Braving the Past & Telling Your Story

 

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I have a slight obsession with freedom. My tattoos speak for it. I have five tattoos all of which symbolize freedom.

 

One is a tattoo on my right wrist of the word Moksha in cursive with pink autumn leaves, the moon and stars around it.

 

I got this right before I moved to New York after I got out of the military.

I was a photojournalist for the Navy and while on deployment I took a class on religions.  In Hinduism they have many ideas and one is moksha; freedom from suffering.

 

This reminds me that I am immortal. That I can be free any moment from suffering, from the past and from the cycle of pain.

 

The other tattoo is of a heart with wings and a banner in the middle with the words Set Free.

 

I got this when I was seventeen right before I joined the Navy. I remember sitting on a small stool for hours for this tattoo.

 

It was so important to me to have this tattoo. It symbolized my journey forward from the past.

 

There was a man beside me that I looked up to and saw as a Father.

 

He was a born again Christian. With tattoo sleeves of Jesus Christ on his arms.

 

He was also a former drug addict. And biker gang member.

 

His name was Glenn. Glenn Johnson.

 

He was a father of two that he knew of. I lived with him and his family for two years until I joined the Navy.

 

They adopted me when I was sixteen.

 

I remember sitting at the dinner table doing my homework while he made dinner.

 

He paused from his meal-making and said, “Emily, what if I told you that I wish I had you years ago before my wife?”

 

I laughed.

He couldn’t be serious.

 

Could he?

 

How could this happen to me again?

 

Is there something wrong with me? Did I ask for this?

 

No thought really could make sense of his question. No thought could give me answer that made me feel better.

 

My Set Free tattoo was a symbol of freedom.  

 

A celebration of me finally being free from them.

 

From him. From the past. From memory.

 

The thing about freedom from the past is not that we never remember it.

 

Or that we forget.

 

I tried to forget what happened to me.

 

Even now I am still recollecting fragments of memories.

 

We can never be truly free from the past because it always is a part of us. But we can be free from the power it can carry in the present and in the future.

 

I have a sparrow tattoo on my left wrist. I love birds. They also symbolize freedom.

 

Down my left forearm are the words Fortitude; courage in the midst of adversity.

 

A reminder that even in my darkest moments, in remembering, in sadness I can still be courageous. I can still find the silver linings to every storm.

 

Get the picture?

 

Tattoos tell the story of memory. Of time.

 

Of what I have overcome. And also what I must remember.

 

Remembering gives us information.

 

Here we can go back in time like magicians and manipulate experiences.

 

Say what we always wanted to say. Visualize the conversation we always wanted to have.

 

Overcome the fears, heal the past, write a new story for the future.

 

Remembering also gives us the truth. There are no lies in facts.

 

It gives us grief, joy, happiness, laughter,  anger, rage.

 

It gives us moments of softness. Tenderness.

 

Forgiveness and acceptance.

 

When we remember we have the power to see life from a 360 degree view. That is how powerful the mind can be.

 

Remembering gives us insight into growth. Into who we were.

 

In my journey of healing from trauma there have been many times that I didn’t want to remember. My brain tried to keep my safe from seeing, feeling or experiencing memory again.

 

It is only now in the journey of being brave to face it again in a new light that I can sit with the memories that once were terrifying to feel again.

 

A tool that has been an anchor in my healing and writing process that I would love to share with you is from the book Wild Mind.

 

The author shares a writing prompt: “I remember. I don’t remember”.

 

I practiced writing my story using this writing prompt and uncovered so much more.

 

My invitation to you is to brave your story. To go where your mind may fear to go.

 

To ask for support in the process of remembering and to gather all the tools you need for this quest.

When Your Grief Takes Over

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Grief is such a personal process.

For me I know that I can take my grief out on others.

I retreat, isolate, get irritable and want to be alone.

I lose interest in the things that once made me happy and start to see life as the glass is half-empty rather than half-full.

We all have different coping strategies for grieving.

In my work as a spiritual teacher and medium working with people who have lost their loved ones grief comes up a lot. They all have different ways to cope.

And the one thing that stays the same is that is is hard.

If you are grieving or know someone who is grieving sometimes the best thing you can offer yourself or another is time.

What do you need? What does this person need?

I am learning in moments of grief to ask for support and to not go about it alone.

To be visible and transparent. To let others in and to also get support and resources from expert when I am struggling.

When your grief takes over, pause.

Breathe.

Ask yourself what do you need right now?

The goal isn’t to avoid the pain but to find ways to cope in a healthy way.

To feel better than 5 seconds ago. 5 minutes ago.

Gentle acts of self-love can be big stepping stones for yourself and others.

The road to recovery in grief is your journey.

Look within for the right tools to get you there in a healthy way.

You are not alone.

The Tale & Healing from Sexual Abuse

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Last night I watched The Tale, a new movie on HBO based on true events of the director Jennifer Fox’s life. She was sexually abused by her running coach at thirteen.

Usually I opt out of watching these movies because they do trigger me. For anyone reading if you watch the movie, know that you might be triggered.

There are some graphic scenes that made me sick to my stomach.

I saw myself in the main character. She resonated with me in her journey of discovering that she was sexually abused and accepting it.

I don’t know about every woman but I do know that for years I couldn’t accept the truth. It was a slow agonizing process to realize that my father wanted to have sex with me.

Even as I type these words I feel sick to my stomach.

Watching The Tale last night only magnified my feelings around sexual trauma.

I was very promiscuous in my twenties. I experimented with women. I experimented with polyamory relationships. I have wondered if my experimenting had anything to do with the trauma around intimacy.

In the film, the perpetrator tells the victim it was her. He was in his forties and she was a thirteen year old girl. It was her fault that it happened.

I remember many times my father saying the exact same words.

It was my fault. I wanted it. 

The journey of sharing my story has been a slow process.

I have held shame around it as if I was the cause of all the abuse.

I know now that it isn’t the case.

I felt an obligation to protect my parents. I shouldn’t talk badly about them. 

Or talk about what happened.

If you ever find yourself saying shouldn’t remove it from the sentence immediately.

It only brings guilt.

I lived with another family at sixteen.

In the film the main character idolizes two adults who become like her family.

I remember idolizing this family as well.

They adopted me and I moved in with them.

As the adopted father and I grew closer I remember several conversations of him sharing that if he had met me years before his wife we would be together.

I was sitting at the kitchen table doing my homework.

I remember thinking, “Oh no. This can’t be happening again.”.

It was a scary life for me as a budding teenager.

I know that many times I thought I should try dating women because then I’d be safe.

I wasn’t particularly sexually attracted to them as I was emotionally.

I wanted to feel safe.

They made me feel safe.

The Tale shows that a young girl wants to feel special especially by her family.

To feel safe. And loved.

We all do.

The main character freed herself in her own way by speaking her truth.

But remember this is based on the director’s life.

I admire Jennifer Fox for taking her pain and creating a powerful message with it.

I am just starting to really talk about the years of trauma I experienced.

Thank you Jennifer for being a voice for us. For giving us perspective into your journey.

I look forward to taking my story and impacting millions of women with it.

 

From Confused to Clear: Letting Go of the Relationships that Bind You

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After a week of processing some pretty grey areas of my life with my relationships to my parents and family, I finally feel clear.

I went to therapy and shared how my week went. From the heavy discussion with my mother and intense banter with my father I knew what the path was for me.

To simply not have relationships with these people. Not because I don’t care for them. But because I care more for myself and my own well-being.

I had a discussion with my mother a few days ago about our past. I asked her a question.

“Have you ever thought about why Dad did what he did to me?” or “Why did you team up with him to hurt me? Why did you put a towel in my mouth?”

I paused after I asked her that.

My mind questioned me in the same way.

Why did she put a towel in my mouth? And matter of fact, why am I even talking to her? 

If it weren’t for the label “family” I wouldn’t have a relationship with this woman.

Or anyone who hurt me in such a destructive way.

But because of our biological tie and emotional connection a part of me was confused and hopeful.

That she and I would grow together in a healthy way.

She never gave me any answers which only showed me that she really hasn’t put much thought into her actions as a mother.

In my pregnancy my past has become VERY CLEAR. There is no hiding the truth. No living in the shadows or in false ideas of hope, happiness or healing.

I think there is a sadness to the loss of them. That I really don’t have a close relationship with my parents and I never will in a healthy way.

That they lose the chance to be a part of my life. And of their grandkid’s life.

Pregnancy has shown me how I could never imagine my own child experiencing horrific acts of treatment.

In therapy today I shared all of this.

I realized how much more clear the path with them has become.

And how much more clear I feel about my choices.

Who gets to go in my tribe and who doesn’t.

I am so impressed with how much I have grown as a woman.

From a dark place of once suicide to a thriving woman making healthy choices, creating healthy relationships and most importantly one with myself.

Cheers to resiliency. May it show us the truth.

How to Heal from a Breakup

heartbreakYou are probably reading this because like me you’ve experienced some form of loss or heartbreak either in the past or right now. Heartbreak doesn’t have to just come from intimate partners but from our parents, friends, pets, etc. Loss is loss even if it’s not romantic. I’ve written about this many times before but working as a psychic medium and from general experience I have spoken with so many people who have lost someone or something including myself.

Breakups are like a shock to the system. Our worlds are turned upside down and it’s almost as if we have been knocked down to rock bottom. Sometimes there are warning signs and we may expect it to end soon and other times we are completely blind-sided. In my case with my own recent breakup, it was a mixture of both. We had our flare-ups and there were definitely issues of concern but I didn’t think it was impossible to work through. However in the end, those issues became larger and larger and eventually led to an abrupt ending which left me wondering if it had been all my fault.

Not only did it bring a variety of mixed emotions but the pain that remained was the worst most gut-wrenching feeling ever. I wondered if I’d be able to breathe again or if I could just get through one work day without taking bathroom breaks to cry.  Let me tell you that tissue box became my best friend! Most days were a roller coaster of emotions for me. In just 5 minutes I would feel angry, sad, destroyed, happy, hopeful, angry, relieved and then hopeful all over again and that cycle would repeat all day.

After enough days of crying myself to sleep, loss of appetite and lack of motivation to do anything I finally came to terms that I needed to start taking care of myself. I had to accept it was over and there weren’t going to be any second chances, not because I wanted one but because I realized I didn’t want that relationship anymore.

After seeing someone you loved so deeply walk away from you and give up fighting for something they once believed in, you sort of have to just accept things and let it go. I couldn’t force it and I wasn’t going to prove that I was worth it, that we were worth it.

I’m a firm believer in everything happens for a reason and I’m definitely not a weak person by nature so I decided I would start the healing process and force myself to move on and let that relationship go.

I found in the process people were so quick to tell me: 1. You’re strong, you’ll get through this, 2. Time heals all wounds (my personal not favorite), 3. You’ll get over it, something better is to come. There were so many cliche responses and so many of them that just didn’t help in my healing process. I personally feel the last thing someone wants to hear is any of those. When you’re hurting, you’re hurting and time nor space nor a million affirmations are going are going to heal you, at least not right away.

So how did I move on? And more importantly, how we can move on from a break up? How can we heal from the loss of someone we shared a life with? Will the pain ever subside and just plain go away?

Here are some ways that helped me and I hope they help you in your journey towards healing and happiness.

1. Create a strong support group.

The biggest thing for me was having strong reliable friends and family to be there whether it was just to listen to me rant or have a fun outing to take my mind off everything.  I can’t be more grateful for everyone who picked me up and reminded me of who I really am and what I’m worthy and deserving of.   Having a strong support network is a top priority in the healing process. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help or just some relationship advice. They will be your backbone and your foundation when you feel like you’re losing sight of the bigger picture.

2. Find a confidant, mentor or therapist to guide you.

After breakups, our emotional state is so raw. We are wounded and sometimes need someone who is a neutral party to guide us on our way to recovery. I have an amazing therapist who helped me connect with my emotions in a positive way and understand that relationship and breakup in a wiser perspective. If you aren’t someone who does therapy, then find a teacher/coach/confidant or mentor who can push  and encourage you along your path. It seriously is some of the best medicine emotionally and mentally! I always leave my session feeling lighter and happier and more confident in my life decisions.

3. Focus on physical and mental health.

After we ended, I decided to focus and channel all my energy on running my first half marathon race. I’m definitely no experienced runner but physical health has always been important to me so what better way to channel all those mixed emotions than get in shape and focus on an end goal. You may not want to run a half marathon but perhaps there are physical fitness goals you’ve been wanting to work on. Get a fitness coach or attend a class and set a goal to those pounds you’ve been wanting to shed or just get back into shape and feel good about yourself again! Not only is physical fitness healthy but it makes us feel good about yourself and releases that emotional distress you’re going through.

It’s important to have a mind-body connection and  feel overall balanced in every aspect of our life, so don’t forget your mental and emotional health. Every week focus on short-term goals by exercising x amount of times, eating healthier and making yourself happier by doing something nice for yourself. Writing helped me a lot to connect to my emotions as well as meditation. I also purchased books on grief and healing from a breakup to connect to other people stories and help me in my own.

4. Do what you always wanted to do but never did in that relationship.

Often times, people say they lost themselves in their relationship or compromised so much of their own interests and happiness for the sake of their partner’s. Well you’re single now and it’s all about you! Make a list of all of the things you wanted to do but couldn’t do or didn’t when you were in the relationship and make it a goal to do some of them now! We don’t always need our partners to share experiences with. Reach out to friends and family and ask them to join you in any adventure whether its simply to check out a new restaurant you’ve been dying to try or catch a movie.

5. Disconnect from any social media with your ex. 

Some people remain friends with their exes on social media after their breakups which I personally never understand why. Its like opening an fresh wound over and over again and not letting it heal properly. Social media can be difficult to disconnect from because it’s the last thing that keeps that person alive and fresh in our memory and its also a way for us to still be close to him/her but let’s face it, it really ends up doing more harm than good. Unless you are able to be acquaintances or friends right away, it’s best to cut the cord until you and the person are on the same page emotionally.

6. Put any reminders of them away.

It’s hard to box away sentimental things connected to our exes but for the time being while you are healing it’s often said to put away any reminders. I’m not saying burn it or throw away the items but simply just put it all in a box and come back to it another time when you’re in a stronger place and no longer have an emotional attachment to the items. When you are able to look back at the relationship and have a neutral feeling or sense of gratitude and acceptance then you’ve made great progress.

7. Self-talks. 

You may look back and realized you made a huge mistake or think it was all your fault. However, remind yourself of all the reasons why the relationship wasn’t right for you and what wasn’t working in it. Make a list of all the positives and the negatives and remind yourself every day the reasons why it didn’t or couldn’t work.

I constantly had these inner dialogues with myself and went through a cycle of thoughts of everything I had loved about the relationship to then everything that wasn’t right for me and eventually it really push me to move on and reinforced so many things for me. I still experienced a variety of mixed emotions but In the end, I came to a place of acceptance, peace and understanding that it wasn’t the right relationship for me.

Self-talks will be a huge part of the healing process and honestly are dynamic moving forward. You will always value something about that person and the relationship but also remember the things you were looking for that were unfulfilled and what you’d like in the future with someone new.

8. Love yourself.

Lastly, always remember to love yourself. It’s so easy to beat ourselves up after a break up. Go through all the qualities you love about yourself and that you offer in a relationship. Be around people who also love and adore you. Be compassionate and forgiving of yourself and any mistakes you made in that relationship. Be open to experiencing love from the world through new friendships, opportunities and experiences.

One of my favorite quotes that I will leave with you.

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”

 

 

 

Breaking out of our Comfort Zone & Fears

freedom  Regardless of where we are at in life, there is always an aspect that we are extremely comfortable in whether it’s a relationship, career, location, dietary habits, etc. The reasons behind this may be because we are truly happy with being comfortable, safety, stability or whatever else drives us to be there in that place of comfort.

Is comfort necessarily a bad thing? No. However it is when you are no longer growing, when you remain stagnant in this place, your “comfort zone”.  Some of us grow accustomed to the predictable, the known and unwavering energy that this has provided. So then what happens? What if we are miserable yet comfortable in the misery? This can relate to many things, i.e. career choice/fear of relationships/fear of leaving a relationship, location, health habits, exercise, spiritual choices.

Are we really creatures of habit? Perhaps. I’d like to think we are capable of so much more though. All my life I have been trying to break past that mold of comfort. Lately I have hit a wall in some areas and know that in order for me to step into my true power I must let go of some things, including those I surround myself with. It’s hard to leave that place that served to be a source of something stable or comfort for so long.

I recently read somewhere that behind all of our fears is love. Love is limitless. Now this has nothing to do with romantic love, this is just love for life, love for yourself, for what makes you happy and for those you care about. So if we could somehow channel this love into our lives more I think we could break past the molds we create, the prisons we live in and the burdens we carry all out of comfort.

So what’s it going to be? How has this first month of 2014 treated you? Have you shown up for yourself and your success? What steps are you taking to break out of that comfort zone? We truly are capable of so much more than where we are standing. I’ve manage to channel a lifetime of abuse into a successful career and used it as my motivation to help others.

Perhaps you can also channel your experiences, your place of comfort or discomfort and excel beyond your own expectations. I’m not saying we all need to be like me. I’m only encouraging you to consider your options. Looking at your life right now, what are you comfortable yet uncomfortable with in your life? What can you do today, at this very moment to make changes to break out of that mold?

Every tiny step counts. Whatever we can do to start activating the energy to move is when we begin to grow and to move outside of our comfort zone into the new path for our life. Yes, it can be scary but I swear it’s worth it and never  ever once think it’s too late.

 

 

Painful Endings & New Beginnings

ImageEverything comes to an end and our lives go through a series of cycles. You will meet people who are going to touch you on a deeper level and potentially turn your “normal” world upside down. We’ve all been there. Personally, I have a hard time with endings. It’s difficult for me to release, let go and be present during heartbreak. I struggle with clinging to all the possibilities, what ifs, and how I could have done something to change the outcome.

But one thing I have learned in this process of letting go and moving forward is that my soul has already begun to open up to the possibility of a new beginning. It’s painful to let go of something that once was. Yet at the same time, there is a reason it ended and for now, maybe you need this time for yourself. I’m a spiritual person and believe we need these experiences to not only teach ourselves but to teach others.

So how can we cope effectively with these painful endings in our lives? We could cry, scream and hurt for a while. We could turn to our friends and family for support and understanding. Or we could do a lot of soul-searching and self-work and see what it is that we need to change about ourselves to attract something or someone better.

Endings are never easy to process or deal with. There will be pain, tears, anger and resentment. The best way to approach it really is to just feel all the emotions and understand that you don’t need to OVER anything by a specific time. I sometimes feel that there is too much pressure to move forward so quickly and forget about what has happened. That’s no way to deal with anything. We need to experience these emotions and to go through them. It’s the only way to truly understand yourself and what you need in your life in the future.

Be easy on yourself. Be compassionate and show yourself a lot of LOVE. Feel free to ask your friends and family for support and to just be there. You would be surprised as to how many people are willing to just listen. Find out what makes you happy again and most importantly, understand that this is also a new beginning for you. Be open to what the Universe will present to you, opportunities and encounters that could lead you to something better.