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May 16, 2020

You have to grow together so you don’t grow apart.2

19 years ago today, I married this tall hunk of burning love. I had a white wooden lacy stool made so that I could climb up to kiss him. We had a big wedding because for me it felt like somehow in spite of everything I lived through this called for a party. I didn’t think I would get married, in fact I was just about ready to sign up for the Peace Corps when I met Greg.
Anyone who knows me knows I would probably have lasted a day. I don’t camp or rough it well.
Greg was my Math tutor. I kept getting a C- out of my logic games math class and I needed a C to graduate. We ordered the teachers addition, didn’t get much math done but I got a husband out of the deal. He claims I flashed him my boob at the lake, and I think he’s making that story up.
There are so many things I didn’t know then that I know now. I didn’t know how much we would have to grow together to not grow apart. I didn’t know that moving overseas, living in other countries would be the best thing we ever did for our marriage and the bond that we share.
I didn’t know that out of the billions of people in China that every single one of them would want their photo with Greg and yell, 2 meters in Mandarin while running to get their photo with him, using our camera. Lol.
I didn’t know we would move to 3 different countries, move houses 13 times in 19 years, have two beautiful twin boys and 3 pugs. I didn’t know that change would be the one constant that we counted on, and craved. I didn’t know that all of these places would find a way to my heart, but the person who would break down the giant walls I built around my heart was Greg.
So often I tried to push him away testing his love for me because most everyone I loved died or went away. Trusting that love could be real for me felt like a distant rainbow that was meant for someone else to slide down. I remember in my 30’s thinking life was supposed to be smooth you get the house with the white picket fence and you live happily ever after. That isn’t quite how it happened for us. We get the Lanna style house in Thailand that was so infested with Tokay lizards, snakes and rats that were bigger than our pug Fred. The infestation was so bad that it sent the exterminator running when he peeked in the attic he refused the job. We don’t do things traditionally, but for us it’s better that way. Things aren’t perfect and our move back to the states has been challenging to say the least. But each and every day I thank the universe for you Greg and the journey we are on. I know that each and every day is a gift and I know I am so much better with you by my side doing life our way. Happy Anniversary Greg Schellenberg, choosing you was the best decision I have ever made. I love you, happy Anniversary!

Angela True

July 31, 2018

You have to grow together so you don’t grow apart.

19 years ago today, I married this tall hunk of burning love. I had a white wooden lacy stool made so that I could climb up to kiss him. We had a big wedding because for me it felt like somehow in spite of everything I lived through this called for a party. I didn’t think I would get married, in fact I was just about ready to sign up for the Peace Corps when I met Greg.

June 11, 2018

You know what is wrong with you, focus on your strengths…

I spent many years in Therapy focusing on my issues and problems.  I realize now how necessary it was for me to deeply understand my issues.  I went to therapy every two weeks faithfully in my 20’s and 30’s.  I had a ton of childhood trauma, mental illness, gun violence, religion and so much more.  What I know is that we can’t measure pain.  There are so many of us that suffer and after living and traveling all over the world I have gained a better understanding that suffering is universal.  There is not way to avoid it and yes there is always someone that has it worse than you.  However this does not take away or discount your pain.

As we age and move into new decades and seasons in our lives we experience a new wave of grief about our past.  Often we are surprised by this because when you have done so much work you think to yourself, I did the work why do I still feel sad?  Grief and loss and pain are not linear, they don’t run in a straight line.  Often times we need to go back and grief our losses from the adult age we are now especially when one suffers childhood trauma.  We have to constantly retrain our brains that missed out on so many development stages

Recently I have been helping clients focus on a second narrative and I love this work.  Every single last one of us knows what our issues are.  We know if we eat too much, or we are too controlling or we have difficultly with relationships.  We know this.  Often times in the middle of thinking about what is wrong with us we forget to focus on our strengths.  To get help for something is a sign of resilience.  To talk about deep issues and question and forgive ourselves and others.  this stirring up of emotions is not for people who are not resilient because that stuff takes so much work and bravery.  To dive into stuff that is so painful and figure it out, reprogram it and realize that you are not what happened to you is like climbing an enormous mountain.  The thing is when we do this the air seems to get clearer.  We are practicing good self care.  There are many people that go through trauma or grief or loss and they don’t make it.  For what ever reason the pain is too great and they self destruct.  We see this every day and when you have been there you know this feeling.

Focusing on your strengths that you gained from the darkest thing you traveled with helps create a second narrative of your life story.  I often start by having my clients name some of their best qualities.  It’s very hard for them to do.  We go through and talk about what it would look like if we created a new story line that showed all the resiliencies, skills and strengths they gained from traveling thought these dark spaces and times in their lives.  I have found over and over again that this exercise helps so much with healing.  Instead of focusing on what your problems are when you shift that and also see the story line of the strengths you gained it is so helpful to hold these two truths in one hand.  So the next time you start getting down on yourself for all the things you are not.  That negative voice in your head that can often be the loudest stop yourself and think about the strengths you gained from these dark times.  This simple little shift in your thinking can help you heal the narrative of you being in the middle of the story of suffering.  It’s so much easier said then done.  If you find yourself stuck in a place of sadness and depression get help, call a counselor.  If you are having dark thought please call the National Suicide Hotline and reach out to somebody.  You are not alone.  If you find yourself wanting to explore your second narrative I would love to offer you a 20 min free consult to discuss your unique story. Every day I am working with clients and together we are finding that second narrative and focusing on their resilience together.  One thing I know is true is so often you can’t have one without the other.  What resilience and strengths have you gained from the darkest day of your life?  Write them down, make a list, book an appointment.  Self care.

Focus on Your Strengths,

You are worth it!


Angela True

May 1, 2018

How Dealing With Childhood Trauma Is Like Jars On A Shelf

When my mother finally died I was 22. I say finally because the threat of her death was constant from the time I was 11 until she died when I was 22. Every 6 months or so she would get meningitis, the doctors thought she was a carrier.
We would take her up to The University of Washington and they would give her a spinal tap. I held her hand tightly as she endured this pain.
The nurses packed her in a giant horse trough full of ice to bring her temperature down.
This happened many times after my father was gunned down.
After her death I felt such tremendous guilt that I wasn’t around as much as I should be. That I wasn’t a good enough daughter, I was too selfish, I didn’t do enough and at the same time I felt relief that she wasnt in pain.
I was coming of age, wanting to be with my friends, working, going to school and always going faster then my angel could fly.
I have learned over the years that our psyche can only take so much. I think of it like giant jars on a shelf. Filled full of all of our stuff. We all have these jars.
For me they were filled full of trauma. Gun violence, religious trauma, mental illness trauma, Grief, Loss, murder trials.
Some jars were so big it felt like if I opened them they would fall on the floor into a million little pieces and take me with them.
I remember that feeling after she died, I didn’t know where my mother ended and I began, I had cared from the time I turned 11.
A web of caring for her, guilt, fear, love, anger, frustration, longing for her to come back and relieved that she was no longer in pain.
I remember my theripist had me visualize these jars often. We would take a jar off of the giant shelf and open the lid just a little. I would process the jars contents and picture myself putting it back in the jar, tightening the lid.
It was such a great visual.
I share this because so often children of childhood trauma have a hard time forgiving ourselves, we struggle with self love, we struggle to regulate our emotions. We were so busy reading the room and deciding if it was safe enough, or reading the people in our lives and becoming a chameleon to fit in with the people who were caring for us.
As mother’s day approaches I think of those jars. For so long I have thought that I dealt with all my jars, and I arranged them so nicely on my shelf.
I thought I did all the work. The truth is I did and have done a shitload of work.
I have recently learned in my therapy program that I have to keep checking those jars because I look at them different at 45, then I did at 22.
So I get them out again and discover that this is all part of the process. Some people will ask, Why would you do this?
I guess I would ask back, “why would you not?”.
I know enough now to know if we don’t keep brushing our teeth the tarter comes back.
The same goes for tending to those jars. We can stuff them in the back, empty them, arrange them and sometimes avoid them but they are there. As humans what we don’t deal with comes out in other ways and it’s usually addiction or unhealthy ways.
We all know this.
What I know today is doing the work, it isn’t easy but somehow it feels so much better.
How are you taking care of the jars on your shelf? I would love to hear please share below.

April 25, 2018

The Long tail of Grief…

It dawned on our family that today would of been Fred our pugs 17th birthday, it’s been a year since he passed.  On our family walk tonight I wondered if there were a doggy heaven. Or if dogs go to real heaven? Then we decided to make up our own heaven, Fred sitting with my husbands dad who he loved so much.  We pictured him going back and forth bringing joy to the people who we love who are no longer living. I envisioned lots of long grass, sunny days and everyone in good health. 
I thought about my mother. Frozen at 47 the age she was when she died.
I turn 47 this year and its often so sureal.
Sometimes I think we have grief and loss all wrong.  
I have felt this most of my life after losing my parents early.  My father gunned down when I was 16 and my mother 6 years later.
I thought that once you lost someone you love that you grieve and then you move on. Like a formula, and I felt tremendous pressure from others to follow this linear process as well. 
Something in my gut always knew this formula wasn’t true.
Grief has different stages and they don’t come in order or a straight line.
 I learned about the term “the longtail of grief from Hope Edelman and Claire Bidwell Smith at the early loss Motherless Daughter and Parentless Parent retreat I attended in January at 1440 Multiversity
Through different stages of our lives we grieve again. Perhaps we are older, or our children are the same age we were when our mothers died.
A birthday, an anniversary, a smell, a photo, a song or some small thing that suddenly brings that grief front and center.
I am allowing myself to grieve the loss of my Mother as I approach the age she was when she died.
I make an appointment with my grief in my counselors office. Sometimes I just allow myself time to cry.
This is odd and new to me. I didn’t expect it to be so necessary but I am finding it so cathartic. As Mom’s and women we are always taking care of everyone else.
I have unpacked so much Mother stuff that I thought I was done.
This is when I truly understood the meaning of the longtail of grief.
It’s necessary to grieve the different stages of motherloss even long after our mothers are gone.
It’s like holding up two giant boxes in each hand. One filled with gratitude for this life I get to live.  I have so many experiences outside of my grief that are rich with life, sunsets, beaches, service, advocacy and love. 
The other box filled with so much early loss.  Grief, sadness, PTSD, the missing part.  So many moments lost and dreams shattered. 
Holding both of these boxes, one in each hand and knowing that it’s ok to go back and forth between the two.
Most days I spend in the gratitude box.
Lately I have been realizing how important it is to not deny the loss box.
Accepting them both as equals the longtail of grief.
If I didn’t have one I am not sure how much I would fully appreciate the other.
Feeling thankful for the Longtail of grief.
How has the longtail of grief showed up in your life?  Please share below.  
Angela True
April 18, 2018

Lesson From A Little Red Stroller

I have been holding on to Fred’s ( our pug) stroller for over a year since he died. It still has his old grey hairs stuck in the black fur cushion that he laid on for his final walks in Seattle.
I posted it on Facebook Marketplace. Lots of people responded.
My son freaked out when he found out I was selling it.
“No it’s the last thing that we have of Freddy,” we both teared up.
I picked up the soft black cushion and held it up to my nose. I wrapped my arms around it for one last time. A smell so familiar I could almost feel his sweet presence.
My soft cushion around my heart tightened like it does when I think about loss.
The lady messaged me back and she said she was really looking forward to getting this stroller for her dog. He was attacked by a pitbull in front of her child’s school. Cost her $6000 dollars and her dog lost most of it’s organs and still lived. She explained that she has PTSD herself and this was so traumatizing that she hasn’t been out for a walk. Her dog is 10, she asked if the stroller zipped up.
I read this out loud to my son and our hearts about exploded with sadness and empathy and a deeper kind of knowing. A universal feeling that Fred had something to do with this. He brought so much joy to us for 15 years. He would want more than anything for this little dog to feel saftey in his little red stroller.
We all teared up, smiled and wrote the lady back to say we would be happy for her to have this stroller.
It’s so hard to let go of the things we love.
Sometimes they show us how to let go of them in other ways.
If you have been there you know this. So today were passing on a little red stroller and a piece of our heart. Freddy would be so happy. So are we.
Loss has a way of letting us know it’s ok.
March 16, 2018

Helpful tips for people struggling with PTSD after gun violence.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not just for Veterans and people in the military. Many are surprised to learn this.

What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder occurs after someone has been through a shocking and dangerous event. These events can include battle, sexual abuse, gun violence, neglect or any traumatic event,’ PTSD can happen to anyone.

However, military men and women are at greater risk for PTSD. Gun violence trauma and survival has become more prevalent in the United States and survivors struggle with PTSD as well.

Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD include:
Fight, Flight and Freeze this is what the process can feel like.
-Recurring nightmare of the traumatic event
-Loss of interest
-Anger or feeling irritated
-Feeling emotionally cut off from others alone and isolation
-Being always on guard
-Having trouble concentrating or staying focused
-Being easily startled heightened sense of safety
-Having a difficult time regulating your emotions.
These symptoms may not show up for months or years after the actual event occurred. The symptoms can come and go. If symptoms keep happening over time, and disrupt your daily life, then you may have PTSD.

Disruptions can include:
Avoiding places or things that remind you of what happened there have actually been studies that show a 5 mile radius around the trauma can trigger survivors.
Turning to alcohol or drugs to cope with the trauma as humans we tend to numb what we can’t control
Thoughts of self-harm or harming others, if you have this please reach out for help
Always have to keep busy and occupy your mind.
Isolation spending too much time alone.
Here’s the issue: People who suffer from PTSD may not be able (or willing) to recognize these symptoms and behaviors on their own. They may be aware of them, but are in denial.
That’s why it’s incredibly important for families, friends, and other support circles to be on the lookout for any sign of PTSD early on – the earlier PTSD is addressed, the more successful treatment can be.

Treatment for PTSD
The three main treatments for PTSD are:
Counseling-specifically with a trauma trained counselor, licensed
Psychologist- Trauma trained is suggested
Medication-This can come from your family doctor but better to work with someone that can monitor you. Specifically medication can be used to help with anxiety, not sleeping, depression, panic attacks.
EMDR- this is usually done with a licensed therapist and we recommend that you make sure you click with this person as you dive into your trauma it must be with someone you trust.

We asked people who struggle with PTSD what were some helpful suggestions and here is what they said. Some of these may apply to you while others may not. Sometimes we learn the most from people who have experienced living with PTSD and trauma. Please keep in mind these are just suggestions that have worked for other people. If you are having suicidal thoughts call 911 immediately or a suicide hotline. Reach out for help! You are not broken.
-Trauma Therapy
-See a Psycholigist
-Get Grounded in your physical body. Lay down on the floor and physically let your hands and back touch the ground.
-Breathe Try breathing through parts of your body starting from your toes and traveling up through your foot, ankle and focus on only your breathe going inhale and exhale. If you get side tracked bring your thoughts back to your breathe.
-Yoga with a trusted teacher who understand PTSD and Trauma
-Count to 10 forwards and backwards
-Exercise waling, running, swimming, what ever works
-Take a shower and let the water run on your face this helps with anxiety
-Try to self talk and tell yourself you are safe.
-Have a group of trusted friends you can tell you are triggered to so they can help talk you down.
-Listen to relaxing music
-Pet your dog
-put your hands in ice water or carry ice in your hand.
-Essential oils lavender, calm anything that helps you feel calm.
-create a save cozy environment
-purchase a weighted anxiety blanket

Therapy or counseling can help PTSD sufferers understand the reasons behind their thoughts and reactions, and can provide coping strategies to address these challenging situations and feelings.

Medications can also be used to reduce tension or irritability, as well as to improve sleep. Make sure you are being monitored by a doctor and always inform someone you love that you have started medication to watch for suicidal thoughts.
Take the next step and reach out for help.
Whether you or a loved one are suffering from PTSD, it’s never too late to get treatment. We strongly recommend that you consult with:
Your doctor: Ask if your doctor has experience treating Veterans or Survivors of Gun Violence or Trauma. You are not what happened to you. It doesn’t have to define you but you can not do this alone.
Sending so much love and remember the bottom list is just suggestions we always suggest seeing a licensed and trained trauma counselor and your doctor first.

If you are dealing with PTSD please get help asap. You do not have to do this alone.

Angela True

December 5, 2017

When Grief Shows Up During the Holidays, give it a chair.

Every Christmas for 15 years Fred’s favorite spot was under the tree. When this photo popped up on my Facebook Memory feed, I wanted to reach through the screen and hug this little man just one more time. He passed away almost one year ago.
That is the crazy thing about grief and loss. We never forget.
Especially around the holidays.
There is so much pressure to be Merry and joyful around the holidays.
Greif is an old friend to me.
It’s been a part of my life since I was 11. That is when my mother almost died the first time.
Then at 16, I watched the murder of my father unfold from the television in my living room, on the 5:00 news.
My father was shot once and then when he tried to run, his killer made him ly down and ended his life with a gun to his head.
Graphic, I know but this is gun violence and I don’t try to sugar coat it. I used to in fear I would traumatize people reading it but I am well over that now. Especially because 93 Americans are shot each day in the USA.
Six years later my mother died for real after 11 years of hospital visits and near death scares.
I never really grieved the loss of my parents until I was in my early twenties.
Boy did it hit me like a giant Mac Truck.
Grief has no warning or flashing lights, it just shows up with its heavy darkness, and it moves in fast, plants seeds in your space and stays there.
Sometimes it’s your living room, your bedroom but mostly it’s your mind. Greif feeds and grows like a garden swallowing up your tears and despair festering and burying it’s self-deep in your cells.
Changing your entire operating system and research is showing trauma can even change your DNA.
If you have been there you know this.
Maybe you are there now, and you thought you were over it.
You thought grief packed up its bags and moved out of your home.
You have been told over and over again that time heals grief.
For you, it may have been a while and your wondering why it still shows up?
Why you still feel sad?
Oh, the pressure to move on!
You think you’re doing ok, and then, wham, it’s back again.
Here is the thing about grief. It is not something you get over.
You don’t just feel it for a moment, it waxes and wanes like the moon. Comes in and out like the ocean tides. Floating around in your body.
A picture, memory, for me witnessing a mother and daughter share a moment. A commercial, your mother’s favorite recipe. A sound, smell, thought, memory. They don’t go away with time.
We carry those things around like tattoos.
Forever stamped in the blueprints of our lives.
What I know now after 30 years of living with grief is that I treat it like an old friend.
I recognize that it doesn’t always knock and there is no rhyme or reason when it comes.
It’s just there.
But now, I know. I pull up a chair. I give grief its moment. I don’t’ let it take root and plant gardens in my space anymore.
Instead, I give it a voice, I feed it a little with my tears and I listen.
Then I quietly show it to the door like an old friend.
I recognize that my old friend grief is a part of my life always.
But I get to chose how long it stays.
When I do this I take away the power grief once had over me.
I remember those dark moments I lived and survived.
I am reminded of how I crawled out.
How I started to smell the flowers again.
Those moments I started to recognize my own laugh again.
I was different after grief, how could I not be?
You will be different after grief visits you too.
You will feel deeper and wider than you ever thought was possible.
You will never take one ounce of your life for granted.
When someone you know loses people they love you will get it on a cellular level.
So this holiday season if you are grieving know that you are not alone.
That grief will never go away 100 percent.
That it will visit you often after your loss over and over again. Time doesn’t make it go away.
It needs to have the stage.
Pull up a chair and give it a voice.
Listen to it and feel it.
Let it be exacltly what it is.
An old friend, that stops by for a chat, a cry, a moment, a day sometimes even a week. It’s ok.
You are not alone.
Maybe just maybe it’s your loved ones way of letting you know they are there, with you, cheering you on and wanting nothing more than you to just be. Loving you through it.
Happy Holidays Friends.
You are not alone.

June 9, 2017

Surviving Your Darkest Days

This evening I went into the beauty supply house to get shampoo. My boys needed hair gel. I started talking about my middle school boys and the women and the counter said,”I had a twelve year old son, but he passed away”.
To some this would be an awkward moment but to people who have lost someone it’s more than that.
“What happened?” I ask.
He was playing with the gun in the locked cabinet and he shot himself. My husband found him.”.
“I am so sorry, you know they say that one can’t measure pain but I think you can in your case. There has to be nothing worse in the entire universe then losing your child.” I am so sorry. I can feel my eyes well up.
“I had a 10 year old daughter at the time so I had to go on”. she said.
“The PTSD and trauma this has caused all of you has got to be so difficult. Tell me about how you made it out? What did you do? Are you and your husband still together? How do you survive and crawl out when you get this kind of news?” I ask.
“For a long time I didn’t come out of my house because I was that Mom that lost her son. I couldn’t handle the grief. It was a dark time. However I had to get up, and keep going I had a daughter who needed me.
My husband and I are still together. The last thing my daughter needed was to lose a brother and to lose her parents.
I want to show you something. My husband just starting painting again. Its been 7 years.
She hands me her phone and shows me photos of her husbands paintings. “These are so beautiful, I wonder if he would of made something so beautiful if he hadn’t seen such darkness?” I ask.
No I don’t think so, she says.
I hope you have a show or do something with those paintings in your sons honor. You are a beautiful resilient person. Your story of survival will help so many. Do you write?” I ask.
I have journals and journals but I put them down.”
“I never thought I would be a writer but I had a story to tell like you but different. A story of losing my father to gun violence. My mother shortly after. My story ended up not being about what I lost but more about what I found. How I dug myself out of the darkest days of my life.
I hope you write, because imagine the lives of the mothers you will touch that have gone through something similar and have no road map. Your story matters.” I say.
The woman comes out from behind the counter, were both teared up. We hug each other tight.
His graduation would of been this week. I decided to take the day off. I stand with her in her pain holding space.
“Your a beautiful person”, I say. “So are you” she says.
I came home tonight pulled out my book and told myself come hell or high water I will finish this mother.
Distance and time away are so helpful. Moments like this when you know that your purpose is so much greater than you know. The world is connected in more ways than we know. Sometimes you find it in the most unexpected places. Buying hair gel for you boys.
#gunviolence #writing #stories #lifeafterloss #resilience #trauma #ptsd #healing #journaling #loving

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