Trauma is not you fault. PERIOD. End of sentence. There is absolutely no “but” necessary. This word, in my opinion, invalidates, minimizes, and places guilt.Read More
At the end of the summer, I started doing a type of reprocessing therapy. I learned a lot, and I hurt a lot. On several occasions, in an effort to pull me into compassion, my therapist asked “What would Jesus say to you if he were sitting here right now?” I gave the classic “I don’t know,” as tears collected and fell, and on a few occasions, my therapist prayed with me and for me. Honestly, as a Christian, there are a lot of truths I “know” but I do not live in. I’ve found much of my suffering is from shame, guilt, and anger regarding my faith and the way I feel God made me. One night, plagued with insomnia, I laid there and wrote what I think God would say to me. It’s always at night when my mind speeds up and I can think most clearly. I wanted to share this letter becuase I know I cannot be the only one who needs to hear these truths. I am loved beyond my ability to comprehend- and so are you.
You are not made wrong.
It’s not your fault you’ve lived your life in survival mode. It’s not your fault you weren’t taught how to feel. It’s not your fault you are afraid to trust. Nothing that has ever happened in your life has made you worthless. You do not deserve pain. You are not bad. You do not deserve to hurt yourself. You will not spend your whole life self destructing. You are not supposed to die by the slow suicide of anorexia. You are meant for more than being remembered for taking your own life. You are worth staying, despite the lies that say disappearing is better.
You are not a prisoner of depression. You are not owned by anxiety. You are not forever to be tormented by PTSD and trauma. Anorexia is not your life sentence.
You are more than the diagnoses that have been thrown at you and often times put you in a box. Your big personality does not make you too much…its ok for you to find it again and shine. That beautiful, wonderfully and fearfully made human is in there somewhere…and she is amazing.
I made you the way you are on purpose. Every piece and part of you is written in love and meaning. You don’t have to be ashamed of your truths. Silencing them keeps you sick. It’s time to stop carrying the weight of being made wrong on your shoulders, because that isn’t true, and I don’t make mistakes. You don’t always get to see they whys of my ways on this side of heaven.
You are worth staying for, no matter how many people have walked away, or that you have walked away from.
You are not forgettable, and you are so deeply loved. People need you, because you matter. Even when you feel insignificant.
It is ok you’re scared. It is ok you’re hopeless- because those that love you are holding your hope right now until you can carry it again. It is ok that you’re angry with Me- because I can handle it and I will never leave you.
You are ok. You will heal. It’s not your fault you don’t feel like a person. It does not mean you can never be ok with your body and mind and soul.
You deserve to fight for yourself. You are not going to spend the rest of your life lost. You are more than you think you are. And you were not created to live in guilt, shame, and pain. You are redeemed. A child of grace.
It’s ok that you don’t believe any of this. Someday you will. I can already see it. Because I’ve been there, and we will go there together.
I’ll be behind you and in front of you. And most importantly- right beside you.
November unraveled me. Slowly, like thread falling from fabric, before I knew it, I was in a place where I found my own self unfamiliar. I signed up for a Trauma Sensitive Yoga (TSY) training- meaning I would be equipped to teach TSY to others- but it also meant I had to look at some things I had long ago tucked away. You know, those things that are probably a “big deal” but you relive the events over in your head enough to reduce them to a simple, almost meaningless event that might have happened to someone else, but certainly not to you.
Then the nightmares started, and the anxiety that made me chew the insides of my mouth raw. I woke my husband up at 2am the night after the first training. “Why did you let me do this?” I demanded. “Why? This shit is hard. I’m reading hundreds of pages about how our bodies hang on to all the stuff we go through, and I see myself in those pages, and I realize that its true- the body remembers. And the body always wins.”
I’ve been a Pediatric or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit nurse for 9 years. I’m human- I’ve been through some tough stuff- we all have. Family issues, lost friendships, death, bad relationships, you name it. I’ve had an eating disorder for more of my life than I have not. Like how it sounds or not, we are all trauma survivors in some sense.
November reminded me of this. My body spoke to me in ways I could not ignore. I am a person who feels very deeply. I care for others with my whole heart. As much as I hate to admit to being emotional, I am. I am still learning that this is a gift and not a flaw like I’ve told myself and been told for so long. It’s the way God made me. I’m not made wrong, even though much of the time I resent that way I am. It can make living life HARD, because in the same way a person can be giddy and beside themselves with joy, I can be wracked and stunted by sorrow. Emotion that settles into my bones and fills all the spaces I didn’t know were empty. I am the same way with love. The beauty of it touches my soul and makes the entire world feel brighter. I have finally learned, that I cannot choose to feel one spectrum of emotions over the other. In attempting to numb pain, I will inevitably numb joy as well.
November unraveled me, and December has left me undone. I am owning my role in it and beginning to pick up the pieces. Some of them are painful, like the relentless migraines I’ve developed and the depression that has snuck in. Some of the pieces are healing, like the person from my past I reconnected with and spoke my truth to. I am still discovering pieces, and I get to pick and chooses what I want to stay, and what I want to go. It’s my life, not anyone else’s, and I want a say in how I choose to process and heal and implement wounds from the past.
The body remembers. Our brains are wired a certain way to react and protect us when needed. We can’t control that. Our tissues and muscles and cells hold the memories. Be careful what you pack away in hopes that the unseen disappears. God made us so beautifully flawed- breakable, ignorant, and so just so HUMAN. The unraveling and undoing of things in our lives has a purpose. Hold on to that hope.
Recently, my therapist brought up a good point (they’re good at that). To say I struggle with self love is an understatement- hell, I struggle with self LIKE a good amount of the time. She pointed out to me that when I’m talking about my child (my 90 pound fluffy baby beast dog), I laugh at her quirks and call her a mess.
“Why is that?” She asked me. “Why do you point out those messy things?”
“All the things that make her a mess are the things I love most about her,” I replied without hesitation.
“Exactly. Why can’t you love the messy things about yourself too? You don’t tell your dog to stop doing the things that make her personality hers. Why do you do that to yourself?”
Point for the therapist. I broke eye contact and looked away. It was true, I realized. So logical, so simple, so seemingly EASY.
“What are you thinking?” She asked me.
I didn’t answer, mostly because at the moment, I was thinking how much I hated my therapist, and counting to ten in my head whileI convinced myself not to straight up peace out of therapy. I don’t hate that my therapist is right. I don’t hate her for pointing out the obvious to me. What I hate is that there’s no easy button for self love. I KNOW I’m spending, and have spent, more years of my life than not, being critical of myself to the point where I don’t even like myself. I hate that there’s no “cure” for that except hard work that I have to do myself, because I’m not completely convinced self love is possible for me.
“It’s OK to be who you are,” said my therapist, who I don’t actually hate. “What if you could take the things you think after messy about yourself and embrace them for making you love-able? What are those things? They might be really simple, like you only wear thin socks, but those things are OK?” Not exact quotes (except for the thin socks reference) but you get the idea.
I’ve been thinking about this all day. I’m not special for struggling with self-love; those who don’t these days are probably in the minority. So, I wanted to take a few minutes, and acknowledge that I am a mess…and that is ok. That does not mean flawed, or stupid; it just means I am ME. And no matter how hard I try to fight it, I can’t truly change the core of who I am.
I’m sensitive and emotional, but I am also tough and a bit rough around the edges. I speak my mind, sometimes before I think. I believe in standing up for what is right. I don’t have an ounce of Southern charm in me, even after living in the south for ten plus years. I would give a friend the shirt off my back, and that gets me hurt a lot. I always want to include everyone. I don’t have a best friend because ALL of my friends are my best friend. I don’t know what day it is half the time because I’m a nurse. I don’t want to be a nurse anymore but I don’t know what else to do. I’m bad at math. Like really bad. I forget people’s birthdays, I send cards late, and I do all my Christmas shopping at the last minute. I procrastinate. I don’t balance my checkbook and my husband keeps track of the bills because if it were my responsibility, we wouldn’t have electricity (this almost happened once). If I carry cash, I’ll give all of it to homeless people selling The Contributer. I don’t own high heels because look like a baby giraffe walking in them, and who wants to wear uncomfortable shoes? It takes me forever to cash checks. I can hardly work our TV at home, and I always forget the password to our wireless. Actually, I always forget the passwords to everything that requires a password. I don’t bake, and I’ve ruined two crockpots. I know the words to a shocking amount of rap songs, and I sing them in my car. My ringtone is “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift, and that’s also the song I blare when I’m having a bad day or leaving work. I hate card games, because I’m bad at them, and I really hate losing. I don’t love having game nights with friends because I never like any of the games and get bored easily. I don’t sit still very well and I couldn’t tell you the last time I went to a movie. Or watched one. When I go to work, I look like I’ve just rolled out of bed because I don’t understand the point of doing my hair or makeup when I’m going to work as twelve-plus hour shift.
I am a mess…because I am human. I am a mess and I’m learning that isn’t a bad thing…becuase it is what makes me, me. And that is ok.
The truth about being a new yoga teacher, is that no one tells you what’s its going to be like to be a new yoga teacher. The truth about being a yoga teacher, is that once you finish teacher training, you go back out into reality. Maybe you teach, maybe you don’t. I’m a brand new teacher. I’ve taught yoga for three whole months. I say that sarcastically just FYI. I’ve learned a hell of a lot; and I’ve learned a lot of things I wish someone had told me.
So here’s me, telling you. Wether you’re almost a certified yoga teacher, are about to teach your first class, just became an instructor, or are thinking about it- this is just a little bit of my wisdom. Take it for what it’s worth. Leave it for what its worth. I know I still have a lot to learn…a lifetime of learning actually. This newness of being a yoga teacher is just the tip of the iceberg. Please be aware, I am not telling you I know all there is to know about being a yoga teacher. Not even close. Thinking that I even know a lot would be pure ignorance. I don’t. I learn every day- that is something I love about yoga. It is always changing me and challenging me.
You’re not special or more enlightened than anyone else just because you chose to become a yoga teacher. Being a yoga teacher is a trend right now- everyone’s doing it. You are not better than anyone. A yoga teacher is not better than a Zumba teacher at the YMCA. A yoga teacher is not better than a cycling instructor at a little gym. What you are is incredibly brave and committed. You said YES to one of the best, but most difficult things in your life- teacher training. You spent many many hours looking at the deepest parts of yourself, being humbled, screwing up, and being uncomfortable. Be proud of that. Damn proud. But don’t forget where you started. Anyone remember that sweet video of a dad talking to his little girl in the mirror before they start the day? “You are not better than anyone else”, he tells her. “No one is better than you.” You are that little girl looking in the mirror. Always.
Just because you’re a new teacher, doesn’t make you less important. Less knowledgeable, sure. Less experienced, yes. But if yoga means unity, and the goal of yoga is one-ness, like you learned, everyone is equal. Don’t be discouraged if you bomb your first class, or even your first few classes. It’s inevitable! But that does not make you a lesser teacher or student. Do not let teachers above you make you feel small- and remember this carries over to LIFE too. In the same breath, don’t make others feel small. Especially when you teach. If you teach, you will have people of all levels in your classes. Speak to them all. Each and every one of them. Watch the bodies in front of you. You are all equal. They are as important as you are, even though you are in charge and they are on their mats. Teach that way.
The yoga world can be catty. Ok, it is catty. It’s competitive. It’s full of egos. It is full of pride. This truth has been a hard truth for me to learn. I didn’t want to learn it. People I thought were in this business to do good showed me their true intentions were selfish. From personal experience, I have been denied the opportunity to teach a karma class at a studio for a great cause, for reasons unspoken. I did not train at that studio, I do not teach there, I do not belong teaching there. And so pride outweighs desire to do something for the greater good. Turning to another studio in hopes of teaching the class there, I was again denied because “we don’t know that person.” And so yoga becomes about “who you know” rather than “how can I help.” I was told by a mentor and fellow teacher that I was not a peer- simply a student- implying there is a hierarchy in this practice and I am among the lowest. I was told I was attached to truth and it was a problem for our relationship. I was told I was dramatic and gossipy. And so “I am in charge of you” replaces “how can we talk as equals.” Things that were known about my true character were taken and used against me like darts, and I learned that not all intentions are out of love. The thing is, just because yoga preaches peace and zen and love in no way means it is made up entirely of those things. We are human. We hurt each other. It is our nature. We are flawed, we are selfish, we are scared, we are insecure. WE ARE SCARED. That doesn’t make any of us exempt from the standard of being kind to one another. When I think about those situations, I actually don’t feel much anger. I feel sadness, because the world needs all the kindness it can get- but the bottom line is, life is about business. It is the world we humans have created for ourself. We will continually sacrifice love and compassion for money and the need to be right. I am guilty of this also. I am not the exception. Just because I write about it does not mean I practice what I preach 100% of the time. But I do my best. Some days I’m a rockstar with it, and other days I fail miserably. Freaking miserably. Always have, always will. I am not better than anyone else.
Don’t believe in too much magic- but believe in some of it. Find a balance. Find those moments in your own practice where you are completely swept away in your own breath and movement. When the rest of the world is just that- the rest of the world. You don’t care what anyone else is doing or saying. You are fully present. Teach to that magic, even if it feels silly. It is your truth, it is your reason for yoga, it is your light to share. Find the teachers and students and classes that remind you how yoga works. Learn from the people who light not just you up, but others also. There is a lot to be said for those who can see beyond themselves and teach that way also.
Lastly, if you aren’t consistently feeling joy when you get off your mat after your practice, step away. Yoga will be there. It always was. The practice that you maybe long ago came to with wonder and adoration will always be there waiting. No one can take that from you, not even yourself.
Two months ago, I graduated from Yoga Teacher Training. I have had a lot of time since then to explore where yoga fits into my life now. Now that I have stepped out of the bubble of Teacher Training, the reality of “what yoga is” has changed for me. I have done a lot of thinking on how yoga fits into my life spiritually and as a believer in Christ. During one week in training, we had to write a “faith statement” and for me, that is where things began getting blurry. I listened carefully to what my classmates and teacher said, and I stepped away from that night questioning myself. Questioning my faith- my idea of what God was. Not because I suddenly didn’t believe in Him, but because I realized I may be getting myself in over my head. I kept this inquiry between myself and God, for the most part. “Lord, if yoga becomes bigger than my faith in you, show me,” became my prayer.