My vulnerability is no longer my weakness.

Brene Brown is my new hero!! Her talks and books on vulnerability are brilliant. She is hilarious, blunt and at times it feels like she is reading my mind. Everything she said resonated with me so deeply.

There is a passage in one of her books where she talks about when she was on stage and asked the crowd, “How many people struggle with vulnerability because they see it as a weakness?” Of course most of the crowd raised their hands.

Then she asks “When you see people on stage how many people thought they were being courageous?” Again the crowd raises their hands.

I don’t know about you but standing in front of a crowd would have to be one of the most vulnerable positions you could put yourself in. I’m pretty sure 99% of society would all say the same. And we all see that as being so courageous, yet still see vulnerability as a weakness.

It blows my mind!!

How is it that we can admire these people for their bravery in leaving themselves completely vulnerable, yet when someone opens up about mental health struggles, or opens up about having feelings for someone or wears their heart on their sleeves and shows emotions; people look at them as if they are weak.

In all of these examples, people leave themselves completely vulnerable. Open to rejection and criticism. Yet one side is admired and the other side is judged so harshly.

I’ve felt both sides during my journey and after hearing that example from Brene, it’s made me realise that all this vulnerability I’m showing is not a weakness at all. I see it now as pure bravery and strength.

On one side I’ve received so many messages of support and admiration, not only by friends and family, but total strangers. I have been told how brave and courageous and strong I am to be able to open up and be so raw and honest with my struggles and trauma.

And I’ve also seen the other side where I’ve showed emotion and cried in front of people, and they’ve seen it as a sign of weakness. Criticised me for not being strong enough to hold on and cry when no one is around.

This makes no sense to me. How is it that I’m brave for writing about crying, yet when people see me cry, I’m viewed as weak??

Another quote from her book “Only when we’re brave enough to explore the darkness, will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

This resonates big time with me. The last 6 months of my journey has completely revolved around exploring my darkness. I’ve dug deep and gone to places I didn’t want to. The deepest darkest places I could find.

And while discovering this darkness, it really has illuminated the power of the light within me. As I’ve healed my darkness and allowed the light to shine through, it’s opened my eyes to a whole new world out there. A whole new me that I didn’t know was inside of me.

See I’ve always put myself into a category that made me feel weak and powerless. I’m one of “those” ones. The reserved, the emotional, the thinkers. One of those ones that always gets called depressed. That always gets called rude. That’s looked down upon because we get nervous in social situations.

As I empowered the light within me, I started realising that all of these traits I have, are not weaknesses. They are my strengths.

It’s a strength to be reserved. It allows me to sit back and analyse situations before jumping in head first. It allows me to watch people and their behaviours so I can determine who I feel comfortable socialising with.

It’s a strength to be in touch with my emotions. Now that I have learnt to handle the stronger emotions I feel, it gives me a sense of strength to ride these feelings and embrace them. Yes I still cry. Yes I still get upset. However I no longer allow them to completely take hold of me. And I love that I feel emotions so strongly. I’d rather love incredibly deeply than not at all.

It’s a strength to be a thinker. Now that I have found ways to stop myself over-thinking situations, I actually really enjoy my deep thoughts that I have. Especially when I’m running. I explore deep within my consciousness and discover things I never knew about myself. I analyse things I’ve heard or read and discover how I feel about them. It’s fun and exciting now rather than tiring and draining when I was over-thinking situations and conversations I’d been in.

I’m not actually depressed and I’m not actually rude. (Ok yes I can be incredibly rude sometimes when people deserve it) however I’m social situations I’m not being rude by not talking much. I get incredibly nervous in crowds and especially around people I haven’t met before. But this doesn’t make me rude. And yes I have previously suffered from depression however in the words of my Psychologist;

“You’re not currently depressed. You’ve suffered many losses in a short amount of time and you’re grieving. But you’re seeking help and making changes. You’re motivated with running and setting new goals each week. When you’re in a stage of depression you don’t take these steps.”

Just because I’m in introvert, doesn’t mean I’m depressed. Just because I don’t feel comfortable in social situations, doesn’t mean I’m depressed.

Looking back on my life I realise I’ve always been so ashamed for being “different.” I’ve spent countless years wishing I could be extroverted because I thought that was normal. Hoping that I can wake up and suddenly feel powerful in crowds, to get a rush from meeting new people and to feel on a high after being in social situations. I’ve always believed these people are stronger than me. Braver than me. Better than me.

But now that I’ve released this light inside of me, I realise that they aren’t stronger or braver or better than me. They are just different to me and that’s ok.

I now love the qualities that I have. In my previous blogs I’ve discussed this and stated I now accept who I am. Which was a huge step. Now I feel like I’m starting to embrace my qualities. Starting to love them and be excited by them.

I’m seeing my own vulnerabilities as strengths rather than weaknesses and it’s a powerful feeling.

Having the ability to be vulnerable is risky, scary and fucking hard. But it really is the only way to achieve anything and to move forward in life. It’s such a courageous thing to do and the feeling of empowerment you receive during the process is like having the brightest light shining from within you.

It’s a beautiful and brave thing to experience and I wouldn’t give that up for anything.

The sadness behind her smile

To be blunt and to the point, I’m having a shitty night.

I’ve been thinking about all the changes I’ve made over the last year. The endless effort and courage that has gone into making these changes.

The tears and the heartache it took to recognise and accept where I’ve been lacking in my life. Confronting myself with the things I’ve done wrong and the people I’ve hurt and taking ownership of my mistakes.

Walking into therapy each week and smashing through more walls and looking deep inside at the darkest parts of me. The countless hours spent reevaluating my life and where I stand. Facing my biggest fears and having the courage to take another step forward.

I’ve done all this and so much more. And I’m so proud of what I have achieved. I’m so proud of the person that I see in the mirror now. I’m the person I always knew I could be. The person I always dreamed of being.

But as I sit here tonight, all I can think is “What was the point of doing all of this?”

I’m still alone. I’m moving to Brisbane by myself. I picked up my keys to my new apartment today and the smile it gave me faded so quickly as I walked out and realised I had no one to share this joy with. I had no one to text. No one to call. No partner that was eagerly awaiting to hear from me.

And I can sit here and think rationally and know that all the work I’ve done is so worth it. And I can state that I am proud. And I know I’ll probably wake up tomorrow and be good again and be excited about the move and excited about the progress I’ve made. And I do know what the point of it all was.

But there’s that little voice nagging at me that just keeps repeating “What was the point of all of this when you still end up alone?” And it just won’t shut up tonight.

It’s making me so sad and frustrated and hurt. It’s making me question everything. It’s making me wish so badly to have my old life back. My life wasn’t meant to be like this. I don’t want my life to be like this.

I’m sad that today should have been exciting. But I’ve been wearing a fake smile all day. Pretending everything is ok. Putting on a brave face to hide the tears in my heart. Wearing that mask to hide the sadness that’s in my eyes.

Hiding from the sadness that’s behind my smile….

Letting go.

It’s at this point in my journey where I’ve realised I’m holding myself back from moving forward. And that’s because I’m holding on to people and things that are no longer good for me. But I just can’t seem to let go.

 

Is it fear? Worry? Self-doubt?

 

Probably a combination of all three and so much more.

 

Why is it, even when you know deep down that someone or something is no longer good for you, or doesn’t hold that place in your future anymore, you just can’t seem to take that final step and cut the strings? You hold on for dear life even though it causes you so much heartache and draws out the process of moving on.

I’ve recognised recently that I’m doing this with a few things/people in my life. It’s such a confronting thing to accept. And even harder to be honest with myself with the reasons why I’m still holding on.

The reality hit me because I’m moving next week. And I’m so excited about this change and my “new” life I’m beginning. But it also slapped me in the face, that I’m leaving my old life behind me.

I know that in taking this kind of step in my journey, I can’t take my old baggage with me. I’ve spent the last 6 months unpacking it all. Unloading the grief and the trauma. Spent countless sleepless nights stressing over it. Shed millions of tears and spent hours crying until there were no tears left. I’ve hit the darkest moments of my life where I genuinely thought I couldn’t cope any longer.

But in this time I’ve also worked tirelessly to heal from these losses. I’ve sought help from my therapist and spent hours upon hours with her to learn new ways to cope and new ways to heal myself. I’ve taken the time to take care of myself mentally and physically and found a routine of self love that has made me stronger and happier. I’ve found the strength to face my fears and confront these dark shadows in me that I’ve always allowed to rule my life. I’ve completely surrendered to this process.

The biggest thing I’m realising, and the biggest fear I’m facing right now. Is the fact that I have to let go of my old self. I’m no longer the person I was when I moved into this apartment. And I can’t take any of those bad habits with me. I have to force myself to start fresh. I have to believe in myself and be confident in the fact that I’m strong enough to do this without falling back into self hatred and self doubt. That I now have the ability to put my own needs on par with others rather than self sacrificing and putting them first.

I love the quote “If you don’t heal what hurt you, you’ll bleed on people who didn’t cut you.” This is the process I’ve been following for my new self. I can’t bring the old me along on this journey anymore. She’s bleeding onto the new me. Trying to work her way back in and hindering my process. And I can’t allow that to happen anymore.

I have to be brave and let go of the old me completely.

There’s also the issue of my ex. It’s been 7 months since she left me and during this time I’ve been filled completely with anger, hurt and hate. I’ve focused completely on trying to continue the relationship with our daughter and fighting to see her. That I’ve never stopped and taken the time to actually allow myself to accept that it’s over. I’ve grieved the loss of our family, but I’ve never grieved the loss of our relationship. I’ve never analysed how I actually feel about her. And it pains me, and I’m embarrassed to say, I still have feelings for her. I’ve been so distracted by the hurt, that I failed to see that love was still there.

We spent 6 years together. We have a beautiful daughter and were trying to have another. I truly thought we’d be together forever. As much as I’d like them to, those feelings don’t disappear quickly. The only thing that will allow me to heal and let go of those feelings, is time.

So moving forward into my new life, I can’t just turn off these feelings, but I can choose to let go of the hope I’ve been holding onto that things could be different. I’ve been holding on because I know how much it will hurt to let go. But this process of holding on is also hurting me much more than I’ve realised.

I have to be brave and let go of her.

There is another major factor that I’ve been holding onto that is hurting me, but I can’t even find the words to talk about it now. But I know in my heart that I have to be brave and let it go as well. I have to let go of the hope I’ve been holding onto that certain things could have turned out a different way.

This stage in my journey of letting go, is the most confronting and also the scariest. In a way it feels like it’s the final stage in the process. Not that I believe my journey will ever be over. I wholeheartedly believe now, that our lives are one big journey that should be cherished and looked at as a journey, not just a way of life.

But this feels like it’s the final step in this cycle of my journey. Like I’m coming out the other side of the most difficult and heartbreaking moments of my life.

It’s scary because I don’t know what’s on the other side. Fear of the unknown is making me want to hold back. But the exciting thing is, that the old me would have put off taking this step. Would have allowed fear and self doubt to take over. But the new me, yes she still has those fears, but she’s embracing them and facing them head on.

I’m excited for the unknown. I’m looking forward to seeing what is around the corner for me. And I can sit here with confidence and know that whatever challenges are thrown at me, I can conquer them all.

All of this makes me realise that letting go doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can be rewarding and refreshing and also open up so many amazing opportunities that you would never have had if you’re still looking backwards and holding onto the past.

So from now on my focus will be aimed solely at my daughters favourite movie quote “Let it go.”

Taking my power back

*Warning – sensitive trigger subject*

This will be the hardest blog I release. Opening up about the moment I had my power stolen from me.

But I feel like it’s going to be my most important one too. This week I took my power back and it’s the most amazing, and, well the most powerful feeling in the world.

It’s hard to even type the words as I’ve carried this burden for so long. The shame and the guilt. The feeling of powerlessness. I know I just need to spit it out… at 10 years old I was sexually abused.

I’m not going to go into details obviously. No one needs to read that.

25 years ago someone took my power from me. He took my innocence. He took my confidence. He took my ability to feel comfortable saying no. He took my trust. He took my feeling of safety. He took the feeling that humans are inherently good and kind.

He took everything good from me and replaced it with everything shit. Guilt. Shame. Self blame. Confusion. Mistrust. Fear. Defiance. Anger. Pain. Over bearing emotions that I could never find a way to cope with.

I truely feel that the person I was originally born to become, died that day. From that moment I was never going to be the same. He fundamentally changed my personality, my heart and my soul.

This is so difficult because I don’t want to talk about the fact that he’s had a lasting impact on me for 25 years. I don’t want to open up about the fact that even now when people I love touch me, it sometimes makes my skin crawl. I don’t want to admit that I still have nightmares. I don’t want to tell anyone that up until a few months ago I couldn’t accept compliments because my first thought was always “what do you want from me?” I don’t want to fess up that even hearing his name makes me feel sick. I don’t want to share the details of how I sometimes get a bad gut feeling around certain men that makes my heart race, my hands shake, I start to sweat and feel the walls closing in like I can’t escape.

I don’t want to share any of this. But this is the reality of my life. And the reality for so many others that have been through the same trauma. This is the lasting impact that this has on our lives.

But as of a few days ago when writing this, all of it changed. And I feel like a million pounds of weight have been lifted off my shoulders.

I was talking to my therapist about how I feel so powerless right now because my ex has total control over my life. How it sends me absolutely crazy every time she takes even more power from me. How I get so emotional about it and feel like I can’t find my way out. How I’ve always been triggered when people take my power away from me.

She asked if there was a time when I was a child where I feel I lost my power. Obviously the abuse came straight into my mind. I did try to stumble my way through a few other minor things because I was scared to step up and face my demons.

I stopped myself and there was silence for what felt like an eternity. I knew I had to face it. I knew this was my moment to deal with it. I knew I couldn’t carry it any longer.

I took a deep breath and said the words. The flood gates opened.

She suggested a few options we could try and I felt that the imagery work we’d used before sat best with me. A quick description of what happened was that I visualise up to the point where I started to know something was wrong. I then visualise “Adult Jess” stepping in and taking “little Jess” out of the situation and comforting her until she’s feeling ok and safe. Then “adult Jess” and my therapist walk back in and get everything off my chest that I’ve wanted and needed to say to him my whole life.

The entire experience was so difficult, yet so healing. Especially the point in which my therapist says to him that it’s his fault not mine and that it’s his guilt to carry for hurting me and for choosing to hurt others.

The feeling that’s burdened me the most is the guilt that I feel because I didn’t stop him and because I shut down to try and cope and didn’t tell anyone, he hurt others. And I have blamed myself for that my whole life.

Hearing those words that it’s not my burden to carry anymore, broke down so many walls I’ve had up. It shattered the weight I’ve always carried. It transferred all of the shit he gave me, and returned it back to him.

In that moment I felt that I took back all the good he stole from me. I took back my innocence. I took back my confidence. I took back feeling comfortable to say no. I took back my ability to trust. I took back my feeling of being safe. But most importantly, I took back my power.

I walked out of that office feeling like a new person. I barely recognise myself. I feel entirely different. It’s like I actually see the world differently. I can’t find the words to explain it properly. But it feels good. It feels amazing actually.

And by no means do I feel that I just walk away and forget it happened. Like I’m magically better and won’t ever think about it again. I will always carry the scars from this trauma. I will always remember. I’ll probably always get the random flash backs and the nightmares. But I’m hoping that these things will lessen over time now that I’ve faced it and feel myself healing.

For the first time in my life, I don’t feel like a victim anymore. I feel like a survivor. And that is incredibly important to me. I faced one of the most horrendous things a child can face, and today I stood my ground and took my power back!

I’ve been going back and forth in deciding whether to write a blog on this. I don’t mind sharing these details with the hundreds of people that read this that I don’t know and never will. But it’s especially hard to share such a traumatic event with people I know. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. Or to look at me with pity. Or to feel uncomfortable around me because they don’t know what to say. No one can say or do anything to take away the pain so please don’t feel that you need to “fix” anything. I’m sharing this because I know the worst thing about being abused is that you feel like you’re the only one.

So I want to stand up and say, you’re not alone! If we’ve never met, or if we’re best mates, or if we work together or if we fell out years ago and have never spoken since, I don’t care… you’re not alone in this. If you need to reach out then I’m here. You’re not alone.

The other emotion you carry is the guilt and self blame.

So I want to stand up and say, it wasn’t your fault!

The only person to blame in this situation, is the perpetrator. No one else. It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my parents fault. It wasn’t society’s fault. It wasn’t his parents fault. He alone made that choice to hurt me. Him. No one else.

I also wanted to share this as I made a promise to myself when I started this blog, that I was always going to be open, raw and honest. And this is the most significant trauma in my life and has impacted me so much. So standing up and facing it, will have an enormous impact on my journey.

And hiding what happened is a way of him still holding power over me. So I’m standing up now and saying no more.

“You, you piece of shit, no longer hold any of my power.” It’s mine!!!

Guilt, shame and self-blame

I read an article recently that if you’ve been in relationships where difficult things were hidden or not spoken about, this causes you to feel shame and loneliness about struggling through difficult times. That also 90% of my generation grew up in a family structure where children should be seen and not heard, has caused us to try and mask our emotions instead of release them.

 

It seems to be, that the common perception of society these days that showing emotions makes you weak, especially for men. I don’t understand this concept at all because opening up and showing emotions is one of the most difficult things you can do. You leave yourself vulnerable and open to judgement and criticism. How is that being weak? I have been doing this more than ever these last few months and it has been the most difficult process I’ve faced. 

 

I’ve just come out of a relationship where I was belittled almost every day for being “weak” and “too emotional.” I was laughed at. Told I was being ridiculous. Told I needed help. She even said that the only reason she started dating me was because she thought I was broken and she wanted to fix me. Wow what a confidence boost that is. If I had a dollar for every time in that relationship I heard the words “There’s no point getting upset over anything, just have a bottle of wine and get over it” I’d be a millionaire.

 

Looking back and knowing that I’m so much stronger now than I was then, I know I’d never stand for such disrespectful words to be spoken to me. But when you’re in that cycle, it’s so hard to stand up for yourself and get out. When someone literally laughs in your face when you get upset, it makes you feel so utterly worthless.

 

A few days after we found out I’d miscarried the first time, she saw me upset and her exact words were “Urgh what are you crying for now?” My response “I’m upset because we lost our baby.” Her response “Well crying won’t change that so get over it and we can try again.”

 

After our second loss I was sitting on the kitchen floor bawling my eyes out. I couldn’t believe it happened again. My oh so loving and supportive partner walks in “I don’t want our daughter seeing this so I’m taking her over to Mums so you can be alone and have some space.” So now we’re teaching our daughter too that it’s not ok to show emotions??? And tell me who in the world would want to be alone after finding out such news?

 

After our 3rd loss I cried in front of her once. Then I shut down and hid my emotions because I couldn’t cope with being made to feel worthless and stupid again. So I didn’t grieve properly. I just blocked it all and threw myself into running.

 

I can see now that her way of blocking emotions and not dealing with the difficult parts of life, is the easy and “weak” way of getting through each day. I found that blocking the grief was so much easier than dealing with it. 

 

I used to do that before I learnt to express my emotions and having a lifetime of built up shit that I didn’t deal with, led me to a point in my life where I felt I could barely cope. I had such a back log of emotions that I had blocked, that when I finally started releasing them it was incredibly overwhelming.

 

When starting to release these emotions and deal with them, I realised just how much shame and guilt I carry for even feeling these emotions. And that makes it so much harder to deal with. The feeling that there is something wrong with me just because I wear my heart on my sleeve. The feeling of guilt and that I’m a burden on the people in my life. The feeling of shame that my life isn’t “perfect” like certain others that put on a front pretending that their life is perfect.

 

No one’s life is perfect. Everyone feels emotions. Everyone has bad days. Everyone feels sad sometimes. Everyone cries. So why it that the people that are real and show these emotions is are labelled as weak??? And the people that hide these emotions and are “fake” about their lives, are celebrated???

 

Again it just seems like society is going backwards. We value people being fake over people being real. We belittle people for showing emotion rather than celebrating their courage to be vulnerable. We give more credence to materialistic goods rather than time with people we care for.

 

The self-blame that I have always put onto myself is something I struggle with every day. I’ve found it easier to take responsibility for other people’s shitty actions, rather than having the courage to stand up and say no it’s not ok that you treat me that way. When you carry so much shame and guilt, it almost feels better to take the blame on yourself, because your self-worth, and self-confidence is non-existent. You feel like you deserve to be treated that way. And when you’ve also done this your whole life, it’s hard to break the habit. 

 

What I’ve realised very quickly that there is three ways people react when you finally step up and start voicing that you don’t like being treated a certain way. 1. They fight back and try to put the blame back on me by bringing up my faults and trying to bring me back down again. 2. They defend their actions and try to blame others or make excuses for shitty behaviour. 3. They reflect on the situation and will take responsibility for their actions and apologise whole heartedly without making excuses. 

 

What I’m working through with my therapist is how to accept that all 3 responses are ok. That some people aren’t ready to admit when they have hurt someone and that is ok. That is just the place they are in right now. It doesn’t make it ok that their actions hurt me, but its ok that they aren’t ready to take responsibility yet. It’s really difficult to find a healthy balance between recognising that their actions were not ok, and accepting that it happened and moving forward, but it’s something I’m slowly working through and getting used to. 

 

This journey is teaching me so much about myself, about others and about life in general. I’m experiencing every emotion under the sun, from pure bliss to absolute heart break and endless despair. What I’m realising is that even though making changes and leaving yourself vulnerable is the hardest thing I have faced, I would rather face it and conquer it and go through all of these difficulties, than staying the way I was. I’m sick and tired of not being true to myself. I’m sick and tired of letting people walk over me. I’m sick and tired of taking on all the blame from others. 

 

Making changes is hard, but you know what’s even worse? Staying the same!!!