A Survivor’s Secret: from Shame to Freedom

 “I’m a survivor”. This was a new thought for me. “Serious sexual trauma”, she called it. The words rang in my ears and landed in my soul. Like rocks to the bottom of the ocean. “Survivor, me?!” I kept repeating to myself. Almost like she was informing me of a new reality. 

My back stiffened and I held my head high. “I’m a well adjusted business owner. I’m here to share my story and inspire them. Your ladies. These women who lived in hell.” A hell I was sure I knew nothing about. In that moment I realized, she was me. The woman in front of me. I am her. We, we’re sisters. Now I find my own past volcano erupting. Realizations happening like a pop up story book. 
You see, I’ve never written down my story. This is my pain. I mean, was my pain. Perhaps if I share it with you I’ll heal a little more. Maybe we’ll both heal a little bit more. It began at 9. I was little. I’ve tried not to remember. I can hardly say it above a whisper, that I was molested by a family member until 15 years old. I never talk about it. I didn’t realize until today how I daily make sure that I’m covered and nothing’s hanging out. That I don’t attract too much attention. I even tell people coming to my yoga classes about attire. I’ll say, “Wear whatever you like as long as you feel comfortable and covered.” I didn’t realize until now that comfortable and covered was my life. I’ve been trying desperately not to be seen. Even though I’m seen by hundreds of yoga students and life coaching clients weekly. This seeing is of an intimate nature. You are now seeing my past pain and that feels raw. 
I’ll let you into my life back then. After he’d be done with me I’d take the hottest shower possible. Trying to rinse the dirty feelings off. The dirtiness of being molested that is. It didn’t matter though, they subconsciously stuck to my soul long after the soap washed off. Now I know now why I love scarfs. They keep me comfortable and covered. I can wrap it around me and feel safe. Not used and exposed against my will. I learned early to control everything in my environment. I was and still am defensive if I see a man even look at a woman in a creepy way, because at one time I was her. 
You see I was little. I didn’t know. When I was old enough to know. I felt shame. Deep shame. It was a secret. Kept me silent. I felt dirty, a rag and worthless. My guard was up. Thought of myself as a target. Thinking that people were out to get me, especially men. You see I was little. Innocent. I didn’t even know what sex was. Molestation was foreign to me. Thank God for my sister! She woke my parents up to what was happening. I thought it was my fault, even though he was older than me. I didn’t know how to stop it. 

My shame was so deep that I even yelled at my sister for telling my parents. I was scared of something bad happening to her or even me. “Don’t swing your hands, wear long shorts and don’t be alone with him” they said. Which was hard, because he was at the house a lot. “Did he apologize? they asked. “Yes? Okay, then that’s all he can do.” My Mom, said I could yell for help. “How could I scream when his actions were my fault?,” I’d ask myself confused. 
Like I’d tempted a young man into using my body for his pleasure even though he knew it was wrong. The conversation left me feeling like a dirty secret. Like I was dirt. I was something to be hidden and silent. I’d been conditioned for silence and silent I stayed. Sitting on my hands. Mouth zipped by paralyzing fear. I grew into a young woman who knew how to sit down and shut up. I don’t remember all that was said in the whistleblowing conversation. I just remember walking out feeling like it was my fault. For not being a better girl or yelling or telling them. Or something! 
My parents did the best they could. I bet they didn’t even know what to do. They knew it was wrong. They didn’t know how to stop it. It didn’t stop. Once it was out, I felt worse. An even dirtier secret. I needed my parents to believe and comfort me. A hug. A friend. I needed protectors. I didn’t feel safe around him. I wanted to know I wasn’t alone. Maybe they told me that, I don’t remember.
My experience taught me, abuse occurs from people close to you. Family (like me), close friends and even partners. Shame secrets cannot grow when exposed to light. I’m placing my shame in the light. To parents and guardians of children, the best thing you can do it create an open loving relationship with your kids. So your sons and daughters knows they can come to you with their shame. Live in a way that they know they can talk to you, about anything.
Well, I’m grown now. A woman. I’m still healing. I’m not my past or my story, it doesn’t define me. I am who I choose to be. I chose to be brave and vulnerable. To live free! I hope my story empowers you. I hope it rings in your soul. Everyone needs respect. To feel safe at home. Stop sitting on your hands. Stand up. Speak up.

 Sarah Suero is a Certified Effectiveness Coach for women and Yoga Instructor. 

My passion is empowering women! On and off the yoga mat. I love co-creating fresh possibilities with women who dare greatly. Transforming the past stories into bold brilliance. I also latin dance, cook yummy food and enjoy coffee (all kinds of coffee). Reach out to me at ://sarahsuero.wordpress.com/ or email me sarahesuero@gmail.com

Even Wonder Woman Needed Saving

WonderWomanWonder woman had put down her cape. The rain poured. Life had knocked the wind out of her. Drenched, her eyes filled with tears. Focused on saving others she forgot to save herself. She threw her hands in the air. Who knew that even she needed a bit of saving herself?! “I don’t know how to do that,” she thinks as she stands looking at her war torn cape

Up to her knees in disappointment. Wonder Woman realized that even though she may not know how to save herself. She can try again. She can scrub out the dirt. Throw it in the wash. Toss it in the drier. She can grab a needle and thread. Stitch strength and courage back into her cape. She can ask for help. Even though her cape isn’t brand new it doesn’t matter.

She isn’t the super-hero the world told her she should be. She totally messed up and life socked in the stomach. Yet she is a brave woman who wakes up the next morning and tries again. That, ladies n’ gents sounds like Wonder Woman to me. She can still be proud of the cape in her hands. The stitches tell stories of pain and hurt, of winning some and losing some. The real story is about the woman underneath the cape and that makes her a super hero.

She is stronger now. Sliding the red cape proudly around her shoulders she stands tall. Her fingers carefully tie the string around her neck. Her cape is bright red from being washed in the rain. Complete with stains and stitches. This cape tells her story of resilience.

Standing in her house. She walks to the front door and throws it open. Her feet planted firmly into the ground, shoulders back and heart up. Experience laden red cape around her neck. She’s ready to face the world again. To save those willing to be saved and yes, perhaps even save herself.

 

A Yogi’s Way of Dealing with Powerful Emotions: Happiness is Not at the Bottom of a Nutella Jar

NamieAmuroFeelIn one hand I had a mini chocolate chip cookie and in the other a glass of almond milk. On the counter was an open container of Nutella and I had a backup of red wine just in case. I had everything a girl could need to not feel anything for at least several hours. My arsenal of sweets and wine was gonna help me declare war on pushing down my feelings. Isn’t it the yogi way of dealing with emotions to eat Nutella and drink wine? Ha! I’d convinced myself the wine would make everything rosey by the time I hit the bottom of the glass. As I’m eating Nutella and already reaching for a mini cookie. My soul whispered, “This isn’t the way through and you know it. Let yourself feel it. Be vulnerable. Allow. Don’t you tell your yoga students that often”? I knew the sweets and wine would do nothing other make my tongue happy for a few seconds.

My soul kept whispering, “This isn’t the way to deal with powerful emotions. I packed up the cookies and put them back in the cabinet. I reluctantly screwed the lid onto the Nutella jar and closed the cabinet door. This was a moment to practice breathing with something that felt uncomfortable down to my core. I was squirming to get out of those feelings as fast as humanly possible. I knew how to grab for sweets and wine. I was reaching for instant comfort in a can. It helped for as long as it was on my tongue. Never mind that no amount of Nutella was going to heal me. Never mind that the wine may give me rosey cheeks and nothing more. All of the feelings I didn’t want to feel would still be there when I hit the bottom of the glass. My lesson from those brief moments was simple; happiness is not at the bottom of a Nutella jar.  

Just like any yoga pose. I’m practicing the pose of feeling. Repetition is the mother of mastery, so again and again I practice. Then I take action on working through those feelings. It’s usually a moment by moment practice. So far I’ve learned…

1) Powerful emotions can come rushing in like a freight train without brakes. They don’t care what your in the middle of or even who your talking to at the moment. They won’t go away just because you’re wishing them away. They go away just as fast as the come. They also shift when your focus shifts. Change what you’re focusing on.

2) Crying can happen easily and often times you don’t know what to do about it. I’ve cried in front of all kinds of people. Some know how to handle it and many don’t. Stop apologizing for it. Stop explaining the whole story around why. Ask for hugs. The neat thing is I get them, try it on.

3) Choose an empowering focus. Write down what you are going to focus on. Stick with it! It takes mental tenacity and a commitment that won’t quit. When an emotional train hits you in the face and puts you flat on your back. Feel the ground underneath you. Roll over and stand up. Push your feet into the ground like you mean business. Stand up, choose your focus spot again and go. One foot in front of the other.

4) Choose what something means to you. For instance if you lost your job. There’s tons of things you can make up it means about you. Unworthy, not good enough and just a slacker. You can’t control people or events. You can control what you what you choose to believe about those events. Perhaps you’re worthy, good enough and a dedicated worker.

5) Find something eternal inside of yourself. No matter what occurs on the surface you can go back to that. I like to think of it as the stillness at the bottom of the ocean. No matter how the ocean crashes  on the shore the deep ocean is calm. What is it that keeps you at peace no matter what.

Listen to the whispers of your soul. Allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling. The feelings will come and go. Make choices to move yourself forward. Choose an empowering focus that creates peace and joy. Realize that it’s okay to not have everything together all at once. You are not your past. It’s time for you to choose who you are now. Be creative and get going!

Be Here Now – Lessons in Being Present

ImageIt’s easy to be hard as a rock. It’s take guts to be vulnerable. To share your heart even if you get rejected again and again. It’s easy to create the most beautiful outfit and hair. It takes courage to create a beautiful soul. It’s easy to tell stories (believe me I’ve told many and so have you). It takes courage to tell the truth. There’s only a couple things in life worth laying it all out on the line for. I can count them all on one hand.

No, it’s not your cell phone. Quit treating it like your lover. Go kiss your lover! Hold him or her dearly, press them close to your heart. Let her feel you! No, it isn’t your flat screen t.v. Be mesmerized by the people you love. Look for their beauty, their smiles and laughs. No, it isn’t your iPod or radio. Listen to the music, the music is their voice. Hear the deep tones, the high pitches and breaths between words. Hear the silent pauses and hesitations. Their heart is in their words, whether the heart is warm and open or cold and closed.

Not everyone is looking for advice when they call you. Sometimes they just need to know their not alone. They called because they want you to listen or invite you to share space.

Think about this…when was the last time you listened instead of just waiting for your turn to talk?

Lessons from My Yoga Mat – When War Waged Between My Ears

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I woke up late. I didn’t hear my alarm. Despite an array of judgemental thoughts that swarmed through my head as I looked at my clock that read 5:35am, I jumped out of bed. My alarm had been going off for an hour. I didn’t even hear it. I rushed to get ready for yoga practice. I felt horrible for being late. The judgement just kept rolling like a memorized script that was beating me over the head. I arrived in the practice room at a glorious 1 hour late. I told myself I’d go to practice and I did, no matter what. I didn’t realize that I’d learn several lessons from my yoga mat.

I rolled out my mat and began with downward facing dog. I shook my head to shake the thoughts out. At first it didn’t work, they wouldn’t leave. Amping up my practice to the tune of, challenging I began to sweat as I took myself on. The more challenging it was the less I judged myself for being late. Because when your quads are pulsing and your breathing through your nose who can think, “Oh gosh, I can’t believe I was late.” It was more like, “Breath, girl, you can drop from Flip Dog into Wheel. Ready, set, go!” Slowly I began to smile at the woman next to me from time to time. I dove into my practice like a high diver dives into the water. Soon my judgement turned into peace. The self diminishing thoughts melted into feelings of courage. Courage to show up because I gave my word. Showed up just like I was, no matter what anyone else thought. It took courage and I’m glad I did. Taking on the arm balances, felt easy. Everything seemed to flow with a sense of lightness once I stopped the mental yelling at myself. My head was finally quiet. If you don’t know yet, being in headstand requires focus and quiet. Mentally yelling at yourself while upside down just doesn’t work. The very thought of it makes me laugh! Can you imagine it, in headstand with a word cloud of negative thoughts swirling around? Oh wow!

The lessons from my yoga mat I learned before the sun came up.  I’ll carry them with me for the rest of day. I learned that commitment is an excellent bus driver. She’ll drive you straight to where you said you want to go. You also have to hop on that bus no matter what. That showing up authentically and in all your imperfect glory, works. Practicing without a fuss, works. Showing up kicks not showing up’s tail, every time! Taking on a challenge helps clear your mind. Beating yourself up for being imperfect, doesn’t work. Instant forgiveness feels amazing! Plus, I still got to go upside down and when I stood right side up, I felt like a warrior princess. Who’d won the war waged between my ears. Courage, commitment and instant forgiveness helped me win. (Ok, so that forgiveness wasn’t instant. It took about an hour, it still happened nonetheless). Tackle the wars that wage between your ears today with courage. Don’t worry if the battle rages for an hour stick with it, your head will shut up eventually.

Listening – What it Means to Really Listen.

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Listen, really listen. To all that’s being said. To all that’s not being said. To the breaths between the words. To holding your breath. Listen to the silence. To the loud sigh of exhaustion or of release. Listen to how the hugs feel in your body. Do they comfort your soul? Listen to the smile. Listen to your heart. Hear what your soul has to say. What does it need and desire?

I’m here and I’m listening. Sometimes my heart and soul are so full that I don’t cannot hear what you’re saying. Today I will clear my head while I’m with you. You’re important to me. I will listen with my ears, heart and soul. To you and all that you are, you gorgeous thing. I hear you.

I see the pain behind your eyes that your courage tries to hide. I hear the laughter that fills the space when the tears are too much to take. I’m here and listening. Speak your truth. Become your truth. Share your heart with me, I’ll hold it in mine.

Alice – The Extraordinary Woman Who Loved

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Fall is here! I’m excited to be outside! I was walking in a park thinking to myself, “Aren’t I lucky to be here, feeling the sun and breeze on my face.” I passed a woman sitting on a park bench who looked sad. I made a few more circles in the park and each time I passed her I noticed more about her. She had amazing bright white hair, sitting on the park bench knees pulled into her chest and blank look of pain on her face. As I kept passing her by my heart strings were tugged a little more each time. Finally my last circle she was still sitting there and I had to stop.

Stepping close to her I said, “Are you alright?” Not even lifting her eyes off the pavement she said, “No, I’m tired.” Crying like I’d just poked a fountain that was ready to burst, she said, “I’m tired. I don’t want to do this anymore.” What happened over the next hour truly threw me for a loop. I know that it’s the worlds game to seem cool and not surprised by anything, however her story surprised me. I’d like to introduce to Alice, we’ll call her Alice.

Alice was at the park as a part of her bucket list wishes before she jumped into the St. John’s River ending her life. Today was THE day. My heart ripped from my chest and went out to her’s. She told me why she was tired of living. Pain body, heartache, loss of loved ones and a sense of intense pain from soul to heart and into her body. I knew why I was meant to stop and share this afternoon with her. She was beautiful! Her heart and soul shone brightly when she spoke of the good times. She threw her head back and laughed as she recounted funny times and people she loved. Tears streamed down her face as she said, “… and now I am invisible.” To me she was anything but invisible. I could see how beautiful she was, her white hair glowing in the sunshine and moving with the breeze. She had a big heart. She’d spent years bravely sharing it with others. She’d had her heart broken and stomped on one to many times. Now she was telling me how tired she was of giving it to the world. The world had paid her back with pain. I saw compassion and love in her eyes. I saw the value of who she was. She couldn’t see it. Her eyes only saw and felt pain. She just wanted it to end. Pain so great that even the strongest meds didn’t help for more than an hour or two each day.

I shared with her what I saw in her, she blushed like a like a school girl. Even though now she’s 50 something, for a moment she looked like she was 10. For a split second the long haired girl of the 60’s was back and a smile spread from ear to ear. She dropped her eyes and whispered, “Thank you. I haven’t heard a compliment in a long time.” It was beautiful to hear her speak. Moving between pain, love, laughter and tears like an passionate dance packed full of heart. She was lovely. When her story was just about done, I invited her to yoga as my gift to her. She accepted. We made a date. I hope she shows up. I hope that she chose life today. Digging deep within herself to find the brave parts of her that aren’t tired. The parts still willing to give life a go. I hope that we all have the courage to share our hearts. Now, not tomorrow because now is the only moment we have. To follow our intuition when it speaks to us. To love on people just because they are people. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve so I could relate with her. I know what feeling invisible feels like. Rejection, heartache and pain have visited me as well. Listening to Alice may have saved her life.

I saw her. I stopped and told her that I saw her. I hugged her pain body with mine. Gave her all the love and compassion I had. Pulling away from the hug I said, “I see you”.  Our blue eyes locked and it was magic. She felt seen. Today really see with your eyes, ears and heart the people in front of you.  All they may need to stay alive is you telling them, “I see you”. Don’t be afraid to open your heart. Yeah. It might get hurt, that much is true. If I didn’t open my heart to Alice though she may not have lived.