I used to paint my nails every week as a way to remind myself to love myself fully and to invest in myself with intention. I called the project Paint Your Love and I invited readers to join in my journey of self discovery and self love. Today I took some time to reflect back on the project, re-reading some of my posts from last year and ruminating over how much I have grown and changed since that period of life. I am so amazed at how things have changed for me in just a year. I feel a million times more confident in who I am and I can most definitely say that I do love myself fully. The pains of my past do not haunt me like they used to and for the past year, I have finally felt in control of my emotions and how I handle traumatic memories. Even though I have been through some hard experiences this past year, I still have felt free and stable enough to handle each new experience as they came with grace and peace. For this, I am so incredibly thankful and I am proud of myself that I am able to handle life in such a healthy way compared to times in the past.
I started my journey with the Paint Your Love project by deciding to go to counseling/therapy a year ago. I have experienced a lot of trauma in my short life time and though I have always felt strong willed, I just reached a point last year where I felt like I couldn't handle the history of trauma by myself any longer. Talking with friends and family is of course so important in learning to heal through past pains. But for me, there were some experiences in life that could not be healed by just chatting with a friend, by confronting the people who hurt me, or just doing something in memory of someone I lost. Those things are special and important, but I needed therapy to learn how to deal with my traumatic memories.
In my counseling, I did a specific type of therapy called EMDR. It was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life, having to let myself think about and relive my most traumatic memory while talking to my therapist about it while I processed. If you click the link you can read more about the process of going through EMDR therapy. Something that has stuck with me since that experience is that, when my counselor asked me to go to let myself completely fall into thinking about my most traumatic memory, she then asked me what my stress level was on a scale of 1-10. I just started bawling and said 10 while my trembling hands reached up to brush the tears out of my eyes. I was shaking and felt even more vulnerable than when I had experienced the trauma. I had to talk through the experience for an hour, 1 minute just being quite and letting my mind wander, next minute reflecting on my thoughts, 1 minute mind wandering in quite, next minute reflecting and continuing on like that filling up an hours worth of time. And as I sat in silence and and then spoke out everything I envisioned and felt, on and off and on and off, I suddenly saw the pattern of hurt wandering through my life, through my personal story. The beginning traumatic event began to feel less of a burden as I started to see the source of my trauma weaving through a life long story.
When the hour ended, and I got out every thought that came into my mind, my counselor asked me again to take a minute to relive the traumatic experience I had started the EMDR journey with. As I sat there, I felt calm, I felt at peace, I felt in control. She asked me, "What is your stress level now." And I said with ease, "It's a 2." I can't even tell you how amazed I was by how calm I felt in that moment. It's a peace like no other that, since then, I have tried to carry with me everyday.
Ever since that moment in my therapy, the counseling sessions felt easier, lighter, and more manageable, all leading up to about 2 or 3 months later when I came in one day and just felt like I had nothing major burdening me anymore, nothing that was weighing me down, nothing stopping me from feeling free even though my life story was still the same as it was when I started therapy. I was still the same person with the same experiences in my past, but now I was free. The trauma of my past became manageable, the many stories of pain, abuse, and loss no longer felt like they dictated my life. They just became stories that shaped the woman I am today, a woman who is strong willed, loving, kind, loyal, creative, encouraging, strong in her vulnerability, wise, and in control of her past. I learned to accept the hard realities of life as true and learned to not hate them or feel bullied by them. And in turn, I found true confidence and love in myself.
I am exactly the same person as I was before I started therapy, but today I am the healthiest version of myself, managing my past experiences and emotions with grace. This past year, I have felt more free and alive, more at peace with myself and my life than I ever have before. Though my hero, my grandmother passed away just about a month after I ended therapy, and though that month of July was one of the hardest months of my life, I made it through that new and hard experience without letting it turn into trauma. It was and is simply another important moment in my life, a valuable experience that has shaped me and made me a better person. I let myself feel it all and of course there were many tears, but the way I handled my emotions were much different than how I dealt with pain before therapy. And all I can say is that I am so grateful I did therapy last year so that I could lead a healthier, more joy filled, well balanced life, letting myself take in all the easy or hard, good or bad experiences of life as they come. My grandmother's passing felt no less powerful than how it would have felt before I did therapy, it just simply helped me to process and deal with her death in a healthier way with patience, wisdom, thankfulness, and peace.
All of us have experienced deep pains in our lives and for some of us, those pains have become traumatic. If you feel the weight of your past experiences hovering over you everyday and blocking you from moving forward in your life, feeling free and alive, I highly recommend trying counseling. Don't ever believe that it is weak to go to counseling, it takes immense strength to seek help and guidance, it takes humility and patience. And you are worthy of taking that step to feel more confident in yourself, more alive, more joyful, more happy with yourself and comfortable with your past. If you are too scared right now, that is ok. That is why I shared my story of seeking self love and full acceptance of my life story here on my blog last year. I want to encourage you to make the choice everyday to invest in you and to seek to love yourself fully, with all the bumps, holes, bruises and bites. You have a new chance everyday to wake up and start a new, seeking to find confidence, strength, vulnerability, and love within yourself. And if you need a little encouragement, you can find here. I love you, I see you, I hear you. Go ahead and explore my Paint Your Love project to find some ways to make visual reminders of seeking to love and accept yourself daily, to find stories of my struggles, to find encouraging words from your fellow bloggers, and to start your journey of self love.
I painted my nails yesterday in bright, happy, jelly bean colored reds, oranges, and pinks. And for the rest of the week, I will use my brightly colored nails as reminders that I have invested in myself this week, physically and emotionally with intention. I encourage you to paint your nails this week as a visual reminder of self love and investment. You are worthy of love from others AND love from yourself. Begin with you and the rest will follow. You are valuable, you are special, you are unique, you ARE beautiful. I love you my friends and I hope you take a little time this week to reflect on ways that you have grown over the past year. Be proud of yourself in your accomplishments AND in the times of pain that you have endured. You are here, you are alive, and you have made it everyday, one step at a time. I love you.