Grief and Loss, Hope, Love, mental illness, Uncategorized

Happy Birthday, Dad

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It has been so long since my dad died, that I do not remember ever celebrating his birthday. I do not remember sitting around the table eating a birthday meal, watching him open his gifts, or blowing out his candles. I do not remember much of anything about him.

I do not remember his smell, or his voice. I do not remember his touch –from love or abuse. I do not remember so many pieces of him.

I have one photo of him that was damaged in the house fire. I have nothing else left of him, or his. In his thirty-seven years, there is barely anything left behind to prove his existence.

Except for me, and now my children, who are his grandchildren.

The memories I do have of the short time I was able to spend with him are haunted by abuse, and regret. I witnessed him hurt my mom, and brother, and experienced his abuse first hand. I also have memories of his kindness and love toward others in need.

I remember how intelligent he was, and how he could always come out ahead. He had survival skills like no one I have ever seen before –I like to think that is where I learned to survive through the extremes of abuse I experienced. He was a pro at getting something for nothing.

He was someone you did not mess with, but also someone you went to for help. He had a kind heart, and a lot of love to give. What I remember most is how much he wanted to be loved, and accepted.

He had Paranoid Schizophrenia, and for the longest time I was confused as to who he was. I confused his illness with him, which led to fear. When I was able to separate the two, I was able to see him for who he was. I was able to see all the good he had to offer, and I was able to understand the why behind the bad.

I wish I had more time to get to know my dad. I wish that his life could have been easier for him, and I wish he could have found the true love he had been searching for. I know there was a reason he was my dad, and I am grateful for the lessons I was able to learn from him.

Loving him taught me that people are more than a diagnosis. There are reasons behind many of the things people do. He taught me tolerance, strength and perseverance.

In his memory, I ask that you find someone in need of some extra love, and love them. Talk to them. Learn from them. Give people the gift of your time.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

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Grief and Loss, Halloween, Love, Uncategorized

All Hallow’s Eve

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I have always felt connected to Halloween, but never really cared for dressing up. I felt connected to the Earth, to the Wind, to the Water, and to Fire more than any other time of the year. A spiritual kind

of thing.

As a child, I thought my love of Halloween was just for the candy, and never thought more of it. As I grew older, I realized there was much more to the day and night than that. For me, who has lost so many people I love, it is a day to remember them. It is a day to feel connected to them. It is a day to honor them.

As the air becomes crisp, memories start to fill my senses. A song, a smell, sometimes a touch will bring back a loved one, if only for a split second. Every year I look forward to this, and embrace the unity that is created between here and there.

From goosebumps, to dreams, to quick glances in the dark I appropriate their presence.

With much love, I honor all those who have passed before me.

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Honoring Albert, my dad, my grandmother, my uncle, Chris, my gram, my mom, friends, pets, and all of the people I have had the privileged of working with as they came to the end of their lives. Each one taught me something. Each one left an impression on my life. Each one has helped make me who I am today. Thank you for each and every piece you leave behind.

Depression, Grief and Loss, poetry, Uncategorized

I’m Sick

I’m sick of caring what everyone else thinks.

I’m sick of being ignored by the people who used to care about me.

I’m sick of perpetrators playing the victim.

I’m sick of the unsaid things that linger in my mind.

I’m sick of the days bleeding into each other.

I’m sick of how quickly negativity spreads.

I’m sick of being the adult in all situations.

I’m sick of people hurting others, and never having to pay.

I’m sick of the anger.

I’m sick of watching while others hurt.

I’m sick of the noise that takes over the quiet space.

I’m sick of not knowing what is to come.

I’m sick of not having anything to grab onto.

I’m sick of twenty-five years turning to silence.

I’m sick of depending on people who don’t really care.

I’m sick of humanity becoming anything, but human.

I’m sick of the hate.

I’m sick of waiting for things to change.

I’m sick of it.

Depression, Grief and Loss, Hope, Tom Petty, Uncategorized

Words

Ever since I can remember, I have loved words. Either in songs, poems, quotes, books…it didn’t matter to me. I just needed to be around words. One of my favorite books as a child was a book of quotations that I found on my gram’s bookshelf. I would spend hours reading through it, finding ones that meant something to me, and I would write them on little index cards and tape them up all over my room.

Words made sense in a world where nothing else did. 

This love of words is one of the main reasons that I love Tom Petty’s music so much. His words mean something. They reach the core of my soul, and wrap me in warmth. As the year anniversary of his death is fast approaching, I find myself drawn to looking for more words.

My words have been sparse. For reasons unknown to me. Depression maybe. Grief possibly. Whatever the reason, my words have been harder and harder to set free. This has made it next to impossible to write my weekly blog posts. I watch the days slip by, and the number of posts that I am behind continue to  grow.

I do things all or nothing. If I don’t think I can do a job up to my standards, I just don’t do it. Typically, I am able to force myself into it, and usually I produce results I am mildly  satisfied with. As this challenge taunted me, I found a way around it.

As I was drawn into searching for quotes, I decided to share them here. I will write what comes from the inspiration of the words, and hope to pass along some of the joy they bring.

To start, let’s begin with:

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”— Theodore Roosevelt

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Depression, Grief and Loss, Hope, Love, poetry

The World Keeps Turning

Today is the twenty-sixth anniversary of my dad’s death. He was thirty-seven. In eleven years, he will have been gone as long as he was alive. That thought is hard to wrap my head around. Everyday is a new day, that he does not get to live. Everyday is a new day that I get the chance to make it count.

Some days are harder to remember the gifts set before me, and they are easily taken for granted. Days pass by, and things are left for tomorrow. It is easy to forget that tomorrow may not come. It is easy to forget life has an end point, and that we do not get to know when it all stops.

The last few days, I have been paralyzed with emotion. Not depressed, more like observing. There have been so many things that have happened, and so many things that I wanted to write about. Good things, hard things, memories, feelings, accomplishments…and no words were able to escape. Even today, writing this, I feel the distant block of the words that want to come, but can’t.

Life doesn’t wait,

Like the tide crashing into the rocks.

Like the sun setting behind the mountain.

Life keeps moving,

Even when we are not.

Days pass by,

The sun rises and sets.

The seasons change,

Whether we do or not.

We can wait until the perfect moment,

But life keeps moving.

Stuck in the past,

The present doesn’t wait.

It comes everyday,

And there is nothing that will halt it.

We can be at a standstill,

For days,

For months,

For years.

But life keeps moving.

It is up to us to catch it.

To live it.

To love it.

To find joy in the misery.

To find purpose.

To find balance.

Keep moving.

Embrace the gift of life.

In Memory of Russell Hall

November 12, 1954-June 14, 1992

Grief and Loss, Hope, Love, Tom Petty, Uncategorized

37 Days Until 37 Years

img_7784My dad died 19 days before my eleventh birthday. He was thirty-seven. For the past twenty-six years I have worried about turning thirty-seven, as if it is the cursed year. That since he did not live, neither will I. I know how ludicrous this sounds, and have tried to push the thoughts out of my mind. But in 37 days, I will turn thirty-seven.

Turning thirty-seven always seemed so far away. And, now it is not. I have moments where anxiety takes my breath away when I think about how close it is. I had to stop and do the math. He was not just thirty-seven. He was thirty-seven years, seven months, and two days old. I wouldn’t let myself do the other math, to find out when I will be thirty-seven years, seven months, and two days old, because I don’t want to worry about another date on the calendar.

My dad did not reach his forties, and I always worried that I wouldn’t either. An unspoken fear, because if I don’t speak it, it won’t happen. I coast between not wanting to get older, and fearing that I won’t.

The universe doesn’t really work like that though. My life will not end, just because his did. The circumstances are different. I do not have Marfan Syndrome, and I did not have a heart attack in my twenties. I don’t eat a pound slice of macaroni and cheese loaf, straight from the deli, or crisp fat off a freshly baked ham.

My dad died before ever getting married. He was engaged, and excited to be a husband, but his fiancée brought a date to his funeral. (I always wondered how that would have played out.) He did not get to see me graduate eighth grade…or high school…or college…or grad school. He did not teach me how to drive, or help me buy my first car. He was not there for my wedding, or to help me through my divorce. He never got to meet his grandchildren or the man that I love.

He has missed a lot the last twenty-six years. And, I do not want to be like him.

I will live and watch my children grow. I will go to their graduations, and weddings. I will meet my grandchildren, and give unwanted advice.

I will be more than a memory. I hope. I hope, because we never really know.

Live. Live everyday like it will be your last. Live for yourself, and the ones that you love. Make memories, take pictures, and love. It is all we can do. We only get one chance…make it count.

Depression, Grief and Loss, healing, Hope, Love, mental illness, Uncategorized

The Gift of Belonging

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Continued from: Trauma Camp

Waking up the first day at Onsite brought excitement and anxiety. I was still unsure what to expect, and still uncomfortable about sharing in front of such a large group. I made my way out of the cabin and to the mansion for breakfast, where I tried to find some familiar faces to sit with. We made small talk and walked over to the Carriage House for the morning meditation.

Meditation is something I have always struggled with, and I felt myself squirm in my seat as others found their seat. As I thought to myself, I don’t know how to meditate… The voice from the group leader announced, “It’s okay if you don’t know how to meditate, or if you can’t stop your thoughts, just do your best, and notice where your thoughts take you, and then focus on your breath.”

Relief washed over me as the expectations were lowered. I sat quietly for the fifteen minute meditation, bringing myself back to my breath after thoughts of my inadequacies and what was ahead of us circled in my head. When I opened my eyes, I noticed that I did feel more relaxed.

Three group leaders joined the front of the room. They were breaking us into smaller groups. More fear left with this discovery. Each group leader read off a list of eight names. The kind woman from the night before read my name off her list, with seven other women. We were the only group of all women. More apprehension left.

We made our ways to our group rooms. img_7483Where we found eight pillow chairs lining the room, as soft music played. One by one we found our way to a seat and grabbed a blanket to keep warm.

I looked around the room. Beautiful women filled the spaces. I felt out of place. What if I don’t fit in? What if I’m not like them? What if they don’t like me? What if my trauma isn’t that bad? I couldn’t stop the thoughts and tried to stay to myself, so no one would find out that I didn’t belong there.

When everyone was accounted for, we were asked to stand next to the emotion that best decried what we were feeling as we began the week. I found my way to scared, and backed myself as close to it as I could.

Scared. Anxious. Worried. Unsure. All these feelings swirled inside of me.

As I looked around the room, I noticed there was a mix of emotions from the others. We were all feeling something. We all seemed unsure of what to expect. As we took turns speaking about our feelings, I noticed that I wasn’t the only one struggling. My feelings of not belonging lessened as the day went on.

The more the other women talked, the more I felt connected. What happened in Group Room 3 is only for the members to know. Our words, our feelings, our tears, our growth are sacred. For our eyes, ears, and hearts only. What I will share is how the process helped me. To be honest, a month later, I am still processing what took place in Group Room 3, and at OnSite .

The first thing I noticed while at OnSite, was the feeling of belonging. This is a very rare, if not unknown feeling for me. I have walked through my whole life searching for belonging, to be understood, to be loved, to be heard. All of these things happened at OnSite. I was never turned away when I approached a table full of others. I was included, and not expected to talk or share if I did not wish to. No one made fun of me when I didn’t have anything to say. No one picked apart my lack of self confidence. But people loved. Strangers became family, old wounds were allowed to see the light of day, and healing from the soul up began to take place.

I did not notice it happening all at once. I even felt that nothing was happening. I felt like I was wasting my time as I retold my story of past trauma. I had told it, written about it, even went on Dr. Phil to talk about parts of it. What more could happen from sharing the same old stuff again? I volunteered to share my story first after I drew my timeline of traumatic events. A page for every decade.

Without making any eye contact I looked at my drawings on the wall and told my story, in a matter of fact kind of way. As I was telling my story in the thirty minutes provided, I started to think that my story isn’t that bad. I felt like I was wasting the rest of the groups’ time. I skipped over some major events, and added some things that I had not shared with anyone before. Things came to the surface, that I had buried so deep, even I had not remembered them before. Even still, some of these memories were not shared, for the shame they evoke inside of me.

My voice broke as I neared the end of my story. Silence filled the room before I could go on with the part where Gram, Uncle Doug, and John left me. All at once, stolen from this world, to leave me dangling in the darkness. The feelings from that time came back as I remembered how distant I had become through the grief. Guilt poured in as I finished, remembering all the ways I had let others down, how my life had been wasted, while others did not even have a life left to waste.

I sat back down on my pillow seat, covered back up with the blanket and looked down at my knees. A quick glance around the room let me see the tears from others while they listened to my story. I picked three women to write parts of my story as I told it, so they could read back to me the facts, the feelings, and the beliefs. As the women read back what I had said, I heard my story differently. I finally, for the first time, heard that my story was that bad. I had been through a lot, overcame a lot, and survived. I survived so many things that I shouldn’t have. The trauma did not swallow me whole. I was not only surviving, but I was thriving.

As I listened to the other stories in the room, I understood on a whole new level the saying “Everyone has a story.” I understood how much alike we all are, no matter how different we seem. I saw how much trauma can change people. I saw how strong we are, and how little we give ourselves credit for. I saw myself as whole. As complete. As messy, and beautiful. As strong, and vulnerable. As trusting, and open. All of my broken pieces were molded back together, shaping me into a perfectly, imperfect woman.

The day after telling my story my body began to detox. I had heard this was possible, but did not expect it. I still felt as though I was doing work that I had already completed. Learning new things along the way, but getting a refresher course. I woke up unable to catch my breath. I could not breathe deep enough to feel as though I was getting enough oxygen. Even in meditation I was unable to breathe. I felt nauseous and lightheaded. I went to the bathroom every chance I could and eliminated black stool (TMI, I’m sorry!). I even threw up. It was quite noticeable that I was struggling, and the group leader took a few moments with me to explain what was happening. “Your body is detoxing all that old trauma.”

I was trying to remember to trust the process, but I was still holding on to a bit of skepticism. I tried to breathe deeply with her, but still could not catch my breath. Even, as I tried to fall asleep that night I struggled with my breathing. I wanted to go home, and give up. This was scary, and I need my normal back. This was only day three.

When I woke up the next morning, I was able to breathe  normally again. I felt fine, and bathroom business returned to normal. There was no way that I could be a skeptic now. Things were happening inside of me. Deep down. Trauma that I had worked on in the past was now being released. I was finally giving permission to let it go. Not just with words, but with action. I knew now what trust the process meant.

As the days progressed, I saw myself differently. I saw that each person who was there knew what it felt like to be different, feel broken, unloveable, and unworthy. I belonged. And not just at OnSite, but in the world. If every person there knew what it felt like, it was not too far fetched to believe that everyone else did too. It is true, everyone has a story, and it is also true that everyone has experienced trauma. If you are living, you have suffered. The people who pretend that their life is perfect are actually hurting under their fake smile. The successful person you envy, struggles with self love too. We are all fighting a battle to some scale. There is no perfect.

This discovery energized me. It filled me with hope, and a new sense of wonder. A new mission to help others see what I have learned. A new goal of self love and acceptance. I gave myself permission to be human, to own my faults, and honor my strengths. I am able to see how far I have come, while keeping my eyes open for the road ahead. Everyday brings new struggles and new gifts. It is a constant choice whether or not I beat myself up over the mistakes, or cherish the lessons. I choose to tell the negative thoughts to STFU (another lesson I learned at Trauma Camp).

OnSite introduced me to my true self. The experience gave me hope, that anything is overcome-able. It showed me that I am strong. We all are. We are all worthy of love, especially our own. The mirror before me continues to be cleaned off, and I can see who I really am. The detox is still happening as the years of anxiety, pain, and trauma escape my cells, and I remain open to trust the process.

I am worthy. I am loved. I am enough.

#Onsiteworkshops