Go back to #4 and TREAT YO SELF!

9. Smile

I know what you’re thinking, “Smile? That’s it? That’s so easy!”

Well yes, my friends, it is that easy.

Smiling makes you feel better, and gives you confidence, and it can be shared! Have you ever done the simple test of smiling at everyone you see? Every time I do it, they almost always smile back at me. And you know what? They probably keep smiling at other people too, and so on and so forth… therefore,  a smile and create hundreds maybe even thousands of other smiles!

Once you’ve mastered the whole smile thing, then you can go about the rest of your day feeling that boost of confidence. And what do confident people do? They succeed!

Yassss.

10. Have a Big Heart

One thing that I have tried to do ever since I lost my mom 3 years ago, has been to serve others to help my own heart ache to hurt a little less. And, after my own abusive marriage and broken heart, I have reached out even further to try and serve and help others as much as I can.

The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity — Leo Tolstoy

In today’s society I feel like treating each other with kindness and love is quickly becoming an outdated habit. The world can be mean, dark, and selfish. What better way to help bring back that light than to have a big heart towards others?

I also want to continue to serve others and give as much as I can, because so many people in my life have lifted me in my own times and helped me through desperate moments. I feel I must pay it forward and do that to others, to pass it along and help brighten up the world.

Each of those girls in my tribe from my trip this weekend has helped me so many times. They give without thought, they love, they support, and they comfort. It is so inspiring to be around them, and their loving energy. It made me want to come home and do more!

And that is how a true successful boss babe should be; always humble enough to remember that she was once in the shoes of the ones who need the help.

Despite my heart being previously crushed, I will never let my love to serve others be diminished. It’s through that service I can truly heal it back to being whole again.

Total Boss Babe

Really, what it all boils down to, is you are the average of the 5 people closest to you. Looking at that aspect now, how successful, how powerful, how happy are you on average??

This weekend, my cup was running over with a 100% boss babe success average. And in my life I have so many other incredible and powerful women in my pride that fiercely love me, and inspire me to push through anything that comes my way.

With everything and everyone I have in my life, and I have no choice but to keep going towards becoming the total boss babe I know I can. And each of you can too, I believe in you!

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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 

 

What Are You Fighting For?

I’ve always felt a deep connection with Belle from Beauty & the Beast. She loves to read and is obsessed with libraries, is very opinionated and stubborn, loves animals, feels out of place in the popular scene, and tends to see the good in people beyond their rough exterior or bad decisions. Yes, that does sound like me!
However, I noticed something else that I related to that she says in the movie, or rather sings about, and it made me think a lot the past few days. The other day I was singing along to the soundtrack in my car, because I have no shame, and I sang these words I’ve heard for years but they happened to make an impact on me that I’d never thought of before:
There must be more than this provincial life
In the opening song, Belle sings about how everyday in her town is the same, down to the fact that she can literally say what is about to happen and when. She wants more and knows there must be something more out there somewhere for her.
Well, in comes me, relating to this like it’s a bad joke and I want to cry and laugh at the same time because it’s SO bad, but really it’s my life so maybe I should cry!
The last year I have been rebuilding my life from the dirt ground up, but lately I have been feeling this strange sense of restlessness. I think I too, am feeling as if there must be more than this Utah County provincial life. But the problem is I don’t even know what I want, or where I would find it.

Stuck

I know I shouldn’t necessarily complain about my life, lately I have just been feeling stuck where I am. I am lucky to have a job, and a good job; but I definitely do not feel fulfilled being someone’s assistant.
Everyday I go to work and I daydream about traveling, and going to do something I am truly passionate about. Sometimes I worry that I am wasting my best days at a 9-5 job that I don’t feel fulfilled doing.
My dream job? Well, I’ll tell you. There are 2 actually.
The first, which I am working on everyday, is to be a published author. I have a novel that I am nearly finished with, and my hope is that within the next 6 months I will get it out there to the public somehow. It’s scary to even think about putting my work out there, but I think it’s more nervous anticipation than anything. It’s my dream and I have to at least try, even if I fail!
My second dream job also involved writing, but a different kind.Lonely Planet writes the world’s best travel books that cater to any type of travelers. The job I would want to do for them would be as a travel writer, based in London. The job would involve me traveling to places around the world, and detailing all the things someone could do in this place that may not be as well-known as the big touristy things to do.
Sounds amazing, right?! *Sigh* A girl can dream…
I want to fight for my dreams. I want to work towards actually achieving something I am passionate about, and finally feeling fulfilled. So for now I will continue to do the everyday, ho-hum, predictable things, but I am only doing them until I see the chance to get to my dreams.

The Fight

Until I am able to achieve my real dreams, I have found something else to fill the void for now. The solution? Serving others and volunteering my time and effort to help with charities. While I’m working towards fighting for my own dreams, I can fight for them and theirs too.
Starting in 2016, my sister Heather and I were the on the board that helped plan the annual charity gala for The American Cancer Societyin Salt Lake City. It was such an honor to be invited onto the board, and to help bring in donations to raise money to go towards cancer research.
Last year, Heather and I were given the chance to become the auction co-chairs of the gala, when the previous chair had to resign for personal reasons as she began her own battle against cancer. We of course stepped in, and threw an amazing gala with the help of our amazing board and the employees at ACS, and raised nearly $300,000.
Of course this charity means so much to me and my sister, because of our mom who passed away 3 years ago on February 17, 2015 from cancer. She was such a warrior and a fighter against the disease, and we saw so many other patients throughout our time at the hospitals and clinics who were also fighting as hard as they could for their lives.
Ever since my mom passed, I have wanted to help as much as I can to bring in the monetary needs that can be used to find a cure for cancer. Even in just the last 5 years cancer treatments have evolved, and I know deep in my heart that doctors are closer than ever before to finding a real cure.
Beyond fighting to find a cure, Heather and I also annually visit The Huntsman Cancer Institutein Salt Lake, where our mom did her treatments from 2009-2015. We bring in donated items such as blankets, beanies, scarves, and cookies from Swig . We go around the anniversary of our mom passing, because giving back to these patients not only helps lift their spirits, but it helps fill in the gaping, painful holes in our hearts a little bit too.
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Cancer Warriors Photoshoot: HMUA: Kathy LynchPC – Angela Marie Photography
Many cancer patients are fighting alone, as they come from out of state to the Huntsman. We always walk around and visit with as many people as we can, and sometimes just simply having someone visit with them and talk to them for a few minutes so they know they are not alone, can make such a huge difference.
Last year, there was one woman in particular who still stands out in my mind. She was in one of the infusion clinics, laying alone in a corner on a hospital bed. As we walked up we smiled and she seemed confused at first, wondering who we were and why we had this cart of donations we were handing out. As we explained why we were there, she asked, “Why are you doing this?” We looked at each other, and then Heather answered, “Because we want to! We just want to visit with patients and make your day a little less lonely or scary.”
Immediately this woman began to cry, and she said she was so grateful we had come by because she had been feeling particularly lonely that day. We cried too, and all hugged. We sat with her for a few minutes and talked before moving on.
I will never forget her, and how much just a simple hug and short conversation (and delicious Swig cookie) made all the difference.
And that, is what I continue to fight for. The difference.
I want to keep fighting for people like my mom, or that woman, or your sister, your co-worker, neighbor; anyone who is trying to win the battle against cancer.

Fighting For Me

Maybe I don’t feel fulfilled in my own personal life for the time being, but I can feel fulfilled fighting to find a cure for cancer through charity donations, and through visiting cancer patients when I can.
I also will soon become certified to volunteer at theSalt Lake Rape Recovery Center  where I can fight for victims of assault and rape, give them comfort and support, and help them recover from the trauma they are going through. I wish I had a center like this to go to when I was 18, so I feel like I can heal that part of me by helping these victims.
Unfortunately my daily fight also includes fighting the demons of my past and my own traumas. Each day is a different battle, but I survive every one and keep moving forward, because I’m fighting for me.
I will continue to fight towards my own dreams too, but can only take it one day at a time. Because I know, seriously, that there is definitely more than this provincial life in store for me.

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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How To Measure This Year

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes.
Five hundred twenty five thousand journeys to plan.
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes.
How do you measure a life of a woman or a man?

In truths that she learned,
or in times that he cried?
In bridges he burned,
or the way that she died?

It’s time now to sing out,
though the story never ends.
Let’s celebrate remember a year in a life

These song lyrics, which are from the amazing broadway show Rent, have been running through my head since yesterday. I can’t believe today is my divorce-aversay! You know, the 1 year anniversary of my divorce.

This has certainly been one of the strangest, most challenging, yet most freeing and rehabilitating years of my life.

Just like the song goes on to say, how many ways are there to measure a year of your life?

Tears that were shed
How many nights I stayed up to see the sunrise
Dance parties to just ‘dance it out’
Books I read
How many words I have written
The new friends I’ve made
The old friends I’ve reconnected with
The songs I’ve belted out in my car or the shower
13 full moons
The miles I’ve run
How many rock walls I’ve climbed
The millions of texts I’ve sent back and forth with my twin sister
How many times I’ve laughed until I’ve cried

I mean, this list could go on literally forever. There are so many ways I could measure this past year. So much has happened, and I have learned from it all.

Getting Back on Solid Ground

Today, literally a year ago, I started at my first day at a new job. I needed full time work after going through a divorce (and you can forget the alimony pony rides because I didn’t get any of that!) I had a wonderful job working in the athletic department at UVU, but they wouldn’t move me full time; something to do with all the weird interdepartmental politics that go on there. So, very sadly, I had to find a new job.

This is where I found myself a year ago, sitting at my new desk at my new job at a company called IdealShape knowing literally no one sitting around me. It was one of those hip kind of office settings where all the desks were connected and there were no cubicle walls, but I had never wanted privacy more than that day. I felt really awkward and just felt like the dumb “new girl” who know no one and talked to no one. I was still feeling so broken and alone and all of these changes were a lot to take at once.

As I was going through some training for my marketing content position, I got an email from my divorce lawyer. We had officially filed all my paperwork that previous Friday, and while we had filled out the 90-day-waiver to let things go through faster, he estimated that the divorce would not be finalized for at least 30 days. Then the email came, and the words said:

Aly, I just received an email this morning showing that the Judge has signed your Decree of Divorce.  You are now officially divorced.

I remember staring at the screen and just feeling this weird sense of relief and anxiety and sadness all at once come over me. It was official. I was free, and it was finally done.

Immediately I went into the bathroom because the room started spinning and I felt like I was going to throw up. Thankfully I didn’t, but I did end up sitting in the stall for about 20 minutes crying. It felt good to cry, to release it all. Again, I felt dumb because I figured people probably thought I was crying because it was my first day at work and I was having a hard time; but I decided I didn’t really care and they could think what they wanted.

I was finally and officially free and that was all that mattered. Solid ground was finally forming underneath my feet again. And little did I know that a few people at that company would become very important to me, and help me through some of the hardest parts of the beginning of the year. I will forever be grateful to them, even if they’ll never realize how much they helped me.

Extinguishing the Gas Light

Of course, it wasn’t that simple to be completely done and free from it all, because nothing ever is. Things take time to heal, to move on, and to feel normal again.

There were many moments where I missed him in the beginning, where I wondered if I had made a mistake to leave him. I thought about all of our good memories, and my heart was broken for losing the man I had originally fallen in love with. But that was the major problem; he was never really that person, and he would probably never be him again. He gas lighted me to believe my reality was something different with him than it really was. I think I’ve mentioned the term Gas Lighting before in a previous post, but I will explain it again.

Gas Lighting is a form of manipulative abuse, when one person feeds another lies and deception to literally alter their memories, feelings, until they will begin to question their sanity and their reality.

Down to a ‘T’ I am a classic case victim of gas lighting. There are moments I literally can’t remember, they are blacked out from my memory because they were so awful and terrible, and my mind was trying to cope with the trauma by just covering it up. I also recall some moments when he manipulated me into thinking things were different than what they appeared, and there was one night in particular that remains so etched into my brain that even typing it about it now sends searing hot, painful memory buzzes down my spine thinking about it. This night we had a fight, probably about the 5th night in a row, and once again I accused him of drinking because I could literally smell the whiskey on his breath. He grabbed me by the shoulders, and shook me hard, and screamed in my face that he was going to take me to a mental institution and have me checked-in to treat me for being insane. He kept saying over and over, “You are clearly  going crazy, making things up to the point where you think you are smelling alcohol on me and creating these drunk symptoms in your mind.” I pulled away from him, and collapsed on the floor in hysterical tears. I believed him in that moment, and I literally thought I was going insane. I thought maybe I was making it all up in my head, and then I felt like a terrible person and wife for doing this to him.

Yeah… gas lighting is real and it really sucks.

I am thankful every damn day that I am not in that situation anymore. I was being abused in every sense of the word, and I don’t think I could have survived much more of it to be honest, and that thought sends chills into the very marrow of my bones. One way or another, I wouldn’t have lived through that. But the gas light is extinguished for good.

But, just letting go and moving on right away is impossible. I struggled a lot in the beginning with crippling loneliness, fear, and even guilt. But I knew I needed to keep IMG-1683moving forward. So to start, I bought the cutest journal I could find at Target, and I decided to write a very honest and candid letter to myself.

This letter was to serve as a reminder that I could re-read whenever I needed it. In it, I wrote literally everything horrible I could remember that had happened. Like I said, a lot of things are blacked out for me but the things I could recall I wrote down.

Even without the things I couldn’t remember, this letter is 30 pages front and back. 30 pages of abuse, manipulation, lies, adultery, dishonesty. My personal hell written on those pages, written with the blood from my own heart and the thousands of tears I shed trying to make it work.

I won’t really share much of what I wrote down, because a lot of it is too personal and much to painful. However, I will share these small excerpts, because I’m hoping someone somewhere out there who reads this will feel more courage to leave whatever toxic situation they may be in:

“You know that you have so much goodness and joy ahead of you. The next few weeks will be some of the hardest of your life, but you know that only good things are waiting in the future for you…”

“… you are so amazing and you deserve so much more than this. This is why you left. If you ever feel weak and regret your decision, re-read this letter and remember why again. If you miss him and wonder if you’ve made a mistake, re-read these words and re-open these wounds and feel the excruciating pain again. Remember the pain so that you know why you deserve so much more…”

“… I love you and I will not stop until you are happy again, and back to your old self. Love, Me.”

After re-reading this letter for the first time in months, I cried reliving so many things that my mind and heart have forgotten. But the amazing thing was, I finally am feeling OK to leave it all behind. I don’t miss him, and I don’t find myself looking back and wishing we could have made it work. I trust in the path fate and life have taken me on, and I am excited to find what’s waiting for me.

I also began writing a new letter to myself, one that will replace the first letter. I think it’s time to tear out those pages, burn them and release them forever from me. Maybe in a post soon I’ll share some of what I’ve written in my new letter.

What’s That Ahead?

Literally what I have craved the most during this year of rebuilding myself, is to really get back to the bare essential parts that were my true ‘self’ that had been lost.

However, there were also parts that I knew I would never get back; and honestly I probably didn’t really want them back. What I mean is, sometimes its better to leave the past behind us and just keep moving forward. Holding onto things that can’t be changed will drag you down and eventually inhibit you from moving forward to anywhere.

I know that sounds cliche, but it’s something I constantly need to still remind myself daily. In fact, this past Sunday I heard this very quote (from this talk) during church that resonated so deeply inside me, and clearly I was meant to hear in that exact moment:

“The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead and remember that faith is always pointed toward the future” – Elder Jeffery R. Holland

This was a hard lesson for me to learn in the beginning, because honestly I did find myself constantly looking back into the past of all the what if’s and what could have been’s or the why did I do that’s. But that’s a destructive way to live your life, and if you can’t let go of the ashes you’ll forever be trying to hold onto something that will continue to disintegrate in your hands.

Once I started to let myself leave my past behind, I realized I could start to move forward. And even more, I also realized the parts of my I could leave behind too; because not everything needed to be recovered.

Sometimes Failure is an Option

This past weekend I saw the new Star Wars movie, “The Last Jedi.” I won’t give away any spoilers I promise. There was one line that stuck with me, and I won’t even quote it because quoting it word for word would for sure be a spoiler. So, here’s my version of it:

“Failure is the best teacher”

The rest of the day after I saw the movie, I kept thinking about that line and what it meant to me.

Failure really is such a great teacher; we learn the most from the moments that we fall and fail, because it’s in those moments we realize the strength and courage we have inside ourselves to climb back up and move forward.

When we fail, we fall back to rock bottom where our roots are buried and we realize we already have that solid base there to build back up from.

I may have had a failed marriage, but I didn’t fail at trying to make it work; I did everything I could have and should have to try and revive it. The failure brought me to where I am in this very moment, and I would never go back to where I was ever again.

Most importantly, failure reveals to us our true selves. Because in the end, it’s not what you go through that particularly defines you; it’s what you do after that truly shows your true character.

My true character? She’s a survivor. And she learns from her damn mistakes and failures and makes them into her strengths.

I’m proud of the woman I am today,

because I went through one hell of a time becoming her

 

Measuring Up My Year

So, how can I truly measure up this past year?

With my two feet, planted firmly on solid ground; and I am in control of where they go and when. I may not know where that is but all I know is I’m moving forward and never again will I be looking back to sift through the ashes of my past.

And for 2019…

I wanted to add on to this previous post, since I knew this already expressed perfectly anything I would have wanted to say today.

But as I hit the 2 year mark of my “divorce-aversary” I am even in a different place than I was a year ago today. And it may not seem like a lot to onlookers, but for me I know I am making progress forward.

I am progressing towards the life I want to live, doing the things that I know will make me feel fulfilled.

But mostly, I am feeling content with where I am at because I am in control of my life. I was imprisoned for so long in a controlled and toxic environment, and I know I still have  some ways to go to get back to feeling completely healed and myself; but the good thing to focus on is how far I’ve come from that dark place.

I am excited about what is ahead for me, and feeling hopeful about my future. I truly believe 2019 is going to be one of the best and most fulfilling years of my life.

I can’t wait to share with you all the plans I have for this year!

I’ll leave you with a positive/powerful affirmation I wrote for myself, and have been reading every morning for the last few days; it embodies where I feel I am at now, and what this coming year has in store for me:

You are stronger than you think.

You are beautiful, brilliant, and brave.

You are in control of your life, and you own whatever choices you make along the way.

You are powerful because even though you might be afraid, you keep going anyway.

The things that tried to break you forever have rebuilt you and made you even better than before.

You are kind despite everything that’s happened, because you will always believe in love.

You face the impossible with a humble heart and faith that you can do anything.

You are wiser because of the mistakes you’ve made, and the new paths you’ve chosen to take.

The past is your lesson, the present is your gift, and your future is your motivation – and everyday you are becoming a better version of yourself.

 

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PS. Check out some of the amazing pics taken by my talented friend Michelle Madsen! I had this idea to take “divorcals” like women often take bridals before their wedding. I wanted to celebrate my life where I am now, with some beautiful photos of me

PC: Michelle Madsen Photography

MUA: Makenzie Peacock

Dress: Dress Collective

Flowers: Me 🙂

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