Falling In Love After Trauma

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As a child I felt myself to be alone, and I am still, because I know things and must hint at things which others apparently know nothing of, and for the most part do not want to know. Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding views which others find inadmissible. – Carl Gustav Jung

Most people suffering from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often have issues forming interpersonal relationships with other people, more especially romantic relationships. Most of us have suffered abuse at the hands of people who have chosen to use us as a container for their rage and their emptiness. The rage that they chose to exert on us was a result of their own life experiences. Please note that all trauma survivors are not responsible for this rage or their emptiness. We were made to believe through our suffering that we were responsible for the rage that was being showered our way. We were made to believe that we would not amount to anything in life and that we had to bear this rage for eternity. We were made to believe that we should discredit our own emotions and overlook our intuition. When a person neglects their intuition, it can be difficult for the person to assess whether the people around him or her are toxic or whether they have good intentions. This is the main cause of why people who have suffered trauma have issues forming relationships (emphasis on romantic relationships).

 The Toxic Cycle of Seeking External Validation:

I have had several friendships and a few relationships with people that were mainly there to fill up the void that I had inside of me. The void that I had as a result of my own trauma. I tried to validate my own existence by being around people who often made me “feel good about myself” or people “I thought were good enough to help me grow“or “those I declared as non-toxic“. My own perception of myself was so distorted because I had no self-esteem and I did not believe in myself. I could not trust my own intuition, and I think somehow toxic people could sense that I had no sense of direction in my life.beautiful-blur-fashion-210628 They could intuit that I was searching for myself in all the wrong places. This resulted in me having dysfunctional friendships and romantic relationships. I wasn’t co-dependent but I tolerated abuse even when I had no reason to. My empathy and altruism are both a blessing and a curse because some people deem these traits as a weakness; using them against me to further hurt me and to make me feel less of a human being. This lead me to further stray from myself because I was constantly seeking external validation; validation from places I knew weren’t meant for me. This is a tough pill to swallow, but I learnt the hard way. By making mistakes and by trusting people I knew my gut told me not to trust. I think some trauma survivors do sometimes struggle with this, especially those who are still at the early stages of recovering. I hope the advise that I give out could help someone in need of it. Even if you don’t need it, I hope you use it when you feel blue or feel like giving up on yourself.

There is no virtue in tolerating toxic behavior. The hardest thing I had to learn; My seeing people’s internal struggles and pain had been my undoing. It was here, I learnt that people steal more than material possessions. – Francesca Seopa

You are all that you need: Set Boundaries To Set yourself Free:

To those reading this, you need to change your inner voice. Sometimes the negative inner voice you might have might be an externalized voice you once heard (during trauma) and your brain chose to internalize it. It is very crucial that one realizes that the brain is a powerful tool, it sometimes protects us even when we don’t need protection. Sometimes things and words get stored in our brains because there are emotional and violent connotations associated with them. The brain is all-powerful and authoritative and we need to acknowledge it’s power in protecting us.agriculture-environment-flower-33044 However, the brain cannot breakdown and analyse where these hurtful things and words come from. We tend to be impulsive and have a lot of anxiety when we hear negative words or when memories are being played out in our brains. It’s not easy and you have to put in the work to make yourself feel better. Secondly, acknowledge your own identity: it will help you praise how far you have come since your trauma. You are a warrior and a survivor, nobody deserves to make you feel less than who you truly are. What’s really important is, all the people in your life, the position and their meaning in your life is dictated by you. We often forget our own power and influence because we have been made to believe that we aren’t so great and that our opinions (our voices) don’t matter. Set boundaries, they are really important. They will help you distinguish between the toxic people and the people with good intent.

No matter what your boundary is, the people that respect you for who you are will stay and not cross your boundaries. I believe that boundaries help us get a sense of what people’s intentions are, they should be established at the very beginning of any relationship. So that you can know when to walk out. bloom-blossom-close-up-235941You are worthy, We are all Kings and Queens and if anybody makes you feel any less, use your intuition to navigate the situation. If you don’t trust yourself yet, talk to someone whom you trust so dearly. If you don’t have a great support system use online support groups and mental health professionals to navigate your situation. Your gut always has something to say, even if you doubt it, talk to someone about it. Most of us have learnt to suppress our emotions. It is essential that we re-learn how to express them because our emotions can help get a sense of how our bodies react to certain situations. Lastly, Love yourself, love how your body unfolds and love how you present yourself in this world; people will sometimes make you second guess yourself. Be firm and learn to stand your ground about who you are. You have life and your life will serve a greater purpose on this world. Even when you doubt yourself, just start by appreciating the fact that you’re still breathing. The little things always count. You will heal, take your time and don’t rush yourself to do anything!

Walls keep everybody out. Boundaries teach people where the door is. – Highly Sensitive Refuge

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Very few people will get past my detectors and earn a place at my table. And if you knew how long it’s taken me to find peace in this life. You’d understand why I’m so careful who I let close to me. – Brooke Hampton

Thank you for being with me. I look forward to seeing you here again. Let us rebuild a healthy state of mind.

Love

Francesca

100 Things

It has been some time since I have written.  With summer in full swing and my children all home for vacation, I found I was spending too much time writing and checking the blog and it was becoming a distraction from what is most important in my life: my family.  So I chose to take a break.  But, with everyone back in school, I am feeling the need to create and to express myself.  I am glad to be back.

I’ve written frequently about self love and wanting to improve in this area.  I have been grateful to make significant progress in this area over the past couple of months.  To share a brief update, I had some adjustments to my thyroid medication which significantly improved my depression.  This has helped me in many ways.  I no longer have a constant negative dialogue going in my mind.  I feel optimistic and generally better about life and myself.  I am so grateful for these improvements.

Some months ago, when I was really struggling with negative self talk, I stumbled on a podcast by Jody Moore, a life coach.  In this podcast, she challenges her listeners to make a list of 100 things to love about themselves.  Naturally, really wanting to improve in the area of self love, I tried the exercise for myself.

I got out my neglected journal and pen and wrote out numbers 1 through 100.  With great difficulty I began writing everything that I could think of that I loved about myself.  I mentioned my talents.  I mentioned character traits that I’m happy I have.  I listed things I do that make me and others happy.  I mentioned skills I’ve learned that bless my life and even mentioned physical traits that I’m happy about.  I think I repeated a few items accidentally, but I managed to get all the way to 77 things I love about myself.  I am going to complete the list today.

Why would this be helpful?  I’ve found that when my depression is present, everything externally and internally perceived is twisted in a negative light by my mind.  It makes feeling good about life and myself very difficult.  Taking time to write out the truth, rather than the skewed version of reality I am living in, helps me.  It helps me to challenge the negative dialogue and see what really is.

I am going to get a little cheesy here for a minute, so bear with me.  I know that I am unique and valuable and precious.  I know the same is true for each person that ever lived.  It can be very difficult, but when your mind is telling you the opposite, know that it is lies.  Combat these lies with the truth.

I challenge you  to discover the truth about yourself by taking time to write 100 things to love about you.  Remember, like I’ve said before, treat yourself like someone you love.  Look at yourself from the outside and see what makes you unique and valuable and precious.  It is there.

I hope you can discover it for yourself.  And when you do, I hope you feel a sense of gratitude that you are you.

Love, Chelsea

Maybe I Shouldn’t Care so Much

I have been talking to my husband in recent days about the struggles I am still having with depression.  I confessed how I often feel bad that I haven’t done something “good enough,” or that I worry if I may have inadvertently made someone else uncomfortable by something I said or didn’t say.  I often worry if contributions I make are really valued by others.  I wonder if my efforts at church and in my family and even on the blog are really helping anyone.  I get down on myself far too often.  These is one of my biggest and most persistent negative thought patterns that I often have to work through.  It isn’t always easy to remember that I am enough–even though I know it is true.  It’s a battle I seem to have to fight almost every day.

Whenever I talk to my husband about this, he always half-jokingly says that I need to not care so much–I need to be heartless, like him.  This always makes me laugh because he is the furthest thing from heartless you can get.  However, I have watched a change in him in recent years.  He went from being more like me–always worried about not doing things just right and trying to accommodate everyone’s every need–to being his own advocate.  He speaks up for himself.  If he doesn’t want to do something, he says he doesn’t want to do it.  Instead of losing himself in a sea of worry about whether or not he’s meeting his own expectations and everyone else’s, he just does what he wants and does so confidently and without worry.  I love this and want so badly to emulate it, but I’m not sure how!  And– I guess I am afraid to.

I am afraid if I’m not focusing on doing everything just right, that I might make a big mistake.  I am afraid if I’m not focusing on how everything I do affects others, that I might hurt someone.  I suppose, overall, I m trying to prevent failure.  I don’t move with confidence through life.  I carry a heavy burden of self-doubt and self reproach.  And I’m tired of it.

Maybe I shouldn’t care so much.  Maybe I shouldn’t care at all.  If I really think about it, my dream would be to move through life the way I see best, without caring or worrying about failing–without caring about the expectations of others.  I need to be my own advocate, like my husband is for himself.

As I was typing this post up, this quote came into my mind:

 

“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”
― Erin Hanson

I desperately want to be a more confident and happy me.  I am tired of keeping myself down.  Maybe I need to stick this quote to my bathroom mirror, for starters.

As for my next step–I’ll keep you posted.  I need to tackle this one thing at a time.

Is there anyone else who has struggled with this?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and your story.

You Are Enough

What I share below is something I never have verbalized to anyone in full.  I share here, in a judgment-free zone, to start a conversation about something I feel is very important to my lasting happiness.  This is not easy for me, but I am hoping it will helps someone else.

Here goes…

Today I share a lifelong and ongoing journey with understanding my self-worth. When I talk about self-worth, I’m referring to my intrinsic value as a human being.

Our ideas about who we are and what makes us valuable are often shaped at a very young age. How our parents/guardians spoke to us, what they praised us for, how we were reprimanded, if we sustained abuse of any kind–all of that will begin to shape our ideas about our self-worth.

In my family, appearances were very important. To have the biggest, nicest house and the nice vehicles was valued. Not only this, but our individual physical appearance was valuable. We were all nice looking children. This was praised and resulted in admiration from my parents and grandparents. Others who didn’t live up to their standard of beauty or attractiveness were put down and demeaned in conversations at home. Hearing this kind of dialogue over and over formed the idea within me that I was valuable because of how I looked, and that somehow made me a little better than other people who weren’t physically attractive. I am ashamed to admit this but it was true.

Another valued attribute in my family was being able to make things happen and get things done. Accomplishing tasks, getting good grades, working hard–these were all applauded. Again, I heard talk of others who had depression or similar invisible health problems and they were disparaged and put-down in my hearing. I learned that I needed to be accomplished to be valued and that others who couldn’t do this were “lazy” and less valuable as people.

In admitting this, I am not trying to throw my family under the bus. I love my parents and acknowledge that they taught me a lot of valuable skills, truths and work ethic that have helped me throughout my life. Please, don’t judge them too harshly. I think that the generation preceding them (my grandparents), really drummed these ideas into them in a similar way to how they were drummed into me.

So, as a young person, in good health, I felt I had a lot of value because I was attractive and thin and smart and could get things done. (It’s horrible to admit, but true).

However, when my physical and mental health began to decline due to hypothyroidism and depression, I struggled with feeling that I had any value at all. I had gained a lot of weight and I was no longer the fun, vivacious person I used to be. I had difficulty getting things done. My house was often a mess. In general, to say I was struggling is an understatement. I felt that I had lost all of my value. On top of my health problems, I was ashamed to be me. What a tragedy!

As years went by, I finally got the help I needed for my health problems, got gung-ho about getting healthy and lost a lot of weight. I could accomplish many things again, I felt fun, and cheerful again. I felt I had worth again. I no longer subscribed to the false idea that I was better than others but my value as a human being still depended on these outward circumstances, just like they always did. So, while all the circumstances were “perfect” I felt that I was worth something.

Then, things came crashing down again when I got pregnant with my last child. Weight gain most significant and severe depression hit again. A big part of my misery during this time was feeling, again that I had lost my value. I didn’t want to be miserable about this so, I finally got to the point where I asked myself, “What if I’m stuck in this state for the rest of my life?” I realized that I would want to be happy and love myself, even in my current state. I needed to learn how to so that I could try my best to be satisfied in the present. So began a journey of self-love that I continue to this day.

As I thought about self worth I had to ask myself some hard questions. What makes an individual valuable?

Here’s what I learned: my value and yours is constant. It does not change with fluctuating circumstances. This means that I am worth the same no matter my pants size, no matter my hair color, what my face looks like or how I talk.  How I appear and how I show up in the world, has no bearing and no effect on the value of who I am inside.  Don’t believe me?  Consider the following story.  A man, young and healthy is diagnosed with diabetes. Time goes on, and he struggles maintaining his health.  Complications of his disease result in an amputation of one of his limbs.  Would we say that he is now worth less now because his body has changed?  Of course not.  But we do this to ourselves all the time.

I also learned, importantly, we are all worth the same. Period. Regardless of race, religion, creed, gender, or sexual preference we all have the same value.  This goes without saying and yet many people in the world think that their group has more value than another.  This is a deplorable but a prevalent problem in the world today.

And here’s something else: nothing we can do, or not do, will change our worth. It remains constant even when we mess up, even if we excel–there’s nothing we can do to change our worth, either by attempting to increase it or diminish it.  How do I know this is true?  Consider my own story.  Was I really worth less because I couldn’t accomplish much due to my depression?  Of course not!  Yet, I allowed myself to believe it.  In the same way, I am not worth more if I can do more!  If it is true for me then it is true for others as well.  The child that makes a mistake is not worth less because he messed up.  And that same child is not worth more if he seemingly does everything right.

Logically, this is easy to acknowledge and yet it’s hard to live it. I’ll tell you why I say this. Consider your own life. Consider what you feel makes you valuable. Make a mental list. Did you list anything about your appearance, culture or accomplishments? If so, consider the following. How would you feel about your worth if circumstances beyond your control took all of that away from you? Imagine you’ve been physically disfigured and your ability to continue with your accomplishments is taken away. Do you still feel valuable? It’s hard, isn’t it? We often think we are worth something for all the wrong reasons. Then when we feel we mess up or don’t live up to our ideals, or circumstances change our abilities, our self worth plummets in our minds, and so does our happiness.

Where does our worth come from then?  If you subscribe to a belief in God, then know that you are of worth because you are His child–end of story.  You can’t add to that, or diminish it.  If you feel you exist by chance or evolution, I add that it you are of worth because you are you.  You are unique–the one and only you in the history of the world.  Your DNA is original.  Your presence in the world is irreplaceable.  Your effect, incalculable–just by being present and alive.  Like Clarence says in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life:” “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

So, in my long-winded way, I am saying that you are worth more than you know or understand, and so am I.  I believe in self improvement and learning and changing and growing with life’s circumstances–but I also believe in the intrinsic worth we all have as humans.  And that doesn’t change, no matter what.

Many circumstances can effect our level of happiness in life, and getting on or off the changing rollercoaster of our own self worth will certainly have an effect.  What has been your experience with self-worth?  How has it affected your level of happiness?

Think on this. And tell me how you feel about it.  Am I off base here?

Do you ever struggle with your self worth?

I still do from time to time.  I’m still internalizing all this, but I know it’s true and I know that, because of this, I am always enough.

And so are you.

The Challenge of Self Love

As my depression has lifted over the last couple years, and even with it’s dips every so often, I am learning I have a final hurtle to conquer to really free myself from continually cycling down into depression.  For me, it is this: learning to love myself.  When I discuss this, I am not only referring to feeling love toward myself, but treating myself with love–or in other words, love as a verb.

It’s difficult for me to share this with the world.  It makes me feel vulnerable to lay my private thoughts out for all to see, but I believe in the power that vulnerability gives us to make connections, to help others and to find healing within ourselves.  So, here goes.

I am, among other things, a person with high ideals and standards for myself.  I believe in the ideal.  I strive to work toward it, in my family and personal life.  It’s not possible to always reach it, but I have felt blessed by reaching toward it.  I would also say that I am a very compassionate person.  I will bend over backwards to help someone in need, be it friend or stranger.  I give people the benefit of the doubt and see the good in others.  I’m not perfect at this, but when I find myself being critical I am able to change course.  I don’t hold grudges.  The interesting, and sad thing here is that I find it very difficult to extend that same love, compassion and kindness to myself.  What comes so naturally in my interactions with others, is absolutely not natural in the thoughts and feelings I have toward me.

I know this is not something unique to me.  I know others struggle with this same phenomenon.  And so, let me share some insights I have had as I have embarked on this journey of self love.

First, I realized that it is important to notice my own thoughts and feelings as they pertain to myself–this is known as self-talk or one’s inner dialogue.  This took me a long time.  I actually didn’t even recognize that I had a negative inner dialogue until quite recently.  I didn’t realize how poorly I treated myself, because I didn’t take time to really notice my thoughts.  When I did notice them, I was surprised at just how hard I tend to be on myself.  When I did a task, I would inwardly berate myself for not doing it better.  When I interact with someone else, I feel badly about how the exchange went, thinking I should have said something differently, or acted differently.  I basically realized, that I did not give myself credit for anything I did, I criticized myself at every turn and put myself down for my perceived shortcomings.  In my mind I was never enough and could never measure up.  Much of this inner dialogue is automatic and occurs in my sub-conscious thoughts, so it really took some pondering and quiet reflecting to realize just what I was actually doing.  But when I did realize, I knew I wanted to change that.

I am a person of faith and believe that I am divine in nature because I am a daughter of God–the Creator of the universe and Father of us all.  But my thoughts have not reflected this belief.  Nor have they come close.  I have been constantly grinding myself into the dust, but no more!  So, if step one is to notice your own thoughts, step two would be to combat them.  I believe that we can rewire our thought processes and by so doing change how we feel and how we approach life.  I have been working on doing just that.  So how am I combatting the negative dialogue within me?  I have been working on loving myself–and I’m not talking about producing a feeling of love for myself out of nowhere–I am talking about the verb love–love as an action word.

What does love the verb look like to me?  It includes being gentle with and kind to others, giving people the benefit of the doubt and not being overly critical.  This means when critical thoughts arise about myself, I must be gentle and kind.  It might look something like this: “I didn’t finish my to do list today.  I barely got anything done.”  This is something generic I might typically say to myself.  Notice how focused it is on the negative.  I am focused here on what I didn’t do.  I have learned that to love myself in this type of instance is to change my focus to the positive, or what I did do.  “I read books to my son today.  I was there for my kids.  I exercised today.  I cooked for my family, etc.”  This sounds so simple!  And it is–but it is not easy.  Not at first.  Not when you have subconsciously been putting yourself down for years.  It takes practice, practice, practice.  But I can tell you I have already made a lot of progress here and I haven’t been doing it for that long.

Another important aspect of self love is to remember this simple slogan: “Treat yourself the way you would treat someone you love.”  Being a mom to 4 special kids, it is easy for me to see how I treat people that I love.  I am not perfect, but I try to be gentle with my children by helping them to see all the good they do and all the good they are.  Not only this, but I want my children to be happy!  I want them to work hard and grow and progress, but I also want them to have joy in life.  I want them to do things they enjoy every day.

And this brings me to my next point.  I have learned that if I really love myself, not only do I have to change my thoughts, I have to change my habits.  In this busy world where we are encouraged to go go go and constantly be connected and be productive, we can be caught in a trap– and that is, a life without joy and happiness.  I often get caught in this trap.  I want to be productive, I want to get many things accomplished each day.  But often I do this at the expense of my well-being.  I don’t take breaks, I push myself to work until I am exhausted and at the end of the day, I have not done one thing that I love–not one thing just for my own enjoyment.  This is a recipe for unhappiness and does not reflect any self love.  Would I encourage someone I love to run themselves into the ground like this?  Of course not.  So, I have lowered my expectations of what I should accomplish each day–a lot.  I have made the to-do list smaller and I have remembered things I enjoy doing.  I love to read.  I love to be outside.  I need quiet time to think and ponder.  I am trying to give myself this kind of time every day.  My final counsel is to slow down, and get to know you.  Find out what you need to do in life to be happy and then do it–every day.

This is my ongoing journey with self love.  I am not sure why this has been so hard for me, but I know I am worth loving and so I am trying every day.  This is a part of my fight.

And I will keep fighting it.