Friday, April 30, 2010

Do a Little Digging and Find Yourself

The following is a post I wrote as a guest blogger for Heal My PTSD, LLC. It has since been featured as a blog-a-thon story at Fluttering Designs and I've gotten some positive feedback via email regarding the post so I'd like to share it with you here. It's a piece that was written to show other sufferers of PTSD some of the ways I began to discover that I could be "ME" again. I hope you enjoy it, but most of all I hope it inspires you to do a little digging to find your way to your own true self.

My name is Megan. I am 32 years old, and I am just beginning to discover who I really am... and that’s okay with me.

During a discussion with my therapist in the summer of 2009, I decided it’s time to for me to find myself. These are the facts: I am a wife. I am a mother. I am a daughter, a sister, and a friend. But beyond these labels, I had no idea how to define myself as an individual, and that bothered me. I was tired of watching the people around me celebrate their individuality, following their passionate pursuits while I sat idly by and counted the days until my next therapy session. I had hidden in the shadows of my diagnosis for so long that I had neglected to develop my own interests. I had spent my entire life just existing, and I wanted to know what it felt like to really live. Was there something beyond the depression, the anxiety, the hurt, the pain and the shame?

My therapist suggested reminiscing... remembering the things that brought me joy as a child. What did I love to do? What made me smile? What did I get lost in? My answer: books. I remembered hot summer days spent lazing on our front porch, reading my favorite stories while I squinted and shielded my eyes from the sun’s bright rays. I remembered the year I was the top student in my reading group and my teacher rewarded me with my very first chapter book. Books were an escape for me... a safe place to turn to when the burden of my reality was too difficult to bear. But somewhere along the way, I forgot about the happiness I found in the pages of a good book, and I stopped reading altogether.

Summer came, and with the blessings of my husband and our two sons, I enrolled our family in the summer reading program at our local public library. I started reading every day, and quickly rediscovered the sense of adventure and the hope I found in the words of others. I had found at least one little piece of the puzzle of who I really am. I am a reader. Becoming a reader again was a wonderful thing. I would wake up each day and look forward to completing household chores and motherly duties so that I could retire to the couch at the end of the day, good book in hand. In the summer of 2009 I read 26 books. With each book I read, I found a little more joy. I was taking time out of almost every single day to devote to the search for myself.

Taking time for myself felt so good! I learned that in order to find the joy I had been aching for so deeply, I had to create the circumstances that would allow me to experience it. I realized that waiting for joy to “happen to me” was like waiting for the flowers in my garden to grow, all the while refusing to give them any water. How could I just expect joy when I was doing nothing to nurture myself? As time has passed, the “finding myself” experiment has moved from reading to singing to dancing to painting to just taking time each day to play... I’ve discovered a love for writing, a love for cooking, and a love for board games. And who knows what else I’ll get into? The journey’s not over yet! That’s the beauty of it all.

One of the books I began reading over the summer is “The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse” by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis. My therapist and I have been working together to complete the exercises in the book and the companion workbook, and it has changed my life. Realizing that every step of healing is my own personal choice and is completely dependent upon my willingness to try and to sometimes fail... well, it’s changed me.

I no longer place limitations on myself. I have learned that I am not only a survivor, but that I am also a thriver, a voice, a brave and courageous warrior in the fight of my life. I’ve realized I have power. I have the power to dwell on the circumstances surrounding my trauma, or the power to do the best I can to process the emotions I’ve been so afraid of so that I can live and experience true peace of mind. Processing my fears has allowed me to let go of the past and move toward reclaiming the joy that was stolen from me so many years ago.

Every day I make choices. I make choices to remember that I’m no longer in the midst of my trauma. I make choices to try new things when I see that old patterns and old coping mechanisms aren’t working for me. I choose to participate in programs - like Angela Shelton's 30 Day Healing Journey - that teach me new ways to find joy. I choose to speak out against the kind of abuse I was subjected to as child. I choose to speak out to let other survivors know they are not alone. I choose to educate myself and to do what I can to help others who have faced the same type of adversity that I’ve experienced.

My life is not perfect. I make mistakes. I have bad days. But overall, my life is now filled with an abundance of joy simply because I choose to be joyful. Sometimes the choice is not so easy to make, but when I consider what I’ve discovered about myself by choosing to live joyfully... well, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Happy Angela Shelton Day!

I've been away for a while. Life's been at me again but I feel really good about where things are headed regardless of the stressful situations around me. The ultimate compliment to me, as someone who's trudging through therapy and healing, is when someone else tells me they notice a difference in my life. I got that ultimate compliment last week. My big brother told me he noticed I'm not a worrier anymore. How cool is that? (If you only knew how much I worried before! OH if you only knew!) But I digress...

April 29th is Angela Shelton Day in Asheville, North Carolina, USA (Angela's hometown).

After Asheville's mayor saw Angela's film, he named April 29th "Angela Shelton Day" in honor of all abuse survivors. You may see the film - Searching for Angela Shelton - for free here:

I am a member of Angela's Army of Angels. You can learn more about the Army of Angels by visiting

This week the Army of Angels and survivors around the world have been "tweeting" stories of abuse victims and survivors on Twitter. The purpose of this "Angels All A-Twitter" campaign is to promote healing, awareness and joy. If you'd like to follow me as I tweet about speaking out and sharing joy and healing, you may do so by visiting my Twitter profile at

The members of The Army of Angels speak out in order to continue the movement of healing and joy that Angela Shelton inspired with her documentary. Angels know that sharing our stories is a great way to promote healing and a way to help other victims and survivors know they are not alone. The Army of Angels is full of women - and men too! - who are fully committed to sharing the hope and joy we've found on our healing journies. The three people who've changed my life in the most profound ways are Jesus, Angela, and Mackenzie Phillips. If you follow my blog, you already know why I cite these three as my inspirations.

For more information about "Angels All A-Twitter" click here.

See you soon with another new blog, but until then, happy healing - and HAPPY ANGELA SHELTON DAY!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Past Poetry and Personal Progress (and Kitty Cats and Rainbows!)

This morning while I was cleaning I ran across a folder I've been keeping for years - 14 years, to be exact. For 14 years I've had this thing in my possession, and for 14 years I've thumbed through the contents each time I've run across it... but this morning, I sat down with the intent to sort through everything that was hidden away in the pockets of the (cheesy rainbow kitty cat covered) folder. Ah, old poetry! What a treasure it is to be able to look back at my old writings and see how far I've come!

This folder is full of poetry I wrote when I was 18 years old. Some of the poems are quite good, if I do say so myself - haha! but some of them are full of rambling thoughts about how terrified I was to be alone, and the words drip with desperation and confusion... of longing for things I can't have, and lamenting losses that I should have been rejoicing over. Hindsight is 20/20. I find it so interesting to be able to look back at the person I used to be and to realize that I had no identity whatsoever unless it was tied up in someone else.

Let me just share one of these poems with you so you can can get an idea of how sick I was. I knew my issues but I didn't know how to fix them:

"Obsessed" (written 02-02-1996)

I have a slight tendency
to become emotionally attached
to people who simply
acknowledge my existence
So if I were you
I'd be extremely attentive
to the things I said to me
because there's a really good chance
I'll become obsessed

Interesting, huh? I thank God that I saved all of this poetry, because it is a gentle reminder of how much progress I've made since I first knew that I needed to make changes in the way I lived. I distinctly remember writing this particular poem. I remember thinking, "Oh. My. God. I. Need. Help." The old me (quite selfishly) believed that by living for everyone else, I was doing the world a favor. The old me believed that if I wrote you enough poetry or sang you the perfect song or bought you the perfect gift or begged you to understand how much I loved you, I would be protected from losing you. The old me thought that obsession and smothering equaled love. The new me understands that there is nothing further from the truth. The new me understands that by nurturing myself and pursuing my own interests, I am enriching my own life, thereby giving myself permission to love you without conditional restraints because I'm already happy and I don't have to depend on you to give me that happiness and security. The new me understands that obsession is not love, it's fear.

I can look back on my life and see so many mistakes, but the beauty in being able to do this is in knowing that I can learn and grow from the experiences. Just as I used the reminder of certain pain in my past to garner the strength to stand up for myself in current relationships, I can use the reminder of the sickness in this poetry to find the strength to draw healthy boundaries and refrain from obsessing and fear of abandonment.

Oh, the lessons I've learned in recent weeks! It's been a roller coaster, but I'm grateful for it because I've gained so much insight into who I was and who I am now... and most importantly who I want to be. Another little victory! The little victories certainly add up... What are you learning from digging through your past? Are you celebrating a victory today? (And do you have any awesomely brilliant rainbow kitty cat folders of your own? I want to see some pics, people! Ha!)

Until next time... happy healing!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Learning From My Own Beautiful History

"Whenever you run away, whenever you lose your faith, it's just another stroke of the pen on the page. A lonely ray of hope is all that you'll need to see a beautiful history." -Plumb, Beautiful History

Anybody who knows me really well knows that I've been holding on to that lonely ray of hope for the last week. Well, I'm glad I've held on because I'm proud to report that I had a light bulb moment last night and I was able to actually use the lesson learned from the last week's reminiscence, nostalgia, and general regret. I do have a "beautiful history" and I'm doing my best to learn from every minute of it. I don't want to go into details because they're incredibly personal to me, but I can give you an idea of what went down by telling you three things:

1. There were two particular situations in my life that were frustrating me, but I was terrified to speak up about them because I felt like speaking my mind about how scared/frustrated I was would be "uncalled for." I was afraid my feelings would be met with opposition, anger, etc... In my mind I had three choices: speak up and hope for a resolution, run away from the issues and wonder what might have changed had I spoken up, or keep quiet about my feelings and be miserable.

2. I remembered a time in the past that I ran away. I remembered the way it made me feel. I remembered the hopelessness and the denial and the years of wondering why I'd not said something, why I'd not respected myself enough to realize that I had a right to hope for something more and the responsibility to approach relationships with a give-and-take mentality rather than a "how can I keep you from leaving me" mentality. That mentality killed some relationships in my life. That mentality sucks. I lived in it so hardcore that I didn't even realize I was still doing it. (I'm not just talking about romantic relationships here. Friendships can die this way too!) So after realizing that there were some places in my life that I still needed to speak up, I wanted to do just that.

3. I had some really honest and thought-provoking conversations with a couple of people in my life and I let them know how I felt. They may get angry once they've realized that I'm serious about what I had to say. They may leave. BUT - they may honor my feelings and try to meet me in the middle. Who knows? We'll see what happens. The point is, regardless of what THEY do with what I had to say, I valued myself enough to buck up and SAY IT.

Reliving the past has kicked my tail this week, but it's also taught me that I have a right and a responsibility to talk about my feelings with the people who matter to me most. Relationships in all shapes and forms are supposed to be give and take. In order to have true joy, and to live a full life, and to experience things in life the way I believe they were created to be experienced, I need to stop being afraid to take. Yesterday, I took my first step to conquering that fear and today I'm celebrating the victory.

Have you come to the realization that you are valuable enough to give your feelings a voice? Move through the fear and speak your mind if you're unhappy about something. Regardless of the outcome, the feeling of knowing that you care enough about yourself to pursue a fully joyful existence is PRICELESS. I may still be hurting, hoping, thinking too much, regretting, dreaming, kicking myself, throwing temper tantrums, crying, and dancing like a crazy person to release the pain... but I feel better today because I know I stood up for myself for once in my life, and it felt good.

(Today's photo is something I made this weekend as a way to process some emotions. it helped a great deal to cope via art instead of hurting myself! ANOTHER victory!)

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Lady Gaga is a Genius (Just Dance)

"Just dance, gonna be okay. Just dance, spin that record, babe." -Lady Gaga

Thanks for all the feedback on yesterday's blog. I'm so thankful that I have the opportunity to draw from the well of wisdom and experience of my friends and readers. The words you had for me - both in the emails you sent and in the comment section of the actual blog itself - hit the nail on the head. I'm happy to report that today is a new day, and while I'm still struggling immensely, somehow I don't feel as fearful as I did yesterday. Why? Because I listened to your sage advice, I found and followed some of my own, and eventually I just DANCED!

Yesterday was definitely the worst day I've had since the death of my father back in July of 2008. Yesterday, I cried until I puked. I didn't even do that when I lost my daddy. Somehow, coming to terms with my own culpability in certain situations is just - well - heart wrenching are the only words I can think of, but that doesn't even begin to describe how much it hurts or how angry I become when I think of how much pain one bad decision on my part may have caused for another human being.

Some of you know I have struggled with self-injury since I was a child. While I've never been a cutter, I have hit myself and burned myself more times than I would care to admit. I even have some permanent knots and scarring from the old coping mechanism. Who knows exactly where the technique got its start with me? I only know that for at least two-thirds of my life, it was the only way I knew how to get rid of the rage and shame that lived inside me. Good news, though! Yesterday when I felt that extreme NEED to release the pain, I remembered that I have NEW coping techniques. I pulled up an old blog from the Joy Journey and I read. I read about how wonderful it felt to move... and I read the last sentence in the blog: Maybe tomorrow I'll try dancing! Remembering that moving makes me feel AMAZING, I trusted that if I could just get myself to the stereo and get a good groove going, I could move. I could let go. I could release the pain. I could shake it off. I could do something constructive instead of destructive and I could breathe again. I could dance. So dance I did! And after about 40 minutes of eyes-closed, dance-like-nobody's-watching, arm-flailing reckless abandon, I sank to the floor and cried a little more... then a few minutes later I got up and walked away and I felt better. Still sad, but better.

Yesterday I made a decision to move through the pain. I figured the least I could do was follow my own advice, right? And so in my pain today (which is a little less pressing than it was yesterday), I will dance again, I will release more of this tension and shake off more of this hurt. I will continue to hold on to the hope of tapping into my joy again, and I will leave you with these words from Day 27 because I could stand to be reminded of their promise:

I moved along the healing path even while I was afraid. I moved in my fear instead of denying that I was afraid. I kept putting one foot in front of the other and picking myself up when I fell along the way. Each victory helped me release a little bit of my fear, which helped me keep going. The more I moved in my fear, the stronger I got. The stronger I got, the easier it was to move in my fear. Moving in fear instead of staying stuck in fear is what saved my life and brought me to the truth... the truth that joy was a possibility, even for ME.
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