S07|04 - My StoryAug 28, 2023
Sharing our stories is vulnerable- it can be scary, hard and confusing… but I also believe that it adds to understanding, compassion and a better world when we do. Here’s my story- in its vulnerable entirety. I hope it adds light and hope to your own journey- and that through my story you’ll have the courage to write your own- just for you.
In this episode:
- Mental Health Journaling (or mindful journaling) and how it can help you heal
- Questions that you can ask yourself to use as journal prompts when writing
- My story with my neurodiverse child
- The heaviness of how I felt years ago, and what helped in my parenting
- What changes we’ve made over the past 5 years, and how I notice myself respond from a totally different energy than I used to
- The 3 biggest take-aways I notice looking back on my journey and how you can use those tools to support your parenting right now
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Crystal The Parenting Coach: Hi, I'm Crystal The Parenting Coach. Parenting is the thing that some of us just expected to know how to do. It's not like other areas of your life where you go to school and get taught, get on the job training, or have mentors to help you, but now you can get that help here.
I believe that your relationship with your children is one of the most important aspects of your life, and the best way that you can make a positive impact on the world and on the future. I've made parental relationships my life study, and I use life coaching tools, emotional wellness tools, and connection-based parenting to build amazing relationships between parents and their children.
If you want an even better relationship with your child, this podcast will help you. Take my Parenting Quiz, the link is in the show notes. Once we know what your parenting style is, we will send some tips tailored to you and a roadmap to help you get the most out of my podcast.
In today's episode, you'll hear all about sharing stories – how it can be vulnerable, scary, hard, and confusing…but that it adds to understanding, compassion, and a better world when we do share our stories, even if we share them just for us.
You'll hear about Mental Health-Journaling or Mindful-Journaling, and how it can help you heal; I'll give you specific journal prompts that you can use today.
I will also share my story with my own neurodiverse children, the heaviness of how I felt years ago and what helped in my parenting. In the end, I'm going to share what changes we've made over the past five years and how I notice myself respond from a totally different energy than I used to.
And my most important part is at the very end; the three biggest takeaways that I noticed looking back on this vulnerable story that I share, what I noticed changed in me, and how that can help your own parenting journey right now.
Mental Health Journaling (or mindful-journaling), and how it can help you heal
Welcome to today's podcast episode, My Story.
You've probably heard me share my story several times throughout the podcast – or if you've been to any workshops or webinars with me – and I feel like I share it usually in kind of the similar way, I skew out some of the facts and a little bit about what happened…and what I was thinking and feeling, but I don't get into huge detail about it.
In Episode 1, 2, and 3 – at the very beginning of my podcast, like two-and-a-half years ago – I share more detail, if you want to hear more about that. But I realized that, over time, the way that we perceive stories, changes…and the way that we share stories, changes; and I feel like I've changed.
I feel like I've had 17 different iterations of myself in the last five years, so I wanted to share a little bit more of my story from a different perspective; this perspective being Mental Health-Journaling.
So, Mental Health-Journaling or Thought Work Journaling, for me, has been really, really powerful in my journey; and it's pretty simple to do. There's a few different ways you can do it; you can just write out your whole story.
With this one, all I do is; literally, I just thought of a time, thought of a moment that was hard and difficult and challenging in my life…and I just wrote out in my entire story.
And what I did, I feel like differently from this one, is I really tried not to stop myself from writing it all out – from being as vulnerable as possible, from being as open as possible because I was just writing it out in my journal.
And I wanted to express the bigness of the emotion that I felt and that I feel like my child was feeling also, and the heaviness that we really were in because so many times in our lives, parenting is so heavy.
I've had friends and family members die or divorce or have suicide mental health crisis, end up in the psych ward. There's so many-- There's so many heaviness; and I think that sometimes we just focus on the happiness and the light times, and we don't often talk about the heavy or the dark times.
And I wanted to go back to this story and just share the story with you, and also encourage you to share your story. You don't have to share it on a podcast. You don't even have to share it with a friend.
You can just share it in your journal; you can just write it all out and write it out in a way that allows you to write out the bigness of it, to feel the feelings of it. After I did this, I found it so therapeutic that I did it again for other stories and situations and throughout my life.
Questions that you can ask yourself to use as journal prompts when writing
Another way that I really like Thought Work Journaling is to ask myself a question, and then write out different answers. Like, what just happened here with this situation with my child?
And then ask myself some really powerful questions like, what am I making this mean about me? Or, what meaning am I attaching to this? Or, what is really bothering me under the surface here? Or, how do I want to show up in alignment here? What would that look like? Or, what do I need most right now?
Or, if I'm feeling a heavy emotion, I'll have a conversation with that emotion…what message does this emotion have for me? Or something along the lines of, how is shame showing up here?
When I'm deconstructing some sort of a belief-- Like, right now, I've been working a lot on my Money Mindset. I have a Money Mindset & Manifestation coach who's awesome, and I've been working through a lot of this.
And so, I've been asking myself a lot of questions about Money Mindset, along the lines of; what do I believe about money? What do I believe about wealth? What do I believe about my ability to create wealth? What wealth stories were told to me when I was younger and what wealth stories have I just kind of soaked in from other people?
And all of these stories have been so powerful and so helpful in just helping me to decipher what's really happening in my mind, and to be so much more introspective.
So, all that to say, there's a lot of different ways that you can Mental Health-Journal; and I find it very helpful and healing. And we do this a lot in my retreats, but I really felt strongly that I wanted to share my story with you in this deeper, more vulnerable way.
I've shared it in a more small, intimate setting – but I have never shared it on a big platform like this. I'm not going to share super specific details. And I also want to share that I've had very similar stories like this with each of my children since then – some deeper, heavier, harder situations that we've dealt with – with our kids.
And over the years, I can see my ability to handle them in such a more healed way than when I first started this work – that my response is just a little bit more paused, that it's a little bit more intentional, that the time it takes for me to – when I don't respond well – to process through that…to understand what was really happening and to go back and reconnect and apologize and move forward is…getting much better as well.
So, I'm grateful for where I'm at, but I think I would not be here if it weren't for the heaviness or the hardness of the story that I started. And I also want to add this caveat that I know you might be thinking, 'This doesn't even sound that hard and heavy, I have so much harder and heavier,' and that's okay.
I believe what Brené Brown says when she says, we don't compare our suffering. There's no compassion for us or other people when we're doing comparative suffering, like, 'Oh, I shouldn't feel the heaviness of this because somebody else is feeling something so much more heavy.'
It doesn't take away from my heaviness or add or take away from their heaviness. In fact, I think that the more we allow ourselves to share these stories and to feel into these stories and to listen to these stories, the more human we get to be – the more compassionate, the more loving, the more understanding we get to be.
My story with my neurodiverse child
So, I hope that as I share my story with you today, you can feel into the heaviness and the hardness that I was at and fill into the changes that happened throughout those years as I share my story in a little bit of a different way.
I am standing in the middle of my son's room, and I see red; the bunk beds are knocked over, all of the bedding and the mattresses are strewn across the floor, my favorite woven wall hanging is ripped to shreds, the pictures on the wall lay broken on the floor…my child is screaming, shrieking, yelling, breaking things out of control.
What I'm thinking, I have no idea what to do. In that moment, I think of one thing; either him or I have to go, we can't live like this. This has to stop. It's too hard. It's too heavy. It's not good for anyone.
I'm sure I probably yelled and screamed back; I can't even remember now – everything is a blur. I run into my room sobbing on the bed, 'Parenting isn't supposed to be this hard, no one told me it would be this hard. Why do I have to deal with this?'
I remember feeling so many of those thoughts, of; why is this happening to me? Why does this have to be so hard to me? I feel alone and unsupported. My husband is away at school, 12 to 14 hours a day. We moved across the entire country. I'm not near anyone that I know, and anyone that I love. We haven't yet settled in to what feels like a support system in this strange new city. Never lived in a big city like this; it's loud, scary, noisy all-night-long…alarms going off, policemen coming regularly.
The house we landed in is full of dust, dust and dirt; I can hear the mice in the roof as I sleep. And there's a patch of mold growing on the inside of the wall, inside one of my children's room. How am I supposed to handle all of this? I don't have the tools. I feel so alone and so unsupported.
I do a quick Google search of therapists; I know I want someone that's attachment-based. I believe in that so strongly; that's what I long for, so that's what I look for – anyone that fits that bill.
I find her pretty quickly, and I send an email. The email is an essay, pages long – our whole life story from my perspective…from when I had this child until now, all the things to do with this little child, why they're so hard and what we deal with day-to-day.
She says that she responds with only parent-- or she works with only parents. I argue back, 'But my child is the problem. How is you working with me possibly going to fix them? If you only talk with us, how will you ever make changes for them?'
I'm convinced that no one else's child is this difficult, this dysregulated, and this belligerent – only my child. When my child calms down from their high emotions, they swoop so low that it's scary. They don't want to be here. They don't want to be around us. They don't see the point. They don't feel that relationship. They feel that everyone in our family hates them, especially me; they probably hate themselves too.
I consider checking them into a hospital, which is the first time that I've ever considered that as a valid option. My child is nine.
Between crying in my bed and emailing back and forth with a therapist, I try to continue. My life feels heavy; it feels hard, it feels slow. We spend a lot of time outside of the house; at museums, at parks, anywhere we can go. The meltdowns don't seem to happen quite as intensely out there, but they still happen.
I'm quietly and slowly dying inside, wanting a family life and a parent-child relationship that is completely different than I have; and it seems impossible.
How can I deal with this for nine more years of this child's life? I know that I can't. The answer always comes back, I can't.
I feel like I've hit rock bottom. I think back to my little brother who's chronically ill, chronically mentally ill, chronically homeless, in-and-out of the psych ward; and that's the future that I see for my child who's nine.
The therapist finally agrees to meet me in my home. Probably she hears the intensity in my emails, the desperation that I feel. I really want her to see how difficult it is at home so she can see and validate the behavior, she can see and validate what's happening inside of me and validate me about the difficulty that I'm going through because my child is surely the problem – I still firmly believed that, at the time.
I open the door; I immediately hug her and start sobbing in her arms, a perfect stranger – this is how broken I feel. We sit down, we talk. She doesn't talk to my children at all, but something starts to shift in that conversation.
Something about the way she says things starts to change my way of thinking – just a tiny little bit, just a fraction, a sliver – maybe my child isn't doing this on purpose, maybe it will be this way for a long time, maybe it will always be this way, maybe it's their brain that works differently than others…maybe I should stop pushing, changing, controlling so much.
She leaves me with a book; it furthers this change that I can feel – again, just a tiny, tiny little bit. I start to see myself outside of myself. I start to see my responses to him – only in the smallest ways, but I just barely start to notice, to awaken to my responses…my inability to control my own self, to control my own emotions and temper…my inauthentic way of trying to connect with them.
I see a scared, sad little child. I see myself too; overworked, alone, unsupported, and with no real tools, only mimicking the behaviors that I saw in my own childhood.
Things start to shift so slowly – painfully, slowly. The next meltdown, I don't say anything; I hold my tongue, I leave the room and I cry.
A few times later; I'm able to assess the room for damage, take out anything that could be harmful to them or to the situation, and then I leave the room again and cry. I don't say anything.
The next few times, I start to take more and more out of the room – anything that could be really damaged so that it feels more safe afterwards, and to decrease the amount of shame of how my child would feel afterwards. I try to help him not to feel the depths that come after these big meltdowns.
I spend little bits of time with them; ask them questions, try to really connect more authentically.
What changes we’ve made over the past 5 years, and how I notice myself respond from a totally different energy than I used to
I don't notice any big changes. I sometimes wonder if it's working, if anything is changing at all.
I do notice changes in me; I spend a little more time reading, I start to write just a little, I start to take time for myself, find things that I enjoy and I start doing them, I find friends that I love being around and they also have neurodiverse kids. And I feel so seen.
One year after that therapy visit, I had only one visit. Fast-forward 12 months, the meltdowns are down 80 to 90% in both intensity and frequency; they don't last as long, I can handle them more. Things are changing – still slowly, but changing.
Fast-forward several years later, and I live with an amazing child who is now diagnosed and is neurodivergent – we know – but is so well regulated…so fun, so funny. We love each other, and we connect well. Our home is peaceful. I don't have to stop myself from yelling; I hardly yell at all – I don't even remember the last time that I yelled.
I don't feel that same urge or rage monster inside of myself; I don't think we talk about rage enough.
My child knows that he's loved. He loves life.
There are highs that are still high, and there are lows that are still low – but I feel seen, supported, and validated by me. That's what was missing, and I didn't even know.
This has become my life's work. I've had several stories similar to this with several children that have come after, also neurodiverse – difficult meltdowns, difficult emotions, hard challenges, but I respond to them differently each time…just a little bit, over time.
Last week, I received an essay email; just like the one that I sent that therapist long ago. I started to cry as I read it because it's only been five years and I'm in a completely different space.
She's in her own depths of despair as she writes to me, what a full-circle moment? I know exactly what to do and to say, and what help and guidance to send her…and how she can get that same help and support, and have it take much less than 12 months.
I write her back and we talk, and she feels hope. If I hadn't gone through this, I wouldn't have my tools to share. I wouldn't have this wisdom. I wouldn't have this medicine inside of myself that I can spread. For that, I am grateful; and for that, I can help and change.
I feel like now I have the life that I always wanted; inner peace, inner strength, inner confidence…it was worth it. It feels hard reading back on those moments and feeling the depths of it because I feel it just like it was yesterday.
And sometimes, I wish that I knew this healing years ago when I started my parenting journey; I wish that I had more tools, I wish that I was more healed, I wish that I had less of my own trauma to deal with – but I didn't know any of that.
And as I'm able to help and connect and reach out to women and to parents, I know now that I wouldn't have been able to help them in the depth of the way that I can if I hadn't gone through my own dark night of the soul – and several since then, and probably several continuing.
I can remember a few other stories. One; I was washing a sink full of dishes, watching two of my children in an intense fight…and I was so upset that I didn't even know what to do. I paused, instead of responding; this would've never happened in the past.
And I remember thinking to myself, what would I tell my client right now? And I knew the answer. The answer was, "Nothing, I wouldn't do anything right now…don't respond in the moment."
I always say, "Don't parent in the fire". I was definitely feeling that fire inside of myself. So, I washed those dishes, probably scrubbing them a little harder than they needed to. I waited for things to settle down. I took some slow, deep breaths. I chatted with the child that I felt was a little bit more of the victim in that situation, and just hugged them and comforted them.
The other child, within an hour, came back…apologized, told me exactly what they had done wrong and exactly what they should have done – felt super calm and chill, went and apologized to the child and to me; and we all moved on. In fact, they actually babysat the other kids that night.
In the past, that situation would've spiraled out of control because of my reaction, because of my response to them.
It would've exacerbated everything; I would've taken out my rage. They would've gotten more ragey. And for sure, there's no way we would could've gone out that evening.
This was several years ago, and since then, I feel like my children have gotten along more and more and more; and there's even more peace in our home, and there's even less rage in inside of myself.
Another time I can remember being outside our door; I was standing outside trying to get one of my children to go to something, and they hate going to things. And we were having the same kind of argument. I was feeling the same way inside, feeling these big emotions. They obviously were because they were running away and screaming and yelling, yelling.
And I remember just pausing in that moment; I didn't say anything or do anything, I probably did first – but then I stopped, and I just paused, and I just kind of moved on and I just let it be.
And what I've really come to notice through all these stories – and there's so many more stories that I have in this – is that I don't parent great in the moment. When I'm having those big emotions, my response…it feels like such a problem in my mind. Like it's a problem that needs to be solved right now, it's urgent.
And when I feel that urgency – when I feel really that trauma response coming up in my body – it takes me back to times that were really difficult and really heavy in my own childhood.
And I feel that scared and that defenselessness, which also leads to more anger and more shame and more defensiveness and more aggression on my part – or more shut down and withdrawal.
We all deal with shame in different ways, but I do not parent with the tools that I now know. I truly believe that we all have tools inside of ourselves that when we can heal and when we can tap into our intuition, that we have tools to help support ourselves and our kids. But it's really hard to feel that way when we're feeling so triggered.
And so, in those moments, what I try to do now is just pause; don't respond, don't react, don't believe the thoughts that are going through my mind about myself – about my ability to parent, about my ability to find answers about my child, about our relationship, about my life.
I just remind myself, we don't believe our thoughts in these moments right now because, lots of times, they're just so angry and ruminating and spinning and defensive and not helpful.
I go into my body instead; I breathe, I listen to music, I go for a walk, I allow myself to not respond. So, many of my clients – over and over again – say, "Well, how will I teach them? How will I teach that their behavior is not okay?"
You don't have to teach them that, they know. Children are so smart. I believe so strongly that they know; they can see, they can tell – they can tell in their response to other people, and other people's response to them.
They learn naturally. They learn intrinsically. They also learn from me; from my responses, how I show up, how I respond…they're always learning, and they learn so much more from what I do than what I say.
So, in that moment when I allow myself not to respond and I calm down – and I come back with connection and love and compassion – that's the best thing that I could do.
And almost every single time, my child will already have learned the lesson that I feel like I was trying to "teach" them right through the traditional modes of like shaming and yelling and consequence and punishments; they've already learned that.
I hope that this story, and my being open and vulnerable with you, helped you see a little glimpse into those hard days for me – and the hard days that you probably relate to.
If you're listening to this podcast, parenting probably doesn't feel simple; it doesn't feel easy all the time. I'm sure sometimes it does; sometimes it probably feels natural and amazing and wonderful and magical – but lots of times, it probably doesn't.
The 3 biggest take-aways I notice looking back on my journey and how you can use those tools to support your parenting right now
And I hope that a few of these points in my story help. I'm just going to pick out a couple things that maybe you can take away that can help you today;
1. Assess what's happening for you instead of thinking that your child is the problem
Number one is that I really thought that my child was the problem. I did not assess my own thoughts and feelings in that moment. I did not assess my own habits, patterns, trauma, all of those things. I didn't think about anything that was happening for me; I really thought it was my child.
So, one thing you can do is assess; what is happening for me? How am I responding? What are the habitual patterns that come up for me, over and over and over again, when this happens?
2. Do something for myself
The second thing I did was I did something for myself; I did something that I enjoy that isn't even related to parenting at all…that was not related to building my relationship with my child. I just felt driven and guided to find things for me.
I tried watercolor painting, I tried learning a new language, I signed up to learn how to do woven wall hangings; I just tried new things that sounded fun.
I got books from the library and started reading again, something that I hadn't…I told myself I didn't have time to do for years.
Finding time for myself was also crucial.
3. Be patient and allow change to happen gradually
And third, I feel like it was allowing and just having the patience in the space for the change to happen, not wanting the change to just be immediate. I mean, obviously in those moments, I probably did want it to be immediate and I probably felt like it was happening too slowly.
But now looking back on it, I can see that true change and true healing takes time. Yung Pueblo says that healing is when you notice that your response is different than what it used to be – when you can gain awareness in that moment, either to change your response or to not respond at all, then you can know that you are in a more healed space than you used to be.
And I can truly feel that way for myself.
So, I hope that this story helped you. I would love for you to share my story with others and also share your story with me; I would love to hear them. I love receiving emails and messages about this work.
I hope that was helpful for you. And if there's anything that you would love to hear on my upcoming seasons of my podcast – either in this season or in Season 8 or 9 – if there are things that you're really struggling with right now and you would love to hear more insight on them, I would love to get those messages as well. Thanks for listening, and I'll see you next week.
Thanks for listening. If you'd like to help spread this work to the world, share this episode on social media and tag me – send it to a friend, or leave a quick rating and review below so more people can find me. If you'd like more guidance on your own parenting journey, reach out.