Coming Out Of The Closet... My Authentic Story.
What I am sharing with you today is deeper than any other "My Story" that I have ever written for professional purposes. I have kept my personal story private for quite some time and feel that in order to truly be authentic, I must tell you the story of what impacted and inspired me to be where I am today. This is how Authentic Family Wellness was birthed and what rests deep within its roots. I hope my story inspires you to freely share yours with others. I believe this is how we can better connect with the people around us and change the world.
I am a mother of 3 amazing boys that guided me on this path. They teach me so much each day and remind me every second of how precious childhood is. I myself grew up with a strained mother-daughter relationship and was a rather hyperactive little lady who couldn't keep my hands to myself.
"She is too much like a little boy, hyper
and impulsive and needs to calm
down and act like a lady."
Being labeled in grade school as one who "needs improvement" in such areas, I now am a massage therapist and touch people for a living to help restore the absence of positive and safe physical contact in our culture today. Most of my childhood experience was being the girl who was strange, talks too much, is too emotional and way too head strong. I recall a time when I was a young adult and ran into my elementary school psychologist who once told my parents, "She is too much like a little boy, hyper and impulsive and needs to calm down and act like a lady." My parents fought for me for 2 years as this psychologist insisted I be put on medications for ADD. I was great in school, earned high grades and was an eager helper. With a professional second opinion outside of the school, the recommendation for medication was rebutted. I was diagnosed with mild ADD/ADHD with a hyperkinetic temperament and treatment was to be involved in group activities as well as extracurricular activities, to use positive reinforcement discipline techniques and my parents where told that my impulsivity will be managed with consistent routines that will one day benefit my future as I am "quick on my feet."
Did You Know?
"Since the prefix hyper- means "above, beyond", hyperkinetic describes motion beyond the usual. The word is usually applied to children, and often describes the condition of almost uncontrollable activity or muscular movements called attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder *(ADHD). Kids with ADHD are usually not just hyperkinetic but also inattentive, forgetful, and flighty. Though they're often treated with drugs, many experts believe there are better ways of dealing with the problem." https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hyperkinetic
Sadly, for almost 2 years before this second opinion, I was kept inside a resource center during recesses and lunch while teachers and staff where educated by this school psychologist that I be isolated from group activities because this would help me. So I sat alone playing at tables and children were informed to "keep away to help me succeed." Vastly different advice than later prescribed. The rest of my school age years were extremely difficult. From the sixth grade through eleventh I was heavily bullied, jumped by a gang and even threatened to be shot. Growing up in So Cal wasn't the easiest being a mixed filipina/white girl and looking predominately white while dating latino boys. I was an easy target for the girls in school that frowned upon the boys that chose to date me, and in my high school years I was a definite outcast for my choice in strange clothes and eclectic goth yet hippie attire. What can I say? I have always been "different!"
One day when I was 19 years old, my former elementary school psychologist passed by me in the hallways of a grade school that I then worked at. I was also attending child behavioral psychology courses and my goal was to be there for children who were experiencing similar struggles that I had had, and help parents realize their child's strengths and not just what doesn't make them a gender appropriate cookie cutter academic. When she saw me she didn't recognize me and when I finally approached her to give her a warm hello and reintroduce myself and told her what I had been doing with my adult life, the first statement out of her mouth was, "ILY, I never would have thought." It's amazing to me how someone like her was ever in a position that was supposed to empower and help children grow.
This was my first fire, my flame that burned and showed me a way to go into the world and make a difference. I was supposed to help children, protect them and guide them as best as I could with what I had learned in my own experiences. This is why I love children and worked with them for 8 years in a before and after school program.
"I was so excited to meet my brother but remember feeling my mother's helplessness in what should have been her most protected moment.."
The second flame that inspired my path was the most amazing experience I can remember as a child. I was almost 10 years old and got to witness my mother give birth. I didn't understand what was happening in the birth room as I watched my mother quietly grunt and look miserable, but I knew my brother was being born. I watched everything! Unfortunately this also meant that I watched as my mother didn't have a voice and decisions were made for her rather than in advocacy for her. She was a silent "birther", in a fog of hormones and meditation. It was purely cat like and amazing. Yet I remember her quietly ask and state her wishes and not be acknowledged by her nurses and doctor. I was so excited to meet my brother but remember feeling my mother's helplessness in what should have been her most protected moment. I wanted to do something to help but couldn't. After my brother was born I was the happiest big sister in whole world. I forever wanted to be his protector and one day be a mother of boys myself... I didn't know that all 3 of my children would be boys though! And wild ones at that!
My "Little" Brother and Me
Alongside this flame stands a third. As a child my grandfather whom I was very close to, became ill with chronic fatigue after a horrible car accident. He spent years in pain and opted for spinal surgery and unfortunately his surgeon hit a nerve. This sent my grandfather into many more years of chronic pain that couldn't be relieved. He was inevitably prescribed high amounts of pain killers and became addicted to morphine. The addiction created anger and aggression so he was then prescribed antidepressants that later affected him so negatively that he developed a drug induced bi-polar disorder. At one point while my grandfather was suffering, we had to evacuate our home as he threatened to come to our house and hurt us.
"I can remember the fear, and the statement I made while we hurried next door. "I thought we had a normal family?" I can still hear my father say, "I thought we did too.""
My Grandfather and Me
I was 11 years old and followed my dad while I carried my 1 year old baby brother to our neighbor's house. I can remember the fear, and the statement I made while we hurried next door. "I thought we had a normal family?" I can still hear my father say, "I thought we did too." For 13+ years after my grandfather's car accident he was in pain and for 4 of those years experienced extreme emotional suffering. He shot himself when I was 13 years old and after that event our entire family was never the same. I can still see the small matter that was once his, sticking to his belongings that my parents had to go through. It wasn't meant for me to see as no one had noticed till I found them. As horrific and painful as this all was for me, this experience helped me see the love in all people at such a young age. At first I was angry with the world and wasn't able to cry for months. Once that anger was explored through meditation and art, I found a feeling of connection with all things. I started making music, painting, and writing stories and poetry by the age of 14. It was my self taught therapy,
After senior graduation, my high school sweetheart and I moved in together and married only a year later. After 3 years of marriage we had our first little boy. The experience was phenomenal! I successfully planned and experienced a home birth and started my obsession with safe products for our home and organic foods. I became interested in all things pregnancy and birth related and found myself contemplating a change in my career path. I researched how we can help children before they are born by helping their mothers with the proper emotional and physical self care.
"I received a phone call from my father-in-law telling me that she had been admitted to the hospital and that they couldn't find the baby's heartbeat. I immediately headed to the hospital."
Only a year after having our son, our lives took a unsuspecting turn. This was the catalyst that directed me to where I am today. My sister-in-law at the time became pregnant and I was so excited. I loved being there to hear about her pregnancy and help with any mom to mom questions she would have. When she was 6 months pregnant, I received a phone call from my father-in-law telling me that she had been admitted to the hospital and that they couldn't find the baby's heartbeat. I immediately headed to the hospital.
The next few days after were long and heavy and the experience is one that will reside in my heart and mind for the rest of my life. I tend to handle difficult experiences by finding something I can do to help. Being as I was helpless in this particular situation, during the down time before my sister-in-law would birth her angel baby, I researched pregnancy support therapies. I thought that I could try and find something that could help prevent such tragedy. This is when I found Mueller College of Holistic Studies and Prenatal Massage called to me. In grief I believed I could help relax expecting mothers and prevent them from losing their babies, I understand now that something like that is not in our hands.
Me doing what I do best!
What I can provide is love, nurture, emotional support and mother centered care that can help relax mothers throughout pregnancy thus helping assist in healthy development of their little unborn babes, as well as help mothers and their physical and emotional states. After this heartbreaking event, I started training to become a Holistic Health Practitioner in Integrated Bodywork that same year, and later became a birth doula.
"It was one of the hardest experiences having
a little one while going through the
challenges of divorce. ."
My home life also changed as my husband and I agreed positively and peacefully to separate. In my time at Mueller College I unexpectedly met my life partner and life moved very fast but in the thick of it it felt like a lifetime. It was one of the hardest experiences having a little one while going through the challenges of divorce. It was sad and scary, necessary and inevitable. We both handled the separation the way any child deserves and because of that I am so blessed. I was also lucky to have him as the father of our son and that he is a caring and good person. Not everyone can say that about their former partner. I was also fortunate to have had my husband today, be there by my side during such a hard time, He was my respectful and caring friend who kept his distance from a relationship till the timing was right and I don't think that kind of character is easy to find either. After all was said and done, my former husband met his soul mate and we both re married and grew our families. It was truly a divinely guided experience.
My former husband's family and mine at Thanksgiving
After marrying the love of my life the journey of my soul's purpose was made clear, and the hardest trials would come. I became a birth doula and pregnant with my second son. I didn't realize how I was psychologically impacted by the experience with my former sister-in-law. Now in my second pregnancy after my heart experienced such sadness, this pregnancy was the hardest and I found it extremely difficult to connect to my baby. I was afraid I would lose him. During the first few weeks of pregnancy I had believed I had had a miscarriage. My ultrasound a week before wasn't clear if I had one or two babies and I was told we would know at the next visit. I cramped, lost blood and held what looked very much like the beginning of life in my hand. I was devastated and cried uncontrollably. I scheduled a sooner visit and when seen the doctor confirmed that my baby was there and that there was only one. I was relieved but still grieving even though the facts were unclear if I had lost a twin. Fraternal twins run on both sides of my family.
"... after 9 months postpartum I reached out for help. After losing my hair and nails, having night terrors and feeling disconnected most of the time, it was about time. ."
I went through the pregnancy with fear sitting in my heart and I didn't even recognize the signs that I was beginning to suffer from post traumatic stress and develop anxiety. I had even purchased a doppler to listen to my baby's heart any time I felt anxious. His birth hit me so fast and out of no where. One moment I was practicing my hypnobirth method and the next I was 9 centimeters dilated and my midwives who had just arrived were telling me it's time to have my baby. It felt like a dream, but not in a good way. I didn't feel like I birthed my own baby and struggled for weeks wearing a smile that was hiding extreme anxiety and shame for not feeling as I did with my first son. 6 months postpartum it was apparent that something wasn't in balance. and finally after 9 months postpartum I reached out for help. After losing my hair and nails, having night terrors and feeling disconnected most of the time, it was about time. My blood work showed that I had low thyroid levels and low amounts of other hormones I can't remember. I started supplementing, changed my diet and made sure to eat well during my periods. This is also when I found the amazing benefits of essential oils. I started using them to help assist in my healing alongside other therapies, acupuncture and massage. It's when I realized how powerful essential oils are and I have been using them, sharing them and teaching about them ever since.
A year and a half later I was back in a place where I felt like myself. My heart called for another pregnancy and I had dreams about it frequently. I was ready to make things right and wanted to birth myself back even more. Even though we were hoping for a girl, we became happily and ecstatically pregnant once again, with my third son. The pregnancy and birth was amazing emotionally yet it took a toll on my body, Umbilical hernia, pubic symphysis disfunction, a 9lb 2oz bundle of love and then pneumonia immediately after labor to name a few challenges. But I was in love again, I was back and loving being a new mommy, soaking it all up and making up for what I felt I lost with my second. The love spread to each one of my boys and I was me again. This inspired my family to move across the country from California to New Jersey where my husband grew up, bring our wellness services and story to our new town, and help families.
After the move my plans for opening another wellness center in my new town developed a large unexpected hurtle. This was very disheartening and made me very nervous . My work was my therapy. My time spent at our wellness center in San Diego was what helped keep me together and feel like I belonged somewhere. Now I wouldn't be able to create such a space and now I Iived in a completely different culture. Anxiety attacks began to surface again and my relationships with family became strained. I didn't know what to do and now I was all the way across the country away from everything I had ever known with people who see me only during my worst and don't know who I truly am.
"Such news brought me to my knees with
screams of anger and heartbreak."
Now from this point, my story will get very raw. Details will be withheld in respect of the family who suffer from this same loss. But those details I will remember fully for the rest of my life. My fourth flame... the heart wrenching unveiling that lead to a mental health breakdown, breakthrough and evolution. My soul sister, my best and closest friend that was on her own mental health and spiritual discovery took her life suddenly only a few months after visiting our family. The news brought me to my knees with screams of anger and heartbreak. Hours leading up to the discovery of her whereabouts I spent pacing and in extreme fight mode trying to do what I could to help find her from all the way across the country. Another friend had told me the news and I can still hear her crying like an echo burned into my ears. My beautiful soul sister was truly someone who knew me inside and out and was always there during my tough times that I had only recently made known to her. Just days before leaving this earth she left me with a text messaged meme from the movie "The Help". "You is kind, You is smart. You is important." I had no idea that would be the last message I'd ever receive from her. Well, the last earthly message. She has sent me many signs from the other side that I am extremely grateful for.
"I ask for as best as you can, to hold loving space
for what I'm about to share.."
If you have read this far I am very thankful. If you know me personally but not this next piece to my story I am about to release, please take a moment. I don't mean to hurt, offend or make you angry with me. I ask for as best as you can, to hold loving space for what I'm about to share.
After the loss of my dearest friend, I fell into a dark depression. One that I hadn't felt since I was a child. You might think the grief of losing someone you love would remind you of how precious life is and how short it can be. For some time I felt such hope. But the hope faded as I sunk deep into a black hole. I felt out of place in all areas of my life. I hadn't developed the kinships that I had hoped and I felt extremely alone as I spent most days in my house with only my kids who outnumbered me. I experienced yet again another episode of premenstrual dysphoria but this time had no self care back up or positive "savings account." The nightmares were constant. The intrusive thoughts and images lingered. The shadow people hovered. I had had enough...
I started Thursday morning like thousands before. My husband helped get our littles ready and then took them to school. The house was quiet and the silent storm flooded and I could hear my mind screaming...
I called out to my lost friend. I believe she watched over and protected me while I then made the most impulsive, scariest decision. A decision that could have taken life as it has for many quite efficiently. The fog in my mind grew and my memory went blank. Then I saw a gold glow as I looked down. I was wearing the beautiful gown I wore during my second son's birth. Looking further to my feet, I saw perfectly fresh, manicured pink toes.
"I awoke in an ICU, intubated and unable to move"
A day and a half later I awoke in an ICU, intubated and unable to move. I had been wearing no such birth gown, nor had I had a pedicure in almost 5 months. The clothes I had been wearing the previous day had been cut off by paramedics and I was now in a "stylish" hospital gown, slowly opening my eyes. I saw doctors and staff like split images each time I opened and closed my eyes. When I started to come to, I heard a soft voice say, "She's awake!". I was greeted like a small child with my name and warm hellos from nurses and staff. Behind me I could hear the machine that was breathing for me. I then saw my husband who grabbed my hand and was telling me everything's okay. I didn't know what had happened and I tried my best to write my questions as he held a piece of paper by my hand, Many hours later after being coached to breathe, the tube was removed and I was breathing on my own. This brought me to full awareness. With a femoral IV of norepinephrine in my left leg and many other IVs all over my arms, I was still unable to move, my voice hoarse with no tongue mobility, my speech difficult. My nurse cried and held my hand and told me how thankful she was that I woke up and that tests revealed no internal damage. Only a mark around my neck. A Rabbi that had seen me transfer from the trauma unit to the ICU came by and visited me saying how happy he was to see me awake and smiling.
"You don't think you need it, you belittle it and find
"what's wrong" with it,"
I learned to eat after 2 days and strengthened my ability to walk. I was transferred to a med-surg unit where I spent 2 more days, then to a behavioral unit for another 2 days. After my discharge I was set up with an amazing Intensive Outpatient Therapy program where I spent 5 months. In this program I met many amazing individuals, heard a lot of similar experiences and was helped tremendously by effective therapists who do their absolute best with a budget next to none. It still baffles me how the things that help us truly get better are not affordably available. My time in this program felt like a comedy. You don't think you need it, you belittle it and find "what's wrong" with it, and over time it sneaks up on you and you realize that if you had done something like this a loooong time ago, you could have prevented almost dying... Yes this amuses me now, and finding a warm laugh while visualizing myself in a movie like "Anger Management" or "The Breakfast Club" really helps. Group therapy is such a raw and uplifting experience. Finding the funny is one of my "coping skills". And sometimes my deflection but thats beside my point (I can't believe I'm throwing around therapy jokes).
"I hope to encourage others to tell their story and speak up without fear. To be okay with their backstory and let the judgment of the undereducated roll effortlessly off their backs."
Now that I have unleashed my truth. Showed my insides and laid them before you. I hope to encourage others to tell their story and speak up without fear. To be okay with their backstory and let the judgment of the undereducated roll effortlessly off their backs. I still struggle with this but choose to tell my story. If my soul sister felt safe to do the same maybe it could have saved her life. Maybe if someone else had shared their story it could have saved her life... Or maybe in some divine planning it was her destiny. I just don't believe we should suffer in silence and be worried about not being loved for sharing our past. It brought us to where we are today and each day is a new one. We change and we grow and we will always be learning either directly or indirectly.
I have been managing these key events in my life and it can still be a challenge from day to day but it fuels my passion and the warrior/healer inside of me. If there could be such a role! I receive regular therapy and have been on a low dose of an anti-depressant. I had to push aside my fears of side affects and what I had seen happen to my grandfather and soul sister. The biggest help has been DBT therapy, massage and hot yoga, while the medication plays a small role helping me maintain a schedule. I deeply feel my strengths are born of my weaknesses and my ability to keep moving forward and desire to help others is what I was put here for. I love doing what I do and hope to inspire and help others. This ride is definitely growing my spirit and bringing me to places I never thought I'd be. I am grateful for the experiences of my past and for your interest in learning more about me today. This is the how and why of Authentic Family Wellness!
"I am thankful for this life, I am grateful for this life. Thank you to the wonderful and supportive family and friends who have been my rock. I love you with all of my heart. "
Don't be afraid to seek the help that you need. If anything I have shared resinates with you and your own unique life story, I hope it helps in some way. I was scared for so long to reach out. To admit I was depressed and going through difficulties. I thought I was victimizing myself from the reactions of others around me when I first started talking about what I was feeling. I let their judgment cloud my self love. I locked myself in a mindset of going at it alone after such judgment. Don't beat yourself up over the mistakes you have made. They are experiences and opportunities for growth. Learn from them, and don't let such pain hold you back from becoming who you are truly meant to be.
To my beautiful children, "You are the stars that light up my sky! Your brightness shines light on all darkness."
Love & Gratitude,