My Dementor: Shame and Self Doubt

Today I gave a presentation for a Lunch and Learn at a major corporation here in Saint Louis. This is my sixth Lunch and Learn with them. I always have good attendance, great feedback and they actually pay me to speak.

And yet this morning as I over-prepared, I literally made myself sick with anxiety and self doubt.

Because, today I spoke on Wholehearted Parenting.

And, I am not a parent.

And, I was scared shitless.

A few days ago my shame consumed me as the presentation got closer; "I am not a parent and I am speaking on parenting". I remind myself that this is also major public information now.

The self doubt settling over me like a thick fog casting fear inside my very core.

Shame.

Fucking shame.

Like the dementor to my light, stealing my voice, sucking away my soul, leaving my heart empty.

I reached out to my friend,Janine, who organizes the talks and she of course gave me an amazing pep talk. And then last night my friend and colleague reminded me that I am actually a parent. Kelly's words will forever and always mean the world to me. She said that I parent as much as she does, just in different ways; I parent my dogs and I parent all of the children in my life and that most of all I parent my clients. In many ways therapy is like parenting or even re-parenting with clients. She parents her two boys, but my audience of children is simply bigger as this is my purpose, and my path.

I cried and took in her words because I knew they were my truth. I drew in a deep knowing breath and thanked her for reminding me of my light. She reminded me of what I know every day in many ways, I wasn't given the chance or blessing of my own children because I am meant for this greatness of working with clients, writing and helping others. It's neither better nor worse or more or less important, it's just different.

 
 

So, this morning before I walked into that board room I wrote myself a permission slip, just like we ask ourselves and clients to do as they work through The Daring Way™ curriculum. I wrote myself my permission slip and set it right beside my notes.

I have permission to be scared. I have permission to not be parent enough. I have permission to know, and own, that I know what I am talking about and that I can help even though I am not a parent in the traditional sense.

And so I spoke. And I was painfully vulnerable in owning to them that I am not a parent but that I was there to teach them about wholehearted parenting. I called out my own imposter syndrome, and let them in to my world: I don't get to be a parent but I can still help you be a better one I think.

I also stated that I am the right person to do that because, one, I actually have the time to read the research and parenting books because I wasn't able to be a mom. And two, I parent every single day, just not my own children (and according to Kelly this probably means my house is cleaner, I am more well rested and I have more sex).

I was real, I was vulnerable and I allowed my brilliant light to outshine my shame. And because I fought for that bravery, I connected and delivered one of my best lectures. And I have no doubt that there will be some families this weekend with some new language and new ways to love and parent because of that hour we spent together today.

Doing the work of recovery and learning shame resilience doesn't mean we won't experience shame. It simply means that we will be able to better cope with it when it does come in.

Shame is my dementor. And it has been very ominous this week, floating over me threatening to take my spirit with this parenting presentation and with more activity from agents and publishers on Ever Upward, the book. But that self doubt has been further shattered today by the success of my last post. A post that I struggled with so much to write and didn't think was my best work; damn art of letting go. And yet, it has been viewed over 450 times in two days, breaking my record of daily views today alone.

I almost let shame and self doubt stop me from writing that post earlier this week, I almost let it steal my light this whole week, and especially today.

It was only through courage, compassion and connection  that ever upward prevailed.

What do you need to give yourself permission to do, say or feel in the crazy journey of life or in your recovery? How can you practice courage, compassion and connection to remind yourself of your ever upward light? 

**This prompt later linked with the WordPress Daily Prompt: The Great PretenderAre you full of confidence or have you ever suffered from Imposter Syndrome? Tell us all about it.**

My First Step Out of Rock Bottom to Start My Walk on the Moon

This post inspired by the WordPress Daily Prompt: Walking on the MoonWhat giant step did you take where you hoped your leg wouldn’t break? Was it worth it, were you successful in walking on the moon, or did your leg break? We had already made the impossible decision of stopping IVF treatments without having had become parents and knew that adoption was not for us.

Surely, this was it, the worst it could get.

I had already survived two back surgeries, one year in a body cast, depression, two rounds of failed IVF with a gestational surrogate, three lost babies, depression, anxiety, anger.

But that is the important part, I had only survived up until that point. And then I was pushed to the edge of doubt and question, the edge of even worse; we had to the make the even more impossible decision to let go of our first furry child, Maddie.

And there I found myself, off that edge in my rock bottom.

Dark.

Pain.

Nothing.

Anger.

 
 

I can't say for sure what was the one catalyst for me to take the first giant, and most difficult, step out of rock bottom. That first step of my own walk on the moon. The first step that was the beginning of the last year and a half of my life in recovery.

I know it was a combination of finding the work of Brené Brown and learning how to own all the parts of my story with bravery in order to live my now wholehearted life.

I know it was the decision to change my lifestyle by changing my food and exercise and getting off medication and starting yoga, meditation and self-compassion.

Above all, I know it was my choice.

My choice to no longer be the victim to my past, to my traumas, to my losses. To no longer just survive and choose to thrive.

My daily, sometimes minute by minute choice, to choose to thrive these survivals. To place these amazing and haunting hurts into my life puzzle making them the beautiful tapestry of my life thus far, and therefore just part of my epic story.

My every step on my moon. My walk that continues with many lights of my own ever upward.

Starting to write.

Owning my story and publishing the blog.

Improving my relationships.

Finding my childfulllife.

Investing in my career, and therefore myself.

Reawakening my marriage after the traumas and losses of IVF.

Fighting for my faith and finally finding a church where I belong.

To wake up and stand up.

And considering it all pure joy.

My walk on the moon started at my rock bottom with a damn near impossible, but completely necessary choice.

The choice, my choice, of the first step of my walk, for myself, my recovery, my happiness, my ever upward.

The Almost Finished, Yet Unpublished, Ever Upward

EVER UPWARD: Owning My Childfree Life in Our Child Obsessed World

by Justine Brooks Froelker, LPC

“Why don’t you just adopt?”

The ever present, innocent, and well meaning question everyone asks when they learn of my motherhood status and how I got here. Yet, to those of us 1 in 8 couples who undergo infertility treatments, this question does not feel at all innocent or well meaning. It not only feels invalidating to the battle we’ve just been through, but it minimizes the difficulty and pain involved in the adoption process.

Ever Upward is a surprising story of triumph over terrible luck. As a professional therapist and survivor, really thriver, of the infertility journey, this is the story of how I have redefined my childless life into a full and happy childfree life. Ever Upward fills the current gap on the infertility bookshelf. It is also the voice for those who have been silenced by the battle of infertility. Ever Upward is my story. The story of how I learned to be okay, whole and happy, even when life just didn’t turn out how I had hoped. Ever Upward is also a story that resonates with that of many; a story of pain, triumph and acceptance. Finally, Ever Upward opens the conversation to the other side of infertility, the side asking for understanding and acceptance of the path that sadly doesn’t include children.

Ever Upward is Justine’s story, and yet it is every woman’s story; mother or not, because behind the wall of silence, shame, the smile, and the ‘I can do everything’ attitude lies millions of women suffering in silence with the pain of infertility. And yet our connection to our stories is the only way back to the truth of who we are, to own ourselves again.

Today's post is inspired by the Wordpress Daily Prompt: Write the blurb for the book jacket of the book you’d write, if only you had the time and inclination.

* Ever Upward: Owning My Childfree Life in Our Child Obsessed World will be published with Morgan James Publishing in the Fall of 2014.*