"Before the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, I shared my mental health issues publicly for the first time. It wasn't easy to admit I wasn't perfect. But opening up took a huge weight off my back. It made life easier. Now I'm opening up again. I want people to know they're not alone. So many of us are fighting our mental health demons now more than ever.
The thing is -- and people who live with mental health issues all know this -- it never goes away. You have good days and bad. But there's never a finish line. I've done so many interviews after Rio where the story was the same: Michael Phelps opened up about depression, went into a treatment program, won gold in his last Olympics and now is all better. I wish that were the truth. I wish it were that easy. But honestly -- and I mean this in the nicest way possible -- that's just ignorant. Somebody who doesn't understand what people with anxiety or depression or post-traumatic stress disorder deal with have no idea."
- Michael Phelps
The above quote is from a recent article Michael Phelps wrote for espn.com. To read the full article go here.
When I came across this article, I felt a sense of relief and self-love wash over me. Although I work hard at loving myself and my own mental health journey, sometimes you just need to hear someone say, "It's okay. I get it."
While this website is all about healing, both individually and as a collective, I haven't said much about my own healing journey. I often see other speakers and writers putting their own stories out there, raw and gritty, and sharing their full truth. It always makes my heart drop a little and I feel like I'm failing. I feel scared and weak and like my self-love is a sham.
Of course, the truth is much more complicated - deep down I do fear parts of me are unworthy of love, but at the same time, acknowledging I'm not ready to share them is it's own form of self-love.
One of the main reasons I don't like to go deep into my mental health is because it began so early for me. As I was learning the stigma around mental health, I was also learning that I was one of those people. I didn't know why I was filled with anger, sadness, and uncontrollable anxiety. I only knew it was considered abnormal and was something to be ashamed of.
I worked hard to "fit in" and act nominal, which only caused all that I was suppressing to come out in explosive ways. I became self-destructive, which grew into more feelings I needed to suppress, which led to more smothering, which spiraled on and on until my family insisted I seek professional help.
I began therapy when I was 22, and I was so sure this was something I would be shunned for I didn't tell anyone. A lot has changed since then, and I am so grateful to all who speak out to normalize mental health. Things are changing, and the change is thankfully picking up momentum.
I'm now 38, and the landscape outside of me has changed in infinite ways. But the landscape inside of me hasn't yet caught up. I have not yet untangled all my deeply rooted associations between anxiety/depression/anger and shame/weakness/exile. Because of things that happened when I was younger, parts of me still fear I will end up alone and rejected if I share my full self.
I hope to one day love myself so fully, and so completely, that I can share all of me without fear.
And to give myself a little nudge in that direction, I will share a story I've never told before. When I was about 10 years old I had a friend over. She was playing with a flute I had and I got mad she wouldn't give it back. I became so enraged I hit the flute and smashed it into her mouth.
As soon as I did it I felt ashamed. When her lip began to bleed I recoiled in horror at my self. I couldn't believe I'd lost control like that. I couldn't believe I'd hurt my friend and made her cry. Later, when my parents found out from her parents what I'd done, my parents yelled at me. They reiterated to me what I had already told myself - there was something wrong with me, I was a horrible person, and I deserved the shame that was eating me up inside.
I understand now, on a rational level, that the adults guiding me (who both had anger issues) were sending me confusing messages. I was being told one thing - your anger is bad - while being shown that their anger is normal and acceptable. However, on an emotional level, all I see is what I did wrong.
The parts of myself that are hardest for me to shine a light on, the ones that line my gut like oil, are not the ones about what happened to me. They're the ones where I'm the person who caused the pain. They're the ones where I lost control. Where I lashed out, physically or verbally, before I could stop myself. And where, later in life, I turned that buried anger on myself.
They're the ones where I can't give forgiveness because I don't think I deserve it.
But I'm trying. I'm pulling at that thread, and eventually, the whole inner monologue of shame and guilt will unravel and let go. And what sweet relief it will be when it does so.
I am currently reading The Artists Way and on chapter 6. This chapter is all about rediscovering a sense of abundance. Two of the tasks were to find five flowers or leaves I loved, and then to find five stones or pebbles.
I really thought this sounded silly and was putting it off. I didnt believe I would feel more abundant by going through the yard and picking up leaves.
But as I went around this morning, drinking my coffee, admiring how the light changes with the rising sun, listening to the birds, I felt quite happy. I loved noticing all the colors and how each little bud really is a gift from nature. I felt a genuine sense of delight as I bent over the soil and looked for abundance in the earth around me.
As I collected my garden treasures I thought of how the author says we will often think a task we are given is silly and pointless. This is because we are so conditioned to disregard the delicate joys of life and to focus on the big, heavy problems at hand.
I now have my colorful collection of leaves and rocks on my desk. I cannot say this solved any problems for me or changed my situation at all. But for a moment this morning, I did forget everything and held a soft pink petal as the wind caressed my face. Small miracles. That's all I got right now.
I am wishing you your own small miracle today and everyday for the rest of this week.
For this new week, I ask the Creator of the Universe to guide me to my highest potential.
I ask the Divine source that created mountains that reach to the clouds and flowers that bow to the wind to imbue me with love and guidance.
I ask the Divine source, the source of all that is Holy and loving, to fill every breath I take with relief and rejuvenation. I ask my Creator to breathe with me, so that I may breathe with the power of the Universe.
For this new week, I ask my Creator to help me to breathe out my fear and to breathe in inspiration and strength. I ask that my mind and body be saturated with courage and healing with every breath I take.
I ask, that for this new week, not only may I be blessed in unexpected ways, but may I also be a blessing to others. As I feel myself align with the infinite wisdom and mystery of the cosmos, may I radiate that magnificent healing energy out to others.
For this new week, I ask to be comforted when I am hurting, held when I am tired, and reassured when I am scared. I ask for my Creator to remind me of its infinite love for me, and I ask this with the knowing that the moment I ask, I am heard and help is on the way.
This visualization was recorded as Episode 21 of my mini-meditation podcast. If you prefer to listen to it rather than read the text, click the button below the image!
Take a deep breath
Visualize a white light pouring down into the top of your head
It melts down all through your mind
It melts through worries and concerns
It melts through self-doubt and insecurity
It melts through stress and fatigue
May you be well
May you be loved
May your loved ones be well
May you find all you need for good health
May you receive all you need at this time
May you find yourself surrounded by love and compassion
May you release stress and find your inner strength
May you be well
May you be loved
May your days be filled with support and positive energy
For all you are going through right now, I am sending love and blessings.
Last night, I went out with two lovely ladies for Halloween and we happened upon a burlesque show.
I had seen photos from this particular troupe of girls and their show before. From the snapshots, I thought the shows were silly fun, and everyone was meant to laugh and revel in feelings of freedom and self-expression.
What I didn't realize was that the shows were a powerful experience in self-love. So powerful that I'm still thinking about it today, feeling the impact of what I saw seeping deeper into me.
It wasn't until I saw it in person that I understood what was actually happening in those photos. In the photos, it seems as if the women perform and everyone is apart from them, watching, maybe gaping, maybe laughing uncomfortably. In person, none of that was happening. There was laughter, but we weren't laughing at anyone - we were laughing with them and with each other because it was so damn fun.
Being there, I came to understand how dynamic the whole thing is. Nobody is just "watching". The audience is as much a part of the show as the girls are. The energy of the audience, and their willingness to let go and cheer and scream, is a vital part of the experience.
This sense of togetherness, of sharing in this as a group, is one part of what made it feel alive and electric. The other part is how empowered the women are.
In my life, I have always associated empowered women with perfect bodies. It's the message we're forcefed over and over. We're told that until you look perfect, you can't claim your perfection.
But last night, I saw something totally different.
I saw back fat and cellulite. I saw wide hips and big booties. I saw small boobs and small booties.
I saw it all, and it all felt so damn perfect I can't even describe how powerful it was. Not one woman was ashamed of any part of her body. Each woman was sexual and confident. Free and feisty. Nobody was asking for permission to exude ownership of their bodies and their beauty. They owned it, and we all bowed down in awe.
And on top of that, they owned that room.
As they undressed, there was never a sense their sexuality was for us. It was always for them. It was theirs to do with as they pleased. Even as they walked through the room, throwing gloves on people, touching people's shoulders, swinging their breasts around, there was never a feeling things were about to get out of hand. There was no question who was in control.
I feel cheesy admitting this, but thinking about it today makes me a little emotional. I feel as if someone has given me permission to love myself. To really love myself. I can no longer look in the mirror after last night's show and start picking apart my perceived flaws. It feels so wrong now. It feels like a disservice to the goddesses I witnessed. It feels like a lie, like a crazy lie that needs to be cast out of my mind.
I had no idea seeing a burlesque show would have such an impact on me. I wish I had better pictures to share with you - I was so in the moment I didn't want to stop and get out my phone.
I am eternally grateful to the bold and amazing women who performed last night. You are my new standard for perfection. You are my goal for empowerment and femininity. Thank you.
The following are some simple tools to keep on hand for anxious moments.
The first is a calming statement that will bring you into the present moment and help you to see things different. The second is an Inner Peace & Relief Cheat Sheet. It's a one page sheet for you to print out and keep on hand. The third is a six minute audio with empowering affirmations.
In this moment, I am safe.
I feel unsafe because of past experiences. In the past, things happened that made me feel unsafe and afraid. My brain has carried those past stories into the present, and it is distorting my perspective.
My brain is not doing this to sabotage me. In fact, it’s trying to protect me from being hurt and afraid again. But each day, I am growing stronger and my brain is learning to see things more clearly. Each day, I find more acceptance for how I feel and for the anxiety that is showing me how to love myself more. In this moment, I feel anxious, but that’s okay. It’s only for this moment. It will pass. It always does.
I just need to take a deep breath and let it out with a sigh.
Inner Peace & Relief Cheat Sheet
Download the following one page cheat sheet and print it out. If you can, fill it in by hand (rather than typing). When we write things out we take them in deeper and fuller. Hand writing also activates our brain more than typing, helping us to really get creative and find answers we didn't know were in us.
The following affirmations will reinforce and retrain your brain for confidence and empowerment. This six minute audio can be used in the morning, for a brief meditation, while driving to work, or any time you need a boost. These affirmations are for your solar plexus, which is your seat of self power. They are from the Chakra Balancing and Healing package.
For more support with your anxiety, I have several healing packages in my store. They are between $4.50 and $19.99.