Healing Journey – Part 2

I’m back from the Bahamas! I am refreshed, rejuvenated, and reinvigorated. Click here if you haven’t read my last post about healing after heartbreak. My travel post about my Bahamian adventures goes up Wednesday this week.

On to the healing! Armed with a pen, journal, and a self-help book, I worked on myself. I prioritized moments that were purely for me and my well-being. I took advice from one of the greatest Disney movies ever made. I let go of everything. Past hurts, traumas, feeling used, confusion and anger at being lied to for so long, and not getting what I know I earned. I let it go.

During my trip, I analyzed and began to understand why I’ve always felt so insecure and depressed. I was bullied for my looks, being a nerd, and very neglected emotionally as a kid and teen. I didn’t have many close friends, because the military uprooted my family every few years. That impacted how I interact and trust as an adult. Our relationships with others are vital, and I’m not sure I ever understood how they’re supposed to work.

A sad fact about me is that I survived continuous sexual, emotional, and physical abuse as a child, teenager, and as an adult. I’ve carried that guilt and shame for as long as I can remember. I have complex PTSD (C-PTSD) meaning I’ve experienced trauma from multiple events over years, rather than a single event. Due to this, I’ve never truly felt safe or like I belonged anywhere. I lived in fear and uncertainty most of my life. I recall feeling unwanted or like a waste of space as far back as pre-school. My mom was ruthlessly critical of my body. My dad was a fan of angry, long winded tirades about how life wasn’t fair. I was certain that both my parents hated me for simply existing, and their words and actions did not prove otherwise. At an early age, I drew the conclusion that some people didn’t deserve love, and that I was one of them.

I felt like I lagged behind in “The Important Milestones”. Like graduating college, making a group of lifelong friends, having a career, getting engaged, having a wedding, and all the other Kodak moments. This unhealthy thought process developed because my parents constantly negatively compared my brothers and I to other kids or each other. Nothing was good enough. “I’m proud of you” or “You did great” were two things I did not hear growing up. I learned to treat myself with harshness instead of forgiveness, and hatred instead of love and acceptance. As I got older and reached any important milestone, it wasn’t good enough. It seemed like everyone in my age group had already done it. Then inevitably, it would fall apart. I couldn’t seem to get it together when everyone else already had. My broken engagement is the most recent example of this self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve consistently felt like an unlovable, damaged and unworthy outsider that couldn’t do anything right no matter how hard I tried.

This is my truth: I am not any of those things. I deserve love. I am loving, beautiful, kind, and I care deeply about myself and others. I deserve honesty and respect from the people that I love. I am brave when I feel fearful. I am strongest when I feel weak. I ask for help when I need it. I embody the love, kindness, and empathy that I have not received from the people I trusted and needed it from the most. I give away what I never got. My heart never hardened, and I stayed selfless and compassionate. I let people in and help, because I don’t want anyone to feel as bad as I have at various points in life. Instead of vindictively replicating my pain in others, I actively try to create love and comfort. I don’t assume the worst about others. I hope for the best in them. I am a once in a lifetime kind of woman. This is what I learned about myself as I stood in the sun.

I’ve chosen new personal milestones that I’ve decided are important. Other stuff will fall into place when it’s supposed to. There’s no shame in that. One day I’ll cross paths with someone as filled with light and love as I am and have the healthy, supportive, and loving relationship that was meant for me. That person will appreciate me and everything I do to make them feel special, and won’t think twice about doing the exact same for me. His words and actions will match. With him, I’ll never feel the pain of being taken for granted again. One day, my special someone won’t be able to wait any longer and will propose to me, making sure it’s the most special unforgettable surprise of my life. I will have people in my life that want to celebrate happiness with me. My person and I won’t be perfect, but we’ll be worth it. One day, I’ll get everything I have ever deserved and won’t wonder any longer. But until that happens, I am leaving the past behind and focusing on myself and my new milestones.

This trip was so beneficial in so many ways. I met so many amazing people in Nassau. I met a guy that came to the Bahamas to help rebuild after Hurricane Dorian, because he felt compelled to. I met the quality of people I couldn’t find in Guam, the kind of people that I needed to be around to grow. Finding real and unique people who know what they want and where they are going had such an impact on me. If you’re not where you want to be or don’t know the kinds of people you think you need, try a change of scenery. They’re out there! I received a lot of great advice from men and women alike. The men told me not to go back to the past and get hurt again, and to not make time for second chances. The women told me not to diminish and exhaust myself or sacrifice the way I had before. Sacrifice and compromise are not the same thing. They encouraged me to move on and told me not to lose hope. The past won’t change, but the future has plenty of time and a plan for me. I’m doing the right thing by taking charge of my life, taking an honest look at myself, changing what I can, and doing it all with a smile on my face. I’m listening to those older and wiser than me. They know better, so I’m not looking or going back. They shared the lessons I needed to heal.

The most poignant line for me in You Are A Badass said, “If something negative happens in your life, feel it, learn from it, let it go and get back to focusing on the life you’re excited to live.” I’ve been doing that in my own way without realizing it.

I totally recommend this book if you feel like you need a change.

By the end of my trip, I became aware of my power. I made what I wanted happen without letting anything or anyone (including myself) stand in my way. I went to a music festival. I got the car I’ve always wanted. I traveled alone for the first time. I swam with a group of sea turtles. I learned new things, while making worthwhile and interesting friends from all over the world. That is powerful. All I needed was a chance and the most painful experience of my life to create the opportunity. Nothing can shake the absolute confidence and trust I have in myself right now. I make things happen. I am powerful. I will repeat that to myself every day.

What makes me happiest in this moment, is that my growth isn’t stemming from wanting to be a better person for someone else to accept me. I want to be a better person for me. I don’t want to keep struggling with the weight of pain anymore. I’ve had enough pain. I want joy. I don’t want pain to keep me stuck in the gloomy past while I miss out on the endless possibilities of the present and future. I lost someone important to me, but I found someone even more important: myself. I accept myself. I accept what happened to me. I accept that I can’t change the past. I’ve embraced all that is me, good, bad, and ugly. I’ve given my scared and lonely inner-child a big hug and told her that I’m proud of her. I am ready to move on with my life. It’s time.

“This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine.”

This was my favorite song when I was a little girl, next to “Thriller” and “Waterfalls” by TLC. It popped in my head as I thought about what my friend had said when we reconnected. He said, “You have a light.” Although my light has flickered and sputtered more times than I care to count, it’s never gone out because I’ve never truly given up. My light’s still shining through the darkness, and so will I. I’m using my light to look forward and find what’s meant for me.

Have you gone on a trip to get to know yourself?
Leave a comment below & share your experience!

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Healing Journey – Part 1

Hi, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I took a break to gather myself. My tears have dried. After a couple of mopey days, I got up, washed my face, and in true Rachelle-fashion whipped out a notebook and pen. I got to work writing down how I felt and listing the choices I wanted to make.

The best choice I’ve made so far?
Sobriety.

Instead of numbing, isolating, and avoiding, I chose to go on this journey sober. I’m stronger because of it. I believe that wholeheartedly. That speaks to how far I’ve come as a person. Not even a year ago, I would have drowned my sorrows and pain with bottles upon bottles of Cabernet and engaged in all kinds of risky and damaging behaviors because of it. Nope. Not this time. I’m older and wiser now. Alcohol does not fix anything. It does, however, give the opportunity to create more problems. No thanks. I chose to go to a new city so I wouldn’t fall back into the same toxic habits and friendships I used to rely on in Destin.

Next on my list?
Change, Self-Care, & Growth.

Mr. Buddy takes up half the bed.

I concentrated on myself, the person that I tend to neglect the most. I made myself my priority. I am my own person. I bought my dream car and conquered driving stick again. I got my hair and nails done. I joined a CrossFit class (Groupon for the win). I bought a giant teddy bear that I named Mr. Buddy for warm hugs. I got massages and facials. I’ve stopped eating meat and drinking coffee (it makes me really anxious). I’ve started “eating clean” for the most part. I started taking good care of myself, instead of putting all of my energy into taking care of everyone around me. When I catch sight of my reflection now, I see the gorgeous girl I thought I lost. Everything about me is brighter, with or without makeup. I look and feel a lot younger. I don’t look exhausted or feel completely drained anymore. I feel beautiful and confident, like a new and improved version of myself. Rachelle 2: Electric Boogaloo. I wish I didn’t lose myself and forget how beautiful I am, inside and out. I won’t let that happen again. I’m so much stronger on my own than I ever believed I could be.

First Festival Ferris Wheel ride.

I also started going for early morning thirty minute runs every day to clear my head. I went from struggling to get 2.5 miles without stopping to crushing 3.5 miles in about a week. I’m still going, and I’m proud of myself. I went to a music festival (like I had once challenged), danced my heart out, and met some awesome people. Festival people are, hands down, the best people. The best quote from my first EDC in 2016 was: Make sure you’re having more fun than the person next to you. The crowds and fireworks did not bother me at all this time, and no one groped me. I was having too much of a good time to let PTSD bother me. I did girly things like taking a ridiculous amount of posed pictures for the Gram (something I never do), wore makeup, and yell-sang along to every song I knew, just for the fun of it.

My first festival ride in the rain

It dawned on me how many fun things I stopped doing because of all the misogyny I internalized over time by being in a hyper masculine environment. I didn’t want to get made fun of or teased meanly for enjoying things that I liked. Finally doing them felt good. Turns out there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking pictures of your food or posing a certain way because you look good at that angle. Do what makes you happy. I indulged in all the girly activities and didn’t feel self-conscious about them for once. I’ve decided to stop denying myself the things that I like now and in the future. Before EDC, I put myself out there, and joined a lot of Meetup groups. As a result, I’ve made some new friends that I feel comfortable around. It’s nice to be invited places and nice to be included. Surrounding yourself with good people really makes a difference. I even worked up the nerve to go on a date! It was actually fun!

Currently, I’m talking about all of this stuff and more in therapy. Seriously therapists are the unsung heroes of this world. Therapy is making this whole process much more manageable. I’m even improving my relationship with my parents. I’m building trust in myself and others again. There is a quote by Maya Angelou that my therapist shared to give me perspective in figuring out trusting others. “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” I am not one to argue with the Head Sister in Charge, may she rest in peace, so I wrote it on a sticky note on my bathroom mirror for a daily reminder. I’m also applying for jobs that I think would be fulfilling, regardless of how much they pay. Most of them involve helping people or animals. I want to do something in service of others in need. That speaks to my soul the most and would make me happiest. I’m also looking for an animal shelter so I can volunteer on the weekends. Keeping busy has become very important to me, because I have the opportunity to do it!

Next choice?
Soul searching trip.

Remember that book/movie How Stella Got Her Groove Back? Well, it’s inspiring this chapter of life called How Rachelle-a Got Her Groove Back. In a couple of days I’m headed to the Bahamas by myself for some solitude, good food, and beach therapy. I’m packing nothing but swimsuits, books, sunblock, and my journal… okay, yeah, and dresses to go dancing. I forgot how much I loved to dance, even though I’m rhythmically challenged. I’ve missed so much about myself. Prior to EDC, I can’t remember the last time I did exactly what I needed when I needed it. I have a bad habit of putting my needs last. I used to run away from Destin and drive or fly to a different city whenever I needed a break. That was damn near impossible in Guam, and now I understand how much I needed that. This trip is about reclaiming the happy adventurous parts of my personality that went missing, building on my self-worth and love through me time, and plain ol’ moving on by figuring out where I want to go from there.

A funny thing happened when I got back to the States. I realized the low self-worth I felt in Guam was far from how I should have been feeling about myself. My older brother mentioned that the girl that got my previous phone number responded to his texts saying that her phone was blown up for months on end by people trying to reach me. I ended up texting her to apologize, and she sent me a bunch of screen shots.

It was a humbling moment. She complimented me, saying I must be a really sweet person if so many people were reaching out to find me the two years I was in Guam. I reconnected with many of them, and found to my surprise, that I was greatly missed and loved. I wasn’t the terrible person that loneliness led me to believe. An old friend said that he missed my light, and that I shouldn’t let anything dim it, because it inspired him. More people than I knew were rooting for my happiness because they knew I deserved it, even when I felt like I didn’t. I’m getting used to my phone ringing a lot with new and old friends and family checking in now, since it didn’t really ring much in Guam.

I know what I deserve now. I know my true value. I’m committing to living my truth and standing in the sun. I have always deserved honesty, kindness, happiness, and empathy. I deserve to be treated with fairness and respect. I deserve not to be called names, put down, and stonewalled. I deserve trustworthy people in my life. I deserve effort and feeling special. I deserve to feel comfortable and safe in my surroundings. I deserve a healthy relationship. All of this and more exists in the world that I used to perceive as cold and unforgiving. I’ve found those positive qualities internally. Now I have to embrace all the good that’s out there.

And that’s exactly what I’m about to do.

Grow Where You Are Planted

Grow Where You Are Planted

It’s hard to describe the pain of a broken engagement. It’s harder than losing a boyfriend or girlfriend. When you get engaged to someone, you have thought critically and at length about sharing your life with another person. You become less worried about the future, because you understand that your partner will be there. Questions about life start having answers. You understand that your relationship will not always be roses, but your partner is worth the thorns. Anxieties quiet, and fears dissipate. Everything about life does not make sense still, but your partner gives you clarity.

I was caught by surprise by the sudden dissolution of my relationship. I thought that we were doing well. I worked hard for our relationship. I became a better person. I showered him in love and validation. I read countless books, blogs, and news articles about communication, how to be a better partner, and how to keep the spark alive. I listened to podcasts. I went to therapy on my own to work on my personal issues. I did the work. I changed. I loved harder than I ever had. I trusted. I cared. I sacrificed. I was selfless when and where it counted. I learned patience and acceptance toward situations I could not control. I rediscovered my love of writing again. I made healthier choices, like easing up on alcohol, and participated in healthy activities like my fitness class and yoga.

I came out of this relationship better than I went in, so I think that counts for something.

I am sad. It’s like I’m grieving a death at the moment. I’m grieving the loss of a life that I will never know, but I have no anger or ill thoughts toward my ex. I know what I had in him. I forgive him for not seeing what he had in me. We bonded in a way I thought impossible after many traumas and negative relationship experiences impacted my perception of men and love. I learned to challenge my pre-conceived notions and fears. I learned to trust again. I grew stronger. Tougher. More prepared to deal with the unpredictable world around me. It is hard to understand being told that I’m not at any kind of fault in this break up, but I will learn and heal.

So as I start this new chapter of my life, as a single woman in her thirties, I refuse to feel uprooted and tossed aside. I grew where I was planted. I refused to be anything other than my authentic self. I did not try to blend in, in a place where I stood out. I found higher standards and held myself to them. I stayed honest and true to my values. I remained kind. I changed for the better, instead of becoming a version of myself that I wouldn’t like or recognize to fit in. I didn’t want to celebrate mediocrity. I wanted to grow.

I’m so grateful for the people that reached out and helped me see the positives of this experience. They’re helping me handle this new and unexpected pain with grace and dignity. In a way, I’m happy to go back to the States and reclaim parts of who I was and discover who I will become. So much of me got lost in our relationship, because I couldn’t do many things I needed to, couldn’t find a worthwhile job, and couldn’t find a group of friends that I related to. In leaving, I’m restoring my sense of self and independence, two things I have sorely missed.

I came out of this relationship better than I went in.

This Summer

I have to talk about this summer. Have to.

I spent the majority of the summer by myself. It was partly by choice, and partly because my fiancé has been off island for work. My roommate and I have been thick as thieves, but now he’s gone, too! My goofball is getting back very soon, and he’s coming home to a different woman because of all the time I spent with myself.

I should be a hand model!

I gotta say, this was the best summer ever. I feel like I finally got my shit together. I did some soul searching. I got to know myself. I did a lot of reading, yoga, exercising. I feel great. I feel centered. I feel really satisfied with my life and significantly happier. I stopped complaining to complain, and doing something about the stuff that was bothering me.

A small thing that was a big thing for this turn around? I figured out what I actually liked. I stopped doing the things that I don’t like. It was so simple. Things that I kept doing that I really didn’t like?

  • Going to bars.
    I used to go out all the time when I lived in Florida, but I had a huge safety net. I knew all the bouncers, bartenders, and the regulars. Hell, I was a regular. When I go out here, I get overwhelmed so easily. People are yelling, there’s no music or dancing, and the drinks are expensive. I usually spend the entire time freaking out silently in a corner while everyone else has fun. For some reason I kept going even though I was miserable. It’s just not for me. I have a glass of wine or two every now and then, but that’s way less than the rate I was going. An environment gets significantly less fun when everyone else is wasted.

  • Being a voice of reason in other people’s business.
    I chose to be selfish this summer. I am usually the therapist. My nickname in my old group of friends was Squad Mom or Oprah. People come to me with their issues, I listen, then counsel after dredging up the hard lessons I’ve learned. Then their problem is fixed, and I don’t hear from them again until the next problem arises. Although I like helping, it feels crappy that I’m just the fixer/problem solver. People call me when they need something, not when they want to hang out. It was starting to become a real bummer, so I stopped being a sounding board. The therapist is OUT. Strangely enough, when I stopped that, my phone stopped ringing, too. *insert Kanye shrug here*

  • Feeling bad about things I haven’t done yet.
    Instead of wondering why I haven’t completed my Masters yet or why I don’t have as much in my savings account as I would like, I made a plan. I planned for the next six months, the next year, the next five years, and what I’d like to accomplish in my life in general. I know life turns rarely turns out how we plan, but having a road map has reduced my stress level so much. I hate not knowing. Problem solved!

  • Stopped saying yes. “Yup. Got it. Yessiree Bob. Mmhmm. Okie doke.” All of them. I changed up the game this summer. “Nah. No thanks. Not for me. Nope. That’s okay.” This echoes my first point, but it needs to be reiterated. I watched an episode of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo in May. That cute little question she asks: Does this spark joy? It got me thinking about things that I held onto that weren’t making me happy. This meant objects, yes, but I also stretched that to include people. I simply took my leave from dying friendships that weren’t actually friendly and relationships that were one-sided. Within days, I felt less stressed and worried.

  • Put my phone down. I made an effort to stop distracting myself from being in the moment while I’m with others. When I go out to dinner or someone wants to hang out, I do my best to stow my phone in my purse and leave it there the whole time. I love Reddit, cute animals videos, and looking at natural hairstyles on Pinterest is my weakness. But heck, all that stuff will be there. I don’t want to miss out on the life going on around me. The text messages can wait. If it’s an emergency, they’ll call.

Things I found out I liked? Writing. I got my novel finished, which is amazing. It’s been a dream of mine to write a novel, and I did it! I started this little hobby blog, too. I also found out I’m into interior decorating. I spent a lot of the summer furnishing our new home. It’s been fun! I’m ready to surprise Jack when he gets home. I learned how to do box braids and a couple other styles on my own hair. My fingers are uncooperative, so it was a huge deal for me! I also went to the beach alone a few times to read, and really took time to cultivate my garden. I have a little farm in our backyard. Although I’m still not the biggest fan of exercise, I’m seeing results and proud of myself for not giving up on it!

Taking the time to be with myself and get away from the noise of life made me feel so much better. Good things are happening because of my choices and planning. I’m being considered for a dream job, which is beyond exciting. I feel so ready to get back in the saddle and kick ass at a job or in school, whichever comes first. It has been the summer that I became the person I thought I could be. I will always look back to this summer for motivation and direction.