Health & Wellness

Hidden Gifts

rainbow-jpgThis past year or so I’ve been trying to find the gifts in whatever life hands me. When I’m stuck in traffic, maybe it’s that I got to hear something really great on NPR before I reached my destination. If I dropped and shattered a favorite heirloom glass serving bowl, maybe it’s that when I swept the floor I found the missing earring I’ve been looking for under the fridge. You get the idea. The game is thus: can I find the gift no matter how deeply it’s hidden, because I really and truly have to believe in a God that cares about me so much, He would only give me a trauma wherein a gift is hidden just for me. Otherwise, I don’t think I could do this Life.

When I meditate in the mornings, I frequently have an old trauma come forward in my consciousness. It will be something from when I was young and vulnerable. Abuse of all kinds. Situations where I’ve been holding on to guilt and shame and anger. Most of them I felt like I’d already dealt with and let go, but I stopped being surprised to see them months ago. And what I’m learning is that I can’t really fully release them until I find the gift, even if I’ve dealt with the trauma. And with some of the stuff? It’s hard. HARD. Finding a gift when someone has sexually assaulted you is a tall order, my friend. But so far, in my own experience, it can be done. It may not be fast. It is definitely not easy. And who knows, I may run into one in the future that takes the rest of my life, but it won’t stop me from trying because the pay off is worth it. And just in case it’s not clear, this gift is NOT in any way from the person who perpetrated the crime. That person did not do me any favors in harming me. No. It’s just that my God is so powerful, He can turn anything for good on my behalf.

Which brings me to this election cycle and this past few months in particular. In case you don’t know who I am, I’ll sketch it for you.

I’m the most white woman possible coming in at 100% European octane, who has been in relationships previously with women and believes in marriage equality and safe living for all, and who fell in love with a half-Mexican man. I was abused and assaulted by those I knew and some I didn’t starting before age four. I went through most of my life challenged with mental health issues like bipolar and DID [ I was a consultant for the Showtime series, United States of Tara ] and I am a passionate mental health advocate. I have physical issues like Lupus. I’m a mother to four children and have two grandchildren. I was raised in an LDS family, left the church for about twenty years, and then came back to it about two years ago. I live in California in a warm seat of liberals with a local economy that does alright and even though I was raised by an ultra-conservative father who sent me to John Birch camp one summer, I lean more left than center in most things. My husband has a full-time job with benefits which makes it possible for me to work from home on a part-time basis mentoring and doing energy work for others who have compound physical and mental challenges. I also write, shoot photos, make jewelry, paint, and do pretty much any craft that exists.

Between my husband and myself, we have a lot of family, including many minority and gay family members and friends who live all across the country. We mostly live paycheck to paycheck but have modest 401Ks. We have three month’s food storage smack dab in my bedroom requiring me to get in bed by crawling over canned goods because we live in a tiny condo and there’s no other place to put it. We will not have a gun in our home. Neither of us has a Bachelor’s degree but two of our kids do and one will soon and the other one doesn’t seem to need one because he’s already making more per year than we do by a very large margin. We don’t care about material things and are usually late adopters. The largest TV we’ve ever owned is so small you can’t read the questions on the screen when you watch The Chase.

I volunteer for my church on a weekly basis and can’t imagine my life now without it, although I’m also deeply conflicted about multiple beliefs that are held by most members. I hate crowds and having conversations that mean nothing. I’d prefer an afternoon on my couch reading, snuggled up to Joe instead of heading to a fancy party. I’ve been known to be awkward in public settings because I have a hard time regulating my language if someone says or does something that rubs up against what I consider imperative like protecting the underdog or exhibiting blatant racism, misogyny, xenophobia, or anything that implies that person thinks they are better than any other person on the planet. I’m getting better at picking it up when it’s not so blatant.

That means that this past year I’ve been repeatedly hit by Donald Trump and his words and promises. I’ve been in fear. I’ve been angry. I’ve been confused. I’ve been worried about my friends and family that aren’t white and straight. I’ve been worried about the future and what it means for someone like me with preexisting health issues and how protected I need to be walking down the street alone because my body is now not my own and is open season for leering men who want to grab me and assault me (which is how minority people have felt for, oh, ever.). And I’ve been wondering how to just forget all the things Trump said he’d do now that he’s going to be the president like so many people suggest because of course HE’S NOT REALLY GOING TO DO any of those things (but I don’t believe that) and I’ve been wondering how it’s possible to expect all the people who are now committing violence in his name to just stop because he says to, IF he says to.

These are not hypothetical worries I have. They are very real. And I’m that 100% creamy mayo white lady living in the lap of liberal territory. I can’t imagine how my Muslim immigrant friends feel or my Mexican and Black family and friends in red states feel or my LGBTQ and Latinx friends feel who married someone of the same gender or simply hope to use a bathroom in a public place without getting beaten up. And what keeps me up at night are the thoughts about how this is trickling down into our youth. The stories of what the kids are doing to the other kids at school. I mean, you remember school, right? It’s a nightmare even when you’re popular and the going is good. Imagine how those kids are feeling. (And then donate to Kelly‘s Being Black at School because they are doing the work.)

Circling back to the beginning of my post –> where is the gift? That’s what I go to sleep asking my God. Where is the gift in this? And He didn’t answer. For months I’ve been asking and frustrated and angry because it felt like He wasn’t playing by the rules.

Wait on the Lord, I’d hear. Wait.

Election night, as Joe and our son, Tony, and I watched the election results come in, it was about the time Florida kept going back and forth that I realized, I mean, it HIT me, Trump could win this. The only hope I’d had for months was that Trump was about to get his hat handed to him with a thorough trouncing and then things would go back to normal. I needed that so bad.

Normal is not coming. It’s not happening. Normal doesn’t exist anymore and I don’t think it ever did but I didn’t know that in my bubble. All my worst fears came true. Trump won and reports of violence started pouring in. It was like someone took the cap off the slow leak of terrible things that had been happening and everything burst out. Conservatives pretty much across the board had one of three things to say: 1. Stop complaining. 2. Things are not that bad. 3. Voting for Trump doesn’t make me racist. Minority liberals had one thing to say: 1. I’m terrified.

Over the past three days I’ve been in a crash course of learning what I didn’t know. Normal for me looked like living in a bubble of information that I already knew. It meant not having important conversations with the conservative members of my family to see how they felt. It meant not looking deeply into why so many people in the middle states were hurting. It meant discounting the importance of listening to my minority friends who had been worried for MONTHS that this was going to turn out bad. It meant looking at everything through a simplistic telescope. It meant being slightly smug that I was smarter or “got it” and those in the red states didn’t. It meant being able to lie to myself that I knew everything would turn out how I wanted it to. Needed it to.

And then, that is not how it went down.

Joe and I wept that night and off and on the next day and the next day and even today. We listen to someone elses story, witness their pain and grief, and feel that connection that only comes from surviving trauma. Make no mistake about it, this has been a PTSD experience for thousands. This is severe trauma that taps into survival fears. The Flight/Fight response. People are fighting for their lives.

But there’s been a gradation of grief that has begun to dissipate from time to time and every now and again something extraordinary happens. I find a gift. I realized today that I had a few I could list and as I started listing, more and more came. It was as if my God was saying, “Hey there. Here’s your gifts. You thought you would just get one or two? Sillyhead.”

That’s often how it goes. He gives me way more than I was expecting.

  • I had to dig deep to find out what I believed about the world and in doing so, I know myself better.
  • I have an opportunity to shore up my boundaries about what I believe is acceptable and think up strategies for what to do when I see them being crossed.
  • My own capacity for being there for others has increased. I can be more present.
  • I have to open my eyes to see where I failed and what my own part is in this, which creates room for me to change, grow, and improve.
  • I’ve been shown where I dropped the ball in relationships, giving me a chance to reconnect and do better.
  • I’ve been brought closer to members of my family who I haven’t had any serious conversations with in quite some time.
  • I realize I’ve made it through terrible, horrible things in my life and no matter what happens now, I’ll find a way to be ok and I take it upon myself to help everyone I can to find that peace also.
  • I reaffirmed my determination to not be a victim in my own story. No one gets to decide but me what kind of person I am or how I will respond to a situation.
  • I see more ways to be emotionally useful to others.
  • The training I’ve had in energy work repeatedly comes in handy in supporting others.
  • Joe and I had conversations about emergency preparedness and survival that we should have had long ago.
  • The potential for growth and important learning is happening right now. Like, RIGHT NOW.
  • It’s ok if I don’t know how to do everything right the first time around. I can always learn if I stay open to it and don’t get defensive.
  • I’m more ok with other people feeling uncomfortable while they’re learning. It’s part of the process.
  • I’ve had a sneak peak into my own soul and I pretty much liked who I saw.
  • To Do:
  • Learn Spanish.
  • Take a Self-Defense class.
  • Learn how to peacefully protest.
  • Learn the art of agreeing to disagree so conversations can continue.
  • Choose even more deliberately where to spend my energy and which direction I want to go.
  • Try to get more “in-between” moments with the kids where the real connections happen.
  • Tell everyone I love them

None of these things changes the situation at large. Nothing I’ve learned makes it easier for anyone else. It only changes what’s happening inside me, but with those changes I can come from a place of peace and that might be helpful to others while they navigate this tricky and deeply upsetting terrain.

I believe real conversations are the only ones worth having, and I intend to make as many of them go as deep as I possibly can. It’s going to take a long time to release all the trauma that’s happened, not just for me but for so many this past year, especially because it’s ongoing. I have hope I can do my part now because of receiving so many gifts with which to process it all. I’ll keep waiting on the Lord, but I’m also going to do everything within my power to help those around me. It’s a sacred responsibility.

Holding Space for the Broken Hearted

The sister of Empathy is called Holding Space. They hold hands a lot and hang out together watching old episodes of M.A.S.H., sharing a bag of BBQ potato chips, and wiping their red-tipped fingers on their jeans.

Empathy, as we’ve discussed, is when you can feel what another person is feeling by making them human to you because you can identify their experience with something that’s happened in your own life.

Holding Space is when you give that other person all the room they need to process their emotions without judgment, shame, or irritation, and you don’t try to fix the problem.

Think about when you’ve gone through something challenging in your life. Was there someone who wanted you to hurry up and just get over it already? Probably a parent, sibling, or spouse depending on your age. Did someone tell you that you were dumb for being hurt in the first place? Did they shove it in your face that it was your own dang fault, whatever it was that happened? Did they refuse to take any responsibility if it was partly (or solely) their fault? Did they gas-light you and make you feel like you were going crazy for caring? Did they compare their own lives and hard things to yours to try and diminish your feelings? These are all things that are NOT holding space.

Here, you can watch it in action. Van Jones is trying to express his feelings of sadness and explain to Corey Lewandowski that people need a little time to heal and feel and Mr. Corey Lewandowski is having none of it.

Here’s the truth: we are all one, big family on this earth and if some of us are hurting, we’re doing it wrong. We need for everyone to be getting their needs met. The more selfish and ignorant people there are who refuse to acknowledge the pain of others, the more hurt, strife, war, hardships, sadness, grief, and pain the world has to hold. And when there is a spike like there is right now in our political climate, it’s too much for us, as a group, to hold and it spills over into violence and hate speech as a way to protect us from things we don’t understand. Small skirmishes everywhere. People hurting other people intentionally. There will probably always be people who have every intention of hurting others and they do it very well, so as many people as I can persuade who are doing it UNintentionally and would like to change, the better.

When you hold space for someone, you are in essence saying, “Here. Let me create safety around you to process and go through all the stages you need to. No really, go ahead. Be mad, sad, angry, yell about it, cry about it, laugh about it, say salty words if you want. Tell me how utterly alone you feel and how gut-wrenchingly unfair it is. I’ll just sit here and love you.” Sometimes that’s enough. Don’t underestimate how huge it is for someone to fully feel heard. Other times, when they are done sharing, ask how you can help support them. Many people won’t want you to try and fix it for them, but they will welcome your support in creating change.

We ALL go through several stages when we work through any big feelings. We’ve got the stages of grief, sure, but your body cycles through lots of feelings, one after the other, when lots of different kinds of things happen. It’s how we’re built and it can lead to overwhelm. Sometimes we have these little tea kettle bursts of anger that help reset our equilibrium. We “take it out” on whomever is closest because something they say or do or just ARE triggers something in us. (Here’s some more constructive ways to let off steam.)

We also have a lot of knee-jerk emotions that pop to the surface before we’ve even had a chance to think logically about anything. Our lizard brains are always turned on for Flight/Fight response and if our adult, mature self isn’t in control, we’re going to say things we feel intensely in that moment when we feel threatened, but they are things that we don’t want to invite to live with us forever. We need the freedom to feel those things, free of judgement, own them, look at them, and then let them go as we move on to the next thing until we can CHOOSE on PURPOSE where we want to land. And that takes time!

Right now, in this moment, as a country, we need people who can hold space for each other like I haven’t felt in years. This is huge, what’s happening. People are in SO MUCH PAIN. Other Highly Sensitive People and empaths like me can feel it like a churning thrum under the surface of everything. My head felt like it was encased in silly putty all day yesterday and my stomach was in knots. I spent a lot of time trying to help others process their emotions by holding space. It was the only way I survived.

You might not be an empath or an HSP and that’s great. You might have the normal range of emotions and if you’re not affected that much by the thought of a Trump presidency, and you don’t get what the big deal is, now is your time to learn how to hold space. Find someone in your circle who is hurting. It shouldn’t be too hard, because they are everywhere. Watch how your internal dialogue is speaking to them. Are you saying things in your head like, “Geez. Drama much?” or “This isn’t that big of a deal.” or “Why do they want to play the victim?” as they are crying or showing signs of being upset, scared, or worried? Are you comparing the situation to something hard you went through and thinking, “This is nothing like when (insert hard thing) happened to me!” Are you just super uncomfortable with people having so many feelings all over the place? Take a beat and breathe. Instead of judging them for how YOU would be handling the situation or feeling, just allow them to have their feelings. Don’t get offended. Don’t take it on. Just listen and be a safe person. They will thank you.

If you are an HSP or empath, you will already be familiar with what I’m talking about, and your challenge is the opposite. DON’T take on their feelings, instead be a flowing stream. DON’T internalize what they’re saying and own it and make it yours and let it take root because it will make you ill. You can’t help them if you are, yourself, deep in the feels. You need to remember what is yours and what is theirs. It’s a kindness to them if you can keep your gentle strength while you let them unpack all their stuff. Take breaks throughout the day for your health. Do your grounding exercise. Clear your chakras. Meditate. Check how your energy is running. And then dive back in for more, because there is an immense amount of pain to be felt and gone through.

And no matter who you are, hold space for yourself first, because you being balanced means you’ve already run through your big emotional overwhelm and come out of the other side OR you’re able to set your own work aside and help someone else do theirs. It’s ok to say, “I need a short break,” if you’re holding space for someone else and you get triggered. You know you’re triggered if you start saying things that aren’t supportive and you feel defensive and/or you feel your emotions rise.

Things to watch out for:

  • Don’t justify your position.
  • Don’t compare.
  • Don’t try to fix it while they’re talking.
  • Don’t belittle.
  • Don’t roll your eyes.
  • Don’t even talk unless it’s really, truly kind.
  • Do listen, listen, listen.
  • Do try and put yourself in their shoes.
  • Do try to imagine that person as God would see them: Perfectly Imperfect.
  • Do be encouraging.
  • Do be gentle.
  • Do apologize if you, for a moment, get pulled back into your own feelings and react instead of act. “I’m sorry about what I just said. It was judgemental. Let me try again.”
  • Do ask for more information if you don’t understand what they’re saying. “Can you tell me more about that? It sounds really hard.” or “No, I don’t understand but I love you very much. Can you explain it a different way?”
  • Do ask if and how you can be on their team and what it would take to support them after they’re done sharing.

This takes work to learn! But I believe everyone can do it with practice. Please try. We need you. <3

Being Yourself

img_9159I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be yourself, to own who you are, since I wrote my last post. I’ve heard from several people who have asked some variation of, “Yes, but *how* do I start being who I want to be and not who I’ve been acting like?”

I don’t know that I have the magic answer, but I do have some ideas to share, as I sit here on the couch in my yoga pants and slippers, unshowered as of yet at 11am on a Wednesday.

Maybe it’s time to sit with being uncomfortable. Change, most of the time, means not being in comfort. Be willing to just stay there and prune in the juices of discomfort.

What if every moment when it comes to the center of your thoughts, you think, “Am I acting/behaving like who I really am right now?” Would you be able to change something, maybe a thought or a word, to be more real?

What if we started by looking at others with less judgement, allowing them to evolve into who they are without us already thinking we know everything about them, wouldn’t that make it easier for us to evolve, too?

I think most of us are just trying to fill the suit we’ve got on. It sometimes doesn’t fit very well, but it’s what others expect us to be wearing, and so we comply. We keep pushing up the sleeves and rolling up the hems and taping the buttons closed on the inside to get rid of the weird gap thing that happens across the chest or slightly unbuttoning the last button because it’s just a little too snug across the hips or using an elastic band to extend the too-small waistband or piling on layer after layer to hide underneath. I look around the room and I see a lot of people wearing a lot of pretend suits (Me, included.) and only a sparing few who come across as the person they really feel like inside.

I stopped shaving. First I stopped shaving under my arms. My pits had been turning darker and darker for a few years and the doctor told me that although it was “ugly” (his words), it wasn’t harmful and probably due to a reaction from my deodorant or maybe a bacteria, he wasn’t sure. It looked kind of like large birthmarks under each arm. He told me that every time you shave, you open yourself up to a bacteria imbalance. I read that it could be an hormonal imbalance (most likely in my case). I was developing small, hard nodules in my lymph system and I wanted to see if I could encourage them and the dark spots to go away by not shaving and instead using coconut oil in my pits. So I stopped using any kind of deodorant and I stopped shaving on the same day about 18 months ago. Scientists will tell you that it was a terrible idea to do both at the same time because now I’ll never know which one worked, but the hard nodules are gone, as is the darker skin.

After about a year I wondered why I shaved anywhere on my body. What’s wrong with hair on girls, anyway? I did a little research about the history of women shaving and decided that if I couldn’t come up with a compelling reason to keep shaving my body, I was going to just stop. Did I love doing it? Did I love the way it looked? Did it make me feel more beautiful? Was there some medical reason to keep doing it? Who am I hoping notices and why?

So, I did stop shaving last May and so far hardly anyone has said anything to me about it. But, I’m more aware. I wear long skirts, but I did that anyway, but now I feel it more, you know? I don’t go get a pedicure at the place down the road anymore because last time, the lady doing mine made a joke and I didn’t know what to say back. It’s a little uncomfortable to be in this skin, but it feels more real to me and like I’m being more myself than before, so I stick with it.

I tell you all of this because it’s part of sitting with myself and being who I am. I’m pruning. Do I feel ugly or pretty and why does it matter if there is hair on my legs? Do I want someone else to see my legs and comment? Is it just to fit in? If I don’t fit it, what does that say about me? What if other people think I’m ugly? Why do I care? Do I care if other women (or men) have legs/arms/faces that are shaved or not? Am I judging them on something so superficial? If so, why? (This woman with a beard is pretty amazing.)

I think what I’m hoping is to be ok with me just as I am. Not later, when I’ve shaved or put on makeup or dressed up or lost weight or fit in with the cool kids or earned a degree or done something else spectacular, but NOW. I want to just be ok right this second, sitting in my own skin and not someone else’s idea of the suit I should be wearing or my idea of the suit I’m guessing the other person wants me to wear. I want to feel happy and satisfied to be me while I own all my faults and all the stuff that I’d like to change and all the stuff that’s good about me, too. I’m just me no matter what and I guess I got super tired of pretending anything else.

I’m not saying everyone should stop shaving in order to be themselves. I’m suggesting that you might be doing or saying things that aren’t really who you feel like you are inside, because you think others expect it. Maybe take a look at that and dare to sit in the uncomfortable moment and feel.

Your Body Is Not Your Enemy

Let me set the scene for you.

We’re sitting on the couch, my husband and I, my nose buried in his shoulder. I’m weeping, beside myself with a ball of grief and failure burning through my chest like fire, wiping snot on his arm, making noises that are approximations of words, but no one can know for sure. I have auto-immune issues that after several years of being in remission have reared their ugly head starting sometime last December and have now flared with the vengeance of a fifteen-year-old girl who lost her cellphone privileges and is punishing her parents. I can’t sit very long without pain. I can’t stand very long without pain. And moving from one of those positions to the other also hurts quite a bit. I am not strong. I am weak. I am in pain. I am frustrated, angry, and deeply sad.

He’s so patient, my husband, and the very best kind of person, who has actually been listening to me over the preceding twelve years of marriage together, so that when I fall apart like this, he can throw all the things I’ve said back in my face. Which is wonderful and exactly what I need.

“I’m a failure,” I moan, “I’m tired of being sick and in pain,” or something close to that, anyway. There’s some grunting and high-pitched wails.

I thought I had beat this thing. I really did! Almost four great years,” is what I was trying to say. Probably it sounded more like, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaablubblubblub, but he knew what I meant anyway, because he’s very clever.

What about all the inspirational stuff you say all the time? You’re enough? You can do hard things? You’re right where you’re supposed to be, right?” my husband asks, rubbing my arm and reaching for the gentlemanly handkerchief he keeps in his back left pocket, just like my father always did. Sadly, I think we’re way past saving his shirt at this point.

My shoulders and hips are aching because of the awkward position I’m in, twisted to be closer to him, possibly to climb inside his skin. Sharp pains call attention to my right ovary where a golf ball-sized cyst has recently burst and has begun slowly exhaling in excruciating slowness. I must turn my body straight or I’ll be up for hours with throbbing in all my joints and unable to sleep.

You believe in Divine Timing,” he reminds me as he dries my cheeks and begins to corral the snot stream from my swollen nose.

Oh, stop it. I did believe in it. I did believe all those things! But maybe not now,” I blubber. I grab some tissues and help in the clean-up attempt of my face. My head begins to pound. Oh, I’m really starting to feel sorry for myself now. “I mean, I can’t even help put the laundry away! Or load the dishwasher!” I flourish my right arm about to emphasize my point.

Which are absolute facts, by the way. Bending from the waist sends waves of throbbing pain down my right leg. I can’t squat, either, because I’ve lost most of the strength in my thighs. I refuse to take the heavy painkillers, mostly because they make me feel so nauseated, but also they make me useless and I wouldn’t get any laundry or dishes loaded anyway. Pain or nausea, pain or nausea. Another thing to feel sad about. A fresh wave of tears hits me like a tsunami.

So. You believe all that stuff you say, but only on your good days, is that it?” He looks steadily at me with his blue eyes, a slight twinkle in the right one and blankets of love in both. “The whole point is that you believe it on the bad days, too.

I immediately stop brandishing my ineffective arms around and get very still. The truth of what he says sings to my heart.

I think I’m different than everyone else, apparently. I’m destined to only have good days, is that it? All the things I’ve told my clients over the years come rushing back to me. Go easy on yourself. There will be good days after the bad days, you just have to wait it out. Self care is paramount. Learn to say no without guilt. Create your healing cocoon.

Your body is not your enemy. It’s trying to save your life. Have gratitude.

IMG_4105My husband, who insists he knows nothing about the healing arts, leans down and kisses my red and puffy face with a fierce tenderness that could slay a dragon.

“Being ill sucks and hurts and is the very worst, but it is not a failure,” I say out loud to him. He nods and then turns on Netflix and an episode of 30 Rock where Tina Fey’s character, Liz Lemon, allows her boyfriend, Dennis Duffy, to move in with her and he calls her dummy, in a sort-of affectionate way, which she puts up with.

Liz Lemon needs more affirmations regarding self-worth,” I tell him. And he sagely nods.

(Also, this.)

My Tribe of Highly Sensitive People

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I had the experience the other day of being in a room full of people who are similar to me in many ways. It’s a new feeling for me to be in a group I truly identify with. This is happening to me more and more as I seek to spend my time doing only the things that are important to me. I keep letting go of activities (and sometimes people) that keep me from thinking and feeling actively though life. I don’t want to be numb anymore. Life’s too short to waste and I only want to spend wisely. I feel a great sense of peace with this lifestyle and that’s also really nice.

This particular group on this particular day was a room full of people who feel deeply and sometimes *more* than others due to an actual brain characteristic in the insula. The name of the characteristic is Highly Sensitive Person and about 15-20% of the human population has this trait, as do about 100 other mammal species. (This is not to be confused with a sensory processing disorder. Here’s the difference.) You can find out much more here and take a self-test here.)

Professionally, this high level of intuition and empathy makes me great at what I do. As an energy healer and H&W Mentor, I learn from the subtleties of what my client’s energy is telling me without them having to say much of anything to me. Many times, I do this without them even having to be in the same room as me and I actually do the bulk of my sessions over Skype. This gift makes it possible for me to help them more than if I had words and facial clues alone to work with.

Setting my “Professional Self” aside, in a non-professional relationship, I used to talk mainly in hints, not to be vague, but to be gentle and gauge the room without hurting others. I would read my husband‘s face without him saying a word and if he was talking, I would read the subtext with where his eyes looked or how the edges of his mouth turned down. The phrase, “But, that’s not what your face looks like,” has been uttered by me to him on numerous occasions when I found incongruity between his words and his facial tones.

I notice how my child is breathing and if the tone of their voice goes up or down or quieter. I feel/hear/sense vibrations from electrical things that give me a headache or feel like they’ve highjacked my heart and want to make it explode. If I hear dramatic music from a movie coming from the other room (where I’ve probably gone because I can’t handle the violence or award-winning drama of said film) and I can’t see what’s going on, I still get a racing heart and will sometimes cry from anxiety. When I’m in a public place that has a lot of people, I feel their emotions to the degree of being distracted from what I’m trying to do if I’m not carefully aware of my own boundaries and what’s mine and what’s theirs. I get exhausted from being in groups too long and plan to be home with nothing to do at least one day a week and mostly won’t answer the phone unless it’s one of my kids or my husband to give myself a chance to recharge.

If I get over-stimulated, I literally can’t think well anymore and can’t make even simple decisions like if I’m hungry or what I’d like to eat and then more often than not, I cry, waving my hands in front of my face to get my husband to stop asking me questions. I will get headaches and occasionally forget how to get home or even forget how to do non-thinking things like swallow and will choke on my own saliva.

Thankfully, I haven’t had any of those experiences in quite some time because of all the prep work I do to make my life the experience I want it to be. Running a Meetup group last year and speaking in front of others at conferences has helped me find my inner “Out” person. Being in public and having everyone looking at me has slowly become easier if I plan it right. I thought all of this went part and parcel in the life of someone who used to live with mental illnesses. How interesting to find out that no, it’s not. It’s just been an added layer I had to navigate. I never would have believed it if you could have told me five years ago how much my life would be different now than it was then.

The past few months I’ve been studying and training to include healing techniques specifically for HSPs in anticipation of how much this could help many of my clients. Which brings us back to the room on that day recently when I felt truly with my tribe.

There was a woman talking about how she felt like she would literally die if she exposed her inner self and became vulnerable in front of someone else and I knew what she was talking about SO DEEPLY.

So many times my husband and I will have the conversation that if I need something, just ask because he’s not a mind-reader. My inability to sometimes just ask straight out will trigger his own co-dependency radar. And once he’s on alert, it’s really all downhill from there. One of us feels bad and frustrated (him) because the other one of us is crying and unable to vocalize how they’re feeling (me).

I see this in a whole new light now. I *do* literally feel like I’m going to die if I ask for something I really, really need or that is close to my heart. My heart rate increases. I feel blood rushing to my head. My palms get sweaty. My face gets red. I want to run for my life. You could easily replace my husband with a lion tracking me as their prey and the result would be the same. The shift is in identifying that vulnerability and that I have a need to protect my inner core at all costs.

This is all information and information is good. Information helps us learn and grow through things. It helps us make small course corrections and navigate to the place we truly want to be. Just like five years ago I wouldn’t have believed my life now, I bet five years from now things will be even better, which is hard to believe given that I’m so happy.

——- <3 Looking for a mentor for your own life process? I can help. Find out more here.
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