Serendipitously, I met a Goddess…

 

Once upon a time I took a five-month break from writing because my feelings were hurt.

 

I had apparently decided to participate in the suppression of my Self.

 

Serendipitously, I met a Goddess. She saw me. Does that make sense? I often feel like, despite the fact that I am in the presence of other people, they are still somehow unable to truly see me for who I am.

 

Nothing gets past Jamie. She is the only person I have ever met in my real life to ever discover my online presence, despite the fact that my Blog and YouTube channel are titled in my full name.

 

Jamie took the time to express her gratitude to me for the “kind and uplifting messages” that she feels are “bringing a lot of positivity to the world.”

 

Most importantly, the point of Jamie’s email was to tell me that the haiku I had written in my last post reminded her of a poem called “On Children” by Kahlil Gibran, a poem that is her personal mantra as a Mother.

 

I cannot explain to you what that exchange meant to me. She saw me.

 

The Haiku I wrote about my son that she was referring to is this:

 

HE’S NOT MINE TO OWN

I WAS MADE TO PROTECT HIM

BEFORE I WAS BORN.

 

The poem that Jamie shared with me is this:

 

On Children
by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

 

Every single time I read this poem I cry. You have no idea how far I have been bent. That I have never broken is nothing short of a miracle. I am that stable bow. Bend me as hard as you can, I cannot be broken. My son is that arrow. I am doing it.

 

I am so proud to have a friend who uses this poem as her parenting mantra. That I could write a haiku reminiscent of Kahlil Gibran’s On Children, without even knowing it, makes me happy to be alive.

 

I am grateful to my friend Jamie because she made me come alive.

 

My heart cracked open. I started writing again, I found the courage to tell her about my app idea and she helped me find a developer to build it. Jamie has allowed me to practice healing her in so many different ways, she has become the physical embodiment of my soul purpose, which is to heal.

 

Did you hear what I just said? My soul purpose is to heal. That is not easy for me to admit and I would love to add a caveat about how I am only supposed to heal myself, but with one comes the other. I have always been a healer, but I have also always kept that fact a secret, even from myself.

 

Why?

 

Because I am so fucking tired of being misunderstood. I thought if I could control the way I was perceived, then it would be easier to understand me and I could finally feel NOT lonely.

 

As you can see, I CREATED MY OWN LONELINESS BY NOT BEING MYSELF.

 

No one could understand me because I wasn’t being me. I am not a lawyer. I am a radiant being filled with love and light. I am totally made of love. I came here knowing many things I should not know and I am going to share them all with the world. I was not born with these gifts to keep them secret.

 

Only I know who I am and only I can share that.

 

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My grief healing app is going to launch shortly together with the book that goes with it and everything in my life will change. This will involve “owning” who I am. I am a healer. I am an artist. I make healing art. I am a storyteller. I tell healing stories. I have enough love for the entire world and I will never run out.

 

If you have a friend who came into your life and made it better, tell them. Look them right in the eye and tell them your truth. Then give them a super long heart to heart hug. Just really breathe deeply into this hug and feel the love going back and forth between the two of you.

 

This is your soul mate. And by mate, I mean friend. There are people who come into our lives and we feel like we already know them, we feel like we love them more than people we have known our whole lives. This is what it is to connect with the spirit you agreed to connect with before you were born.

 

Why?

 

To make sure you are following your soul path. No detours.

 

If your friends could care less about whether or not you are on your soul path, they are not your soul mates and that’s ok. Everyone in your life is there for a reason: to help you learn your soul lessons.

 

Be as grateful to those that bend you to your breaking point as you are to those who support you. Everyone in your life is responsible for the person you are today. Acknowledge your own strength; you are not broken, you are learning.

 

XO,

Rachel

ps–tomorrow is my Deer Friend Jamie’s Birthday and I am going to hug her so hard. Don’t forget what I said above about those heart to heart hugs, that’s a prescription for healing. You’re welcome.

pps–Jamie is really special.

Sedona Soul Adventures: the personal retreat, part 4

 

 

Ok now where were we…

 

Right, it’s Sedona Soul Adventure day one and I have just finished my first session.

 

I now have about 45 minutes to eat and get to my second and final session of day one.

 

What I really want to do is go to sleep. The first session blew my mind too many times for me to even know what to do next. I drove along route 89 totally confused about where I was going or why. I had to start gently talking to myself:

 

“Ok, Rae, you can eat whatever you want for lunch, I will take care of you, you are fine…”

 

I pull over at this Deli I have already passed twice and force myself to go inside even though I do not feel like this is the place for me to eat. I order 2 slices of pizza to go even though I have no place to go and I have to pee really bad.

 

In a fog, I eat the gross pizza in my car in the Deli parking lot and then I get out and walk over to a grocery store so I can go pee. I look at the grocery items on my way out like…maybe I will buy something…but ultimately I keep going because I have no idea what to buy or why.

 

Back in my car, I journal until it is time to make the short drive to my second session, Family Constellations, whatever that means…

 

hellinger

 

First of all, her name is Divyo and her home is amazing. The views from her huge living room window will make you reconsider your life. Divyo has this fantastic German accent that I felt enhanced our session, as many of my family members are of German descent and this session was supposed to be about my family through the generations…

 

…or maybe it’s because I spent a semester in college with a German exchange student trying to master a German accent for the musical Cabaret…and the following semester I cast that same German exchange student to play the Therapist in the one-act play I directed, Women and Wallace…hmmmmmm….

 

There are many brightly colored pillows lining the wall of her healing room. Divyo invites me to sit in one of her matching leather chairs as she steps out of the room. Immediately, I decide to wrap up in her big fuzzy blanket while she is gone. Divyo’s husband brings me a glass of water and I admit, in case he is blind, that I have decided to use the blanket. He approves. Divyo returns and is pleased about the blanket as well.

 

We begin the 2-hour session with Divyo explaining Hellinger’s Constellation Therapy Model. I can sum that all up by saying: wow, it’s really not about me. It’s not. DNA, man. Trauma transfers genetically, it’s science. The things that bother your parents will both you, too. This is why it is so important to consider your issues before you have children.

 

hellinger 2

 

Divyo asked me to pick out 2 pillows to represent my parents. Next, she had me pick out pillows to represent all of the offspring between my parents, especially the offspring that did not make it. We then repositioned and spoke at length about my family structure and how we all agreed to come here and be a family before we were even born. The struggles are lessons we all agreed in advance to experience to learn together from each other.

 

einstein

 

The content of this session is private, so I will leave the 5 pages of notes in my journal to myself. The outcome of this session was phenomenal. Clarity, compassion, forgiveness, and best of all, unconditional love.

 

I love my Dad. I love my Mom. I love each and every one of my siblings. I feel and speak this truth from my heart every day. I love my family of origin at all times. Like a tree, the branches tend to grow away from each other, but family will always share roots.

 

hellinger5

 

I am grateful for my life journey. I am excited to be growing in this direction:

 

hellinger 3

 

XO,

Rachel

PS: Stay tuned for more of my Sedona Soul Adventure!! Click here to read part one, click here to read part 2 and click here to read part 3. Ok now you are all caught up!

First Thing in the Morning Mourning

 

 

Have you ever taken a break from FaceBook and then come back to FaceBook…

 

And then saw a friend of yours tag another friend of yours…

 

And then thought: hey what’s up with that friend, haven’t seen him in a year…

 

And then realize he had died.

 

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I cannot tell you how hard I cried this morning scrolling through all the bereft posts on his page. Howled. It’s not over. I’m still crying. I don’t even have to squint, tears are flowing from my resting neutral face and landing on my damp hair and pajamas. I have to tell you about Russell.

 

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Russell was an angel. Not like the halo-wearing kind, but the kind of angel surrounded by light at all times. He lit up every room he entered. His energy was infectious and I absolutely LOVED being in his presence. He was magical.

 

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Russell was a performer, both onstage and off, entertaining anyone lucky enough to be in proximity to him. He dated a very good friend of mine from college and I got the opportunity to take their headshots together in Red Rock Canyon.

 

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This was such a meaningful experience for me; I love to combine my strong desire to help my friends and be artistically creative. Russell made this day extraordinarily light and fun. He had this natural ability to simultaneously deliver and enhance; when I wasn’t shooting him, he was using his energy to bring all of our spirits up.

 

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That was just how Russell was…he was always working…but his work was love…and light. He was ALIVE. To be in his presence made you feel more alive, too. We laughed the whole time, my face hurt from smiling so hard and focusing the camera.

 

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When I asked my friend to join me, to dance in the One Billion Rising for V-Day Flash Mob, he said yes and made a point to tell me that Russell was so excited. I cannot tell you how that made my heart swoon—swoon? Yeah, it swooned. When I ask people to volunteer for V-Day, usually I either get a ‘not this time’ or an ‘okayyyyyy’…but Russell was excited…he was so pumped for every single aspect of this.

 

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If you knew Russell, you would know that a Flash Mob is right up his ally. He showed up like he always did, radiating light with this confidence that made you want to be around him forever.

 

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My first time Flash Mob nerves melted into laughter and excitement; Russell helped me get out of my head and into the moment.

 

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Russell showed me what it looks like to be ALIVE.

 

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Before my last Facebook hiatus, I was very closely following Russell and his dream to read every single Stephen King novel. I thought that was so cool. I have read many of those same novels and appreciated his appetite for more books!

 

This morning, when I saw my friend tag Russell on FaceBook, it reminded me that I hadn’t seen him posting about his novel reading status in a long time and it hit me—you probably didn’t add him as a friend when you rejoined FaceBook—so, I clicked on his name thinking I would add him and get all caught up on what he had been reading…which shows he would be performing in…

 

I did not expect to see so many people mourning Russell. How could I? How could this happen? I don’t understand. I began to sob instantaneously, thinking about how I was not done…I intended to hug him again…I had plans to be in his presence more…

 

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You don’t understand. Russell was an angel. It was healing to be in his presence. I am crying so hard as I type this out…oh Russell, do you see and feel my grief??? It’s not just me, it’s almost been one whole year since you’ve been gone and there are so many people aching from losing you.

 

grief god garden

 

Many people are using this god-picking-flowers analogy for you, Russell…I had never even heard this one before and MANY people are using it to describe what has happened here. I get it. Put Russell in a crowd and he does shine the brightest.

 

grief mom meme

 

I don’t really pick flowers though, I let them grow.

 

This is what I will be doing with our relationship from now on, Russell, allowing it to grow. I feel you. I hear you. I will not resist that. It’s okay to cry because I can’t hug you or watch you perform onstage. It’s not okay to convince myself that it all ends here because that is simply not true. Relationships never die.

 

I’ll hold you in my heart forever and feel so much lighter as a result.

 

Thank you.

 

XO,

Rachel

grief flower

 

Sedona Soul Adventures: the personal retreat, part 3

 

Immediately after my Orientation at the Sedona Soul Adventures offices, I drove a very short distance along Route 89 to my first session: Radiant Heart Healing.

 

I don’t know what Radiant Heart Healing is, but I am so pumped to begin my very first session of my first-ever personal retreat that I don’t even try to imagine what it is. All I know is, I have to pee.

 

Sher is standing in her front door as I pull up to her home. She has on a beautiful turquoise shawl and matching jewelry. She is radiant.

 

Aqua Radiant Heart

 

Sher hugs me. We both have to go pee. I get to use her beautiful bathroom attached to her therapy room and marvel at the tranquil decor. The hand soap she has smells amazing. I like it here. Sher returns from her bathroom and we hug again. I feel super happy and excited to begin.

 

With notebook in hand, Sher asks me some questions. I explain to her my estrangements, traumas, and feelings of loneliness. I feel comfortable enough to explain to her that I have always felt like not a real human being, that I’ve always felt myself to be more of a tool to use, like a crutch, and that this often results in me spending a great amount of time wishing to return “home” where I belong.

 

Sher was not surprised or taken aback by anything I said. In fact, she completely validated everything I said and invited me to lay down on her Reiki table so that she could help me let it go. We talked about angels and I told her that I know who my angels are. Sher asked me to invite my angels to participate.

 

I imagined roots coming from the bottom of my feet and grounding deep into the core of the Earth, where all the energy is purple and that purple energy comes up from the core of the Earth, through my roots, up into my feet and throughout my entire body. I am now grounded.

 

I imagined a white source light coming from above and straight into the top of my head, mixing the white light with the purple light until my entire body is my favorite shade of pink. I asked my angels what color the hurt is inside my chest cavity and they answered immediately: black. I can see my angels begin to help me release the blackness and it begins like a very difficult game of tug of war. The struggle is real.

 

Then, I silently gave my angels permission to take my pain away and the blackness began to shoot out of me like a geyser. I could actually feel the darkness leave my body. Effortlessly. You should’ve seen the expression on my angels’ faces. Priceless. They were so happy and proud of me.

 

Here comes the best part: filling back up with divine love. I used mantras to do it: I am a child of God and have so much love, I am loved just as I am, I have enough love. A light begins to illuminate my empty chest cavity, empty now because the black is all gone, and this feels so strange–not heavy, but light.

 

The darkness is gone. I replaced it with light. This makes my angels clap; this is all they’ve ever wanted.

 

radiant-heart universe

 

My angels are here because they love me. My angels want me to heal. To heal is to fulfill my life purpose. Sharing my healing through storytelling is my gift.

 

I suddenly felt like I had gotten it all wrong… When I hit my Complex PTSD rock bottom and began my healing journey I learned the principles of “name it, own it and let it go.”

 

I had vaguely heard of this concept before…

 

Name it–no problem.

Own it–already done.

Let it go…

 

Like…

 

How do you mean?

 

Let it go, like forget? Oh, I’m not like that…

 

Let it go, like don’t care?

 

I FEEL EVERYTHING!!!!!!

 

I feel everything

 

Sher blew the roof off of what I thought I knew when she told me that it’s actually:

 

Name it,

Own it,

Let it go,

AND FILL BACK UP WITH DIVINE LOVE

 

You have to replace what you remove in order to truly let go. I couldn’t let go of what I was holding because I didn’t have anything else to hold on to. It’s actually a 4-step process.

 

Sher invited me to ask my angels for help. I was able to close my eyes and ask my angels to fill me up with divine love. I straight up asked them and they were more than happy to point and shoot it right out and into me, just like the Care Bear stare!

 

care bear stare

 

My entire body was warm and vibrating, I had goose bumps everywhere and was smiling huge. So this is what having room for love feels like…

 

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My love is real and I have access to it. I can both give and get love. I was able to FEEL all of this. I am still able to feel all of this, through Sher’s Radiant Heart Healing method.

 

Sher sat for half of the session with her arm around me and her other hand over my heart. No touch has ever felt so good. I never wanted it to end, so I sat very still, so at ease in our little love seat huddle.

 

I felt compelled to say: “I love you Sher, I don’t want you to ever stop hugging me.” And, like I already felt to be true, she admitted that she loves me, too.

 

Before I left, Sher gave me one of her books. I am reading it now and it is phenomenal.

 

Radiant Heart Book

 

During my retreat, I felt compelled to contact Sher about a grief-healing app I had invented in my head. I actually threw my app idea into the garbage can in my mind after day one of my retreat and then felt certain that I had to go fish it back out by day two. Sher invited me back to her house and let me pitch my app idea. She loved it. The iHeal will launch in the next few months.

 

In less than one month, I will travel back to Sedona for part one of my Radiant Heart Healing Certification Course.

 

XO,

Rachel

 

P.S. I have SO much more of this story to tell, so stay tuned! If you missed Part 1 (click here) or Part 2 (click here)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Billion Rising For V-Day

 

 

It’s February. It’s cold. There is a lot of political talk going on. Does anyone know where the potential U.S. presidential candidates stand on the global issue of violence against women?

 

I don’t. And I do. I know enough. I know we all need to be more aware and involved.

 

What is the One Billion Rising Campaign?

 

One Billion Rising is the biggest mass action to end violence against women in human history. The campaign, launched on Valentine’s Day 2012, began as a call to action based on the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than ONE BILLION WOMEN AND GIRLS. On 14 February 2013, people across the world came together to express their outrage, strike, dance, and RISE in defiance of the injustices women suffer, demanding an end at last to violence against women. On 14 February 2014, One Billion Rising for Justice focused on the issue of justice for all survivors of gender violence, and highlighted the impunity that lives at the intersection of poverty, racism, war, the plunder of the environment, capitalism, imperialism, and patriarchy. For the third year of the campaign, One Billion Rising’s global coordinators chose the theme of “Revolution” as an escalation of the demand for justice, and to build upon the massive efforts of communities worldwide that also looked at the roots and causes of violence as part of their call for justice. On (or around) 14 February 2015, millions of activists in over 200 countries gathered to Rise for REVOLUTION, to change the paradigm, demand accountability, justice and systematic CHANGE. We are rising to show we are determined to create a new kind of consciousness – one where violence will be resisted until it is unthinkable. In 2016, the theme of Revolution continues with a call to focus on marginalised women and to bring national and international focus to their issues; to bring in new artistic energy; to amplify Revolution as a call for system change to end violence against women and girls; to call on people to rise for others, and not just for ourselves.

 

To join my official One Billion Rising Campaign for V-Day, click here. I have been a volunteer activist for V-Day since 2002 and I will continue to do so Until The Violence Stops.

 

What is V-Day?

 

V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. V-Day is a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money, and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM), and sex slavery.

 

To raise money for vday.org I have organized a SUPER SALE with a bunch of my friends who are hot mamas in direct sales willing and able to donate 20-25% of their sale proceeds from February 14, 2016-February 29, 2016. I’m talking about organic herbal Steeped Tea, statement making Chloe + Isabel Jewelry, easy to apply nail art with Jamberry Nail Wraps, health and nutritional products with Plexus, pampering bath + beauty products with Perfectly Posh, and therapeutic-grade DoTerra Essential Oils.

 

It will be impossible to feel bad making this purchase! You will be receiving an awesome product from a working mother who is donating her profits to a charity designed to stop violence against women and girls.

 

Still not interested?

 

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Then please consider donating your time and resources to your local crisis center. If you don’t know where to start with locating that building, this website will help you find the one nearest you, click here.

 

As a former Domestic Violence, Rape & Sexual Assault Advocate for the Crisis Services Center of Buffalo, I can tell  you from experience that the volunteer services provided are life saving. To advocate on behalf of a victim in the aftermath of their trauma will change your perspective on what it means to be a human being.

 

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is:

WHAT ARE YOU DOING FOR OTHERS?

~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

XO,

Rachel

Sedona Soul Adventures: the personal retreat, part 2

 

 

Ok now where was I?

 

Did I tell you the part where I made a 5-hour drive without stopping once, not even for a bathroom break? That is so me…

 

I felt like SUCH a grown up when I checked into my hotel all by myself! Who does that?! All you women who are independent, throw your hands up at me!

 

beyonce

 

For my 3-day Sedona Soul Adventure, I chose to stay at the Sky Ranch Lodge due to its proximity to a vortex.

 

What the hell is a vortex?

 

A Vortex is a place in nature where the earth is exceptionally alive with energy. The term Vortex in Sedona refers to a place where the earth energy swirls and draws to it’s center everything that surrounds it like a tornado. At these magical sites, trees often exhibit this swirling or twisting of their trunks due the powerful vortex energy at the core of a Sedona Vortex. – to read more, click here.

 

Well, when I drove into Sedona on January 17th, the sun was going down and by the time I got to my hotel, it was dark. I didn’t notice any invisible energy vortex. I was hungry and had to pee real bad.

 

I was also missing my family. How could I just leave them to go be by myself? What was I supposed to even do right now all by myself? I called my angel guide and left her a voicemail to let her know I had successfully arrived. I Face-Timed my husband, who very quickly lost all access to the phone when our almost-4-year-old brought me into his tent.

 

Inside that tent I told my beautiful child stories that made him belly laugh. Stories about all the mischief he and our cat get into while my husband and I are asleep. Stories heavy with burp and fart jokes. A lot of slipping on banana peels and cold water squirting in your face scenarios.

 

This is significant because it’s the last night I ever tell these kinds of stories. My storytelling changes after tonight into something much more inspiring. Though, burp and fart jokes are still fair game.

 

On January 18th, I woke up in my hotel in Sedona way before the alarm clock, unable to sleep. Just…awake. Ready. I lay and wait for the alarm to go off anyways. I even get up and reset the alarm simply because I don’t know what to do with myself just yet.

 

I have to force myself to get out of the bed. The bed I haven’t been able to sleep in for hours. As I get ready I play some strategic music for myself to get pumped up.

 

Grace Kelly by Mika:

 

“Getting angry doesn’t solve anything”

How can I help it
How can I help it
How can I help what you think?
Hello my baby
Hello my baby
Putting my life on the brink
Why don’t you like me
Why don’t you like me
Why don’t you like yourself?

 

Warning by Incubus:

 

What’s so wrong with being happy?
Kudos to those who see through sickness, yeah
Over and over
And over and over
She woke in the morning
She knew that her life had passed her by
And she called out a warning
“Don’t ever let life pass you by”

 

So now I am overwhelmed by the healing power of music, instead of by the fear and anxiety looping through my head. I put on my jeans, tuck my shirt into a belt and slip into my cowboy boots with the peacock feathers. I put on the necklace my friend just gave me with the butterfly wings pressed inside.

 

I leave my hotel room for orientation, determined to never let life pass me by.

 

I arrive at the Sedona Soul Adventure offices for orientation a bit early. I decide to draft an email for PTO and suddenly realize I am now going to be late!

 

GOB

 

I get out of the car and sprint up the steps. The Sedona Soul Adventure office is beautiful. My angel guide hugs me and is obviously super excited for me. After we go over my itinerary and all logistics, the owner came in and I got to tell her how moved I was by her story. I love meeting other lawyers who don’t practice law, but instead do something really spiritual with their lives.

 

I tell my angel guide a very random story about how, while searching for lodging for this trip, I found a woman with a really cool website who I really really really feel compelled to meet. My angel guide smiled huge and told me: that’s my sister.

 

Overall, I feel ready to begin.

 

My angel guide asks me to set an intention for my retreat and to light a candle. I say to myself over and over again: please God, let me know my purpose. I know you just told me 2 nights ago and, instead of write it down, I fell asleep and forgot. I’m so sorry! Please give it back! I want to know my purpose.

 

My angel guide says: you’re vibrating!!!

 

I know I am. I can feel it. I am ready.

 

XO,

Rachel

P.S. Did you miss Part 1 of the Sedona Soul Adventures story? Click here.

 

How do you guys feel about making mistakes?

 

I’m working on that…

 

Right now.

 

Yesterday I worked hard to resolve a technical problem on my website. What was that problem? Well, I had set up a campaign where if you click the link, you would receive a free gift, a 7-day email series I created on finding your life purpose. But the link for some reason did not work…

 

During the course of resolving that technical issue, another problem was uncovered. An even bigger problem.

 

The Contact Me Form at the bottom of every single page of my website was not working. In fact, it has never been working. When Go-Daddy revealed this to me over the phone they said: I bet a lot of people have been trying to contact you.

 

Dun Dun.

 

Well that was like a punch to the stomach. You have to understand my constant inner mantra goes something like:

 

WHAT DO WE WANT?
CONNECTION!
HOW DO WE FEEL?
LONELY!!!

 

Oy. I am so sorry. If you ever sent me a message through my website and then wondered why I never got back to you, it is because of this technical error. I would love to respond to messages. LOVE!!!!

 

As I work to resolve the original issue with the email campaign, please know that the Contact Me Form is now up and running. If you want to resend your questions or comments, please feel free to do so.

 

Unless they were mean–in that case, then I just think this whole thing worked out perfectly.

 

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The most important thing I want to say about this experience is: I am working hard to be gentle and kind to myself as I sort this all out. I have never considered myself to be particularly adept at technology. I am still proud that I built my entire website all by myself. Mistakes and all. I will be even prouder of myself when my first email campaign is successfully up and running. I will fix all of my mistakes.

 

Wish me luck!

 

XO,
Rachel

P.S. As an UPDATE: I have fixed my technical errors and the free email series is now up and running!

 

Sedona Soul Adventures: the personal retreat, part 1

 

 

I have so much I want to say about my personal 3-day retreat with Sedona Soul Adventure.

 

Bear with me, I am a brand new person now.

 

It’s like the difference between this:

 

I’ve been uptight and made a mess,

But I’ll clean it up myself I guess

Oh, the sweet smell of success

Handle me with care.

~The Traveling Wilburys

 

and this:

 

I saw the sign

And it opened up my eyes

I saw the sign

~Ace of Base

 

Do you speak in song lyrics? I do…

 

I am a storyteller. This is part of my life purpose. I knew this and I did not know this. I know this now.

 

Let me back up. How did I end up going on a retreat? Great question. Well, as I told the angel guide over the phone, I’ve been crying in the bathtub–I mean–I want to know what my purpose is. What the hell am I even still doing here?

 

Let me back up some more. I was crying in the bathtub. Like just so sad. I felt like I had finally done it. I had successfully pushed everyone so far away, I would now be disconnected forever. Utterly alone. How?!! I was breaking up with me. I guess. Now I didn’t want to be by me. At all. It was just two weeks into my New Year’s Resolution to forgive myself and I wanted to strangle myself.

 

As I looked around the tub for Whitney and Bobbi Christina, I picked up my phone and googled the search terms: Sedona Retreat. Why? Because Sedona is almost a 5 hour drive from Vegas and I keep hearing about how inspiring it is to visit, like it’s a magical place or something. I also keep hearing about how creative women like to go on annual retreats to keep their inspirational juices flowing…the seed was planted within me some time ago. Sedona. Retreat.

 

The very first google search result was Sedona Soul Adventures. I clicked on it and discovered that the owner reminded me of me:

 

In January, 1999, Debra was a divorce attorney in Omaha, Nebraska, beginning her 20th year of practice. With 175 active cases, she was stressed out, burned out and ready to jump off the nearest cliff. Having been on her spiritual path since the death of her mother in 1978, Debra knew there was more. Although she was helping her clients in her practice, she yearned to be of service on a much deeper level.

 

Debra, you got my attention. I filled out the online form and then I called them because I could not wait to begin the process. I see myself as a recovering divorce attorney. I too yearned to be of service on a much deeper level. YEARN. As in, I don’t even want to be here if I’m not living my true purpose. Not knowing what my life purpose was, man that was kind of killing me.

 

The thought of leaving my son was at first unbearable. I wanted to quit before I even began. I knew that I could not go on feeling the darkness inside of me without it permeating to the rest of my family. I knew that I had to go. So I scheduled it. And then I got afraid and wanted to quit. And then I leaned into the discomfort.

 

My son’s main concern was a prophecy.

 

“Who is going to tell me stories?”

 

Daddy.

 

“Oh no, Mommy, you’re the best storyteller.”

 

STORYTELLER

 

I told the most epic stories to my son on FaceTime during my trip. I have the best stories to tell right now. I am an even better storyteller now than I was before I left. I have accomplished my New Year’s Resolution within the month of January. I forgave myself. I forgave everyone. I love myself. I know what my life purpose is.

 

I have so much more to say…bear with me.

 

XO,

Rachel

Practicing Conscious Vulnerability

 

 

My son is kind of obsessed with “bad guys” right now. We used to fight the bad guys. Now we pretend we are the bad guys and we actually fight the good guys.

 

 

Imagination-land.

 

 

Sounds like this: I am the bad guy and I will not share anything. I am a bad guy so I will not help you. We are the bad guys and we are stealing all your food!

 

 

Of course I like to put in my 2 cents: I am the bad guy who pretends I am helping you but really I am not, I’m the worst of all the bad guys. Ha ha ha.

 

 

Seriously.

 

 

If you pretend to care but really don’t, I can tell.

 

 

Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles;

Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances.

Courage breeds creativity;

Cowardice represents fear and is mastered by it.

Cowardice asks the question, is it safe?

Expediency asks the question, is it polite?

Vanity asks the question, is it popular?

But conscience asks the question, is it right?

And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

I have been practicing conscious vulnerability daily for the past 12 days. Mostly this seems to go unnoticed. Some people are clearly positively impacted by my vulnerability. Some people are clearly uncomfortable to the point of disgust.

 

 

I don’t do it because it’s popular; I practice vulnerability because I feel it is right.

 

 

 

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I believe in vulnerability because I believe in love.

 

 

lovememe

 

 

I started following @ambertheactivist on Instagram about 7 weeks ago because I liked her chalk art. I scrolled through her entire page like, wow, what an incredible person; she is an artist, activist and founder of the #stoprapeeducate campaign. Talk about courage. Taking your trauma and using it to make the world a better place is the height of cool.

 

 

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Several days after I began to follow @ambertheactivist, things got real.

 

 

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During the #stoprapeeducate tour, Amber was raped by an acquaintance, someone who actually helped her make chalk art.

 

 

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This guy listened to Amber, understood she was a survivor of rape, helped her make #stoprapeeducate chalk art and then, one week later, he raped her. I’m talking about one of those bad guys who pretends to help, but has no intention of helping. I’m talking about the worst of all the bad guys.

 

 

Amber’s vulnerability initially resulted in support, which lead her to report the crime and endure the evidence collection rape kit.

 

 

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Amber’s continued practice of conscious vulnerability quickly lead to outrageous expressions of disgust and aggression. I get that it’s the internet, but the sheer volume of aggressive dissent was disheartening to me. In other words: victim blaming. It seems many people hate rape victims and their voices more than they “hate” rape.

 

 

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Not Marie Clair. 3 Days ago the popular magazine published an interview with Amber (read it here). Yesterday the Huffington Post published a similar interview (read it here). One hour ago Bustle published a similar interview (read about it here).

 

 

This morning Instagram deleted the caption underneath Amber’s selfie from 7 weeks ago, describing her rape in real time.

 

 

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Luckily, you can’t delete someone’s story. Not really. I will never forget the raw emotion expressed in real time; Amber has inspired me to be vulnerable. Sometimes trying to silence someone gives them the platform they need to be heard. I heard you, Amber; I care about your story, keep telling it. Practicing conscious vulnerability in this regard is the first step to creating consent culture.

 

 

slutwalk_meme

 

XO

~Rachel

PTSD, Adrenaline Dump & Dehydration

 

If my PTSD were cured, it would look like me not having to go to the Emergency Room anymore for dehydration.

 

I used to go to the ER a lot. Even on vacation. I can tell you about Emergency Rooms in Colorado, Washington and California. Mostly I can tell you about Emergency Rooms in New York and Nevada. I went to the ER so many times in 2010, I agreed to have my gall bladder removed exactly 6 weeks before my wedding. I was back in the ER with the same symptoms one week after that unnecessary surgery.

 

Healing my own PTSD has been a long hard journey. I have been able to reduce the frequency of ER visits through a variety of activities: Meditation, EMDR, Self-Hypnosis, Journaling, Reiki, Yoga, Bubble Baths, Potting Plants, Making Art, Reading, etc.

 

When you go to the ER more than once in a month for dehydration, that can feel depressing. When you can go long periods of time without having to visit the ER, that feels like success. Holidays get me. I was ready for Halloween this year. Having missed the past 2 Halloweens with my son in a row, I had a plan: I was not going to get sick.

 

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I won. I did not get sick. I felt amazing. I went to a party. I trick or treated. I was totally there!

 

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I totally nailed Halloween. I did it. No hospital for ONE YEAR!! I cured my PTSD! Or so I thought…

 

The week before Christmas my son got a little stomach bug that caused him to vomit from about 6:30 p.m. until 8 a.m. the next morning. I held him, did laundry and changed the bedding at least a half a dozen times all through the night. My son was such a trooper. Advice that helped:

  1. You are throwing up (he didn’t know);
  2. Mommy and Daddy will take care of you (he relaxed);
  3. Breathe when you can, hold on, you will be able to breathe again soon (thank god, right?).

 

I knew that night when he put his pukey little hand on my mouth that I was in trouble. I was inspired by my son’s ability to shake it off and have a great, even comedic, attitude throughout his sickness. I planned to have that same great attitude and pulled it off the next night for the first several hours. I threw up, cleaned myself up, closed my eyes and meditated. I may have even given some thumbs up out there. But then something happened.

 

I had a memory.

 

At the time, I was thinking: that’s interesting. It was not a foreign memory, but it FELT different this time because of the experience I had as a parent the night before, taking care of my own child. It was the difference between experiencing something as a child and experiencing it as an adult.

 

Interesting…

 

Instead of 100% meditative concentration, I began to go toward the new feeling. What’s that? What does this feel like? Why is it new?

 

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Well I’ll be damned if I didn’t walk up so close to that new feeling that a bucket of adrenaline didn’t dump into my system.  That’s right, a bucket of adrenaline.

 

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At this point, I began to throw up with no breaks in between. As in, I was both throwing up from the flu and from PTSD/Anxiety/Adrenaline dump. I’m talking about thumbs down.  I tried to tell my husband I needed help for at least 20 minutes. I couldn’t get out of the memory, which was now clearly some sort of flashback. I would open my eyes again and he would be looking at me and I would wonder, did I tell him I need help yet or did I faint again? Finally, after only 6 hours of throwing up (I should’ve been almost done!), I told my husband: I need to go to the hospital.

 

And I was right. I did need to go to the hospital. I hit a new record: 3 saline bags to rehydrate me. The flu alone does not explain that level of dehydration. Adrenaline dump does. Had I not told my husband, between throwing up, that I needed to go to the hospital, I would have died from dehydration.

 

Highlights from my last hospital experience: putting an IV into a dehydrated person’s vein is not easy, my arm is still swollen and bruised 2 weeks later; regardless of dehydration,the staff made clear they were angry at how long it took me to comply with the urine sample; the doctor at one point yelled in my face: OPEN YOUR EYES and when I did, he yelled: ARE YOU GONNA HURT YOURSELF?!

 

Did explaining at registration that I am having a PTSD attack help? No, not this time. Not every medical professional knows what that even is, unfortunately. Compassion is not a given. So I went home and tried to take care of my husband who had finally caught our son’s flu and then I just rested right through Christmas. I wanted to spring up and make Christmas joyful and high energy, like a music video. When I was unable to do that, I fought off feelings of self hate and depression and just watched movies under a blanket with my family on the couch. We all took care of each other.

 

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It’s ok to get sick.

 

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XO

~Rachel

Hello 2016!

 

 

Why is my New Year’s Resolution to forgive myself?

 

Great question. I don’t know. I do and I don’t.

 

When I feel sad or lonely, which lately has been often, I start to feel a little bit of anxiety. Take me in that state of being, add anything else to the mix (forgot something, hungry, etc.), and you have a recipe for me turning on me. Fast. I am talking about zero patience for me.

 

Sometimes I feel like I want to bound after my own self on all fours, like I need to attack myself swiftly and mercilessly. Like a drug, this battle promises to end the anxiety I feel.

 

memeednorton

 

I tried so hard to love myself in 2015. I have been working for years now to love myself. But honestly, if you want to knock yourself out…that’s a toxic relationship at best.

 

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I have always wanted to learn more about forgiveness, to pick up this foreign language. It hit me like a slow moving steam roller this past month: you can’t force people to connect with you. I want to. I have always wanted to make connection happen. All neglected children do. Emotional connection is beautiful. Emotional connection involves the healthy process of both letting it go and feeling.

 

Let it go + Feel Feelings = positive GROWTH

 

There is one person in the universe you can force a connection with: YOURSELF.

 

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That’s where compassion for others lives. Deep within the understanding of how hard it is to simultaneously let go and feel. We don’t know what others have to process. We only know what we have to process and that shit is as fucked as it gets. If we could extend the courtesy to others, the courtesy of understanding the whole, not wanting to both let go AND feel, then  it will be easier to consider forgiveness when their failure to do so harms you.

 

memelilytomlin

 

So this morning I looked at my tired self in the mirror and said: I forgive you. And THEN, to make it even weirder, I gave myself a long hug…in the mirror.

 

What was that like?

 

I already told you, WEIRD. But also awesome, thanks for asking. Soothing actually, I’m not gonna lie. This is going to work. I am going to tell myself: I forgive you, every morning until I have the self compassion to allow myself to make simple mistakes without thoughts of physical retaliation. I want to model self compassion and self love to my child. I will do the hard work. Me and me. And when it is done, I will feel FREE.

 

I am excited for the freedom.

 

XO

~Rachel

Year End Review

 

Validation is a basic necessity for humans, like food, shelter and water.

 

People will go toward one another, against all odds, despite mortal danger, just to say:

 

Hey…

 

is it raining on your face, too?

 

rain

 

Withholding validation from your loved ones is abuse, which is a crime.

 

If you are doing this, cut it out.  If this is being done to you, speak up.  Use your voice.  If using your voice leads to silence, estrangement or catastrophic retaliation, give yourself a hug, you brave human being.

 

This is growth.

 

Growth is painful.

 

2015 has been the year of growing pains. Have you felt it? The intensity has been insidious. 2016 cannot come fast enough. My New Year’s Resolution? To forgive myself. Finally. Wish me luck.

 

XO

~Rachel

xmas5

 

That’s How Much I Love You

This morning my son wrapped his arms around my neck and hugged me. Hard.

 

“I love you, Mama; if you were a sock, I’d be your shoe.”

 

My heart. Exploded.

 

I tell my son this all the time because it’s from one of our favorite bedtime stories.

 

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This was the first time he ever thought to say it to me.

 

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I am so grateful and so full of love. In this moment, I am also overwhelmed by the haiku I wrote for my son:

 

HE’S NOT MINE TO OWN,

I WAS MADE TO PROTECT HIM…

BEFORE I WAS BORN.

 

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At some point during the whole becoming a mom stage of my life, I realized my protective capacity was off. Off like…I would kill myself to save someone else…from boredom.

 

My son saved me. Before he was born, I was slowly dying…and I didn’t even care. I had toxic relationship poisoning. Were it not for my son, I never would have began my self love journey. My son taught me to rage against the dying of the light. RAGE. Don’t fuck with my son’s mom. I matter.

 

For someone who realizes that they were created to be a weapon of war, a tool of destruction, the very idea that you “matter” can be overwhelming…and confusing. When I started to ACT like I matter, I lost almost every single person in my life.

 

What’s up, grief?

 

If you are not on board with me loving myself,

 

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I’ll grieve you.

 

What did one year of boundaries do for me?

 

(1) Could not meet son’s teacher vs Had son’s teacher over for dinner

(2) Hospital every couple months vs No Hospital in 9 months

(3) Wanted to go to a support group vs Hosting a support group

(4) Could not stay asleep for longer than 2 hours vs Sleeping up to 5 consecutive hours per night

(5) Living in constant FEAR vs Only experiencing fear when appropriate (NEVER!)

 

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I have my health, I have my family, I have love and I am GRATEFUL.

 

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XO

~Rachel

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PTSD Awareness Month: My Interview with Michele Rosenthal

 

June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month.

 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that may develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which severe physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or unnatural disasters, accidents, or military combat.

Anyone who has gone through a life-threatening event can develop PTSD including military troops who served in wars; rescue workers for catastrophes like the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.; survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing; survivors of accidents, rape, physical or sexual abuse, and other crimes; immigrants fleeing violence in their countries; survivors of earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes; and those who witness traumatic events. Family members of victims can develop the disorder as well.

PTSD affects about 7.7 million American adults, but it can occur at any age, including childhood. Women are more likely to develop the disorder than men, and there is some evidence that it may run in families. PTSD is frequently accompanied by depression, substance abuse, or anxiety disorders. When other conditions are appropriately diagnosed and treated, the likelihood of successful treatment increases.

Roughly 30 percent of Vietnam veterans developed PTSD. The disorder also has been detected in as many as 10% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans, about 6% to 11% of veterans of the Afghanistan war, and about 12% to 20% of veterans of the Iraq war.

Other factors in a combat situation can add more stress to an already stressful situation and may contribute to PTSD and other mental health problems. These factors include what you do in the war, the politics around the war, where it’s fought, and the type of enemy you face.Another cause of PTSD in the military can be military sexual trauma (MST). This is any sexual harassment or sexual assault that occurs while you are in the military. MST can happen to men and women and can occur during peacetime, training, or war. Among veterans using VA health care, about 23 out of 100 women (23%) reported sexual assault when in the military, 55 out of 100 women (55%) and 38 out of 100 men (38%) have experienced sexual harassment when in the military.

PTSD is diagnosed when the stress symptoms following exposure have persisted for at least a month. When symptoms develop immediately after exposure, the condition may be called acute stress disorder.*

 

Last June I made a YouTube video about my own PTSD Recovery:

 

 

PTSD expert, Michele Rosenthal, lit up my life last year when she shared my video on her Heal My PTSD website (click here).

 

Michele Rosenthal is an award-winning PTSD blogger, bestselling and award-nominated author, founder of HealMyPTSD.com, host of Changing Direction radio, and a former faculty member of the Clinical Development Institute for Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center. She is also a trauma survivor who struggled with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for over twenty-five years before launching a successful “healing rampage.” Her most recent book is Your Life After Trauma: Powerful Practices to Reclaim Your Identity (W. W. Norton).

 

3D YLAT cover

 

This year, I got the privilege of interviewing Michele Rosenthal!!

 

This is incredibly exciting because I owe my recovery process to her. If you think you might suffer from PTSD, subscribe to HealMyPTSD.com and enjoy all the FREE resources; I know I do.

 

Without further ado, my interview of Michele Rosenthal:

 


How long did you suffer from PTSD before you sought treatment specifically for PTSD?

Sadly, my story is like so many survivors with PTSD: I struggled for too many years without understanding what was wrong with me. While I intermittently sought help from the mental health and medical communities 24 years went by before I finally received the PTSD diagnosis — and that was because of my own self-advocacy. I was getting worse and worse in therapy and decided to do my own research about my symptoms. The research led me to PTSD literature and a PTSD self-test like the one we have on the Heal My PTSD web site. I took the test and scored extremely high, then took those results to a trauma trained therapist for direction, guidance and ultimately a diagnosis.

What were your PTSD symptoms?

The usual mix: Anxiety, insomnia, recurring nightmare, numbness, avoidance, intrusive thoughts, unpredictable emotional swings, rage, dissociation, hypervigilance.

How exactly was your PTSD diagnosed (did a doctor surprise you with the news or did you tell your doctor that’s what you suspect the problem to be)?

I showed my therapist at the time the results of the PTSD self-test and asked if he thought I had PTSD. He responded, “What is PTSD?” That’s when I knew I needed to specifically find a trauma trained therapist to help me. She immediately recognized the symptoms and history.

What specific combination of healing exercises helped you recover from PTSD?

A mix of traditional and alternative processes that I put together based on what made me feel most comfortable. I started with talk therapy that included cognitive behavioral therapy, then added Emotional Freedom Technique, Thought Field Therapy, EMDR, Tapas Acupressure technique, acupuncture, hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming. Whew, it took a lot to get me to freedom but it was worth it!

How long have you been free from PTSD symptoms?

Eight fabulous, fun, joyful and wonderful years. Which is not to say there haven’t been traumas! Indeed, the most exciting part of recovery has been experiencing another life-threatening trauma (very close to the category of my original trauma) and coming through it with zero repercussions. Healing really can happen — and stick.

Any advice for those trying to heal their PTSD?

Yes……

Engage and participate in your healing.

For too long I thought others (i.e. therapists) could/would do it for me. Well, with that attitude I didn’t get very far. In the end only we can truly facilitate our recovery. Everyone else is there to support, guide and help.

To keep yourself moving forward keep making choices and taking actions. These are the mechanics of healing and they offer you a process to gain and keep healing momentum every day.
Access and feed your hope. There will be dark, horrible, awful days in PTSD recovery. During those moments it’s going to be necessary to find a reason to keep going.

Identify what inspires you, and what provides your reason for slogging through the muck. Sometimes, that will mean connecting to a source of hope inside yourself; other times that will mean borrowing hope from outside yourself.

However you do it, fan the flame of hope because that’s where the fire of determination is born.

Remember that you are the expert in you. Personalize your recovery so that you feel able and as comfortable as possible in the discomfort of healing.
Remember that you have enormous healing potential; the goal is learning to access it. You can do this. Dig deep!

Michele-Rosenthal-Author

Michele Rosenthal
Award-Nominated Author, Speaker, Post-Trauma Coach
Founder, www.HealMyPTSD.com
Radio Host, CHANGING DIRECTION
Author, Your Life After Trauma: Powerful Practices To Reclaim Your Identity


 

What struck me the most about this interview was how similar our experiences were with the (mis)diagnosis.

 

YOU HAVE TO ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF.

 

If you think you have PTSD, take this self test (click here). This is the beginning of your recovery, Warrior, well done. You will most likely need to do your own research in finding a QUALIFIED Trauma expert (a medical professional who not only knows what PTSD is, but also how to effectively treat the symptoms you experience) to bring the test results to and create an action plan.

 

Because of Michele Rosenthal, who is a class act, there are free resources that can help you on your journey to being CURED from your PTSD symptoms.

 

Am I cured?

 

Almost. I have been diligently working to heal my own PTSD for the past 2 years and the results are remarkable. I have complex PTSD.

 

Complex PTSD, also known as disorder of extreme stress, is found among individuals who have been exposed to prolonged traumatic circumstances, especially during childhood, such as childhood sexual abuse. Research shows that many brain and hormonal changes may occur as a result of early, prolonged trauma, and contribute to troubles with learning, memory, and regulating emotions. Combined with a disruptive, abusive home environment, these brain and hormonal changes may contribute to severe behavioral difficulties such as eating disorders, impulsivity, aggression, inappropriate sexual behavior, alcohol or drug abuse, and other self-destructive actions, as well as emotional regulation (such as intense rage, depression, or panic) and mental difficulties (such as scattered thoughts, dissociation, and amnesia). As adults, these individuals often are diagnosed with depressive disorders, personality disorders, or dissociative disorders. Treatment may progress at a much slower rate, and requires a sensitive and structured program delivered by a trauma specialist.*

 

Like Michele Rosenthal, it took decades for me to figure out on my own that the symptoms I was habitually experiencing were PTSD. Doctors could not help me until I figured that out on my own. Even then, doctors can do very little to help you; your recovery has to be ALL you.

 

Ew. No.

 

Yes. Seriously.  No one is coming to save you. Save yourself. Fight for yourself. Create a support team who understands (for a long time, you may be the only person on your own team and that is okay). Above all else, figure out how to LOVE YOURSELF.

 

XO

~Rachel

 

Rebel, Rebel

I have always been struck by Patsy Cline’s Crazy. Crazy. Crazy for FEELING so LONELY.

 

I have a lot of thoughts going on at once, a whole encyclopedia per topic. I learned at a young age that all those words + feelings tend to make most others extremely uncomfortable; that it would be easier for other people if I toned myself down.

 

Unfortunately, I decided around 10 years old that I would rather be considered quiet than crazy. I became reserved, serious, observant…the duller version of me.

 

Well, I had a secret. A big secret. Tons of secrets actually, I was choking on them.

 

One huge encyclopedia set of secrets could be dedicated to the changes I noticed going on with my body. I’ll just come out and say it: boobs. They were glorious. They still are. I started to fall in love love with my body. I was my own private dancer.

 

Private being the operative word because it became clear at this time that my body required policing; shirts were not a suggestion, they were THE LAW.

 

Coincidentally, that shirt helped mask another developing secret…out of nowhere…from the pits of my arms….

 

Hair.

 

Whoa.

 

As an American girl of German/Italian descent, I knew this was a “problem” that I could easily solve. I got out the Lady Bic and destroyed all the evidence.

 

Destroyed being the operative word because those soft brown hairs were immediately replaced by screaming red bumps.

 

Ouch.

 

My 10-year-old armpits were scarred for life. I repeatedly shaved over the screaming red bumps every other day for 22 more years.

 

Why?!! Was everyone super into them?

 

No. I am aware that it is unheard of to compliment another person’s armpit. Are you aware that it is totally common for my armpits to be the source of ridicule? Seriously, I have received MANY grimaces and complaints regarding the black hole that is my armpit. Before my son could talk, he looked right at my shaved armpit and said:

 

“Ew!”

 

I pointed to my shaved armpit and asked: “this is ew?”

 

He nodded his baby head solemnly.

 

Sigh. Why didn’t the old faithful combination of grooming + pain = beauty?

 

WHY?!!!

 

Honestly, I blamed my body. The problem with my armpits was that no matter what, my freshly shaved armpit revealed a five o clock shadow. You could always see black beneath the surface because, honestly, just beneath the surface of my delicate skin was thick bold black hair waiting to burst through.

 

Awhile ago I noticed this Instagram page dedicated to showcasing ladies with hairy armpits (@ladypithairy). I scrolled through all the pics with my jaw dropped and my eyes darting back and forth from armpit to face, armpit to face, armpit to face. I could not believe that armpit hair DID NOT diminish their beauty whatsoever. In fact, something about the rebelliousness, the unapologetic look in their eyes was SO attractive to me.

 

Dare I?

 

Somehow I gathered the courage to stop shaving my battered armpits. Not somehow. I remember now. There was this tween Vine star who shocked a lot of his fans by making a statement about how girls should shave their armpits. My 14-year-old goddaughter was a fan of his and I just could not do it anymore. It is exhausting to have your natural body policed for over 3 decades, especially when you notice the new batch of police officers are less than half your age…

 

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I went crazy. I stopped shaving my armpits. Previous to this article, only 7 people even knew about my indiscretion. My social experiment is rather introverted in nature, but I can easily disclose the results from this closed group:

 

(1) Mild concern. “OMG, you like it?!” or “What does your husband think?” (Ha).

 

(2) Dissent. “Stop.” “Don’t do this.” “At least trim, stay groomed. “

 

(3) Confusion. Mainly there was confusion. “Why are you doing this?” “When will you be done doing this?” “What is that?”

 

The last question came from my toddler and it was beautiful. He noticed my armpit hair, pointed to it and said: What is that? I told him that it was my armpit hair, that I have it because I am an adult, that Daddy has it too because he is an adult and that, one day, when he gets bigger, he will also have amazing armpit hair.

 

His face was priceless. He actually didn’t even believe me. “Daddy has hair here?” I took my son by the hand and walked him to the bathroom where his Dad was getting ready for work. My husband and I stood side by side and revealed to our son that we both have basically the same exact armpit hair situation (mine is actually a little bit fuller and more awesome). My son was clearly thrilled, it was written all over his face. He can’t wait to get bigger and have glorious adult armpit hair.

 

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The combination of the above 3 reactions resulted in the certainty that I had to keep it up. I am a rebel by nature. I was on to something.

 

Personally, I could not get over how aggressive I perceived myself to be. Aggressive. The word was constantly popping up in my mind. I wasn’t just scratching my head, the presence of the armpit hair turned it into an aggressive head scratch. I wasn’t just reaching for the cereal on the top shelf, I was aggressively reaching for top shelf items. It was weird. I talked about it a lot. Why do I feel aggressive?

 

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My dear friend gently pointed it out to me: maybe you are aggressive.

 

WHAT?!!!!!

 

She’s right. Upon reflection, I know that it’s true. I am aggressive because I have been “managing” the fear that I already am aggressive since about 10 years old. By managing I mean that as part of my thought process, I would determine that my first idea for how to achieve an objective was “too aggressive” and then I would pick from plans B-Z. God forbid someone think I was a “bitch.”

 

And so the cycle of burying who I truly was began. At age 10. By the time I was 16, I knew I was full blown crazy but instead of letting the real Rachel out, I buried her deeper. She’s so aggressive…I hate her…I wish she was dead.

 

This was my mantra. It kept me out of trouble. Neglected children should get a handout for how to parent themselves better. I remember when I was 22 how my older brother called me bipolar and punched my bedroom door off the hinges. I remember how I went into my closet and cried on the floor.

 

I am not bipolar. I am an emotional creature. I am a human being who is reacting beautifully to a lifetime of oppression. I am grieving. I am a survivor of PTSD. I am healing. I am INFJ and an empath. Knowing who I am has brought me right back to the beginning: I am aggressive. I will fight for my rights. That’s not crazy. Rolling over and burying yourself alive is crazy.

 

Shortly before I started growing out my armpit hair, my husband and I went to the movies to see Guardians of the Galaxy. I was not familiar with the storyline going into it and was very struck by the character named Groot. There is a very magical moment near the end of the film where Groot’s tree-like body expands into a protective sphere, saving the lives of all his friends, at the cost of his own life. It was beautiful. My heart was aching because I knew it was going to happen…because I would do the same thing.

 

groot

 

If I were a superhero, my powers would be related to my ability to grow amazing hair. Everywhere. If I had to, I know that I could, in a similar magic moment, expand my hair growth into a protective hair sphere around my husband and son, to save their lives. It would be beautiful. And so gross. Obviously.

 

Fortunately, I decided at 32 years of age to stop toning myself down. Patsy Cline’s Crazy has taken on a whole new meaning. I still feel lonely, but I don’t feel crazy about it. I feel able to connect with like-minded individuals because I uncovered that girl I buried alive. She’s stronger than ever now…angrier and more aggressive, too. Good thing. Life’s a bitch.

 

XO

~Rachel

 

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long hair don’t care

Cleaning Out My Closet

I read this clothing article recently that has totally blown my mind.

 

Here is the link (click here).

 

Article highlights: this yoga pants wearing mom got rid of her entire wardrobe in exchange for like 37 articles of clothing she feels really good about resulting in optimal coordination and closet organization. Seriously read this article, it has changed my life.

 

Within hours of reading it, I had collected 4 garbage bags full of clothing to donate to charity.

 

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Plus I went all Joan Crawford in there…

 

No wire hangers

 

And I got rid of an overflowing garbage bag of undesirable hangers.

 

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Not to mention the overflowing bag of clothing I am mailing to my goddaughter and the medium bag of clothing that I am mailing to my best friend. I made a SERIOUS dent in my closet.

 

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I have never been able to thumb through the clothing in my closet and really see the items before. As though they might be giving away awards for having “the most” clothes, my closet was packed so tight, many plastic hangers snapped in the process of weeding out the most tired pieces. I found a dress in here that I don’t remember ever even seeing before. (YES!!!)

 

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This is just the beginning, I am far from whittling down to only 37 pieces of clothing. I can’t believe I am even doing this. Getting rid of dresses is a BIG deal for me…that and sentimental tee shirts, old tank tops, hoodies and shoes (I’ll just come clean here and admit: I hoard clothes).

 

My closet has always been open to my friends and family for shopping. Hence all the extra gear that looks terrible on me and my tendency to mail boxes of clothing to my closest friends semi-annually.

 

One of my greatest memories of my cousin Kelly is how we used to shop in each other’s closets. Being six years younger, I was always ridiculously grateful for the opportunity to peek through her jam packed closet. I could borrow whatever I wanted! It was the experience of a life time. Seriously. I remember everything about it, the poor lighting, the danger of the shoe boxes that always seemed about to come crashing down on your head from the top shelf, her smell, the piles and piles of 90’s clothes.

 

When I got to be like 16/17, that’s when Kelly started to take an interest in some of my clothes. The pride I felt. To this day.

 

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That’s Kelly on the right wearing my dress! With a cowboy hat!!  She is standing with her best friend, that’s why their smiles are so radiant; they love each other like I love my best friend. If you have one best friend like this in your lifetime, consider yourself blessed, be grateful.

 

This is so hard to write.

 

Our bodies remember the anniversaries of traumatic events even if our amazing brain chooses to give us a break from the details.

 

I am the kind of person who always wants to know WHY. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what my body is trying to tell me that my brain does not want to talk about.

 

It was 15 years ago that I lost my cousin, Kelly.

 

That was so fucking hard to write.

 

I actually had to take a break to scream cry and spill huge tears down my cheeks…

 

…And then I gave myself a hug.

 

Kelly was my hero. She was the kind of woman I was certain I could never be. Bold. Independent. Strong. Desired. Fearless. Beautiful.

 

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When she smiled, she looked exactly like Brooke Shields and when she was angry, she reminded me of Julia Roberts.

 

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From 13-18 Kelly’s prom calendar was full. She was always getting ready to go to a dance. I remember this one time I stood in the middle of her photo shoot with her date, so confident that my shorts and tee shirt ensemble was not a problem, holding hands and smiling like I was supposed to be there with them, too. She was my Disney Princess.

 

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Blonde with green eyes, the most voluptuous figure and the most fun to be around. Honestly. You were lucky to know her. She was more fun than anyone, always looking for adventure.

 

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Confident and cool, my cousin Kelly was the opposite of me. I never even got asked to go to one of my own school dances, let alone some other school’s dances. I would not consider my teen self to be fun-loving so much as safety-loving.

 

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Kelly liked to jump out of planes. She loved the water; being out on a boat fishing, even all by herself, would make her happiest. She loved to hike and camp, anything outdoors. She also loved beer and swore like a sailor. She was so bad ass.

 

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I never even went camping until I was 18 years old, already in college. It was almost 2 months after losing her. Camping was what my best friend wanted to do for her 19th Birthday and it was the perfect way for me to honor my cousin and my grief. Whenever I go hiking or camping, Kelly is right there with me. Kelly is always with me.

 

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When she left this Earth, I wished it was me instead. For years. I wore this gold heart ring she had given me for Christmas all the time for the first year. I spent a lot of time trying to negotiate that trade.

 

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I cherish every single memory that I have of my Kelly. My chest is super tight as I try to breathe through the steady stream of tears that have stained and rendered my glasses almost useless.

 

I have a million things I want to say. I stop because I fear I won’t be able to explain properly.

 

The sun used to shine on Kelly. It just did. It was obvious if you were there, but you weren’t so you’ll have to just take my word for it.

 

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She is my angel hero.

 

XO

~Rachel

 

PS–Cleaning out your closet may cause grief.

and that's ok

A Day In The Life

After I made my PTSD & Healing video 9 months ago (click here to watch), I was asked to give a break down of what a day in the life would look like.

 

Yesterday was an awesome day for me, healing wise, so today I am sharing the highlights…

 

Highlights make more sense when you start low. Yesterday began for me at 4 a.m. when my husband and I both jumped out of bed horrified to hear our cat was peeing on the carpet.

 

How did we hear it?

 

It was super loud for some reason because she backed herself up against the wall and her urine was ricocheting off of the wall and onto the carpet. A waterfall of cat pee.

 

CAT PEE!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Don’t judge. My cat has never done this before and she is recovering from major surgery. My 10 year old kitty had 4 stones removed from her bladder! Honestly though, I think she peed on the floor because of the stupid cone…

 

Bebe Meme

 

Anyway…I sat on the floor in a daze watching my awesome husband scrub the carpet, then I got a bucket of water and started to scrub the soap out and by the time it was over, I decided not to go back to bed.

 

Sigh.

 

I did not get enough rest, which has been happening for like the last 3 weeks, so I felt discouraged. I made myself a really fancy bubble bath with special salts and essential oils. I turned on my salt rock lamp and stared at my plants. It was difficult to keep my eyes open.  So tired…

 

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Just the night before, I had decided not to go back to sleep if I found myself awake in the very early morning hours due to the horrific nightmares I found myself experiencing after going back to sleep.

 

Being awake at this time, taught me something fascinating: my brain is on fire between the hours of 3 and 5 a.m.  Everything is intense, asleep or not. I must say, being in the bathtub at this hour really helped me to process many complex emotional concepts; it was like lucid dreaming.

 

You’ll have to take my word for it, as I don’t remember any details from my awesome bathtub experience, only that I was totally brilliant and had a lot of answers. I may have had all the answers. This girl was on fire. Next time, I’m writing that all down…

 

When the water in the tub cooled down, I transitioned right to the shower to heat things back up. It’s not everyday that I am awake before my son, AKA the Rooster, but of course, this is the one day that he sleeps in and will therefore not be needing any nap today, thank you.

 

I used my shower time wisely, plotting out the next few hours with my son, using my awake brain for once. I wanted needed him to take a nap later on so I could get some rest too. I got our breakfast all ready and suggested a bike ride. Luckily, he went for it.

 

This was only our second time ever riding together, usually I walk alongside him as he slowly and rather randomly pedals toward the next stick he would like to pick up and bring with us. Oh, training wheels…

 

Did I mention that I LOVE MY BIKE?!

 

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The weather was perfect yesterday. Upper 70’s, sun shining, blue skies with really cool clouds that looked like Ocean waves. It was by far the longest bike ride my 3 year old has ever been on.

 

Oh and now it’s like 8:30 in the morning…I have a long way to go…

 

Grocery shopping is a must, but I am not looking forward to that so I enhance the trip by bringing the artwork I had recently finished and was gifting to my best friend, so I could ship it to her.

 

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Gift giving feels amazing, especially if I make the gift.  This piece of art is really special. I made it with my precious hands, it has six real orchid blooms “glued” in (with Gel Gloss Medium) and a real lego flag. This is the home I built for my Haiku and it is remarkable (#selflove). I cannot wait until my BFF receives her gift and tells me all these things.

 

When we got back, I noticed that I had missed a few texts and calls on my phone and one of them was from my son’s Nana, just checking up on me. I texted her back immediately asking her if she wanted to come over for a few hours this afternoon to babysit while I took a nap and SHE SAID YES!!!

 

This news enabled me to have a 45 minute sword fight with my son. I felt like everything was going to be okay. I was going to make it. Actually, we were having the time of our lives.

 

And then…I got my nap. It was awesome. It was more of a focused meditation of positive thoughts than actual sleeping, but it was amazing to be by myself to fill back up.

 

rachel introvert meme haiku

 

I took the time to journal my gratitude and then I took my second fancy bubble bath of the day. I cannot tell you how amazing the first 45 seconds of a bubble bath feel, it’s like some awesome chemicals are being released throughout my body. This helps me deal with the fact that carpet cleaners will be at my house in a half hour and I have to move all the furniture off the carpets (see cat pee incident from above).

 

Moving all your furniture around feels super weird to me. More like, having huge household items obviously not where they belong causes anxiety within me. Where should I sit? Should I just stand? My husband came home from work early and took our son over to run an errand and I decided to NOT be awkward about the situation. I decided to get out my laptop and complete a chapter in my online screenwriting course. By the time my guys returned, the carpets were done being cleaned and I had a 100% on my online quiz.

 

This makes dinner preparation easier, but I am still feeling kind of confused about why all my furniture is piled up on the tile; my brain does not like the chaos. So I repotted some plants:

 

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I emptied out the huge green pot and put the remaining strand from my elephant plant into this much more appropriately sized pink pot. I’m pretty excited about the prospect of getting a new plant for the big green pot.

 

While I was working on my plants, I had an idea for another piece of art that I had been working on, so I went for it:

 

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Ahhhhhhhh. This feels so good–not only do I have a home for my awesome Haiku, but now I have a home for the 5 orchid blooms that fell in the past week (resulting in me repotting the plants). YES!!! Everything has it’s place.

 

Just kidding. We can’t put the furniture back until the morning when the carpet is dry. That’s okay, my husband and I ended our night with some serious jig saw puzzling and my third bubble bath of the day.

 

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Yesterday was an awesome healing day. Here is a recap of why:

  1. Bubble Bath
  2. Shower
  3. Bike Ride
  4. Gift Giving
  5. Play Time
  6. Meditation/Nap
  7. Bubble Bath
  8. Journaling
  9. Screenwriting Class Quiz Success!
  10. Repot 3 Plants
  11. Make Art
  12. Jigsaw Puzzle
  13. Bubble Bath

 

This list is not all inclusive; as in, I did not tell you about everything that happened yesterday, I got a lot of work done that does not apply to this story and I also got a lot of joy and healing out of the other experiences in my day that are simply not applicable herein.  The above list includes healing exercises that are specific to me, these are things that I like to do because they make me feel good.

 

I would love to know what your healing exercises are; please share with me by leaving a comment below.

 

XO

~Rachel

The Very Inspiring Blogger Award

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Thank you to Ally for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger award.

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This remarkable act of kindness will not be forgotten. My gratitude can best be expressed through Haiku:

IT’S NOT JUST MY FACE…

ALLY, I HAVE TO TELL YOU:

YOU MAKE MY HEART SMILE.

Wahoo! To be nominated by Ally as a Very Inspiring Blogger is actually quite remarkable. Check out Ally’s blog, Welcome to My Little Piece of Quiet, and see for yourself; you will love receiving her Quote of the Day. I know I do. Thank you, Ally, your continued encouragement and support mean the world to me!

7 FACTS ABOUT RACHEL

  1. When it comes to unhealthy cycles, I am a wrecking ball. I am a sledgehammer. Hulk Smash.
  2. I love my best friend; she can do anything (read about it).
  3. I take a fancy bubble bath every single day, sometimes twice.
  4. My undergraduate major was in Sociology.
  5. When I have an epiphany, I make a video about it (watch this).
  6. Intuition and Sensitivity are my Superpowers.
  7. I cannot stand small talk. Go big or go home.

Here are my official nominations for the Very Inspiring Blogger award:

  1. SARK
  2. Michele Rosenthal, Heal My PTSD
  3. Kelly Rae Roberts
  4. Midnight Blues
  5. Uncomfortably Honest and Honestly Uncomfortable
  6. Robin, Rach & Joe!
  7. Kindness Blog
  8. Marvelline Marvels
  9. I Love to go a Gardening
  10. Positively Introverted
  11. A Small Act of Kindness
  12. Creating Your Life Journey
  13. Of Means and Ends
  14. INFJ Reflections
  15. Seven Years in a Drawer

Should you choose to accept this award, here are the official rules:

  1. Post the award icon on your blog;
  2. Thank the person who nominated you;
  3. List 7 facts about yourself;
  4. Nominate 15 other Very Inspiring Blogs;
  5. Post these rules.

 

MY FELLOW BLOGGERS,

THANKS FOR THE INSPIRATION;

I WON’T FORGET IT.

 

XO

~Rachel

How Saturday Night Live ruined my childhood

 

Remember this guy?

 

stuart smalley

 

Stuart Smalley. A Saturday Night Live character played by Al Franken circa 1991.

 

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“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and, doggone it, people like me.”

 

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That’s it. That’s “the joke.”

 

In 1991 I was 10 years old and completely cognizant of how laughable loving yourself was. People like me?! What a joke.

 

1991

 

Wouldn’t it be smarter (safer) to just believe that I was not good enough, not smart enough and honestly, that everybody hated me?

 

1991 xmas

 

Sigh. I got pretty good at that mantra. So good, that 5 years later, when I was 15 years old, this character seemed like an alien:

 

joyologist

 

Helen Madden. A Saturday Night Live character played by Molly Shannon circa 1996.

 

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Licensed “Joyologist” Helen Madden was best known for spreading her message of JOY, finding the most comfortable positions to sit on interview couches and saying “I love it, I love it, I love it!”

 

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That’s it. That’s the joke. She was trying to spread joy.

 

Ugh.

 

1996

 

HUGE eye roll.

 

1996 again

 

 

My idea of loving myself at this time was to have intense secret crushes that were never returned, thank god…because if you dared have a crush on me I would surely CRUSH you with my indifference and secret horror.

 

It wasn’t until I was 32 years old that I even began my self love journey. Even then, it was because I had to, not because I wanted to. What does unconditionally loving yourself even mean?

 

I thought loving yourself meant loving others as hard as you possibly could. That worked all the way up until having a baby. Then you watch how fast you drain and don’t replenish. If you don’t love yourself, you don’t replenish. Then you truly understand how loving yourself is not a luxury or a choice.

 

It’s the way.

 

Gilda

 

XO

~Rachel

 

P.S. Gilda Radner is one of my hero angels.

 

 

7 houses in 6 years: Children Need Consistency

Here is a trip down memory lane…

 

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When my parents first separated, I left the family home I had been raised in for my first 11 years and moved to this townhouse in Derby right before the start of seventh grade.

 

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The landlady was super nice; she allowed us to bring our cat, Sam, even though she had just installed brand new carpets.  My Dad helped my Mom and I move in. I thought they would get back together. Then my Uncle John came to the door and when I got my Mom for him, he served her with divorce papers. I had seen this Uncle only a handful of times in my life and he was so aggressive and frightening, I fainted. We had to move out the following month because we could not afford to live there.

 

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This was my grandparents home, where my Mom grew up, and we got to live here for about 8 months before my Grandpa sold it so he could build a retirement home in Florida.

 

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I spent the eighth grade living in this duplex on Cleveland off of Beach Road in Angola. The upstairs neighbors pounded on the floor if we played the radio or made any noise. The next door neighbors left their cat on a leash, even in the rain and always had a yard sale going on.

 

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We went to go live with my mom’s boyfriend and his children for most of ninth grade at his house on Church Road. When we lived there, it was a one-story; this is what the house looks like today. This was the first time, of many, that my brother, Philip, crossed the lines and left my dad’s house to come live with us.

 

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Don’t get too excited. This is not what my tenth grade house looked like when we lived on Summerdale. At all! This was a one story when we lived here that had two kitchens only 25 feet away from each other (awesomely awkward in-law quarters). Our old neighbor eventually ended up buying the house after we moved and knocked it down to build this McMansion, which is on a cliff overlooking the great Lake Erie.

 

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Come on down to Albeeville, it’s gonna be a JAMBOREE!! Anyone who knew me in eleventh and twelfth grades will not recognize this house because, once again, it looked nothing like this when we lived here. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to grow up in a buttoned up home. I’m excited for the people who live here now.

 

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The longest amount of time I have lived in one house remains the first eleven years I served on Northfield. Whenever my husband talks about feeling averse to the stress involved in moving homes, I always think about this sequence of events and kind of laugh, bitterly.

 

I don’t care if we move, as long as we all get to stay together as a family.

 

“Life is a process of becoming. A combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” ~Anais Nin

 

XO

~Rachel

 

Haiku

Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred

Last week I completed Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred for the second time in my life.

 

I know, I know, I promised myself I would never work out again after the first time I completed that DVD series.

 

But then I saw this:

 

fatcat

 

This meme hit close to home.

 

I was laying in my bathtub and I noticed that I was uncomfortable…like I was choking on all the chins resting on my throat…choking on my own fat face.

 

FAT FACE?!!

 

I shot right up in the bathtub to try to see it for myself in the mirror.

 

Yup.

 

Fat face.

 

I sank back down and tried to retrace my steps…

 

Eat whatever you want. Check. Never exercise. Check.

 

So what?

 

Holidays.

 

Yes. I blame the holidays. Food everywhere.

 

There’s always food everywhere.

 

Yeah but, I need a lot of comforting because, you know…it’s the holidays…

 

So now that the holidays are over, I am left with this fat face. Great. My brain started to buzz formulating a fantasy plastic surgery plan. This surely must be the perfect time for one of those tummy tuck things.

 

Oh right, it’s my fat face that’s the problem…crap.

 

Are you even allowed to talk to yourself like this?

 

NO!

 

Stop calling me fat face.

 

What is going on?!

 

Holidays. Winter holidays are like a recipe for The Shining regardless of your geographic location.

 

shining

 

 

Seriously, everyone acts insane for the winter holidays; you can count on it. That’s why everyone joins the gym right after New Years, so they can physically remove the insanity from their bodies.

 

Enter Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred DVD. I don’t like to go to the gym. I feel extremely uncomfortable when I sweat and am out of breath; I don’t want an audience in that moment. My post work out face is super red and blotchy.

 

I know the Shred works because I did it every day for 30 consecutive days in 2012 after my son was born and within 45 days AFTER the workout was complete, the 75 pounds I gained with my pregnancy was gone. GONE!

 

That felt good because working out for 30 days in a row with a 200+ pound body felt disgusting. My pregnancy boobs were still an H cup, so the cardio was painful. When I would do mountain climbers, my stomach would bounce off of the top of my thighs and huge boobs (and then my huge boobs would slap my fat face) in a shameful manner. Slapping noises. Gross. Sweaty. Red face. I hated every minute of it. My skin would get all prickly, covered in goose bumps because I was slightly afraid to even do the workout.  When I finished it the first time and was still 200 pounds, I thought I might be living in a nightmare. When the weight started to fall off immediately the day after the series ended, I thought I might be living in a dream; a well deserved dream world where I love my body.

 

I do love my body. I hug myself everyday. I am proud that my body made a human being. I am proud to have my body back. I allowed myself almost a 3 year break from formal exercise–that’s insane!

 

This time around, my second Shred experience was different. I was still very sweaty and red in the face. I still dreaded the workout every day. But I did not have fear inside of me; there were no goosebumps. I knew I could do it and I did it well. I even brought my 3 pound weights and the DVD with me and worked out on vacation for 4 days, which is unheard of for me!

 

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This time, I saw results during the 30-day Shred series. For example, I bought this dress that I thought was a size 8 and I couldn’t button it up during week one of the Shred. That’s ok, I told myself, put it back in the closet and you will be able to wear it when you’re done with the series. Well, I wanted to wear that dress BEFORE my 30 days was over, during the third week, and guess what?! It fit. Guess what else?! I read the tag wrong, that dress did not say “8” it said “S” for SMALL.

 

My body is back. I did it!

 

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But I am not done. I decided to give myself 4 days off and then I began a new Jillian Michael’s DVD called “Killer Abs.” I don’t know if anyone will get killed with my abs, but I’m apparently taking that risk.

 

Wish me luck!

 

XO

~Rachel

Apologize = make it right

 

As a parent, I apologize on a daily basis.

 

I’m sorry we can’t have marshmallows for breakfast. I’m sorry Daddy has to leave for work. I’m sorry you fell off of your bike.

 

Ever notice some people NEVER apologize?

 

apologize pic monkey option

 

I have…

 

It’s like…a refusal to empathize. But WHY would your loved one do that?! Trying to figure that out can make you crazy…

 

Luckily, there is this thing called the internet. If you google search the terms “how to apologize,” you will see that it is a fairly straight forward process that involves CARE.

 

I made a movie about this today:

 

 

If you don’t know how to apologize, click here.

 

If you took the time to read that article, you now know that saying the words ‘I’m sorry’ are a mere fraction of the steps involved in the apology process.

 

Start off with what went wrong.

Begin the apology by stating what went wrong and the feelings your words or actions caused. Be detailed about what happened so that the other person knows exactly what you’re apologizing for. Make it a point to avoid using the words “but” or “if”. An apology is a statement, so it shouldn’t be conditional. Remember that an apology has nothing to do with right and wrong or whose fault it was – an apology simply means that you made someone feel bad with your words or actions and you are sorry about that.
Do not say “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I’m sorry if you were offended.” Be sorry for what you said or did, and the pain that it caused someone else. “I’m sorry you feel that way” makes it seem like you are blaming the other person for feeling bad, and is not a real apology. When you apologize, you should recognize that the other person was hurt and that you are sorry about that.

 

 

It is NEVER too late to make amends. Every single day that you allow to go by without apologizing for hurting your loved one is the perpetration of an ongoing offense that necessarily adversely impacts the quality of that relationship.

 

Relationships never die. 

 

Think about that. If it is your policy to “never apologize” because it is just “too hard,” that is a character flaw. Change that today.

 

You can do it! People change all the time, that’s called growth. Hopefully. Sometimes people change for other reasons. Either way, if you hurt your loved one, it is up to you to make it right.

 

XO

~Rachel

V-Day & the Versatile Blogger Award

V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls, is hands down my favorite charity.

 

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I have been a volunteer activist for V-Day since 2002 when I co-organized my first college campaign for SUNY Cortland. What does that mean? For us, that meant putting on a benefit production of Eve Ensler’s play, The Vagina Monologues, and using the proceeds from ticket sales to benefit the local YWCA Aid to Victims of Violence Unit.

 

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I love theatre. I love activism. V-Day enables me to put those two passions together into one explosive social change rainbow firework.

 

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In 2003, 2004 & 2005, I co-organized Community Campaigns for Buffalo by co-directing and producing The Vagina Monologues and using the proceeds to benefit Crisis Services Advocate Program.

 

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In 2006, my third year of law school, I organized the first ever University at Buffalo Law School campaign to benefit Crisis Services Advocate Program.

 

In 2007 I actually relocated to Las Vegas for a job opportunity one week before my V-Day Community Campaign for Buffalo was to open and flew back and forth to make sure that the campaign was a success.

 

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Between 2008 and 2012, I financially supported existing V-Day campaigns in my area. I missed the high pressure and stress that producing a benefit show can conjure.  I began to feel like I didn’t know who I was anymore. Working for Judges during this time period left me feeling stiff like plastic. I longed to show my rebel side. I am radical.

 

The past 2 years, 2013 and 2014, I have joined V-Day’s One Billion Rising campaign and have participated (with my husband and son!) in flash mobs to break the chain and stop violence against women through DANCE!

 

How does that work? Well, I went to the One Billion Rising website (click here), I clicked Events and then Find an Event, and then I was brought to a page where I could find a flash mob in my area to join. There is a link to a YouTube video tutorial teaching you how to complete the dance steps so you can practice at home and then just show up at the proper time to dance in a flash mob–super fun!!!

 

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In 2015 I am trying something radically different, an online fundraiser. Please check out my official One Billion Rising campaign page by clicking here.

 

Between today and February 14, 2015 my campaign to benefit www.vday.org will be available to support.

 

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Please join in the FaceBook party by clicking here. Basically, you can purchase your favorite Chloe + Isabel jewelry and Jamberry Nails and pat yourself on the back knowing that 15% of the total sale proceeds will be used to benefit www.vday.org.

 

Thank you in advance for your support!

 

Speaking of support, have you head that I won a major award?!

 

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I am so GRATEFUL to Ally of My Little Piece of Quiet for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award! I think YOUR blog is amazing and that everyone should follow it (click here to follow Ally).

 

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Official Rules:

  1. Thank the person who gave you this award.
  2. Include a link to their blog.
  3. Select 15 blogs that are truly excellent and nominate them for the Versatile Blogger Award.
  4. List 7 things about yourself.

 

Once again, big THANK YOU to Ally of My Little Piece of Quiet for the Versatile Blogger Award!

 

I would like to officially nominate the following blogs for the Versatile Blog Award:

  1. My Little Piece of Quiet
  2. Midnight Blues
  3. Uncomfortably Honest & Honestly Uncomfortable
  4. INFJ Ramblings
  5. Things of Joy
  6. Of Means and Ends
  7. A Small Act of Kindness
  8. Taking the Mask Off
  9. Basically Beyond Basic
  10. Creating Your Life Journey
  11. Robin, Rach & Joe
  12. Kindness Blog
  13. Sensitive New World
  14. Art of Receiving
  15. Allowing Myself

 

7factsaboutme

  1. I am a lawyer
  2. I am a survivor of PTSD
  3. I am in the middle of an online Screenwriting Course
  4. I am in the middle of Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred
  5. I eat chocolate every single day
  6. Dirty Dancing is my all time favorite movie
  7. I hug myself every day.

 

XO

~Rachel

Positive Mantras & Parenting: The Help

{originally published January 14, 2015}

 

Shifting from negative mantras to positive mantras was probably my greatest success of 2014.

 

I pushed myself through every day of my life, all the way to 2014, using hateful, terrorizing, emotionally crushing negative mantras. I was not always aware I was doing it. It was habitual to say the least.

 

The only reason I decided to stop doing that was because of the look on my therapist’s face when I told her that’s how I got myself through high school, college and law school (and the bar exam, my wedding planning and pregnancy). The look on her face suggested that was not a good idea.

 

So, I agreed to try out positive mantras. It was tough at first because I did not realize how huge the shift was going to be. I had to care about myself for real. I had to be sorry when I slipped up, which was tough because, at first, it felt very natural and almost soothing to just allow myself to tear into myself. But when I was finished, it wasn’t soothing at all (obviously) and I regretted what I considered to be “backsliding” into old bad habits.

 

Over the course of the year, I found myself doing many things to solidify my shift into positive mantras. Research, reading, journaling, mixed media art (#hellosoulhellomantras), meditating, EMDR, self hypnosis, yoga, etc.

 

Want to know what the single most helpful activity has been?

 

Parenting.

 

By far, the easiest and most effective method for my shift was to use positive mantras on my child.

 

When I was pregnant, I read the book The Help and was very moved by the mantra that the nanny uses on the baby (“You is kind, you is smart, you is important”).

 

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My big pregnant self was sobbing thinking about how helpful that would have been, if my parents had used mantras like that on me when I was a child.

 

Ever since my son was born, I have told him this every day:

 

You are kind. You are smart. You are important. You are my son. I am your mom. I take care of you. You are special. You are an angel. You are made out of stars. I am so proud of you. You make me so happy. I love to be your mom. We are a family. I love you.

 

I tell him this, without fail, at nap time and at bed time. I also tell him that when he is cuddly, or sad, or when I just don’t know what else to say. This is my filler.

 

At the end of this month, my son will be 3 years old. For the past 6 months, he has been whispering the mantra along with me. I could not be more proud. I know he believes every word of it (why wouldn’t he? It’s all true).

 

What’s even more amazing—I am beginning to believe every word of it about myself. I am kind. I am smart. I am important. I am a mom. I will take care of myself. I love myself. I am special. I am an angel. I am made out of stars. I am so happy. I love to be Jackson’s mom. I have a family.

 

It’s hard to totally change certain core habits. I know. I did it. Through, research, reading, journaling, various forms of therapy, art work, blogging, meditating, yoga and parenting.

 

I don’t care how old your children are, start the positive mantras with them today. Do it for them and for you. Do it every day.

 

XO

~Rachel

 

Haiku by Rachel VanKoughnet:

 

He’s not mine to own.

I was made to protect him

before I was born.

 

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Bill Murray in St. Vincent

{originally posted December 10, 2014}

 

Went on a hot date over the weekend to the movies and saw Bill Murray star in St. Vincent.

 

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I love Bill Murray. I am not done considering my overall opinion of this (very) dark comedy, but I am way overdue in sharing the part that immediately resonated with me…

 

Yes, it has to do with grief.

 

Bill Murray plays a character who (spoiler alert) loses his wife. The conversation he has with the little boy he babysits is very relevant to me. It went something like this:

 

(little boy) I’m sorry for your loss.

(Bill Murray, angrily) Why do people always say that?

(little boy) Because they don’t know what else to say.

(Bill Murray) How about, what was she like?

 

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So I’m in the movie theatre and I just burst into tears, trying to tell my husband (yup, I’m talking during the movie now, too) that: IT’S NOT FAIR!

 

What’s not fair?

 

The way society forces us to shut down our grief. I’m sorry for your loss is the same thing as saying: that’s enough, shut it down, this conversation is over. That is not polite, that is cold and rude. It’s also unhealthy. What was she like? Now that’s a conversation opener. Brilliant. Much warmer. Demonstrates that you care.

 

So I have already started doing it. Asking people who are grieving: what was she like? And the result is beautiful. I recommend it. Relationships never die. Trust me. Even if the other person dies, your relationship never dies because it lives inside of you. Keep talking about your loved ones who have passed, it strengthens your relationship; makes it grow.

 

I was trying to tell my best friend about this concept and saw the 1987 version of the movie The Secret Garden in my head. Remember when that little girl finds the key and opens the Secret Garden door for the first time? What garden?! The brown overgrown piles of sticks and dead leaves were so high and thick; you would never know we finally made it to the garden but for the title of the movie. That’s where your relationships go that you think are dead. That’s where the relationships go that you wish were dead. Relationships never die. They are just waiting for you behind the wall you put up.

 

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Am I blowing your mind? Watch this video I made:

(Relationships Never Die: The Secret Garden).

Revisit your relationships—every single one of them, as they are all living inside of you. Take inventory. Roll up your sleeves and be willing to do the hard work. Gardens don’t bloom in a day.

 

XO

~Rachel

 

A Double Haiku by Rachel VanKoughnet:

 

Always with Despair,

sometimes I think I can count

my friends on one hand…

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…then I remember:

you keep your friends in your heart.

I’m never alone.