For Parents: A Blog Series For Parents of Children Who Have Been Sexually Abused

Part 1: This is going to be a series of blog posts that speak to parents of children who have been sexually abused. Firstly, if this relates to you, I want to say that I am so sorry, my heart goes out to you and your child. No parent ever wants to hear that it has happened. Also, I want you to know that it is not your fault. You did everything you could to protect your child at the time. My parents where probably one of the most cautious people, and yet it still happened to me in my own home. What’s important now is to focus on your child and how to help them feel validated, heard, and understood.

Now, I am not a therapist, psychiatrist, or doctor. All of these insights and tips are things I had wish I had known as well as my parents had. My goal here is to help families have the healing process be as uncomplicated as possible. This is a grave and serious topic in which the healing process often takes years. This first post in the series is about understanding the signs and symptoms of trauma in your child. I believe this is important to start with because oftentimes symptoms of trauma can be mistaken as behavioral problems or mental illness. Some children have been misdiagnosed (including myself) and/or put on medication for something that was a symptom of trauma. (The next blog post will be about deciding whether to or not to introduce medications to your child. That post won’t be a concrete yes or no opinion, but rather things that are incredibly important to keep in mind if choosing this route. Trust me, knowing these things will save your child, time, etc. Stay tuned for next week’s post regarding medication.)

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at breakingagreements@gmail.com

One thing to know about kids before going into this is that they do not have the vocabulary, education, experience, understanding, or knowledge that you do. However, I am not saying children are not smart. In fact, I personally believe that children use certain parts of the brain more than we do. They have such a fresh perspective of life which allows them to be more open to learning without judgment. Yet, this also is what can become a problem if they have experienced abuse. Depending on the situation and who the abuser is, children sometimes see the abuser in a different light than the rest of the world. This is because predators are like con artists. Most of the time, it is someone the child knows. They are manipulative and will create this false perception of what the abuse is. Meaning, oftentimes abusers will try to create a situation where the child depends on them or trusts them so that it taints the child’s perspective of what is really going on and therefore wouldn’t tell another adult because they’d fear hurting the abuser or breaking or losing that bond. I know it is painful to read and hear, but this is important to know when you are trying to talk to your child.

There are many reasons why children do not say anything. Most don’t. The reason above is one of them, but there are a few other reasons. One of them is that the abuser may live in the household, or is a relative. It’s hard for children to speak up against someone in the family or community that may be highly thought of by everyone else. Another reason is that children may not understand what happened. I was six years old when I was abused, and I did not know or understand what rape was. Therefore, I didn’t have the vocabulary or understanding of what occurred to directly tell my parents right after it happened. I just knew something “bad” happened.

When a child doesn’t report the abuse, that doesn’t mean there are no other clear signs that may appear. Many times, these symptoms show up as behavioral problems or acting out. If the parent doesn’t know what occurred and then punish the child for these actions that are just trauma manifestations, this affects the child on so many levels.

I am not saying that all of these actions mean that your child has been abused, but if you suspect or know they have, then look out for these symptoms because they are not your child “Acting Out.”

Avoiding physical touch of any kind. If your child seems agitated or resistant towards hugs or honestly anything along the lines of that, do not tell them to “toughen up,” “you’re fine,” or tell them that you are safe and not going to hurt them. Right now, they don’t need rationalization, they need their boundaries respected. (Trust isn’t rebuilt by words, it is rebuilt by action.)

I had a VERY difficult time with physical touch, even from my parents. This is one of the few photos my parents got where I wasn’t freaking out or crying about hugging or being hugged.

Avoiding certain people, places, groups, or events. This includes church, school, tutoring, dance classes, or sports practice. Sometimes the people, places, or things that a child survivor avoids may not be directly related (yet oftentimes is) it can also be a trigger that reminds them of the abuse, not even tangible triggers but also, emotional ones. So, instead of immediately reacting when your child seems to be defiant, become observant because learning about the fears is how you will learn how to help your child. There were so many times where my parents thought I was being difficult and was punished for it, when in fact I was terrified to go certain places or see certain people out of pure fear. (This was mostly within the first year after the abuse, where I’d get panic attacks yet seemed like tantrums. Again, this is not blaming them, they didn’t know right away and had no background or experience in mental health.)

Behavioral changes. Eating less or more, suddenly seems shyer, jumps at sudden movements or sounds, being more agitated, doing obsessive-compulsive behaviors, controlling, tantrums, avoidant actions, and most of all: seeming more on edge, highly sensitivity, and dissociating (which looks like daydreaming.) The body doesn’t feel like a safe place to live after rape. It’s constant extreme discomfort, unease, and yet there’s no escape. In ways to compensate, the child will try to make everything feel safe around them. This will appear as children exhibiting disordered eating habits, saying that certain clothes feel “too tight” or “too loose,” being startled at loud sounds, or extreme responses or freeze responses when people exhibit strong emotions. The year after the abuse, I would take up to three showers a day. At the time, my parents thought it was absurd and obviously, didn’t allow me to when I tried. So just keep in mind to look out for behaviors such as that. The mind isn’t the only thing that is affected. After trauma, the body is still constantly in alert, fight or flight mode. Many kids appear and are highly sensitive, especially to other people’s emotions. (In some cases, if the abuser was someone the child knew, they may have had to scan the abuser’s emotional state and try to respond or act a certain way to not get hurt. That is why many trauma survivors can sense the emotions of others well but often neglect their own.) I have ADHD and PTSD, so it was hard to tell the difference between having a hard time focusing, and dissociating. Internally, there is a clear difference. But if you find your child zoning out often, especially in moments of high stress, it can be either or. This is where professional help is important. Also, here is an article that talks about ADHD and Trauma.

After the trauma as kid, I rarely stayed in the present moment. This picture is was taken a few weeks after the abuse.

Chances are, your child has a limited vocabulary regarding the topic of sexual abuse. They are not going to know how to explain what happened. From personal experience, having parents asking open-ended questions felt frustrating because I could not find the right words to describe it. On the other hand, I have read many articles that said to ask open-ended questions. So, it all depends on the child. Try both and observe how they respond. In my case, it was difficult to put my thoughts into words, and I’d shut down, cry, and become frustrated. If this relates to your child-Instead of asking broad questions like, “Why do you feel sad?” Try asking either more specific questions (even if they say reply “no” to the question, it narrows the answers down and helps the child narrow it down in their mind) or by asking physically related questions, such as where did you get hurt, etc. Oftentimes, they’ll be able to answer the more physical related questions regarding how they felt, instead of the emotional aspects of the abuse. Here is a link to discussing the abuse with your child, based on their age. 

Here is a helpful description of a common way children will try to say that they have been abused. This is from Dr. Laurie Braga’s testimony where she talks about certain techniques she uses when interviewing children of sexual abuse. (Link to interview)

In the course of your interview of thousands of kids, three or four hundred alleged victims of sexual abuse and one hundred confirmed victims of sexual abuse, have you noticed a common pattern of disclosure of the sexual abuse event by children?

Yes. I have seen a common thread, a common pattern of how children disclose. They typically will start off by saying — either by saying nothing happened or they will say something happened, but they will either say the least of what happened, or they will say something happened, but it was just some other kid, or something happened and that they saw it. Then they will gradually, as they become more comfortable, they will begin to open up more and say what happened, actually what happened to them, “This is what actually what happened to me,” and gradually, as they become more comfortable, they will build up to the worst of what happened to them, especially anything that they feel personally responsible for, as if they themselves were a partner in the crime and did something real bad. Then after having disclosed, if they [are] then met with openness and comfortableness, from someone else, say their parents, then they will continue to open up and continue to tell what happened. If they are met with, “I don’t want to hear this stuff,” or they are with a person who is in an adverse position to them who is sort of saying to them, “Well, this didn’t really happen, did it?” they will then retract what they said, take it back and say, “No, it didn’t really happen,” or of they don’t completely take it back, they will say the things that are the easiest and not the hardest to talk about.”

It is important to address the trauma before coming to conclusions about any other mental health disorder. If a child is diagnosed with anxiety, depression, etc instead of addressing the trauma & PTSD that may be causing the anxiety, more symptoms will surface overtime because the real issue at hand is not being addressed. Anxiety and depression are symptoms of trauma and they are also diagnoses. An individual can have both or may have had one or the other before the trauma. But, just from personal experience, make sure you address the trauma first, and then co-existing disorders. Because even if you think one of the symptoms is “solved” (like anxiety & avoiding certain places or people) another one will surface. It will be like playing that game, “wack a mole” because the root of the issue isn’t being addressed. The trauma needs to be treated mentally and physically (I talk about the importance of healing the body in this post.) They must learn to emotionally regulate the emotions evoked from the trauma because (not to come across as extreme here, but this occurs all the time and also is from my personal experience) later on as the child gets older, they will try to learn to emotionally regulate these feelings themselves and sometimes, they are not always the best ways: substance abuse, co-dependency, eating disorders, hypersexuality, self-harm…)

If you are struggling to understand your child, I suggest taking them to see a therapist, social worker, etc. Try: “psychologytoday.com” if you have insurance. You can select your insurance, zip code, and trauma specialization in the search bar. Another tip if you decide to do this is to give time for your child to speak. In some cases where the child is quiet, many therapy sessions end up revolving around the parent’s perspective. Even though that is important too, talking for your child will end up being a disservice in the long run. It can lead to veering off the path of what may be going on within your child’s mind that they are hiding and that you are unaware of (and they also may be unaware.) It is the therapist’s job to help the child find ways to talk about the abuse.

This topic will go into next week’s post where I discuss the pros, cons, and things to know when thinking about medication. *This is not a all for medication and this is not an against medication post. It will be discussing things to keep in mind when considering it.

Resources Used: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/terror/techniques/bragatestimony.html

http://www.nccpeds.com/powerpoints/interview.html

https://systemsofcare.ou.edu/file.ashx?id=a5f6ade6-3a60-48bf-b26a-6872a810eb0d

Chasing Chaos, The Fear of an Ordinary Life, and The Misconception of Pleasure and Excitement: How It’s All Connected

Last week I was staring at a stack of paper cards, with a value written on each of them. We were instructed to separate these cards into the three categories: Important, Kind of Important, Not Important. There were A LOT of cards. After we put them into categories, we had to pick the top ten values from the “Important” category. Never thought how much you’d learn about yourself after doing this. After sorting through the cards, worrying that I’d miss an important one, I chose the top ten. (Here is a list of Brene Browns Values if you want to try this!)

Excitement, Passion, Honesty, Independence, Humor, Creativity, Self Knowledge, Sexuality, Purpose, and Stability. Fast-forward to today, the morning after a bad relapse, I sat holding my mug of black coffee looking at my top ten values I wrote down from last week. Silently, my tears streamed down my face and dripped into the blue ceramic mug. I poured out the coffee and went back to the torn out pieces of notebook paper from therapy. Staring blankly at the words excitement and stability, I felt like there was a contradiction. It’s impossible to have passion, excitement, with stability, I thought, You can’t balance that.

Ah there lies the problem.

It’s not the value itself that needs to change, but rather it was my definition of the value and how I’d seek it..

Image Credit Goes To Original Artist

My mother would quote one of my grandmother to me, “Boring is beautiful.” I’d often cringe at it. Whenever she’d say that, I’d think to myself “No, boring is when I can’t sit still. Boring is when I end up getting super high alone at night and go skateboarding (yes, I know, I am 23) or opening up that orange pill bottle, or waking up at this man’s house in Delaware (I live in PA.) I can’t be bored! It’s not fucking beautiful.” Obviously, I didn’t say those things out loud, and yeah that reaction is a bit extreme. Most of the time, I’d reply to her saying, “I don’t really see that Mom.” I didn’t. Is stability and boredom the same thing? Can you live a life where excitement and stability both equally exist? Here are a few things I realized on this “not my greatest” morning.

Here’s the part where I talk about the correlation between chaos, our definition of pleasure, and the fear of living an ordinary life.. It all ties together.

If you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, lived in an environment where abuse was occurring, or survived emotional abuse chances are you became familiar with chaos. In fact, you’re probably more familiar with chaos than calm. Even though calmness is what we ultimately crave (and may have used addictive behaviors to self soothe and emotionally regulate) it’s unfamiliar. And for the human brain- unfamiliarity is scary. “I never lived in peace, I don’t deserve it, and even though other’s do, it’s not possible for me” This may not be a thought that is highlighted in your mind, but it could be subconsciously lurking in the background.

Image Credit Goes To Original Artist

You see, abuse and being raised in certain environments overtime imprint the belief system. We might believe “we don’t deserve to feel good.” OR that “we don’t deserve boundaries.” Something the world see’s as so pleasurable was used against us to create pain and punishment. In consequence of this, it’s common to believe that pleasure = punishment. In cases of emotional abuse, you may have a belief that love equates to pain, or that you need to tolerate _ when in a relationship, to receive love you have to neglect yourself and value other’s more. Another common belief survivors may have is if they feel pleasure, they will have to be punished for it. Some punish themselves after it. Maybe you feel that you are not allowed to feel pleasure. Maybe you feel afraid to feel pleasure. Maybe you feel that if you experience pleasure, someone else will feel hurt, and vice versa. The major concepts that we need to look at and change are: What does pleasure mean to you? How do you seek it? Often, pleasure for us can be connected with methods of escapism and behaviors that lead to addiction. Those old behaviors that once may have saved us, took us out of the scary reality, and brought us pleasure often later on turn into what is causing pain later.

This is how the cycle occurs. The abuse happens imprinting deep wounds and core beliefs about ourselves and the world. With that perspective and definition of what love and pleasure is, we subconsciously end up gravitating towards experiences that mirror those views (the way our brain works is to constantly seek out evidence for our beliefs and thoughts, it’s not that we wanted more bad things to happen, it’s our brains trying to make sense of things.) When we then experience the pain again, it confirms the belief that “Life is always unstable and painful.”

Image Credit Goes To Original Artist

Let me clarify very CLEARLY: You are never at fault for being abused. Never. It’s never EVER, someone’s fault that they were abused, OR ending up in another abusive situation later on in life. What I am talking about here is the importance of understanding the wounds in some of our beliefs and what we believe we deserve. If you were raised in an environment where abuse was called, “house rules,” or it was the norm, when you are in a relationship later on and something similar happens, it may take a while for the survivor to notice the red flags. There’s that quote from Perks of Being A Wallflower that says, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” But in this case not only is it “what we think we deserve,” it also is “what we saw and learned as love.” Maybe you didn’t experience abuse but you witnessed it as a child, that is still a chaotic environment where you learned to tolerate it because in that moment you needed to as survival. Calmness can feel strange and unfamiliar for those who experience sexual or emotional abuse.

I’ve done it myself, believing that I wasn’t deserving of a calm, normal life. I still struggle with this. Sure, in many aspects I’ve worked through them, but there are still many more. I’ve had multiple therapists, friends, and especially my mom say to me many times that “You should write a book about of all the weird stuff that has happened to you.” Sure, on the outside they were funny, but a lot of the situations I’ve found myself in were a result of feeling unworthy, battles with addiction, and core beliefs I had about sex and relationships. Sure, I causally write or tell my weird ass experiences with hits of humor. Yet, I often don’t talk about the aftermath like crying in the gynecologists office, the distance addiction has caused in my friendships and relationships, going off the grid from the world during depression or relapses, and so much more.

Image Credit Goes To Original Artist

It’s not that we don’t want an ordinary life. It’s not that we don’t want a supportive loving relationship. It’s that we might believe deep down we don’t deserve it. It also might be the thought, “If my life didn’t consist of chaos, constant healing from the chaos, addiction…who would I be? And what would I do with my life?” becuase you were in the throws of it for so long.

Once we become aware of our past and how if affected us, we can now take our power back and create the life our seven year old self would be proud of, and smiling at. We may feel like without constant chaos or substances life would be dull, but I’m learning that chaos and relapses gets old as well. I am learning to value my current relationships over the substances I once used to escape from the old ones (or memories.)

This is where we return to the values I talked about above. Except this time, rewrite under each value how we want that to look in our everyday lives. So instead of pleasure and excitement being: abusing substances, chaotic relationships, and walking into situations most would run from, we can seek those things in other ways such as through listening or playing music, making playlists, preforming, getting coffee with your girlfriends, rock climbing, fresh bed sheets, early mornings, create art, write a book, laughter with friends, soreness in your muscles after working out, hot yoga, ah the list can go on.

Image Credit Goes To Original Artist

** I want to also not dismiss the difficulty in leaving an abusive situation. My love goes out to you and I know how scary it can be to speak up and leave. The National Domestic Violence Hotline Is:  1 (800) 799 – 7233. There are also many centers that help women such as https://womenagainstabuse.org/ (Philadelphia Area)

After you write down your values, redefine what they mean to you, and how that would look in your life, you’ll be able to see that it is possible to live a life of excitement and stability.

Image Credit Goes To Original Artist

Be

I’m a woman, but I still call myself a girl. In the evenings before bed, I would do headstands after getting stoned. I used to paint acrylics on tall stretched canvases, and one day stopped. My succulents beside my bedroom windowsill are still thriving and alive. I drink straight-up black, iced coffee in the mornings before eating anything. Smoking cigarettes is now a habit that remains way in the past. I love green juice only if it has lemon in it. I became vegetarian when I was seven years old. Today, I don’t label myself as a raw vegan yet the foods I eat are simply just raw fruits, vegetables, and nut butter because I don’t like to cook. When I moved back to PA from California, I didn’t have any furniture and slept on my yoga mat alone for weeks on end, and swear to this day that it healed my back. I don’t like spending the night at men’s homes. I don’t like being held after sex. My parents raised my two brothers and I in an Irish Catholic/Bohemian household and it’s even more confusing than it sounds. I admire Buddhism, yet learning about Hinduism compels me to think beyond learned limits. As a kid, I liked boys, girls, the gym teacher, my brother’s friends, my father’s friends. I quit drinking once because for some reason I thought it was a good idea to combine vodka with Xanax. After a while, I started again, and have been contemplating this past week once again on stopping. I have immense love for Hot Yoga. I was born in the Bay Area and lived in a Youth Hostel that my Dad managed. Sometimes, when I pray, I don’t have a concrete understanding of who I am praying to, yet I feel consoled. Currently, I believe we are all God yet haven’t woken up to realize it yet. I used to take three showers a day after I was sexually abused at six years old. I’ve written a collection of non-fiction pieces about overcoming trauma & I hope one day to heal others with this writing. However, I am still terrified to put the pieces out for people to read. I’ve been reading about quantum physics over the past month. I am terrified to take acid or shrooms because I know someone that never came back. I write songs at 10 pm every night on the guitar so softly, hoping I won’t wake up the neighbors. 

I used to think that all of these actions, beliefs, rules, and perceptions were concrete. I believed they made up who I was: Fiona. Yet there is a higher part that is aware I am living the life of Fiona McHugh. Think about it with yourself. Isn’t there a part of you that knows you are living the life of ___? When you realize you are more than your name, beliefs, and the things you have done/experienced, your mind becomes a blank slate of who you can be. What is that part? God? The Universe? Your Higher Self? All that stuff above could have been completely different. I could’ve written that I loved Math and play soccer.  The Fiona described above would have been completely different, however, I would still have that same higher part of me that is aware that I am living the life of Fiona McHugh. You see, I think that one of the most important things to learn in this life is how to “break agreements.” These agreements are beliefs, experiences, and rules that you have agreed to “be.” Looking above, those are all “agreements.” When you can separate yourself from yourself, you start to realize that you don’t have to be controlled by “external events.”  I would constantly say to myself I do ___ because of ___. Or, I am ____ kind of person because this thing happened to me. 

It’s not about discovering who you are. It’s not even about working on becoming that change you want. If you are always focused on “becoming,”  you’ll always be in that state of trying to change. That’s why some habits are so hard to break, we’re not living in the end. Instead of being the person that is trying to quit smoking cigarettes, be the person that just doesn’t smoke them. Live in that version of yourself. Your higher part of you that is watching you live the life of __, doesn’t have any rules or limitations on who you are based on the past and what people have told you.  You already are the change you desire. It’s about breaking the agreements and shedding all of the things you believed you were so you can just allow yourself to “be” that version of yourself. 

How To Cope With Family and The Holidays (as a Sexual Abuse Survivor)

Although the Holidays are what people say should be a merry time spent with family, there are many children, adolescent, and adult survivors out there right now feeling overwhelmed, broken, lonely, or finding themselves saying “yes” to gatherings they really want to say “no” to. (Many of us would rather feel the resentment after saying yes, than the guilt after saying no, but that is another topic for another day.) There are so many messy family situations and dilemmas that survivors of sexual assault are going through right now. IF this is you, I want you to know, that even though it really may feel like you are alone, you are not. Maybe it’s been difficult for you to put your own needs before others, (been there, sometimes, I’m still there ha), but just this time I want you to go with yourself. Listen to what you want, and then go with that. You’ve been through enough and to go through another emotionally exhausting and possibly even dangerous situation is not worth it. If no one is telling you, I will: You deserve better than that.

Now this year, obviously many of us are not getting together because of Covid. But if there are still ways that family and the holidays are causing problems, here are options about what you can do. Unfortunately, none of them are perfect, and I wish they were, but these are what worked for me.

Strands Beach, it is a beautiful place to cry.

1.Don’t go. Ok, easier said than done. You could have a lot of texts, “Why aren’t you here?” or “That’s so inconsiderate…” Although hearing the sounds of those texts coming through can send your anxiety through the roof, your safety from emotional or physical abuse is worth all those texts. Depending on your situation, maybe send one simple text out, saying that you are not coming, and then leave it at that. Don’t give into the back and forth thing. It sucks being alone if you have nowhere else to go. I remember when my family moved back to California three years ago and my mother’s extended side of the family came over for Thanksgiving, (the side the abuser was on) and I left. I spent Thanksgiving driving up and down PCH until I parked at Strands Beach, called my friend from back in Philly, and then cried for an hour. Not a fun night, but it was better than having to deal with that situation back home, I’ll tell you that. Don’t go, find a safe, sacred, and special place if you have nowhere else to go. You are allowed to protect yourself and say no. **PS: try to come up with a plan if you do decide to stay alone. That Thanksgiving I just basically cried, but there were many other moments later on where I’d stay alone and drink, smoke, or other stuff that caused more anxiety in the long run. This time should be spent on healing, and being gentle with yourself, which is why it’s a good idea to come up with a plan before diving into any self-destructive options.

2. If you decide to go, make sure there is a relative around that knows and that supports you. You could even come up with a code word with them for when things get too intense, or a good exist strategy.

3. Grieve. “Yep, be alone and grieve, great advice Fiona.” It’s depressing, and not how you probably want to spend your holiday. But the thing is if you had to deal with having to see the abuser at family reunions as a kid, you know how much of a toll it takes on your body and mind. For years, you were not given an option to not go and out of self-protection, you’d avoid the feelings of grief and brokenness for years. Because, in a sense, you were still in the midst of it. You are finally free. This also means, it may be the calm after the storm, but you’re realizing the grief didn’t go away. Many of us haven’t grieved the loss of our childhood and innocence. If this is the case, I strongly suggest you read my post Grief and Loss. Once you grieve, it clears the way for new memories. This leads me to the last point…

4. Create new memories with new people. I started this blog, Breaking Agreements, to help aid survivors break free from fears, dynamics, beliefs, and other limitations that the abuse may have caused. When you learn and practice breaking free from those beliefs and cycles, it’s like you’re living in a new world. This is the time to create new memories. These new holidays can be 100% yours! If you decided to not go to your family gathering and don’t want to be alone, you’d be surprised at how many people would be more than happy to have you come to their family gathering (ok, maybe not this year, but you get the point). I’ve spent multiple holidays with my roommate’s parents who were very generous to have me over. It may take a few years, but I promise, you will find your tribe.

Guys, I know how hard it is. It’s scary. You don’t deserve, nor ever deserved, to have to see your abuser or even have to hear about them or their whereabouts. You deserve to be and feel respected. Your own company alone is more healing than being around someone that hurt you. I’m sending you so much love guys. Here is a short IGTV video I made where I talk about coping with anxiety, PTSD, and resorting back to your angsty 13 year old self during family gatherings. ha

-Fiona

Why You Are Not Your Thoughts.

Has anyone else been struggling with panic, paranoia, or just anxious, unwanted thoughts? That your thoughts have been playing on a loop? Maybe it’s because I decided to take a break from drinking again (for how long? a week.. or forever.. I haven’t decided yet,) only to realize that it’s a lot HARDER than I remember from the last time I did it. Yet, that’s another post for another day.

I found this book at The Chakra Shack, in Laguna Beach, California. I didn’t think I needed it back then. Honestly, I didn’t REALLY realize I needed it until I decided to quit this past weekend. Coolest store by the way, if you’re into crystals and shit.

Or maybe it’s because it’s that time of the month, I burned myself from this innocent looking, sloth heating pad I got from Urban Outfitters, or that the 800mg of Advil still doesn’t take away the needle stabbing pain from my IUD. (But completely worth the pain because hormones and pills…. or hormones in the form of a pill are things I try to stay clear from.) The mind and body are more connected than we may realize. Which is why I’ve learned that if your body isn’t at it’s best, your mind will suffer. Anyway, back to the point of this post: this morning I remembered I wrote this on my old blog back in January 2019. I hope it helps you if this is something you’ve been battling. (The trick is, to not battle with it. You’ll see what I mean as you keep reading.)

Sloth Heating Pad From Urban Outfitters.

You are not your thoughts. Your thoughts are, well, just thoughts. For so many years, I let negative thoughts hold such power over my mood and actions. Whether it was a negative thought about how I perceived myself or an unsettling memory from when I was a kid, I would let one thought push me into a downward spiral and taint the rest of my day. I believed that I had no control over this. There was this strong belief that those thoughts were a reflection of me.

If you or someone you know struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder or any form of addiction, you may have noticed that they will get hooked on one thought or urge. It’s can feel like the individual is blind sighted by anything else but that thought. And the more you (or they) try to not think about it, the more you do. (Ever heard of the saying: Don’t think of the pink elephant?) It’s beyond frustrating and can leave one to think that there’s absolutely no hope in changing their present mood or actions. This can apply to those who suffer from depression as well. There may be a hopeless feeling or thought that they feel they cannot let go of. If you can resonate with any of these scenarios, I want to tell you this:

Your thoughts aren’t you. You are not a bad person for thinking those thoughts. Furthermore, your thoughts don’t have to dominate your emotions or actions. You are not a victim to your thoughts. And most importantly: your thoughts don’t have permission to make you give in to an urge or addictive behavior. That stupid little thought doesn’t have power over your arms or legs. You do. (Now I get it, easier said than done, but bear with me.)

Now, it is impossible to control the thoughts that may arise from time to time. But it is in your power to chose how you respond to them. 

For example, someone who may suffer from depression may think a negative thought about themselves. Such as:

“I should be able to do more like everyone else.”
“Why is it so hard for me to have hope and stay motivated?”
“I feel so guilty for burdening everyone around me.”
“I’m a jerk.”
“I’m always sad. It’s easier for others to be happy.”
“I am a bad person because I did x, y, and z back in 2010.”

Then, along with that thought probably comes with hundreds of reasons that support that belief to be true. The more we focus on that thought, whether negative or positive, our brain will try to find all the evidence it can to back that thought up.  And man, anyone who is thrown into a sea of thoughts like that is bound to be depressed.

So, right now, I want you to imagine you are standing beside a stream in the woods. As you hear the rushing water cascade down from the forest’s peak, you look down and notice thousands of fish swimming down the stream. Some are grey, camouflaging with the stones that lie at the bottom of the stream. Swimming alongside the grey ones is a bunch of bright blue fish.
Think of these fish as your thoughts.
You cannot control how many grey ones are swimming in the creek just as much as how many blue ones are there. Now, as all of the fish are swimming down the stream, you reach down to pick one up. You get to decide on which fish you pick up. It not in your control over which fish passes you down the stream at that moment in time, but- it is your choice of which color fish you pick up and look at.

Also, it is completely in your power to decide how long you are going to hold and observe the fish, whether it is for five minutes, or the rest of the day. (Don’t ac

tually do this! ) You can also just notice that grey or blue fish as you let it swim by past you instead of picking it up at all.

That’s how it is with your thoughts. Sometimes there will be negative thoughts about yourself that arise through time to time. That doesn’t mean that thought is true. It’s just a thought. The reason why it may feel true is that for most of your life you’ve just focused on that thought and created the evidence to support it.

Now, I know that there are genetic and biochemical factors and components for depression, OCD, and addiction. I’m not saying this is a cure-all concept or idea, but it can definitely save you from going into a downward spiral for the rest of your day.

For example last night, I ran into someone I knew years ago. I used to have this belief that they thought I was a chaotic mess. This morning, as I was folding my laundry, a negative assumption of how they may have perceived me passed through my mind. Immediately, (as I unconsciously picked up the grey fish) I began to go back to that scenario of running into them last night and picked apart all the reasons and evidence of why they may have thought negatively about me when we ran into each other.

Suddenly, I stopped myself. I let myself get hooked onto the thought and the storyline of how this person might think that: I’m too whimsical, unorganized, and can’t keep up with life. After I became aware, I told myself “that’s just a thought.” Because really, there are tons of thoughts that were going through my mind at that moment, I just chose to delve into that specific one and the storyline of what they thought of me based on past interactions from years ago. Swimming alongside with that thought were other thoughts such as the moments of laughter I had with the friends I was with that night or that I ran out of coffee this morning and need to go pick some up.

***I think that a lot of us may have felt a certain way about ourselves based on one or two experiences in life, and then have continued to believe that story and perception of ourselves as well as projecting that belief onto people who we meet in the future.

Even as intuitive as you may be, we never truly know what the other person is thinking.
Even if that person I ran into did think that way about me… It doesn’t mean I actually am a mess. I could have spent the rest of the day believing and living as if I am chaotic or disorganized. I could have stopped folding my laundry. But I didn’t. I chose to pick up the other fish and create my own story of how I see myself.  And I had a fucking great day.
Also, constantly focusing on the thoughts of how we perceive ourselves, how the people around us to is going to drive anyone crazy. Try observing something outside of yourself. It gets you out of your mind.

Next time a negative thought about yourself or an urge to *drink, smoke, blah blah ..etc..etc..* arises, just watch it like a fish down the stream. It may stand out to you more than the others, but this is because you are used to giving that specific thought more attention. Over time, the thought will not seem as true, threatening, or loud once you practice observing it and not believing it.
Sometimes, the thoughts may seem intrusive or you may feel like the words are shouting out at you. But remember, the response is in your power. Instead of picking up the thought and finding evidence for it. Just respond like this:

“Hmm, interesting. Anything else you (the thought) would like to say before I move on?” “Yeah I know it would feel great to __ right now. But I’m not going to.” 
When the thoughts are strong: the trick is to respond curiously and almost neutrally. Because the more you argue about giving into an addictive behavior or stream of negative beliefs about yourself, you are still giving tons of energy and attention to that thought and it’s going to wear you down.

Trust me. The more attention you give something, negative or positive, the more it will come to fruitation. So, if you are trying to stop the thought or argue with it—don’t. Just let it know you see it, and then try to observe all the other thoughts/fish that may be swimming in the background of your mind.

The present moment is all that matters. What you did 3 minutes ago or 10 years ago doesn’t have to be the determining factor of how you live right now. You are a good person. Don’t let one event or a few interactions with others affect the rest of your life.
Even if someone did straight up say to you that you are a *insert negative noun* -it’s just one of those grey fish in someone else’s mind. That thought of theirs..it just doesn’t matter. Because it’s just an opinion. 

And you know what? Maybe I do act disorganized, whimsical, and have a hard time keeping up with life. But that doesn’t mean I AM disorganized, whimsical, and have a hard time keeping up with life. I can be organized and grounded when I feel like it….. And the same goes for you!
So fuck those grey fish. They are only as real as you believe them to be.
Next time you catch yourself picking up a grey fish and are about to fall down a staircase of negativity. Just watch this video before you continue your day: (A video my dad made me watch in the midst of a panic attack at some point during high school haha.)

Why You Should Break Away From Extremes

How you do one thing, is how you do everything.

-Iyanla Vanzant

Yeah, I’m a Gemini, but in no way will I ever use that as the reason as to why I’ve always struggled to find “The Middle Path.” Just over year ago, you’d most likely find me at the local yoga studio downtown, sipping on cranberry kombucha, slathering coconut and eucalyptus oil on my body every night before bed, taking long hot baths with Epsom salts, and living off of sweet potatoes, green juice, and quinoa. Then, the next week I’d be at least three shots in of Smirnoff (of my 100 lb frame at the time) during my evening biology class that usually followed up with smoking cigarettes in my car until I was sober enough to drive. I’d swing from the chandelier, (almost literally) from one side of the spectrum to the other. There were moments of putting lavender and eucalyptus essential oils on my wrists, keeping citrine crystals in my bra or pockets wherever I went, and juice cleansing for a week. Then there were also the moments of landing at midnight in San Diego, still drunk and letting my cousin give me acupuncture while she was high. Which then led to continual drinking the rest of the time I visited family, ruining my mothers “girls wine tasting trip” to the Funk-zone in Santa Barbara when she turned around to find me lying down on the sidewalk, under a tunnel, and had to peel me off the dirty pavement. We have never gone on one since, and I can understand why.

The Funk Zone
Hangover Acupuncture from my Californian cousin.

Once my therapist quoted to me, “How you do one thing, is how you do everything.” At first, I really didn’t get it. I mean, I got it, but I didn’t really take a deep look into applying that to my life. A common theme has been extremes. If I felt like I relapsed a little bit, I’d run with it. If I felt like I was finally getting my act together, I’d run with it. What was the precursor to either extreme was by all or nothing thinking, and disregarding listening to my body. 

How you do one thing, is how you do everything.” If you’ve been the person who always said, “tomorrow I’ll start,” and then ended up drinking 10x more than you would, smoked your entire “last” pack of cigarettes, started a 10-day water fast or some weird shit like the 70’s Vogue Diet only to resort back to your “higher calorie” trail mix and kale chips…this post is for you.

A food journal entry from a few years ago… yikes is right

There are three categories of tools to use in times of stress, overstimulation, or just feeling overwhelmed. Category 1, 2, and 3. Category 1 sums up the habits you probably are trying to break. Category 2 consists of the things we do but prefer not to talk about, and Category 3 is mostly what we understand as “positive” coping tools. The idea is for you to categorize your own tools, coping habits, and incorporate new ones as well. Once you see them written down on a piece of paper, you’ll be able to understand the dynamics of your cycles and patterns, see how often and why you use negative coping tools, to navigate a starting point of recovery when you aren’t sure if you really want to recover yet, or just feel like you need to find awareness of what you have been doing. By writing it all down on one piece of paper, it also takes away the shame and all or nothing thinking-because, in the end, they are all coping behaviors.

Category 1: Wine, cigarettes, weed, starving, counting calories, water fasts, Xanax, Tito’s in your GT’s Synergy Kombucha, keeping airplane bottles in your car..basically any form of using booze to escape, throwing up, sleeping pills, casual sex with randos, laxatives, Tinder Men (especially Tinder Sams and a few of the women on there), Men who keep asking for pics, credit cards you shouldn’t be using, running so often that you get stress fractures in both legs, or bleaching your hair after drinking a bottle of wine.

My “Tinder Sam” Saga Back In March
Archived from my Instagram story
Meanwhile, I should’ve been doing homework.

Category 2: Hours of reading the elephant journal or about astrology, spending almost all of the money you saved for groceries on new journals or mediums, three cups of black coffee, taking too much b12, dark chocolate, Instagram, running out at 10 pm before CVS closes to buy a vibrator because you threw your old one out for using it too much, spending an unnecessary amount of money on crystals, sage, maca powder, and goji berries.

Category 3: Hot lemon water, epsom salt baths, Peppermint or Kava Tea, Essential Oils, Hot Yoga, Yoga, singing at the top of your lungs, L-Glutamine/Amino Acid therapy (highly recommend if you are quitting drinking), long walks, short walks, binaural beats, affirmations, meditations such as “Fuck That Meditation” and “Aaron Doughty’s Meditations,” headstands, green juice (for minerals and electrolytes), coconut oil, crystals, Yin Yoga, FaceTime your friends, journal with spelling and grammar errors in a stream of consciousness style of writing, walk in the forest or on the beach, turn off your phone, sparkling water, Tito’s-free kombucha, Self-Defense Class, Acupuncture, Reiki, reading life changing books such as Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself, The Body Keeps The Score, Quit Like A Woman, The Fuck It Diet (by my cousin Caroline…where you’ll also probably learn a lot about my family’s past weird diets, and the not so normal moments that I thought were normal, for example: when my mom poured a bowl of “frozen blueberries” for my neighborhood friends, called it dessert, and none of the kids on our street ate at our house ever again.)

Anyway, you can tell Category 1 coping tools aren’t anywhere near the “goal” and that Category 2 isn’t preferable, but it doesn’t have as many repercussions as Category 1. Category 3 is what we may have learned about in self-help books, rehab, or therapy-it’s what we “should” be doing.

Now, I want you to try to categorize your own tools you use. Once you do that, I want you to realize and accept that it’s actually better to end up in mostly Category 2, while integrating parts of Category 3. I know it doesn’t sound ideal, or like your perfect version of “Recovery,” but I promise it’s a lot better than going all in for 3, and end up burning out and then resorting back to all of the coping mechanisms in Category 1.

If you feel impatient with your progress and want to resort to an extreme method or if you’ve relapsed, I suggest learning about The Middle Way. For example: If you started smoking again after you quit, instead of hyper-focusing on not smoking, start incorporating behaviors from Category 3. It’s extremely difficult to quit cold turkey when you don’t have any coping mechanisms you’ve practiced and have evidence that they’ve worked. It’ll be smoother (as much as it can be) when you decide to quit again.

**Another Tool I learned today in group therapy (after discussing my recent impulsive decisions) is to set a fifteen-minute timer every time you feel an urge. Once it ends and if the urge is still there, try it again. However, if you feel like you CANNOT possibly set that timer again or that you don’t know if you want to quit whatever it is, then let yourself do engage in the habit-after the 15 minutes. This actually helps your brain over time, rewire itself to pause before taking action instead of going straight into engaging in the habit. This technique is definitely a form of practicing moderation. However, I go back and forth with this idea because there are some habits and urges that you can’t fuck with, like oxy or mixing liquor with Xanax or perhaps just drinking in general. I think in therapy she was referring more to the most recent event of deciding to bleach my hair while drunk. (I did pause, for what I recall being ten minutes, with a bowl of bleach in my hand.)

What Does It Mean To Be A Sexually Empowered Woman?

I didn’t go on my first date until I was nineteen. Nineteen. Between fears from the trauma and the dogma preached to us in Catholic school, sex was something I avoided like the plague. Talking about it, thinking about it, hearing anything related to it just freaked me out. I’d shut down, dissociate, and cry a lot during health class as a kid. omg

I don’t know what caused me to jump towards the opposite end of the spectrum after that. Maybe it was angst at the church after all the years or watching too much Sex And The City. There were many parallels between the show and the way I was living. Except, replace cosmopolitan men (although that has happened) with mostly tan, skateboarding, guitar playing, flannel-wearing men who’ll throw a Shaka in every picture opportunity there is.

I’m lucky to have girlfriends who are open and confidently are able to speak about their sex lives. I think that’s important because if you’re surrounded by people that associate sex with shame, it’s going to be difficult to venture out of that perspective. Nowadays, no one looks twice at a woman who goes on tinder for hookups. Personally, I think it’s great we’ve gotten to that point now. We’ve been working on deconstructing the ties between women, sex, and shame for decades. If you go way back (and still, some hold these beliefs) women weren’t supposed to enjoy sex, sex was for marriage and only to have children, etc. So to say that society has finally been starting to celebrate women and their sexuality is incredible. I’m all for it.

HOWEVER, there was one thing I mixed up. For the longest time (and honestly, not until very recently) I didn’t understand what really makes a woman sexually empowered. To start, the most important thing I want to get across is that there is a major difference between a sexually empowered woman and a woman having sex to feel sexually empowered. The essence of a sexually empowered woman is something internal, whereas the second of the latter is more of this chasing, “never going to be enough” experience.

I used to think that being casual about sex and avoiding emotional intimacy with sexual partners made me feel like an “empowered woman who doesn’t need a man.” I felt “empowered” for keeping a laced bra from Free People, along with miniature airplane bottles of Smirnoff in my glove compartment, because, hey ya never know, right? If you are familiar with Attachment Styles, you’d understand what I mean by when I say that I was the poster child for “Avoidant Attachment.” A lot of this was intertwined with trauma-related wounds, such as chasing after more risky situations to reclaim a sense of control I lost from the abuse.

Time went on, along with a lot of breakdowns. I was in pain. I caused a lot of emotional pain for others. I said yes when my inner child was screaming no. I followed that script we all learned as young girls. Moaning at all the right times. There was no pleasure at all. I believed that having casual sex and seeming “chill” made me sexually empowered. I didn’t want to go back to avoiding it completely out of fear like how I was in the beginning. Even in relationships, I’d tell myself to “get it over with” and put their desires before mine.

What made me realize something had to change was when I cried during sex. Yeah, that was…awful, awkward, I don’t even have the words to describe it. I remember texting my roommate after, in tears, asking if that’s happened to her. She said no. I experienced probably what was one of the worst flashbacks in my life. This is just my own observation, but I feel like that happened because I wasn’t listening to myself for a while. I kept saying “yes” or thinking “ah whatever, It’ll be over.” for way too long. It was as if my body had to step in and say, “it’s time to listen to yourself, it’s time to change.”

That’s when I decided to redefine in my mind, what makes a woman sexually empowered.

It has nothing to do with how often or who you have sex with. It’s an inner sense of self, a set of guidelines, the openness to learn about all of your desires, fears, and what you like and don’t like. It’s a promise to never abandon yourself and to follow what makes you happy. It means to continually practice listening to how your body responds to certain things. It means to become familiar with your menstrual cycle, make your own choices when it comes to birth control and self-grooming. It means to learn how to say what you like. It means to understand that sounds are an energy being released through your body and not something that is “thought about or timed”. To have sex as often or little as you want. It means to learn about your anatomy and what your vagina looks like. To be able to say the word vagina, without embarrassment or shame. To know that pleasure doesn’t only come from sex but also candles, salt baths, dancing, fuzzy blankets, facials, long talks with friends, or going to sleep in clean sheets and a t-shirt.

You already are a sexually empowered woman, it’s just that we have to clear the fog of all the “should’s” we have learned in society in order to tap into it.

Stop Apologizing For Having Sex

Ladies-actually, no, not just the women, this one is for men too. We all need to not only hear this, but listen to this.

I found myself downtown, sitting on the courthouse steps. The same courthouse I went to (turns out I was supposed to go the justice center instead, but ah, that’s another story for another time) when I had to file a PFA (protection from abuse) just a few months prior. My lungs were wide open from the hot yoga class I just took as the wintery cold wind swept in through my chest. I sat next to an ex of mine on the courthouse stairs as he smoked a cigarette. “I know you weren’t experienced in committed relationships…but”

He began to bring up the past-before our past. B.C.: Before Commitment. Before the first date. Before the relationship, before even dating. Why does this matter? I don’t know. Why did he then pursue and ask for commitment with me after knowing my sexual history (that was obviously a major problem to him)? I don’t know. Apparently, it’s wrong to be in relationships if you’ve had sex with other people, before that relationship. Maybe my emotions are charged right now because of all of the “you’ll go to hell for premarital sex,” lectures I heard as a kid.

I found myself, buried under a jacket, and cold, sweaty yoga clothes apologizing for having sex. With someone else. When I was single. I don’t know about you guys, but until we establish together, that we are TO-GE-THER, you are not in a relationship and therefore, can see other people. Ok, thank you for coming to my TED talk. Now, obviously, each situation has strings attached and different factors that make up the situation itself, just like this one. Or if you’re in a relationship that’s not open and are cheating, that’s an entirely different talk we can have another time. What I’m talking about here is single people having sex & the notion that some men get where they think just because they texted you for a week, you are theirs. Anyways, as I was walking back to my car, through the ghost town brick streets, I began to think about this.

Call this a feminist rant (as if that’s a bad thing), I don’t care. My roommate said to me once, “Be careful, because although you both have the freedom to have sex, it’s always the woman that gets the blame.” It’s true, I’ve lived it and have watched other women as well. For Christ’s sake, I was hit by a man because I told him that we (me and this other lady friend of mine the guy also once pursued) didn’t owe him sex and/or a report card, chart, list, or explanation on who and why we’ve slept with who we have.” End of story. He was not amused, obviously, and then I ended up having to get a protection order for that and many reasons. But those fucking empowering, “women don’t owe you their body just because they smiled at you once or laughed at your joke,” words that came from my mouth that night was worth all of it.

Stop apologizing for having sex. If you’re with a man who ever so slightly judges you for your sexual history or past-leave. I’m not kidding. Although we’ve worked so hard for sexual liberation, and it exists, we still collectively have perceived notions we need to let go of. Anddd we don’t need anyone reacting negatively to our sexual past on top of it.

So, here is a list of FACTS for the #stillsadlysexist world.

  1. You don’t owe a resume of your sexual history to anybody. Unless you feel the need to tell someone, that’s not their business.
  2. You don’t owe sex to your significant other because a.) they are in the mood and will pout if you don’t have sex with them, b.) because they fixed your headlights or flat tire, or taken out the trash c.) they are insecure about other men and think that by sleeping with. you or “being all PDA” will reassure their insecurities that THEY need to sort out, not you, girl. You have sex when you BOTH are into it.
  3. You don’t need to feel embarrassed, ashamed, or apologetic for having been with more partners in the past than your current partner.
  4. You don’t ever need to “give in” or “get it over with.”

If you want more of these facts, check out the list at the end of my blog post Sex and Shame. And, what I’ve learned is that there is a MAJOR difference between being a sexually empowered woman vs having casual sex you’re doing in order to feel sexually empowered. Maybe that will be Friday’s blog post.

Trust me, I’ve done all of the above and all it leads to is the worst PTSD episodes and resentment in your life. Listen, being sexually liberated doesn’t mean you need to force yourself to be someone you’re sexually not. Meaning, if you are a committed relationship gal-then only accept that! And if you are more free spirited-then be that! What it comes down to is this: The only times apologies need to follow sex is when you are apologizing to yourself after abandoning yourself for someone else’s desires.

Stop apologizing for having sex.

Relapse, Recovery, and Figuring Out If It Is A Problem

I had a wake-up call. Now, listen, I’ve had a lot of wake up calls. Many of sorts. Like waking up on a couch without a clue whose home I was in. Waking up to the fact how sick I was when my best friend since the first grade held my hands in a local Starbucks, with tears in her eyes, begging me to get better. Or the wake-up call I had when I was being rushed to the Mission Viejo Hospital for my heart rhythms after starving, being underweight, overdosing on laxatives, and throwing up anything I ate for months on end. Not even the Advanced Pedialyte or Coconut Water with Himaylan Salt save me at that point. Waking up to how my life was constantly being put on pause when quitting college to attend an eating disorder treatment center (twice). Waking up with Pacifico bottles, a burning throat, and cigarette butts by my bedside. Waking up during the middle of sex at 4 am with some man at his house in Delaware. Delaware. (I live in PA for context.) Waking up after my flight landed and groggily walking through the San Diego airport, still intoxicated, and was lost. There are more extreme wake-up calls that I’ve had, but this would be a long post if I listed them all. 

After each one of these wake-up calls, I swore to myself that I was going to change. I meant it, and I really believed it. “This is it, this time is really it, I can’t live like this anymore,” I’d say to myself, usually after the times that my body took a hard hit from my actions.

I quit it all for a while. I got into yoga, continued school, focused on healing my body, and started this blog. Drinking happened occasionally, but nothing like before. Until I woke up the morning after this Halloween, not remembering much of the night before. Except for the part when my ex walked me down the street that night saying, “You’ve got to stop, you need to take care of yourself, Fiona.”

That morning, I sat up, climbed out of bed, and brushed off that vague memory. I sat down at my laptop, read my horoscopes off of three different websites, and swallowed a handful of vitamin tablets with black coffee. #Health .

I stared blankly at the screen, ruminating on the thought, “How do you know if you have a problem? I think I relapsed. Yet, did I even have a problem before? I mean, what’s the difference between having fun, being young, versus being addicted?” I grabbed my phone and texted one of my brothers. (Who would be a therapist because he’s the most honest, empathetic, insightful person you’ll ever meet.)

He then called me. We talked on the phone for almost an hour. I told him everything I had been avoiding acknowledging myself. Sure, I was taking herbal remedies to heal the weekly fevers I was having, but I wasn’t eating basic nutrients. Sure, I wouldn’t drink much around my friends, but I’d pour wine in a reusable water bottle and secretly drink it before or after. Sure, I wasn’t smoking weed as much, but I was taking Xanax from my friend’s medicine cabinet and drinking with it. Those substances weren’t used for social reasons, they were used for “medicine” to cope with stress.

I didn’t want to admit that I needed help. I especially didn’t want to admit it on here because this blog is supposed to be helping others climb out of this kind of cycle. I was ashamed, embarrassed, and afraid of what my friends, family, and readers of this blog would think. I strongly believe in practicing what you preach. For heaven’s sake, I wrote an entire workbook on anxiety and didn’t take any of the advice. My friend Nick and I were recently laughing about how the book should’ve been titled, “All The Advice I Had, But Didn’t Take.” ….Well, I sure am taking it now.

After talking to my brother, I knew I had relapsed, needed to relearn coping patterns, and that I had a problem. Obviously, I cannot give you my credibility for using healthy coping tools over the past few months that I’ve mentioned on here. I’ve used them in the past to get back on track, and I’m back to using them again to do the same. But what I can give you is honesty, what I’ve learned from this, and what is currently helping me now.

Here’s some thoughts:

  1. Never abandon yourself. Most of us would rather feel resentment while giving in to others than the shame that comes with saying no to them. I was saying yes to things I wanted to say no to in all areas of life. And after I would give into them, I’d feel this anger at myself and them, which is also usually when I’d numb out. I was muting my intuition with eating disordered behaviors, Xanax, and alcohol instead of listening to what I needed at the time. 
  2. If you have to question whether it’s a problem. It is. Furthermore, it’s not necessarily about figuring out if you have an addiction problem, but rather asking yourself, “Is this substance interfering with my everyday life? Is it helping or halting me from pursuing my dreams?” Or ask what my brother mentioned, “If I found out my friend or family member was doing this, would I be concerned?”
  3. You can’t do it alone. Now, personally, I don’t believe AA or other 12 Step groups are the only way. Maybe it’s my own personal bias from being raised in an Irish Catholic family, but anytime I hear someone say, “this is the only way to be healed, and you are lost until you follow it,” I become suspicious. I’ve known a lot of people who didn’t do the 12 steps and have been clean for years. I’ve also known people who have been going to the 12 Steps and have been clean for years. What seems to be the common denominator on both sides is this: Community and being part of a group with the same vision, the same meaning of life, and what they want to make out of their lives. It could be a group of people at a yoga studio, a trauma group, a book club that addresses recovery, the 12 step program, or Refuge Recovery (A Buddhist recovery group.) There are so many options out there, but by being in a support group, you are inspired, held accountable, and learn from others. Personally, I just started going to an outpatient support group that runs during the week. There’s no shame in getting help, even if it’s for the 17th time, and you are never “not sick enough” to get help.
  4. Ditch the phone. Use airplane mode. The constant communication, notifications, and distractions had been a major source of stress for me. I’d have so much guilt about not responding to texts and emails right away, it kept me too much inside my head. For an hour, a day, a week, try taking a break. They can wait.
  5. Simplify your life & take care of your body. List three priorities you have right now, including your health. Writing this down clears your head. Focus on what your body needs, not what you think it wants. It’s easier said than done, trust me. Because, if you suffering physically, it’s going to be difficult to function mentally.

These are the five things that I’ve learned recently. They are things I am incorporating in my life right now. I used to have shame about relapsing, admitting it, especially after after having those wake-up calls and making those promises. But what I learned is that it’s better to be honest, and get help, rather than giving up.

Breaking Anxiety Agreements Workbook- Why I Decided To Write This

Anxiety, Anxiety, Anxiety. We hear about it all the time. There are different types of anxiety and different causes. The word in itself alone can bring up fear for us. Weirdly, if you think about it, anxiety is just …anxiety. It’s there for a reason: survival instincts. It’s there to keep us alive. However, it can bleed into other areas of life other than just survival and that’s when it gets messy.

I still get anxious. Like, REALLY anxious. I’m not going to stand up here and say “I used to have anxiety, but I no longer do, and here’s how to…” Nah, nah. In fact, I’m going to admit, over the past few months, I resorted back to old ways I used to cope with anxiety.

I go into it more in next week’s post, but to give you a summary: I relapsed. A lot of life’s challenges knocked me down this past fall and instead of getting back up- I would resort to things to knock myself out. The areas in my life that were once stable, began crashing down. I was constantly getting sick and instead of using the sources and knowledge I had to cope with these things, I had a “fuck-it” kind of attitude and went back to old ways. I hid my habits, became distant, flat, and lost interest in everything.

This workbook includes the tools, awareness, and knowledge that I wish I had taken. Honestly, I have been avoiding putting this book out for a while because I would’ve felt like a hypocrite if I did. How could I lead others towards the light, if I wasn’t doing the work myself? So, today, I am using these self-awareness techniques when it comes to breaking away from anxiety and destructive coping behaviors. I hope that these tips will help you, too, climb out of the darkness. Yesterday doesn’t matter, today does.

With Love,

Fiona

Here Is A Link To My Book, Breaking Anxiety Agreements.