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Successful on the Surface, and Struggling Inside: Katie’s Story 

Despite having a high-paying job, a new house, and success on the surface, Katie found herself empty and looking for more. A bold decision to try new things, in the midst of a job transition and a break-up, played a major role in discovering emotional connection and greater wellness.

Empty Inside

Hitting rock bottom looked different for me than for others. I didn’t have issues with substances, but I found myself feeling incredibly depressed and empty in the midst of a six-figure job, a new house and what I thought should have been making me happy. I had unknowingly spent most of my life and energy creating a life that I didn’t want, pretending to be someone that I didn’t want to be, who I thought I was supposed to be – and I was really good at it. On the outside, everything about my life screamed independence, while on the inside, a secret self-hatred, abandonment issues, and dependence on unhealthy relationships were robbing me of the freedom to be myself. If you had seen me at the time, you probably wouldn’t have realized that there were foundational things out of place in my life — it took me years to see it myself.

This breaking point was spurred on by an unexpected career transition and the end of a five year relationship. I was isolated, afraid, and had nothing and no one left around me to blame for the loss of joy in my life, and it was at this point that I was forced to confront the fact that I was lost, had no idea who I was, and had to change. So, I embarked on a journey, I’d done some therapy at this point, but I needed to find the things that made me come alive.  Out of sheer desperation, I created a comfort zone challenge for myself. For 30 days, I took a risk and did something new each day, and set things in motion to change my life.  All the new experiences created healthier habits in my life, and taught me how to hold my fears and do the thing anyway.  I learned how to be more comfortable in discomfort. It was an effort to allow my heart to be reawakened and to reconnect with my inner child, and it launched me into a healing process that is reshaping how I engage with the world.

 

Self-Sufficiency Hindered Emotional Connection

A year before my breaking point, I got connected with the Gestalt approach to therapy, and it has created significant breakthrough in my life.  I was also doing tons of my own personal development work, and both of these things totally revamped the way I interact with myself, with others, and how I listen to and communicate with the world around me. It was incredibly painful to look back on my life and discover that in the midst of reaching top in my class in high school, a childhood of being a good daughter and older sister to my siblings, and progressing in my career, I didn’t know how to experience deep emotional connection. I think that buried deep in my subconscious there had always been a little voice screaming out for me to come back, but in my conscious mind, I had lost sense of who I actually was. Something inside me knew, but I’d kept myself from feeling or being aware of these important needs by staying busy with school, partying in college, working in my career, and all the other daily demands of life. It was tough to realize that most of this was just distracting me from having to confront the fact that I felt so alone on the inside.

As a young child, I learned independence and self-sufficiency as important traits of character. I didn’t know how to experience emotional connection until very recently. Success and perfection were what I expected of myself, but I never stopped to ask why or what that even meant or looked like for me. Being at the top of my class academically, serving as Homecoming Queen, and excelling as a varsity athlete made everything look alright on the surface. I was a child any parent or institution would be proud of. But I lived with constant anxiety and under tremendous pressure, without realizing it or even knowing that I wasn’t able to process emotion. I don’t think that anyone else really noticed, either, because I had it all together on the outside and checked all the boxes.  I actually was quite alone, and suffered a lot when people would make mean comments because I seemed too perfect.  My perfectionism was really just my creative adaptation to survive, to try to earn love, but it definitely kept people at a distance and blocked me off from the connection I so deeply craved.

 

Healing the Inner Child

It took until my late 20s to realize that I had a problem. I had graduated from college, been in several long-term relationships, and worked in business for years, before I recognized that much of what I did was an effort to make others, especially the male figures in my life, happy. Outside approval wasn’t sustaining me anymore, and I began to search for answers. Thankfully, I began to access resources and find things that helped.

The process of experiencing healing – of allowing my truly, childlike self to breathe and feel – has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done and also made me come alive in so many unexpected ways. Letting go of my former identity has felt painful in a lot of ways, like part of me is dying, and yet things have also shifted profoundly and positively in a short time. I’ve rediscovered my voice, found outlets for my creative passions, and allowed myself to ask for help and build community that has been crucial for the process.  Now, I have meaningful relationships in my life where I am able to be vulnerable and be met with love and intention.

Things that I used to leave no time for, I now love and crave – art, museums, nature, dance, yoga, and more. I know more about what makes me come alive, and I make time for myself now. And I’ve helped create a women’s community for others who may be like me. When I look back, I can become so overwhelmed with gratitude for my journey and all the incredible people that have been there to guide me along the way, that I can just burst into tears, and it feels so beautiful.  I can see love and beauty in every person I meet, and inspiration in every thing I see, and it’s so crazy to think that the only thing that changed was me.  All of this love, beauty, and connection was all around me all along, just waiting for me to open my heart, to come back to myself, and heal, so that I could notice.

 

Sharing the Journey with Others

The journey begins when we stop blocking ourselves from the connection that we already have, or that may be waiting for us nearby. The mindset flip of understanding the wholeness we have is so important. Travel can be really important, but so often, we go outside of ourselves to try to find our purpose, when all you have to do is become still enough hear ourselves, and shake off the debris and notice who we already are. We are more whole than we realize.  My passion now is to help people to remember or rediscover who they are. I’ve had this experience of waking up, of learning safety in vulnerability, and I know firsthand how hopeless and messy this road can feel.  It’s an honor and a blessing every day that I get to serve others.  It gives me purpose to help guide and support other women through this process of reclaiming their feminine power, igniting their passion, and reconnecting in a way that empowers them to live an authentic life, designed on their own terms.

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