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.

 

Love

 

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Love says, I love you by trying again. Love walks along side you, fingers intertwined in a zipper of prayer. The bumps will come. You will be up to your knees in disappointment and you will fall. When you’re dirty, crying and mascara has glued your eyes shut from crying. Love cleans you up, holds you and helps clean up your face. When you open your eyes again the ones who truly love you will be there. Love will hand you another box of tissues and listen. Love will help you find the pieces of yourself that have been missing. Each piece that is found is held with gentleness and compassion. Slowly Love helps you put yours pieces back together again. Love creates beautiful things from messes. Love creates healing magic with a cup of coffee, conversation or a hug the mending begins. 

Love listens. Love breaths life into your dreams and turns them into plans. Love comforts you when you cannot breathe. Love has known pain, disappointment, fears, tears and loss. Love has been where you’ve been. Love stands tall so that you can stand up. Love knows joy, hugs that heal, silence that mends and dances that feel like heaven. Love knows that laying in the middle of the street looking at the stars builds a sense of wonder into that moments.

Love knows that when you look at the stars all problems fade away. Love knows that a little love goes a long way. Love shows up and cheers you on your journey.  Love helps you do the simplest things. Love knows your favorite drink, food, places and bring those into your life. Money cannot buy love. You cannot buy soul piercing eye contact, a warm heart or even handwritten sweet notes for every day of the week. 

Love listens, to what’s being said and not said. To the sighs and moments of silence between words. Love notices nail color, earrings and new clothes. Love embraces and truly wants to know about the other. Love listens to understand, not just waiting for their turn to talk. Love shares snacks. Love stock around when everyone else has gone. Love doesn’t judge your sad or happiness. Love is excited for what excites you. Love will be on your team no matter the game. Love will love you no matter what you say, how corny you are, or even if you have morning breath. Love loves you when you’re not easy to love and unlovely looking. Love also loves you when you’re easy to love and are lovely looking. 

Love loves you back. You don’t have to ask for love, it’s freely given. Daily and every moment love cannot be anything other than love. Know that in this journey of being human you’ll be imperfect. You are going to royally mess up. You’ll make choices that when you admit it your face red. This life will hit you hard. Rain on your parade. You will feel profoundly ugly and perhaps even stupid at times. Do not let those past choices and ugly feeling moments define you. That isn’t who you are. You are love. Love is strong, courageous, kind beyond measure, helps you tie your shoes, wipes your tears, makes you coffee even when love is tired, listens to the same story again, love stays awake, dances when loves feet hurt and most importantly love shows up again and again. You are love and you are lovely, just remember that. 

Yoga – A Date with Destiny

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To rise before the sun comes up. To awaken to a city that is still asleep. To breathe deeply into the stillness of dawn is bliss. Follow your bliss.

This dream of dreams. The one between waking and sleeping. The one of freedom, openness and joy. Follow your bliss.

This dream is the cool morning air softly touching my cheeks. The hush over the city unwilling to break its sleepiness. The traveler, travels on no matter the cities hush. Follow your bliss.

This first breathe in yoga reveals stiffness. The next fluid movement. The next openness and soon powerful expansion explodes over the mat. Follow your bliss.

This morning is perfect. The sleeping city. The fog and the traveler. Follow your bliss.

This quiet morning we were destined to meet you and I, we and us. To transform stiff into fluid. To shift closed into open. To expand and express. To flow, breathe and bend. To let go of the past. To breathe in fresh and new.

This morning a date with destiny. My destiny. Follow your bliss. Follow your bliss.

3 Benefits of Yoga for Florida Autistic High Schoolers

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Autism affects many lives. It greatly impacted mine. I had the opportunity to teach six yoga, breathing and anger management workshops for autistic teens at Nathan B. Forrest and First Coast High Schools in Jacksonville FL. These 60 Florida autistic high schoolers and I experienced how effectively yoga works. In 45 minutes we noticed marked significant change in mood, behavior and cognitive abilities. Incredible!

3 Benefits of Yoga were easily observable. Each one was instant, tangible and experienced based.

1. Change in Mood – Increased Happiness. We laughed a lot! Celebrated our successes. It’s awe inspiring to see how celebration like clapping hands and high fives make a difference. Celebrating produced increased willingness and ability for the teens to learn faster while having fun. Together we invented the “high thumb” it’s like a high five except you give each other a thumbs up and push your thumb into theirs. As the yoga practice progressed we observed collective and instant innovation taking place among the students. Finishing a pose they were proud they’d lean forward give me a thumbs up and press their thumb into mine and smile. The smiles just melted my heart.

2. Change in Behavior – Calmer. Yoga helps you to calm you down. At one point we had a heighten sense of nervous energy in the room. One teen demonstrated his nerves by hopping around the room without noticing people or the desks in the room. I began to teach them to breath through their nose. He stop jumping, listened to the other teens breathing and he quietly sat down. His nerves were calmed by hearing the breath and soon he was joined the crew in breathing. Amazing! In fact they were all quiet. Soon they also were able to communicate clearly and help each other to follow along. The standing and balancing poses created a sense of calmness. You could feel it in the room. We all focused on one thing, balanced on one leg and took deep nostril breaths. Which for those of you who have and/or work with autistic high schoolers is a monumental task in and of itself. This is from only 45 minutes with a group! The longer we practiced their behavior became increasingly calmer with gentler body movements and softer voices. Some of these kids had severe range of motion limitations and were so calm they were able to focus enough to practice with us. If you think you cannot practice yoga because you’re not flexible enough. Think again!

3. Change in Cognitive Abilities –  Easily Able to Demonstrate. They learned to use yoga and breathing to help them feel better while in school. Some were able to tell me what they could do if they were having a bad day at school. One guy sat up tall when asked how to handle a bad day and said, “Take three breaths.” Touched his nose, closed his eyes and on his own demonstrated nostril breath. Remember this is new information. I’d only been working with them for 30 minutes at this point.  The kids were thrilled to show or tell me how their body felt after taking just three breaths in child’s pose. Their retention of new experienced based  information was groundbreaking. They remembered names of poses and easily demonstrated them. On their own they began to teach each other to breath through their nose!

In essence yoga works! In 45 minutes these kids now have a chance at being able to calm themselves down. We saw significant change in mood, behavior and cognitive abilities. These teens are smart! They each have their own way of seeing the world. Their own challenges to live with that are unique to them. Yet in the midst of all their living with, they smile. Willing to try new exercises like yoga. We worked together as a unit and cheered each other on. These kids are shining examples of pure spirited human beings. They are now empowered to create their own happiness, calm and shift their thinking. May we ever strive to smile no matter what. Give high thumbs. Try something new and take deep breaths.

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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!