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.

Telling Your Deepest Dark Secret

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Secrets in the Night (shh, don’t tell anyone)

I have a strange relationship to the night.

If I were to personify it, I imagine the night would be a man.

The night was a man.

An older man with a bald head and black mustache shaped like Hitler’s.

A man old enough to be my father.

Hint: What if he was my father? 

The night had no respect for me.

He would come to me half-naked waking me.

In thirst. Wanting me.

Desiring to put his dick inside of my thirteen year old vagina.

At 2 a.m. relentlessly he came to lie next to me.

[Are you awake?

I want to talk.]

Poking me with his long finger shaped like a penis.

The night would be a fear that would haunt me for years.

I would wake up in the midnight hour kicking and screaming like clockwork.

“GET AWAY FROM ME!”

This time the night wasn’t there by my bedside.

Sleeping next to me. Whispering in my ear how he wanted to fuck me.

This time the night was my partner.

A friend. A stranger.

And sometimes…

No one.

But the shadows.

I hated the night for years.

I had dreams of killing the night.

Murdering him slowly. Torturing him until he was sorry.

[It was your fault.

You wanted it.]

The night never lies.

It shows us the truth of who we are of the darkness that lives inside all of us.

He lived like a disease inside of me until I too was slowly dying.

From the memory of his hands on me. Of his words that haunted me.

That’s why I tell this story.

The night comes to show us the secrets that we are hiding from.

Something I have learned about the secrets we keep is that some of them do slowly kill us.

Which is why I tell this story.

Sharing a secret is like giving away an all-access pass to a room in your house.

It gives us a moment to remember what happened.

It gives us the truth.

And the truth shall set you free, right?

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.

 

For the Sexually Abused Woman

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My father reached out to me to congratulate me on my pregnancy. He also mentioned a message of now I will never be alone.

I couldn’t help but to reply that yes, I will never be alone because I don’t abuse people.

We don’t speak.

He knows I don’t want to have a relationship with him yet he oversteps my boundaries.

He has never taken responsibility for his acts of sexual abuse to me.

He has never changed, grown, gotten help or acknowledged the damage he has inflicted on his family.

And even if he did, it wouldn’t change anything.

I could never trust him.

For years he made me feel that it was my fault for his sexual advances. That I asked for it.

As I embrace motherhood I can’t imagine my child ever experiencing what I went through.

The inhumane treatment I experienced.

There was a moment that I thought my parents would kill me.

A memory of my Mother stuffing a towel in my mouth so that the neighbors wouldn’t hear my screams while my Father beat me on the floor.

This is only one of the many violent memories I have been healing from in therapy.

There was a time that I felt guilty for not wanting a relationship with him. He drilled this belief in us that no matter what happened we were family always.

So he could treat us any way and we still had to love him in the end.

I wonder why life still gives him and people like him a chance to live.

For the women who have been sexually abused and abused… you have every right to speak up. To say something. To feel angry. To feel complete utter rage.

I got to say what I wanted to always say to him today.
That he is a sick man.

And one that will never get my pardons.

I refuse to play in a relationship that is built on the past is the past and let’s move on. On an idea of false happiness.

He still treats my Mother will little to no respect. He preys on young women. He is abusive towards everyone. And this year he spent his birthday alone. With no one by his side.

Karma = action = consequence.

We have no obligation to the people who violate us regardless of the title “family”.

I have grown immensely over the years into a pretty phenomenal and healthy woman. I had to save myself during moments when I wanted to end my own life.

I am still decompressing the years of violence and abuse in therapy. I still have moments of PTSD and triggers. My therapist and I have done serious work to get me to where I am now. And I am super proud of myself.

My friends who suffer from trauma, you can’t change what happened to you.

But you can change how you live with it and how those people live inside of you.

They don’t get to have your power.

They get to hear your voice.

You get to be here.

You belong.

How My Intuition Became My Home

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“At times you have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.” — Alan Alda

Our intuition manifests in different ways. Often times we experience intuitive phenomena with our families, loved ones, dreams and the paranormal. Sometimes our intuition may peak during transitions or after loss and trauma.

For me, my experience of discovering my spiritual gifts was a little different than some of the common stories you hear of people seeing spirits growing up or things of sort.

I grew up in an extremely challenging and abusive home where my parents weren’t the safest nor healthiest role models to guide or show me the way.

My natural response to the constant emotional distress was to turn inward to my inner voice and imagination. I discovered my gifts of creativity, writing, and intuition. I found safety, refuge and a home in these gifts and spent many nights journaling and praying to the Universe.

I often consulted with my intuition and looked for signs in my daily environment as answers. If I couldn’t change my outside circumstances I could most definitely change the little world that I lived in within.

I didn’t know at the time that I had spiritual gifts. I only knew I was unique and had a story I wanted to share to help someone else find their way through a dark time. You see, I always had this resilient spirit and I never let my circumstances bring me down for too long.

I just knew that I was given a story that I could possibly help save someone else’s life with. I knew that my childhood and teen years of trauma and pain didn’t happen for nothing.

I wasn’t going to leave behind a war zone with just scars. I knew that the universe had a special plan for me so I surrendered and let my soul guide me.

After I moved away from home, I vowed I would leave it all behind, start fresh and forget about all of it. However, no matter how far we try to run from the past it always does seem to find us.

I realized I couldn’t run, forget or bury it so I allowed it to transform my life. My intuitive and spiritual gifts began to blossom and I found a passion in healing myself not just through therapy but with spirituality.

I started to meditate and attended workshops on every type of spiritual art out there including psychic development, mediumship, crystal healing and hypnotherapy. With every class I took I discovered a real passion in spirituality. My soul began to heal and release parts of my past that still haunted me.

My nightmares and night terrors went away. I got over a lot of anxiety with public speaking and speaking in general. I stopped being afraid of people and started looking them in the eye again. I gave the world a chance and opened up to building more intimate connections despite my fears.

In this journey I discovered, healed and released so much. I realized I really did have a gift of helping people and not just any gift but an array of spiritual and intuitive gifts.

Now I teach spiritual mentorship and work with people privately. I help them see their light when they have lost their way.

I let my intuition guide me to a home that is sacred and only mine, my spiritual home.

We are so much more than stories and what has happened to us.

We are miracles. Allow yours to take place.

*this article was also published on Huffington Post, Read Here.*