Mental health, Spirituality

Nothing can hold me down

There are so many negative cliches about aging. After my 21st birthday, I could care less about celebrating my birthday. Now at 40, I fully embrace my years on this earth and am proud of where I am mentally. I feel that the challenges I have faced created many opportunities to learn, grow, evolve and helped me to gain more wisdom. When somebody asks me how old I am, I’m glad to tell them. For me this is a stark difference from how I felt even ten years ago.

A few factors contribute to how our society views age, most especially how each gender ages. Men become distinguished looking when their hair turns gray and women are described as old. The beauty industry drives these ideas about aging by producing products to stop or help freeze time from affecting our looks. Many of us subscribe to the idea that aging is bad and not something to be celebrated based solely upon our outward appearances instead of what really matters which is how we feel on the inside. Granted, I sometimes feel more tired or sore after doing activities that in the past didn’t faze me physically. Lately however I have become more interested in how my mind works, specifically how I cope with life’s struggles. My age has definitely improved my over all outlook and I feel more positive that I will overcome whatever life throws at me.

In my youth growing up, when a problem arose it felt like the end of the world and impossible to overcome. I was much more pessimistic with even the thought of facing dark times. Experience has now shown me that things can always be worse and with patience the light will eventually prevail. I trust in that because I now trust in myself.

I have had a few people in my life that were determined to break my spirit physically, mentally and emotionally. I have endured harsh abuse from those that were supposed to love me. Initially these situations left me doubting, blaming and hating myself. I was allowing these people to own space in my mind and ultimately control me. I passively accepted whatever they projected upon me and internalized their evil which had me spending years in a heavy depressed state suffering in my own mental prison.

Now on the other side of that hell, I realize that what changed was a shift in my perception of reality. I believe experience (age) has been my best friend in dealing with how best to navigate whatever life throws at me. I refuse to suffer and take on the negativity of others actions. As an empath this is one of the most important lessons I have had to implement for my own safety and peace of mind. For years I was easily confused by all the controlling energy and aggressive emotions swirling around me. I have had to learn boundaries to protect myself from these unwanted effects from certain people. When I encounter these people I am now keenly aware of how my body responds to their energy. I feel like I’m suffocating and I instantly feel nervous and unsafe. Becoming aware of these changes to my own well being has become key to successful breaking the cycle.

I use positive mantras, meditation and essential oils to ground me. I have learned to check in with myself and become mindful when assessing what I am feeling. Trusting my gut and listening to the clues I am given. In the past I was either unaware or unwilling to question these internal clues. I feel age has taught me that when something doesn’t feel right I need to pay attention to it and not ignore it. Mostly I think I was fearful of these mystery feelings. I only became aware that I am an intuitive and physical empath a few years ago by the guidance of my long term therapist. Before her insight  directed me to my truth I just thought I was crazy. I didn’t know how to explain what was going on internally, distracting me and pulling my focus away. I lived in a perpetual state of fear. I didn’t discuss these feelings and thoughts with anyone because I didn’t think anybody would understand. I was trapped inside this enormous web of complex emotions without any idea of if what I was feeling belonged to me or someone else around me. I also get what I call “visions” which I see in my mind like words on a banner. These can be either a premonition for the future or the thoughts of someone I am close to. These days it’s most times the thoughts of my fiance. I have only recently become able to properly handle this phenomenon going on inside me 24/7.

These thoughts and feelings used to absolutely exhaust me, terrify me and depress me leaving me completely clueless as to what was going on. I am so grateful to my therapist and to my friend who is a fellow empath who educated me on ways to protect myself. Life lessons that are invaluable. This poem reflects how I feel today!

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Anxiety, Depression, Grief and loss, Mental health

Gathering hope, one more try

I have overcome many obstacles in my life that I thought at the time would break me. Ten years ago, while I was still married, I lost my house in the housing crash of 2008. Even today I still struggle putting that experience into words that accurately portray how that felt. In the three years following that catastrophic event I endured a few more deep losses, the horrible death of my beloved cat, having to give away my dogs followed by my divorce that ultimately broke my relationship with my boys. Shouldering the blame for it all, now I realize just how naive I was to the pain and sadness I was truly feeling. I had to make some tough decisions in order to survive. The financial ruin is still something I haven’t fully recovered from. In true C-PTSD fashion, it has taken me years to heal from grief. At the time I wasn’t hopeful God had opened a window in response to the many doors that had been slammed in my face.

Today however, it is these experiences that have reshaped me. I had to construct an overhaul of my thinking in order to get out of bed everyday. The heavy seriousness of such stark change was absolutely suffocating at times. I attempted to stuff and swallow it all by drinking to excess, over exercising and restricting my food intake. I have a terrible knack for kicking my own butt and punishing myself when things go wrong in my life. My resistance to accept what was going on around me proved completely futile. Something had to change and the only thing I had control over was myself and my responses to the lemons I was receiving. I learned how to make lemonade by redirecting my thoughts and gathering hope where I could find it.

Throughout all the heartache, my faith in humanity was tested. I have some wonderful lifelong friends that put their arms of support around me and guided me back into the light. I’m someone that prides myself on being there for others and I don’t ask for help often. During these years my priorities shifted when I made the decision to wave the white flag of surrender. Swallowing that pride was one of the hardest and most fruitful choices I made.

There are many misconceived notions about what it means to be strong versus weak. We all go through dark times and our ego’s will lie to us by telling us, “I have got this.” I was forced to realize that I most definitely didn’t “have it” and I needed help. My friends uplifted,  guided and at times carried me through a time I was sure would destroy me completely.

People tell me often how strong I am. Most days I am proud of where I have come from and what I have achieved. Understanding what is truly important, what I need instead of what I want. My route to these realizations was a hard lesson to learn.

In the United States, we live in an over consumption culture fueled by the myth of the more you have the happier you are. In reality, I have learned this is false. Bigger, better, faster, more of everything is a sure fire way to disappointment because the emptiness we try to fill with those things provides a false sense of security. The depressing reality of materialism causes one to feel secluded, lowers human interaction and socialization. We must work more and spend less time with family and friends in order to maintain what we think we “need”. I believe this driving cycle is a self fulfilling  prophecy. We gain real happiness from our connection with others which is not something that can be bought.

Today, I don’t have many possessions and I live more of a minimalist lifestyle. The things I have lost can never break me because I choose to invest in relationships with the ones I love. I now understand that if I hadn’t experienced loss, I wouldn’t have gained hope and faith. It is the people around me that continue to support me, proving to me that as long as I keep trying and never give up the sky’s the limit. My dreams can become reality and I definitely have more than one try left in me.

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Mental health, Spirituality

One voice can start a revolution

There are many periods of my life in which I felt alone, utterly alone. The impact trauma and abuse has on an individual creates the prefect environment for isolation to take over. There are many reasons for one to withdraw and for me it was mostly fear. I was afraid for those around me to know what was happening and then judge me. Always feeling that I was to blame for my situation. My thinking has been skewed in regards to this most of my life. One of my core beliefs has always been that I’m not good enough and everything is my fault. It’s a terrible burden to carry yet I willingly did so for thirty-five years.

I grew up without a lot of guidance from either if my parents. I never got the heart to heart chats about life, how to be successful, encouragement of my dreams or how to navigate rejection. My mother and my father were both unfortunately ill equipped emotionally to be parents and therefore I have had to figure a lot out as an adult. They provided for us financially, my siblings and I never wanted for anything. When it came to “the meat” of parenting however, the tough stuff, we were left to our own devices. I spent so much of my upbringing in fear, creating a facade so nobody would suspect the pain I was in. I don’t think I even acknowledged it myself until my first mental breakdown seven years ago.

Since that experience, I have had many epiphanies about my life. I have learned to forgive, not forget what has happened to me because without it I wouldn’t be who I am today. Growing up neglected emotionally, being emotionally and psychologically abused, taking on adult responsibility at a young age made me the kind and understanding woman I am today. It’s easy for me to spot those that need a little extra TLC. It’s truly gratifying for me to listen to someone, relate to them and make them feel better about themselves. One of my ambitions in life is to be there for others compassionately because I know what it feels like to be alone and misunderstood.

I just read an article on how hate crimes have dramatically risen this past year. Too many in our society feel isolated and misunderstood. These feelings produce anger, which is a secondary emotion. The root cause of hate is fear. The vast unknown outcomes in life, the projections onto others about what we don’t like within ourselves combine to produce overwhelming fear of the other. That fear then turns into hate. Our world is crying out for tolerance towards so much we fear as a society. There are so many movements and support groups that we look for to have our voices heard. I feel technology is the newest producer of isolation. Too many of us can live in a safe bubble that separates us from what we don’t like and understand. That division is having an overwhelmingly negative impact on how we see each other. Judging others from the outside instead of what’s on the inside which is our common human connection. Humanity is under attack and hate is rising.

The recent mid term election cycle had me focusing on what keeps us so divided in this country. I thought about the rise of hate, the need for understanding and what could bring us to a more peaceful place in our communities. The ability to be vulnerable and share our emotions with one another is a good place to start the healing. Placing judgement aside and truly listening to each other. Only then can we come together in love and begin to comprehend our neighbor on a more human level. Abolishing the hate and darkness allowing for more acceptance and light.

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#divorce, Mental health

Some words from the broken hearted

It’s really difficult for me to think about my two boys these days. As a result of my divorce from their father, my ex-husband, we have become estranged. For the last 18 months I have had no communication with either of my teenage sons. My oldest told me I was no longer welcome in his life. Those words felt like bullets going through my heart. My youngest remained connected to me through social media but never responded to my many attempts to message with him and has now blocked  me like his brother did. I don’t even know what they look like now. I have not visited with them since August of 2016. Every holiday and major event during the year, I  eat my heart out scrolling through social media at my friend’s pictures of their children. This post is my attempt at processing the  roller coaster of emotions I go through daily concerning my boys.

I got married at 22 years old and all I wanted to do was become a mother and create my own family, do it my way. My oldest son was my honeymoon baby and was born 10 months after my wedding. I had left my position working at a high end retail department store months before I gave birth. I happily chose to become a stay at home mother. I relished it, thrived at it and thoroughly enjoyed every second of being the one whom was in charge of caring for my children full time. I took parenting classes, attended workshops, read countless books and joined Mommy groups. I ran my household like a well oiled machine. I took different kinds of classes with both of my boys including swimming, music, arts, sports, dancing and gymnastics. I cooked all three meals a day for my family. In addition, I cared for our two dogs and two cats. At one point we added a turtle to that mix.

Looking back on those ten years of my life, one constant thought always plagues my memories. I didn’t appreciate my life at that time. I took for granted all that I had and was not 100% grateful. That is hard to admit to myself let alone write here but it’s the truth. I owned two beautiful homes during those years, went on great vacations and was there for my boys at all times. In 2010 all of that, my life as I knew it was altered dramatically. My mind began to break apart and everyday I would “lose it” a bit more than the day before.

My ex-husband and I were one of the 1.2 million households to lose our home in the housing market crash of 2008. We weathered that loss by moving back to my childhood home and in with my parents. As awesome as it was for me to live in my hometown and have my boys take advantage of all the privledges that I was afforded growing up, it became more and more difficult to be reminded of my own childhood’ s ugly memories. The summer of 2010 my little family moved back to the state we had resided most of my adult life. It was really bittersweet and in hindsight I should of spoken up about what was happening with me mentally.

The last shred of sanity I had was gone completely by late December 2010. I remember that Christmas sitting in my in-laws house and feeling so numb and disconnected from reality, like I was sitting behind glass watching my boys open their presents. In early January I told my ex-husband that I didn’t love him anymore, I felt “crazy” and not myself. I then proceeded to demand that he and my boys move out. My actions were cold and unfeeling, I refused to discuss anything. In reality, I wasn’t able to reason or make sense out of anything during that time. I remember staring out my window, tears streaming down my face, scared to death because I didn’t understand what was happening. It’s like another person took the wheel of my life and was in the driver’s seat; I became an unwilling passenger forced to be a spectator to my own life and not a participant. I now understand, dissociative episodes were emerging.

Over the months following my family’s departure I proceeded to try and fill the deep holes in my heart because of the damage my mind had caused by doing everything to disgusting excess.  My exercise routines, eating habits(starving myself) and drinking went into overdrive. I was working three jobs during that time and sleeping no more than 4 hours at night. It was complete hypomania behavior and I sustained it for months. I was desperately trying to do anything to distract my mind and stop my troubling feelings from bubbling up to the surface.

Then came the crash, my suicide attempt and subsequent hospitalzations. I was diagnosed with a slew of acronyms from the DSM-5 and put on an overlong list of medications to combat my ever changing symptoms. It wasn’t until four years later that my long term therapist and I were able to FINALLY get to a proper diagnosis of Complex PTSD. I believe living with my family from 2008-2010 triggered all the deep seeded traumas my mind hadn’t processed properly and became the catalyst for my complete mental breakdown. My boys being forced to witness my mother, their grandmother,  scream at me and physically fight their grandfather. I remember my oldest calling out in fear, “grandma stop yelling at my Mommy.” Having my boys become a part of my dysfunctional past was more than I could ultimately bear.

I have read many articles on how people with a history of childhood trauma left untreated, can result in bipolar like behaviors as an adult. Many of these people have also been misdiagnosed which results in delay of healing. Unfortunately, I had little support from loved ones during this time which exacerbated my condition. I did everything I could to see my boys every other weekend. I would push myself to muster the energy it took so I could function as “normally” as possible during our weekends together. In 2013, I made the drastic decision to enter a long term treatment facility many states away from where I was living and from my boys.

I completed that treatment and did everything in my power to stay in communication with my boys. I wrote many letters, we video chatted, and stayed in touch by our social media accounts. In 2016, I attempted to move back to the state they reside in with my ex-husband. It’s also unfortunately the state where so many traumatizing abuses happened to me. Those memories and flashbacks proved too great for me to overcome so I left there again for third time since 2008. It is the hardest decision I ever have had to make. I promised my boys I would try again to make their state my home. In the end, I have had to come to terms with my failure to make that happen. I feel so much guilt, shame, sadness and anger within myself for that decision. I have had to do a lot of soul searching and reckoning just to get out of bed everyday.

I know my boys must feel abandoned and they are justified in their anger. I have tried on numerous occasions to talk with them about their feelings, ask if they have questions for me etc. Unfortunately my ex-husband is not willing to participate in my healing, he is still bitter over our divorce and we haven’t spoken in almost 4 years. It’s most unfortunate for my boys who have to suffer because the adults in their lives can’t work together in their best interest. My ex has succeeded in erasing me from their lives for now. I have tried calling and texting the number I have for him, sending letters and emails…..ANYTHING to get him to talk to me. Last spring, I mustered up the courage to call my ex-mother in-law in an attempt to talk with my boys. I am glad that not only did she answer but I was able to thank her for loving and caring for my boys in my absence. She told me they are doing well and that she gives them my letters. I don’t know the actual address where my boys live so I mail my letters to my -ex in-laws house.

Coming to terms with this situation has taken an arduous effort on my part. The ones who I feel the worst for are the two boys who are growing up without their Mother. I hope someday they will forgive me and reach out to repair our broken relationship. Deep down I do have faith that will happen. I’m proud to say that throughout the separation, divorce and estrangement I have never spoken a bad word about their father to them.  I refuse to damage their image of him. I know what it’s like to have a parent’s disdain for the other parent ruin the minds of their children. My mother always spoke negatively about my father,  how he wouldn’t want me if they got divorced, how much he didn’t like me even comparing us when I did or said something she didn’t approve of. That forces a child to dislike themselves and look upon those comparisons of character in a shameful way. I refuse to engage in that kind of parent against parent warfare.

Every single day, I spend time thinking about both of my boys. I look at pictures, I cry and I forgive myself for missing out on their childhood. I use the helpful technique of compartmentalizing my thoughts to aid me in exploring those difficult emotions. I also write. This is a poem I hope to share with my boys someday.

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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, Depression, Mental health, Uncategorized

Cleansing

I’ve heard tears cleanse the soul. No matter which emotion they derive from be it sadness,happiness, fear what have you. Years ago I went through a six year stretch that I simply didn’t cry. I thought at the time it was from being on psychiatric medication. In hindsight, I now believe I was in such a deep denial. A robotic type of functioning that prevented me from feeling. I blocked out my emotional self and denied myself its truth. I also used to be afraid of crying because I thought if I started, I wouldn’t be able to stop. I literally feared drowning in my own sorrows.

Today I am powerful in my emotions. I know they all make me strong and bring me closer to my true self. They are absolutely necessary in order for me to breathe. It’s not always pretty and sometimes it’s very messy. I understand however that there is no other way. I have turned the corner of denial, wearing masks and faking it. I refuse to be anyone else but me. For that I am so grateful.