In her book, How to do the Work, Dr. Lepera writes about how feeling stuck was one of the most common feelings amongst her patients in psychotherapy.
I know that feeling…
In September of 2020, after a majority of the dreadful year had passed, I decided to join a membership called “To Be Magnetic.”
I wanted to get focused on changing my life, and I needed direction after hearing about how meditation can help rewire the brain.
At first, I didn’t believe it and spent my time feeding my left brain—the science and logic minded brain. I had to convince myself in a way that comes easy to me first. Most of my life has been catered to the left side of my brain, feeding it data, heavy science and math, and religion.
A few months ago in meditation, I felt massively stuck.
I was focused on healing my inner child, and when prompted with certain questions about my childhood, I couldn’t remember a lot of things. Memories, especially happy or positive ones, were not coming up in my mind. I wanted to use old, happier memories to help heal some of the more traumatic ones, but unfortunately there were few to be found.
At the end of the meditation I was left with a lot of unanswered thoughts to ponder. I had a gut feeling, a message from within, that I should go find my old journals.
These journals had accumulated and remained in my childhood home where my parents still live, 30 years later. I kept diaries when I was younger that later turned into journals that cover almost every year of my life.
I didn’t know where to start, so I went to the very beginning.
I flipped through the books to find which had been the earliest, and I found it—my bright orange, fuzzy, Tigger diary. (At the time I wrote in it, it came complete with a Tigger pen!) The fun diary was a gift to me on my ninth birthday from a close family friend.
I made sure to write in it the moment it was in my possession, and so began my life-long love for journal writing. I have continuously kept a journal for the rest of my life since that day.
As I went back to read these journals from my childhood, I didn’t have a clue what I would end up finding. But, there was a reason I couldn’t access positive memories—there were hardly any of them!
When I started therapy in my early 20s, I quickly discovered how much of my childhood I was going to have to unpack.
Even then, I carried heavy guilt any time I would say or even think about the word “trauma” associated with my childhood.
Here’s a little backstory as to why I held that belief for so long:
My parents are immigrants from Egypt and they crawled through the American education system to earn degrees that allowed both of them to make six figures each.
We went on family vacations every year, ate dinner together almost every evening, visited our extended family, spent holidays together, and we went to church every Sunday. I had responsible friends, so I never got into any big trouble. I went to pharmacy school, graduated with a doctorate of pharmacy, was 100 percent financially independent from my parents by 23, and didn’t lose my virginity until I was 26—you get the picture.
I thought I had a great childhood compared to most people I heard from, so whenever I thought anything negative about my family, I felt ungrateful and disrespectful.
But as I read through my first diary—the majority of which was written when I was only 10 years old—story after story told of my emotional turmoil as a child.
Apparently, at this early age, I’d already figured out how to put a pen to paper when I need an emotional release. Part of my journey is reclaiming this inner knowing that my younger self inherently had and was stripped of. I’m sure some of you can relate.
My daily cycle was the same: my parents would say I was “acting out,” I would receive some type of reprimand, get sent up to my room crying, and then I would take out my diary and record what had just happened downstairs with the family. And after recording the account, I would process how I was feeling.
Writing became the way I made myself seen, even if it was just to me.
These stories were written in real time. They were accurate. I now had actual recordings (from myself!) about who I was and what my life was like at that time: tumultuous.
So much turmoil emotionally, sprinkled with memories of fun vacations and other things kids get excited about, like boys and gel pens.
These emotionally charged stories that often led to heartache weren’t sporadic either. It was almost every single day to the point that I would purposely go months (sometimes a whole year) without writing, and then I would come back and say I didn’t want to write what was going on because I didn’t want to remember it in the future.
As I flipped through page after page of my own handwriting, it became clear that the things I was struggling with and fought through as a child had directly correlated to tendencies and patterns that were happening right now—in present time, as an adult. Every sadness or concern I had as a young girl had now parallel projected itself to the present as the same story in a grown-up costume.
It’s hard for me, even now, to break down the reasons why or how this happened. This is what I’m learning more about every day. And I’m learning it largely has to do with unresolved generational trauma. This trauma was passed down to me from my family without anyone noticing or doing it on purpose.
The more I heal, the more I realize the events in my childhood had nothing to do with me. Even little to do with my parents.
Every generation before me that didn’t heal from this trauma or notice its continuation led to other areas of my life going unnoticed. Like, if someone had noticed that my “acting out” was a sign of unutilized brilliance rather than a reason for reprimand, the trajectory of my life might have looked a whole lot different.
I am grateful to my ancestors for bringing me this far in my soul’s journey. And, I am grateful to myself for finally waking up and saying now—now is the time for change.
As I continue writing, I will share these stories with you, one by one, and you are welcome to join me on this journey of reclamation.
I will be learning—alongside you—what I felt and experienced as a child, and I believe this will reveal what children in general are capable of knowing and feeling.
If any part of my story resonates with you, reminds you of your childhood, or even just begs you to take a second look at yours, I see you. And, I am sending you love.
This is me. Healing, in public.