On stillness, intention, healing, and self-nurturing.

!!! TRIGGER WARNING. This post contains themes of rape, body image issues and shame. Discretion is advised.

Breaking taught me to see and appreciate
the beauty in re-building.

Alex Elle

October is a tough month for me. For me, it serves as a reminder of who is no longer here. It is the start of a cold embrace that will remain for several months. I love cold weather. I bask in the colors all around me. But there is a melancholia that comes each October 1st. A certain sense of bitterness, a reminder that another year has passed and I am in this body and vessel that I am still learning to love.

Each year, I find my mind racing and making preparations internally to be able to deal with how difficult this month is. And every year, as I make these preparations I find myself struggling, feeling as though I’m out at sea in a little ship and I have only just spotted a tidal wave coming for me after I’m already enveloped by it. Like clockwork, at October’s end I wind up in bed, lacking motivation, feeling as though my back is made of cinder blocks, and that sunshine is too bright for my saddened skin. I wind up exhausted, spent and slightly angry that “I let this happen again”.

October 6th, 2017. It is a heavy day for me. A day that holds hollow space for what happens when control is taken away. On October 6, 2017 I was sexually assaulted. I wasn’t ever going to talk about this on here and I feel knots in my stomach as I type this. But I am trying to take back my power which means that I don’t have to hide parts of my story anymore. I get to tell it. I get to handle it however I handle it.

As September was ending this year, I found myself making the usual preparations. Closing up the cabins of my brain for the winter, and laying some higher brick on the walls around my heart. Little seeds of stress and cortisol planting themselves in my mind, slowly and routinely. I found myself growing fatigued at the thought of how fatigued I knew I was going to be come October’s end. So I stopped. I changed my plans.

This year, I tried something different. Anything I would usually have done to try to escape the tidal wave of emotion I would usually experience, I promised to do the opposite. I opted out of honoring “anniversary dates” like October 6th with silence or sadness and I put focus on giving myself permission to be still and do the things I wanted to do. Taking a class. Creating something for myself. Building on my dreams. And I wasn’t scared. The day passed. It was over and he didn’t get to hold any more unnecessary power over me on that day.

I have been circling. I have been saying this for months to my loved ones– ” I feel stronger right now, but I feel like I am constantly circling a pit of despair and that the smallest thing could set me off into a spiral”. So in short, my strength has been building. I have been healing. But I often find myself wondering when the next ball is going to drop and I am going to relapse into an even worse depression. I find myself worrying about this and wanting to protect how far I have come. But rather than panic like i might have done previously, I have been reflecting and present and practicing self-care. If you have come here for answers today, I am not sure that I have any.

Today I am focused on self-care. This term has become a popular term in the wellness community. It has taken on the face of skin masks, manicures, and bubble baths. As a mental health clinician, I can’t even tell you how frustrating this is for me. Self-care. Say it enough times and it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. To be honest, I hate taking baths and haven’t had a manicure in years. These things are so lovely. But they aren’t self-care.

On October 6th, 2017 I felt so much guilt about needing to take a minute to myself and missing class that I still got up and went anyway instead of giving myself time. I had just been raped and got so nervous about doing poorly in class that I got out of my bed and went to class and sat there learning about art therapy theories and then went home and couldn’t figure out why I felt so confused. I know that I am not the only one who has just “pushed through it” so I could be a “strong and productive member of society” because anything else is “just letting him win”. Right?

Self-care. I want you to take the “care” right out of it. Self. Let’s put the emphasis on “self”. I have been thinking so much about what it means to actually care for the self and maybe baths and face masks can fall into that but I think they are the absolute smallest fraction of it all. People fall back on these things when they have no idea about what they might actually be needing. It is by no means, any fault of their own. We have not been taught in society to care for ourselves beyond basic hygiene and nutrition (which feels like a luxury most days, anyway).

I want you to think about the last time you asked yourself “What do I need right now?”. What was your answer? You might even find that you couldn’t come up with one. Maybe your answer felt selfish so you didn’t follow through. All fine. But why? When did caring for ourselves become seen as being indulgent? Who decided this? When did getting the proper amount of sleep, rest and nutrition become something that we feel guilty about? Who let this happen? Why is it that unless we are contributing to some bigger thing, that we are seen as lazy?

What do you need? The question is loaded and difficult and makes me squirm. What do you need? It doesn’t have to be anything tangible. Maybe sometimes it is courage. Maybe it is love. Maybe it silence or nature or a pint of ice cream. What the hell do you need right now, here in this very moment? Maybe it is soft clothes and clean sheets. Maybe it deep reflection. Maybe it is pausing to take in the view from where you stand in life right now. What do you need? Sometimes in response to this question from my clients, I get a big puff of breath and a chuckle. Other times, it seems that pulling teeth might be easier.

Whenever I see my therapist, she tries to instill in my brain the notion that I cannot pour from an empty cup. It’s a simple visual. We cannot serve or help others if we have nothing left within ourselves. If we are totally spent, and exhausted and fatigued we cannot expect ourselves to successfully do our jobs, or be present.

What. Do. You. Need? We often don’t allow ourselves to be still enough to feel it. I have mentioned in previous posts the beauty of being able to find gold in our own pockets if we are only brave enough to stop and look. But what about when we are not currently searching for gold? What happens when we allow ourselves minutes to simply be. To simply be still. What happens for you? What happens when you are so present that feeling the brisk October air on your cheeks feels like a gentle reminder that you have made it to exactly where you are of your own volition. That brisk air on your cheek is a greeting for your own resilience. But you can only notice it when you allow yourself to be still. That brisk air is a gentle kiss from your future best self and it is full of gratitude.

Stillness allows us to walk with intention. Intention allows us our power back. It makes movement something more of an act of deliberation. It takes away the autopilot and puts us in intentional motion. It makes morning coffee taste like you harvested that coffee bean yourself. When we are still, our sense come out of hibernation. Our sight is expanded and our feet become planted in the ground wherever they are. Stillness is the act of permission. It is allowing yourself some extra time whenever the hell you need it. It is an act of love when the chaos of the day becomes too much. It allows us to face fear in the eyeballs rather than running for something better. Instead of finding something better, stillness allows us to make what we already have better. It builds upon our own castle. It fixes the roof after a long winter. Stillness is the contractor you never knew you needed for the vessel you inhabit right now. You’re not going to get a new one for a long time. And when you can be still and enjoy the one you are in, why would you want to?

For a long time after the assault, I wanted to be someone else and live in someone else’s body. I felt dirty and broken and out of date. But then I started to be gentle with my soft skin. I started to sing praise upon my hands. I started to recognize my body did not betray me. Stillness helped me find gentleness and healing. Stillness asked me to sit down with my body and love it again. Stillness helped me find what I needed. Stillness helped me develop a self-nurturing attitude. Stillness continues to let me clear my head and fosters a relationship with resilience.

Stillness is never forceful. It’s a friendly face wanting to catch up. It’s a slow walk on a chilly day. It’s consistent. It will wait for you, however long you need. Stillness is freedom from pain and suffering. Stillness is taking time to acquaint yourself with the version of you that exists beyond your traumas, your pain, your diagnoses, and everything else. It will always be willing to meet you on the other side. Stillness is not stagnation but a safe and warm hearth to rest at before you embark on your next journey. Stillness always has room at its table and a bowl waiting in the oven for you. Stillness welcomes you with open arms even after years of movement. Stillness allows us to create our own freedoms.

Stillness fosters intention. We cannot make rash or hasty moves if we are willing to be still enough to explore what is inside our brains rather than what externals factors are trying to influence them. Stillness breeds honesty. It never lies. It is quiet and deliberate. Stillness asks us to be present enough to think for ourselves. It asks us to consider the importance of what is happening under our noses. Stillness helps us understand and provide answers for the question: What do you need? Stillness is self-care. I am able to greet each day because stillness helped me come out of a dark place when I needed to care for myself. It wasn’t face masks and spa days.

Still. It makes me think of water undisturbed. It is clean and refreshing. It feels smooth. It feels like a warm blanket I can wrap myself in whenever I need it. It has many meanings. It is not simply a verb. It implies that the story doesn’t end. And still….

Here is what I know to be true:
It is possible to have survived your worst days and still show up for the best ones. It is possible to feel as though the pressure of society has finally won total control over you and still find yourself fighting back. It is possible to lose all you ever found to be meaningful and still create new meaning in the little experiences you have every day. It is possible to be scarred by interactions more powerful than you immediate comprehension and still try again tomorrow. It is possible to be hurt by something or someone and still chose love. It is possible to be angry and still feel empathy. It is possible to feel like you have endured more than your fair share and still work on making things better. It is possible to watch your whole world crash down and still re-build.

You are not bound by what has happened to you. You only are responsible for what you choose to do about it. Sometimes that comes in the form of self-nurturing. Sometimes it comes in the form of stillness. It is okay to wait in stillness until the world makes sense again. It is okay to move when you are ready. You do not have to pretend that you are always 100%. It is okay to be 32% sometimes. Be honest about it. Let stillness greet you. Have a bowl of something warm with it. When you are ready to move again, be sure that it is with intention and self-nurturing. Check in from time to time–what do you need? Deep, spiritual, healing can only come from within. Others can witness it and help along the way, but it has to come from you. And it is also fine to not know where to start with it. Take the time you need. Be gentle. Do not rush your process or you may miss something that stillness has planted there just for you.

What do you need in order to heal? What do you need to foster a nurturing relationship with yourself? What do you need from stillness today? How will you ensure that you follow through? How will you move with intention? What does stillness tell you when you are uncertain?

Warm regards,


If you or someone you know has been impacted by sexual assault and/or rape, there is help:

RAINN – 800.656.HOPE

Rape Crisis —  210-349-7273


On people pleasing, survival and the power of “No”.

!! TRIGGER WARNING !! This post contains material about domestic violence, physical, and emotional abuse and rape. It is a survival story. Discretion is advised.

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

Maya Angelou

Hi. I am back. I took a bit of a break because I have been practicing a new skill: The art of boundaries. This is going to be a long one, so buckle up.

Often when I write this blog, I try to spend a bit of time practicing what I feel I want to write about. And this one, has been difficult to say the least. I’ve been thinking a lot on this lately. Boundaries. What the hell does that even mean? It sounds restrictive and ugly and I hate it. The word makes me think of a giant brick wall, extending into the sky. Impenetrable and proud. It looks old, like it has been there for a long long time. To stand at its base, one might wonder about who built it and why. Where did they find the resources? What had to happen for a wall such as this be built?

Do you want to know my absolute biggest pet peeve in all the land? It’s, surprisingly, not loud chewing or interrupting, or even having to repeat myself thirty five times. While those things are bothersome, my biggest pet peeve is this: “Gina, you are too nice”. This statement has made me so angry in the past. I have heard it my whole life.

My mother raised me to treat people the way I want to be treated. I want to be treated nicely. So I have always treated people nicely. What’s the problem with that? What the hell is bad about that? Now, here is the thing. I had never made the connection that what people might have actually meant is this: “Gina, you are too accommodating and people will take advantage of that”. It wasn’t until I was in graduate school, talking to a professor who brought this to my attention (shout out to the life saving, incredible soul who is Robin Shiffrin, the real MVP). She was noticing a pattern in my behaviors and she called me out in a loving way, but it hit me so hard. It was at the end of a class. This class was a class about learning to facilitate groups and the main exercise was to feel what it is like to be in a group experience. So we were placed into groups with our classmates and group therapy commenced. She would observe and take note that I had a tendency to be “too easy going”, “too agreeable”. When one of my fellow group members told me she thought of me to be disingenuous, I lost my mind. This could not possibly be the case. Me?! I couldn’t understand.

I valued my genuineness above all else, and to be told that my “niceness” was perceived as the opposite of that hurt. It hurt a lot. So I was processing this with my professor and she got me thinking. “Gina, is it possible that the fact that you are so accommodating just doesn’t seem real? Isn’t it possible that you are so willing to jump over hoops for strangers is something that seems impossible for some people? Isn’t it possible that you might be sending people a message that you don’t care about yourself because you don’t mind other people walking all over you?”. I was honestly blown away by this. But it made sense. Maybe the fact that I was so willing to be this way for the sake of others was not based in wanting to help people in this group but more on the desire to be accepted? Man, thinking back on this class still gives me very scary anxiety. But it makes sense.

Story time. In high school, I was very well liked. I could fit into any friend group and get along with them. It was not difficult for me. Through out all of it, I found I gravitated towards certain groups a little more here and there and I eventually created my own group and it felt amazing to be part of something so close knit. And then one day, I met a guy. He was a little odd, but he was mysterious. He was artistic, and did not attend school. He was what I would have described as “quirky” back then. He had nice words, and he asked to take me on a date so we met for coffee. I was smitten. Absolutely head over heels. Everything seemed perfect for a little bit. I couldn’t see clearly what was about to happen. I do not have his permission to discuss this in any form of media, and frankly, I don’t care. This is my survival story.

This relationship lasted nine months. And that is nine months way too friggin’ long. The impact it has had on me and my life has been monumental. This relationship quickly turned into an abusive one. He was like a snake, able to slither into all the synapses of my brain. Everything became about and for him. I changed my hair, clothes and makeup to fit what he found attractive. I started to gain weight because he “preferred the pin up look”. He made it abundantly clear on a daily basis that I, as I was, would not be enough for him unless I did these things. He convinced me to do things that I would never have done. He used to cut me so that he “could make art out of my blood”. He used to tell me that while I was sleeping he would wake me up by raping me. He used to tell me that my parents and family and friends didn’t care about me. He even went so far as to try to convince me to excommunicate myself from my family members legally. I think there was some instance of him convincing me to try to use a dead snake as artwork. I would go to work, and then use my money from work to buy him things and then go right to him. I began lying about him coming to see me while I was in school. I stopped caring about all that was important to me. I started watching movies and listening to music only he found acceptable. For what? To be loved? I had that in family and friends. To be accepted? I had that too. No. It was because I didn’t know how to say no and he knew it. He used it. This is my taking responsibility for what I can. I recognize that this abuse is not my fault. But I have to take responsibility for the hurt and pain it has caused, because if I don’t, I do not let myself heal.

If you ask me about this now, I still can’t really tell all the details. Not because I am scared, but because I actually cannot remember. My brain has done an incredible job of protecting me and blocking out a lot.

The first time I ever implemented a boundary was the time I saved my own life. I am certain that if I were still in that relationship I would have been dead a long time ago.

The first time I ever implemented a boundary was out of survival. I was driving home from school with him in the passenger seat. October 30, 2010. He was talking to me about who knows what and we were disagreeing and I stopped dead in my tracks and said ” I cannot do this anymore”. He was confused. I told him it was over. He did and said nothing. I dropped him home. I drove home and I collapsed on my parents kitchen floor. I remember them holding me, telling me “it is over now”. *It was. The relationship was over. I never went back. He tried to get me back and keep his hold on me for months after this. His last words to me were “You have no back bone. You will never be anything because you let everyone walk all over you”. Even he knew it. I was the only one not in on this information. Are you seeing a pattern? I do now.

In the end, I was grateful. It has taken me a long time not to hate myself for the damage he caused in my life and the lives of those I love. I missed out on a lot. I was a bad sister, daughter, friend during this time. I lost all of my friends. I miss them and I miss what we had. Mostly, I was horrible to myself. This was my first lesson in saying “no. you don’t have the right to me”. When something like this happens in one’s life, it is natural to not have any idea where to go next. This person was a con artist. He successfully fed off of me for nine months, and I continue to deal with the aftermath even today.

For a long time, I become obsessed with going back to how things were. To the person I was before my traumas. I will never be that person again and i hope that she is resting peacefully somewhere. The person I was at this time is dead. She has been for such a long time and I am finally understanding the importance of focusing on now. I have started to set a boundary for myself. I am healing. I am becoming. I am constantly seeking ways to grow and improve. I consider this part of my life a rebirth. I can be angry. I can also grow through my anger. Life doesn’t end when the trauma does. Even if it is all you are familiar with at that time. Life begins when you realize your worth. It does not mean you are taking action right this instance, though if you feel so inclined please do. I understand that I had it easy and that leaving in my situation was a little simpler than some. I had that privilege. But if you could give yourself one thing each day to focus on putting a boundary between you and what holds you back (your abusers, your trauma history, your past, yourself..etc) what would it be?

No. It is so powerful and so intense and I can count on one hand the amount of times in my life I have said it. But each time, it gets easier. It is not simple. It feels like a lead weight on the tip of my tongue and to spit it out in front of anyone is to change a part of who I thought I was on a fundamental level. But you are not the things you say yes to. You are not the things you say no to either. You exist in a world where you sometimes have a choice to do something for yourself or for someone else. I would encourage you to really look inward before you answer and ask if this next part leads to the life you want. You don’t require any excuses. You are not required to run yourself ragged while others use you as a stepping stool. You are only required to do the very best you are capable of. That doesn’t always include other people.

Humans do better when they are connected. But do not left yourself believe, even for a second, that you are required to douse your light for the sake of someone else. Make sure that the people you say yes to are striving for the same amount of brightness that you are. Don’t let it be stolen. This is not selfishness. This is surviving in pursuit of thriving.

If you say yes to everyone else, there will be nothing left in you to say yes for yourself. Read that again.

It has taken me approximately 27 years to understand that I do not always need an excuse to say no to something. If I cannot make something work, I have been practicing the art of honesty and boundaries and recognizing that if I put too much into making everyone around me feel comfortable I will live my whole life wishing I had their skin and not mine. Saying yes is sometimes an easy way to forget you have your own work to do. You have your own life, your own goals.

I am not saying that you shut the world out. I am saying, take stock and really examine the impact saying yes in any given situation might have on your own existence. There will always be the unexpected. This is inevitable. But saying no when something is not feasible, creates a platform for you to stand on when the waves get a little choppy.

When I think back to my class and why the words “you are too nice” really bothered me I realize it was because it was revealing a very harsh truth that I wasn’t ready to accept. I am too accommodating. I always have been. I didn’t know how to fix that. But then I realized–this isn’t about me changing anything about myself. It was simply about adding more. Becoming stronger. Adding more of my own power, the power of saying no. Finding it from within.

Boundaries are scary. They can be ugly. They are a quick way to understand the people and the world around you. They are an excellent tool for knowing exactly what people really want from you. It may seem like an impossible feat. Some days you won’t have the energy to stand your ground. That’s okay. What’s not okay is letting people walk into your life and rob you of all the good and bad and whatever you have to offer to use in whatever way it serves them. You are not a puppet. You are worthy of knowing your limits and sticking to them. You are worthy of the satisfaction that comes with having survived your worst days and utilizing “no” to reinforce what you are not willing to do. You belong to yourself. You are not here so someone else can use you however they please. You are not here to build resentment for people who don’t even care if it’s there in the first place. You are not here so your boss can treat you poorly, or to have fair weather friends, or to be exploited. You can not control what happens in this world. But you have 100% control over what you make of it, and what you do with it. You have control over who you let into your life (most of the time).

Boundaries are not about loyalty. Someone can be loyal and still be shitty. Boundaries are not about the “no matter what” and the “real friends”. Boundaries are about freedom. Self-care (real self care). Boundaries are about protecting yourself and your space from people and circumstances that drain your light. Boundaries are a rock solid wall and its only job is to make sure you are surrounded by good people, with enough energy to enjoy them. Boundaries are not guidelines. They are law. They are what you have put into place on the grounds that you know what you need. Boundaries also change, as you too, will change. That is okay. You do not need to explain it to anyone. YOU DON’T OWE ANYONE ANYTHING. THEY DO NOT OWE YOU ANYTHING. This world is focused on obligation and exchange and transaction. If you don’t advocate for yourself through all of it, no one else will.

I leave you today with this. What have learned about boundaries? What does your wall look like? What is your wall made of ? How will it keep you safe? When do you know it is time to make it a little taller? How will you know when you can start removing a layer of bricks? How do you know when you need to change the wall a little? Who are you letting through the gate right now, that maybe you shouldn’t be? What are you willing to put up with and for how long? What are the consequences of broken boundaries? What is your survival story? Are you being too accommodating? When was the last time you checked in on your walls? What changes do you need to make in your life right now to ensure your energy is protected?

Warm regards,


*I have said it several times and will say it forever, there are no words that can accurately describe how lucky I am to have the support system I do. I know many do not, and it is not wasted in vain on me. I share this story in the hopes that those reading understand it is possible to survive the worst days of your life.

**If you or someone you know has been or is being impacted by domestic violence, abuse, or sexual violence there is help:

The Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224

RAINN: 1-800-656-HOPE

LIFELINE: dial 211 or call 1-877-356-9211