Forgiving You Sets Me Free

That moment you realize you need to forgive past hurts, not for the offender but for your own freedom.

Over the weekend I was smacked in the face with realization that I still needed to forgive past hurts, I was shaken for a while and then I had to pull myself up. I had coffee with a cousin that I hadn’t seen since the day I was put back on the plane to California at 15 years old after I told my Mom about being molested. Once I arrived home phone calls were made, denials were made, and I was left angry and hurt.

I had been anticipating the meeting when I found out that my second cousin’s ex-wife wanted to see us. In my mind I was thinking it was for an apology, validation and to make amends. When we were contacted about getting together that was the information I received from another family member. I was open since I had worked on a lot of the abuse issues from my childhood. I had worked on freedom from shame and I started to feel proud of all the accomplishments I had made towards healing. In my mind, since I was able to share my story  and encourage those that were struggling I assumed my recovery was strong.  However, sometimes the wind gets knocked out of me to remind me of the work I still need to do.

I made calls in the morning before going to church for support, because my anxiety was high. I didn’t know what to expect I was scared and unsure, I had prayed in the morning that everything would go well and that I would be strong. I asked God to let the reunion go well.

After church we set the GPS for our forty minuet drive deep into the desert. My cousin was staying so far in the desert that the further out we drove the higher the temperature rose and so did my anxiety. “Smile, keep it together”, is what I kept repeating to myself. The closer we got, the weaker my mantra became. Reality, I was worried.

We finally arrived, thankfully my ride or die supporters were with me. I stepped out of the car and we all did our greeting and I truly believe that  we were genuinely happy to see each other. My cousin gets in the car and we head to Starbucks which seemed like a safe place to meet at least in my mind plus there weren’t a lot of options where we could sit down and talk, we were in the boonies of the valley. I was so grateful to see Starbucks.

I ordered my usual black coffee and a banana, and everyone else got their drinks and food. Once we sat down and the conversation started I was faced with the reality that we would not be dealing with anything I assumed about the meeting. Instead I’d have to sit and listen to my cousin talk about how her life was going and asking about our lives. The conversation went on and on about life after we left Texas and what I realized is that she talked as if nothing had happened. She continued to bring up my cousin and all the drama she went through with him and all of the women he cheated with and how he was mentally abusing her. It was so bad that eventually they divorced.

As she talked my insides boiled, I dug my nails into my skin to keep my composure because going ballistic would be embarrassing. I excused myself and went to the quiet Starbucks restroom to gather myself and I cried and asked God to help me. All of the work I had done seemed to disappear in an instant and the emotions I felt about the trauma before had returned. I was angry, hurt, and full of hatred for what was done to me. I couldn’t see beyond my anger and it was good that I didn’t have any sharp objects because instead of expressing my anger out loud I would’ve harmed myself in the moment.

I excused myself to go to the restroom to gather my composure. While in the restroom a Starbucks employee bursted into the restroom! I thought I locked the door, however, it was just what I needed to snap out of the dark of my mind and return to the table. We sat in Starbucks for so long that my Sister and I tuned out after a while. My Mom and cousin started talking about other things and I was grateful. My Sister started showing me pictures from Instagram, that was just the distraction I needed.

After all the rounds of drinks and endless conversation I told my Mom I was ready to go. I was done and all I wanted was to just go back to my normal Sunday night dinner and t.v. with my family.

By the time we dropped my cousin off I was tired and tearful and kind of lost. On our way back to our side of town I let down my shield cried and shared my feelings about all that had transpired during the reunion.I was shocked at my reaction and the fact that I was still bitter and wounded. While we discussed the conversation during the reunion my Mom and Sister made a lot of  valid points as to why my cousin didn’t acknowledge how her husband had hurt me. It seemed as if she was suffering  the results of his mental abuse and infidelity throughout their marriage. I would hear bits and pieces about the good things that were going on in his life and I would become angry and resentful because it appeared that he was getting away with murder.

The reunion did not give me the closure I had hoped for, instead it was a wake up call. Although my cousin is dead I realized that I still had not forgiven him and held on to  anger, hurt and resentment towards him and his wife. While I didn’t get the results I had hoped for I was confronted with another layer of my journey that needed work. A long time ago I read this book “Deal With It: You Cannot Conquer What You Will Not Confront”  By Paula White. The reunion was an opportunity to look my past in the face and realize I was still living in bondage to my past.

My journey towards healing is like an onion, there are many layers. For every victory a layer is removed and I am faced with a new layer that needs to be pulled back. So, I am at a crossroad.  Do I continue to hold on to the anger, hurt, and resentment or do I peel the layer of forgiveness?

I want to forgive, because holding on to the anger, hurt, and resentment keeps me bound by my past. The longer I hold on to the trauma the more power I give to someone that is dead. What a waste of energy. I’ve worked too hard to get where I am and going back is not an option for me.

But how do I forgive one of the worst violations? How do I make peace with the reality that  the validation and resolve that I long for will never be? How do I work on not cringing every time I hear his name?  I have been holding on to a lot of bitterness that eats away at my soul.

After my wallowing period I did what I usually do, I asked God to help me forgive. For me peeling this layer of unforgiveness makes my eyes tear up and burn. However, God has given me everything I need to get through this tough layer.

I am on a new journey to forgive. I want freedom from anger, hurt, and unforgiveness and in order for me to be free I must forgive. The first step for me is realizing  forgiveness is not about letting the person “get away with murder”, but  releasing the perpetrator so that I am free.

I choose to forgive all the perpetrators for the sake of my freedom.

-Natalie

 

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I’m Back!

It has been a while since my last post. Sometimes I am not really sure what direction I want to go in with my site. I tend to think if it is not perfect then I can’t do it, however, they say “practice makes perfect”. While I enjoy writing sometimes it doesn’t feel natural to me. I know I  think way too much and I talk myself out of everything, but I really dislike that quality.

So, I have decided that I will write until I get into a grove that works for me. I will not quit! My thoughts might not always come out right, but I am determined to do my best and I will see what comes from the process. Every time I write I feel like I am writing a paper for class, that is slightly nerve wracking. Maybe if I try a creative approach I will be less resistant…I am unsure but I am willing to keep going.

-Natalie

You Are Not Alone!!!

Have you ever felt so lost and empty that you wanted to end your life? Last night I watch the entire series on Netflix Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, I could not tear myself away from the story of Hannah Baker. Suicide doesn’t just end the pain of the hurting person but it starts the pain of those left behind to deal with the aftermath. Once I finally got to number 13, I was spent. My head was pounding, I had cried during many of the episodes as my heart was breaking for Hannah Baker. I  felt compelled to do something to help others that are going through the pain Hannah Baker that pushed her to end her life.

I believe the series hit me so hard because I was Hannah Baker, however, my seven attempts did not end my life. Today I am grateful for that, but at that time I couldn’t see the upside of being here on earth.  I was so lost and broken and wished that someone was able to hear me and help me end the pain. Growing up as a survivor of Sexual Abuse and struggling through the aftermath of the abuse I found myself constantly contemplating ending my life. My feelings were deep and intense and I often felt misunderstood and rejected because I couldn’t just “suck it up”  or move past the shame, guilt, anger, and disappointment. I had an overflow of pain along with trying to cope with everyday life so death seemed the best decision at the time.

My first attempt ended with me in the hospital having my stomach pumped, that is an experience I will never forget. And I will never take Prozac again. In an attempt to say my goodbyes to those that I cared about, I called after taking pills and I assumed my voice didn’t sound normal because I woke in the hospital, and I was so angry with myself! The pain was still present and people thought I was crazy and didn’t want to deal with me any longer. At that time I didn’t understand why I was being rejected   by people around me, I was a child and didn’t realize that my actions were “scary”  or “crazy”and left people reacting in a way that intensified the internal anguish.

I hated my life so much and didn’t believe that there was a way out. Feeling hated by the world around me and believing that something was seriously wrong with me since I continued to find myself in horrible situations and couldn’t control my pain and anger at what had gone on as a result of the abuse. My coping skills were nonexsistent, I cut my to end release the unheard pain, I spent so much time praying to the porcelian god or restricting my meals. While engaging in those behaviors my thoughts were somewhere else and in those moments I was able to focus on something else besides the ugliness and darkness within. I did everything in my power to deal and get through the days. After so many failed attempts to “end it all” I was labeled Seriously Emotionally Disturbed and couldn’t figure out how to be Ok. By that time most people had given up on me and I felt even more isolated from the world around me. I was so ashamed of myself.

Looking back on those times in my life the anguish I felt was so intense and my sense of self was so destroyed that I couldn’t see a point in life. I needed to be heard and supported. I needed reassurance that I was not a loss cause. At this point in life I sympathize with the lost girl that I was and I also sympathize with the adults around that didn’t know what to do. Lack of understanding left me feeling isolated and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. Suicide is not something openly discussed until it is too late.

I do not want to be silent any longer. People are hurting and I feel that I can do something to help those that feel alone, misunderstood and broken.  I have been in that dark place where it seemed like the pain and anguish would go on forever and wished for one person to hear me. No, I can’t take away the pain but I can listen, read, support and reassure you that you are not alone. The next day can be better. The pain does pass with the right support and tools. Help is available.

After watching Thirteen Reasons Why I feel moved to let people struggling know YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!!! 

Natalie

Mindful Meals

    Today I spent time being mindful while preparing and eating my meals. Often times I am so busy that I do not pay attention to what I am shoveling into my mouth, and my body suffers the consequences of me not being mindful about what I prepare and ingest. Lately, I have been traveling back and forth to my home state of California and so my food, sleep, and exercise have been off. 

    Breakfast is one of my favorite meals, so I used it a an opportunity to be mindful. I typically look forward to the first meal of the day, it’s the one meal I can enjoy something either sweet and savory or something simple. Today was my oatmeal day, I tend to go all out during the process of preparing a beautiful bowl of oatmeal. 

    I grab my green bowl that I’ve had since high school which was so long ago. I use Quaker Oats Old Fashion Oatmeal and I put it in the microwave with 1cup of Almond milk for 2mins. While that is heating up I scoop out my chia and flaxseeds, I love the nutty flavor of the flaxseeds it adds an extra kick to the oatmeal. I don’t think chia seeds actually have flavor, they are just fillers for me. During this 2min. time I also slice my strawberries.

    After the oat are cooked I pour one pack of Stevia on the oatmeal and start placing my strawberries neatly on one side and then the chia and flax are added, I enjoy the process of decorating my oat (smile), when food looks pleasing to my eyes it more enjoyable. So, once everything is picture perfect I snap and sit down to finally enjoy my breakfast. 

    During this time I drink my black coffee and eat my cereal. I focus on the texture of the strawberries and how they mix with the oatmeal along with the cluster of chia seeds that got stuck together. The strawberries are very aromatic and I find myself smiling when I inhale the scent of the strawberries. I am so relaxed in the moment and I purposely avoid rushing through the meal. When the oatmeal goes down my throat it is still warm and I take another sip of coffee, yum. 

    Finally, I come to the final scoop and I am satisfied.  I am not in a rush and so I sit for a moment and and finish off the rest of my coffee. Mindful eating and prepping keeps me present and aware of what my body needs in that moment. It is my time to just be with myself before the world around me starts to buzz. 

    Have a mindful meal and see how you feel.

    -Natalie 

    Mindfulness: Living Mindfully

    Another conversation about mindfulness. I love sharing my experience with my practice of mindfulness it has been such a major part of my journey towards wholeness. I hope to encourage someone else to start the journey of living mindfully. In the beginning of my practice of mindfulness it was so difficult because I had live an emotionally chaotic life. I was all over the place and struggled to live in the moment in a state of acceptance and peace.  Once I started my journey to living a mindful life it took a lot of work and endurance to stay the course, but I am in a place where I can share my experience. Right now I just want to share some of the basic of Mindfulness, some of the techniques I use in my practice.

    What is mindfulness?

    Mindfulness:”Acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them-without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment.” greatergood.berkeley.edu

    Another explanation: “Mindfulness as a practice directs your attention to only one thing and that one thing is the moment you are living in.” –Marsha Linehan (Creator of DBT Dialectical Behavior Therapy) 

    The many benefits in the practice of mindfulness:

    1. Clear mind for dealing with stress, depression, anxiety, and PTSD
    2. Reduces anger, hostility, mood disturbance
    3. Increased ability to focus
    4. Ability to live a  balanced life
    5. Ability to be present in your life
    6. Ability to be in touch with your feelings

    There are many more benefits that I haven’t mentioned to living a mindful life. The benefits are endless and when you practice mindfulness you may find more benefits that are not listed here. If you do practice mindfulness feel free to share some of the benefits that you have found through your practice.  

    Here are a few of my mindfulness activities:

    Deep breathing: I have found that when I take out time to breathe consciously I am rejuvenated and able to focus on what I must do. I feel relaxed and peaceful.

    I found this one quote that I really love: “Breathing in, I know that I am Breathing in.”  -Thich Nhat Hahn

    Meditation: I meditate everyday. When I meditate it is my time to pray, listen, and draw direction for my life. I am able to reflect on the promises of God in my life.

    Journal: when I journal this is my time to sit with my feelings and not judge them. I reflect and process what I am experiencing. I’ve journaled since the age of thirteen and I believe it is one of the things that has kept me grounded in life.

    Disconnect: For me disconnecting from the outside world in order to regroup is necessary to remain present in life. I put down my phone, turn off the t.v. and just decompress from the constant activity around. The disconnect does not have to be long but taking out some time to sit with yourself is rejuvenating.

    Create Something Beautiful:  As an artist I find that being creative is one of my favorite mindfulness activities. For me when I am working with paints, charcoal, or ink it is an opportunity to channel my mind into something beautiful.

    These are a few of the things that have helped me on the journey. This is just the beginnning of sharing mindfulness with you. I will continue to post more on Mindfulness. Look for more Mindfulness Monday, that is when I will post various information on the subject that is important to me…

    -Natalie

     

     

    If you are interested I have listed some of the resources to check out:

    1. greatergood.berkeley.edu
    2. Marsha Linehan : DBT Mindfulness
    3. Huffington Post, Carolyn Gregoire

     

     

                      

     

    Mindfulness :Sleep Hygiene

    Before going to bed every night I do the same thing. I shower, I journal, and I write out my daily gratitude. I have found that my routine has helped me center myself before bed while creating a clear mind for  deep restful sleep. No matter how busy or chaotic my day has been my night routine is how I regain balance in my life. Sleep hygiene is my time to be present in the moment.

    I look forward to the 2 hours  before going to bed. The house is quiet and I am with myself.  As I wash away the day I am present with myself  focusing on the process of showering.While I shower I purposely take out the time to enjoy the scent of my Dove body wash and how it lathers in my pink loofah. I pay attention to how smooth my skin feels from the soap that is infused with a deep mositurizer.  I wash my face with my Neutrogena Pink Grapefruit scrub. It actually smells like grapefruit, which is refreshing. The tiny exfoliating beads removes the dirt and makeup from my long day. As the water lightly taps my shoulder I can feel the tension ease and I stand there a little longer until the sting of the hot water subsides. Ah, I am finally relaxed.

    After I’ve showered and dressed, I grab my journal. I have kept a journal since the age of 13. I lay everything down in my specially selected college lined journal. It takes me hours to pick out the perfect book to hold all the important and personal details of my life. My journal typically last about 2-3 months, I have every single one of them. My favorite journal is the Hello Kitty one with the lock and key I think that was actually my second journal.

    Anyway, I got a little distracted. My journaling time is my place to express everything that I would not really want to share and it is also the space where I  reflect on my day. My journal soaks up all of my emotions and when I step away I feel at peace within myself. Leaving everything on the pages of my journal allow me to sleep with a clear mind.

    Once my mind is clear I take out my gratitude notebook and list all that I am grateful for that day. I have found that end of the day gratitude check is my daily reminder of how blessed I am. Some days I have a lot to write,and other days I only have one thing to write in my gratitude notebook. When I started writing the list of all that I am grateful for in lifeI want to write something big everyday. Through out the process I have come to realize that it is not the size of what I am grateful for that matters but the fact that i am actually taking out the time to acknowledge my daily blessings. So, I write everything big and small.

    Finally, my night routine is something I look forward to because it is in those moments when the stress of the day floats away and I can sit with myself and check my feelings. All of these mindful activities are my way of getting in touch with myself and creating a sense of internal balance. For about three years this has been part of my life and I have found myself being able to sleep peacefully, amd for that I am grateful.

    -Natalie