Everyone’s Healing Journey is Different – Let’s Discuss Ours

Hi everybody, welcome. Happy New Year. It is New Years Eve and this is the global community for adult survivors of adverse childhood experiences, living with complex trauma. If tis you or you’re not even sure if that is you, maybe you endured some adverse childhood experiences and your life has been a little bit or a lot difficult leading up until now. Maybe you’re struggling in your relationships, maybe your relationship with money, ther’s something that you wish was different. You’re struggling to keep a job or to get that perfect job or to feel like if you’re worth receiving good things or you’re worse good relationships or you just keep attracting toxic people. Your relationship with your children is strained, your physical health is failing, maybe there’s cancer, heart disease, stroke, autoimmune disease, high blood pressure, you’re really struggling in like a maybe a spiritual way, like a your relationship with God or your higher power is something that is really, really difficult for you and you’re very confused and you’re kind of in the middle of a faith crisis and just your friendships are lacking or not what you wish they were and your family of origin relationships are not something that you want to be a part of because they cause you to feel suicidal or frustrated or bad all the time and if that’s you, you’re in the right place, we’ve been showing up here since 2014 and I do my very best to answer questions and to have topics that are relevant to you in your own healing journey and we all have a different healing journey, everyone’s journey is different and everyone’s journey is not only different, but it goes through seasons like peaks and valleys and when we happen to be in those valleys, in the darkest times, we think that’s how it’s gonna stay forever. So if we’re struggling during the holidays, we’re absolutely positive, if we’re living with CPTSD symptoms that we’re gonna be struggling during the holidays forever or if we struggle right around Morther’s Day or Father’s Day, then we’re positive that we’re going to be struggling like that around those times of year forever, that’s how it’s always gonna be and it feels very real and our body shuts down maybe we’re exhausted, maybe we keep getting sick. We’re in therapy, but we’re not even sure if our therapists are able to help us because maybe they’re not trauma-informed, maybe they’re not aware of adverse childhood experiences, childhood trauma that you endured and they’re not connecting the dots with what’s going on with you now present day. Maybe you’re living with an eating disorder or you have an addiction or you have suicidal ideation, maybe you’re struggling with gambling or overspending or some other form of numbing, stuffing or avoiding and maybe your therapist isn’t sure if what’s going on present day is connected to something a long time ago, but you’re pretty sure it is, this is… these are conversations we can have and I want to talk about how each of our journey is different and how not only are each of our healing journeys different, but they go through seasons and the season that we were in a year ago or last week or today isn’t the season that we’re going to be in maybe next week, next month or next year and just a way to sort of look at that, just giving very real examples. So if any of this is resonating for you, great, welcome, we do our best to welcome everybody personally here, when you tune in for the live chat, if we skip over you for any reason, please know it’s not personal, we are reaching people in a hundred and eighty countries, there are over 5,000 people here on this channel you know, maybe only 50 to a hundred of you show up at any given time, but that’s still fifty or a hundred, even if it’s just 30 it’s difficult and some time… and I just don’t want you to ever feel as though I’m not grateful that you’re here and that you’re not welcome here because you are welcome here and I am grateful that you’re here, even if I’m not able to have all of our volunteers welcoming you personally or spending time with you personally. So that’s something that’s come up recently in the last week or so and I’ve had somebody that is volunteering also to step up and help out with welcoming, but I want to say thank you to Shannon who’s always very welcoming. I want to say thank you to Poppy who is diligent to post all of the crisis information, we absolutely need that. Thank you to Matt, who is there moderating. Thank you to Malta Mcmochi and to Hunter and to John Harvey and to Vi and to Cathy and to Angela and Willow and thank you to Declan and to Heroes Don’t Wear Capes and just so many of you that I haven’t even mentioned, there are dozens more of you, you show up in the chat box, you welcome people and we keep these conversations going, but sometimes people slip through the cracks and it’s very devastating for them, so if you see someone new please welcome them personally, ask them how they’re doing and just check in on them every now and then if you think about it and if all that is way too much for you and you’re just like, I don’t know you’re talking about Athena, I’m here to listen and leave, then that’s totally fine. That’s your journey, that’s you and that is totally fine, but we do need to weigh in and give this video a thumbs up or a thumbs down and we always have the thumbs downers that don’t understand that this is live Q&A, they email me or they put a message in the comments with f-words telling me that I talk too much, what’s all the talking about?, why are you interacting so much?, like when are you gonna get to the point of the video?. They don’t understand that this is Q&A and that it’s been working really well for almost five years, so I’m just gonna continue doing what I’m doing and until the majority of you tell me that you want me to do it different, but I want to be here I want to serve this community, I want to help as many people as I can and you ask me all the time how you can help if you give this video a thumbs up that helps me, that helps YouTube know that the content I’m putting out week after week after week is something that’s helpful for you and then they suggest these videos in other people’s feed and then other trauma survivors like you, who are struggling, especially right now during the holidays, it’s New Years Eve, like more suicides are committed on New Year’s Eve and during this time of year than any other time of year. So, please if you’re looking for a sign to not take your own life and to not decide to kill yourself, consider this your sign. I’m grateful you’re alive, you’re here for a reason there’s an entire community of thousands of people that have been through horrific experiences and they’re still healing and they’re committed to just trying to show up for themselves. So I’m grateful that you’re here, thank you so much and Poppy’s over there saying hello to everybody, letting everybody know how they can get in touch with crisis care. This is not crisis care. A special thank you to each of you that have been around since 2014 when all of this started, a special thank you to each of you who are looking to establish and maintain some healthy boundaries or cultivate some safe relationships or whatever your health goals may be moving into 2019, for your mental and emotional health, your relational health, maybe your physical health, Maybe your spiritual health, maybe your financial health, whatever it might be, I just want to support you in those goals and I want to tell you that you matter and I’m so grateful that you’re here. So I hope you all can hear me, let me just make sure that the audio is working. I yhink it’s working. There’s like 40 of you, we’re a little light during the holidays this year, right?, but I want to just say thank you. So I’m gonn take questions pretty soon, whatever questions you might have. please go ahead and tag Poppy and she’ll get those to me, but I want to I want to talk about how each of our journey is different and I want to talk about how each individual journey, each person has their own healing journey and then that individual journey that you have, only you, it… you go through seasons and I think I want to start off by saying I was talking with Lisa the other day, the one who… Lisa my assistant who helps welcome everybody into the… into our safe groups and we were talking about how out there in the trauma recovery community, there is so much discussion about being grateful for your trauma because it made you who you are and that’s never a sentiment that I want to propagate, I never want to propagate that sort of sentiment on this channel. I will be very honest with you, I’m not grateful for my abuse, I’m not grateful that my family chose to abuse me and exploit me for profit. I’m not grateful that every single day when I was raising my son, I had to reinvent the wheel and protect him and create a new normal, reinvent the wheel every day for 17 years and find storybook versions of what I thought life was supposed to be like so that he could have a safe life in a good life and I succeeded in that and I’m not complaining I love being a mom, it’s like my greatest joy, I love it. However, I’m not grateful for my abuse, I’m not grateful for my abusers, I’m not grateful that they with all of their sociopathic, psychopathic, antisocial, narcissistic tendencies, sadistic behavior, weird twisted, not okay things, I’m not okay with any of that, I’m not grateful for any of it. Am I grateful that I’m here where I am today?. Am I grateful that I have victory over my trauma and that it no longer colors my world 24/7, 365, yeah, and how did I get there?. I did hard work. I showed up for myself every day. I’ve been showing up for myself every day, I go through seasons, some seasons are hard, some seasons are busy, some seasons are not as hard and I’m just enjoying the fruits of my labor, but I want to share a quote that Lisa and I came up with the other day that sort of is the opposite of that “I’m thankful for my trauma and my abuse because it made me who I am” sort of I’m never going to tow that line, I’m never going to you know make that what this channel or the work I do or the foundation is all about. This is the quote that I want to share with you. “It is 100% possible to be thankful for the person you are today without being thankful for the abuse of yesterday” Did you know that?, like am I the only one that is like yes, I wish there were more memes like that, I wish there were more inspiring images that give me permission to be a hundred percent thankful for the person I am today without giving credit to or being thankful for the abuse I endured, yeah, I’m grateful for the person I am, I’m grateful that God has brought me through this, I’m grateful that I am being sustained and that my husband’s committed to praying for me every single day and helping me through the hard times, but am I grateful for being sexually abused and exploited or otherwise abused and exploited, am I grateful for being traded for goods and services, am I grateful for being sent out on dates with weird men? Like no. I’m not grateful for any of that. Am I grateful to be delivered back into the hands of my abusers week after week after week by someone who is supposed to love me?, no, you know, all because they were doing their best like, I’m sorry, but at some point your best isn’t good enough okay, we all have a different path, we all have a different healing journey, and it’s a hundred percent okay for you to be thankful for who you are today, without being thankful for your abuse. You want to know what else is okay?. Here we go, this is what else is okay. It is also okay for you to have a good day. Now I will be the first to admit that when I was in the middle of one of the hardest seasons of my trauma recovery journey and I was seeing all of these quotes and videos and posts on social media and Emails that I would get in blogs that I subscribe to about how we’ve overcome, we’re over comers and we’re thrivers and there is hope and this year’s gonna be my best year yet, my relationships are all going to be healthy and I’m thankful that my marriage is healthy, my relationship with my children is healthy, my relationship with my body is healthy and I’m feeding it with good nutrients and I’m exercising almost every day and I’m sleeping really well at night and my marriage is healthier than it’s ever been and I love going to church and being surrounded with all of my friends at church even though some of them are very minimizing of my life and they’re very guilty and weird and like just it’s just… but I’m grateful for all of it, you know and there… I just remember being in a season of my own journey when you know that was especially hard and I see all these people having great days and they’re so hopeful and they’re so joyful and they’re having a great Christmas or they’re having a great birthday or it’s a happy new year and I just remember sitting back really just on the verge of wanting to die, like trying to figure out how I could like drive my car off of some sort of like area and make it look like an accident so that I could just disappear and like just finally get some rest, because I was exhausted. Like when you’re feeling that low and there’s all this positivity, it can be really, really frustrating and you can feel like you’re doing your recovery journey wrong, but I want to tell you that you’re not, because I’ve been that person, I’ve been that person that was struggling and see all this positivity and just be like they are so full of it, like how can they be so happy, how can they be doing so well, they’ve lived through so much and they’re totally fine now, like how is that even possible?, is that real and I just want to tell you that I really do think it was real, I really think that they were telling the truth. It’s okay for me to have a good day. I got to tell somebody the other day that this was the greatest Christmas I’ve ever had in my entire life and I didn’t feel guilty about it. I had a wonderful Christmas, you want to know why?, because it was zero toxic people in my life. No crazy, guilting Christmas cards, no weird phone calls and Skype sessions guilting and talking about all their drama and trauma and trying to suck me into their world and guilting me for living on a tropical island paradise and you know and I didn’t spend time with people that wish that I was better or more than something that I already am and you want to know why I had the greatest Christmas ever, because I canceled her dinner reservations and I threw my hair up on top of my head in a bun and I had no makeup on and I was in like my pajamas ish sort of an outfit and we just stayed home and we did nothing and then we ended up being able to video chat with my son and daughter-in-law like last minute, which we didn’t even think was gonna happen and it was awesome, like… and my husband and I exchanged cards, a Christmas card, that’s it. I mean he got me whitening toothpaste, new toothbrush heads and new razors, which is exactly what I wanted, like… and a Starbucks gift card and a panda gift card, like that was very thoughtful, but best Christmas ever, simple, nothing, we had fancy dinner reservations, we had all this stuff we plan to do – nope. I went to church the night before with him, we went out for sushi, totally not traditional, but we did it anyway because I did that with my son one time and it was really fun and I wanted to relive that experience. So I want to tell you that I’ve been that person that struggles, I’ve been that person that’s in my own journey and I’m having a rough time and everybody’s positivity just makes me want to die, but here I am going to trauma therapy every week, occasionally twice a week, but not really usually only once a week, I’m doing the very best I can to show up and serve this community, but most of all I’m showing up for myself. I show up every single day for myself. I commit to making healthier choices, cultivating healthier relationship, establishing healthier boundaries and keeping my life free from toxic people and that’s a magic formula. I’m no longer annoyed by the positive messages, I’m no longer in disbelief that I had the greatest Christmas of my life. I don’t say any of this to rub it in anyone’s face. If you had the most horrible Christmas ever and you just wanted to die, I want you to know I’ve been there, it wasn’t too long ago that I was there. I had a piece of paper shaped like a tree taped up onto my wall, because that’s all the Christmas decoration I could actually put up and I wanted my husband to have a tree and I was like he deserves that and like I literally couldn’t barely get out of bed. I was not okay. I’ve spent the last nine years of my life in different stages of losing my shit. I’ve had mental breakdowns. I’ve had breaks with reality. I’ve been in and out of trauma therapy, but the thing that’s been consistent, besides my husband’s love and prayers for me, is that I’m continually showing up for myself and I’m committed to eating healthier, thinking healthier thoughts, saying healthier words, surrounding myself with healthier people, just making healthier choices, establishing healthier boundaries, cultivating safer relationships and keeping those toxic people that want to critique me and make me feel horrible for being me, they’re no longer allowed, they’re gone,they’re nowhere. So I just want you to know that if you’re in a low point and you had a horrible Christmas and you hate New Year’s and you just can’t stand the holidays and everything’s going wrong. I want you to know that that is a season, it’s a point in time, it’s not gonna last forever. I thought mine would last forever, I was convinced it would last forever, I was positive it would last forever. I would try to slap on a happy face and talk to my kids you know, on a FaceTime session or whatever, I would try to show up and just be happy and grateful and joyful with my husband, but it was hard and it was painful you know, I’ve been through those seasons, but I truly did have the greatest Christmas of my life and I refuse to be guilty about it. I refuse to feel bad that I had the greatest Christmas I’ve ever had in my whole life, because I’ve worked hard to get to this moment when I can honestly say that every relationship that I’m involved in in my life right now is one that I’ve chosen and that it’s… there’s reciprocity there. I love them, they love me. I don’t try to wish they were something different and they don’t try to wish that I was something different. I just appreciate the people in my life for who they are and just for them being alive and that’s okay. Everyone’s journey is different and remember it is a hundred percent possible to be grateful for the person you are today without being grateful for the abuse you endured a long time ago. You do not need to be grateful for your abuse. That is never something that I’m gonna be thankful for, I’m just not. Everything is in your timing, if you’re on one of those mountaintop experiences right now and you’re really feeling great, celebrate that. If you made it out of bed today, celebrate that, if you’re laying in bed right now watching this video, but you’re still alive and you’ve wanted to sort of not be alive lately because you’re really struggling, then celebrate that. I’m celebrating you. It’s okay to be wherever you’re at in your journey right now. I want to give you permission if you need permission, to be not okay or to be feeling really great, but wondering if you should feel bad about that because so many people don’t feel great. I refuse to feel bad that I feel good because so many other people don’t feel good right now. That’s that’s not an example that I want to set, I want people to know that it’s possible to feel really fantastic and not feel shitty about it, you know that’s not something that I thought I could even do, I mean when I first moved here twelve, thirteen years ago, one of the first things that my family said to me was must be nice, you’re on like a permanent vacation. I’m like, I’m in therapy, I’m working, My company just went out of business, I’m looking for another job, I’m a single mom raising my son, I’m trying to figure out how to afford everything, I’m making new friends, I don’t know anyone, I have , I have chores, I have things, I have life. I’m what… you, like how in the world do you ever sit in your position and say to anyone else out there in the whole wide world – must be nice. Must be nice to be . It’s like really, I mean I hope to god I’m never that person that sits back and says to someone must be nice, must be nice to be you. I mean, I have thought those thoughts before and I’ve taken them back and I have sat with them and I know that I was in a different place in my life, but I hope I’m never that person again, Right?. So that’s what I wanted to share with you today. We’re going to take questions for two more minutes and then questions will be closed, but uh any questions that you have please send them in right now and tag Poppy and I will do my best to answer all of them. Okay?. Dana says, hey Athena, I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like she is living with the enemy. How do you make progress when you always feel unsafe?. It’s a great question Dana. I want you to know first of all that you’re not alone and that I too have felt like I was living with the enemy and it is very very difficult. I want to validate how difficult it is to make progress in our own journey if we are feeling constantly unsafe, especially if we feel like you said, like we’re living with the enemy and I think what helped me during those times, when I was still living in the same home with abusive people or toxic people, I planned my time wisely so that when the toxic people that I needed to be around at the time because there was no way out at the time, if I was going to need to be around them, I planned my time wisely so that when they were the least toxic, because you know how toxicity is on a continuum like for instance. I have certain family members, it’s always best to speak to them before 3 o’clock in the afternoon, because around 3 o’clock they start drinking alcohol and by the time 5, 6, 7 o’clock rolls around, all they’re doing is talking loudly, slurring their words being, total a-holes talking about how it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, and so what I would do… and that’s just one example, there are other toxic people that are really, really, really ugly and not good to be around unless they’ve had a cup of coffee in the morning. So I would plot and plan my time, my windows of when I needed to be around these particular people, when I knew from experience that they would be the least toxic and the least triggering for me and then I would just legitimately plan away time, you know if… whether it was taking my son to a McDonald’s playspace, because we could buy like a really inexpensive meal and I could buy him a happy meal and I could get a water and I could sit there for three hours and watch him play and make him come eat his fries before they were cold and don’t forget to finish your hamburger, it’s okay the pickles not gonna kill you, eat the pickle. Yes you can pick off all the onions, you know. Like it’s okay for you to do what works for you, if that’s your budget, that’s your budget. It’s okay to choose to go to a community play or go drive around and look at Christmas lights. It’s okay to excuse yourself from toxic people and make other plans. So whatever helps you feel safe in your body, it’s important that you find a way to feel safe in your body. When I was living in a home with toxic people one of the only ways I felt safe is I went to Home Depot. I saved up and once I saved up it was like I think it was like $40. I got a lock for my door, that had a key and it wasn’t the kind that you could stick something in the little hole and they could wiggle it and then open it and come in, it was the kind that was like a deadbolt type of lock, like where there was a key and then it was like a key down below as well, like a key on the handle and then a key up you know and I put a lock on my door. I was never allowed to have locks when I was a little kid and so living in a house with toxic people and not being able to lock my door was very triggering for me, I had no idea what triggers were at that point you know, this was like 18 years ago, but you know that was one of the ways that I helped myself to feel safe in my body, so that I could try to do that work of healing and I was just trying to keep my son safe and make sure that he was okay and he had everything he needed and create that fairytale life for him so that he could make good memories, childhood memories, be a child and have childlike thoughts and do childlike things, so he could naturally progress into an adult and not have to be an adult at age four, you know. It’s very, very, very hard Dana. It’s not completely impossible, it’s not an ideal situation. I mean ideally I would say Dana, like Gtfo, like get the … out of there, like just go, move, get away, run away, but you know not everybody can leave, not everybody can leave and if you are forced into a situation where you need to be around toxic people or abusers or enablers or whatever it is, find pockets of safety for yourself that you create, you do have the ability to create pockets of safety in your life, you really do. I know it might not feel like you do, but I believe in you and I’ve been that person that didn’t believe she could create pockets of safety in her life, and I know that you can, I know you can. So I hope that’s helpful Dana. I really hope that that’s helpful. I did end up getting away, obviously. I live in a safe place now, but it took a long time. It wasn’t automatic. I was in different seasons of my life you know, it took a few years to get out of that situation and then I was in a different situation that wasn’t extremely you know, as healthy as I wanted it to be, because my family of origin will just pop by whenever they wanted to, no notice and I was expected to just you know, let them in because tha’s what family does you know, and I was still buying into that and you know, it wasn’t easy, but I made it happen, I survived it. I survived it and then you know, I moved here and for about six months we lived by ourselves and we found a less expensive opportunity, because I lost my job, the company… Oh, I didn’t lose my job, like the company I worked for went out of business and then I shattered all the bones in my ankle and I had to rehab it and so I needed to just live off of the money that I had saved and so we went and we rented a room from someone and that wasn’t the healthiest situation for us, but it was it was a short period of time, it was only six months and then we lived on our friend’s floor for a while, again short period of time, not ideal, but we made it happen and eventually, you know got our own place and then my hours got cut at the hotel at the Ritz-carlton I was working at and there I was living in somebody’s house again, … situation not the healthiest situation, really difficult to navigate the waters of all of that and then finally got our own place again and then my son graduated high school and went on to join the military and he was in the marine corps for five and a half years and he stepped down from his active duty service as a sergeant. I got to pin him as a sergeant, fly over and be there during his pinning ceremony and one of the greatest days of my life and… but I’m telling you, if I would have believed that I was gonna stay stuck in that situation Dana, if I would have believed that when I was living with the enemy that that was all there was, which I really did believe that that’s all there was. I remember one time Dana, that while I was living there, I got a phone call and he was slurring his words, saying I need you to get me. I need you to come get me and I’m like, where are you?, like where’s your work van?, like he was driving a company car, totally wasted… I don’t know where I am. I need you to star 69 me and call me back so that you can find me and I’m like, just ask somebody there to like ask… like why is me calling you back going… pressing star 69 to call you back gonna tell me where you’re at, but don’t try to reason with somebody who’s intoxicated, because that doesn’t work either and I should have known that because I was raised by alcoholics and drug addicts, but I for some reason was again just wishing that it would work, but um, I ended up finding out where he was at I scooped my sleeping child up laid him in the backseat of my Jeep and and drove to go pick him up you know, where he was at and it was you know, it was a hard situation, if I would have… that was 18 years ago. If I would have bought into the lie that that’s how my life was going to be forever, I would have given up, but here I am, yes it’s 18 years and that’s a long-ass time, but I live in a safe place now. I live in a one-bedroom apartment that I love with someone I love very much, who’s a safe person and my life is free from toxic, abusive, enabling people and I’m grateful for that, but it would not have happened if I didn’t continue to show up for myself on a daily basis and not give up. I really wanted to believe that there was hope back then, that I would be where I’m at right now or some version of safety, but I didn’t, I really struggled to believe, but if I could say one thing to that version of me 18 years ago, please don’t give up, please don’t give up while you’re living with the enemy. Please don’t give up when you don’t feel safe here, in like a place of chronic unsafety, please don’t give up. It gets better, I promise it gets better. This is a rough season that you’re in, but it gets better. So I hope that was helpful Dena, I know I went on and on for you know eight minutes, but I think it was worth it. Angela says I just wanted to tell Athena that I’m very grateful to her for this for this space. Oh, you’re gonna make me cry. This place has been such a haven for me and all… finally… you all finally made me feel safe and understood. I’m so glad, thank you Angela, I’m so grateful for you too, and I’m grateful that you’re here in this space. We’re grateful to each of you. Thank you for staying that Angela. I wasn’t prepared to be crying tonight you all. Joey says, how do I keep going down a deep dark hole when I know my seasonal depression is going to hit. Around Christmas time it is so difficult, so why do I allow myself to feel that way when I know it’s going to happen every year?. Why can’t I be strong when I know it is going to happen?. Then I blame myself for not being strong and that I am not really good for anything. um Joey thank you for asking this question. I want to look at you… My shoes just fell off, not that I need my shoes on to record this video. Joey, first of all that’s my Joey bear right there. Joey sent me that for, I think for Christmas last year. It’s a little angel bear. Thank You Joey and Joey I received your Christmas card, my husband opened it, so thank you. Thank you to each of you who sent me Christmas cards, we got all of them. And we’re really grateful to each of you and for all of your voice messages and emails and it’s just awesome, but Joey I want to say something to you right now and to anyone who is… who lives with clinical depression or seasonal affective disorder? You said some things Joey that uh… you said you’re allowing yourself to feel that way. Now, Oops… Now while I am a huge believer in personal development and those who are neurotypical and not living with struggles mentally, like complex PTSD, PTSD depression any type of mental illness or diagnosis, while I am a huge, huge fan of personal development and making choices of how we’re going to feel and to choose joy and choose gratitude, I want to be really clear right now, if you are living with clinical depression or seasonal affective disorder or something that is a legit mental health diagnosis, you’re not choosing to have depression, you’re not choosing to feel bad, you’re not choosing to be triggered by something into a full-blown PTSD flashback, you’re not choosing to be triggered into an emotional flashback if you’re living with complex PTSD, you’re not choosing that. These are against your will, these are things that you don’t choose. okay, I really… I really want you to know that. I just… please, like I want to just like hold your face and just tell you the truth, like you are not choosing that, you’re not, okay. You’re struggling this time of year, because you struggle this time of year every year and this is something with your trauma-informed practitioner, perhaps you could discuss your SSRIs, you can discuss any type of prescriptions, medications that you’re on and just know that this isn’t your fault. You’re not choosing to have depression, no one chooses to have PTSD. No one chooses to have complex PTSD. No one chooses to have depression. Now if we’re neurotypical and we’re not living with mental illness and we’re cruising along and we’re listening to negative news feed from CNN or Fox or whoever it is you listen to and you’re watching rapes and murders and crime on television the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning and you’re you know, reading all these books on you know, the world is going to end and everybody’s a crook and impeach Trump and what about the Green Party and the Democrats are crazy or like all this stuff you know, politics, religion and and crime and and racism and ableism and sexism and just… then you might check yourself before you wreck yourself and choose different things to listen to and to surround yourself with, like I can feel a shift in my body just by saying all of that and talking about all of that, because it’s so much negativity and I can’t consume that, like I can’t allow that stuff in my ears. I can’t allow myself to watch all that stuff and consume it and be around it and just… it’s just too much right?, I can choose different, but Joey there is a big difference between someone who’s neurotypical, doesn’t have any type of mental health diagnosis or struggle, they wake up they flip on the news, three murders, twelve rapes, two cars got broken into and a building burnt down and eight people died and trump said this and Hillary said that and so-and-so died and everyone’s going to hell and whatever. There is a difference between that person who’s wondering why they feel so crappy and someone like you who is showing up for yourself, doing the hard work, establishing healthy boundaries in your life, doing your best to maintain them, cultivating safe relationships to the best of your ability, reaching out to your trauma-informed practitioner who I believe is on vacation right now for another week, you haven’t been able to see your therapist for a week or so, that’s a struggle, maybe we can… Maybe you can talk to them about your trauma-informed practitioner about tweaking your medication this time of year or maybe we can plan like an annual sort of you know something that you look forward to this type of year, but you’re not allowing yourself to feel the way you feel, you’re not going down a deep dark hole on purpose, if you’re living with clinical depression and you have CPTSD. These are not choices, these are these are things that are against your will, they’re not choices. No one wakes up and says, I know, I want to be suicidal and depressed today. I want to have an emotional flashback and hate myself for a week. That does not happen, those are not choices that we make. So Joey I hope that was helpful. You’re not doing this to yourself. Billy Hawkins says, hi Athena, I feel stuck in my healing journey. I find it hard to accept what I have gone through. All my therapist cares about is me accepting that, rather than helping me process it. What helps?. All my therapist cares about is me accepting that, rather than helping me process it. Hmm, okay, so Billy has a therapist who wants him to accept all that he’s been through. Abuse, trauma, adverse childhood experiences, broken relationships, toxicity, abusers, enablers and the therapist is wanting to help Billy accept the reality of that, rather than help him process it, so what helps?. Well Billy, what helped me is communicating my needs to my therapist, saying I like that you are saying and doing this, but I also need this, I would prefer this, I’m struggling with this and that requires vulnerability and it was terrifying for me. Excuse me… to be quite honest, tt was terrifying for me. I’m just gonna get drink of water. Well, by the way, this is my Jack Skellington cozy. Are you guys a fan of The Nightmare Before Christmas?. Jack Skellington, hello, he’s awesome. It’s my new cozy. I got it for myself. This is Halloween, Halloween, Halloween… It’s when this guy Jack Skellington kidnaps, Sandy Claws and he takes over Christmas. It’s a good movie, I digress. So Billy, communicating our needs to our therapist is a terrifying thing, because they could reject us. They could not hear us. They could decide they don’t want to help us or that that falls outside of the scope of their work, and so we’re fearing abandonment. If there’s a way for you to embrace asking your therapist for what it is that you need, which is to process through some things, then I would suggest that. If you’re like me, you have a fear of abandonment and so you’re struggling to maybe communicate your needs to your therapist and if that’s the case, I just want you to know you’re not alone, but communicating your needs in my opinion is what will help and that was your question, what helps?, and for what it’s worth, until I was able to accept all that happened to me and accept not only what happened and the abuse that I endured, but all the different areas of my life billy, that my trauma touched, until I was able to accept that and really allow myself to understand that those people were never gonna change, I wasn’t able to heal. So if I were your therapist and I was noticing that you were maybe in a situation where you were fantasizing that you were going to have healthy family members or healthy relationships with toxic people, then I would sit with you and want to help you accept what happened, but if that’s not the case and you really need to continue to process then I would just communicate, do your best to communicate your needs and if you are more comfortable writing… what helped me is I wrote stuff out to my therapist and I sent it to them on an email or I printed it out and brought it into my session. So I hope that’s helpful Billy. Billy has a second question as well. Billy says, Athena being a Christian, is it okay to explore mindfulness and somatic experiencing without judgment or guilt?. I’m so happy you asked this Billy, because I am just discovering and uncovering somatic experiencing and mindfulness in my own life and I’m a Christian and I was experiencing some guilt or some weird feelings around that and then I needed to like it took me a long time Billy, but I was able to sort of sit with myself and ask myself where those feelings of guilt were coming from and I was… I sort of, I mean I prayed about it. I prayed about it. I prayed about the somatic experiencing work, the work of vessel Vander Kolk, the work of Peter Levine. I prayed about it, I prayed about the mindfulness and being able to sit with my feelings and I asked for help and I feel like… and Billy I want to be respectful of your beliefs. If you’re a Christian, I’m not trying to sway you in any way I’m a Christian, I’ve been called a bible-thumping Jesus Freak and I will wear that like a crown that’s fine. I do love to have Bible study with my husband every morning. I do have a personal relationship with Jesus, but the way that I feel about this question that you asked is if God is really God and I believe he is and if Jesus is really Jesus and if Jesus is God and it’s the Triune God with the Holy Spirit and God and Jesus, if they really are who they say they are, who I believe they are, if what I believe that I believe is really, really, real then they can handle my questions. They created it all, they created mindfulness and somatic experiencing like they created us to create and I have peace about it now. I didn’t have peace about it before, for years I didn’t have peace about it, but it’s just recently that I’ve been able to have peace about it, and I was coming from a people-pleasing place, I was like afraid that God was gonna be mad at me and like think that I was you know not believing in God anymore because I wanted to look into DBT and mindfulness and somatic experiencing, which by the way are all trauma modalities and your body is storing your trauma Billy. I know you know this, your body is storing your trauma. So the way your gonna work through your trauma Billy is through somatic experiencing and being fully present for yourself and being in that moment, your mindfulness. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, it’s not like you’re deciding to go worship something else or you know worship Buddha or whatever it is like other whatever, like it… that… you know, I mean I’ve read… I mean I’ve read the Quran, I’ve read you know different teachings of Buddha, I’ve read things that are you know written from Gandhi and the Dalai Lama and you know, you know what I’m saying?, like it doesn’t mean that that’s like I’m going down that path and I’m turning away and like I’m you know in the middle of the faith crisis, which I have had a lot of faith crisis. I’ve had faith crisis, should I say Billy, but I feel like if God is really God, then he can handle your questions. So that’s my opinion and I hope that makes sense. And if none of this is helpful, I would like to know Billy, please Email me, [email protected] If you want to continue this conversation, I’m always welcome to discuss faith-based questions with you guys. Also on my website Athenamoberg.com which I normally will send you guys to CPTSDfoundation.org, which is my website, it’s the foundation I started for trauma survivors, but you know I talked a little bit more about my faith and stuff like that on my own personal website, because I don’t want any trauma survivor out there in the world to feel that they’re not welcome because they don’t have the same beliefs as I do. I’m respectful of everybody’s beliefs and everybody has their own journey, everybody…. we’ve been given a free will choice, we get to choose what we believe in, we get to choose how we want to heal, we get to choose. Billy you get to choose. That’s my opinion, I hope it was helpful. H1anna Digital, I think I decided to just call you Anna, Says how do you deal with people who expect you to have empathy for your abuser who was an older brother, especially if you are a survivor of CSA. So this is so interesting that you should ask this Anna, because I was recently probably like six months ago, six or seven months ago, I was with a loved one on the mainland and she asked me that same question, like don’t you think that you need to have empathy for that person?, like they had a rough childhood too and she just did the best she could and he did the best he could and I mean don’t you have compassion for them, like you have compassion for so many people in the trauma survivor community like can’t you have compassion for them since they’re survivors too, you know talking about people that were abusive and exploitative of me and honestly, I just needed in that moment to remember that the questions they’re asking are from their lens and their perspective. Empathy and compassion and forgiveness are your choice Anna, and in those moments you can choose to just agree to disagree respectfully so that it’s not awkward and then find some safe people and sit through some of the feelings you’re having. It took me probably two months to finally be over the anger that I felt when this loved one of mine was telling me that I just needed to have compassion and empathy for my abusers and I finally, finally months later figured out well, I get where she’s coming from because her mother is very, very loving and her father is very, very loving, like they love her, they provided for her, they created safety for her, they raised her up, they paid for her college, they did the… you know, they did… I mean she had everything she needed, most of what she wanted. She’s married, happily for 20 years you know, she has children that are just growing up and just pursuing huge dreams and goals and you know going off in the military and one of them wants to be a doctor and I mean, all of that happens within the context of a healthy family of origin. So here she is with her pretty little family… could you please pass the salt?, absolutely, I can pass the salt, here you go. Thank you so much. You’re welcome. Like that’s like life right?, that’s like reality and it’s from that lens that she says to me; shouldn’t you just have empathy and compassion, shouldn’t you just forgive and just just make up and you know I mean no disrespect Anna, but I can, with a clear conscience sthat that person I’m referring to, like she just doesn’t get it and not everybody deserves to hear my story, not everybody is going to understand where I’m coming from and my sanity means way more to me than her approval. The moment we choose Anna, that our sanity is more important that then someone else’s approval, then stuff like this happens less often and it’s taken me a really, really, really, really long time, decades to figure that out. So I I’m a survivor of CSA. I too have been told that I just need to forgive and have compassion and empathy and so forth and I too have decided to walk my own path and figure it out and talk to my therapist and work through it on my own and sit with my feelings and be very mindful and fully present for myself and you know as you know referring back to Billy Hawkins question, I’m going to trauma therapy, I’m doing EMDR, I mean, I just experienced an experience in my last session with somatic experiencing that was like a spiritual experience. It was like… it was mind-blowing, how different my body felt. My trauma was being released, that I’ve been holding on to, I’m 45 years old I’ve been holding on to this trauma Anna and Billy and all you all. I’ve been holding on to this for 40 years, Friday I felt it… I felt some of it go, that wasn’t because I haven’t been showing up for myself every day and because I didn’t choose to look into somatic experiencing. Peter Levine’s work is groundbreaking, as is Besser Bessel Van der Kolk’s work Noah and Dan Siegel as well and Pat Ogden, knowing that the body holds on to trauma memories and that we can through mindfulness and somatic experiencing in EMDR and other trauma modalities like IFS – knowing that we can release that trauma and our bodies no longer feel unsafe, they feel healthy, like that’s mind-blowing to me, that’s something I want to be a part of,something I want to be open to and I have to believe that the god I believe in would want that for me right?, and I would take it with a grain of salt and protect yourself. Your sanity is more important than their approval. That’s my answer. Ellen says, how can one navigate through the healing process when inner critics keep undermining you, like self-sabotage, financial, eating disorder relapse and what not. I’m guessing it’s that tyrannical inner critic. Yes, it does sound like a tyrannical inner critic and what happens when we are abused for a really long time Ellen, is that when we go no contact or get away from our abusers, we pick up where they left off, if they were abusive, abusive, abusive, there’s an uneven power dynamic and they’re you know telling us that we’re nothing or were trying to control us or they’re causing us to feel horrible about ourselves or there’s overt abuse or covert abuse and gaslighting and psychological abuse, all types of different abuse right Ellen?, then when we get away from them there’s something missing and so we begin finding ways to sabotage ourselves, because it’s what we’re used to, they were sabotaging us, we get away from them and then we pick that up and we typically take over where they left off. So I think that what has helped me the most in this, is finding small ways to feel safe in my body when I’m not numbing, stuffing or avoiding or self sabotaging, you knowfinding small ways to feel safe in my body and that could be you know, it could just be for a few moments at a time. Sometimes we don’t feel safe in our body if we’re still or if we’re trying to rest. Sometimes we have to feel that we’re busy all the time we’re… we need to busy ourselves, we need to busy ourselves right?, that’s where the self harming and the eating disorder behaviors and the addictions and the overspending and the over-exercising and the numbing and the stuffing and the avoiding, like that’s where all that comes inbecause we don’t feel safe in our bodies, in a static state. Everything’s racing, we’re so used to this having this abuse happen and this you know this gas lighting or the you know, the mind screw of it all that we pick up where they left off and then we don’t know how to just rest and be safe in our bodies. What helped me the most Ellen, was just finding ways to create pockets of safety in my life. Like just acknowledging like wow, I had an enjoyable five minutes, I need to write that down, like what was I doing?. Why did I feel really good for five minutes and I cataloged that multiple times Ellen and I realized that when I was feeling the safest is when I was driving a car. So now like part of my own self-care is going for drives, because I’m driving, therefore I’m in control, which is all eating disorders are about right?, as we need to control,so our whole life was out of control, so when I’m driving, I’m in control. I’m moving, people can’t get me and even if they tried to, I could steer and go a different place and the doors lock and I’m by myself, so it’s like… it’s like the best of every world for me. So I… and it started with driving, now I can feel safe in my body in other ways, like there are other moments in my life that I feel safe, it’s not it’s not only driving that I feel safe, like there’s other moments now, but it started with just driving. So I hope that was helpful Ellen. Declan said what do you think of M Scott Peck’s advice to go with depression rather than fight it?. Hmm, great to see you Declan. Happy new year. I’ll have to say I don’t know, I’m not familiar with M Scott Peck. I would have to look further into it before I like comment on it, but going with depression rather than fighting it is that’s a slippery slope, you know if we go with depression rather than fighting it, then it’s like how far down that rabbit hole will we go, so I have to say I’m not sure yet until I look into it, but I’m happy to look into it and then get back to you. I don’t want to comment on something that I’m not a hundred percent sure about. So I know you understand that, ’cause you know I love to research stuff and look it up and I want to make an informed you know decision before I comment, but my initial response Declan would be if you’re under the care of a trauma informed practitioner and your trauma informed practitioner says that we’re gonna go with it rather than fight it, then I would trust that trauma informed practitioner, but I can’t say from personal experience that that’s something that I would recommend. With CPTSD, I’ll work with my clients to welcome the feelings that come up and acknowledge them, so for instance if I was… if this was depression, I’ve never experienced clinical depression before. but you know welcome those feelings that come up. If there’s feelings of unsafety or feelings of hyper-vigilance or there’s something that’s happening, we sit with it and we acknowledge it and we thank it for letting us know something that’s going on, that doesn’t feel safe. There’s an alarm going off for a reason and then we work through it. If it’s something similar to that then I would say yes, butI don’t have enough information, I’m not 100% sure. So I hope that was helpful, even though I don’t think it was, but I’m glad to see you regardless. Vi says, Athena when healing through childhood trauma and grieving, what are some things to do that balance the emotional stuff as we adult and deal with life without hiding away?. Hmm… What are some things to do that balance the emotional stuff as we adult and deal with life without hiding away? So great question Vi. So this is our last question. So I think one of the things that helps me the most, that balances out all the emotional stuff is being really intentional about connecting with someone once a day minimum, once a day minimum connecting with another human, because what happens when we’re in the midst of CPTSD or even PTSD or even depression or eating disorders or whatever, we isolate, we isolate, we isolate, we isolate, that’s what we do. It’s… in our mind we think that’s the best solution, because there’s shame attached to whatever’s going on and that’s us, we need to like coil away because you know we we are experiencing shame, right? So by the most practical thing I could say is to reach out to another human a minimum of once a day, whether that’s an email or showing up on one of our daily recovery support calls that I offer through the foundation 365 days a year, you can go to CPTSDfoundation.org and click on calls or daily calls or whatever, but I mean if it’s you know going there or if it’s Emailing another human or you know going to therapy or getting outside and just saying hello to a neighbor, walking to the mailbox and just waving at someone or something just connecting with another human being a minimum of once a day. That for me balances out all of the emotional stuff where I’m crying and feeling depressed and ugly crying and then there’s more ugly crying and just feeling horrible like a lot of the time. So I hope that’s helpful. You guys Happy New Year. Happy New Year to you. It is 10 o’clock p.m. 10:09 p.m on the East Coast, in New York. Everywhere else besides the United States has already celebrated New Years. So happy New Year to you if you’re here and you’re not in the United States… I know in California it’ll be three more hours before New Year’s, that before the ball drops,because they do the ball drop thing and it’s two more hours for East Coast in New York when the ball drops, but I do just hope that you’re able to know that not only is every journey different as it pertains to our healing, but every different journey… like there’s seven billion people on the planet and statistically there’s one billion of us adult survivors of adverse childhood experiences, more than a billion probably but I’m just, you know, I’m going conservative. So statistically there’s 1 billion of us. So there’s 1 billion of us with 1 billion different journeys and that means that there’s just as many if not more different seasons of each individual journey. So if you’re feeling low, please know I’ve been there. If you’re having a great season or you had the greatest Christmas of your life, so did I and I’m not guilty about it, and if you’re hoping for a good new year, then I’ll hope right along with you and if you’re gonna have you know a rough day which all of us are, just know that there are those of us that get it, like we’ve been there, we’ve had the rough days, they suck, they’re hard, they’re all consuming and they feel like they’re never gonna go away, but I promise you it’s temporary, I promise you it’s temporary. So keep showing up for yourself you guys, that’s where the healing happens and 2019 is dedicated completely and totally to self care. I mean we have the healing book club that happens every single week, every Saturday. We have the self-care cruise coming up in September. We have the daily recovery support calls. We have so much going on and everything’s going to be geared towards self-care, self-care, self-care. Oh, and if you’re new here, it would mean a lot you would Subscribe to this channel and I also have a vlog channel where I’ll be uploading like day in the life of sort of behind the scenes sort of stuff and the link is in the description section as well and if you haven’t given this video a thumbs up and you thought that it was helpful, maybe, that would mean a lot to me. Otherwise, you can vote it, thumbs down, but please vote thumbs up or thumbs down, you choose and I appreciate and value each and every one of you. I can’t wait to see you back here next Monday, the 6th of January and please be extra kind and gentle to yourselves okay?. Happy New Year everybody.

10 comments

  1. I am so grateful that you shared that you had your very best Christmas yet. Mine was better than last year but far from great, but your sharing about yours is very much an inspiration for me to keep getting better at my Christmas's, Athena. I am working very hard all the time for every bit of progress.

  2. That we don't choose the feelings that overcome us is so nice because it takes the blame off of us. We can only carry so much blame before we get caught in endless loop of blame and spiral down. We are victims and need a helping hand back out. No more blame on us!

  3. Thank you Athena for helping me get through and make sense of my life! Happy New Year wishing you get back everything you give and more!!

  4. For a long time I’ve just given up and now it’s hard to do well at my new job. My mind doesn’t want to function anymore.

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