The Courage to Speak the Truth

About seven years ago I made a commitment to myself that I wanted to live not just survive. (my personal legend)  I knew the difference between the two, as I’m sure most people have their own meaning of what  surviving vs. living is. I was clear. I knew that I couldn’t begin to fully live if I didn’t try to recover from my past trauma. I couldn’t connect to the world, be a role model to my children or release some of the PTSD symptoms that had a firm chokehold on me if I didn’t fully commit to myself; which meant having the courage to speak my truth. Even after seven years there are days when this feels too big to conquer, but my personal legend is tremendously important to me. It motivates me during the most difficult moments of every day.

I’m still learning and accepting how much my past trauma impacted every aspect of my mind and body, spirit and soul. I’m in therapy, I read, I have a magnificently supportive family and circle of friends, and I continue to seek out and build a network of people who live, grow, and change with the season. I keep my eye on my goal.

In the fall of 2014, I had an amazing experience. I had finished my first draft of Untangled. I had written the truth. I decided to publish the book for a few reasons. I started to think that maybe others who were going through, or had been through trauma, might find something in the pages they could relate to. I also thought the book could be helpful to someone who has a loved one with PTSD, to help them understand why that person acts or thinks the way they do, or to simply hear what it feels like to be a victim of trauma.

I wanted to stress resilience, the ability to survive and eventually thrive. I had reached the summits of many mountains on my journey towards living. I’m optimistic about having a beautiful life. I do have a beautiful life! I’m still very much in the middle of my healing process, it’s never linear, but there is always growth.

Untangled has been published for almost three months now. It has been an amazing and gratifying experience to have spoken at conferences, be interviewed for podcasts, and hear the feedback from those that have read Untangled. I feel like I’m not alone in what happened to me, and I have found that some others don’t feel so alone now either. I also learned, that we, as a human species all have the same feelings. You do not have to go through horrific trauma to feel intense sadness, grief, fear, anxiety, not-good-enough, shame or failure. By the time we are adults, we do not go through life unscathed and everyone’s “trauma” counts as their own valued experience. It’s getting to the place where we have the courage to go to the uncomfortable places where we decide it’s time to look deep and be vulnerable and live or stay in survival. Either choice is okay…it’s simply a choice.

I trust my journey of growth and change is never-ending. I begin each and every day ready and willing to claim my life, my truth, and my health, and to stand tall with blinders off and my eyes wide open. The story of my life is my truth, and no one has the power to take that truth away from me ever again.

 

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Pausing for Thanks and Self Compassion

 

 

 

 

Holidays can be a difficult time for many people. Not everyone is surrounded by the large wonderful families that are  superimposed on us in the media. In fact, I don’t really know anyone in my adult life who looks forward to the craziness of the holiday season and having to be in four places at once regardless of their childhoods. For those of us who are healing from trauma, they can be especially trying because of triggers, memories, anniversaries, or just the stress of feeling like we have to be with those who may have hurt us.  I like to try and show compassion to myself during this time of year. So I took a moment and thought about what I am pausing to give thanks for at the beginning of the holiday season.

 

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Choices – One of the best and most frustrating lessons I keep learning!

I think one of the best and frustrating lessons that have unfolded from my journey of healing is that I learned I can make choices. Seems like a no-brainer, right?  I could talk the talk, especially whenever drama was involved, but to actually understand that I can make choices about my life was a concept that was a little unconscious for me. This is a hard one to admit, but I’m thinking that this is a recurring issue in some people’s lives. Especially those of us who are are healing from trauma. 

Some of the Best Lessons:

I became aware that I can choose to be around people who are working or living towards self-discovery or I can choose to be around people who are satisfied to live with their eyes shut. I can choose to have the people in my life who are not toxic, and who are wanting to walk that transformational self-discovery path that leaves you winded at times. 

I can choose to say what it is that I think about a situation or give my opinion.

I can choose to add input to a conversation knowing that I’m not taking away from that person’s moment, that instead I may be adding to their moment and a deep and like-minded dialogue can occur.  

I can choose to set up boundaries with people. I can give my opinion, I can stick up for myself, I can say no, I can say yes, I can ask for what I want and what I think I need and I can feel okay about asking for those things. I understand that I may not always get my needs met, but I learned I can never get them met if I don’t ask. That lesson took me right out of that “victimy” role, I would sometimes find myself in.

I know the above may seem basic and rudimentary but for me they were new concepts. I learned to make choices before the drama occurs. I didn’t have to be afraid of who I am, or what I have to say.

It’s not like I was a withering wallflower before, it’s just now, I am much more authentic and less afraid to be vulnerable. I have found that I’m more likely to attract a group of people who are just as willing to be authentic and vulnerable, and let go of the ones who use their narcissism to get their own needs met at the expense of others. 

Now the frustrating part of choice:

I knew this all along….I would have told any of my friends, my kids, my husband, or strangers that we all have the ability to makes these choices. I would have said to anyone…be authentic, be vulnerable, take a risk, take a chance. It’s amazing how I can look back on this now and say “Whoa, I used to do that?” I used to be so afraid of what others may think of me, or worse be someone I wasn’t because I was afraid people wouldn’t like the real me and run away. In truth the opposite always happened. My friendships, and relationships are much more satisfying now than they were seven years ago.

I will admit, that are times, I still get sucked in and find myself in a situation where I need to change or create a boundary, or end a friendship. But that is okay. I would rather live with the best lessons of making choices.

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Wisdom at this moment in time

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Today I think to myself how would I describe wisdom if I were asked. To me, wisdom is the ability to be present.

The times where people have said to me “you are wise” it was only because I was responding to them in a fully present state. I was listening to what they were saying both verbally and nonverbally. I wasn’t thinking ahead to what I was going to say next, I wasn’t distracted by the noises that were external or internal. I was simply able to hear what they were saying and/or asking and respond in a way that was thoughtful and respectful.

Staying present is one of my most frustrating and biggest challenges. I think a lot of people,  especially those of us who have been through trauma would say that staying present is a constant work in progress. I, however, besides the normal monkey mind we all contend with, also experience the challenge of climbing out of the vortex’s of the past, that pull me away, sometimes many times a day.

I think as time goes on, I am able to be present more and more. I notice the birds singing outside the window, the wind blowing, the noise of kids playing at the nearby playground and the sky. I love the sky!  It’s paying attention to the present that keeps me in the wise place I want to live in.

 

Pondering my Personal Legend

A personal legend is who you want to be. Everyone is the author of their own personal legend and gets to choose how you want to be in the world. It’s about choices and being proactive rather than reactive. It’s about aligning your personal values and beliefs with your actions and your words. I have thought a lot about what I want my personal legend to be. The struggle to find it has become a question/answer period I have with myself. Is my personal legend to learn to live with my eyes wide open? Is it about knowing the past and accepting without forgetting so I can become my version of complete? or is it a metamorphosis of who I was, who I am and who I will be? Maybe it’s all three! As I think about how I want to spend my life and who I want to be, I am guided by a more mature and spiritual self because of the time spent in personal reflection. I love that self-discovery can be a way of life. I want to live my life, fully alive, with my eyes wide-open and the blinders off. To me, that means speaking, listening and learning from a place of truth. It means discovering the wonder of life and acceptance of my life and what it has to offer. It means not getting in the way of who I am, and instead letting myself be who I am, without my ego reminding me of the should haves, did not’s, or can not’s.  My personal legend is definitely a work in progress and probably always will be, but for me staying with the truth and living with my past is worth the work.