Have you ever stopped to wonder how the negative stories you tell yourself and others affect your life? I’ve known for awhile that our thoughts create our reality, but I’ve never seen it come quite so close as I did when my family sold our home in 2013.
Here’s a story of how I learned the power of our stories.
Back in December of 2013, my family and I sold our home and we rented a big, beautiful house in upstate New York. But rather than being overjoyed and grateful for the opportunity to enjoy a fresh start, I went into one of the deepest depressions ever.
But most frightening of all, was that, I was getting chest pains daily, which felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. It was this curious medical condition that fueled the fire of my fears. Since I knew I was under extreme stress, and I understood how that affected my body, I convinced myself that I could avoid going to the doctor.
The move and the months of preparation and packing preceding the closing, were incredibly traumatic and painful for the whole family. None of us wanted to leave our precious home, but it was time to start over. It felt like my heart was breaking and I knew this emotional stress load had a huge connection to my chest pains.
It was such a painful time for my family with so many arguments, finger pointing, blaming and tons of resentment flying everywhere. All this negative energy was really affecting my marriage.
Depression and dead end questions
Somehow the move shook me up and exposed all my vulnerabilities and I felt edgy and afraid all the time. I was so overwhelmed by the emotional onslaught of how I felt, that I couldn’t think clearly. I had become caught up in a loop of depression, asking myself dead end questions like:
- What’s wrong with me?
- Why can’t I get out of this mess?
- Why is my marriage falling apart?
- Why am I so unhappy?
- Why am I stuck in this situation?
- What’s wrong with me?
- Why am I so angry?
- Why can’t I stop being afraid?
My depression, fear and anxiety was fueled by my husband’s constant anger. His usual soft and loving tone had become angry and critical and he seemed to find every reason to complain. One day I told him that his anger was triggering fear in me and his sarcastic tone reminded me of my father’s and step father’s raging ways.
He continued to rant and complain. During that time, nothing I said or did felt or seemed right. I realized I couldn’t change him and I was sure he was so angry because he just didn’t love me anymore. I convinced myself that my marriage was over as I imagined the possibility of being separated. I started to voice my thoughts one day when talking to my daughter, Cara. Then I told my son, PT, my mother, my step daughter, Janelle and several of my friends. Talking about leaving and being miserable in my marriage was becoming a running dialog in my head and in my life.
But it just didn’t feel right because I couldn’t stand the thought of giving up on my then 24 year marriage to a really good, kind, and loving man. The idea of divorcing my husband because I didn’t know how to deal with his depression made my blood boil. Feeling so helpless, I began to confront my own anger, but because I was never taught to feel safe being angry, I avoided those feelings at all costs.
As the cold wintry days of the Polar Vortex passed, I felt myself shutting down. During that time, the world seemed smaller, colder and meaner. I knew that I was slipping back into my old habits of eating and shopping out of control in a desperate attempt to numb the emotional tsunami that was exploding inside of me.
One day I checked the online banking and came to the shocking realization that in less than two weeks, I had spent over $15,000. The scariest thing about that was that I had no memory of the specifics of how it was spent. I had never done anything like that before and was terrified that I had lost control, fearing that my mother’s history as a manic depressive would be visited on me.
A fresh perspective
I knew I needed help to deal with the depression I felt. I didn’t want to go to a friend or seek out a therapist because I wanted to speak to someone who could help me at the level of need I had. Over the years since 2004, I had learned to manage my emotions using a powerful stress relief method called Emotional Freedom Technique.
I knew that as an EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) practitioner, I had a very powerful tool to manage my own depression but I wasn’t using it because I was too close to the situation. So I decided to seek out support from someone who could guide me to how I could help myself.
I consulted a friend and coach colleague named Stacey Vornbrock, owner of Breakthrough Performance.net. Stacey is a psychotherapist, best known for her work with professional and amateur athletes. She teaches them how to release their emotional blocks at the cellular level using EFT. When she was a return guest on my Lovin’ the Skin You’re In” radio show on October 13, 2013. On that show, entitled, “Negative Emotions: Are You Hooked? she explained how we can become addicted to our own negative emotions. Remembering that discussion with Stacey, I knew that she was someone who could help me.
When I finally confided in Stacy, she suggested that I avoid the tendency to label myself as a person with a debt problem and instead look at the emotions that had fueled my urges to shop and overeat.
She suggested to look at the loss of the money as an example of grace in my life; an opportunity to create a profound shift in my marriage and shake things up by reopening the channels of communication with my husband. she also suggested that I look at all the sources of stress in my life that kept me feeling distant from Angel.
I felt very much at peace with her advice and I was open to accept whatever came next.
Facing my fear
The following day I finally gathered up the guts to confront Angel, feeling certain that my admission would hammer the final nail in the coffin and kill our marriage.
Shaking with fear, I approached Angel and told him what had happened and to my shock and amazement, he didn’t react in anger. He was kind, understanding and loving. For the first time in months we were able to talk again. Since then we’ve grown even closer because I’ve been continuing to work on all the things that have kept our marriage so stressed.
That experience taught me a very valuable lesson about the power of our stories and what we tell ourselves every day. I’ve since been telling myself some new stories that have helped to create a lot more joy and connection with my husband and best of all, myself. As a result of changing my story, I decided to get really serious about being more healthy. I realized that the best way I could love myself fully is to live longer and happier and to stop being afraid of what is.
Making Changes to Control what I can
Soon after at that time, I went to see my doctor about the chest pains, I started working out consistently and I began getting coaching from Susan L. Holmberg. a friend and colleague of mine who was a nutritionist. During that time I changed my way and Susan counseled me on how the body is affected by different foods and how I could minimize blood sugar spikes. Every day during that time I continued to break new ground in facing my fears using tapping. As I’ve worked to reinvent my body and minimize the stress in my life, my chest pains disappeared.
But my real healing began when I decided to forgive myself for all the things I did to contribute to my own hurting, overspending, breaking promises, avoiding my responsibilities, being hateful, resenting my weakness, blaming, using food to stuff my anger and building walls to keep people out.
Looking back on that frigid time in my life nearly 5 years ago, I see that my over-sensitivity toward Angel’s anger and my self-abusive behavior was really just a numbing distraction protecting me from facing my own raw feelings. There were a lot of situations that I had been trying to avoid facing.
The truth is I was deeply grieving the loss of my house and the need to sell it to relieve the debt that my overspending had created for our family. I was also anticipating the very worst case scenario of being an emptynester, and fearing a separation from my daughter who was then just about to attend the Culinary Institute of America. But perhaps the biggest and most profound change I made was using tapping to release the hurt and anger I felt around my father’s rejection, his financial backstabbing of our family and our estrangement. That was a very tough nut to crack and I grieved over that for almost 11 years. But once I learned that Angel was acting as the mirror of my emotions, I recognized his anger as a signal to me to look at my own feelings. Now when he gets angry, I still have that automatic fear response from years of living with Jorge, my very rageful and sexually abusive step father, but now I know that once I tap on those fears, and clear the association to Jorge, I can see my Angel for who he is; my loving husband of 28 years.
Besides the love and my family, and my faith in God, tapping has been the greatest gift that has come into my life. It has given me the ability to distance myself from a very abusive past, and to recognize times in my life when I am getting caught up in triggers of fear and anxiety from those painful memories. Thanks to tapping, now I’m able to recognize that my fears are usually unfounded, and just like most people who have lived in sexually violent homes, I recognize my tendency to anticipate the worst in every situation.
I also realize that rather than pointing a finger of blame at Angel and telling him not to be so angry is a waste of my precious time. He has every right to be angry and so do I. There were unjustices and painful consequences connected to our decision to sell our home. The difference is now I am willing to embrace my anger and give it room to breathe so that I can finally feel safe letting it go. I notice that as I release my anger, his complaining and upset doesn’t feel so intimidating. In fact all the intensity of Angel’s anger has disappeared since I’ve faced my own anger issues. I sometimes wonder–Could he have been acting as the mirror showing me how I could face my own anger? Now I can say, “Yes” without reservation to that question.
I hope that my story helped you to understand that if you’re not actively working to change your story, your past will claim your future. So here’s my question to you. What kinds of stories are you telling yourself? Are they bringing you closer or further away from what you want? If you’re caught up in a depression and can’t get past your own pity party, don’t beat up on yourself, dealing with change is very hard . Join my Facebook group, “30 Days to Lovin’ the Skin You’re In” and get a fresh perspective. Let me teach you how you can use tapping and big doses of self-compassion to boost your confidence, so you can feel better and focus on your dreams.