Tag Archives: vulnerability

Should I Score YOUR story?

I make it a daily habit to go onto Facebook and examine the lives and experiences of the people in my community.  Although it’s part of my job as a social media specialist for Indrani’s Light Foundation to dive into social media about life events, on occasion, I have been guilty of “comparing” my story to other life stories.  I find stories in my community that make my story seem like a cakewalk…. meaning that I feel guilty for believing I have suffered in my life.

I begin to give my story a score, from 1 to 10.

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Let me give you an example ….

I suffer from PTSD syndrome due to a few events that happened to me in the past.  I face many triggers, sometimes on a daily basis …. sometimes in my dreams that show up as nightmares.  BUT, I feel guilty about sharing my story with others.  Why?  Because I may end up talking to someone who is currently fighting for their lives after being diagnosed with stage IV cancer, or someone who was brutally gang raped as a young woman, or a man who was locked in a coffin as a child to face his discipline, and was sexually abused by his orphan caretakers on a daily basis.  My story seems to pale in comparison to theirs.

“Based on these friends’ stories …. I give my own story a 3.”

Where did I learn that we, as humans need to measure our feelings? If our lives are not measured, then it doesn’t exist, right?

Here is where I get vulnerable.

Now, I also find myself, on occasion, judging others about their stories by comparing them to my own story.  Yes, I’m human.  Yes, I feel guilty about this, too.  When I read someone’s Facebook post that complains about their job, and how they don’t feel appreciated for their work.  My mind begins to wander with thoughts such as:

“Oh that’s a bummer {sarcastically}  Well, try losing your dream job because your newly promoted sexist, homophobic supervisor is on a mission to fire you from your 20 year career just because you are a gay woman, and causes you to file a federal law suit that will last for 4 ½ years …. and will eventually be settled out of court, and meanwhile you will never be able to return to your dream career because you have been “blacklisted” by other agencies.”

“Based on this friend’s “job” story … I give my story a 10.”

Have YOU been secretly scoring other people’s stories?  Are you brave enough to admit it?  Notice I am NOT scoring the other person’s story…. Just my own.  Should I give theirs a score?  Should I score YOUR story?

The answer to this question is a resounding, “NO!”

Comparing my life to others has been a daily journey, and I work at staying empathetic to everyone’s feelings and experiences.  Most of the time I battle with feelings around why I shouldn’t complain, or feel badly about ANYTHING in my life.

“There are children starving all over the world.”

“A parent just lost his child in a car accident.”

“Women are being raped and beaten every day.”

My story, and your story, should never be compared to any other story. Your stories, and the effect they have on your life should only be scored in relation to how they make YOU feel, not anyone else. If what you are experiencing right now is, for you, a 10 on the painful story scale, then that is true for you, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

I have learned a great deal from Indrani Goradia and Dr. Brené Brown about being vulnerable and speaking my truth.  I practice empathy on a daily basis, and I have compassion for peoples’ stories, at any level.  I have even arrived at, what Brené Brown calls, “excruciating vulnerability,” and have begun the process of “deconstructing shame.”  (Listen to Brené’s TED talk here).

I invite you to pursue this simple “Call to Action” right now.  Go to our website, and listen to the “Live-A-Brighter-Life” podcasts.  You can also find them on iTunes.  Within our teachings, we will give you the tools to help you reach out, speak your truth, and find shame resilience.  YOU are worthy.  YOU are loved.  YOU matter.

 

With love & light,

Amy Dier
Director of Education & Training | Indrani’s Light Foundation

 

I am an activist to end violence against women: Part 3 – The Rape

How has my personal story been sitting with you so far?  My hope is to help you begin your journey of healing shame, and become the activist you desire to be!  Meanwhile, I’m taking a DEEP BREATH.  What I’m about to tell you will help me “Live-A-Brighter-Life.”  This is the vulnerable place that Brené Brown talks about. This is the place where Indrani Goradia encourages me to be brave.

UntitledSo, in the Part 1 blog I slightly touched on my story of being raped as a young teenager.  As a young girl, I was walking tall, confident, and very secure in myself as I entered into the high school scene.  I was involved in all of the sports, highly regarded in my church, played many instruments in our school band, and never broke “the rules.”  My parents were known as responsible and loving people, who were living the blue collar “American Dream.”  But as we know so often, many of these kinds of families are hiding a secret.  Our secret was I had an older brother who was suffering from his own demons of a mental illness and drug abuse.  This was back in the 70’s and 80’s when families rarely talked about their private lives.  As you can imagine, I made sure I was the “good little girl,” and wanted to make sure I never disappointed my parents, my community, or my church.

In my youth, I was taught that being a “good little girl” meant that you should help people, and do the things God would want you to do here on earth.  I thought that was a reasonable request, so I set out doing my best to do JUST that.  I had found and befriended a teenage boy who was older than me, and living in a challenging home situation.  I continued a friendship with him against my father’s wishes.  You see, my parents had some kind of gut feeling about this boy that I wasn’t aware of.  So (on a rare decision to disobey my father) I decided to go to this friend’s house and invite him to church.  This is where my nightmare began, and did not end for 30 years.

Many of you reading this article right now can completely relate to this story.  Certain feelings are stirring up in you, and you can understand the rush of trauma I was experiencing during and after I was raped.  Some of you have been raped, sodomized, or sexually abused in your life.  You know the feelings of guilt, shame, humiliation, denial, anger, confusion, betrayal, uncertainty, and grief about the loss of innocence that was taken from you.  The nightmares have been haunting you for years, and your entire existence revolves around this suffering.  And then the biggest question of your lifetime…. Do you tell anyone what happened to you?

I made it home somehow that horrific day, crept into the shower, and felt frozen in my body.  I made the painfully conscious decision that I could not tell my parents, or report what had happened.  I had disobeyed my parents, and “this is what I deserved.”  I told my best friend at the time, and throughout the years I have felt obligated to tell my partners.  My parents found out just a few years ago about my rape, and even after a 30-year career in law enforcement and private investigations, I could not NAME my feelings about what had happened to me.

UntitledIt’s been almost four years since I received the opportunity to start REALLY healing from my rape.  When I began to tell my story, the grip it had on me began to release.

What story is gripping you tight?  What story is holding you hostage?  I had not been open to therapy…. Ever!  But through the encouragement and help of people I trusted, I began to see a therapist for my PTSD.

At Indrani’s Light Foundation, we encourage our community to reach out to the people they trust if they need help.  In module 4 of the “Live-A-Brighter-Life” workshop series, we teach about “Finding Resilience.”  Indrani teaches that separating and insulating yourself from others is a petri dish for shame.  Brené Brown’s book, “Daring Greatly,” is my new Bible now, and as I continue to teach Indrani’s “Live-A-Brighter-Life” curriculum, I continue to heal my shame.

Part 4 of my blog series is coming up next.  If you’ve been a victim of discrimination, or have ever been shamed or treated differently because of your race, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or any other situation, I encourage you to keep following my blog series.  I lost my beloved career because I was a woman, and a lesbian.  I will talk about how I coped with this loss, when the grieving process began, and how I have come to understand this trauma.

 

With love & light,

Amy

I am an activist to end violence against women: Part I

UntitledI’ve always had a passion for helping women who have suffered abuse of any kind.  Why did I choose this particular passion?  I am a rape survivor.  As a young teenager, I fell victim to an older teenager who preyed upon my kindness of wanting to help him with his “demons” by inviting him to church.  He disappeared after the rape, and I chose not to report the rape to police, or my parents for many heart-wrenching reasons.  I told my best friend at the time, but my nightmares only seemed to get worse.

I did, however, make sure I got into the front seat of a police car as a police cadet soon after I was raped.  I felt safe, and I believed I could help other girls and women if I was a police officer.

As a police officer, I made every effort to handle the domestic violence calls, the reports of Untitledrape, sex abuse, or teenage girls who were being abused by their parent or guardian.  I investigated every case with a fine tooth comb, dotted every “i,” crossed every “t,” and wanted justice for girls and women who cried out for help.

What I COULDN’T do in my 20 years in law enforcement, was advocate for the girls and women who DID NOT, or COULD NOT seek help.  Police officers must remain objective, and are ethically held by the rules of law.  I did what I could to encourage these women and girls to report their abusers, but that was the extent of my power.

UntitledAfter 20 years in law enforcement, I became a private investigator, and working criminal defense cases came with this territory.  After being a defense investigator during these abuse cases, I became acutely aware of both sides of the stories.  After interviewing and representing multiple “alleged” abusers, many of them told me their family history, the abuse they, themselves, suffered as children, and the demons they fought for most of their lives.  Many of these men admitted their guilt and asked for help.  Other abusive men admitted their guilt, but showed no remorse, and believed the woman “deserved what she got.”

UntitledNow that I’m retired from law enforcement and private investigations, I was left with confusing thoughts, beliefs, and judgments, with no clear answer of why men are so abusive to women in our world.  The latest statistic from the United Nations is that 1 out of every 3 women will suffer abuse on this planet.  This is a staggering pandemic.  This means that YOU, or someone you know … a sister, mother, grandmother, aunt, cousin, best friend, or daughter ….. has suffered some form of abuse.  Maybe you are the abuser? Maybe you were a victim of verbal, physical, or sexual abuse as a child? Or maybe you are being abused now. Where do you go for help?  Who do you trust?

In the next “Part 2” blog series, I will share how Indrani Goradia, Indrani’s Light Foundation, and Brené Brown came into play for me.  Meanwhile, I’m feeling vulnerable about sharing my story this way, so I’d love some feedback about how this blog is resonating with you.   Do you have a similar story?  Do you have mixed feelings about becoming an activist?  Tell me your thoughts.

 

With deepest gratitude,

Amy
Director of Education & Training
Indrani’s Light Foundation

 

 

 

 

Being vulnerable……

ILF_Wtagline_Logo rgbIndrani’s Light Foundation teaches a free workshop series called Live-A-Brigher-Life.  (You can listen to the free podcast series here.) In one of our lessons, “Finding Resilience,” we teach you how to ask for help, and that being vulnerable can free your shame, humiliation, guilt, or embarrassment.  We also teach Brené Brown’s strong belief in the power of empathy, and how you can understand another person’s feelings.

Here is a short story recently told by Indrani that may help you understand.

Indrani was recently in New York City and finally got the opportunity to climb up to the crown of the Statue of Liberty.

Being vulnerable.

“This was the step count up to the Crown of lady liberty.

I sometimes get claustrophobia.

Half way up I could not breathe and started to freak out.

My dear friend, Eva, came down to me and started to help me breathe.
Big deep breaths.

My dear Erik started telling me about the firm construction of the statue.

My new friend Yuki stayed close and was ready to support my ascent.

3 amazing people when I needed them.

I made it with a smile on my face.

I am so grateful.

The lesson?

Ask for help.

Accept the help.

Be grateful for angels around.”

 How does this story resonate with you?  Would you ask for help from trusted friends in this scenario? Or would you have tried to “tough it through” and suffered the entire way up the stairway?  These three friends came to Indrani’s aid with empathy and with no judgment.

Maybe the story is different for you.  Who can you reach out to if you are being abused?

A parent? 

A best friend? 

A counselor?

A religious community member?

A sibling?

A coach?

Who is trustworthy, nonjudgmental, and patient?  Who can you entrust with your story?  Reach out to them today.  Not tomorrow, not next week….. but today.  Speak your shame.  Speak your truth.  It’s time to feel safe again, don’t you think?

If you, or someone you know need resources to get help, have them visit our webpage at www.indranislight.org/resources/helpful-links/

 

 

Love is not fragile….

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A poem by Samantha Reynolds of bentlily.com

Love is not fragile 

Who taught you
to be sparing
with your love

as though your heart was a bank
as though love could dry up

nonsense

it is as if the ocean complained
it was too
wet

love is not fragile
it is as common as breath

it is play money
it is a race
to give more

go first
say it with impunity

you think you will ache
with vulnerability
but the strangest thing will happen

you will nearly drown
with peace.

 

Men need to become better leaders…and as a man this is terrifying

I am sitting with a bunch of guys in a dressing room at the local hockey arena. Everyone is taking a break from a game of men’s floor hockey, drinking a few beers, and telling tall tales.

Then it begins…comments about the wives and women in our lives:

“I came home the other day and the house wasn’t even clean. What the hell is she doing all day while I am at work? Sitting around growing her ass or what”

“I told her I was coming here and it was blah blah blah, you never spend time with me. Of course I don’t, all you do is nag”

“Did you see that girl in the bar Thursday night….she had huge guns, they were amazing”

“I totally took her home, banged her, and showed her the door…”

And so it goes. Degenerating into inappropriate jokes and comments that no one in that room would say in public or outside of a room of a bunch of men drinking beer and kidding around.

Now, with my new realizations around Gender Based Violence, and the treatment of women, I need to stand up and say:

“Ummm….hey guys…this isn’t cool, you know. Aaaahhh…talking about your wives this way isn’t helping how your son sees women. That, ah.. that girl in the bar is someone’s daughter. Do you want someone talking about your daughter that way?”

Silence.

Dumbfounded silence mixed with shock, and looks of “who the hell invited this guy?”

 

Jackson Katz, in the Ted Talk below, clearly explains why focusing on women when talking about gender based violence is wrong, and why this focus needs to shift to men, and what men are doing (and not doing about it). He also clearly explains that men need to become leaders around this topic, and that the true battle will be won, not in public, when we are openly defending women, but within the small groups of men where so much of this harmful talk continues in a “safe zone”.

I hear what Jackson is saying, and it terrifies me. I want to be this leader. I want to make sure my son’s view of women is healthy. I want to protect all the daughters out there. I want to help eliminate violence against women.

Writing for Indrani’s Light Foundation – check.

Helping train others to help women in shelters – check.

Speaking out about gender based violence in social media – check.

Share the message with local schools and other people – check.

Stand up, in the moment, in a group of guys, and call them on their bullshit statements.

Gulp.

That one I NEED to work on, and it isn’t going to be easy.

But I am going to try.

If you are a man, or have men in your life who could use help developing this leadership, and taking this plunge, share Jackson Katz’s video and let’s get started.

Link: http://www.ted.com/talks/jackson_katz_violence_against_women_it_s_a_men_s_issue?language=en#t-284753

My friend Ray and the lesson of black tape…..

Recently, I had the great fortune to be in Trinidad with my only brother, his lovely wife and our childhood friend, Ray.

We were all headed to the store to purchase a 60th birthday gift for another friend.

My brother was riding in the passenger seat up front while Ray drove and in the midst of recanting an old and funny story, he said very casually,
“Hey brother, what’s that red light on your dash?”

Ray, quite nonchalantly said, “Doh worry ’bout dat man, I put a piece of black tape over it, I don’t want to know what it is.”

And in typical Ray style, he started to laugh.

My sister in law, sitting next to me in the back then says, “So why is there tape over the locks in the back?”

Ray says, “Oh the locks are broken and I just don’t want people messing with them.”

We all start howling with laughter and start teasing Ray about his ability to block out the everyday annoyances of life.

I immediately say, “You know that I am going to have to write a blog about this, right?”

The thing about using black tape to cover up warning lights and broken bits of a machine made me think of the hoops we jump through to hide our shameful abuse from others.

Women will use any amount of makeup to try to hide the black eye.

Teenagers will lie to their friends and wear long sleeves to try and hide the cutting they started as a result of the incest they are suffering in their homes.

Young children know that they dare not tell about the knock down drag outs that their parents engage in and they instead begin to create a fairy tale family that they trot out to mask their pain.

Recently, during a Train the Trainer, one of the participants told the group that he never knew his parents because the state had taken him away due to abuse. He then explained that he made up  a fairy tale of benevolent parents and used to tell fairy tale stories about the imagined family.

We use black tape in our everyday lives so effectively that we often forget the tape is there.

We begin to see the tape as the reality and we fight for the right to deny the reality of our pain.

What parts of your life have you taped over?

What is the tape hiding?

What would happen if you pulled the tape off and allowed yourself to face the truth?

I pull the tape off my own bruises every time I tell an audience that my abuse began in my childhood. When I am honest with my listeners and when they are able to receive the truth of what I am saying, they witness the absence of black tape.

I let them see my scars.

I let them in on my pain.

As a result of my being vulnerable, they give themselves permission to do the same.

Will you remove some black tape from your life today?

I give you permission to look at your truth.

 

Love and light,
Indrani

One simple act…..

Change the world with ONE simple act….like opening a door consistently.

What a guy!

Can we all be more like him?
http://www.wimp.com/simplething/

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Suffering from depression? This might help…..

*Psst.. Did you know you can highlight any sentence in this post to automatically share it via Twitter or Facebook? Go ahead, give it a try!**

depression_quoteA dear friend, Keisha Gallegos compiled this list of strategies for dealing with depression and we want to share it with the world. Please share if you know someone struggling with depression. We hope it helps. 



First of all, if you are not functioning well or if it takes an inordinate amount of energy to get even the smallest task accomplished- medication. Be evaluated by a psychiatrist. That’s their specialty.

If you don’t like the first one you see, go see a different one. The first medication you try may not work, I had to try several before I got one that worked well.

In my opinion, untreated depression is much worse than possible side affects from medication. Your body can’t heal when you are depressed. That should tell us how debilitating depression is physically.

Later when you are stabilized, you can consider how long staying on medication is right for you. Sometimes it’s for a few months, maybe a few years, possibly for the rest of your life.

Second, therapy.

Deal with the shit you have been repressing your entire life. Take it out, look at it, and feel your feelings. The fear of dealing with it is far worse than actually dealing with it, I promise you.

You don’t have to lay on a couch for 40 years contemplating your belly button- that’s ridiculous. Try a large and regular dose of self compassion.

When you are good and sick of your own story, possibly try coaching. Coaching works because it teaches you good mental health hygiene.

Learn what your triggers are. For me, I don’t watch the news- it’s a distorted view of the world- focusing on the negative and magnifying it to astronomical proportions. Our nervous systems are not made to handle the details of every single heinous atrocity committed on every corner of the globe.

I make sure I eat well and sleep enough. I don’t hang out with people that treat me badly or make me doubt my sanity- even if they are family.

I protect my energy like the queen guards the crown jewels and I infuse my life with positivity.

Put together a box where you put in a note of every single thing you remember that makes you happy. When you are depressed, you can’t remember what makes you feel better so have something readily available. Have a happy playlist. Learn to detach from painful thought patterns that create suffering. Practice random acts of kindness, read good news, cuddle with pets, go for a walk, spend time in the sunshine for vitamin D, make yourself go to gatherings where you feel loved.

Don’t retreat. Keep involving yourself in life.

Do things that feed your spirit.

Most of all, treat depression as the serious disorder that it is. Medicate it if you need to and don’t be ashamed of it. You are not weak or ungrateful.

I’ll never forget when I went on medication and I was doing some self shaming about “needing” it. I asked my sister what people did before anti-depressants, and she said, “They drank, Keisha. Take the meds.”

 

Guest post by Keisha Gallegos

Robin Williams….

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It is amazing how profoundly touched I have been by the death of Robin Williams.

Yes, he was brilliant, funny and an amazing man who touched many….but he was a person just like you and me.

Beyond the sadness of his loss is a pain in my heart because I KNOW the desperation he felt as he stood in his depression on the precipice of life and death.

For those who have never stood on that ledge, the tragic concept to end ones life is horrible yet it seems so rational to those of us who have teetered on that cliff.

There is an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and the option of death appears to be a choice of true freedom.

It’s a decision of surrendering. We have put up a good fight, but now have no more fight in us to keep going.

It is a black or white option, torment or peace.

Unfortunately, millions of people in the world who suffer from depression understand too well what he may have felt in the final hours and moments of his life.

My heart aches today for those who loved him but also for the millions of souls who stand alone on the precipice each and every day.

Please, if you suffer from depression, know that there are options.

It sometimes can be hard to take even the smallest step towards help but even the small step can bring you closer to a better way of life.

#depressionawareness

PS: If someone you know or love struggles with depression, do not dismiss them. Listen, love and help.