S02E14 - Trauma response

Hello and welcome to This Little Light of Mine, my name is James Powell and I’m so glad that you are able to join me for today’s story episode entitled Trauma response.
 
I need to take a deep breath as I introduce today’s episode. This was one of the hardest episodes that I’ve had to write in the last year. As I took the time to go back through my journals, read through the assignments that I completed while in rehab two years ago, and revisit my massive ‘rehab binder’ of worksheets, daily check-ins, assessments, and resources; I was hit with a wave of emotions. It was really hard to look back and see the space that I was in and to re-experience some of the thoughts and feelings that I was going through at that time of my life.
 
As I share this episode, parts of me feel insecure and ashamed. These parts are scared and embarrassed to share some of the inner thoughts and ideas that I held about myself. It’s hard to see and share how much of my life has been about hustling for validation, deriving most of my value through competing with others while fighting to WIN things that I can now admit that I didn’t even want, and being honest about how much of my self-worth I gave away to others without questioning. These voices say things like ‘Are you insane, you can’t share this stuff! People are going to see how stupid and clueless you actually are. If you share these experiences they will be held against you.’
 
Parts of me are confused and a bit dumbfounded. As I read my own handwriting from when I was in rehab, I can see that many of the experiences and insights that I did have, I’ve either forgot, skipped over, or perhaps even blocked out.
 
Other parts of me are scared and protective, and yet thankful and hopeful. I’m scared to share some of the thoughts and realizations that I had only two years back about my parents and how I was raised. These parts are nervous about sharing some of what I realized and started to accept about my upbringing and they want to protect my parents from any judgement. At the same time, I’m amazed at how much my relationship with my parents has grown and flourished over the past two years. I don’t know if we would be in the space we are now if we hadn’t shared some of this pain together.
 
And I’m also noticing new parts of me that are slowly starting to grow and softly whisper supportive messages. These parts are kind, compassionate, gentle, and even loving. These parts are reparenting me by saying things like ‘It’s okay, you were doing your best to protect yourself’, ‘Just breath, these experiences are in the past, you’re safe now’, and ‘Nobody is perfect, you are learning to open up and share who you really are. You have permission to be fully you and let everything hang out.’
Trauma response cover
This episode is raw, vulnerable, messy, complex, and starts to dig deep into my own personal discovery of the many trauma responses that I’ve been living with and experiencing for most of my life.
 
And with that, here’s today’s story episode called Trauma Response.

If I had to sum up my thoughts and feelings leading into my first full week in-treatment using a single word, I would choose HYPERVIGILIANT. 

As much as parts of me wanted to trust and believe that I was in the right place, trust that I was being guided forward by God, trust the expertise and experience of the therapists and doctors, and trust in the experiences and learnings of the other men in the house; there was a huge part of me that was screaming ‘DANGER KEEP OUT’.

My world slowed down to a snail’s pace during my first couple of weeks in rehab.  I approached every interaction, session, conversation, and activity with a guarded sense of curiosity mixed with cautious feelings of ‘stranger danger’.  Behind the optimistic, friendly, and eager approach that I was trying to give off, inside I was terrified and operating as if I was in constant and ever-present danger.

Life History Assignment

My first big assignment was something called ‘Life History Assignment’.  I was given over a week to work on the assignment and was told that this would be my formal introduction to the therapists and to the other men who were already in treatment. 

My initial reaction to the assignment was ‘this should be easy’ and I immediately got started on a high-level outline that walked across the main parts of my life.  I completed my outline and checked in with a couple of the others in the house and didn’t get the positive feedback that I was looking for.

“You’re going to have to go way deeper than that.  I know the assignment description says that it should take you 20 minutes to read to the group, but mine took well over an hour. You need to go deep so that we can actually get to know you and understand why you’re here with us.  These fluffy bullet points don’t get anywhere close. We need to see who you really are underneath this curated timeline.”

I was frustrated with the feedback but did my best to keep things in check on the outside.  Inside things were a very different story.  The feedback confirmed what I was already feeling.

‘Curated timeline?  What does he know about me? How am I supposed to fill up all of that time?  How the heck am I supposed to know what this assignment is supposed to look like if I haven’t seen or heard what anyone else’s Life History Assignment looks like? How am I supposed to score 100% on this assignment if I’m not given anything to benchmark myself against?  This is a setup.’

I stewed over how unfair the assignment was and how stupid it was that we weren’t allowed to use any type of computer device to complete the assignment.

‘What kind of amateur-hour facility forces people to hand write out an hour long narrative?’

Being controlled?

As much as I tried to fight with the assignment there was no use.  This wasn’t the type of place that was looking for any creative input or process improvement suggestions.  I had to suck it up and do what I was told.  I felt like I was being controlled.  I hated that.

After stewing and ruminated in my thoughts for a couple of days, I surrendered to the assignment, and I started to write and write and write.  Writing by hand brought up so much discomfort for me.  I couldn’t be perfect.  I had to keep scratching out parts, adding parts in out of order, and pushing myself to go deeper and deeper.  The process was messy.

Meeting myself

As I wrote, read, re-wrote, re-read, re-wrote, and wrote some more, I started to see themes and patterns that I had never been conscious of.  I started to see how many times I had run from situations, relationships, jobs, and opportunities because I was terrified of conflict and allowing people to see some of the parts of me that I was ashamed of. 

As I continued to write, I started to open up and document, and for the first time, many of the experiences that I had long exiled from my memory, came back to life on the page in front of me.  As I continued to write, I start to see much of my personal shame, terror, hatred, and ugliness come to life through my own handwriting.  This was the first time in my life that I had attempted to acknowledge many of the events, experiences, and feelings that I had become expert at running from and avoiding.

‘How did I never see these patterns?  Anybody hearing my history will know how stupid and gross I really am.  I can’t share these ugly details with others.’

As much as I wanted to edit myself, create a clean and acceptable narrative of who I wanted people to think that I was, something inside of me whispered a new challenge.

‘It’s time to let go of the judgements.  Trust yourself.  Trust this process.  This is an opportunity to bring everything to the surface.  This is why you are here.’

At night, after writing as much as I could, I cried myself to sleep.  I was terrified to trust the process.  I was terrified to trust myself.  I was terrified of being seen.

And yet, as terrified as parts of me were, I listened to that new voice, I completed my assignment, and I presented it to the house. 

Sharing myself

There I was, sitting in our main group therapy room, in a chair, in the middle of the room, facing the unflinching gazes of my housemates and therapists.  I read word-for-word, line-by-line, page-by-page without looking up.  This was the most exposed experience I had ever had.

After baring my soul and showing all of me to the group I received a brief ‘thank you for sharing’ from my lead therapist before she opened the floor to any clarifying questions from the others.

I’m not sure what type of reaction I was looking for, but whatever I was hoping for, I didn’t receive it.

I felt exposed.  I felt like an idiot for opening-up the way I did. I felt like I had shared too much. I wanted to disappear.

But later that evening, I started to notice something very strange.  After sharing some of the deepest, darkest, and most shameful parts of my life; nothing changed.  The other men in the house didn’t treat me any differently.  They still asked if I wanted to go out for an afternoon walk.  They still joked around with me at dinner.  Some of them even started to open-up a little bit more about what they were going through.  In a very strange way, sharing some of my most shameful parts felt like it was bringing me closer together with them.

Art therapy

The day after sharing my life history with the house we were all scheduled in for a full afternoon of art therapy.   The excruciating therapeutic experiences for the week were just getting started.  Any mention of me participating in something labelled ‘art’ is a sure-fire way to get my inner voices of discontent immediately chattering away.

‘Nope this is not for you.  You can’t draw.  You’re not creative.  You need to figure out a way out of this experience?’

Unfortunately for me there wasn’t an out.  This session wasn’t optional. 

Reluctantly I showed up for the session and sat around the main table with the rest of the guys in the house. 

Our main dining room and workroom had been transformed into a travelling gallery.  Up on the walls were pieces of art that the others had completed over their prior weeks in treatment.  Seeing all their finished projects sent my inner thoughts further into a doom and gloom spin cycle. I started to compare my non-existent creative and drawing skills against everything that I saw up on the walls.

What’s in your closet?

Once we were all present and settled, our art therapist got us started by leading a brief discussion about the many closets that we all have in our lives.  She talked about the connection between shame and addiction and how that can lead to individuals trying to hide away thoughts, feelings, dreams, and ideas that they may be scared to bring out into the world for others to see.  She continued by reminding us that the opposite of addiction is connection, and that connection can be found and fostered when we start to share more of ourselves in spaces and relationships that we consider safe. 

This introduction led to our art therapy project for the day.  She presented each of us with a piece of poster board that she had pre-folded into a shape that represented a corner in a closet. 

Once we had our closets in front of us, she asked us a simple question as she walked over to the art supplies cupboard. 

“What do have you hidden in your closet?”

She laughed at her own question and shared that hidden in her art closet we would find paints, magazines, markers, stamps, stickers, clay, chalk, and a whole host of other supplies that we were free to use in whatever way we chose to complete the assignment.

The others immediately hopped out of their seats, started to pull out supplies, and got started on their assignment.

How can I win this?

Instead of doing the same, I froze.  Instead of coming up with ideas of how to complete my own assignment, I started to watch everyone else so that I could come up with ways on how I could compete with the assignment. 

Like most parts of my life, my initial reaction is never to go inside, reflect on how I want to move forward, listen to my Knowing, and then move into action.  My initial reaction is to compare and compete.  Show me what perfect looks like and I’ll find a way to beat that by 5%. 

As I watched the other guys start their work, I quickly realized that my usual MO wasn’t going to fly with this assignment.  I couldn’t copy and refine my way to completion here.  I felt the pressure of having to create a James Powell original.  I felt the weight of the assignment and I started to panic even more.

‘This assignment is stupid.  How am I supposed to decorate this entire closet if I can’t draw like everybody else?  Everyone is going to laugh.  I can barely put together a stick figure let alone draw the fear that I have hidden inside my closet.’

After not moving for a few minutes the art therapist came over to my spot at the table to ask what I was thinking about putting inside of my closet.

Panicked again, I sheepishly responded by sharing

“I don’t know how to draw fear”

She looked at me, smiled, and responded,

“Hmmmm, that is a tough one to draw.  Have you thought about flipping through any of these magazines to see if there is anything that reminds you of the fear that you’re hiding?  Perhaps instead of drawing your fear you can create a collage that represents your fear?”

Her suggestion was perfect!  I don’t even have to draw.  I can do a collage.  That’s how I can complete this stupid assignment, save face, and bring this painful session to an end.

Game on

Now that I had a game plan I could move into action.  Over the next hour I flipped through magazines to find and cut out images, I clipped out words and letters, and I used some of the other materials to decorate the closet.  Then I had a genius idea that I was sure would help me clinch the win for this assignment.  Scanning the room, I noticed that all the other guys were focused on decorating the inside of their closets, but they hadn’t touched the outsides.  This would be an opportunity for me to innovate and maybe even get some bonus points.

I got into a groove and lost track of time. 

“Alright everyone, we are going to start wrapping up so that we have lots of time for everyone to share their closets with the rest of the room.”

‘Wait, what did she just say?  She’s got to be joking.  Did she just say that we have to present this to everyone else?  That part wasn’t in her pre-instructions for the assignment.  There is no way that I can present this to the room.  Everyone is going to know that I’m a complete psycho that needs to be locked up.’

I looked down at what I had created, and I was horrified. 

‘This was just an art assignment.  This doesn’t represent me.  This is too dark and twisted to share with others.  Nobody wants to see this.’

We went around the table, one by one everyone presented and shared what they had hidden in their closets, then it was my turn.

“This is my closet.  I’m scared and embarrassed to share this with the group.”

The instructor looked at me, smiled, and said

“Take your time, we’re here whenever you’re ready”

“This is my closet.  I decided to do a collage because I don’t know how to draw.  On the back walls of my closet, I used pages of legal mice type from drug ad side effects and disclaimers.  This represents all the crazy thoughts, warnings, and fears that are constantly running through my head.  On top of that ‘noise’ I cut out big letters that spell out PANIC & TERROR.  These are the feelings that I constantly have hidden deep inside of me.  In the far back corner of the closet, I used the stamps to create two tiny handprints.  This represents me, as a child, hiding as far back as I can in the closet.  I don’t want to come out of this corner, but I know that I must.  In front of my handprints are the words ‘creating an illusion’ because I know that this is what my job has always been.  I pasted the words BIG!, BOLD!, and BEAUTIFUL! that extend to the outer edge of the closet.  These words represent how I feel I need to be in-order-to be acceptable for others.  I also used the outer back walls of the closet.  On both outer walls of my closet, I found images of angry police officers.  These images represent the feeling that I’m constantly under surveillance and that I can’t ever slip up on being BIG, BOLD, or BEAUTIFUL or something bad will happen.”

 

“Thank you for sharing that with us.  That’s a powerful closet.  How do you feel right now?”

 

“I’m not really sure how to answer that.  I have a whole mix of emotions.  Embarrassed, exposed, fearful, and relieved maybe?”

 

“Thank you for sharing all of that with us.  I wonder if journaling about this experience later today might help?”

Feeling connected

Over dinner that night I noticed a similar strange phenomenon with the other guys in the house.  Instead of alienating me and treating me like a psycho because of what I shared during art therapy, I felt even closer and more connected with them.

Some of the guys asked me about my closet and made some connections back to what they heard from my Life Story assignment.  And I was able to do the same by asking questions to get deeper insights into what they had shared about their closets. 

In just over a week the ‘obviously heterosexual’ men that I was terrified of.  The same men that I assumed would not want to have nothing to do with me or about my challenges were starting to feel comfortable and almost friendly. 

That evening after dinner, we all loaded into the treatment center’s sprinter van and one of the therapists drove us to a community led SLAA group a couple of towns over.  Some of the other men in treatment had requested that we do a group ‘outing’ at Starbucks to grab drinks and have some community time before the recovery group started.

Feeling safe?

This was my first outing in public with the rest of the men in the house.   Again, I noticed strange feelings of connection with the other men in our house.  This was followed with the odd experience of showing up as a group of six men to a 20-person recovery meeting.  As we went around the room that evening and I listened to the other men from my treatment centre do their individual shares, I felt like I was part of something bigger than myself.  I was proud of how the other men were opening-up, and how vulnerably they were sharing, even in front of the larger group. 

Hearing their shares and knowing that those six men were there with me, provided me with some extra strength and permission to share deeper and to be more vulnerable with my own sharing than I had ever shared in the past.

I felt connected to these men and that connection gave me strength.  That connection felt strange, but it also felt good.

Is this what it feels like to be part of a sports team?  Is this what being part of a family is supposed to feel like?  Is this what it feels like to have a connection with a brother?’

My experience out with the men that night, combined with all that came up during my art therapy exercise, opened the floodgates of emotion inside of me.  Later that night, while in bed, I scribbled furiously into my journal.

I want to be PROTECTED.

Fighting, fighting, anger, rage.  Nothing.  Smile, pretend, picture, escape… don’t ever tell.

I was never protected.

Is this what it feels to be protected? To feel safe, to be part of a team, a community, a family, to be protected by a father?

For the first time today, I felt what it must feel like to be emotionally protected by a father.  Hearing other men & fathers process their own grief & loss and being able to openly share my own, is opening-up something inside of me.

Lord, being in this space with you is opening something within me.

Here in this space, I don’t have anyone to compete with and I don’t have anyone to escape with.

Here in this space, with you, I feel safe.  I’m actually started to feel protected.

I’m not hustling for approval (although those thoughts are still around) but in our shared brokenness, wholeness, and vulnerability I feel safe and that I finally have other men fighting to protect me.

Thank you Lord, without ever acknowledging this pain, this is what I’ve been waiting my entire life for.”

One-on-one therapy

The following day, I had my first one-on-one therapy session with my lead therapist.  She opened the session by talking about trauma and reviewing the many assessments that I had completed during the intake session on my first day.

She shared that my (PTSI) Post Traumatic Stress Index had come back and that I was off the charts across every segment of the index.  She helped me understand the assessment tool, explained how it worked, and showed me how it was scored. 

A score of 0-3 indicated that a trauma segment was not an area of concern, 3-6 indicated a moderate concern, and that a score of 6+ indicates that an intense therapeutic focus needed to be prioritized.

I quickly scanned down to the bottom of my personal index and read the scores across each segment.

14, 10, 17, 13, 16, 16, 16, 10.  There wasn’t a single digit across the board.

“This isn’t right.  I must have done something wrong when filing out the assessment tool.  I know that I have some issues to work through, but I don’t have any trauma in my life.  It’s not like I was raised in a war zone, locked away in a box in my basement, or beaten by my parents.  Should I take the assessment again?”

My therapist looked at me and in a very loving tone said,

“From what you’ve shared and from what we have observed over the past week, I don’t think that retaking the assessment would show any material differences.”

I felt exposed and I started to panic. I guess my therapist could pick up on some of what was going on inside of me.

“James, you haven’t done anything wrong.  This assessment doesn’t have anything to do with who you are.  This assessment gives us insight into what has happened to you and how you’ve been trying to protect yourself.”

I didn’t know what to say.  What could I say?  I didn’t believe that I had been traumatized.  I was here because of the choices I had been making.  I was here to learn how to stop making choices where I abused drugs, alcohol, and sex.

Slowly my therapist walked me through the different sections within the Post Traumatic Stress Index that formed the “trauma profile” that was sitting in front of me.

  • Trauma reactions – experiencing current reactions to trauma events that have occurred in the past.
  • Trauma repetition – repeating behaviours or situations which parallel early trauma experiences.
  • Trauma bonds – being connected, loyal, helpful, and supportive to people who are dangerous, shaming, or exploitive. (This is where I scored the highest)
  • Trauma shame – feeling unworthy and having self-hate because of trauma experience.
  • Trauma pleasure – finding pleasure in the presence of danger, violence, risk, or shame.
  • Trauma blocking – a pattern that exists to numb, block out, or overwhelm feelings that stem from trauma in your life.
  • Trauma splitting – ignoring traumatic realities by dissociating or “splitting off” experiences with parts of self.
  • Trauma Abstinence – depriving yourself of things you need or deserve because of traumatic acts.

I tried my best to take everything in, but I wanted to bolt.  I felt so uncomfortable hearing her review my profile and I searched the room for the clock, hoping that our session was almost over.

“Where did you just go?” she asked

“What do you mean?  I didn’t go anywhere?”

“Just now, you went somewhere inside.  What were you experiencing or what were you thinking about?”

I was silent for what seemed like an eternity.

“It’s okay, you can be honest.  You won’t hurt my feelings.”

“I just don’t believe these things are true about me.  I was looking for the clock to see how much longer I have to be here before our time is up.”

“Thank you for being honest with me, that was really brave.  I can tell how hard this is for you.  It’s okay, all your thoughts, feelings, and experiences are allowed here.  There’s no set time limit for our sessions together, we have as much time as we need.  That being said, we can stop whenever you want to stop.  Do you want to stop now?”

I went inside again, ‘why is she even asking me this, of course I want to stop.’ and then I responded “no, I’m fine”

“Okay, I’m curious about what you just said, what don’t you believe is true about your profile?”

I’m not traumatized

I paused again and tried to reiterate what I shared with her earlier

“The profile makes it look like I’m some sort of orphaned child who was born in a war zone and has had to fend for himself just to survive.  That’s not me.  I have a supportive family.  I have a good life.  Sure, there are some things that I wish had been different but nothing to the level of being highly traumatized.”

 

“Thank for sharing that we me.  That helps me better understand what’s going on inside of you and helps me to understand how you view yourself.  Would it be okay if I shared some of what I’ve observed?”

I could feel all parts of my body clench.  I knew this this was when the other shoe was going to drop. 

“Sure, I guess that’s what I’m paying to be here for.”

Over the course of the afternoon, she slowly, carefully, and lovingly walked me back through my Life History Assignment.  She asked lots of clarifying questions as she helped to point out the areas that she had identified and mapped back to my trauma profile.

Understanding trauma

Slowly she introduced me to what trauma actually is.  She helped me understand that trauma can be a single catastrophic event AND trauma can be a series of events where we become overwhelmed, confused and perceive powerlessness.   She helped me understand that complex trauma is when a series of these events occur over and over by those who are supposed to love, care, and protect us. 

Making connections back

She helped to connect a number of the events and experiences that I shared during Life Story Assignment.  She explained that many queer children growing up in religious environments and those who feel forced to hide themselves can actually perceive threat of death if their authentic selves become known to those who have expressed homophobic views and beliefs. 

Young children need to perceive psychological safety

She explained that young children need to perceive psychological safety to foster healthy development and attachment.  When children don’t receive that perceived sense of safety their bodies can become trapped in trauma.  This happens when the minds of developing children don’t feel that there is anyone or anywhere for them to go to for safe nurturing, loving touch, or kind and affirming words.  She also pointed to parts in my story where I talked about bargaining with God.  She helped me see that as a young child I didn’t perceive safety from my parents or family, from my church community, and that I was an abomination in the eyes of God. 

“When children don’t perceive safety from anyone in their world, they teach themselves that it is never safe to trust anyone.  This approach creates a feeling of complete isolation, loneliness, disconnection, and can introduce and reinforce a feeling of being broken.  This type of trauma is the birthplace of shame.  This type of shame can overwhelm even the most resilient of children.”

As I listened to her words, I felt seen and known in a way that I’ve never experienced in my life.  I started to cry.

“What are those tears saying?”

“I’ve always blamed myself.  I’m crying because I’m starting to see that maybe I’m not inherently a horrible person.  Maybe everything is not my fault.  I’ve never considered that before.”

“No, the shame is not your fault, you needed to be taught that type of shame.”

Together we sat in that space for what felt like an eternity before she asked if I had any other questions.

“Earlier, you said that some of the things that you had observed had given you the impression that my profile wasn’t a mistake.  What did you mean by that?”

The instant that question came out of my mouth I could feel my entire body tense up once again and I braced myself for more impact.

As session continued, she answered my question by helping me to see some of the many ways that my body may be speaking and trying to share some of the trauma that it was holding onto. 

Your body keeps score

She introduced me to a concept called embodiment and shared how our bodies keep the score and hold onto past traumas deep within our tissues and how trauma can even impact and change our DNA makeup.

Again, in a very loving and curious way she got very personal. We had a conversation about my constant and ever present need to clear my throat, the way my body naturally stands and protectively holds itself when I’m not actively trying to control it and present myself to others, and we also talked about the extreme nail biting that I haven’t been able to stop for most of my life.

I left that first session feeling very exposed and yet another part of me that felt seen, heard, and known in a way that I’ve never been. 

‘Could it be that I’m not as broken as I’ve always believed that I am?’

Thank you for coming along on that journey with me. Was that as heavy for you as it was for me?
 

Pyscho-education

Looking back now, I am incredibly grateful for all of the experiences that I had spending a month away in rehab. It was terrifying then, but I can see the value now. One of the most important aspects that I took from that experience is the psycho-education and experiential learning that I received and took part in.
 
Before going to rehab, I spent decades in weekly therapy sessions where I showed up and was asked the question ‘what would you like to talk about today?’. These sessions were helpful and gave me the opportunity to share what was on my mind, but they didn’t provide me with the psycho-educational knowledge that I needed.
 

Keeping things tidy

I would share openly, but I can now see that I was working overboard to keep things tidy and contained. I didn’t want to unpack anything that I couldn’t put back into a box at the end of a 45-min session. I can also see that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I didn’t know to even ask some of the questions that I should have been asking. I didn’t know how to even begin to frame some of the issues or challenges that I was wrestling with, because I didn’t even realize that they were issues or challenges that I could address.
 

Discovering my baseline

Rehab gave me a pause and permission to change the paradigm of how I was getting help. This paradigm shift helped to give me the opportunity to be deeply seen and deeply known, both by my therapists and by the other men in the house. This was a game-changer for me. It also gave me the opportunity to see and discover my own baseline. Like I shared in the episode, going into rehab I honestly thought that I was only struggling with addiction. Sure, I was told that I needed trauma informed help, but I didn’t know what that meant, and I would have never even considered myself as someone living with complex trauma. After decades of striving forward in the dark, I finally started to get an honest assessment of what I was dealing with so that I could start my healing journey. Rehab was not a final destination. It was a start.
 
My biggest breakthrough came when my therapist shared.
 
“This trauma profile assessment doesn’t have anything to do with WHO you are, this assessment gives us insight into what has happened TO YOU and how you’ve been trying to protect yourself.”
 
In that life-changing session I started to shift. I started to ask myself new questions. I started to wonder ‘what if I’m not broken?’, ‘what if I’m not a terrible sinner?’, ‘what if what I’ve experienced isn’t normal and I’ve simply been doing the best to protect myself?’.
 
Who would you be if you started to ask yourself similar questions?
 
What if you’re not broken?
 
What if you’re not a terrible sinner?
 
What if you’ve been doing your best to simply protect yourself and survive?
 
What if you started giving yourself a break, giving yourself a minute to breath, and giving yourself some grace and appreciation for all that you’ve lived through and experienced?
 
What if you took a moment to consider that all of you is loved and lovable?
 
You are accepted and loved unconditionally by God who made you exactly as you are.⁠ ⁠ You, your heart, your mind, your body, your spirit, your gender expression, your sexuality and the way you love, are created perfectly in God’s image.⁠ ⁠
 
You have been designed to be deeply known and you experience that knowing when you surrender and safely open yourself up with others and allow yourself to be seen.
 
You are created on purpose and your purpose is to fully love yourself, connect deeply with others and share your love with the rest of the world
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