Home Is In My Heart

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

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

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

Her Heart Is In Our Hearts

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

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

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

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

Holidays are the Hardest

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

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

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Cheers Mom. Miss you everyday.

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

My House

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

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

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I will never forget this house!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lost But Not Forever

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

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

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

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

Finding My Way Back

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

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

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

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

Home Is In My Heart

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

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

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3 of the best women on the planet

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

Home Is Where Your Heart Is

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

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

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

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

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Walking through Linvilla Orchards in Media, PA

 

Crystal Clear

In my recent searchings for ways to help heal myself emotionally from the trauma and things I have been through, I wanted to research and look into crystals.

Now, I know what you might be thinking; because it was probably exactly what I used to think about crystals, or anyone who talked about them in a healing way: that is sounded weird!

My first encounter with crystals was back when I was 12 years old in Pennsylvania. My mom was struggling in her early fight with her cancer, and had been in the hospital for a few weeks. My sister and I were home alone after school one day while our Dad was at the hospital with our mom, and there was a knock at the door. It was a woman from our local church, one who had a bit of a quirky way about her, and many thought she was a bit odd. I mean, she was, but she meant well and was a very kind woman.

So here she was, asking how our mom was doing, and then offered some healing crystals to help her. My sister and I declined, not really knowing what to think, but I remember almost wanting to laugh because it sounded so crazy at the time.

Crystals? Really??

Well, yeah! Crystals… really!

Looking For Clarity

Now, don’t get me wrong – I do not in any way think that crystals can actually heal something big like cancer. Modern medicine from professional doctors can never be replaced.

BUT – what I do think is that there are some healing properties from these beautiful little stones.

Crystals have been around since the creation of the earth – in fact, quartz still makes up about 12% of the earth’s crust just to give an example. If you think about it, we are all essentially made up of all the same matter and particles to some extent, everything in the universe is; and everything including ourselves, the stars, and these crystals shares these vibrational energies. So who is to say we can’t connect with these energies and similar particles, and use them to heal?

Crystals have been used in civilizations for centuries as jewelry, protective talismans, and for healing purposes. I’m pretty sure there’s a reason we continue to be drawn to the mysticism behind them.

Beginner’s Guide

If you’ve never used crystals before, it is a little easier than you may think to use them for healing.

It can be as simple as wearing one everyday as a ring or on a necklace, or carrying one with you in your pocket. You can even place them in different rooms that you want to feel specific energies or vibes from.

When you are wanting to dive a little deeper in to crystals, you can start meditating with them. As you hold them and close your eyes, you can focus your thoughts on your intentions; what energies do you want the crystal to detox from you, and what do you want to gain from that particular crystal (each one does something different.)

Choosing a Crystal

Now comes the part where you decide which crystals you want or need.

The first time I went to buy some, I went to my favorite local shop called Dancing Cranes in Sugarhouse, which is a suburb of Salt Lake City.

I decided to just walk around, and see where I felt inspired to go to. This place is filled with tables and displays with every crystal and stone you can think of, so it can seem a little overwhelming. However, since I was just letting the energies guide me I ended up finding some stones that have become very useful to me.

So, I’ve decided to throw together a short list of 6 Healing Crystals for those of you just starting out, to help guide you towards what you may be looking for. These 6 stones are all ones that I personally have been drawn to; but remember there are thousands out there! This is just to give you a quick glimpse into the world of crystals.

6 Healing Crystals

Rose Quartz

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This is known as a love crystal, or one that specifically helps to heal your heart

  • Helps attract love
  • Protects relationships
  • Heals your broken heart / heart ache
  • Balances your heart chakra

Tiger Eye

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One of the best stones to help ground you

  • Open’s your mind’s eye to more awareness and understanding
  • Stress relief
  • Helps you feel balanced and centered
  • Eliminates depression and promotes optimism

Amethyst

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A very calming and balancing crystal

  • Helps your soul feel more spiritually in tune with
  • Enhances intuition
  • Brings peace
  • Calms your thoughts to help bring focus and clarity

Black Tourmaline

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A powerful stone used to expel negativity

  • Supports emotional stability and strength
  • Grounds your true life’s purpose in your heart

Quartz Crystal

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One of the oldest and most widely used crystals around the world

  • Purifying
  • Bring awareness and clarity
  • Mind stimulations

Moonstone

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Called “Chandrakarta” in India, which means “beloved by the moon.” Can come in several types of colors and variations.

  • Harbors the energy of the moon and  all the new potentials of the future
  • Promotes inner growth and strength
  • Represents feminine energy, or divine energy
  • This stone symbolizes new beginnings

Everything is Crystal Clear

Do yourself a favor, and try it out. I mean, honestly what’s the worst that could happen? You’ll feel nothing and you’ll have some cool stones you can leave on display somewhere around your place, right?

Or… you could really get something amazing out of your experience! And then this incredible way to promote healing, strength, and rejuvenation will be opened to you!

Go ahead and step out of your comfort zone and try something new, and if you do I want to hear about it!!

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Believe

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Nope.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s all he said.

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

The Blame

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Shame

Back to Sundance…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“May our daughters have none of her trauma,

and all of her courage” – Jessica Clarendon

Believe

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

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

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

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

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It’s Just a Phase

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

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

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

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

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

The Beginning Phase

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The First Cut

Now, fast forward to about 3 years ago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It made me think of this quote I heard once…

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

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

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

Just a Phase

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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National Hotlines:

 

Utah Hotlines:

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

 

 

 

#sorrynotsorry

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

“Sorry I’m late”

“Sorry I missed your call”

“Sorry for if what I said offended you”

“Sorry for telling the truth”

“Sorry I made a mistake”

“Sorry I’m not good enough”

“Sorry I can’t afford that”

“Sorry I can’t make it”

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

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

The Bad Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tired of Being Sorry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things We Need to Stop Apologizing For

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

01. Your Personal Priorities

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

02. Your Flaws

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

03. Following Your Dreams and Passions

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

Ain’t nobody got time for negativity!

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

04. Saying No

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

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

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

05. Telling The Truth

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

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

06. Loving Someone

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

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

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

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

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

07. Standing Up For What You Believe In

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

Etc, etc, etc….

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

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

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

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

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

08. Being a Strong, Intelligent, Confident Woman

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

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

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

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

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

09. Having Emotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. For Not Being Perfect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

See? I dare you to try it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

for waiting guys!”

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

#SorryNotSorry

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

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

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

 

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

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

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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 

Suffer In Silence

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Moment That Changed It All

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Aftermath

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We didn’t have sex… You raped me.” 

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

“Yeah? Well no one will believe you, because

I’m an athlete and you’re a nobody.”

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

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

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

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

I was bullied and shamed into silence. 

Silent No More

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

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

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

So I am refusing to ever be silent again.

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

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

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

801.467.7273

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breaking the Rape Culture

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

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

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

My list could go on and on.

Can’t Silence a Survivor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Photography: Troy Kolterman MUA: Julie Artistry 

 

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 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.