Stories of Self-Discovery and Shame Under the Dark Moon
“Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” -Muriel Strode
Today through Friday we’re in a period called the Dark Moon, which occurs the 3 days before a New Moon each month and is when the night sky is void of the moon’s light. This is a time to go within and address what’s lurking in the shadows while connecting to the light within ourselves. The author of the Many Moons workbook, Sarah Gottesdiener, also discusses how the Dark Moon is an optimal time for rest, quiet, reflection, release, decluttering, and detoxing.
Last week during a session with my therapist I had some major breakthroughs that occurred as a result of all of the above. In my work with her I’ve sometimes found myself caught up in the same cycles over and over without much real progress, but things feel like they’ve finally started to shift. I found myself acknowledging certain truths that I’m finally able to believe and purge parts of my story that I’ve clung onto but aren’t really mine.
One of the main themes I’ve seen come up repeatedly over the last year in conversations with others has been that I’m what my good friend calls a white sheep, or someone who’s thrived despite growing up in and being surrounded by dysfunction and dysfunctional people.
I still can’t pinpoint exactly how I got so lucky to be healthy and strong enough to escape the downward spiral so many of my family members have been subject to, but I do know that it’s taken a lot of hard work and dedication on my part. I’m finally beginning to acknowledge myself for this, and it’s a big reason why I’ve stepped into the work that I have over the last few years as a healer and soon-to-be certified life coach. I want to help others blaze their own trail and let go of what’s holding them back (and I’m proof that it’s possible).
In my session last week, I was specifically talking about all the escape mechanisms other members of my immediate family have used to avoid dealing with their pain and discomfort, including substance abuse and fleeing.
I don’t talk about this much in my business, but my mom chose to exit our family when I was in college and I haven’t seen her in over a decade. She was hurting and unhappy, and I experienced first hand how hurt people hurt people. There were instances of emotional abuse and gaslighting that took place shortly after her exit, so I decided that to keep myself healthy and protect my family I had to create distance.
I mainly keep this part of my story close to my chest because it’s not solely my story. I respect that each one of us has our own path to walk, and I no longer feel the need to shame or blame anyone else for what I’ve gone through in this lifetime.
When my mom left, my dad and three younger siblings found themselves on their own and I fell into the matriarchal role of my family by default since I was the eldest female. This led to a lot of challenges for both me and my family because I felt responsible for keeping our family unit intact while finishing school, but also felt a lot of resistance towards this because I was craving freedom and a life of my own. Initially, I took on the role of trying to keep everything together but eventually broke down because it was just too much for my 21-year-old self to handle.
I also felt a lot of shame and guilt around my mom’s decision to leave, almost as if it were MY decision. I felt like I played a major role in making her want to opt out of motherhood. I took it personally and felt ashamed to share about it for a long time because I feared repercussions somehow, and felt like her leaving was a direct reflection of me being a bad person. Surely I must have done something wrong and not been the perfect daughter or it wouldn’t have happened <- how it played out in my mind at first, and how it’s contributed towards my perfectionist tendencies ever since.
This stirred up a lot of “I’m not good enough” feelings and self-worth issues that I’ve just begun investigating more recently. Shame can cause us to be silent and not speak up for ourselves because it makes us believe that what happened is our fault, and until we’re ready and willing to face it head-on it will keep us stuck in our shame spiral.
Being filled with shame breeds more shame and more of a desire to hide it until we can separate ourselves from it. Once we’re able to do so, we can recognize that we are not our shame, and that we are not “bad” even if we did something we aren't proud of. In dealing with our shame we can choose to believe ourselves over what others have made us believe about ourselves. We break the cycle. (If you want to dive deeper into these concepts, check out Dr. Brene Brown’s work.)
I also stuffed down a lot of confusion and anger because I didn’t know how to deal with the intense pain and feelings. I didn’t give them room to breathe and they got lodged pretty far down in my psyche and my body, causing me to act out in other ways because they weren’t being witnessed or released.
I had this notion in my mind that I wasn’t allowed to feel angry because I felt partially responsible for what happened, and because society teaches us that good girls don’t express anger. I’ve since learned that it’s healthy to experience a wide range of emotions, and that anger can serve a purpose in motivating us to take action for what we believe in as long as we don’t let it take over control.
While I don’t necessarily agree with my mom’s approach for “dealing with” her problems, I’ve finally been able to cultivate compassion for her because I understand that it was the only way she knew how to deal with things at the time. I’m still working through healing many layers of my mother wound but no longer resent her for this because we all have a mother wound on some level, including her.
My mom leaving was a cataclysmic event in my sister Nikki’s life and she never fully recovered from it. When she passed away last November we had suspected that it was due to a combination of drugs in her system, which was recently (finally) confirmed by autopsy results. She had been using alcohol and other substances for years to cope with the pain of losing my mom, having a broken family, and also suffering the heartache of a miscarriage and dysfunctional partnerships over the years.
She also struggled with physically being alone at any given time because in the moments of solitude she became forced to face what was lurking in the dark corners of her mind. Without the tools or support to manage and work through them, she turned to substances to numb her pain and suffering instead.
I dealt with a lot of guilt after Nikki passed because I didn’t realize how deeply she had been struggling, but also know that I couldn’t have taken away her pain myself. This is the thing with doing the hard work of healing - you don’t have to go it alone, but no one can do it for you.
Once I realized how bad her addiction had been while also helping my dad through his own battle with alcoholism, I grew a far greater appreciation for how widespread things like this are and a lot more compassion for people struggling in this way. It can truly happen to anyone and can be so hard to get out from underneath without self-compassion and a deep desire for change.
After talking through much of this with my therapist for the umpteenth time, she was able to assist me with connecting the dots to see that what makes me different is my willingness to sit with the discomfort, pain, and undesirable feelings and allow them to come up and out even though I feel resistance. This way, it doesn't end up manifesting into an unhealthy downward spiral of some sort.
I’ve finally accepted that I’ll inevitably experience “bad” feelings again and again because I’m human, and also know that they won’t kill me. I have a safe space to process and release past traumas and toxic feelings so that I can continue to be a healthy individual and hold space for others as they heal their own wounds.
Each time we make the choice to work through this trauma and toxicity it frees us up physically, emotionally, and energetically to enjoy life more fully.
We begin to break the shackles we’ve set on ourselves or feel like others have placed on us because we can tap into the truest, lightest parts of our beings.
We can let go of any residual victim mentality we may have clung onto the past that may have helped us feel safe at the time, and recognize that we have the power to step into the life we want to lead if we're willing to let go of the old stories and beliefs holding us back.
We can re-learn how to play and have fun while we’re here on Earth instead of getting stuck ruminating about all the ways we’ve been hurt. When we focus our energy on trying to do everything in our power to avoid pain in the future we stay small and aren’t able to live our lives to the fullest.
Two other breakthroughs I had last week were understanding that my mom leaving is truly not my fault and that I did what I had to do to protect myself along this difficult path by choosing not to have a relationship with her.
These came up as a result of some recent events that helped me clearly identify that I was not the sole problem that caused her to leave, which was a huge relief for me. It’s one thing to think and be told these sentences by others (“it’s not your fault”) but to finally truly believe it for myself and be able to embody it was a major milestone for me.
I haven’t done all of this perfectly, and there have been times in the past where I hurt others because I wasn’t properly coping with the pain I was experiencing.
I still have plenty of moments where my first thought is “oh no, no, no, I don’t want to look at that or deal with that feeling, it feels terrible” but my therapist pointed out that even if that’s my knee-jerk reaction I still don’t follow the inclination to flee or numb the pain; that I choose to bravely explore it so that it can be healed and released. (And so can you!)
Healing is not a destination, it’s more like a pilgrimage to truly awaken to your personal power and inner wisdom. The more you take the opportunities to face the difficult moments and situations that arise, the more resilient you become in facing such things in the future.
As we age we also become more connected to our inner wisdom and can integrate the wisdom bestowed upon us by those helping us through this challenging work. We remember that we have everything we need to flourish within ourselves and become more attuned to being able to access what we need.
This journey is unique to each one of us because our life experiences come with their own challenges and experiences, but speaking about them and connecting can be powerfully healing. If you’re looking for support as you embark or continue along your path of healing and liberation from what’s holding you back, I’m now offering what I call Alchemical Healing Sessions.
If you’re feeling wounded or broken, know that there are gifts to be found in your wounds. Your pain is purposeful. Each time you’ve survived something you tap into how courageous, strong, and capable you are and can eventually transform your pain so that you get back to thriving in this lifetime.
You are so amazing for doing the work to heal yourself instead of passing on the pain to future generations. You got this, and I got you (babe).
In love + heart service,