Not a stitch of makeup and just in from a walk - I’m couldn’t wait to hop on to share this with you today. Watch to learn a simple way to start addressing that nasty little belief: I’m not good enough. If it resonates I encourage you to check out my eight week, online program, Sanctuary, now enrolling.
Watch the video to see why this was a pivotal moment of transformation and how it might relate to your life, especially if you have one of these beliefs: 1. The anxiety and uncertainty you carry is going to weigh you down forever; 2. Self-care is not important for me.
These are the exact type of self-limiting beliefs we work to reframe in Sanctuary. I invite you to check out the program to see if you are a good fit - we start in Oct. Click here to learn about Sanctuary.
This is an enormous weight you are carrying. The expectation alone is crushing, not to mention the energy it takes to get through the days. This is honorable work and your generous efforts are nourishing those that are closest to you. This is true even if no one notices or says thank you. Especially in those moments where you feel all alone while the rest of the world lives their lives on their own terms.
This is a season of life where it is hard to find time for yourself. Your mind is filled with caregiving to do's; it feels like you couldn't possibly put your needs above theirs because their needs are so great. There are never enough hours in the day.
Remember to breathe. If you have time for nothing else, take 10 seconds to close your eyes and breathe deeply. Light a candle as you get ready for bed as a reminder to do this, to help ease the anxiety a bit.
Remember to rest. When your energy is drained, you have less to give. You cannot serve from an empty cup. Rest is one of the most basic needs to address as we start to figure out how to take good care of ourselves.
Remember the things that bring you joy. Bring them into your days. These can be tiny things - they don't need to cost much (or anything). Play music you love while you are running from one task to another. Use the fancy tea cup and saucer each day. Go outside and notice your surroundings.
Perhaps above all, have compassion for yourself. You are still a beautiful soul underneath the weight of all that you are carrying. You are still yourself. Find a harbor in your mind that you can rest in each day. Allow yourself to set aside your burden and rest for a moment in your harbor.
Remember - your story is your strength,
Certain aspects of the day I was told that the heart of the 18 week old baby I was carrying was not developing correctly are seared into my brain. I don't recall too many of the words that were spoken or what I was wearing, but I remember how it felt to be left alone with my husband in the ultrasound room for an eternity. I remember the feeling of it gradually dawning on me that being left alone for that long meant something was wrong. I can still feel that slow realization; I knew from my prenatal training in graduate school that this was what happened, but it still took several minutes before my mind hatched the thought: "Something is wrong."
My memories of the next two years following that day are similar. I have trouble recalling names and faces, but the feelings that I felt in my stomach, the rising anxiety in my chest, those sensations can still bubble up when I think about going under general anesthesia when I was 23 weeks along for the in utero procedure to open Griffin's aortic valve, or when I picture the cardiac intensive care unit at Boston Children's Hospital.
For many years, I would experience things in my everyday life that set off these feelings in my body. Like, if I saw a family with three healthy teenagers at a restaurant, I would get upset that maybe my little guy wouldn't make it to that age. Or if I drove past a little league baseball game I would be triggered by the uncertainty of whether Griffin would ever be able to participate in sports like a typical kid. Life was a minefield; I could be triggered by almost anything and it would get my heart racing, the tears flowing, anxiety flaring.
This is what trauma looks like. Trauma is the way we recover from a stressful event or loss. It has to do more with how we respond to an experience rather than the experience itself. So, in the immediate time following the event we may have trouble sleeping, eating, going about our daily lives, but typically we figure out ways to cope and recover. If can't get there - if the experience overwhelms our ability to cope - this is traumatic stress. We worry about it because it could lead to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental health problems.
I think many of us go through our lives, experiencing trauma and not recognizing it as such. We think that maybe the experience wasn't "bad enough" to qualify as trauma. We believe that trauma has to include death or sexual assault. But it's all subjective, meaning that the event itself doesn't have much to do with it and it's all about how you responded.
Once Griffin had arrived and was, in fact, thriving, I found I was stuck in the same thoughts that I had during the pregnancy. I had a hard time enjoying him (happy baby that he was) because of these intrusive thoughts. They were always near the surface, circling around in my mind like a broken record: "he's going to need several surgeries", "what if he doesn't survive", "how can I handle this".
Slowly, I recognized my need for help. Other events in my life actually helped push me to get help, otherwise I think I would have waited and tried to figure out the Griffin stuff on my own. I did lots and lots of therapy. I started my writing practice. I told Griffin's story, at first to small groups of students and eventually to a big crowd at a national conference. I started my creative business, Orchid Story, to help other women cope with their own traumatic events. The uncertainty that threatened to swallow me whole nine years ago is much more manageable now.
It took a lot of hard work. A lot of money. A lot of time. A lot of uncomfortable feelings. This is in no way an exaggeration.
And... there is a happy ending. Of course, the happy ending includes Griffin playing in the pool this summer, just six months after his first open heart surgery at age 7. But that's not what I mean, because remember, that even if things look good on the outside - the experience of trauma is still subjective and about the recovery (my recovery) from the events.
The happy ending is that all the work I put into healing myself has helped. The intrusive thoughts are no longer swimming. I get triggered much less often and when I do, I can recover quickly. I was recently sitting with a new therapist, as I am learning Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) also known as tapping. She was teaching me the tapping sequences and we were going through all of those scenes of trauma from back when Griffin was diagnosed in 2010 and his early years, all the way up to his surgery and recovery in late 2018. When we were done she looked at me and said, "You really don't have much residual trauma related to his heart condition."
She could have told me I won a million bucks and I would not have been more pleased.
Do I have other issues in my life that I am still working on? Yes. Am I still worried at times about Griffin's heart and his future? Yes. The work is not done. The work will never be done. The important thing is that I am moving forward. I've come such a long way from that day back in the ultrasound room.
Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart = my fave concepts from this Brené Brown book.
Have you braved the wilderness? What did you learn? I’d love to hear about it.
Links to people and resources I mention in the video:
The doors for Sanctuary close on Monday April 22. If this work interests you, then come check out the program. Presence and self-compassion are woven into every aspect of Sanctuary. PLUS, we will practice how to find the time and then actually incorporate these practices!
Resources from this video:
It’s just been so much fun to dive into these books with you. Here are the two writing prompts I came up with from the second half of Inheritance by Dani Shapiro:
Are there things we know, subconsciously, before we know them? Why do we put of pursuing the truth or acknowledging what’s happened?
If we are striving for understanding and healing, maybe we must revisit our stories time and again. What story of your needs revisiting?
I’m teaching a new, free class next week. It’ll be different than these Facebook live videos - I’ll have slides (ooh la la), be a tad more organized, and I created a beautiful workbook to go along with the class. If you can’t attend live you can sign up to get the replay. Get all the details and sign up: https://www.orchidstory.com/
(This is an excerpt from a recent newsletter to my community - if you’d love me in your inbox every week go here to sign up.)
…self care is not an option, guys. When I saw a tarot reader for the first time this past summer she asked what I was doing for self care. I chuckled to myself, puffed up my chest and said, "I'm doing self care right here and I've been at this retreat center for 4 days!" She narrowed her eyes and asked how many other retreats I would be attending this year. The answer was none. She emphasized that 4 out of 365 was not enough and that I needed to get really serious about deep self care. I've taken those words to heart and I think about self care every day of my life now.
I opened the email and scrolled. Here's what you should do. Here's why that's not the right decision. Here's where you should look and who you should talk to.
When I first started getting these emails from people who do care about me and my family a couple of years ago, I would feel the need to consider and explore all the options presented. I didn't want to overlook something important or fail to consider an option.
Over the years, I've gotten much more clear about who has a say in the decisions I make for my family. Instead of "Thanks for your input!", I'm turning to "Thanks, but this is a personal decision and we are not looking for outside opinions."
I know some of you reading this today are in the middle of a big decision. If not a decision, perhaps a time of transition or a time of hardship/messiness/distress. Everyone and their mother wants to give you advice about what to do. Does this ring true?
I've made several huge, even life or death decisions for my family, and I'm currently in the middle of another big family decision. I thought I would share what I've learned in the event that you too feel like a sailing ship at the mercy of the waves and weather.
1. Who's on your team? You know, the decision-making team. It should be people you trust 100% without a single ounce of doubt. All other voices get shut out. Be ruthless. My therapist taught me a visualization where you picture a safe. Open up the safe, put all of those outside opinions in there, close it and LOCK IT.
2. There isn't a right decision. I mean, maybe sometimes there is, but in my experience, there is often not a perfect solution or an obvious right one. You are not allowed to beat yourself up for making the "wrong" decision later. I've been stuck in this trap before and it can lead to dark places that are hard to pull out of. I continue to work on untangling myself from the idea of a right or wrong decision.
3. Make peace with yourself and let go of the outcome. Even when we do all of the research and have the absolute best of intentions, sometimes it doesn't work out the way we want it to. Sometimes the decisions we make go against the wishes of the person we are making them for. Your job is to look at the absolute biggest picture, the eagle's view, and ask yourself no matter what the outcome is, will I be able to live with this decision?
I hope this brings you a little bit of comfort. I'm over here, in your corner.
The Orchid Story Community, in their own words.
Last Friday I took myself on a date to a little village called Lucketts, about an hour away from home. I went alone. I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by all aspects of my life: work, home, personal. I was approaching the end of registration for the class I am currently teaching and I had gotten myself into a frantic state of constantly refreshing my email and lashing out at my family because I was so wound up about people registering. I also had an important phone call to make that I had been putting off for days because I just didn't have the energy to deal and engage.
I went to a bunch of antique and garden shops out there in Lucketts. I strolled, admired, and moseyed my way around. In each store I went in I saw some version of this "gather" handlettering. It reminded me of fall holidays and being together with people you love. I came home and created my own version of it for you.
When I got in the car to head home I felt secure enough to make the tough phone call and, lo and behold, a student signed up for class while I was on my self-care date.
So here's what I pose to you this week. Two things:
Is there a word that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside? Use it as a mantra, make a handlettering, print it out from pinterest. Something so small can help us shift out of a rut.
Where can you take yourself on a self-care date? Oh no Rachel, you may be saying, you don't understand; I work long hours or I'm a stay at home mom/dad, there's just no way. There is a way. Can you miss one softball game this fall while your partner single parents for a morning? Can you ask the 8th grade neighbor to come over while you take a walk or get to the coffee shop? You are worth it. Your mind and soul need you to give them a little break.