Visualization… Wait, You Can Actually See Images?

A few years ago, I started to attend meditation classes. It was guided meditations led by an instructor. The guided meditations took place in a safe space. We would come in, relax, go through the guided meditation, and then discuss it. I had done meditations before, but always on my own.

My experience with meditations has been interesting. I would go to YouTube, find an interesting meditation, and play it. My meditations weren’t very eventful. Almost every meditation started with “visualize.” I knew what the word meant, and I always found it interesting. Why? Because I can’t conjure up images in my mind. Yes, you read that right. When I close my eyes, I just see darkness. I see the back of my eyelids. I don’t see colors. I can’t visualize an apple or a beach. I just get the back of my eyelids. You can imagine how my meditations were nothing really exciting. You can also imagine my confusion when my fellow meditators shared their vivid meditation experiences.

I decided to start asking people. “Can you um actually see a beach?” The answer was yes. I also got some weird looks that came along with the verbal answer. I went to work, and asked the girls to close their eyes and visualize a beach. They would close their eyes, and instantly smile. “Yes, I see it.” They said. I grew more frustrated by the minute. But how? How can you see it? The answers always revolved around “my imagination.” Well, I can’t conjure up images. Does that mean I have no imagination? This was stressful for me. Imagination was the one thing that carried me through my childhood. I made up safe spaces in my mind. I would go there and hide when things were bad. But, I never actually saw them. I just knew they were there. I knew what they felt like. I knew what they looked like. I could also dream. My dreams were vivid and clear.

So, let’s backtrack… what was happening prior to me finding out that people actually saw images. I was meditating. I was getting things. I just wasn’t seeing said things. I would listen to the track and follow along. If I was supposed to be in the woods, I didn’t actually “see” the woods in my minds eye. I just knew I was there. I relied on my knowledge and feelings. If I was supposed to meet someone, I relied on what came to my mind. Not a picture. The best way I can describe this is like listening to an audiobook. Everything is being narrated and I was able to follow. I just couldn’t “see” it. It wasn’t a Hollywood style movie. It was just a narration of my mind telling me what was happening as I was following the meditation. For example, in one meditation, I was to meet a man. I instantly got a reminder of Dumbledore. I also would hear my mind tell me… “but he’s thicker and wears dark blue.” That was my image. That’s how I conjured my images.

Realizing that people were actually able to visualize was hard. I felt broken. Depressed. Left out. This was one more thing that life cheated me out of. How wonderful would it be to actually close my eyes and see the rich worlds I’ve created since I was a going girl. How wonderful would it be to be able to see these majestic creatures? I don’t know. I wish I knew. At first, I wouldn’t share my meditation experience. Why? Because I was cheating. I didn’t actually “see” anything. I just knew. I made it up. What if I was making it all up? Was it even valid? I stopped meditating for a bit. I searched online. There wasn’t much on this. Apparently, most of the world could visualize. This made me feel worse.

After a few months, I decided to search again. I decided to ask people. I found a blog that said visualization didn’t have to be just “seeing.” It could be a combination of things. I felt encouraged to continue. I began to meditate at home again. I wasn’t questioning the validity of what I got. I decided to go with it. I still felt terrible about not being able to see, but I had to make do. I couldn’t feel sorry for myself. I also began to attend meditation again. I was sharing my experiences. I was sharing my results. It felt good. I felt included.

I continued to ask around, and a friend sent me a link. The link was to a study on aphantasia. While Aphantasia sounds like a majestic far off land. It’s actually the name of the condition that prevents people from summoning mental images. That’s right! There’s a name, and it’s a condition. There are others… this gave me hope. So far, there isn’t too much on it, but more and more people are talking about it. Every few weeks, I pop in the name into a google search and hope for new developments. Some people describe exactly what I experience, and others describe something a bit different. There’s even one person that claims he was able to “cure” his aphantasia through hard work and mental exercises!

I’m still hopeful to one day be able to see images in my minds eye. There are days where I still feel depressed over it. There are days where I don’t meditate because I won’t be able to “see.” There are days where I’m incredibly frustrated over it. One thing I have learned is that my experience is just as real as anyone else’s. My method is just different. I’ve received readings where people describe my guides, and they’re describing exactly what I got. As you can imagine, that’s extremely validating. There are times when I’m doing readings for someone, and I end up describing an “image” I’m getting, and it resonates with them. That is also extremely validating. It makes the process easier. It makes me want to continue. It makes the frustration lessen… at least for a day or two. I’m learning self-trust. I’m learning self-confidence. Maybe my aphantasia is the teacher? I believe it is.

My Healing Journey While in Contact With My Family

While I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve mentioned my C-PTSD and my childhood. In all honesty, I haven’t fully shared what my childhood looked like. For one, I’m not fully comfortable. I’m also still trying to recognize the my trauma is valid. At times, I still feel like my trauma isn’t “big enough” or “traumatic enough.”

One thing I do want to acknowledge and talk about is my current relationship with my parents. Growing up, I was really only around my mom, dad, and younger sister. While my family is big, we mostly kept to ourselves. On top of this, I wasn’t allowed out by myself… even in my teenage years. Friends were allowed to come over, but overall, I was kept supervised from the “evils” of the world. This means that a lot of my connection had to come from my direct family.

This type of dynamic made it very difficult for me to separate myself from my family. I’m still living in close proximity. I have contact with them multiple times a week, if not daily. I’m also very aware of the toxic environment that I grew up in, and trying very hard to heal from it. So how can I heal in that environment? I honestly can’t.

Since I’ve moved out of my parents house 4 years ago, I’ve placed boundaries around myself. I do not visit when they’re fighting, and if they are, I leave. If I’m visiting and I become the center of criticism, I leave. If I cannot handle contact, I ignore phone calls and text messages. There are many other boundaries in place.

I’ve been on a healing journey for many years. I’ve read a lot of psychology and self-help books. I’ve used my spiritual practice to heal. I’ve tried many things including therapy. I’ve been able to logically understand that I was raised by broken adults. I understand that everything that is being said to me is a reflection of how they feel about themselves. I can see the wounds that live within them. I can see the generational trauma that has been passed down for generations. Until recently, I haven’t been able to feel into it. When I sought out a therapist, I was at a dead end. I could explain my trauma. I could logically understand it. I could logically forgive. What I couldn’t do was feel into it for fear.

So how can I be around the people/environment that caused the trauma? It’s sometimes simple and sometimes impossible. It’s a mix of codependency that still exists within me, love, forgiveness, understanding, and lots of boundaries. It’s knowing when to acknowledge that I can feel hurt or sad for them and for me. It’s knowing when to walk away. It’s knowing when to limit contact. Most importantly, it’s knowing that I can accept them for who they are as long as I love myself enough to leave.

Fostering as Someone With C-PTSD

This post comes after a very hard week of fostering. I started my kitten fostering journey in August. At the time, it seemed like the next step on my path to animal rescue. Since August, I’ve had the pleasure of fostering over 25 animals (short term/long term). To be honest, this has been an eye opening experience. The reality of animal rescue has been quite different from the expectation. I’ve been tested in ways I never thought possible.

As I write this, I’m laying in my bed feeling defeated due to a weekend full of adoption paperwork, clinic visits, saying goodbye, and sick kittens. I’m someone who has lived avoiding feelings. It’s easier to be on autopilot than to feel every little thing. That has not been an option during this journey.

My first experience fostering involved 6 infant kittens that needed to be bottle fed and stimulated to use the bathroom ever 2 hours. I got home, and no one wanted to eat. I sat up all night in angst thinking they wouldn’t make the night. They did and I learned that I needed boundaries. From that point on, I decided I was a beginner, and would only take on beginner level kittens. I was on the lookout for kittens I could handle that needed a foster. Thing is, it’s hard to know what you’re dealing with until they’re home.

Fast forward a few weeks later, I picked up the most perfect kittens to long term foster. Shirley, Shawn, and Shannon. They would later become Sebastian, Helios, and Diana. As I write this, two are sleeping in the other room while Sebastian is in his new home. In the 4 months they’ve been with me we’ve dealt with fleas, ringworm, lameness, high fevers, viruses, and routine visits to the clinic. Most of these things have been new for me, but we got through it. As we speak, Diana and Helios are looking for their forever home. Hershey, a singleton, has also joined as a long term foster.

Yesterday, I processed my first adoption. I got lucky enough and found an amazing home for Sebastian. As I woke up, I felt the dread of goodbye. I found myself projecting onto Sebastian. “What if he feels abandoned?” “Will he miss his siblings?” “Will he feel unloved by me?” A lot of other questions. Once the paperwork was signed, I said goodbye. By the time they left, I was in tears. My own abandonment issues playing out through this adoption and through Sebastian.

When I got home, I had to deal with new kittens that were sick. There was no time to process saying goodbye. My exhaustion and hidden emotions began to creep up slowly. By today, the kittens were declining. I did the best I could and decided they would need someone more experienced and with more time. A retired foster reached out and took these kittens. Once the transfer was complete. I was faced with feelings of shame and anger. “Why couldn’t I be good enough?” “What will people say of my ability to foster?” As I lay down writing this, I’m realizing just how engraved other people’s voices are in my head. I’m trying to be ok with “I did my best,” but it’s so hard. My best has never felt like enough. I’m trying to remind myself of my human imperfections.

I’m not sure where else I’ll go on this journey. I’m not sure how I’ll continue to say goodbye. I do know that I feel a responsibility to continue to try, because I can’t imagine not trying. I also know that I’ll need to respect my boundaries. I’ll need to know my limits. I’ll need to work through my mental health issues. I’ll need days off and self-care. I’ll need to extend compassion and kindness to myself.

How I Self-Soothe My Anxiety and Stress (Hyperarousal)

I’ll be honest, this post started out as “How I deal with my anger,” but it evolved into my self-soothing techniques. If I’m being honest, one thing that tends to sneak up on me is anger. I can go from being happily disconnected from my own body to having hot lava seeping out of my skin.

I’ve read a lot of articles on the connection between PTSD and anger. My anger can sneak up on me and often feels out of my control. As a disclaimer, I’ve never physically hurt anyone or myself. As you can see, I’m saying physically. I’m sad to say that my anger tends to make my already blunt mouth even worse. This makes it especially important for me to find healthy coping mechanisms for my anger, anxiety, and stress. Equally worse is when I push my anger, anxiety, and stress down. This results in self-destructive behavior.

So why anger, anxiety, and stress? Well, after experiencing trauma survivors experience Hyperarousal. What is Hyperarousal? It’s an abnormally heightened state of anxiety that can happen at any time that someone or something reminds you of the original traumatic event. In the case of C-PTSD, the traumatic event happened over a long period of time. For me, I have no real recollection of everything I went through. For example, I know that loud noises make me go into Hyperarousal. Another personal example is that I don’t like artificial light. A few weeks ago, I was discussing this with my therapist and she made the connection of the darkness allowing me not to be “seen.” As you can imagine, this can make certain things very hard for me.

Anyways, we’re here to discuss soothing. So how do I self-soothe when I’m going into Hyperarousal?

1. Acknowledge what’s happening – This may seem silly, but it’s so important. I need to acknowledge when it’s happening, so that I can deal with it accordingly. Sometimes it takes me a bit of raging.

2. Ensure that I avoid alcohol and caffeine – Caffeine will make me a shaky mess. It’s never a good idea for me to have it, especially in the form of coffee. Personally, I try to avoid alcohol as much as possible, as I do have an addictive personality. If I do have a drink, it’s out of my home and with a limit of 2 cocktail drinks.

3. Eating healthy foods – I’ve been struggling with this one lately, but it’s so important, and I’m duly committing to getting back on track. The right foods help my body feel better. For me, it’s lots of fruits and veggies and no meat.

4. Exercise – This is another one I’ve been struggling with. I need to exercise. The best thing I’ve found for my anger is a good cardio workout. I’ve tried to do yoga, and it’s something i want to love, but I struggle with perfectionism. On the other hand, a good elliptical or treadmill always help me let it all out. I’m hoping to try kickboxing this upcoming year.

5. Sleep – Besides a good workout, the best thing I can do is take a nap. I know most people can’t sleep when angry, anxious, or stressed, but for me it’s different. Not only can I sleep, but I find it extremely helpful in regulating my system. It’s also crucial for me to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.

6. Sensory deprivation – This is my go to when I’m home. I simply turn off the lights, tv, or any other outside noises. I sit in darkness and silence. If it’s daytime, I get under my covers or use an eye mask to completely shut down out the light. I also have blackout curtains that help keep my room nice and dark. At times, I’ll book a sensory deprivation float.

7. Hot shower and lavender milk – A lot of times a nice hot shower and lavender almond milk will do the trick. Try it, if you haven’t!

8. Meditation – This one can be hard in the middle of heightened emotions, but it’s so soothing once you’re on the other side of it. My favorite app is the Insight app. I pick a guided meditation and lose myself in it. Long guided meditation work best for me.

9. Animals! – At any time that I’m stressed, I can surround myself with animals. This can be my own pets, or a trip to the shelter to walk a dog or cuddle a cat. Right now, I’m fostering kittens, so I’m usually able to find someone to cuddle.

9. Support – There are simply times where I cannot “handle” an episode alone. During those times, I reach out to my support system. This includes family, friends, and professionals.

Last but not least, my number one way to self-sooth is to write. I’ve always found it so freeing to write. It’s my favorite method of communication. It’s also how I’m able to find what’s hidden deep within. Journaling or simply writing a blog post is the most soothing thing for me.

Hi, I’m Ginnette. I’m a Shopaholic.

As I write this on Black Friday, the reminders of my shipping addiction are relentlessly chasing me. I’m the tiny rabbit in a field of foxes. Most people think of a shopping addiction, and they’re instantly annoyed reminded of a movie. Others think of it as a “normal” addiction, or something that isn’t really a problem. We all shop, right? Well, yes and no.

I’ve always known I have a pretty addictive personality. I avoid alcohol. I’ve never tried drugs or smoking. For a long time, I didn’t realize that shopping was my addiction. It was what soothed my emotions. When things were wrong, I shopped. When things were right, I shopped. When things were numb, I shopped.

What does a shopping addiction look like? For me, it looked like daily packages, closets full of new bags, multiple copies of the same thing, unnecessary electronics, and multiple trips to the mall. My shopping addiction led to having no savings, multiple credit card bills, and a feeling of hollow emptiness.

When I finally realized I had a problem, I was fully in debt. I was struggling to go to a mall without getting the shakes (literal shaking). I was struggling to trust myself to use my cell phone or iPad without ending up on a website that required money. I was feeling incredible guilt and shame after each shopping trip. I was struggling to make ends meet due to my shopping habits.

When I realized my shopping problem, I visited my first therapist. My problem… shopping. The first therapist was much older, and she didn’t quite take me seriously. In fact, during our fifth session, she fell asleep. In my anger, I told myself it my problem was boring enough for my therapist to fall asleep then I clearly didn’t have a problem at all. My behavior continued. The credit card bills continued to pile up, as did my accumulation of stuff. The interesting thing about the stuff is that the rush only came as the payment was made. After the purchase, the feeling would be replaced with utter disgust and shame.

A few years went by before I noticed how bad my addiction was. Once I noticed, I tried meditation, self-help books, psychology techniques on my own, 4 more therapists, and much more. My addiction is still a work in progress. It’s much easier to not shop now, but I still have bad days. I try to avoid the mall. There are trips where I still get a bit of the rush and shakiness. I try to be mindful of my internet usage. Am I ending up in an online retailer? If so, am I buying what I need? This is something I deal with on a daily basis. Checking in with myself daily is very necessary to keep myself aware of my intent. There are days when I reach out to friends to see if I’m overdoing it. There are days when I need to redirect my attention elsewhere. Like any other addiction, my shopping addiction requires a day by day approach, and that’s ok.

Dear Inner Critic…

Thank you for your strong opinions. In some ways, they’ve served me well. In other ways, they’ve held me back.

The more I listen, the more I realize you are a collective consciousness of the people I grew up around. My entire life, I’ve been told I’m not good enough. I could’ve gotten a better grade. I’m too fat. I’m too skinny. My hair is too curly. My money management is terrible. I’m pretty, but I have no brain. I’m not pretty, and I have no brain. I’m too smart. I’m too ignorant. I have terrible skin. I’m too quiet. I’m too opinionated. I’m too nice. I’m not nice enough. I’m too aggressive. No matter what… something was/is always lacking.

As I’ve taken time to listen, to really listen, I’ve recognized where each critique stems from. You are the voice of my parents. You’ve internalized all of those messages. You’ve learned to judge us based on impossible standards. Truth is, I can never get your approval just as I could never get theirs. The expectation is too high and never quite defined. As my therapist pointed out, “why would I even try?”

I try because I know deep down this is part of the wound. I try because I know you just need love. I try because I understand that all you need to acceptance. I try because I can’t give up on us. I try because I’m all you have. I try because I see the little girl desperately wanting to be loved.

My dear inner critic, my promise to you is that I will continue to try. I will listen. I will see you. I will accept you. I will love you. It will take time, but I promise I will not leave you.

Chapter 30

As I write this entry, I’m reflecting on my 30th year of life. Looking back, it was a difficult, but very rewarding year.

If I’m honest, it wasn’t even close to what I thought my 30th year would be. If you asked my younger self, I would’ve told you at 30 years old I would be married with children and settled into a career I loved. In reality, it was the complete opposite. This was the year where I lost a job, realized I don’t want to be a mother, and was single for a 7th year.

Instead of living my plan, I ended up getting serious about my mental health, having to find a new job, working towards my dreams, and trying things out of my comfort zone.

Last year, I welcomed 30 years of life by crying most of my day. I was feeling depressed, lonely, and like a failure. How would I achieve all my goals in a year? There was no way. That proved to be true. There was no way. After a few weeks of being depressed, I had to face that the plan wouldn’t work. Good thing was, I still had job security. By April, that was gone. Losing a job, even one I hated, was a hard blow. As I was escorted out, I found myself being happy and terrified at the same time. The couple of months following were a blur. Those two months provided me time to rest, but also time to overthink and worry.

Once I found a job, I soon realized that it wasn’t the right one. I was still in a career that didn’t match my passions. By August, I decided it was time to step into my passion. I took the step to become a kitten foster mom. It has been the most difficult and rewarding thing I’ve done in my life. In addition to this, I took my trip to New Orleans. During this trip, I met incredible people and learned that my soul wants to travel more. I’ll be going to California and New Orleans (I loved it) in 2021.

What will 31 look like? I’m not sure. I hope it’ll include more animal work, growth, therapy, travel, self-exploration, and vulnerability. Overall, I hope to explore myself without expectations.

Love Heals All Wounds, but Does It?

I’m sure we’ve all heard the expression “love heals all wounds,” or some close form of the expression. It’s a beautiful thought process. It speaks to the power of love, and I do believe in the power of love, but does it heal all wounds?

In my experience, it’s just not true. I think many of us set ourselves up by believing that love can heal anything. Think about the parents dealing with children who are suffering with mental health and/or addictions. Can their love heal those wounds? No, it cannot. It’s very limiting and hurtful to believe it can. Think about the person who is madly in love with an unrequited love who no longer believes in love. Can love heal those wounds? No, it cannot. At least it can’t unless the person is willing to heal themselves.

The most important part about healing is the willingness of the person who needs the healing. We cannot heal anyone who isn’t open to it. No healer can. It’s just the truth of it. This is a hard truth, especially when we have a loved one that requires healing. We so desperately want to help that sometimes we forget that we cannot. We cannot fix anyone. We cannot take on anyone else’s journey. We can be there for others. We can offer support that is within our boundaries.

My experience with this has come in the form of an animal. As you may already know, my passion is animals. I want to rescue as many as I can. I want to help them find healthy and loving homes. My approach has so far been “all you need is love.” I mean, animals are very instinctual, so if I approach one with good intentions it should be open to it. Right? Wrong. What I’ve learned recently is that every soul has its own personality. Sometimes good intentions and love aren’t enough. Sometimes we just can’t offer the help they need. Sometimes we just have to admit that we don’t have all the answers. We have to admit that some wounds can’t be fixed by love, especially when someone doesn’t know how to accept love. Love can be a foreign concept to many. It can take a long time to accept and welcome love. Ultimately, it’s up to the recipient to decide whether to accept or reject. All we can do is continue to live authentically. We can continue to shine our love into those souls that are able to accept it. Those souls that are willing to heal with the power of love whilst remembering that we ourselves can also benefit from the healing effects of our own love.

A Look into My Dissociation

Before we begin, let’s define dissociation. If you look in the dictionary, you’ll find “Disconnection and lack of continuity between thoughts, memories, surroundings, actions, and identity.”

Dissociation is a way for trauma patients to disconnect. It’s essentially what people mean when they say “zone out.” In my opinion, we all dissociate at one time or another in our lives. Until recently, I didn’t realize I dissociated. Whenever I read of dissociation, I was inundated with “out of body experiences.” This is not how I experience dissociation. In fact, I’ve never had an out of body experience where I’m seeing myself from an outside perspective. Dissociation is a side effect of trauma. It’s not to be confused with dissociative identity disorder (DID). While some people certainly have both, not all trauma survivors will develop DID.

Why do we dissociate? We dissociate for a variety of reasons. People who experienced trauma dissociate as a way to self-protect. Most trauma survivors were powerless and helpless, so they learn to disconnect from themselves and reality. Dissociation is way of self-preservation. In my case, I learned this from a very young age. As a child, I was unable to physically leave my environment, but my mind was able to take flight. And it did.

So how do I experience dissociation? The primary way I dissociate is by daydreaming. This seems pretty normal, but it’s not “normal” when it happens often. My mind takes me to intricate fantasy lands. My coworkers will often ask how I looked so “awake” at a boring work meeting. My response is always “I was at Narnia,” or “I was at Hogwarts.” The reaction is typically a smile. In reality, that’s truly what is happening. My mind takes me away into a place of make believe. This can be a place such as Narnia or Hogwarts or one of my making. Until recently, I’ve wondered in silence as to why I did this while wondering if others did this as well.

The second way I dissociate is by letting my mind wander. This is a bit different than day dreaming. This tends to happen as I’m in the middle of conversations, doing homework, watching tv, or even reading a book. I’ll be in the middle of the activity, and next thing I know, I’m gone. I’m elsewhere. My mind is elsewhere. This is especially awkward in conversations. Most of the time, I can come back and catch up. A lot of the times, I have to rewind the audible book, movie, or show. Just yesterday, I was listening to a recording that I had to rewind 6 times. It can be a real problem.

The third way I dissociate is by not being able to recall information. I’ve spoken on this before, but I can’t recall much at all. My main drive in seeking out therapy was to regain some memories. Right now, it’s emptiness. At times, I get whispers of something, but as I try to focus, I lose it.

I’m sure there are other ways in which I dissociate. These are the ones I’ve identified thus far. Being aware of this has been very helpful. I’ll be following up this post with a post on how I ground myself into reality.

*As a reminder, I’m not a licensed mental health professional. This is being written from my perspective as someone going through this. If you need professional assistance, please reach out to a mental health professional.

19 Lessons I Learned in 2019

With the end of the year fast approaching, I decided to write a cliche lessons entry. To be honest, this has been one of the most transformative years in my life thus far. It feels almost necessary to write about what I learned. Without further ado, let’s get to it!

1. My job does not define me – this may seem obvious, but this was a big year in my career. On April fools day, I was laid off. It was my first time leaving a job that wasn’t of my own accord. While it was shocking, it was also quite liberating. It closed a very toxic chapter in my life. Overall, it’s changed how I look at jobs.

2. I’m stronger than I think – This year was pretty intense. Not only did I get laid off, but I got a part time job in the animal world (my passion), my dog needed major surgery, I started therapy, and I found a new full time job.

3. There is a therapist out there for everyone – After seeing 4 therapists that just weren’t right for me, I found the right one. This feels like the biggest accomplishment of the year. If you’re looking for the right therapist, don’t give up. They’re out there.

4. I can process my emotions – This is something I’m learning. I’m learning to sit with feelings, and even identify them. It may sound silly to think I’m not sure of what I’m feeling, but that has been my reality for a very long time.

5. I can restart from zero – I’ve decided to work towards the career I want. It’s been a long and stressful process, but I’m making progress.

6. I can try new things – For most of my life, my anxiety has kept me from trying new things. This year, I’ve been slowly stepping out of my comfort zone.

7. I can be vulnerable – This has been so hard for me. Writing this blog is a way to be vulnerable. I still have a long way to go, but progress is being made.

8. Progress is better than perfection – This is a big one. I’ve struggled with perfectionistic tendencies my whole life. I’m finally learning that something is better than nothing. I’m tired of letting perfection get in the way of progress.

9. Being authentic is ok – I grew up being told that I was ugly and stupid. To this day, it’s a go to insult for a family member. It’s made me strive to obtain approval. To the point where I’ve kinda lost my authenticity. This year I’ve been taking more steps to get to know and reveal who I truly am.

10. I have mental health issues and that’s ok – For most of my life, I’ve denied that anything is “wrong” with me. I’ve also been hesitant to accept that I lived through trauma, because some people had it worse. I’m learning that trauma is unique and shouldn’t be compared.

11. I’m a walking contradiction and that’s ok – I feel like a walking contradiction. I’m learning to accept that polarity exists outside and inside of me. I can like two opposing things and make it work. It’s about recognizing and accepting my truth.

12. People will actually help, if I allow them – For the first time in my life, I was forced to ask for help. First, I asked for help for Dobby’s surgery. Second, I asked for help with foster kitten supplies. Both times I was humbled at how many people were willing to help. In addition to this, I’ve been more vocal about needing support from friends.

13. Crying is ok – I grew up in a household where crying was a sign of weakness, and if you did cry you’d be given “something to cry about.” This year has been liberating. I’ve allowed myself to cry on a few occasions. Though I can’t cry for more than a few seconds, it helps release some pent up emotions.

14. I can be a foster mom – This year is my first time fostering animals! I’ve learned that I can do it, and I can be sad when they have to go. This has taught me to deal with some yucky things such as wormy bellies, diarrhea, fleas, ringworm, and more. All things I wasn’t sure I could handle.

15. The body truly does keep the score – I’ve learned just how much the body keeps track of suppressed emotions and trauma. As I write this, I’m dealing with pain. It’s taught me to be more mindful of processing emotions as they come in.

16. It’s ok to just be – I’ve always been focused on doing and accomplishing. I still feel guilty about not doing anything, but I’m trying to listen to my body more.

17. Self-love is the best type of love – I’m learning how to love myself and all of my flaws. No one will ever love me like I love myself. No one will ever take care of me like I take care of myself.

18. I cannot give from an empty cup – This has been hard for me, especially around animals. Thing is, if I don’t take care of myself first, I’m not able to properly help anyone else. I’ve had to say no to a few foster cases, and it’s worked out for everyone in the end.

19. The best is yet to come – Another cliche! I truly do feel like the best is yet to come, and that’s exciting.