Falling from Heartbreak, Rising a Warrior
Have you ever been totally in love, lost your mind, and did things that you would never normally? That was yours truly at 25 years old.
How did I get there? Well, let’s go back a little …
While I grew up in a loving and fortunate home, there were ‘family rules’ we abided by. Some were spoken messages and some weren’t, but all were clear nonetheless. One such rule was that being 'good' was to present the façade of being 'perfect'. Any 'negative' emotions were thought to be burdensome and left me isolated as the odd ball. I learned to keep things inside. This was hard to do, especially as the deep feeler that I am. I became a good actress at the expense of my own mental health.
In 2004, I went to pursue a Master of Social Work degree in New York City; stepping away from the world of constraint that I had known, into the unknown—full of possibilities, creativity and expression. As first year students, we were tasked with exploring our early lives as a way of learning the concepts (basically to ‘therapize’ ourselves). This seemed like a betrayal to my loved ones.
Those old directives were staring me right in the face and imploring me to stay silent, “we don’t speak about what happened inside the home, outside of the house Sandra.” However, I chose to challenge myself and face the old tapes head on. It felt relieving to open up about what I’d been through in a non-judgmental setting. It also felt heavy. What felt heavier though was wrapping the semester and having to put everything back, away in the drawer, to return home and carry on. My inner world was left screaming and I had trouble coping. Let’s just say, I had a quarter-life crisis or, as some may call it, “A Freaking Spiritual Awakening!”
6 months later, I found myself in rehab in Arizona to address the ongoing anxiety and depression that had plagued my childhood and early adulthood. It was there that I began to flourish. I FINALLY felt ‘normal’, safe, and free because I was surrounded with others, like me, who had also been brought to the brink to admit that they weren’t okay either. There is something so powerful about being part of a community aligned with one goal – HEALING!
Everyone in treatment revealed the pain and shame and anger that lead them there, thereby opening to liberation from the burden of performance and the impact of being ‘strong’ for too long. The shame was dissolving like sand slipping through our fingers and was replaced with something more solid to grasp - transparency, openness, and vulnerability. This was new to me, a perception shift like no other, and it felt like UTOPIA.
I graduated from treatment more integrated, at peace, and empowered than I had ever been. To my oversight though, I forgot to take the 'not everyone is going to talk like this in the outside world' manual with me upon departure. Seriously, that’s a much-needed manual! A few months later I began a relationship with a guy that I had been crushing on. Fortunately, he had been crushing on me too! So nice when that happens, huh? What’s that they say about lightning bolts rather than butterflies though? Oh right, lightening is hot and fiery.
We fell quickly. He left quicker. Months later I asked him what happened and I will never forget the next words uttered from his mouth, “You’re too vulnerable”. Quick note; I’ve never personally been hit by a MAC truck although I imagine that it must feel something like that. I’M CONFUSED? How could two worlds that were both so beautiful result in something so different?
I carried that statement with me for years especially when I found myself in other romantic relationships. As a result, I endeavoured to be ‘in control’ of not sharing much about my early life experience and my feelings; goodness forbid anyone perceive me as “too” anything, especially the ‘V’ word.
That was until I came across a Ted Talk that would crack me wide open called, The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown. In it she described the physics of vulnerability. You mean … there’s a science to this that I could study? My inner student was cartwheeling! Her message, “show up, be seen, and live brave”. I immediately bought all of her books and immersed myself in her work. Everything began lightening up again. I was so jazzed that I even decided, on a whim, to sign up to become a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator and train with the Head Honcho herself. It was magical!
I put much effort into practicing the concepts in my daily life. That is, be who I am: flawed, intense, loving, spontaneous, determined, genuine, fun, bold, and most confusingly (to myself and others) a sensitive person and a resilient being. Admittedly, it’s not always easy being real, there are lots of awkward conversations and messy feelings—like jumping without a net and swallowing my heart when it finds its way into my throat from fear. Although, it’s always worth it!
Why, you ask? Why would anyone in their right mind strive to express vulnerability given that the literal definition is, “emotional exposure, risk, and uncertainty?” Well, as 'B' says, it’s also "the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, accountability, and authenticity." Since embarking on this self-discovery journey, everything in my life has shifted including the ground that I walk on. That feeling that I left back in the desert year’s prior is now present on Canadian soil where I currently plant my feet. Utopia is here and continues to expand.
My private practice has been enhanced by this philosophy as well and thus has grown. I feel so fortunate to spend my days sharing space with gorgeous souls who arrive to talk about moving through old shaming beliefs, life’s challenges, and celebrating once unimaginable successes. This is what lights my soul on fire. This time though, it’s that good kind of heat, the one that warms, comforts, and is alive!
My name is Sandra Lax and I am a Vulnerability Warrior.