I have undergone such an amazing transformation in the last few weeks, and I really can’t shut up about it. I am full of life, pain free most days, much more confident, and much more mentally alert. I directly credit belly dancing. Yes, belly dancing–but it’s much more than it seems. I need and want to tell my story before the details become murky.
This story involves some details about my medical problems, the solutions I’ve tried so far, the books I read … and it involves describing my past toxic relationships with family members. I wish I didn’t have to describe my family problems. It seems socially taboo. They have made it known that I am “disrespectful” whenever I so as much talk about any of it, let alone publicly. (I am estranged from them.) I also don’t want to appear like a “whiner,” but it is the “buck it up and stop complaining about your childhood” attitude that makes me feel like a “whiner” and is exactly part of the problem. My past toxic relationships are the direct cause of these health problems, and I cannot tell the story without bringing them up.
So, here I am, kicking the door down. I am telling my story in hopes to share some more important underlying principles that can be lifted and applied to other people’s lives or perhaps point you in some really powerful directions to solve any problem you or someone you know faces. Yes, it’s me, The Observant Mom. I spend most of my blogging talking about the parenting ideas I’ve read, how to handle children when difficult, and how to give clear and joyful lessons. I want you to see that I am not just an anonymous face talking but someone you know. I also think that resolving trauma is the best, most important thing you can do to be a dynamic, patient, energetic parent. I plan on talking about it openly and often. Ready to get really real? Here we go:
Medical History: The Physical and the Emotional
My first major health problem is when I threw my lower back out when I was 23. I had been weightlifting intensely for a month, doing what I know now is a program infamous for bad form and injuries, a “Body Pump” class. I enjoyed the class a lot. Nothing quite like throwing a barbell around to fast-paced dance music to lose weight and feel great. I had lost 25 pounds over the course of that month.
But one day in the shower before a swim, I bent over and had this sharp, crippling pain start in my glutes and run up into my lower back. It was scary and painful. The following swim did nothing to alleviate the pain. This wasn’t just a “take a hot shower and shake it off” problem. It was a piercing pain in my lower right back that made it hard to carry anything or bend over for weeks afterwards. It was maddening and depressing to think I didn’t have the seeming means to lose weight anymore. I remember being deeply upset that I might not be able to endure pregnancy if nothing got better.
Long story short, I managed to resolve this pain to a satisfactory level without surgery. I spent years, over a decade, visiting chiropractors, acupuncturists, physical therapists, getting MRIs and Xrays, getting the occasional massage, reading books about the topic, and buying informercial-y products about it. Most of it helped. I felt overwhelmed at times, because each doctor gave me a set of 6, if not 12 or more exercises to do, and if I did all of them, I would spend 2 hours a day doing nothing but these physical therapy exercises. It was difficult to force myself to do the exercises daily without a coach or therapist to help with form. They were boring, dry, static exercises that I was trying to do properly while being all sorts of bent out of shape in through my low back and pelvic area.
Finally, 8 years later, when I was 31, a chiropractor explained to me not just that but why sleeping with a pillow between my knees at night would help: my hips otherwise bend and strain while lying down and the pillow gives a proper, unstressed gait. This helped me enormously. He also showed me an exercise with a form roller where I sat on it, crossed one leg over the other, and leaned into the roller with my glute. This really resolved a lot of back pain for me. It’s almost the only exercise I did for a while. Most days after this, from when I was 31 until recently (at 37) I woke up with just a little bit of back pain, but I was able to roll it out. I was “able to function.” I was not “bouncy, agile, and full of life.”
The next major problem I suffered were gallbladder problems. I didn’t even know that’s what it was at first. I think I had my first case of it when I was around 25. I had a terrible stomach pain for days after I had dinner. I opened up a journal to try to write down what I was eating and see what foods were causing this terrible pain. Then one day when I was about 26, I got hit with the worst pain I had ever had in my upper stomach area, and it didn’t let up for hours. I had been driving all day and eating complete crap: food mostly from gas stations. I had to finally ask my now husband to pull over and check us into a hotel. We went to a hospital, but no one saw me for several hours while I was in writhing pain. I finally got better and no one had seen me so I left. I thought I had heartburn. For years, I thought it was heartburn. These attacks hit randomly, I admit usually after a fatty meal. I was insistent that pain killers might hurt my liver, and so I took nothing for these attacks. I endured them well into the night. I found eating broccoli or cantaloupe helped and so did going for a walk. Otherwise, I just endured them.
Finally I went to see a doctor about it. I went because I had gotten pregnant and these attacks got so much worse while I was pregnant. That pregnancy ended in miscarriage (and it was a pregnancy such that a fetus never grew.) This gave me the opportunity to go resolve this problem for the next possible pregnancy. The doctor told me that this was a gallbladder problem, and what I was experiencing were gallbladder attacks. (I wish I hadn’t spent so much time trying to figure the problem out myself as I had by journaling it. I wish I had seen someone sooner.) He recommended gallbladder removal. Given the high level of pain I was in and my desire to resolve it before becoming pregnant again, I did this.
When I had it removed, the doctor said “for a 30 year old gal to have that many stones … ” he trailed off but his judgment against me as an awful person who must have been a slob was obvious. Search the internet about gallbladder problems and you find they hit people with the “Four Fs”: Female, Fat, Fertile, Forty. Thanks, internet. And fat females approaching 40 are a much maligned group that much of society regards as unlovable: worthy of being socially shunned and insulted. There is breast cancer awareness month, because this disease is perceived to hit attractive white women, and people want to save them. I’m not complaining. I’m just saying. (And if you study cancer you will see many contribute it to lifestyle factors as well. Also, I have endless empathy for your situation if you are fighting cancer. I’m not trying to one up or one down you here.) This is the hardest issue for me to write about. I asked my husband to not openly discuss it with anyone. I told virtually no one.
Even after having my gallbladder removed, I still had gallbladder attacks. I ended up in the hospital twice after this. One time was after my first son was born. I had a terrible gallstone attack, and I was hospitalized for a week. I was in pain the entire week, on Percocet the whole time, which made me itchy, and I couldn’t sleep. I had to have TWO surgeries to remove the stone.
When I was in the hospital for a week, a hospital chaplain visited me. She asked me how I felt. I said “relieved.” She was surprised to here this. I told her I was completely overwhelmed by taking care of a newborn. He was up all hours of the night, I had trouble breastfeeding (I had a breast reduction surgery when I was 20, and I didn’t realize I was not producing nearly enough milk), and I had gotten violently ill with a stomach flu.
Then I told the chaplain all about how my mother had just visited (and had since left), and how she had got in a fight with me. My mother told me I “made her feel unwelcome,” because I had asked her to stop taking over my house as if she owned it when she visited. She came to “help” and while I was in the worst condition in my entire life, she picked a fight with me. My grandmother was there, who also took a stance against me, and whom my mother used in trianguation to make sure I knew I had hurt my grandmother. The entire fight was over me asking my mother to stop doing certain things to my house, such as insisting all of the doors be shut. I described other things about my mother to the chaplain. She nodded and said she was familiar with this personality type.
She then told me, “It’s that relationship that needs healed not your gallbladder.” What I heard was, “Go kiss and make up with your mother.” This is what I’ve been told my whole life. I really resented the chaplain for saying that. If she had said something like, “We need therapy between you and your mother, privately at first. Your mother needs to learn how to listen to you. You may be benefited by learning how to set healthy boundaries. Then we’ll go from there,” I might have been more receptive. But “the relationship needs healed” just, frankly, pissed me off. I had just been put through the ringer of being told what an awful daughter I was and at a time that I was weak and vulnerable, resulting in a severe health problem. FFS, please just tell me, “You’re not a bad person. Your mother is wrong to say this to you and make you feel this way. Let’s focus on YOU.”
I eventually mostly healed my gallbladder problem, but again only down to a manageable level. While I was in the hospital after the first surgery post-gallbladder removal, still in a bit of pain, weary from surgery, a doctor handed me a sheet on diet. It instructed me to avoid fatty foods. I also bought into the idea that fatty foods are the problem for years, and I had been trying to reduce them. It hadn’t worked, and I thought I must need to reduce them even more, but I never succeeded. It caused a lot of tension between my husband and I because the foods he liked to eat for dinner were higher in fat, and I didn’t want to “waste” my fat calories on meals I didn’t even like that much.
I again launched myself into an intense study to try to resolve this issue. After reading not about gallbladder removal but about general weight loss, I gave up sugar for a period of time. After giving up sugar, not fat, I have since not had any gallbladder problems. Current medical advice about this issue is plain wrong. The problem is sugar. There is still a large number of people currently trying to fight gallbladder disease, diabetes, or heart trouble, who are trying to give up fat (big macs, bacon, etc.), not succeeding, and being told it’s their fault for not trying hard enough. (I found fatty meals may have triggered the attack, but I ate many fatty meals when I gave up sugar and never had an attack.) If people actually had a solution that worked, when they tried just a little bit of it, they would see it succeeded, and it would inspire them to keep going. People are not moral failures. Current medical advice about nearly every major disease is wrong. (Thought I believe the advice is changing.)
My gallbladder problems got down again to but a manageable level. I still had kind of a gnawing pain in my digestive area on most days, especially in subsequent pregnancies, and in the entire year+ of recovering that followed pregnancy. My digestion just went to crap during pregnancy. I got very fatigued after eating a meal. I spent a lot of time just resting. Cutting carbs helped a little bit but not fully. I had also lost 30 pounds by cutting carbs (when I was 33–after I had my first child), but I gained it when I went through a traumatic period when I had my third child. My resiliency to life seemed to be in need of some major upgrading.
When I had lost weight:
Me not really keeping it together after my third was born:
The other major problem I have suffered is endometriosis. This is a uterine disease. It causes very painful periods, pelvic pain, heavy blood flow, and infertility. I again had no idea what it was until later in life. I started to suffer painful periods around 26 years old. I went to a doctor and he threw non-addictive pain killers at me. I struggled to get pregnant, and doctors told me I had to wait a year before any infertility treatment would be considered. I know now that it was endometriosis–a disease that gets progressively worse and which early intervention can help slow down and possibly restore fertility before it’s too late. (In other words, don’t wait a year. See a fertility doctor.) During my second pregnancy, doctors were closely monitoring an ovarian cyst. During an ultrasound, a technician said I had this disease. The doctor seemed shocked by the diagnosis.
After delivering my second child, this disease got so much worse. I was 34. I had very heavy flood flow, low iron levels, and very painful cycles. I had to ask my husband to take off work on some days. I read a book on endometriosis, and I decided to have surgery. Before surgery, I had some tests to see if I was a candidate. They found my egg count was fine, and they weren’t sure I would be a candidate, but they were fine with doing surgery just to see what was going on. Then they did surgery. I was told I “wasn’t the worst case they had ever seen,” but close. The disease had spread too far into my uterus for surgery to really help me when it came to pain.
Surgery did however dramatically increase my fertility. I was told also that if I wanted to get pregnant again, it was now or never. My best chance was after surgery. I did want a third child, but not quite yet. I had no choice though. Had I known this before surgery, I would have delayed surgery. I got pregnant almost right away, before I really was recovered from my second pregnancy. I will just say that I am, as I write this, at 37 years old, 15 months after my third pregnancy, finally recovering from all of this. I had an IUD put in after my third child, which is a strong birth control and is also meant to reduce blood flow. It did do this, and I am glad as I don’t struggle with iron as much. I however still had quite a bit of pelvic pain.
I also suffer/ed anxiety in a heightened way during my menstrual cycles, which was arguably worse than the physical pain. If everything that needed done around the house wasn’t done, I got angry and anxious about it, and my husband sometimes took the brunt of it. When one of these episodes resolved, I felt 100% better, not anxious anymore that all of our closets weren’t organized (or other such things that completely consumed me), and I would go apologize to my husband.
Before I move on to the eventual solution, I want to take note of some things. First, all of my pain was around my pelvic area: a uterine disease, low back pain, and digestive problems. I also have an inner thigh muscle injury right near my groin. It’s all in this area.
Second, I want to ask, per society’s conventional way of thinking: Do you think that these problems mean I am a moral failure or a slouch? Is the problem some deep-seated evil within me? Did I simply not have enough discipline to will myself into health?
The Solution: Resolving Trauma
I was talking about some of my problems with a friend on Facebook. I don’t remember the exact conversation, but I believe I had mentioned that I was hospitalized after getting in a fight with a family member. I have long believed that toxic relationships are bad for your health. I had read it and seen it in action. Another friend of mine, whom I almost never converse with nor seems to be very active on Facebook, came into this conversation and recommended to me The Body Keeps Score by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. I was touched she recommended this to me. I looked through the book description. I knew it was about resolving trauma. It seemed interesting, and I bought it, but I didn’t really think it would help me that much. Trauma? I hadn’t suffered “trauma” had I? I don’t totally know why I didn’t think it would help me that much, but I didn’t think it would.
I ended up reading it, and here is why. As mentioned, my pregnancy for my third child was really difficult. On the day I found out that I was pregnant, I also found out we were about to move from sunny Florida to northern Alabama. My pregnancy was difficult. I needed about 12-14 hours of sleep, and I wasn’t getting it. After he was born, my third child didn’t even come close to sleeping through the night for the first 10 months of his life. He was up at least 2 or 3 if not 5 or 6 times at night. My husband and I took a brutal emotional and physical hit from this. Our marriage had sincere problems in through this. We did get through it. I’d like to add that all through this, I also read many books about parenting and relationships. I brought ideas about empathy, emotional regulation, and negotiation to our marriage. I have grown, I think, in my emotional maturity. I consider my growth to be more gradual. I watched my husband grow dramatically in the year 2017, this awful year of night feedings and difficulty. We re-committed to each other, even in our darkest hour, resolved to find solutions, help each other, and understand the difficulty the other was going through. We finally figured out a better sleep solution that worked somewhat for us and satisfied the needs of our baby. Our child eventually started sleeping through the night, much to the benefit of my husband in particular. He became energetic and was really a stellar husband and father after this. I however still had some recovery to do post pregnancy, and I knew it.
At my worst post third pregnancy:
Well I can’t let you go on reading this with only that photo to have in your head. This is also me in that time frame:
As I was picking up the pieces of my life, relaxing in a bathtub one night, on the road to recovery but not quite there, I knew I had to do more work on getting through life when all of the chips were down. I was happy things were looking up for us, but I was keenly aware that the chips could be down again. And in any given situation, I knew things might get better like they were for us but they also might not. I wanted advice of how to handle life when it got rough. It seems like I spin out of control when it gets rough. I want to be centered even in a storm. I looked through my Kindle library wondering what book might help. I decided to read The Body Keeps Score.
This book changed my life. I want to note again just how much I have read about health, and how much time and money I’ve spent looking into many medical and life issues. I will list all the relevant books that I have read at the end of this blog just to stress this (rather, as many as I can remember and find). I have arguably spent the lion’s share of my free time as an adult devoted to trying to heal myself. Nothing, nothing, targets issues of health as well as this book does. It didn’t just help, but completely resolved my low back pain, digestive problems, and uterine pain. I am energetic, healthy, bouncy, agile, and full of life. And the book doesn’t once mention any of these illnesses! (Not that I remember anyway, and not in detail if it does–nor does it need to.)
Dr. van der Kolk’s work deals with healing victims of trauma. He tells the book in the format of the story of his career, starting with treating Vietnam veterans on. He has worked also with other victims of trauma, such as sexual assault survivors. He discusses also at length developmental trauma–trauma from childhood. He makes it clear that this trauma is just as problematic as witnessing awful things in war, watching a friend die, or losing a child. Society is comfortable, somewhat, with sudden trauma in adulthood causing a problem (although not nearly comfortable enough.) Most people, however, are unwilling to admit that parents who are inattentive to their children are doing a considerable amount of damage. Dr. van der Kolk describes his fight to get developmental trauma listed as a formal problem, but he has been met with resistance by major organizations.
What I especially liked about this book is that he lists so many cases that he’s come across that I was easily able to diagnose myself and to try some of the treatments given those cases. I saw myself in the woman described as shy and withdrawn who describes her mother as “joking” that God gave her the wrong baby. This is me and that was my childhood. My mother was very insulting. She also “joked” about how “she really doesn’t like me.” I was called a dork for most of my life. I was told I was “book smart but not street smart.” I gained a lot of weight when I turned 13. Until then I was a very attractive young girl who boys liked and was friends with the popular girls. My mother had gotten in a fight with many of the popular girls’ mothers. In 7th grade, I found myself with a new group of friends. Most of my family insulted and made fun of my weight from then on. The worst of it was from my maternal grandfather and father but my own mother called me “bubble butt.” My mother would tell me to “suck in your gut” as I walked so my belly didn’t stick out. She would pick out clothes a size too small for me and tell me we could get them because I would lose weight and then fit into them. Notice how all of this negative, toxic attention was being brought to my belly. My pelvic area was doomed from a young age.
Here is me at a young age:
When I graduated high school, I joined the Army. I did this explicitly so I could go through basic training and lose weight before I got to college. After my freshman year at college, I had a breast reduction surgery. This was another attempt to lose weight and to resolve the back problems I was starting to have when working out. Notice what drastic moves that physically altered my body I went to to try to lose weight. Notice also how these methods attacked my femininity. I believe my drastic measures were a result of living in a toxic environment where I was told how wrong I was in these ways so often. I sought out external, literally caustic measures to try to change myself.
If you can believe it, me at 18 at basic training. What happened to that soft, sweet girl?
My physical attractiveness and likability were attacked all through my youth. I did not think that men would like me (I shut down the possibility of a relationship before even giving it a chance), and I never made any authentic friends. I was shy and withdrawn for much of my adult life. I was strong socially in some areas but not in others. People would say, “why are you so shy? I don’t bite” to me even in my mid-20s. This is, by the way, the worst thing you can say to someone with social anxiety. At some point I stopped being “shy” but I never really connected with people in an authentic way. Instead of being shy, after a while, I become caustic and judgmental.
Dr. van der Kolk says when a person experiences trauma–and all of what I just described is developmental trauma–a person’s threat alarm gets out of whack. Some people stay on high alert all of the time. That’s not me. Other people go numb. That’s me. He describes a study where people are asked how they would feel if a truck was coming right at them. Most people would say “Terrified!” The people in the “go numb” group say they would simply get out of the way. That’s me, except I would say, “Are you sure? Because I’m real comfortable where I am. Are you absolutely positive? If so, then ok, I’ll get out of the way.”
For people who go numb like this, he recommends some type of bodily movement. Examples are massage, yoga, and belly dancing. When I read “belly dancing,” everything clicked for me. It made so much sense to me that this would help me. My pain is held in my pelvic area. This could do so much for me!
I want to add that van der Kolk is not the first author to have recommend belly dancing. I read a book on sex, Monogamy: The Untold Story by Dr. Marianne Brandon. She recommends belly dancing as a way to spice things up. I also read it in Will I Ever Be Good Enough: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers by Dr. Karyl McBride. She recommends belly dancing as a way to feel pure joy. It wasn’t until I had this thorough scientific explanation that something like belly dancing could heal past trauma that I finally just did it. I sometimes apparently need to be bludgeoned over the head to do things, despite the many, many, many therapies, even new and radical ones, that I have tried over my life. I also want to add that I had already been doing yoga, massage, etc., and while all are nice, none fully healed me.
The Power of Belly Dancing
When I first tried belly dancing, at the end of the year 2017, I simply called up some introductory videos. I did but two exercises: a hip slide and a full belly circle. However, I did them reliably a few times a day. It only took a few minutes, if that, to do the exercises. I noticed remarkably that I did not have pelvic pain if I did the exercises and that my energy levels had increased.
I found another video which was a belly dancing workout video. As I did this, I thought, “Wow. This is amazing. These movements feel so good.” Usually when I do a workout video, I dread doing some of the movements. They hurt or are hard. With belly dancing I was like, “This is such a pleasure to put my body in these movements.”
Since doing this, which takes 15 minutes per day, I have improved in so many ways. Almost all pain that I used to have is gone. My pelvic pain is gone. I no longer have a gnawing, painful feeling in my stomach. I don’t wake up to mild back pain anymore. The groin injury I have is improving noticeably. My hips, butt, and waist are shapely, despite having lost no weight since starting. I can easily bend over to pick things up. I feel both grounded and agile. I walk in a way that is more fluid.
I have become very playful with my husband. When he comes into the kitchen with me and does the obligatory thing that husbands do and grabs my butt, I start shimmying for him. If he is a distance away from me in public, I start doing hip circles for him just to get him to flash a smile at me. He cannot get over the shapeliness of my waist and pelvic area. I knew he would be into me doing this but the degree to which he is into it has taken me by surprise. My relationship with him now is consistently one of “playful kitten.”
When I carry my kids, sometimes I break out into a dance. I now do it in a way that is coordinated and fluid. They clearly notice and take total delight in it. I can choreograph dances to songs when I hear them, using either slow, dramatic, or light moves as to be found in belly dancing.
I used to not like certain sensations on my skin. I used to be very ticklish for instance. Now I am more open to sensations. I have a pair of silk pants that I now wear regularly. I would not have previously done this. I would have been in oversized jogging pants.
Ever since I had a lower back problem, I have always been told that I had a forward tipped pelvis and a high right hip. I did exercises to correct this. I did some to correct the forward tipped pelvis. This was mostly work on my front hip flexors. And separately I did exercises to fix the high right hip. This was usually side exercises. The way I would describe my pelvic area after belly dancing is it’s as if someone took a string, attached it to my top right hip and pull it down and to the left. That whole area has moved in essentially the hypotenuse of what previous exercises were trying to do. And belly dancing moves are dynamic. There is nothing quite like hip drops, hip twists, and shimmying to work that whole area. I am now flexible and strong. And I do way more than even 6-12 different types of exercises over the course of a dance.
It is more than physical relief that I have experienced. My anxiety levels have also decreased if not completely evaporated. I have made it through but one cycle so far as I write this. But I didn’t get that overwhelming sense of, “THE ENTIRE HOUSE NEEDS CLEANED, ORGANIZED, AND DECORATED RIGHT THIS SECOND!!!!” that I used to get. I can put things in perspective. If I want to do a lesson with my children (we homeschool), I no longer need the toy room to be clean to do it. I can think, “Well it would sure be nice if everything were clean, decluttered, and everything was where it was supposed to be. But for this lesson, right now, all I need is a a table, a white board, and a marker. I can make that work.” Even if the rest of the room is a mess, I can ignore it and just focus on the lesson. I was not previously able to do that as well. I spent way too much of my time trying to clean and clean and clean–of course which went nowhere as children make a mess faster than an adult can clean.
One of the most surprising benefits is how much improved my mental acumen is. I used to have to really focus while doing two things: when trying to listen to directions as the GPS gives them and when listening to someone in conversation. I don’t have to exert a tremendous amount of effort to focus on these things anymore. I am much quicker to understand and respond to this stimuli, and it is much more effortless for me. I had already improved in this area when I read Dr. Tsabary’s book The Awakened Family. When emotionally flooded, she recommends asking, “what am I feeling?” and by bringing the emotion into conscious consideration, you tame it and deal with it better. I noticed how I didn’t become as flustered when driving after I started doing this. If something went wrong, say I missed a turn, I could calm myself down easier. I could say, “That was a mistake. It’s Ok. I’m flustered but now I need to simply find a solution.” Before I would have somewhat freaked out, cursed the Gods, thought the world was over because I made this in-the-moment mistake, and not truly think I could recover from it. I might have rectified the mistake if the solution was obvious enough, but there were times where I would just turn around and go home.
Since belly dancing, I improved again in this area and in conversation. It just feels like in-the-moment problems are intellectually clearer to me. In conversation, I can pick up on what people are saying quicker. If I get distracted in the middle of a conversation, I can re-enter it and usually put together the clues of what the person just said to figure out what I just missed. I don’t doubt myself as much over if I really heard what they were saying. My husband noticed this with me as well. He noticed how I might notice that someone is wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers shirt (which is near where I grew up.) Before I would have possibly noticed it, doubted my observation, and never said anything. Now I notice, say something right away, and if I’m wrong, I’m wrong. It would not be a big deal. It’s as if there was a static in my brain that has been lifted.
This newfound sexiness and confidence is somewhat overwhelming and alarming for me. When I walk, I know the movement of my hips is fluid and my hips sway side to side. All I am doing is walking. But now that there is so much health in my pelvic area, just by walking, it comes across as sexual. I notice that men notice. This makes me want to go hide in a cave somewhere. But I am getting better about it.
I have a much deeper ability and in fact a desire to connect with other people. When I met someone before, I saw them as basically unsafe, especially if they were very attractive and male. I would have thought I was about to be judged, and while being judged, I thought I would not muster up when it comes to the “attractive, worthwhile human” standard. But now I think, “This is another human being. They have their own history and their own set of problems, solutions, faults, and desirable qualities. They are almost certainly interesting to talk to and they are probably going to be kind to me.” Or as I sometimes like think about it, “Hey, you’re a person. I’m a person. Let’s talk about people things.” I sometimes find myself as one of those annoying extroverts who demands connection with other people. I promise to never turn into this! I am working on eye contact. I realize not looking people in the eye is a result of thinking they are unsafe. If you think people are fun, eye contact is not a problem. I’m getting there!
I described earlier my medical history of obesity, fatigue, gallbladder problems, pelvic disease, and back problems. I believe these were a direct result of having insulting and toxic adults around me. People might see this low level verbal abuse as no big deal, but the body doesn’t lie. It is painful and traumatic to not only not have loving, supportive caregivers but in their place to have abrasive ones. I am describing to you who I am now: a very confident, sexy, attractive lady who moves with fluidity, agility, and isn’t just scared of but wants to connect with people.
I mentioned earlier that society shuns the overweight person with social anxiety. Well I want to say this: underneath all of that is a potential God or Goddess. I say this figuratively. Imagine The Fairy Godmother waving her wand and turning Cinderella’s torn dress into an elegant gown. That’s what this therapy did for me. I fundamentally believe everyone is meant to be awesome. When you study human history, it’s hard to see how people can not be awesome. Life started in primordial ooze and now humans, in all of their amazing glory, populate all the far reaches of the earth. You wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for some powerful life force that created you. I believe it is the natural state of most people to become healthy, vibrant, confident, and sexy, and while certain unavoidable diseases can stop this, the #1 threat to it, that spreads through society like a plague, is trauma. It’s unnecessary.
My story gives me what I think are some very unique thoughts on resilience. I have been praised before for how “tough” I was. This is what my mother wanted to put into me. I believe I was born a naturally highly empathetic and loving person, and this got beat out of me by a mother who thought this was weak and that “people had to learn to fight for their own survival.” In the past, I’ve had people praise me that I “don’t take crap from people.” I had people marvel, “People attack you or insult you and it doesn’t bother you. You just keep going.” I think some people see this as “resilience.” They might call it being “thick skinned.” I want to challenge this. Yeah I “didn’t take crap” from people and it was moderately good for my career as I took many risks. But it was at the price of relationships and my own health. In the long run, it’s the opposite of resilient. I don’t doubt had this continued, I would have died much earlier than natural. I was only one huge disaster away from poverty. Who would I have relied on if a tornado hit or if I got a terrible disease? I see this line of thinking plague older men especially. They might have major health problems but they fantasize about one day being strong again. They suffer terrible depression beating themselves up that it doesn’t happen.
No, I think true resilience is rooted more in health, wellness, self-care, healthy community, and internal soothing. I learned in Dr. Karyl McBride’s book to be my own internal mother. Now when I am insulted by someone, I don’t get defensive, attack, or “refuse to take that crap.” I go into self-soothe mode. I think “Ok. That person just attacked me. It doesn’t make me a bad person. It is always wrong to insult people. They are wrong for doing this.” Any time I am hurt, if the person is malicious or not, is now a moment of growth for me not defensiveness. It helps many more situations than being “thick skinned” does. What if it’s a pretty close friend who attacks you, a potential customer, or someone you greatly admire? If you self soothe, you can retain the good parts of the friendship while moving on yourself. You can still show your face day after day, proudly, knowing you’ve always carried yourself well and retained those parts of you that are kind and empathetic.
This approach has given me great emotional fortitude. I no longer retreat from relationships. I hang in there. I assume positive intent. And I’ll say this: it may be true that some people are malicious but I have found that if you assume positive intent, you find that about 80% of the time people do not mean harm. You wouldn’t find this out if you didn’t stick with it. I have turned so many potentially negative situations into positive ones that work for me lately.
When I think of my resiliency, I think of myself lying on a flotation device in a pool on a warm summer day, drinking a nice cold drink with a straw. I am able to keep this kind of internal state even though life can be lobbing whatever it is lobbing at me. This is what I see as resilience.
Resolving trauma is everything. If a person has any disease at all where the body attacks itself (such as an autoimmune disorder), the first place to look is if there is unresolved trauma. It is most of my life’s mission to heal and prevent trauma. Underneath many emotional and physical problems is trauma and the place to prevent this is in childhood. Too many are willfully blind about how certain parenting approaches create these scars in children. This is why I do what I do. I am engaged in strong activism about parenting. I have a passion that burns like no other. I have a deep respect for children that has manifested itself into a robust, positive, and loving parenting philosophy that I have consistently practiced and demonstrated day in and day out. My knowledge of child development and my understanding of how to handle children has led itself to the research I have been doing on the developmental regression cycles that children go through and how you can use them to great positive benefit. See the section on “Cognitive Growth Spurts” at the top of this page and also look for my book coming out soon, Misbehavior is Growth: An Observant Parent’s Guide to the Toddler Years. I invite you also to come join my parenting blog at The Observant Mom.
Emotional Health / Relationships
- The Awakened Family by Dr. Tsabary
- Parent Effectiveness Training by Dr. Gordon
- Will I Ever be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers by Dr. Karyl McBride
- Monogamy: The Untold Story by Dr. Brandon
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Between Parent and Child by Dr. Haim Ginott
- The Body Keeps Score by Dr. van der Kolk
- Trigger Point Therapy by Donna Finando
- Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection by John E. Sarno
- The Insulin Resistance Health by Cheryle Hart
- Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe
- Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Esselstyn
- Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy by Dr. Willett
- The Glycemic-Load Diet by Rob Thompson
- Cure Constipation Now by Dr. Wes Jones
- Digestive Wellness by Elizabeth Lipski (I do NOT recommend this book)
- The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep by Lawrence Epstein
- Stop Endometriosis and Pelvic Pain by Andrew S. Cook
- Heavy Menstrual Flow and Anemia by Dr. Susan Lark