And there was a new voice
Which you slowly
Recognized as your own,
That kept you company
-Mary Oliver, from the poem The Journey
It happened the other day on the phone with Kaiser. We had scheduled some sort of psych evaluation after I had requested therapy – EMDR to be exact.
When we got on the phone, I explained that I had a sort of backlog of trauma that I wanted to address – from childhood sexual abuse, to my son’s seizure disorder, to an incident that happened only a few months ago – a date gone awry, a scary man, fleeing his home in the middle of the night.
“I’m a mom,” I explained. “The show must go on. I haven’t had the time or resources to process this and I know EMDR does wonders. I would love to find someone who does that.”
She asked me the standard questions – Are you thinking of harming yourself or anyone else? Are you eating? Are you sleeping? That sort of thing. After the interview she said, “Well, I’ve determined that you don’t need therapy, but you could come to our resource center and take one of our classes. How’s that sound?”
I was aghast. My jaw might have dropped. And then my voice (the most fierce and self-loving voice I hardly recognized) came through. “Honestly?” I began. “This feels unacceptable. I just told you about a history of abuse and trauma and that just weeks ago I fled from a sexual assault and you don’t think I qualify to have therapy? I’ve been with Kaiser for 7 years. I’ve gone through having small children, a panic disorder and a divorce. Up until now I’ve never called you to book therapy. And today, when I finally ask for help, you tell me that I don’t qualify? That it’s not bad enough?”
By this time, I’m crying on the phone. “I’m a very contained person. I know how to talk about this stuff and sound like I’m okay. But let me just tell you, I’m NOT okay.”
She thanked me.
She told me she was glad I spoke up.
And then she booked me an appointment with someone who does EMDR.
I’m sharing this for a few reasons: One, because this is a victory around voice for me personally. This is the culmination of a lifetime of work around loving myself. This is a symptom of progress! This is also about claiming my power. I haven’t known how to advocate for myself. This was a first.
Perhaps more importantly, this is reflective of a culture that tells women, “It’s not that bad. Why are you being a drama queen? You’re just trying to get attention. At least he didn’t…”
These messages are designed to keep us quiet.
It was a small thing really – advocating for my right to get support, to know that I’m suffering and to get help. But it’s also HUGE. I couldn’t do this as a child. It wasn’t safe. I didn’t know how to speak my truth. I didn’t think anyone would believe me. So I turned all that grief inward. And it became depression, anxiety and despair.
I’m still afraid people won’t believe me. I’m afraid, even as I write this, that you will roll your eyes in a gesture of “well isn’t she dramatic…”
But this is what we have been trained to do. To do to each other… and ultimately to ourselves.
I’m sharing this because our stories matter. And somehow, me finding my voice has everything to do with you finding yours too.
When I was at Spirit Rock meditation center recently, the woman giving the talk had us come up with intentions – things we wanted to focus on and cultivate in ourselves. “What about power?” she began. “I often ask my clients this and they say, no, no power isn’t important to me. But that’s because we think of power as power over others… but that’s not real power. That’s fear. We need good people with power more than ever now. Power and goodness.”
Power has become one of my daily words of intention now. And it’s the fierce, loving kind of power:
The kind of power that protects.
The kind of power that tells the truth.
The kind of power that is clear and strong and brave.
Sometimes power is ruffling feathers – it’s choosing being self-loving and protecting over needing to be perceived as nice.
Goodness and power. Side by side.
Yes! Oh my goodness, we need it now more than ever, yes. Good for you.
Powerful Andrea! I love hearing this story. Celebrating with you.
You are brave to own your power and to share this story. Thank you for inspiring others to own theirs.
Gorgeous share Andrea and yes, we women need to step into our power big time. You are a powerful role model and leader for this work. XO
learning to listen to ourselves, learning to trust what we hear, learning to open our mouths and let the words out – baby – this is everything. Thank you for mirroring this so beautifully. xxxxx
Thank you for sharing all of your courage in this post! As a childhood sexual abuse survivor myself, and someone who has used EMDR to process my trauma, you words spoke deeply to me. I have received great healing from my continued therapy work, and EMDR specifically. Praying for you…..all good things as you step into this new therapy journey!
Hi Andrea, this post brought me to tears. I was so touched by all that you wrote. It was so beautiful and powerful to read – every part of it. I am so glad you found your voice to advocate for yourself with the insurance representative, and that it made a difference. And I am so glad that you so eloquently and powerfully wrote about the experience to share with all of us.
It does make a difference, and yes – we need the kind of power that is based in goodness and kindness and respect. As you wrote: “The kind of power that protects. The kind of power that tells the truth. The kind of power that is clear and strong and brave.” Yes, yes, yes!!!
Can I share your blog post to my business Facebook page for SoulWays Body-Mind Therapy? I feel like your words would also speak to the people who have liked and followed my page (but if you’re not comfortable with that, I understand).
Anyway – thank you, thank you, thank you for your powerful post.
can i just say, i love when the universe sends me things when i’m wanting more of it? i was musing & journaling this morning on the topic of power this morning. I was told recently that i was powerful..and my reaction to it was that no, i wasn’t. absolutely not. my strong reaction to it made me curious about why i couldn’t be with it. Love that i’m discovering how i am powerful. Love that you are discovering your power and your voice. Thank you for sharing it and reminding us that power isn’t a four letter word.
Reminded once again. YES. This is why I love this woman!
Go Andrea! So sorry you’ve gone through all of that, and at the same time what a great opportunity that you took to speak up, how Power-FULL! Glad the woman on the phone responded appropriately. Wishing you good luck at the therapist’s. I’ve moved a lot of old stuff with energy psychotherapy similar to EMDR.
YES YES and MORE YES to all of the above words you have shared here! Firstly, congratulations for specifically asking for EMDR. I was lucky to be a ‘test patient ‘ to help someone practice this technique for their practice and it was SO HELPFUL after I realized I had been traumatized by what others consider a ‘silly yet mean’ remark someone made to me, that felt threatening to my safety and that remark CAME FROM ANOTHER WOMAN, a woman who I now know is THREATENED by my existence and THREATENED BY MY JOY, a POWER that insecure women don’t know how to access. Secondly, this leads into how we women are TAUGHT TO KEEP EACH OTHER IN LINE, whether it is to keep us from ‘getting too big for our britches’, keep us from wanting more, keep us from our greatest Joy, and it is terribly sad to witness, once you begin to step into your own power, whatever that power is for you. Thirdly, this is a prime example of how our society really views mental health, and THIS NEEDS TO CHANGE! I have suffered depression in my life, and recently was lucky enough to have some EMDR therapy, free of charge, which is a VERY GOOD THERAPY, and I also paid to train as a Grief Recovery Specialist, which is also an excellent program that everyone should go through to learn how to PROCESS FEELINGS OF LOSS, because LOSS it what it all comes down to, but we are taught to distract ourselves from these feelings, which I believe leads to mental health issues and addition problems. GOOD ON YOU for speaking up AND for showing your real circumstances with YOUR FEELINGS Andrea!! We have ALL been taught to gloss over our feelings and this is why people start using ‘drama queen’ language with women. When we have stuffed down our feelings for so long, they erupt like a volcano when it doesn’t have to be this way. I’ve witnessed women who DO act like ‘drama queens’ because they have displaced their feelings for so long they erupt over little things that are not even related to the original issue they stemmed from. So when I express my upset or anger in the moment, people want to think I’m being a ‘drama queen’ when really I am EXPRESSING MY TRUE FEELINGS IN THE MOMENT, WHEN IT IS APPROPRIATE, and it’s really not as toxic as the ‘drama queen’ approach, which is far more ugly and lingering than just expressing my feelings and being done with it in the moment.
Thank you Thank You THANK YOU for sharing all of this with us, it is a great story of stepping into your vulnerability and stepping into your courage for ADVOCATING FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH, something we all need to do, and have, to be WHOLE.
Hey sweet Andrea.
I’m in awe of the power of your voice.
I’ve been sharing the power of EMDR with my clients since 2006, who’ve experienced everything you’ve described.
It works wonders.
Rock on, girl.
Thank you, Thank you, Thank YOU!!!!
Thank you for your courage in sharing your pain…and power!
I can relate to feeling discounted…and giving up or hiding.
The more stories I hear of other women stepping out helps me and can lead to collective healing. And next time I may just decide to take on my insurance co!
Sending much love and heart!
Sooooo glad you spoke up, for yourself and subconsciously for millions of other women who haven’t felt powerful enough to do so. I didn’t when the postpartum nurse told me I’d be fine if I just read parenting magazines. Ashamed for even asking for help, I then spiraled down into a deep, dark dance with depression and PTSD for nearly 2 years. I didn’t have the strength or awareness to speak up back then. So when you spoke up for yourself, I feel you spoke up for mamas like me, too. Thank you for sharing so we are all reminded to keep speaking up for ourselves and each other. May EMDR and your new therapist be a blessing and relief. xoxo
BRAVO! So glad to see you push back and ask for what you need. Inspires me to do the same, so thank you for sharing. <3
Your post is a gift. You are a spiritual warrior. I have spent my life hiding my light thinking it would diminish and threaten others. You are so correct we need good people of power, now especially. I did a meditation yesterday affirming my intention to let my light shine, to be fully myself expressed and given in the world, Your post is an affirmation of that and an additional dimension and expansion to it. Thank you for your voice!
I just finished reading Alexander Chee’s “How to Write an Autobiographical Novel.” I didn’t think I was connecting to it, until he started talking about how it took writing his fictional book on sexual abuse to finally realize he wasn’t done healing from it. He had had plenty of therapy over the years, but had never shared the abuse story with his therapist because he thought he was “fine.” Well, as anyone who’s experienced any form of sexual abuse, myself included, we know, we are definitely NOT FINE. I’m so glad you spoke up. It’s not too late. It’s likely, just the right time… Oh, and I heard Gary Zukav on Oprah’s Super Soul podcast say that we are all a Powerful, Creative, Compassionate, Loving spirit, which doesn’t sound so “new,” but for some reason, hearing them this time, stuck. They pretty much cover all I’m striving to be. I’ve been saying saying, I am Powerful, I am Creative, I am Compassionate, I am Loving, over and over, reminding me that I am already all of these things – and it’s helping. Love to you, Andrea.
Asking for what we want and KNOW that we need is the best exercise of power. I am SO happy and thrilled for you. It IS a big step for some of us (me definitely included) to speak up when we are told what we already know about ourselves is not true. Not that I believe EVERYThing I think, but when it comes to my own body and my own feelings and my own mental health, I feel I know better than anyone because I’m IN this body/mind; no one else is in there with me (other than the Itty Bitty Inner Critic Committee, but otherwise, it’s just me!). This is definitely a victory round!!
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Andrea, Your courage to ask for what you knew you needed, & your willingness to be vulnerable and share this story, will inspire others to do the same. Thank you!
Sending you so much love and gratitude!
Someone in one of my Facebook groups posted your like with the caption “maybe someone needs to read this today”. I felt the strong urge to klick and I am sitting here now with tears all over my face. You are so strong and let me tell you as a total stranger I am so proud of you. Thank you that you wrote this text especially for me. And maybe especially for so many others similar to me. I really needed to read this today.
I am SO glad you wrote about this. Knowing the entire dialogue you had on the phone and how you handled it is very important to share, so that others can feel empowered and find the words needed to override something like a checklist form that operator/evaluator was filling out to determine what her response would be to you. That whole scenario is mindblowing, and terrible. I hope this makes its way to the board at Kaiser so they can learn how their system is BROKEN
Amen sister. Keep on with your truth. it matters
Amen Sister. keep sharing your truth! It matters!
Power was my word of the year. I have the power to make decisions. I just cut and pasted a section of this post into my Word Of The Year journal.
Power to you. And goodness – to yourself and others.
I love you! This is beautiful. ❤️
I’m so very sorry this was your experience when you finally spoke up , the mental health system is terrifying, we have to be incredibly raw and vulnerable to be HEARD !! Thank you for speaking up and being brave for yourself and other women . Good luck on your recovery – you are worth it ! Love , so much love from another Andrea xxxxx
Bravo, Andrea. Self Advocacy! Because if WE aren’t our own biggest advocates when needed, who the heck will be? Why have women been so trained in our culture to rely or depend on others to help us, vs. asking for the help we need WHEN we need it? This is not a weakness, this is STRENGTH! Knowing oneself and asking for what we need, and then standing the fuck up and using our voice UNTIL we get what we need … THAT is power my dear. Again, Bravo. Great example & thank you for posting this for all of us to read & remember. Big love to you. Xoxx
I am definitely NOT rolling my eyes. I’ll just say that I recently told off my therapist and then told him that I had never done anything remotely similar. Ever.I was so proud of myself, as was he. You rock, Andrea.
I see YOU. And I hear YOU. And I’m so glad. May the power within each of us rise up a bit more each day. Love, Love, Love to you.
Andrea, I’ve been following your blog since 2001. I have read many many MANY of your blog posts over the years —witnessed your journey.
I just want to give my heartfelt thanks for embodying bravery and vulnerability and openness throughout all this time. Your sharing is such a gift to all of us.
THANK YOU sweet soul! ❤️
You are always such an inspiration. And you’re right- sharing your own journey is such a gift to those of us around you, also trying to find their voice. Thank you for your Truth. Hope the therapy goes well and helps you move past the hard stuff so you can move forward
Hi Andrea. Thank you for always sharing your story so bravely and beautifully. I am always inspired by what you share and you are a role model for me stepping into my own power. I see myself in so much of what you write about and I’m grateful to be able to follow along on your journey.
Thank you so much Andrea. I hope the therapy will be another step in the confident opening on your powerful beautiful wings.
I am SO PROUD of you, Andrea! I know that speaking up for yourself has been one of your life challenges, and this one sounded so hard, but you DID IT! Again, so proud of you 🙂
I just returned from a blissful weekend at a women’s retreat and the most significant take home for me was to step into my power. One of our greatest powers as women is our capacity to love and loving yourself fully is the most important work we can do. It is the root of everything. Good job for loving yourself so much that you asked for exactly what you know you need!
I`ve been following your blog for years (since before Ben was born!) and it breaks my heart to think that someone would say that you don`t need/qualify for help when you step up and ask for it. You`ve always struck me as generous and reflective and considered – not a drama queen. Communities need to listen to generous women when they say, `i need support too`.
Brilliant to hear of you challenging what you were told over the phone. I need to do this sometimes, it is HARD and having a tangible reminder of someone else`s success helps.
Also– it`s in no small part thanks to your blog and your creative energy that I wound up having the courage to plumb the depths of my own trauma history and work out creative ways of dealing with it. I started reading your blog at a point in my life when I was stuck and really struggling. One of your online courses helped me to find the courage to confront a history of abuse and grow, because I realised how much my past was stifling my ability to create. Eventually, I went back to School and wrote a thesis on the self-transformation that comes from negotiating a relationship with psychosis and trauma.
So more power to you as you negotiate a relationship with the traumatic processes and events in your life. You`ve got this, because you`ve already helped some of us to wrestle with our messy histories xo
I raise my glass of wine, “A toast to courage”, to Andrea and all who speak out. Bravo!
This is a wonderful , brave reminder that we need to remember that we are the only one who really knows what we really need. How wonderful that you were able to make sure you got your needs met. You have given me some courage to do that myself.
Andrea, I’m so sorry that you had to go through the experience with the insurance company but how wonderful it is that you prevailed–and prevailed because of your honesty, vulnerability and courage! This is such a powerful story and one I truly needed to hear. So many hugs.
YES + Thank You + Welcome Back…love your blog!!
I am so proud of you Andrea. For standing up for yourself and others who are not as brave. Sending you lots of love and I’m sorry for your recent (and past) traumas. Xo nicole
dear andrea, thank you so much for your honesty, for your powerful images and words. words are powerful. your words are powerful.
like water that is soft
and at the same time so powerful
your blog and thoughts and experiences and reflections are accompanying my life for the last couple of years, like a good friend.
inspiring, deep thoughts and feelings, truth.
thank you for being brave to share your wounds, holy wounds and healing process.
big hug for your healing, dear powerful brave woman
Ps: tears are the river of life
So proud of your courage and inner strength. Thank you for stepping out of your comfort zone, speaking up for yourself, and then sharing about the experience here with all of us.
Oh, where do I begin?
I’m 31 years old, and I found your blog when I was in the 8th grade. Middle school was really hard, in no small part because as an early bloomer I got a lot of sexual harassment (and a couple incidents of assault) from my peers that would have been no big deal as a college student but was traumatizing as a ten, eleven, twelve-year-old girl. Adding that to all the typical awkwardness of middle school was just overwhelming. I retreated. I became quite shy. I grew to distrust boys and men for a long time.
Honestly, your blog became this beautiful ray of hope. I found so much comfort in reading about the lives of women on other sides of the country. Your life was so imbued with color and joy and honest self-reflection. It gave me hope for the future. Hope that someday my life would also have moments of color and happiness and adventure. (And I’m happy to say that’s all been true, but boy did I need that hope as an 8th grader, too young to have any real perspective.)
And now? Now I’m dealing with the grown up challenges (leaving an emotionally abusive marriage the most difficult thus far), and still I come back to your blog for reminders that life is challenging and hard but so beautiful and so worth it. I’m so grateful for your empathetic posts. And now I’m grateful for your reminder that asking for help is the brave, powerful, right thing to do.
All the love and gratitude to you.
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Deeply impressed and admiring and deeply happy that you were able to find your voice claim your power.
And very grateful.
For the powerful inspiration to keep working toward claiming my power.
Thank you, truly.
Do keep nourishing your power intention and claiming and living your power.
For you and for the world.
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