Depression, Mental health

Tales of the heart

Love is such a complicated emotion. There is scientific evidence that it makes our minds go insane. Two very distinct and conflicting instincts take place within us. One is our desire to merge our life with another person and the other is for us to remain an individual. I believe both are equally terrifying and with that comes positive and negative consequences. For me, I have always been a lover of love. I am a companion type of person and I feel more myself with someone else as my partner in life. Perhaps it’s because I’m a middle child and I have always had other people around me. My upbringing conditioned me to always consider those other people’s emotions and care deeply for them. I have always been the peacemaker in my family and I play that role amongst my friends as well. I believe being an empath and a natural healing person by nature, that makes me a consummate companion. It’s one of my strong characteristics, I’m a team player all the way.

Something I didn’t fully comprehend until about six years ago is the meaning of  unconditional love. I definitely wasn’t raised with it and I never felt the secure feeling unconditional love provides. The very first time I experienced that wonderful feeling was from a woman who was mentoring me during my recovery. I am so blessed to have encountered so many kindered spirits along my journey of self growth. She taught me so much that I didn’t realize I had been missing in all my relationships. For me, love always came with conditions and requirements.

I am a giver and I choose to love even when people in my life may not be deserving of it. We may not like everybody that crosses our path but we all need to be loved. Many people in our society who display objectionable behavior are in desperate need of love. It’s a core need along with shelter, food and the ability to financially support oneself. The World Health Organization sites rates of depression rising as a result of modernity and individualism in our culture today. People may joke around by saying, “do you need a hug” in a flippant way when in actuality that answer is YES!!! Humans need physical affection and touch is hardwired in our DNA.

After my divorce and the abuse from the domestic violence I endured at the hands of an ex-boyfriend, I wasn’t looking for a relationship. When I agreed to go out with some friends one day for coffee I certainly didn’t think I would be meeting my future husband. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed myself that day and felt some chemistry between us I refused to call him when he gave me his number. We ran into each other a few weeks after that initial meeting and he asked me why I hadn’t called. I don’t remember what my answer was but I’m sure I blew him off. He and I went out on another group date before I agreed to go out with him alone. After that date I was absolutely smitten and knew he was someone special. Over these last five years I can say that I have never felt more acceptance and unconditional love from another person than what my fiance shows me. Our love is so deep for one another, the more time goes by the more I learn about it and the closer we become. He is my best friend. He is the person I feel closet to and value our companionship intensely. His laughter is the greatest sound and my favorite quality of his character. All of my feelings for him are expressed in this poem.

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Domestic violence, Mental health, Spirituality

A voice from within

Traditionally October and November have been difficult months for me stemming from the severe traumatic abuse I endured seven years ago. It’s a fact that those with PTSD (I have Complex PTSD) can suffer from the “anniversary effect” from our trauma.  For that reason, when fall rolls around, the smell in the air can trigger memories I would rather forget. For me, I especially get triggered by locations in the state I was living in at that time. Ironically, Autumn has always been my favorite season yet since those dark months in 2011, I have become quite conflicted about this time of year.

This year I can also include September as a challenging month due to the Supreme Court nomination hearings for Brett Kavanaugh. I forced myself to listen to Dr. Christine Balsey Ford’s testimony before Congress because I have had the similar experience of having to tell the deepest,darkest most intimate details of abuse one could ever talk about in front of a room (in her case, the entire world) of strangers. After my abuse, I filed a restraining order against my ex boyfriend. Thankfully, I  had support from a dear friend at the time who literally held my hand as he led me into the courthouse. My voice trembling, I mumbled into a microphone my account of details surrounding abuse that was inflicted upon me in my own home by a monster of a man. He not only had the audacity to try and fight against receiving the restraining order, he attempted to call me out as a liar saying I made it all up! For two days in that courtroom I recounted the minutes and hours of my life for the previous two months of October and November of 2011. After the first day, the judge said he needed to review my case including notes from the many police reports that were filed on my behalf from my neighbors calls to try and protect me from what they could apparently hear going on at my house.  It was the most gut wrenching, shameful and embarrassing experience of my life. I don’t wish that situation upon my worst enemy. In the end, the judge granted me the restraining order and had some harsh words for my abuser before banging the gavel down. Ultimately, I ended up moving out of the state I was living in because my flashbacks and memories became increasingly too intense for me to function normally. I can admit now how life altering that time was and how it taught me several difficult life lessons.

I wrote the poem “Within” after watching Dr. Ford’s portion of the hearing and before Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony. I tapped into those same feelings she evoked in me and those that I felt during my own hearing. Then I twisted it into what would of happened had I not had the voice within me that I heard because it saved my life. I attempted to take my own life November 12, 2011 because I thought my abuser would kill me. It was my attempt at controlling the situation. My mindset was he’s not going to kill me, I will kill me. That thought and feeling combined with my action of taking a bottle of Xanax chased with a half bottle of Vodka was my desperate attempt to end all the pain. I believe God was presenting me with a tremdous gift in the moments after I woke up in the hospital. The gift of desperation is what ultimately saved my life. The decisions and steps I took to recover and heal from my abuse has helped me evolve into the strong woman I am today. The pain, the sorrow along with the hope and faith. I gratefully embrace it all.

*****A huge thank you to https://blog.feedspot.com/spiritual_blog/ for including Emotional Musings in their top 100 Spirituality Blogs for 2018. It is a huge honor to be recognized on my journey and in my mission to help heal others!!! A million thanks!

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#afterlife, Angels, Mental health, Spirituality

Signs of beauty from beyond

I haven’t always believed in angels specifically the guardian kind. Growing up and trying to navigate through life as the emotional being I am was very challenging for me because of my family of origin. I didn’t have the guidance from either of my parents, neither one of them ever came to me when I was sad in my room to talk to me or seemed to even care about my feelings. It always seemed like a burden, an after thought, something that fell by the wayside. My battered soul was the by product and result from their lack of communication regarding emotions. Instilling fear and guilt were perfectly excuted by both my mother and father yet how to cope with sadness and anger were void from existence. I wasn’t aware then that there were angels around me guarding and protecting me. In fact, at that time if somebody had  told me so I wouldn’t have believed them anyways.

Books became my best friends. I especially enjoy biographies and memoirs. I used to day dream about what my life would be like if Mother Teresa (my middle name coincidentally) or even Maya Angelou were my mother. I have always admired these two women for their thoughtful insights about spreading love and kindness. I am however eternally grateful that I did have one selfless and generously loving  woman in my life growing up, my Nana.

Ellie was always the life of the party, the matriarch of our family. Growing up we were always closer to my mother’s side of the family, to this day I’m unsure why. My mother’s mother, my grandma, my Nana was an extraordinary woman. I always remember her being so cheerful and happy to visit with us. She taught me how to sew and make Russian nutballs around Christmas time. She was our biggest cheerleader and I always looked forward to her letters. Her swirly expressionist handwriting was sometimes difficult to read but looking back it was so her. Upbeat and animated, like she lived her life. Unfortunately she and my Pop-Pop lived in Florida and I was raised in New Jersey so we didn’t have the luxury of seeing her whenever we wanted to. They retired there permantly when I was about six or seven I think so most of my memories are of our visits to Florida or when they would come up to stay for the holidays. Nana lived to sing and dance. In fact I remember her getting up on the table, or threatening to after have one to many Black Russians at a restraunt for dinner once. She sure was a lively character! We would go caroling at Christmas around the neighborhood with Nana as our leader. Ellie had a huge and generous heart. I believe it stemmed from her growing up in an orphanage. Her personality shown through in her style, her hair, jewelry and outfits were always impeccable.

Today, had she lived Nana would be 97. Fifteen years ago she was diagnoised with ovarian cancer. It was unbelievable to all of us because she was always so healthy and took no medications even into her 80s! The doctors put her on chemotherapy and I believed that’s what did her in. She passed away thirteen years ago on St.Patrick’s day. My 4’11 Polish and Irish Nana went to sing with the angels. I was utterly devastated and heart broken. At the time, I couldn’t foresee the devastating consequences her death would have on me. Her passing was the beginning of all of my major losses including my house, my marriage and my mind.

Along my journey to recovery, one of my therapists who I attribute so much of my success to, guided me in visualizing my guardian angel. We were talking about who in my life whether alive or dead would want to take all my burdens away. Who in my life loved me so much that they wouldn’t want me to feel so sad and depressed about my life as I was at the time. It didn’t take long for me to answer her, it was undeniably my Nana. She helped me understand that Nana was in fact my guardian angel and that all I needed to do was talk to her. Call upon her for advice, protection, warmth and a sense of peace. In return I would receive signs of her existence working on my behalf here on Earth.

I wrote this poem and it’s dedicated to my Nana. She sends me signs from the beyond  in the form of butterflies and birds. Just the very thought of her makes me smile. I love you Nana, this one’s for you.

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Anxiety, Mental health, Spirituality, Women's self care

Friend in the mirror

A few months ago in August I did something I never thought I would do. I fearlessly posted a no make-up selfie with words on it that represent me and who I am. My words are sushi lover, dancer, Complex PTSD, movie buff, humanitarian, ❤ car trips, fiesty, writer, book lover and suicide survivor. It’s posted on the i_weigh movement page on Instagram founded by multi-talented actress Jameela Jamil.cropped-20180828_1017001.png Ms. Jamil herself battled anorexia as a teen and struggled with self image. She noticed and began questioning the distubing trend of what determines beauty messaging and how it has brainwashed our society. Why every magazine and commercial are always pushing the idea that only being thin was beautiful and desirable. She is quoted by saying,”I was bombarded with a narrative that had no alternative. There were never any women who were celebrated for their intellect … and all of my magazines were selling me weight loss products or telling me to be thin. Otherwise, I wasn’t worth anything.” In an effort to raise the middle finger to entire industries that are complicit in perpetuating these ideas she started the i_weigh movement. Proving we are all more than a mere number on the scale. I fell in love with it and messaged my picture to be included.

I started ballet when I was 2 and I continued to dance competitively into my teens. My passion for dance led me to want to become a professional someday. I studied ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary and modern from some of the best instructors and choreographers  in the dance world.  It became my life and my main focus. It also served as a catalyst for my eating disorder. I’m 5’2 and have been the same height since 7th grade. I was always told I was too small and I would never make it as a dancer. I didn’t have the long legs of a ballerina, I needed to lose weight (I didn’t), my skin is too olive(I’m Italian and Puerto Rican) and a list of other physical appearance critiques. I started restricting my food at the age of 13 or 14. I also abused laxatives, water pills and diet pills. I would spit into cups for hours before dance class in hopes of losing a pound, utterly ridiculous I know! At 16, I finally got fed up and lost my drive and self esteem about dancing. I quit and thought I would never take another class. Thankfully,  I rediscovered my love for dance as adult at 25 when my oldest son was 2. My new love is for tap and contemporary style classes. I have also enjoyed teaching little ones creative movement and beginner ballet but those are topics for another post.

My eating disorder however grew worse now that I wasn’t getting the extreme exercise from dancing daily for hours. I began an intensive workout routine and started running. The combination of restricting my food and my exercise routine bore behaviors that then turned me into an exercise anorexic. It was like a high, my newly discovered drug. I was able to control something because my home life was so chaotic and dysfunctional. My thinking became very obsessive and I was developing strange ideas about food. What I would eat and what I would avoid. It was a full time job mentally and utterly exhausting. Those patterns lasted on and off for years and I really didn’t confront it until five years ago. I have body dysmorphia as a result in addition to my many conditions and I still hold some of those beliefs that tell me I’m ugly in my core. I can absolutely agree with Ms. Jamil that negative body image is ruining people’s lives.

As a result of having my picture posted on i_weigh I met an extraordinary woman. She lives in Australia, we have never met in real life yet we have a kindered spirit bond like few are blessed to know. We have so much in common with our life experiences and we are both empaths. Currently we are trying to schedule a time to video chat with each other so we can “meet” face to face. I credit my new friend for inspiring me to get back to my writing and to share it online. She gives me so much support and artisitc suggestions.  I have even nicknamed her my pseudo creative director on this blog! Her spirit and soul are exquisitely beautiful. I look forward to our message chats because we uplift each other so much. We discuss anything and everything and I feel truly blessed to call her my friend.

Seven years ago during the height of my mental breakdowns and recovery after my suicide attempt, I was introduced to mirrorwork therapy. I stand in front of a mirror and tell myself  positive affirmations and I recite mantras. I know what you’re thinking, sounds weird right, talking to yourself in the mirror? I always say that I’m my own best audience and it’s a scientific fact that positive self talk is a sign of good mental health. At first I started to read off of the sticky notes that I had put up next to the mirror, I couldn’t even look at myself directly in the eye for awhile. Once I got more comfortable and with practice I can now stare right at myself and have an intimate conversation. The main two mantras I use are, I am a beautiful and capable woman. I am a child of God and I am loved. These are two statements I had the hardest time believing about myself especially after attempting suicide. Part of my therapy included examining my core beliefs, the things I tell myself and completely rewriting them. That tape we all have running through our minds constantly. At times we can carry our negatives thoughts and ideas about ourselves in an invisible but very real backpack. During my many years in therapy I have learned to stop the tape and take the backpack off.

Currently I’m on a therapy hiatus. I began taking part in therapy when I was seven years old. Mostly it was family therapy and sometimes it was individual. I have successfully completed a ton of different therapy programs over the last thirty years. That’s a lot of expressing and pain shedding and I’m to a point now that it has become uneccessary to continue on a regular basis. At the height of my time in therapy, I was seeing a DBT certified therapist four times a week. I have been in psychiatric hospitals over ten times and have completed numerous outpatient programs. I have been a member of different support groups with varying topics surrounding my mental health. I have read countless books about mental illness both non-fiction and fiction and listened to as many audio self-help books. I’m therapied out (I think I made that word up) and I need a darn break.

I used everything I have described here as my inspiration for this poem. Take notice of how I started describing my new Australian mate and then my subject morphed into discovering myself as my friend. It is hugely important to be friends with yourself. We are so loving and generous with our friends and at times we can be our own worst enemies and treat ourselves like dirt. The golden rule of treat everyone has you would like to be treated needs to also include, and especially yourself! We can all use that reminder sometimes!

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Anxiety, Dissociative disorder, Domestic violence, Mental health, Spirituality, Women's self care

People say

I’m the kind of person that when I encounter negative energy it makes me nervous. Whenever I feel nervous I tend to talk a lot. For those who know me in life that’s saying something because I’m an outgoing and talkative person in general. I’m also a good listener and I relish my quiet time. For those who know me well, it’s hard to ever believe I used to be painfully shy until I entered high school. I think I was just trying to understand all the energies and feelings I was picking up on.

I can admit that I have emotionally vomitting on people and not in a healthy and positive way. By nature I’m an optimistic person but we all have our moments. I also have a huge tolerance for bullshit and my patience level can tolerate more than most. One of the perks of being a middle child. I’m a true peacekeeper and the glue in my relationships.

I also have worked really hard on Radical Acceptance and the ability to let things go. Let go and let God. That’s one of tbe reasons I pray, is to give up my worries to God. When I was studying DBT my the certified instructor liked to use the phrase, “fake it till you make it”. I must admit, I loathe that saying. It goes against my authenticity and character. I understand it’s meant to be motivating to try and put yourself out there even when you don’t want to. In DBT we call it opposite action. The idea of applying opposite action to painful or overwhelming emotions seems confusing but it’s to help me make a more appropriate choice with my behavior. For example when I feel fear, I use this technique to asses my feelings and whether or not the facts fit the situation.

This poem is inspired by my need to regulate an overwhelming emotion and look within myself for the answers. All my poems come to me as visions. I can just be daydreaming about something and it pops into my head. They come across like words written on a page.