“It ain’t what they call you. It’s what you answer to.” ~W.C. Fields
For much of my life, I have struggled against the after effects of unresolved childhood trauma.
For years, I didn’t even know how much of an issue it was. I thought it was completely normal to expect the worst or avoid intimacy like the plague.
When I finally dragged myself into a therapist’s office and was diagnosed with “significant, complex trauma,” I initially felt free.
And I admit, it was freeing. I now knew that this “thing” that I had been dealing with my entire life wasn’t …
“Maybe it’s not about the happy ending. Maybe it’s about the story.” ~Unknown
For the longest ever time, I had no idea what my own story was.
Desperately uncomfortable in my skin as a child, I was equal parts pathologically shy with strangers and fearless with my sisters and brother, running wild over the boulder-strewn southern California land during summers.
As a young girl, I was also, more than once, the target for predators and perps.
The nameless elementary school janitor who invited me into his dark and dirty closet one day. The terrifying neighbor who stopped me in a …
“The boundary to what we can accept is the boundary to our freedom.” ~Tara Brach
I was in the heart of my Ph.D. program when I received the diagnoses: OCD, depression, and binge eating disorder.
It explained a lot, of course. All those years of anxiety, self-doubt, and intrusive thoughts were not normal after all. Eating to the point of gaining forty pounds in a few months was foreign to most people.
I wanted an explanation. Why me?
I had done everything right: I made a decent living, I was kind to everyone, and I was presenting my scientific …
“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.” ~Tom Robbins
Have you ever finally gotten something you longed for only to find that things didn’t work out as expected?
I know I have.
I firmly believed that having a dog was the answer to some of my desires, such as having more meaning in my life and receiving love on demand from another life.
I bought into irrefutable sayings like, “Dogs love unconditionally,” and, “Dogs are man’s best friend,” and, “Dogs are loyal.”
As it turns out, the reality can be very different. And yes, those …
“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
I’ve called it my “Epiphany Bubble,” and it might be hard to believe, but it’s my true experience.
I stood on the lawn of our city’s hospital. The sun was shining down on our group of grieving parents. My belly was big with my third child, but my heart was still heavy with grief from my second.
Jonathan. I’ve never personally known anyone whose entire life was surrounded by compassion and love, like every …
“I define depression as a comparison of your current reality to a fantasy about how you wish your life would be.” ~Dr. John Demartini
I always wanted to do things “right.” I was the little kid at the front of the room, raising her hand for every question. I was great at pushing myself to succeed and please.
My drive to be perfect was an asset through college and law school. I rocked high grades and landed a big firm job right out of school. But that same drive drove me right into a therapist’s office at twenty-five, where I …
“It is the way we react to circumstances that determines our feelings.” ~Dale Carnegie
We’ve all felt like we’re drowning in mud.
You feel stuck, worthless, and confused.
You want to move. You should. You have to. But you can’t.
And then it evolves into anxiety, fear, and overwhelm.
But what if—just what if—being stuck isn’t the problem, but how we perceive it?
The Truth About Being Stuck
Every year, I have periods where I feel “stuck.”
Yet when I look closer, I see that “being stuck” is a label I give to a natural part of …
“F-E-A-R has two meanings: ‘Forget Everything And Run’ or ‘Face Everything And Rise.’ The choice is yours.” ~Zig Ziglar
No matter how old I get, no matter how experienced I become, ending a relationship is agonizing.
It represents a loss, and losses hurt.
Deep down, I know if I go through with it, I’ll feel freer—well, not right away, but in a little while anyway—but I’d rather crawl under a rock and ignore the whole thing.
When I was a teen, I went out with a guy who had a major crush on me, although I wasn’t attracted to him. …
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” ~Charles Dickens
When I was seven years old, my parents had me take an IQ test for an application to a private school near our new home.
I vaguely remember sitting with the proctor, answering question after question about vocabulary and spatial recognition. To seven-year-old me, the test was nothing more than a fun logic puzzle, and I delighted at each question I knew the answer to, bright eyed and enthusiastic.
While I don’t recall my exact score, the numbers were unusually high—in fact, so high that …
“If you let go a little you will have a little happiness. If you let go a lot you will have a lot of happiness. If you let go completely you will be free.” ~Ajahn Chah
I’m a smart woman. And being smart gets me in trouble. I know how to cross my “T’s” and dot my “I’s”—to prepare for what might come. I know how to plan, to pack, to book tickets, to be the perfect tour guide.
I know how to make lists—very well. I know how to calendar myself and how to produce events. I know how …
“Life is actually really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” ~Confucius
There were times when I felt that my thoughts had complete control over my life. I could convince myself of anything, really. My thoughts would rarely lift me up and, instead, convince me I would fail.
I would fail at relationships. I would fail at my job. I told myself I was a failure.
I honestly believed that I was the only one who experienced this level of personal rejection. Of course, I knew that it wasn’t unique to me because I knew other people struggled …
“Eventually you will come to realize that love heals everything, and love is all there is.” ~Gary Zukav
Last year I developed some unexplained symptoms that could be likened to IBS, Chron’s disease, or even morning sickness (although I wasn’t pregnant, so there was no promise of a baby to make it all worth it).
I had no idea what caused it, why it was there, or what to do about it.
This shook me because I’d always had a strong intuitive connection with my body and I had always been healthy, but now when I asked my body a …
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and realize that prisoner was you.” ~Lewis B. Smedes
Have you ever tried to forgive someone who hurt you, and despite your best efforts, it was just too hard? So you beat yourself up because you were not able to forgive, and the pain was still there?
I spent years trying to forgive others.
I tried to forgive a family member for abusing me as a child.
I tried to forgive my primary school teacher of seven years for constantly hammering that even though I was a straight-A student, I wasn’t …
“Live your life for you not for anyone else. Don’t let the fear of being judged, rejected, or disliked stop you from being yourself.” ~Sonya Parker
For years I struggled with a nagging feeling of guilt. This was not for actual things I did, but just a feeling that anytime something went wrong in my life, it was somehow my fault.
I came from a religious family of eleven kids. My dear mom, bless her heart, occasionally punished us all because she just didn’t have the time in her busy day to find the perpetrator.
My older brother, the perpetrator …
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.” ~Steve Jobs
A week ago a woman I loved died. She was a member of my family and had been dying for a while from bone cancer, so her death did not come as a surprise.
I was traveling when I got the email, and I sat in Abu Dhabi airport surrounded by the banging and steps of people and grieved.
Yes, I knew her death was imminent, but at a deeper level I found the news …
“You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway.” ~Steve Maraboli
While going through some major life changes, I am finally learning to let go. I am learning to relinquish control. And I am learning that everything will be okay in the end.
I am in the middle of my first pregnancy. I thought I could control my body. I thought I could control my outcome.
Something I regularly preach to anyone who will listen is that we can’t control the outcome of any situation. We can only control our actions.
That means …
“Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strengths.” ~Charles H. Spurgeon
There’s nothing like a real health emergency for putting insignificant worries into perspective.
By the time I was pregnant the second time, I had left my struggles with anxiety largely behind me. Having been to therapy years earlier to find coping mechanisms for managing my ever-present phobias, I was in a fairly good place when I learned I’d been given a second chance at having a child.
But worry is as much as part of me as breathing, and having lost …
“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when adults are afraid of the light.” ~Adapted from Plato
I was digging in my half-empty refrigerator one day, searching for leftovers, when my phone rang. I glared at it wondering who the hell had the nerve to interrupt my hunt for sustenance.
I grabbed the phone with pure agitation and put it to my ear. On the other end of the line I heard a faint voice mutter the three most unforgettable words I had ever heard: “Dad is gone.”
“Beware the bareness of a busy life.” ~Socrates
It was December 26th. The day after Christmas. Ten days after my daughter’s first birthday. I was sitting on the floor coiling Christmas lights when I began to try to stand up. Almost immediately, I sunk back down to the floor.
I was tired. I was physically tired. I was emotionally tired. Even my soul felt tired.
In that moment, I couldn’t help but wonder, how did I get here? Sitting on the family room floor after two beautiful family events—my daughter’s birthday and Christmas—and my bones, heart, and soul …