The last few days, for lack of a better term, have been a trip. After my very contemplative counseling session Thursday, I raced home to begin Sholder training. For those of you who don’t know, The Sholder Foundation is a transpersonal communication peer counseling app that offers a shoulder to those suffering with immediate mental health challenges. I had signed up to become a Sholder and what I hadn’t realized is that this workshop would ultimately change my perception of my own trauma, and in essence, my world view.
It all began with a discussion of synchronicity, a topic I have been reading about recently in the Sky Nelson-Isaacs novel ‘Living in Flow’. It is based on the general idea that denotes that nothing is coincidence and everything is determined by the choices we make. Each of these choices can inevitably lead to the manifestation of our desires. Not to simplify it, but I’m simplifying it.
All of this back story is merely the precursor to my weekend, to my life-changing realization about Who-I-Am. So let’s digest that a bit…
During my counseling appointment, my session revealed the direction I needed to take in order to begin my transformative journey, and by not getting into too much detail, I basically surrendered to the idea that, though I have come to define myself as an Atheist, I am in fact seeking something greater for myself, for this life, and will let go of this current constant to be open, to allow for new growth and understanding. I was asked to name the Source of my being and so I named it ‘Love’, for love is, for me, the all-encompassing, most-meaningful, move-the-mountains-of-my-Universe, reason for living. It is everything. Just thinking of love now, I can feel my physical body vibrate, and my blood rush with boundless anticipation. Love guides me in everything I do. I quite literally make all of my choices towards others with love at the forefront of my intention. Thus, love is truly my Higher Self. Even now, I look back at these words I have written, and I think I haven’t properly described how love inspires my entire existence, but for now, this will have to do.
As I was reminded, however, love is nothing without pain and I have been avoiding my pain for some time now. I have become complacent to it. I haven’t authentically cried from a place of true release, true hurt (TRUTH) in YEARS. Most recently, someone gave me the idea of watching a sad movie to help motivate the tears to flow. I obliged and cried for about 10 seconds and then nothing. In fact, even when I lied in my tub with imminent realization that I was leaving my husband, I balled for about 15 seconds, and again, nothing.
What was I protecting myself from? And more importantly, what am I avoiding?
On day one of my Sholder training, when they asked us to bring authentic trauma to the table when practicing peer-to-peer scenarios, I was open and allowed for myself to be both courageous and vulnerable. Maybe I was so willing because as we went over the core values of how we would approach these calls, it was like an emotional and transformational smack to the face.
You know the old adage, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink…” ? Well, I was the fucking horse!
Everything we spoke of on the first day of training, and eventually throughout, was exactly what was said during my counseling session earlier that day and, if coincidences are truly unreal, then the synchronicity of my impending transformation is quite metaphorically being handed to me on a silver platter. I had chosen to take the red pill and my descent to learn my unsettling and life-changing truth had begun. I was even asked to define my Source in the workshop, to which I again named ‘Love’.
The second day began our dissection of the Sholder process. For my first trauma, I brought up my father’s death and the guilt I held behind that. For the understanding of the true nature of it all, I will break down this trauma now. My father and I were very close. Our relationship was definitely the definition of Daddy’s little girl. I loved him. I loved everything about him: from his stupid dad jokes to his ham radio setup. He was always very supportive, but at the same time, he was very Middle Eastern. He loved everything America, but when it came to cultural stigmata he did not budge. He had a very concrete idea of a woman’s role to a man. In fact, short of finishing school, I was groomed to be the perfect companion. I went to manners classes, learned piano, and ballroom dance. I was also constantly shamed for my curvy and plump figure.
When I was 14 years old, my father was diagnosed with a very rare form of adult Muscular Dystrophy. He was given 15-20 years to live, which seems like a long time but in retrospect is not. When you hear that kind of time, you can forget about the endless ticking clock as the years go on, or at least I did. My father did not. He fell into a deep depression as the symptoms got worse, to which I did not understand. I used to get angry with him. I began to see him as weak.
His depression and decay inevitably led to a lack of money and when I went away to college, he began taking loans out against my name to fund his survival. I found out about one and became angry with him. He refused to acknowledge what he had done, implying that my duty didn’t require that he justify his actions to me. It took me nearly 2 years to speak to him again and when we did, our dynamic had changed. I saw him for who he truly was, or at least I thought I had, and I no longer felt close to him.
Shortly after, my parents separated. My conversations with my father became sad attempts by him to understand my mother’s decision. Our communication became fewer and further away, until eventually we would go months without speaking. In 2009, my mom had not heard from my father in a while and she was concerned, so she sent my cousin to go check on him. My father had fallen and was unable to get up. He had been lying on the floor for two straight days. My cousin called an ambulance and my father was taken to the hospital where he would remain until his death. Due to my parents separation and my absent drug addicted brother, all end-of-life care was up to me. Maybe it was the guilt of our fizzled relationship or the unrealistic hope of his recovery that caused me to make the decisions that I made to keep my father alive. Whatever the reason, my father suffered for six months before I finally decided to pull the plug, and just before my 30th birthday, my father passed away.
I wanted these potential Sholders to understand something that I foresee us dealing with on the regular…grief. As we worked through the sessions, I felt pain there, but still, no tears. I mean, I had one here and there, but no real breakdown. At the end of day two, we learned embodied communicative techniques to tap into pain. We watched our hosts practice this technique on each other and I tried to follow along to see if I could understand, more intimately, the process. As the participant’s shoulder pain moved into his chest, so did mine. Then his chest pain brought up emotion and tears. Mine did not. In fact, my pain became stuck in my chest, unable to move and I was filled with panic and anxiety.
The next day, I brought my second trauma to the workshop, my body dysmorphia. Last year, when I began losing weight, my husband noticed that I carried a lot of paranoia and obsession with what others thought of my body and called my attention to it. Of course! It all made sense. My constant shame for not being the perfect little white girl growing up has fucked me up (!) to say the least. This helped me to identify the issue as I worked towards a more confident woman. Eventually, I realized that these thoughts of shame and disappointment in myself run deep in my veins, to the core of my being, and though I strive to give love to all those around me, I go out of my way to not love myself and I don’t know how to change this or work through this. Hence… counseling. So when we checked in with the group the next day, I mentioned the panic still ruminating deep in my chest.
We broke into sessions, and I was honored to get our host and embodied instructor. She had me begin with simple breathwork right in the core of my pain, right in my chest. She asked me what I felt, to which I replied anxiety, nervousness. This turned into fear very quickly. I kept breathing. I was scared as my heart began to open. That fear led to hurt and pain. I kept breathing. Then, it happened. I began to cry as that hurt turned into sadness. It was the most sincere cry I have had, maybe ever. I kept crying, unleashing this pain and hurt from my heart. It would come in waves, until finally, calm.
This was only the beginning.
Our next breakout session was geared for Sholders to learn how to get to the meat of the conversation. During my share, my Sholder asked me to define the moment when I began to feel shame for my body. I described how I was racially bullied growing up. She had me visualize sitting with that girl…
“What would you say to her?” she asked.
“It gets better? I love you,” I responded. “I’m here for you.” The tears began to flow again.
Then she asked, “What would she say to you?”
I broke down and said, “it hurts. I’m all alone here.” My Sholder had me visualize her stepping inside my now body and walking with me as one. She asked me how I was feeling. My body was radiating with energy. I felt love for that little girl like I was holding her inside of me. I felt my heart opening more.
After the session was over, we debriefed and my body felt warm, present, focused. It was an interesting feeling, like I didn’t know where the boundaries of my physical body lay in this dimension. I felt like light, like the sun. For the first time since my Master’s Degree program, I wanted to write. I needed to write. My Sholder asked me to create an affirmation to write on my mirror…
I am Beautiful
I am Loved
I am Divine
Right here, right in this moment of my story, you could say that this was a great experience, that I learned a lot. But it’s not over.
In the final breakout session, we separated into two groups where one person would be the sharer and everyone else would tag team the conversation, while we had one host observe. I decided to step up as a sharer and continue down this journey of self exploration. As we began, I felt vulnerable. I could sense the Sholder struggling, until she finally asked “What would unconditional love look like to you?” I described warmth, ease and judgment-free zone. I started to think of all those names I was once called and how my differences were somehow not okay, not welcome in my own existence. I cried, so very much.
I was then asked to recall the last time I experienced unconditional love. This sent me deep down the rabbit hole. Though I have the most wonderful parents I could have ever asked for, they are not without their flaws and I realized that my father was a big part of my self-hatred, constantly focusing his energy on my weight. This somehow devalued me, made me unuseful. As we all went further, I was asked to look at the wall in front of me. All I could see were the most beautifully framed black-and-while photos of my parents. My heart fell into despair. I missed him… so much… my father. There is so much that I regret with him, yet, at the same time, so much time spent where I seek reminiscence.
If he were here right now, what would you want him to say…
I don’t know
I’m proud of you
You ARE beautiful
“It’s all an illusion…” I whispered. That’s when I realized it. It only has value because I give it value, like fucking money! When it comes down to it, it has no meaning, no existence, unless I give it or will it so. My trauma was triggered. I began rocking back-and-forth. My body was shaking uncontrollably. My only thought? They were coming. The demons that haunted my shadows so many years ago, here they come.
The host could see that I was triggered and brought me to a much more grounded place. He asked what I needed and all I could say was ‘Freedom’. Freedom from the shackles of this life, and the shackles of my Ego. I was then asked to confront my Ego. What would I say?
How Dare You!
I AM Beautiful…
…and intelligent, strong, a Survivor, a Warrior, Badass…
YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE MY ALLY NOT MY ENEMY!
All of it is linked. This is what it all ended up coming down to, the end result. All of this is linked. All of it is connected. From my relationship to my father, to my body dysmorphia, to my upcoming divorce, it all leads to one thing. My Ego is a self-sabotaging, piece of shit, wild animal that needs to be broken. I am attempting to contemplate the ability to align my Ego to the parts of my psyche where it needs to exist. Don’t walk me off a ledge! Let me know when I’m staggering off, but be on my side. I’ll say it again… Be my ally, not my enemy. This was eye-openingly awakening.
I see the clarity of it all now. My eyes are open. I’m excited for the chaos.
And I’m scared shitless!
About the author
I am an ever-changing ameba of creative thought that transcends any specific genre. My writing is spiritual in nature, but I tend to traverse my way through many realms: like fantasy, fiction, non-ficiton, experiential and erotica.