When It’s All Said & Done

MY STORY ABOUT SURVIVORSHIP

Being a survivor isn’t a one-and-done thing. You don’t survive the experience and get to call it quits later. Unfortunately, it follows you everywhere. The experience is etched into your cells, your memories, your everyday actions. You may never be a victim again, but you will always remember why you’re a survivor in the first place.

I remember when I first started dating my abusive ex-boyfriend, he said he used to date a girl who used to “flinch every time [he] moved [his] hand too fast.” He laughed because he said her old dude “used to beat her”. I can’t remember how I responded then, but I will always think back to that first red flag. In that moment, he was letting me know that intimate partner violence was acceptable, perhaps even humorous.

But what did I know about red flags, then? When I was 16-years-old, I was blaming victims for not leaving their abusive partners. I didn’t know what to look out for when dating ruthless boys and rebellious girls. What I did know was that I was too smart to get caught up in some abusive relationship–Nope! It would never happen to me, because I would just leave, duh! Because it would be that easy…right?

The truth was a hard pill to swallow. I choked on it. I didn’t want to believe I was a victim, but I wasn’t in denial of what was happening to me. I just didn’t know how to make it stop. I still loved him with my entire being – I was convinced he would change. I believed he would changed even after he ghosted me for months, held a shotgun to my chest, physically dragged me by my hair multiple times in public, called me out of my name, left me with bruises, and forced sex with me.

I covered for him everytime, calling his fits “anger issues” because that’s what the courts and the hood called it. I knew it wasn’t my fault he was always in a rage. Truthfully, I love the banter. And I loved to play rough with my boyfriend. I could control my rage in a healthy way, why couldn’t he? Several tough years later, I’d learn it was never about anger, or rage, or being mad. It was always about having the power and control in the relationship (and over me). He didn’t have an anger issue, he had a supremacist issue.

Though he didn’t explicably say it, being white and being a man had its advantages. He was the center of every conversation. Guys like him are the center of what we learn in public school. It didn’t matter that he was a stoner, considered himself liberal – dare I say, a feminist. But what feminist believes women should be “put in their place?” (A very wrong one, for sure). He used his power in society to keep me scared, powerless, and under his control. Every time I tried to break up with him, he’d threaten my family. I believed him because he had a very powerful support system backing up his every move.

Our friends and family knew him as a “nice guy” with temper issues. But “abusive”? No. He would never. He would never raise a fist to me or an open hand. He never hit me. So, why would I say that about him? Obviously, it was me causing his outrage and provoking these fights about what I should be doing with my life. Because the fights were usually about me and what I was doing wrong. I could never point a finger at him because he was “one of the good ones.” He was gaslighting me and I was on fire from the inside out.

When the relationship was finally over, I started to take inventory of what was left. What did I have left to give? He had taken my power, my friends, my integrity, my hope, and my innocence. I’d never see the world with the same bright eyes as before.

IN THE BEGINNING

I met him when I was 16 years old and just out of a complicated, toxic relationship that ended with me having an abortion. He was supportive of my decision and helped me get my mind off of what happened. Full disclosure, he was a good friend before we started dating. He was a family friend, the nicest and funniest guy I had ever gotten close to –  a real gentleman, so I thought. I fell in love so fast, I completely forgot I was *this close* to becoming a mother months before. But I also knew something was off. After we had sex for the first time, I lied about how many people I had sex with. I told him it was just my ex-boyfriend because I didn’t want him to think I was a slut, or dirty. I wanted him to think I was pure and worth keeping around for a long time. Looking back, I always regret that moment.

This was another red flag I should have noticed. In all sincerity, I just wanted to be loved and love in return. I wanted stability, normalcy, and a romantic, healthy love. I thought I would get that with him. I was so blinded by my wants that I forgot about what I needed: safety. I grew up in an unstable, unsafe, unhealthy home and something about him felt familiar. He felt like my Mom and Dad all at once. I should have ran until my feet blistered, but instead I stayed until the very last ounce of dignity was squeezed from me.

But no one warned me about these red flags. And when things were bad, no one talked to my partner about stopping the abuse. They all turned to me and just expected me to leave. As if it was that easy. As if I hadn’t already tried before. As if I had any energy at all to entertain the thought of another fight. As if.

It’s been almost 10 years since the relationship ended, but I still wake up scared some days. There are only so many ways people can take power away from you, but there are so many other ways to gain that power back. On days I feel most helpless, I start to write another piece of this story. And on days I want to take my power back, I share resources to prevent this from happening to someone else. (I also go back to scenes where the abuse took place, but that’s another essay.)

CALL TO ACTION

I am a survivor of IPV and sexual assault. And I am not alone. There are hoards of us and even more young and innocent victims who don’t know how to read flags like 16-year-old me. As survivors, it is sacred our duty to protect them and help them get out of these abusive relationships. As survivors, it is imperative we teach others not to make the same mistakes.

In the same breath, the young man who abused me was also a victim of physical and emotional abuse. The world let him suffer in silence and allowed him to channel his trauma into violence against a romantic partner (me). The world sat back and watched as I was pushed, shoved, and pulled at hands of a troubled young man. His friends did and said nothing. His family did and said nothing. My family tried to help, but ended up blaming me (the victim). All of this happens all too often. We let abusers go unnoticed because they’re our friends, our family members, our loved ones. But that’s not okay. And we shouldn’t keep doing that.

There’s a call to end toxic masculinity as it’s been linked to all kinds of fucked up shit (if I may say): rape culture, intimate partner violence, dehumanization of women and girls, homophobia, transphobia, among other things. But it’s not enough to end these cycles of oppression within ourselves. We have to call people out when they are being less than neighborly to our loved ones. We can’t be scared of being disliked for calling out toxic behavior. Actually, people may even stop talking to us the more we speak up for victims’ rights and the end of toxic behavior.

Right now, we live in a world that allows men to use power + control + violence to make a point and unfortunately, most of the world is run by those people. Fortunately for us, we live amongst the people that that behavior directly affects, meaning we have direct influence to make changes within our homes and within our communities. We can’t let abuse happen period. When the abuser is committing these acts, call them in. When the victim is experiencing these acts, get them out. You can’t sit on the sidelines for this one (or at all), you have to choose a side. You either support abusive and toxic behavior, or you act to end it. Period. There is no inbetween.

While I would love to label all abusers monsters, I cannot. I am a humanitarian and to me that means showing compassion for all, even the worst of the worst. The actions that abusers commit should be punished to the fullest extent, but I stand by actions not defining us. I am not what happened to me and he is not what he did to me. In the end, we are all humans trying to make the world work for us. People like my ex-boyfriend need to realize that they can’t make the world change for them. They need to change for themselves and do better. They need to be better and we have to give them a chance to do so. (We don’t have to be around when it happens, tho.)

FINAL NOTES

So no, this isn’t a story about why I stayed or how bad things were. No. This is a story about survivorship and all the moments it took for me to get here. This is a story about how to get through and still have something left over when it’s all said and done.

Stages of Grief: What Therapy Doesn’t Teach You About Burying Your Dad

CHAPTER 1: ANGER

I get feelings of contempt here and there when someone tries to sympathize with my loss. They don’t know the feeling of wanting to hug the fresh dirt that now surrounds my Dad’s casket. They don’t know the hearts I had to hold so they didn’t break. They didn’t know that I held my father’s heart the same way until it gave out. They don’t know how I watched my sister fall to pieces, watched my Grandma say goodbye to another son, watched my family say goodbye to their favorite cousin.

They don’t know the alcohol that didn’t sit – didn’t inebriate me enough to not feel what I felt, didn’t drown me enough to forget what happened. They don’t know what it’s like to be without you.hey don’t know the cigarettes I smoked to get closer to you. Or the throats I would have choked rather than to live another day without you.

They don’t know what it’s like to be without you.

CHAPTER 2: BARGAINING

You were hospitalized in April. Congestive Heart Failure. You were swollen – retaining water, and you couldn’t walk. I thought maybe, just maybe, if we made some changes to your lifestyle when you came home, things would be okay.

You would live a little longer. You would be a little healthier. We can take walks around the neighborhood. You can cut back on fast food. But you didn’t, and I wasn’t there to stop you.

I wasn’t there for you.

CHAPTER 3: DENIAL

You quit the crack. That’s what you said. It’s October now. And my Grandma has been in Mexico for two months. She comes back today. October 21st. Her flight lands at 1 pm. My cousin is giving her a ride home from LAX. They are on their way to you. My cousin gets off to open the door for Grandma, but something’s wrong. You’re not answering the door. My cousin looks inside the house through the front window. Sees you on the couch – lifeless. 

Something’s wrong.

He climbs onto the roof, flings open the upstairs window, jumps inside and runs downstairs. It’s too late. You’re already gone. Maybe 2 hours, maybe 1. Maybe just 30 minutes. Days later. We find a crack pipe hidden where you had your fatal heart attack. 


CHAPTER 4: DEPRESSION

Sometimes the sadness and loneliness show up in the ugliest ways. Like in the bed of an asshole who treats you like shit. Before you died, I had the strength to say no, leave me alone, don’t come back here, fuck off, goodbye. But I didn’t want to lose another man I kind of loved. Considering I only loved men that hated themselves. So, when this asshole’s insecurities started playing out in the forms of carnal damage, I stayed. 

I didn’t drink too much, or smoke too much weed, or take too many bars, or do too much cocaine, or sleep with random men, or cry. I laid in the arms of a man who hated hurting me but did it anyway. Maybe, I felt like I deserved it. Like I wasn’t worth saving. Let this man kill me, cause I’m too chicken shit to do it myself. If that’s not the worst depression, tell me, what is? 

I remembered when I told you I was going up north for school. I thought it would break your heart, leaving you like that. I wasn’t asking for permission, just letting you know, but you already knew. You said, “Baby, It’s okay. We all knew you would eventually move far away.” You saw me. You knew me. And then you died. 

You didn’t raise me; you didn’t discipline me right, but you talked to me, and you knew what my depression looked like. When I was in a deep, dark hole and you weren’t you knew how to get me out and see the light. I’m sorry I couldn’t do that for you, too. 

CHATPER 5: ACCEPTANCE

I don’t visit your grave. Ever. I figured there was no point in visiting a rotting body if it won’t do anything for you or me. So, I visit you in my dreams. Or maybe, you visit me? All I know is up until my last dream you were always the same shitty Dad I loved. Sometimes you were short with me and couldn’t look me in the eye sometimes you were in jail sometimes you were back home and hugging me but you were always upset. You weren’t happy in those dreams. You weren’t pleased with me, or content with yourself. 

But in this last dream, we were connected. You were tender and cared about yourself. In this last dream, unlike reality, you had even forgiven yourself. I wasn’t traumatized and you were emotionally stable. Was this your heaven? Where the family you helped create was okay and not so fucked up? We laughed and my face caressed yours like a cat rubs her face against her human’s face. I never showed you that kind of love in real life. In this last dream, you let your guard down. That’s how I knew you were finally okay. 

Sixteen & Pregnant: The Untelevised Reality

I don’t remember the words I said before going under anesthesia, but I remember waking up in a dinky old surgery room with dim lighting and a woman in the bed closest to mine. She appeared a little confused but calm. She looked like she had done this before. If I could imagine what I looked like to her, I would have looked like a terrified teenage girl who had just had an abortion.


When I told my mother I was pregnant, I felt so much shame. I felt like I had failed her. I was supposed to be the “good” child, who made the family proud, who brought home good grades. I was supposed to be the child who went to college and brought my family out of poverty and into the American middle class. My Mom had little support from my Dad and worked two jobs for 60 hours a week. I couldn’t bring another child into her home and complicate her already stressful life.

My Mom is Chicana. Her soul is split between Southern California and Mexico. She grew up on both sides of the border, seen her parents sacrifice everything for her to grow up with food in her belly, clothes on her back, and a roof over her head. But at 16 years old, she was on her own. And by the time she was 18, she was pregnant with my older sister, and my parents were slanging dope to keep up with expenses. My Mom has been hustlin’ since she was 16 and has never had a break.

My Mom taught me how to use a knife to defend myself, to speak up when things weren’t right, and to rebel against what people imposed on me.  She taught me to be my authentic self and to succeed while others are plotting my downfall. She taught me to prevail in the face of evil, laugh in the face of imposters and to be brown in a room full of whiteness. She was raising a fierce feminist who, at 16 years old, was learning how to advocate for her current and future self.

When I told my Mom I was pregnant, she didn’t ask me if I wanted to keep it, and she didn’t ask me if I wanted to terminate the pregnancy. She and I both knew I couldn’t and wouldn’t have this baby. Not only did I not want to be a Mom at the time, I was also using fen-phen for fun, smoking pot everyday and drinking on the weekends (Yes, at 16). For the first time in a long time, I cried in my Mom’s arms because I was scared. I fucked up. I could hear the llantos pouring out of me as she held me and told me everything was going to be okay. She helped me make an appointment to terminate the pregnancy at a Women’s Clinic, and she took me when it was time.


Maybe it was just me, but I felt like the youngest one in that clinic. I had just turned 16 years old two months before getting knocked up. I thought I was hot shit! But I didn’t really know shit. If I had any common sense at the time, I would not have cleaned my very fertile flower with the same towel my ex-boyfriend used to clean his pollinator. Did you know that semen can survive for up to seven days outside of a host? I sure didn’t. I also didn’t have great sex education. Most of what I learned about sex was through my friends at school, and most of them weren’t using condoms, either.

#ThatPullOutGameStrong

A nurse came over and handed me a giant maxi pad. She said it would help with the bleeding. My tears stopped immediately. There was no more time to feel sorry for me. I could not show an ounce of weakness to anyone anymore. I wasn’t just a 16-year-old girl anymore; I had something to prove. I had to pass my 11th grade AP classes and be the first in my family to apply to universities. But first, I had to get this giant maxi pad on.

The nurse took me into a changing room where there were other women, young and old, who had just had abortions, too. As we walked into the room, we were given crackers and juice. I felt like I was part of a cowherd being shepherd from one meadow to the next. It all looked the same to me. We went from hospital gowns to the clothes we came in within a matter of minutes. We went from being pregnant to not being pregnant in just a matter of minutes, too. Between the initial shock of an unexpected, unplanned, and unwanted pregnancy and the choice to remove that pregnancy from our bodies, we were all pretty reticent in that changing room.

As I was leaving that changing room – I noticed a familiar face. Ana, my friend Rosie’s older sister, was here, too. I felt comfort in knowing I wasn’t alone. I couldn’t wait to connect with her on this shared experience. No one at school would understand what I was going through. Earlier that month, I told Rosie my period was late and that I felt something different with my body. She offered to push me down some stairs as a favor. I laughed. I almost took her up on that offer. I wonder if Rosie said the same thing to her sister when, or if she knew Ana was pregnant, too.

It turns out; I wasn’t the only 16-year-old who got knocked up during that Winter Break in 2007. My friend Janet was also pregnant. From the moment she found out she was pregnant, she was keeping that baby no matter what. It didn’t matter if her partner didn’t want to be a Dad, yet. It didn’t matter if it would set her behind in school. As a first-generation Christian Latina from the projects, this baby would be her salvation and her biggest blessing. My friend Brenda was also knocked-up. She and her partner were excited and wanted to keep the baby. Her Mom, however, was reluctant to accept the truth, but eventually, she supported Brenda and the pregnancy. Unfortunately, Brenda had a miscarriage. As a middle-class white girl from a broken home, she felt this baby could save her.

16 and Pregnant Volume 1

MTV produced a whole ass reality show around the pregnancies of my peers and called it “16 and Pregnant.” I was a sucker for reality shows, so of course, I tuned in. But little was relatable to me. The only thing I could relate to was the title…16 and Pregnant. There those girls were – white Americans whose parents had homes and whose communities were almost 100% White Americans, too. And there I was, just another 16-year-old Mexican girl from a ‘hood in Los Angeles who got knocked up by her cholo ex-boyfriend. As much as we wanted to be loved and whole, the Universe had different plans for the 3 of us.


It was a Tuesday morning. Mami told me to wear something comfortable, so I wore my baggiest sweats and a UCLA pullover hoodie. It was the middle of February, so this outfit was perfect for the weather. I read a book and snuggled my Mom while I waited for the nurse to call my name. “Ms. Hernandez? We’re ready for you now.”

I followed the nurse into another room, where they drew blood and prepped for me for a quick and painless procedure. When I woke up, I started weeping. My body curled naturally inward as the llantos poured out of me. I tried to unravel my feelings of happiness from my feelings of loss, but the two co-existed unapologetically. I felt the loss for the soul I have yet to meet and loss for my egocentricity, on the other hand, I was happy to be free to have the choice to not be a Mom at this time. Actively choosing to postpone or decline parenthood was my first step into adulthood, and I cried because I knew that after this day, things would never be the same for 16-year-old me. My Mom was right, however. Everything did turn out okay.

*This Story was originally published on: www.RaisingMothers.com

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Relationships 101: Getting Out of A Toxic Relationship

Let’s face it. This is no easy task. There is no other way to sugar coat it, no “get rich quick scheme”, and absolutely no easy way out at all. People coming out of an abusive relationship almost always come out a little broken inside.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however. Think of the phoenix – it has to die to rebirth itself. Personally, I felt like that’s what my experience was after getting out of a 3 year abusive relationship. It wasn’t always hurricanes, but it wasn’t always rainbows either. I felt like the ending of that chapter served as a catalyst for a new, less apologetic me. I had learned to be so subservient in that relationship just for the sake of not arguing, that the parts of me I muted for [him] were now raging to get out and play. When I let out those parts of me – I was dramatic. It was like letting my hair down for the first time. For the first time, in a long time, I was unafraid to be my true self.

I tell my experience because I’ve been there – abusive fuckhead telling me what I can and can’t do with my life, telling me who I should be, getting mad at the things I did in the past, putting me down for who I was, literally dragging me on the floor, pulling my hair, telling who I can’t and can be friends with. This fuckhead controlled almost every part of my life. When I wanted to overthrow his authority, he would threaten my family. Seventeen year old me was scared. Seventeen year old me thought she was doing her family a favor by giving this twenty year old what he wanted.

I left this boy so many times, only to find him back in my life. I either let him back him, or he forced his way in. When I moved 700 miles away from him, I was finally able to cut the cord, but not everyone has that luxury of moving far away from the people that abuse them, so I put together this list of things one can do to get away from the abusive relationship.

  • Tell yourself every day (or multiple times a day) that you do not deserve abuse and that you are worthy of a healthy and non-toxic love.
  • Label the abuse when it is being done. Often, people who perpetrate violence are in denial that they are abusing others. By labeling the behaviors (calling them out), you put the responsibility on your partner to change. Let them know that you are not attacking them, only that you care enough to help them unlearn their unhealthy behavior.
  • Talk to a counselor, or a trusted & mature adult about your relationship. Let the people who are around you the most know about what is going on in your relationship. They can help you when you need it most.
  • Set up a code word or phrase between you and your close friends/relatives. If anytime you feel unsafe and the person who is perpetrating violence is [insert nice word for holding you hostage], you can casually call, text, or talk to this person and this person can come and intervene.
  • Do not detach yourself from anyone – this is the time you need the most support. Make friends, keep in close touch with your family. Do not let yourself stay in isolation.
  • Create a plan for breaking off the relationship. Break ups are never easy and your partner may not let you leave the relationship easily. It helps to involve other people in your plan to leave, so that they can help keep you accountable for following through, and to help keep you in safe in case any violence occurs.
  • Detach yourself from the relationship little by little. Start hanging out with your partner less and less. Say no more often. Try not to text/message/call them so often. Stay off social media. It might help to go “M.I.A.” for a bit until you feel safe.

Don’t be ashamed; it’s not your fault.


Here are some stats:

  • Intimate Partner Violence, or abuse, can be perpetrated by anyone at any time in their life and affects everyone in your community.
  • Between 85-95% of intimate partner violence survivors are women.
  • On average, a person who is in an abusive relationship will go back to their abuser 7 or 8 times.
  • Reportedly, 51% of LGBTQ intimate partner violence survivors are women, 42% are men and 7% are transgender.
  • Intimate Partner Violence isn’t just between men and women, and men aren’t the only ones who are committing the violence.
  • An average of 14% of women and 18% of men reported being emotionally abused by an intimate partner at some point in the last year.
  • Without help, children and adolescence who witness intimate partner violence in their homes are more likely to be abusive towards, or be abused by, their intimate partner.

NO MORE VIOLENCE.

BREAK THE SILENCE.

BREAK THE CYCLE.

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When you do leave the relationship, you might be broken. Make it a priority to put yourself back together. If there was anything that relationships should have taught you – it should be to be there for yourself, show up for yourself, put yourself first, say no, defend yourself, own your power, learn about your power and to be unapologetically you.

Thank you.

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Compassion After Abuse

It is no secret that after experiencing trauma in the form of being a victim of abuse, you start to wonder why you ever trusted anyone. It’s extremely difficult to muster up the thought, “After all this trauma I have experienced, there are still good people out there.” It’s even harder to think about forgiveness – especially in the form of forgiving yourself, even after you keep convincing yourself it wasn’t your fault.

Related imageAbuse takes many shapes – physical, emotional, mental, sexual. These shapes often occur simultaneously, meaning abuse is never an isolated incident. Abuse is generally committed to gain power because the person committing the abuse feels powerless, or feels like they want to exert power over you. Abuse is also committed when people are mentally and emotionally unhealthy and unstable. These “abusers” have learned this behavior from people who probably abused them, or people close to them who are also “abusers”.

I quote “abuser” because it’s important to point out that the people committing acts of abuse are people, too. This is not to say abusers are still good people, just to say that they have souls, too and may also seek repentance, may also feel guilt, or may also be suffering.

This is key when trying to find compassion after you’ve been abused – you have to try to find the humanness in someone you once seen or currently see as a monster.

Related imageWhen you name someone to be a monster, or even as abuser as I just did, you are essentially dehumanizing the person. They no longer have feelings, a personality, a family, a life – they are just what you deem them to be – a monster or an “abuser”. People who commit acts of abuse often use this tactic to manipulate their victims, as well. They will dehumanize you to the point of normalization. They will take what they can, including your personhood. In a fucked up way of looking at things, when you deem someone a monster, or an abuser, you are essentially doing the same thing.

After I cut ties with the young man who abused me, I became what I was afraid of. I became him in some aspect. I sent him really nasty messages on social media – calling him terrible names and things. I mocked him in person and online. I humiliated him in front of family members. These were very small acts in comparison with what he did to me, but the fact still remains, that I was being a bully. I felt powerless, so I felt I had to exert power over someone else [my abusive X] and take it however I needed to.

People who are abusers, however won’t stop at social media when it comes to taking power from others; most of those power hungry assholes don’t know when to stop.

Most people who abuse will take what they can when they can to feel powerful.

Please excuse the casual shade towards abusers. But my point can best summarized by my best friend Priscilla Marconi, “It’s easier to stoop down to [that person’s] level and become what we so greatly loathe.” But the question still remains, how does one find compassion for the person that abused them? How does one find compassion for all of those that have abused someone at one point?

I believe forgiveness of the self comes first, then understanding of the behaviors and situation that ensued, and then maybe, you will be able to see a broken person who committed acts of abuse. This does not come easy. We like to cling to our baggage, however heavy it may be, we like to use it as a weapon in case some new fuckhead tries to do the same shit. And rightfully so! But first, you must learn how to separate your feelings from your experiences.

You must learn that humans are terrible creatures, and you are also human. You must learn that humans are not smart and we do not learn from mistakes easy. You must learn that living life does not come with a handbook and our teachers our sometimes very shitty adults who commit acts of abuse. You must learn how to take all of that and find some compassion.

According to the English Oxford Dictionary, having compassion means to have sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. So, how do you feel sorry for someone to who took so much from you? How do you learn to have sympathy for the person who physically hurts their partner, for the person who bullies others, for the person who sexually assaults others? These are questions I ask myself everyday, because in all honesty, everyone knows someone whose committed acts of abuse. I know many.

I will leave you with this: compassion does not mean forgiveness, but I believe compassion is directly linked to forgiveness. If you can learn to forgive, you can find compassion. If you can find compassion, you can learn to forgive. If you learn how to forgive people who abuse and find compassion for those people, you will achieved something not a lot of people can do. Rise above. In your quests for solace, I wish you well.

Resources: 
www.nomore.org: resources for intimate partner violence + sexual assault
www.loveisrespect.org:  resources on how to maintain healthy relationships

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Discovering “Me”

I thought the journey of self-discovery was over. After puberty, after heartache, after abuse, after college, after more heartache, after adulthood – there’s still more to discover? I am constantly learning new things about myself. And sometimes, I’m not always happy with what I learn.

I recently discovered that I am unstable. By that, I mean I am unpredictable. I can’t pinpoint which way my moods are going to swing and I can’t promise you I will be okay enough to go out next weekend. But I can promise that when the mood does hit – you will be the first to know about it. Actually, everyone will know about it. I also learned that I am dramatic. The more overt drama I can muster up about my feelings, the more “okay” I feel. It humanizes me. Being dramatic stabilizes me, oddly enough.

I also learned that I am not a steady stream of productivity. I can’t make most creative deadlines because I always feel my work is unfinished – not to mention I am a terrible procrastinator and will never turn in anything half-assed. So my projects take hours upon hours to complete. In learning this – I kicked myself in the ass several times for not making deadlines. Why was it so hard to accept that this was just who I was?

I think it took me a while to accept this part of me because I was still learning how to be myself – not on drugs. I used to smoke a lot of pot. Or, enough to sustain a little high during my creative time. Sometimes I would overdo it. Then I would take an “upper” to counteract the effects, which would stabilize me, which would keep me focused on my work. Downer, Upper, Work, Downer, Work, Upper, More Work and on and on and on until I would call it a night around 12AM or 1 AM.

When I quit smoking pot and doing other drugs, I also quit the creative process I had embedded within me. Now I’m rewiring this creative process. What does it look like without the altered state of mind? Am I really still as creative sober? Am I still producing the work I am known for without being heartbroken, drunk, or on drugs? The answer to the last two questions is YES. But I’m still working on what my new creative process looks like.

This is part of discovering a part of me that I had never developed. A sober Lola. Who is she? What does she like? What thoughts are organically loving and which are brought upon by fear? I hadn’t nurtured these parts of myself on pot. I was high for several reasons. Maybe I didn’t want to get to know the real me. Maybe I was afraid the real me wasn’t good enough to create art, leave a mark on the world…maybe I was afraid I was actually really good at those things. Maybe I was afraid of the success I could achieve if I just stopped making excuses. These were all parts of me I couldn’t face before.

And it seems that life will always be that way. You will always be confronted with parts of yourself that you have never seen before and you will be forced to make a life-changing choice to accept or deny that part of you. This is one of those things in life you can’t run away from because it will manifest itself over and over and in different contexts until this lesson is fully understood. Perhaps, the lesson of the self is a journey that never ends? Perhaps, that’s life itself?

I knew I was broken, I was just in denial for so long. I thought I did everything right after these trials and tribulations occurred. I was a Psych major, after all. I had the cognitive reasoning and emotional capabilities to “name” whatever was going on and find effective ways to cope and move forward. But those were just bandaids. I was internally wounded and needed to rehabilitate myself.

So what do you do when you have to burn yourself to ashes? You rise the fuck up! You put your nice jewelry on, put on your best outfit and you get to know your damn self. In my case, jewelry and nice clothes are a part of that. I am discovering the most beautiful parts of myself and I couldn’t have done it without breaking my addiction. I am a better person for it and I will continue to discover beautiful parts of me as I know this won’t be the last time I must burn.

A phoenix always dies…and is reborn again.

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How To Be Chill

“Stress is who you think you should be. Peace is who you are.”

Stress Relieving Best Practices:

  • Do not worry! Worrying about things you cannot control is a waste of mental energy. You often spiral into stressful or anxiety provoking thoughts when you think about things you cannot control. Your unconscious brain is more than likely already thinking of solutions to these things that are stressing you out. Let your brain work it out while you sleep and while you focus your energy on more important things, like spending time with your loved ones.
  • Take time out of your day to meditate/pray. During this time, it is important that you express at least 3 things you are grateful for in your life. Before you begin your prayer/meditation, inhale deeply and hold for 3 seconds, then exhale completely for another count of 3. Do this at least 3 times for as many times as you want. You can also increase the seconds you hold and exhale your breaths. Lastly, end your mediation/prayer by giving thanks to the Universe or whom/whatever you believe in.
  • Focus on the present moment. Whatever happened yesterday is out of your control. It is futile to keep ruminating on negative things that happened the day before. Focus your attention to think about the things that are currently happening in your life now. More importantly, thinking about negative things that could happen don’t help, either. Bad things happen. It’s best to be prepared for the bad things, but do not waste time thinking about, “What if this…What if that…But this could happen…” Do you live in a “What If?” world? You live in the present day. Focus on that.
  • For every negative thought, think of 3 positive thoughts. Practice this so often that it becomes second nature to you. For example, if you think, “I am so broke,” challenge that with “my rent is paid for the month, all my bills are paid, I can afford to feed my family and myself.” If you think, “No one will ever love me,” challenge that with “my family has deep love for me, my friends love me unconditionally, I love myself enough that I don’t need it validated by anyone else.” Catch my drift?
  • Practice Solutions-Based Thinking. Instead of focusing on the problem, focus on how you can fix it. What are things you can physically do to make the situation better? We all know XYZ is bad, really bad. Now what are we going to do about it? We can sit here and complain and whine, but nothing will get better until we actually create a change. “Be the change you wish to see…” Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk, too! I believe in you! 

Exercise:

  • What are some current events/people/situations that are stressful for you?
    • Make a list.
    • Review your list.
    • Write a “YES” next to things you can control, and “NO” next to things you cannot control.
    • For the things where you answered yes, what are some solutions that you can implement in your life that will cause less stress? Can you remove yourself from the situation? Are there some things in your power that you can change for better outcomes?
    • Write down all behaviors and thoughts you can change from within that contribute to these stressful situations and develop a plan to keep improving your behavior.
      • Example, if you are stressed out because your mother’s health is deteriorating, what can you do to help her? Can you ensure she is taken care of? Can you visit her, talk to her, take her out more often? Can you go with her to doctor’s visits so you know what’s going on? These are things you can control. You cannot control the rate at which your mother’s health deteriorates, your mother’s lifestyle or any other outside factors that affect your mom.
      • Another example, if you are stressed out because of the natural disasters that are currently taking place, what can you do to help the folks affected by it? Can you donate money to a trusted organization? Can you make a trip out to the affected locations and donate your physical labor? Can you pray for those affected in good faith and send strength spiritually? Can you prepare yourself for a potential natural disaster by putting together an “Emergency Kit?” These are things you can control. You cannot control how Mother Earth reacts to us, how natural disasters affect civilization and you can’t control how others react or don’t react to these situations. 
    • Revisit this list frequently. Have you followed through? Are there more things you can add? Let this list serve as your guide towards solutions-based thinking and worrying less.

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As the old saying goes, thinking or worrying about the problem won’t help you, but actually doing something about it might help. Do what is within your capabilities because even the littlest steps are still steps and eventually you will get to where you need to be.