Embracing My Shadow Reloaded

In October of 2012 I began Embracing My Shadow. It was a year after my last major depressive episode and I had a deep desire to share my story. I wasn’t quite sure why I should share or if anyone would even care. I just knew that I had to get things out of my head and my heart. I had to give language to my thoughts and release my feelings. I had to confront some things and begin the difficult process of letting go.

I should mention that I have always been someone who was told that she shared just a little too much. I was too vocal in my love for folks. I was too open when it came to my thoughts and emotions. I was too deep when it came to my intellectual capacity and philosophical musings. I was too sensitive when it came to my interactions with others. What’s ironic about these accusations (or some might call them critiques) is that I never really shared the darkness and struggles that lurked beneath the surface. Going through my latest bout of death, disease and despair, also known as the reality that is life, I realized that my ongoing cycles of getting overwhelmed, going into hiding and flirting with the reality that is suicide were all directly connected to the side of myself that I didn’t want anyone to see. I was determined to keep this part of myself from the light of day. This was and is my shadow side.
I got the language of shadow from Debbie Ford and my time serving as a hospital chaplain. In simple terms, we talk about one’s shadow as the part of oneself that at first glance is dark, desperate, ashamed and compiled of all the tragedy and suffering in one’s life.
It’s the part of yourself that if not attended to, can overtake you and not in good ways. It’s the part of yourself that replays the negative self-talk that tells you that you aren’t good enough, lovable enough, strong enough, smart enough….ENOUGH.
It’s the part of yourself that keeps you from sharing your whole self, from being vulnerable. You just know that if anyone else ever encountered this part of yourself, they would pick up and run the other way and you would wither and die in a pool of shame.
This is the shadow. This is the side of myself that I not only shared but that I didn’t acknowledge. And I’ve learned something in my 32 years – not embracing your shadow can lead to death and destruction and cause you to act out in negative ways, engage in negative relationships and perpetuate negative ways of being that are life-taking and not life giving. But worse of all, not embracing your shadow can impede you from embracing the fullness and beauty of who you are. And almost two years later, I’ve realized what Embracing My Shadow is really about.
This began as a selfishly cathartic exercise of a woman who was struggling with depression and anxiety. My tag line was, “One woman’s journey of accepting her WHOLE self – depression, anxiety and all – and helping others to do the same.” It grew out of a desire for me to share my journey with mental illness and it quickly became evident that I was not the only one with a story to share who was seeking support. It’s been almost two years and it has grown into a community of Shadow Lovers, all of whom have varying degrees of relationship with their shadow.
It’s time to take the next step, to start a new chapter. Embracing My Shadow is no longer just about a particular aspect of my journey. It’s broadening as I have come face-to-face with my core issue; the thing that undergirds many of my mental health struggles and issues in intimate relationships. That thing is a lack of radical self-love. How can I accept love or even give love – from God or from others – if I fundamentally don’t love myself?
Embracing My Shadow is about one woman’s journey of accepting her WHOLE self – of seeking radical self love and helping others do the same. 
This is my call. This is where this journey has led me. I hope you are able to join in on this, because Lord knows, I can’t do it by myself. And remember, dear Shadow Lovers, WE are not alone.
Love,
Me
LOVE-YOURSELF-s
Advertisements

Grief Space Part 2

Grief Space – the place one finds themselves after a series of losses after some time has passed; the moment when one has to confront their emotions; a place of acceptance

one-face-of-grief-irene-nowicki

I’ve been trying to pinpoint what’s going on with me. I wrote about feeling untethered and the unfortunate state of being that I am inhabiting that currently includes daily tears and sadness. After a series of conversations, I finally realized that I am in what I am calling Grief Space.

I have not grieved the numerous losses that I have experienced since the summer of 2011. At the time that these losses were happening, I was in the midst of a depression so deep that it would take time off from work, an emergency intervention and a course of medication to get me to a place where I could finally put one foot in front of the other. So needless to say, I was not in a position to actively grieve.

Once things got turned right side up so to speak, I did what any strong black woman would do – I kept it moving. I actively worked on my healing. I threw myself into my work. I began making plans. I got a new job. I moved. I threw myself into my new work. I went through the motions of self-care. In the midst of all this doing however, I never stopped just to be. I never stopped to grieve.

It hit me this week that I am now finally in a place where the grief will no longer be denied. It wants to be recognized. I no longer have a choice. A friend of mine pointed out that I am now in the place where I need to pay attention to my grief. I need to look back over the past couple of years and just stop.

I need to deal with the fact that I left my seminary community.

I need to deal with the fact that I got married, separated and divorced.

I need to deal with the fact that I am no longer a step mother and am facing immense guilt over this reality.

I need to deal with the fact that my grandmother is dead.

I need to deal with the fact that my father is sick.

I need to deal with the fact that I left my beloved community in Atlanta that literally saved my life.

I need to deal with the fact that I am lonely.

I need to deal.

And it terrifies me. I often think that the worst place to be is healthy when it comes to mental illness because you know what sick looks like and you don’t ever want to be there again. My fear all of this time has been that if I let myself feel, if I let myself grieve, I may never emerge from the darkness.

During our conversation my friend pointed something out. She reminded me that I am not where I was. I am aware. I am proactive. I am supported. I am loved. And it is time for me to grieve. It is time for me to inhabit this grief space because until I do, as long as I keep stuffing it down and pretending like it’s not there or it didn’t’ happen, I will never fully embrace my shadow. It’s time for me to lean into the grief space, to go through it, to emerge on the other side. I’m asking for your prayers and your support. Maybe we can do it together.

Love,

Me

The Danger of Self Loathing

Trigger Alert: If you are someone you know is contemplating suicide, please seek help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free and anonymous service. Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 or visit http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. 

Selfhatred (also called selfloathing) refers to an extreme dislike or hatred of oneself, or being angry at or even prejudiced against oneself.

Not_Good_Enough_by_graphiqual

I thought I’d never get to that point again. I guess that’s the danger of thinking you’ve overcome something. I still have a lot to learn and realize that my family’s involvement in AA* (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA* (Narcotics Anonymous) has a lot to teach me. Never stop thinking that you are an addict. You are an addict. You might be in recovery, but the moment you think you’ve conquered your addiction is the moment you fall off the wagon. That being said, I thought I was over feelings of wanting to die.  Until last week.

Self loathing and shame are powerful emotions, ones that lie and lead one to think that they are worthless. And truth be told, they are the two emotions that I have battled much of my life. I don’t know where it comes from, but I have constantly thought that I was unworthy. I could never make a mistake. I was never good enough. All of these thoughts have fueled my desire to further my education and constantly seek to be better. All in all, these aren’t bad things to seek but I’ve learned that the motivations – self loathing and shame – are deadly.

My desire for to be perfect leads me to have zero tolerance about making mistakes and I am inherently ungracious towards myself. More about this thing called grace later…

This past week, everything that I feared became a reality – making a public mistake, disappointing people that I care deeply about, engaging a man in an unhealthy relationship, scaring my closest friends – you name it, it happened. Basically it was one of the worse weeks of my life. And the feeling of wanting to disappear, to leave and never come back, to die, returned.

I didn’t think I would ever be there again. I didn’t think that I would make decisions that would put me in danger. But I am realizing that the longer I go trying to cover up rather than embrace the dark side of myself, the easier it is for me to slip back into thinking that I am worthless. My tendency during these moments is to withdraw, to shut out loved ones and crawl into myself. I’ve found that my thinking is flawed during this time because my mind leads me to wonder why anyone would care. At my lowest moments, I believe this to be true. And this is dangerous.

I am thankful for the community of support that surrounds me in spite of myself. I am thankful for the women in my life who push through and don’t take no for an answer. I am thankful that my decisions did not lead to a point of no return. I am thankful that God’s grace abounds even as I struggle with it and can’t fully comprehend it.

I am continuing on this journey of healing – meeting with my therapist, taking my medication, getting back in shape, taking care of my body – but I realize that there will be setbacks.

My prayer is that feelings of worthlessness disappear as we look them in the eye and declare that they don’t have the last word over our lives.

My prayer is that I grow in grace and compassion towards myself and that you do the same.

My prayer is that love abounds – love of God, love of self and love of others – as I continue to realize my self worth.

Love,

Me

*Alcoholics Anonymous is an international mutual aid fellowship founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith in Akron, Ohio. AA states that its “primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety”. Narcotics Anonymous describes itself as a “nonprofit fellowship or society of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem”.

Soul Sisters

A person with whom you have an immediate connection the moment you meet –a connection so strong that you are drawn to them in a way you have never experienced before.

As this connection develops over time, you experience a love so deep, strong and complex, that you begin to doubt that you have ever truly loved anyone prior.

Your soulmate understands and connects with you in every way and on every level, which brings a sense of peace, calmness and happiness when you are around them. And when you are not around them, you are all that much more aware of the harshness of life, and how bonding with another person in this way is the most significant and satisfying thing you will experience in your lifetime.

You are also all that much aware of the beauty in life, because you have been given a great gift and will always be thankful…

Defining soulmate by Elliek at Urban Dictionary.

I have a group of women in my life who I refer to as my soul sisters. These are women who are intelligent, articulate, vivacious and passionate about their life and their work.

We are a motley crew; a diverse grouping of women divinely connected for such a time of this. I’ve met each of them at different stages in my life and I’ve come to realize that God has gifted me with their love and their friendship. I would not be the woman I am today without each of them.

We are the women who love reality t.v., view Sex and the City as the ultimate guide to life and love, refuse to be told what we can and can’t do, want to love and be loved deeply and passionately, struggle with our confidence, fight mental illness – depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar disorder – you name it, we have it.

We believe in a God that is bigger and wider and more gracious than anything we can imagine.

We are the women who people call bitchy and arrogant. We’ve been told that we intimidate folks

We are the women who cry our eyes out. Who want to be loved deeply and passionately. Who are die hard romantics even as we refuse to be submissive and settle for that which we know is not real and true and life-altering.

We are the women who call each other crying when someone sees something in us that we can’t fathom. We don’t see the greatness that lies within and need each other to affirm its very presence.

We are the ones who have been violated, whose innocence was disrupted either by rape, molestation, incest and abuse. The ones who have valiantly fought to stitch together pieces of our broken selves and claim the beauty that God intended us to be.

These women are my soulmates.

It’s not a sexual connection but it is a passionate one. I love men – physically, sexually, emotionally and mentally. But these women fill spaces and places in my heart that no man can… It’s a spiritual connection, one that only God could have designed.

Our scars, our struggles, our fears and our triumphs make us who we are — Soul Sisters.

Soul sisters unite

Speak truth. Speak love. Speak compassion. Speak Life.

Soul sister unite

I love you all,

Me

A message from my Daddy…

On November 29, 2012 I published a blog post entitled “The Skin I’m In“. I couldn’t imagine the conversation it sparked and the positive feedback that it generated. The most significant thing that happened was that I received a message from my daddy that brought me to tears. You see, we have a very interesting history, one that I will share at another time. Since embarking on this journey of embracing my depression and coming clean with my family, my daddy and I have gotten much closer. We had very different upbringings and he has lived a very hard life. I continue to be in awe of him and his many accomplishments, not even realizing that we had some things in common. I asked if I could share his message with you and he agreed. I am so thankful that my post opened another pathway of communication and understanding between me and my daddy.

My dearest daughter,
I don’t know if I ever told you, but if I did not, I’m telling you now. As a 10 year old kid growing up in Harlem, I was often called little WHITE boy. Even now I am often referred to as WHITE man. However I understood at an early age that people who called and call me names were those who either were intimidated, jealous or unsure of themselves because I spoke better and I was more intelligent than they were. It all started in Harlem because I used to spend time in Queens where I actually spent nights in a house. So you see my darling daughter we have more in common than you might know. I am just happy that I understood this early in life. I am now happy that you have figured it out and that you are happy with the skin that you’re in. Just for the record, I’ve always teased you because I was able to identify. If you want me to stop, forget about it. 🙂

Love,
DaddyDaddy and Roze