Recovering My True Self

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The journey to self discovery is fascinating to say the least. I embarked on mine a year ago, but I do believe I have spent a lifetime searching. What I have come to realise is that self examination is very painful from a place of judgement and shame. They have a saying in the rooms of 12 step and that is, “God only gives you what you can handle”. This is apparent, based on the trauma, which has only, just surfaced. Before connecting to it, I got to a place of complete self-acceptance and gentleness.

I had an experience with my best friend, which broke me. She is my greatest mirror! She came to me with a scenario, which I went straight into judgment over. My judgement was rooted in fear of what I didn’t know. Naturally I took her inventory for her and judged her the same way I would have judged myself if I had been in the same situation. Her reaction, though painful, is exactly what I needed to see. I hurt the person, who I love the most and it was as painful for me to see myself doing that as I think it was for her to be on the receiving end. It was from that moment, that I realised exactly how harmful I can be, to myself… She just allowed me to witness it. I felt regret and deeply feared abandonment.

She didn’t leave, she like me, stuck around and thank God for that! I made a mistake and I was forgiven and it is from that I started to believe I was forgivable. I let go of trying to be this perfect specimen, who will never slip or make a mistake and I connected with my humanness. I found self-forgiveness and in turn learnt self-acceptance. The shame has left me, because for the first time I can love me for who I am and that is enough. To know that nothing I do is wrong OR right. That I am like a little girl learning to run. I may fall and I may hurt myself, but that is ok, because there is nothing wrong with learning through doing. And if I am constantly fearing doing things, I will do nothing at all. I will merely escape into the fantasy of doing things, which lives in my head. Then I end up disappointed that I don’t do them.

When I am afraid, I ask God, “Please come in and hold my hand”. I was a frightened little girl with no freedom to express myself without punishment. This is no longer the case, but that little girl is not going to come out with harsh words and judgement. Love, open arms and encouragement on the other hand, are the antidote. “A spiritual awakening is the antidote for fear”, from one of the questions on step twelve – Yes it is. My spiritual awakening was unconditional love and acceptance of self. If I love myself no matter what. There is nothing to be ashamed of.

I went to Sydney last weekend. The trip was something special. I did a meeting for adult children of dysfunctional families and for the first time in my life I cried in front of people who weren’t my mother or my therapist – not to mention in front of an entire group! I hobbled out of the meeting and I realised I had literally forgotten everything people had said. Bessel Van Der Kolk explained it best, when he said that when people get scared, frightened or upset we loose our frontal lobe and the limbic system takes over (which is the primitive part of the brain that was created when you were a kid to help you survive) – so the question he poses is how do we build up our frontal lobe so that it can still operate when the limbic system takes over. – Anyway, he explains it much better than I do. I watched the video in February for the first time and on Sunday, I had my first lived awareness of this actually happening to me. People would say their names and no sooner had they said it, would I forget their name completely. It was really weird and confronting. We went for a ridiculously over priced massage afterwards and ate ice cream and then passed out early. My experience is that you can have all the stamina in the world, but it means nothing to keep you standing in the midst of this emotional work… It is there on my knees that I can comprehend humility.

Another thing that happened on the trip and the day before I left. I went into a clothing store to buy a pair of shorts. This was really difficult for me, because when the shop assistant asked me what I was looking for I had NO idea! She brought out the full range of women’s shorts, which were all high wasted and inappropriately short. These are the kind of shorts I have worn for the past 12 years and have sat in meetings completely uncomfortable. My codependency was starting to kick in and I started feeling really bad that I wasn’t going to buy anything – maybe this was a little bit of a blessing! What it inspired me to do was ask her about the boys shorts I had seen when I walked in. She was a bit shocked, but brought me a full range of guys shorts in different sizes and I was able to try them on and find the size that fit me. I had my first happy shopping experience EVER!!! It was great, because when we got to Sydney, I went into another clothing store and walked around with my friend feeling totally uneasy and overwhelmed. Disheartened, I sat and waited to give my friend the thumbs up while she tried on her outfits. I got up and shuffled over to the guys section. I started to get quite excited when I found 2 pairs of shorts I liked and knew the size I was looking for. 1 didn’t look great, but the other did and I was over the moon… this was a second INCREDIBLE shopping experience for me.

Months ago I would have had too much shame to come out of hiding to publicly start to try to look for who I am. I would have been too ashamed of the fact that I wanted to wear guys clothing and I most certainly would have done everyone’s thinking for them and done the worst judgement of me through your eyes – let alone actually asking for help! Seeing the joy and excitement being myself brought to me over the weekend, I am not sure I can ever go back to suppressing that part of me. I heard some famous Bollywood director once say, “It takes an awful lot of energy trying to be something you’re not and absolutely no energy at all just being who you are.”

Changing Course

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After writing last night’s post, I felt totally uninspired. It was another recovery post and I just felt it lacked so much inspiration. I was feeling flat and my program had hit this point of inertia, which left me feeling totally bored even writing about it. I went to sleep feeling disappointed and empty. My life felt hollow and meaningless. (The sound of a concerto played on the world’s smallest violin – haha)

I started thinking loads before I went to sleep and what came up was that my life is very small at the moment. Yes, I have huge insights and revelations around recovery and that gives me a lot to write about, but it just seemed so narrow and one tracked. All I really have in my life at the moment is recovery and work, which both are extremely fulfilling, but 2 things on a plate is not a very interesting meal if you ask me. This brings me to my next point, I wanted to blog about cooking or rather my creations. I don’t think I put it as an esteemable act, but it ought to be. I am at my most grounded when I am making a meal. Not only to have the opportunity to make a meal, but to be able to nurture and give love to my housemates – and have it appreciated… This is one of the biggest gifts for me.

The truth is, I have been so inspired in the kitchen lately I even considered changing professions. The moment that thought popped up, I heard the childhood tape in my mom’s voice, “you have to choose one thing Nicole and stick to it, you are burning the candle from both ends.” – This left me totally deflated and I felt shame for even beginning to dream a little. Looking at the photo of my recipe. I wanted to post it, but my narrow mind said to me, “This is a recovery blog Nicole, you can’t write about food.” – Then a shift – It is like my inner child came bursting through, adamant to be heard. I am nothing like my mother, though I admire and respect her hugely, we really are cut from a different crop (we are on opposite sides of the spectrum in numerology) – The diversity in my life and my passions is what makes me thrive. It is what makes me, me. I am passionate about a lot of things and if I do any of those things individually for a prolonged period of time. The flame will burn out, because it is a very little fire.

I watched a great interview of Joni Mitchell. She simply refuses to be put in a box and is admired for being able to stretch over so many different genres. Music comes second to her painting and she is celebrated for her durability and her diversity.  For me, I see this in all great artists and it inspires me to my core.

Though I am technically not an artist, I most certainly am a creative soul. I love to draw and to paint, I love writing. Creating delicious meals and presenting them to look like something that has come out of a restaurant kitchen is my favourite thing to do. Becoming a comedian is something I have dreamt about since I was very young. I am a good showjump rider and I absolutely love working with people and helping people, so it’s no wonder I have a job in the community sector and instruct pilates. The diversity keeps the momentum rolling for me. On my vision board it’s funny, I have stand up comedy. Sustainable living and a kibbutz community type thing (it’s actually the San Patrignano rehabilitation farm in Italy). I have a food truck, showjumping, equine assisted therapy, writing, leaders, children, multi-culture and road tripping – hahaha I most certainly don’t have one direction. The shift that happened in me the other night, was that instead of feeling shame around it, I got to celebrate it. I don’t have to hide who I am for fear of not being normal. What is normal anyway?

I thought about my therapy sessions and how far I had come. I thought about my recovery and all the work I had put in and there was a voice in my head saying, slow down and enjoy life! I went into the session and I just got honest. I have so much fear being in a country so far away from home. That I am recovering, but that I feel my life is so empty and that I have dreamt about going to Sydney, since I got here. I just want to see it! Oh, and I really want to dress like a boy. These may seem like simple things for most people, but for me, the ability to want something for myself is HUGE! I have internalised homophobia, so expressing that I want to change the way I look to be who I am, rather to fit into what is deemed “normal” is one of the biggest steps for me. Then expressing to my therapist that I want to cut my sessions in half and use that money to go away every second month, is even bigger… I am a poverty addict and I am used to living on nothing, so to spend money on something nice for myself that can be considered a luxury and not a necessity is monumental and something I have never done.

I left the session feeling on top of the world. My therapist, being the incredible woman she is, asked me, “what can I do to support you Nicole?” – I felt empowered and loved. I don’t even know how to express the gratitude I feel – I got home and started cooking hahaha! It was really well received and appreciated by both my housemates. A friend of mine is going to Sydney into an incredible treatment centre there and threw out randomly, when I mentioned my dream of going to Sydney, that I should come visit while she is in there. She totally planted the seed. And she is my best friend. I continued cooking and then got a reach out call from another member, who is a good friend of us both. She said she had the dream of going to Sydney to check out the fellowship and I said, “well I’m going on the 21st to go and visit….”, she immediately jumped on the bandwagon and asked to join. She said she was bad at organising so if I could do that she’d book her flight.

This was God’s will. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have been motivated to do anything. If it wasn’t for the money program, I would have tried to do the booking all in hiding. Instead I voiced it and openly spoke about budget with my housemate. She put me onto the best car rental place, which cut the car hire costs in half – Vehicle Rent – you’re welcome 😉 hahaha – Anyway, the end result is I booked a holiday that was $100 under my budget and it will become even cheaper, because when I spoke to this other member this morning, she has booked her flights, so accommodation and car gets halved again! WINNING!!! The best part is the friend I am going to see, thinks that only I am coming… The look on her face when she sees both of us arriving is the type of thing that I live for.

It’s the simple things in life. Always through the most amount of pain, do I gain the greatest learning. Today I am beyond grateful. I am so lucky! My life is changing course and there is some beautiful scenery ahead AND I am walking hand in hand with God… Suddenly my life doesn’t feel empty or lonely anymore.