Meet the Real Me

Yes, my story is real, and the strength I have gained from my experiences in life is very real. But, my story…my trauma, my anxiety…they don’t define me. I DON’T HAVE anxiety, I live my life despite it. I am NOT a victim, I have survived through trauma. There is a huge difference, and for a long time, I let both define me. What I learned is that you get stuck in those definitions and it becomes who you are. It was incredibly freeing when I learned that I didn’t have to be defined by these labels.

Growing up I was a bit of a trouble maker. Just ask my parents or my sister, especially my dad. Boy did I know how to push his buttons. I was a happy kid. I had friends in the neighborhood. We were usually bouncing from playground to playground. I loved spinning on the tire swing, at the playground behind our house, and looking up at the sky as we spun really fast. And the regular swings. Remember trying to swing so high you went all the way around the top bar? We tried, but never succeeded. I used to ride my bike down big hills with my hands to the side, feeling the wind rip through my hair. And I would steal kitchen spoons so I could dig to China in the backyard. I never quite made it. I would have always preferred bare feet to my tennis shoes. But my parents always caught me. And dancing, oh how I loved to dance. I enjoyed the feel of the bass as it ran through my body.

My sister and I would build blanket forts. They were always amazing. We would build forts with separate rooms in them. We used so many blankets. But the minute my sister made me mad, I would yank that fort down. When we went to the local elementary school to play tennis, I would pound my racket on the ground if I wasn’t winning. In elementary school, my friends and I would walk to school. But we usually walked the way our parents told us not to. In school, there were many times I was removed from the classroom because I was causing trouble.

On the weekends, my friends and I would watch scary movies. My hands would be in front of my face and I would be plugging my ears at the same time. But we loved scary movies. I was me and I never apologized for that. I always wanted to be outside and, in the summers, I would stay out as late as I could, until my mom put the front lights on. I was a free spirit. It had a way of getting me in trouble. I didn’t like rules. But, when I look back, I really like who I was.

I let my fear of what others thought of me get in the way for a very long time. I let my anxiety define me. I let myself play the role of the victim and expected others to nurture me and take care of me. I thought that was who I was. I let my experiences define me. I stopped watching horror films because they increased my anxiety. I stopped trying to dig to China and I stopped trying to make that swing flip over the bar. And…I stopped dancing. Oh how I missed dancing.

When I started living on my own, I realized, who the hell cares what others think of me. I liked the kid I was growing up. Maybe not everything was perfect about her, but she was actually pretty awesome, and she was a force to be reckoned with. I started taking yoga. While I was no longer trying to flip that swing over the bar, I was doing some incredible poses that I thought I would be way too old to do. And, I got to be barefoot while doing it. Growing up, I knew exactly how to push people’s buttons. I believe some of that was because I could read people pretty well. I do not try to push buttons anymore. Instead, I use my ability to read people to support them and put a smile on their faces. I don’t try to dig to China, but I feel very excited about my new love for travel and hope I get to take a ton of trips. I enjoy watching scary movies again (just not by myself). And dancing…I love to dance again. I go out and dance, I stay home and dance, I cook dinner and I dance. I am the person that I am and I make absolutely no apologies. If I offend someone, it’s okay. They don’t have to like me. But I won’t apologize.

This is the real me. Not my trauma, not my anxiety. I returned to the person I used to be, only, more grown up. I like who I am now. I am more than happy to share my story with others, but I realized it was important for you all to know who I really am. I do understand that a lot of my strength comes from my experiences and I don’t discount them. I live with anxiety and I am a survivor, but really, I am so much more than that.

What’s Your Story…An Update

Early September I shared my story of trauma and anxiety, strength and empowerment. I shared my story with the hopes that I can reach out to others. I can’t lie. It’s therapeutic for me too. Blogging has made me look deep inside myself to really figure out me. It’s a work in progress, but we are all evolving. The goal is to be happy with where you are headed.

I was totally unprepared for the healing that I had no idea I still needed. Not that I thought I was completely healed. I thought it was a part of me I would carry. It would always be there but not take over my life. I have been in a great place for quite some time now. So imagine my surprise when I got a message from a friend that I have not talked to in over 30 years. She lived right down the block from me when we were growing up. After I posted my blog, I went to dinner with my parents. As I’m having dinner I get a very long facebook message from my friend apologizing to me. She has a memory of me sharing with her about the abuse. At 6, she didn’t know how to process that information and never said anything to anyone.

I cannot explain the waves of emotions that followed. There was always the smallest piece of me that wondered if what had happened was a nightmare. I think that was because I was asked if I was sure it wasn’t a dream. I was positive, but there was a seed of doubt planted in my brain. Maybe the question was asked because my disclosure was years after the trauma. Either way, the question has always left me with the smallest sliver of doubt. So, when my friend reached out to me, it was like putting the last piece in a jigsaw puzzle. I didn’t realize how much that doubt weighed on me. But reading those words…”you and I”…”in your parents’ basement”…”and you talking about it.” Any doubt I had was completely erased. It had happened. I had told someone. I remembered that, but again, was that maybe a dream? Everything I was certain to be true was completely validated.

I got home from dinner and I cried. I cried and I cried and I cried. Not one part of me was sad. Those tears, they were cleansing tears. The tears from a ton of weight being lifted off my shoulders. I should never have doubted myself. So, while my friend is apologizing for not understanding my plea, words cannot describe the healing she gave to me earlier this month. How has my life changed in the last month? Well, there were times that my mind would take me back to those moments at 7 years old. That little voice in my head would start to whisper, “was it real?” I struggled to get past that. To trust my memories. I can honestly say, since she and I messaged, I have not revisited those moments again. I don’t look back and wonder if I said or did something wrong. So, while I will never forget what happened, I do not need to look back anymore and question. My past experiences helped create who I am today, but they do not define me.

So, I set out to share my story to reach others and make a difference. To my friend who reached out, Thank You!!!!! I will never be able to put into words what you gave to me by reaching out. I believe you were not meant to do anything with my disclosure when you were 6. It was always now. You were meant to tuck it away for that moment, earlier this month. That was when I needed it. Thank you for turning me straight ahead on my path so I can move forward and stop backtracking periodically.

What’s Your Story

I have been taking this amazing class for the last three weeks. It ended last week. That left me feeling a little empty. I felt connected with the class and was so grateful for all I learned. It was a class to become certified as a Peer Recovery Specialist. According to Tennessee’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services website,, the definition is as follows: a person who has lived experience of a mental illness, substance use disorder or co-occurring disorder, who has made the journey from illness to wellness, and who now wishes to help others. Being a trauma survivor and surviving years of anxiety gives me lived experiences to work with others who feel as though I can relate to their struggles.

Throughout the class, we would occassionally share bits and pieces of our stories. Each person in the class brought such unique gifts. I believe we were a pretty special class. On the second to last day, we all took turns sharing our story from beginning to end. We did not sit around and mope about the struggles in our lives. We each told a story of suffering that led to amazing hope and transformation. We briefly spoke of our bad experiences, but turned it around to show how we all became survivors of what life handed to us. While it was an emotionally draining day, I was so encourged by how resilient people are. And one thing that seemed to be universal, was that when the skeletons are let out of the closet, healing can begin. I have released my skeletons, but not for the whole world. So, here goes.

As a survivor of childhood sexual trauma, my control was taken from me at an early age. As I got older, anxiety set in. I was afraid of things beyond my control. I was up all night with an upset stomach and was distracted in class. There were so many times I felt like I was floating towards the ceiling and watching everything around me. At the time, my toolbox of coping skills was empty. I didn’t know grounding tools to help with the dissociation. I was stuck. Not sleeping led to depression. I either could barely eat or I couldn’t stop eating. I hated my body, I hated that I couldn’t concentrate in class, I hated that I felt isolated from friends because of my anxiety, and mostly, I hated myself.

My anxiety lasted from my third year in college (1993) until May, 2015. What changed? While I had talked a little about my childhood trauma, it still felt like a skeleton. The day I became single, was the day I found the strength to let my voice ROAR. Silence, no more. For me, staying silent meant staying a victim. That day, I did the Linda Carter spin and Wonder Woman was born. I took care of myself. I built a support network that was amazing and didn’t judge me. When I felt myself getting down, I used the tools my therapist gave me to get through. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t an easy road. I fell down a lot. It took another year and a half to start recovering from the depression and really thinking I am worthy of amazing things. I love what I see in the mirror each day. Some days I would like a little fewer rolls, or maybe a little extra time to get myself organized, but all in all, I look in the mirror and I am that little girl that used to run around in those awesome Wonder Woman underoos with so much confidence. I was always her. I just forgot.

Recently, I had someone ask why the hell I would have gotten such a big tattoo for my first one. It’s a reminder to never forget that confident little Wonder Girl who would grow up to be a powerful Wonder Woman and would change the world of some people for the better.

My road to recovery is unique. Just as anyone else’s journey is unique. My experiences will be different than yours. But we can all find ways to relate to one another. I would love to encourage anyone who would like to share their stories to please do so. I would love to hear the amazing things you have to offer. To hear about your amazing strength. And if you aren’t ready to share your story, know that there is nothing wrong with that. Again, this is your own journey. When you’re ready, your path will be paved for you.

“The strength of my soul was born on the backs of moments that brought me to my knees.” S. L. Heaton