What a year this has been. I started it off with the intention of loving myself. Regular readers of this blog will know that I have struggled with a lack of self love for a very long time. Instead of making New Year’s resolutions – which I always break by the middle of February at the very latest – I decided to dedicate the year to loving myself. I started off great, I was able to practice self love each day; that was until we hit lockdown in March.
That was when things went downhill.
I have CPTSD – Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – and had been in a hyper vigilant state for most of my adult life. I had gone through therapy that had helped me enormously, but I lost my ability to cope once the UK went into lockdown.
I became so paranoid and stressed, I was crying most days and really couldn’t cope with the threat of being stopped by the police or some other official anytime I left the house.
By my birthday I’d had a breakdown and was in a really dark place. I felt like I had failed at the self love project and started thinking very dark and scary thoughts. I eventually went to see a Dr. and got prescribed anti-depressants.
After a few weeks I began to feel better in myself. That nearly came to an end in late summer, I needed a smear and the first attempt failed – I was really calm and positive too. The second attempt was a disaster also. Flashbacks, panic attacks, massive triggers….they also couldn’t get a sample of cells. I cried all the way home. I felt like I was 16 again.
But out of that experience I felt empowered to help other women who have suffered any form of sexual violence, and domestic abuse too. I was so determined to put my own experiences to some use that I enrolled with the OU to study Psychology with Counselling.
And as we enter the final month of what can only be termed as a horrific year, I feel empowered, well, happy, determined, and I certainly practice self love.
You see, I now know that going to the GP to get the medication was an act of self love. I know that pushing through my trauma triggers and flashbacks has catapulted me forward to a place where I can try to make a difference to women who have suffered at the hands of rapists and abusers.
2020 broke me. But I rose from the ashes and I am rebuilding my life on my own terms.
This year the holiday season feels more poignant than ever before. This year has been dominated by loss. It has driven home the message for me that life is for living.
Recently I’ve realised even the most well meaning people, those who claim they are forgiving and non-judging, even they fall short. It sounds quite obvious when I see the words before me, after all, none of us are perfect.
I’ll say it again: None of us are perfect.
It’s hard to forgive people who have hurt you, boy don’t I know it! But I’m the type of person who will give people a million chances, and then a million more.
People I’ve known for a long time and who I’m connected to personally, professionally, even spiritually, are some of the people I end up forgiving over and over again. We have connection. We have history. We supposedly have friendship…… I have given chances to them, even when they’ve lied about me to peers.
I have struggled with my mental health in the last three years and the ones who I thought would have my back have used my “sins” as a tool to punish me with, hence some of the lies.
I hear them preaching love and forgiveness, but I know it’s all a facade as their version of forgiveness is selective. This leads me to wondering why some people are all talk and no action, and others – usually the ones who have struggled and suffered the most – cannot bear to see other people suffering.
My “sin” is that when shit gets real for me I hide away from people who I am supposed to trust. But trust is not something I can easily slip into when PTSD comes a-calling. Trauma victims often shut down and go into survival mode, where there is no room for anyone but themselves. It isn’t personal, it’s trauma related behaviour.
I’ve been labelled as distant, cold, hard-faced, incapable of feeling, etc when I’m in survival mode. This is quite a shocking thing to hear when someone you believe has your best interests at heart says this about you.
It doesn’t help with the trust issues, but reinforces that trauma related dialogue that goes on inside your head. It reinforces your belief that you are everything your abuser or attacker said about you. It reinforces that lack of self worth you have honed over many years of hating upon yourself.
It is a very difficult cycle to break. Our minds are constantly churning out thoughts and if we allow the negative stuff free reign, it quickly takes over.
There was a time when I would believe I was unworthy of love and friendship. I would believe that if this person wasn’t willing to forgive me then I must be awful. Or if that person wasn’t willing to forgive me I must be a truly shitty human.
I know I am not.
I know I am worthy of love, happiness, friendship, peace, and much more.
I can’t change the past, it happened. I can’t change how I acted or reacted, it’s in the past. I have apologised to the people who I hurt, whether they forgive me or not is up to them. I have forgiven myself for feeling bad about how acted when I was in the midst of a PTSD episode. I have forgiven myself for acting in that way.
I believe that to truly forgive people you must first learn to forgive yourself.
Feeling empowered is not an indulgent whim, I think we all should embrace this feeling, and here’s why.
When you feel passionate enough about something to take action you are feeling empowered. You allow this empowerment to let you take action and make your world a better place for you and others.
We all know that 2020 has been a right doozy of a year, some have thrived whilst others have barely survived, and yet there are others who have muddled through. There is nothing wrong with anyone from any of these categories, people handle a crisis in different ways.
I’ve felt a sense of empowerment sweep over me these last few weeks and it has lead me to realise that feeling empowered is a very useful tool in a soul love teaching sort of way.
Sometimes we are led to believe that empowerment means we must jump aboard the latest trend – whatever that may be. We are led to believe that to be empowered we must be fighting for a cause greater than our own needs.
There’s nothing wrong with fighting for your own needs. There’s nothing wrong with feeling empowered about circumstances you want to change in your own life, never feel ashamed of putting yourself first. We all know the “put your own oxygen mask on first” analogy, and we can all agree that this is a wise move.
The reason this analogy gets used so much is because we all need to take care of ourselves first. We cannot pour from an empty cup. When you stop to think about this it makes total sense.
Thus it is the same when we need to feel empowered. We need to champion our own cause first and foremost. Taking care of our own needs is not selfish. How are we supposed to get truly passionate about any cause if we cannot even get passionate about our own lives?
To be empowered about improving our lives is an excellent starting point. As we move through the pandemic and other turbulent events that are happening around the world we need a sense of purpose in our own lives to get us through.
Empowerment is the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling your own life. It allows you to set healthy boundaries and really see where your energy leaks are coming from. It allows you to find purpose and manoeuvre your life towards a path that you really want it to take.
Most of all it gives you a passion for living your best life, which in turn helps you to focus on causes that are dear to your heart. That’s when you move onto being empowered about other things. But first you have to tend to yourself.
If 2020 has taught us anything it is that life can change dramatically in the blink of an eye.
We are trying to rebuild our lives whilst the world is still falling apart all around us. I believe this is a must for us all, despite what this extremely weird year has brought for us.
Holding on to pain and suffering is not going to bring us our lives back as they once were. The way things were is dead and gone. We have to use the pain and suffering as stepping stones to out new way of life.
We owe ourselves that much. We owe ourselves the honour of getting to live beautiful lives. We owe it to the people who haven’t survived this crazy year.
Live life, passionately, fully, with gratitude and enjoyment. Create the life you want for yourself, use the crazy energy that this year has left to propel you forward on a new venture.