Tag Archives: identity



**This post discusses the book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed.  I wasn’t able to include page numbers to completely give credit to each quote because I have only a digital copy of the book and so that won’t be the same as pages in the actual book.  But I made sure to use quotes and it is not at all my intention to try and claim any of her awesomeness as my own.

This book means a lot to me.  I don’t remember why I picked it up or how I heard about the book.  But I am so thankful I did.  I just saw the movie this week and I loved that too.  Not nearly as much as the book, but the movie had all the parts I had hoped to see and all the feelings the book had me feeling.

The book was in my life at exactly the right time and reading it gave me exactly the validation I needed to make some final decisions.  To understand what I needed to do to more forward in my life.

The first big moment for me in the book was her discussion of why she chose a new name after getting her divorce.  The weekend I read the book I was alone at a cabin with just my dogs.  Silence and beauty all around me as I sat by the fire and in the cute cabin and read her story.  She says she knew if she got divorced she couldn’t stay her married name, but “I couldn’t go back to having the name I had had in high school and be the girl I used to be.”  And as I read that I knew that it had described exactly how I was feeling.

I had filed for divorce that same year and had been living alone for only a few weeks short of one year.  I was beginning to think a lot about my name and the choice I had to make in keeping the married name or “restoring” my maiden name.  To me, keeping my married name was never a valid choice.  I don’t mean it to sound as harsh as it likely will, but I just didn’t want to keep that connection to him.  It is who I became because I married him and I wanted a full disconnection from who I had allowed myself to become in our marriage.  However, going back to my maiden name seemed like going back to the girl in the corner.  The girl I didn’t like or accept.  And the girl who was sexually assaulted.  It felt unsafe and just not at all who I wanted to be again.  It was difficult for me to accept that because I also have very warm connections to that name.  I am close to my father, I was very close to my grandfather, and my maiden name is both the middle name for myself and for my son.

When I read that part of the book where she decided to choose her own name, I put the book down and just sat with those feelings.  And very quickly I decided that I would do that myself.  I would choose my own name.  I would decide later if I would keep my maiden name as my middle name, but I spent the next few minutes sitting by the fire thinking about what my last name should be once I was single.  I didn’t expect to come to a decision so quickly, and I won’t describe the personal moments that led me to my name, but it was a completely clear moment.  One of those moments that takes your breath away because it is so perfect.  I knew sitting by that fire who I would become.  And then I laughed and said right out loud to my dogs and the horses nearby, “that.  is.  awesome.  and that’s what i am going to do.”

Cheryl Strayed’s description of her feelings about divorce just hit exactly on the types of things I was feeling and had been feeling while deciding to move out and then go forward with divorce.  Reading her story validated my feelings and allowed me to give myself a much needed break from punishing myself for my decisions.

She wrote “as close as we’d been when we were together, we were closer in our unraveling, telling each other everything at last” and I understood that feeling in a personal way.  My husband and I had been close in some ways for many years, but never quite the way I needed.  I wanted a best friend to come home to and I never felt comfortable sharing my whole self and my whole, true feelings with him.  But after I moved out, a really strange thing happened for awhile.  I did feel closer to him and him to me.  We had long discussions and said things we should have been saying all along.  I felt closer to him than I had felt for years.  Which led to a period of us accepting separation as an option when we had always said if we couldn’t live together, there was no point to staying married.  So for the next 8 months, we lived separately and we talked and got together often to see if we could fix what was broken in our relationship.  We didn’t succeed, but I’m thankful for the time with him because feeling close to him then allowed us to move forward and not go through an angry, hateful divorce.  We were able to talk and be with our kids and treat each other with respect.

As I moved forward in living alone, I referenced the book often. I read parts of it over again and looked back at my favorite quotes a lot. I liked living alone and I still do. Cheryl Strayed wrote “Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was.” I like that because to me that is one of the best things in the world…being alone. And I’m thankful that I can be alone and be comfortable and happy. I’ve not always been good at it because I didn’t like myself. It’s one of the best benefits I’ve received from therapy. I know now that I can be alone and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean I want to be completely alone all the time or forever, but when I am I know that I’m still with a person who’s pretty great.

I lived alone for about a year and a half before the day of my divorce arrived. And even though it was the day my marriage would be ended, I didn’t feel sad. I didn’t feel happy or relieved or angry or scared. I just felt like it was what was necessary to do what we had already done in separating ourselves and agreeing that although we loved each other, we just didn’t work the same way we once had and that wasn’t enough for me. I kept thinking of this quote from the very same book, “I didn’t feel sad or happy. I didn’t feel proud or ashamed. I only felt that in spite of all the things I’d done wrong, in getting myself here, I’d done right.” And no matter what else I was feeling, that day I just knew I had made the right decisions for me.

In moving forward now in my life, I still think of Cheryl Strayed and her story often. I’ll probably read the book again someday. There are a lot more quotes I read and think about on an almost daily basis.

Although our experiences in life were not the same, I understand the enormity of the quote ”what if I forgave myself?” Her quote goes on, but that’s the part I cling to because that’s what I have left to do with the girl in the corner. I must find a way to forgive her. And to accept that she is a part of me. A part of me who deserves forgiveness and love.

Thank you, Cheryl Strayed, for being brave enough to share your story. It has played a large part in my healing and my ability to move forward each day to rediscovering me.



Being me


I can finally start to really be me!!

After three months and multiple documents, my divorce paperwork finally shows the name I have chosen for myself! It has been a really frustrating three months, but today I got to go to the social security office with my paperwork in hand and ask them to make a SS card with my new name on it. And they processed it without any worry or care about what I want to be called. And I love that!!!

I can completely move forward now, changing my name on my house, my stuff, and at my job. I can’t wait!

Being a new name makes me feel so refreshed and ready for whatever challenges may come next. It’s another new chapter in rediscovering me. I haven’t been using my new name on many things at all so it will take some time to get used to it, but each time I get to write it, say it, or sign it, I will feel proud. I didn’t make the decision on a whim, I thought about it a lot over the 9 months it took for my divorce to be granted. And I’m absolutely sure it was the right decision. I’ll never forget the moment I made the decision and knew it was right. It was an awesome moment.

I can’t wait to wake up and start the workday as the new me. The rediscovered me.

I’m thrilled to be me. Be thrilled today to be you!


I did it!



I did my disclosure yesterday.  I’m super proud of myself for standing up to the fear of judgment and for getting through the disclosure with honesty and vulnerability.  There were some moments I didn’t expect and some memories that I had buried so far inside me that they came out for the VERY FIRST time while I was talking.  It was extremely intense.

The response from my group was truly incredible and awesome.  I have formed new, and hopefully lasting, friendships with these women I have grown to learn from, admire, and cherish.  It is a group of ridiculously brave and beautiful spirits.  They helped me understand the victim I was at those times I described, and also helped me to see that the woman I have become is so much better than I feel inside sometimes when I wake up or feel triggered in daily life.  They helped me validate that victim inside me and see that I overcame a lot of injustice to be the survivor I am today.  Those women rock!

The heavy shame is lifted up to another level, a level where I can actually face it and begin to work through each piece of it.  I can actually see the future me enjoying daily living without that blanket of shame on my shoulders.  I can see myself dancing freely and feeling joy instead of hesitation.  I can look forward to being brave enough to fully trust and to love again, in ways I never really have before now.

Even after feeling so good, I could hear the tapes in my head starting to self-punish for not facing all of this sooner, not healing sooner, not trying hard enough.  The “I should have done something” starting to creep inside my head.  But this time I put a stop to it and spoke right out loud to those tapes to let them know I just did that – disclosed fully – and I will no longer be held hostage by those negative cognitions.  Sure, it will take some more work, I’m not under the impression that all of the burden left with the words that came out while I told my story.  But I have shed the secret in a way that feels like an ending to a lot of it.

That.  Is.  Awesome.

I feel crazy excited today like this is another new beginning for me.  A more aware me, a further healed me, a really, truly rediscovered me.

I did it!


Music is always perfect


Music is always perfect, at least for me.  There is nothing I can’t get over, get through, or get back by listening to music.  Loud music.  Singing loudly.  I love it!!

Today, after a week that was pretty tough from a lot of different angles, it is loud music, working out, and organizing my place for an upcoming move.

Today is a special message for someone from way back in my past that I like to tell off with music any chance I get.  Maybe you think I should just get over it and move on, like what’s the point of thinking about someone who was manipulative, dishonest, and hurtful.  Well, I’ll tell you why I don’t want to just forget that person forever: it serves a purpose.  It will keep me from doing what I did in 2012 by letting that person get back in my head and allowing him to manipulate and hurt me all over again.  That will NEVER happen again.  And that feels really good.

I learned about age regression in therapy right after allowing myself to be hurt all over again by this person and that was a big deal for me.  You see, when this person contacted me after MANY years of no contact, I couldn’t figure out why my logical side was like “go away, this communication is toxic and not going to happen,” but I kept allowing the contact, enjoying the reconnection and moving through all the conversations as if I didn’t know how very toxic it really was going to be for me.  My brain, my thought processes, they were 20 again.  I didn’t think about it as current me, I thought about it as the girl who way back then would have done anything to just get the truth so that I could have been enough for that person to trust me with who he really was inside.  He never did trust me to accept him.  He didn’t believe I would because he didn’t believe anyone could accept him.  And now I know, fully, that when I was 20 I had a choice to make.  Me or him.  I chose ME!

Anyway, none of that matters now that I know that the current me wasn’t making most of those decisions to talk to him.  Now let me be clear: I KNOW that many people will read that and think it is just a way to justify stupid decisions with a therapeutic concept like age regression.  You have the full right to believe that.  But I know what I experienced and I know myself now well enough to know that without age regression involved, I would NEVER have allowed that contact to happen.  I would have said what I needed to say and then shut off communication completely.  So it’s ok if you don’t believe it, I don’t need you to understand or believe me.

I believe in me.  Even after this very difficult week.

So today, I’ll blast the music and feel good about me.  I’ll understand that I can sing these things very loudly and not really care that I can’t go back to 2012 and say the RIGHT things that I needed to say.  He likely wouldn’t get it anyway and I DON’T NEED HIM TO-wow that is awesome.  I don’t need him to forgive me for things I did or said because I have forgiven myself.  I know that choosing me was the best thing I ever did at that time in my life.  And right now, I’m choosing myself again and that is feeling really, really good.  I am beginning to understand myself in ways I haven’t since I was about 18 years old.

Now, I’m going to get back to the music and put on my playlist that is about powerfully believing in myself.  Let’s sing!


I am…whatever


I’ve had 2 sessions with my new therapist.  As I said previously, it is no fun to start over.  However, this is going well so far and could possibly be something I wish to continue even when my other therapist would be available again.  I’ll deal with that when the time comes, I guess, for now I’m just happy that after 2 sessions I feel this comfortable.

I am somewhat stubborn.  I don’t mind being told I’m wrong, I’m open to other ideas and enjoy learning new things, and I really am ready to become the best me.  Still, I am somewhat stubborn.

I need a therapist who will push me to face certain things.  Without inappropriate laughter or justifications.  This woman is quite possibly that therapist.

Today, after only hearing me talk a bit about my week, she completely unpacked what was going on in my head that I was NOT saying.  Well done, lady.  Then she handed me Examples of Cognitions.  Oh boy.  The idea with cognitions is that we all have them, positive and negative.  With survivors of trauma, many of the cognitions are negative.  The lists of negative and positive are long.  When a person decides to do EMDR therapy, cognitions are discussed at length because the goal is to have the negative thing a person believes irrationally become untrue and replaced by a positive cognition.  I’ll give some examples from the list.  There are many more on the list.


  • I am not good enough
  • I cannot succeed
  • I am not in control
  • I am stupid
  • I am a disappointment
  • I am ugly
  • I cannot trust anyone
  • I should have done something


  • I am a good (loving) person
  • I am fine as I am
  • I can trust my judgment
  • I am significant
  • I did the best I could
  • I am lovable
  • I can be myself (make mistakes)
  • I can choose who to trust

When the therapist handed me the list, she asked me to look only at the negatives and choose one that feels the most true at this moment.  Unfortunately, many rang as truth in my head.  I started to physically shake while reading them (she wrote that down).

I should have done something.

That is the phrase that most represents my head most days.  In my day-to-day, logical state of mind, I fully understand that I am not to blame for being assaulted, ending my marriage all by myself, or ending my first serious relationship.  But I have absorbed all the blame and turned it into “I should have done something.”

The worst part of that ringing so true in my head is that I can’t quite follow the phrase back to where it began, but I really need to think about it more this week.  I will try desperately to make myself too busy to think about it during the day so I can do my life.  But at night, that is often how I feel going to bed.

I should have done something.

You know what the facilitator in my group therapy said when this came out as how I feel?  “That must feel very heavy.”

It really does.

So as heavy as it is, I am going to keep doing something until it isn’t so heavy anymore.



So who am I?


I got divorced this week.  We have been living separately since 2012, so it was sad because it was the final, legal ending of almost 18 years of marriage.  On the other hand, we still left the courthouse together talking, laughing and deciding on where to go out for lunch.  Most of the heartache in the ending of this marriage took place over the last few years, so in some ways the court hearing just felt like a division of stuff, but in one way it really left me feeling void of an identity.

My name.  I left the courthouse sort of without one.

I never asked how he felt about me keeping my married name because it never really felt like what I would want to do.  But going back to my maiden name feels scary and full of shame.  That was the girl who was raped.  That is the girl who feels shame, guilt, blame, anger, sadness, loss, and all sorts of other things that I don’t want to continue to feel.  So when asked by the judge if I wanted to restore my name, I said no, but that I had chosen a new name for myself.

He asked why and I replied that my legal maiden name holds shame.  He didn’t ask anything further.  But he wondered out loud if it will be allowed since the legal language is that the person wishes to “restore” their former name.  He didn’t have any objection to it, but pointed out that it may be rejected from the people in Vital Statistics.  I don’t mind a challenge.  So I said “that’s ok, I want it anyway.”

After the hearing, my attorney and I filled out the Vital Statistics form.  But I can’t say that it was comfortable for me to leave the courthouse.  It felt a lot like I left the married me behind and now I had no name at all.  The judge had granted my name change, making me feel no longer the person I was an hour before the hearing.  However, he had also given me some doubt about whether or not I will get my chosen name.

So who am I?  If they reject my name, am I the married name, or am I my maiden name, or am I without a name at all?

I know I’m not the first person to make this decision.  And I got the idea last year in reading the book WILD by Cheryl Strayed.  It is a FABULOUS book and was very important in my beginning to really rediscover who I am and who I want to be going forward.  If you haven’t read it, you should.

I won’t tell the story about how I decided on my name because it was a very personal moment for me.  One filled with excitement, joy, tears (both happy and sad), and relief.  But I will say that I am absolutely sure that is who I need and want to be from this day forward.  So I guess for now I have to wait to see what the Vital Statistics people think, which is strange because why would they even care what name I want?  If they reject it, I’ll go forward with a legal name change process, but I hope they grant it.

I hope they give me the right to be the rediscovered me.