By Jennifer Noble
For my entire lifetime I carried this burden that I was guilty. I believed it was my fault I was sexually abused, physically abused, emotionally abused and raped.
I wasn’t good enough.
I was inadequate.
I did not deserve to make decisions about my body.
My control was taken away from me because I was worthless and did not deserve to exist.
This led to a life threatening eating disorder, debilitating anxiety, major depressive disorder, self-harm and numerous suicide attempts.
I found recovery and years later I began to heal.
I began a yoga practice which started to work through what psychotherapy could not. I began to release emotions from my physical body and started to heal on a cellular level.
This journey began years ago. At times it felt authentic and at others, inauthentic. I caught myself feeling blocked from time to time and did not know why.
Thanks to divine intervention, the Universe placed me in the right place at the right time in April 2017. I had a four day weekend from work and decided to go to Kripalu. Upon arrival, I realized Jen Pastiloff’s On Being Human workshop was being held that weekend. Jen was one of my teacher’s teachers and I had been following her on social medial for years. I always wanted to go to her workshops but was never able to. Sure enough, I was there the same exact weekend that Jen was leading a workshop. I couldn’t help but take this as a sign from the Universe.
At the start of the workshop I observed some frequent flyers joking about getting tissues because we would all end up crying. I instantly went to my belief that I was the exception to the rule. I never cried in public, I did not know how to be vulnerable around others; even when I tried to throughout the years I spent in therapy, I could not take off my armor. MUCH to my surprise, an hour into the second day and I was bawling my eyes out.
One of the first exercises of Jen’s workshops is to write down your bullshit stories. These are the stories I realized I had been telling myself:
“I am too fucked up” (this is an automatic thought and core belief I’ve held for years).
“I don’t know how to have a healthy romantic relationship because of my sexual trauma by my brother and rape by my first boyfriend.”
“I can’t allow myself to truly be seen with all of these fuck ups.”
I recognized these were the things holding me back from healing but then I asked “Now, what?”
How do I change these stories that have been playing in my head as long as I could remember?
In Jen’s class I rewrote my stories to “I am human, I have flaws. It’s okay to talk about what’s happened to me. It wasn’t my fault even though my head thinks it was. I can feel these emotions and express them-I’m not going to die by doing so. I am whole.”
This was revolutionary. I had finally given myself permission to feel the emotions I’ve tried to suffocate for so long. I was able to tell part of my story on a microphone in a room of 40 radiant women. I cried and shed the armor I had worn for years.
I brought this new found information with me back to counseling. I tried to continue with this by using the CBT technique of reframing my thinking. I am in school for mental health counseling and at the time I was learning how to use CBT so it was perfect timing. After some time, I found simply replacing “I am too fucked up” to a healthier mantra “I am whole” did not resonate.
I was at a loss. I did not know how to overcome this. I continued to step onto my yoga mat, to use “I am whole” as a daily intention hoping it would magically work after some time and continued my search for healing.
After I was able to give myself permission to feel my feelings, I took the next step and found a therapist who specialized in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, EMDR, to begin reprocessing my traumas. This was something I knew I needed to do for years but fear held me back. Jen helped me shed my amour for the first time in my life and I knew that bringing up the past did not have any power over me unless I allowed it to. I was ready, terrified, but ready. This technique, EMDR, has helped rewire neural connections to the point that I don’t get triggered from things that were once debilitating. I still have the memories but they are not as emotionally charged. (Disclaimer: I am still doing EMDR, it is a work in progress and extraordinarily powerful.)
A few months after Jen’s workshop and a few months into EMDR, I was taking a Self Exploration class in grad school. This class was an elective that I knew would benefit me yet intimidated me to the point I actually physically got sick over my anxiety. I had spent my entire life hiding my emotions and inner demons from others. Now I was voluntarily integrating my inner demons into my professional life? To make matters worse, I had two leadership positions within the department so everyone in the department knew who I was. I was no longer at a magical retreat center in the Berkshires with my tribe hugging one another and doing singing vinyasas; I was at school, the foundation to my career as a counselor. I couldn’t bear to have my professors and classmates (my future colleagues) also knowing how fucked up I was. But….I breathed through it, and cried through it and trusted the process.
One of our assignments was to bring a song in that we felt attached to. We did not need to know the reason behind the attachment but we had to bring a song in.
I chose the song Small by Amanda Falk.
The lyrics are as follows…
I just need to get away from me
I just need to find some peace of mind
Caught in this game of unmet expectations
I wanna leave it all behind
I wanna be small
I wanna be just like a child
I wanna be quiet in your arms
So in the moment when I lose myself
Let the world fade away from me
Give me a moment just to see the silence
I just wanna be set free
This song is a song that resonated so deeply with me during the years of my major depressive episode. I wanted nothing more than to get an escape from myself, to go back to childhood and prevent my brother from ever touching me (even though I was too young to remember when it started), to find better hiding spots so my mother wouldn’t hit me, to go back to that night with my first boyfriend and protect myself…
When I was playing the song for my classmates I thought I was going to vomit on my yoga mat. A classmate told me she looked over and could see my pulse in my neck. The anxiety was crippling and I did not think I would make it through the song without running out of the room in a full anxiety attack. I kept reminding myself it was okay to feel, okay to let others in and okay to cry. After all, I am going to school for mental health counseling and my professor is a licensed psychologist…
After the song was over, I took some deep breaths and began to externalize what it meant for me. I was shaking and crying while I told my classmates that I had depression with self-harm and suicide attempts. I was able to say “childhood trauma” but could not go into anything more.
My professor capitalized on the word “small” which I translated to “child”. Other classmates also mentioned childhood and she asked why we were all drawn to children. We collectively recognized that we tend to believe children are innocent.
She looked at me and asked:
“What’s the opposite of innocent?”
“Are you innocent?”
(I couldn’t answer because I did not believe I was)
“If I were to put you on trial right now, life-or-death, are you innocent or guilty?”
That was the most powerful conversation I have ever had in my entire life. I instantly felt a sense of ease, physical and emotional, and was able to breathe again. For the first time in my life I truly believed I was innocent.
I began to learn A + B + C does not equal D. I can let go of the past, it does not have to be my identity. I can choose who I want to be. It’s scary because it doesn’t have roots. It can be that easy AND that hard.
My professor also taught me we can be fucked up and professional, in fact, we all. I used to believe I was “more fucked up” than anyone else. Jen Pastiloff taught me that I was not that special!
Fast-forward a few months and I am at another one of Jen’s magical workshops. It was October 2017 in NYC and I had already had the foundation of her 3 day workshop in April at Kripalu and my Self Exploration class a few months earlier under my belt. I felt ready to take it all in and see the magic unfold.
Shortly into the workshop we began writing down out bullshit stories and I realized I had the same one: “I am too fucked up.”
I just did all this intense transformational work and realized I was innocent. I don’t get it!
I was both surprised and disheartened.
I rewrote this bullshit story into “I have the power to change my story.”
The previous story “I’m too fucked up” had been repeated in my head for years. I realized it came up because that is my brain’s default. Then I realized something was different; for the first time in my life I didn’t believe it.
I lunge-kicked it (literally, this is what we do in Jen’s workshops) and set the intention to abolish it from my mind.
I realized then that it was time to “manifest magnificence.”
I needed to put in the work. I had experienced these revelations but I did not apply what I had learned. I continued working on this in therapy and constantly came back to my life-or-death trial.
It is now January and I can honestly say the last time that thought came up was at the workshop in October.
Will I still have the thoughts of “I am too fucked up” in the future? Probably, I am human. I can now remind myself “Don’t be an asshole!” (one of Jen’s favorite mantras) and get out of that space so that I do need give it any more energy than I already have.
In reflecting on 2017 I recognized it was my year of Radical Transformation, the year I realized I am innocent.
2018 is my year of Love: Self-Love, Radiating from a place of Love, Finding Love for Another.
I feel lighter and freer. My soul knows the right path and I am trusting it to guide me.
It’s the start of a new year and my heart has never felt so full and so light at the same time.
“When I get to the end of my life and I ask one final ‘What have I do?’ Let my answer be ‘I Have Done Love.’” – Jennifer Pastiloff
Jennifer Noble is a fur mommy, grad student, future mental health counselor, vegetarian living, yoga doing, treehouse camping, wine drinking, magic making, student of life. She hopes to combine her personal experiences and education to help others find not only recovery but also healing. She aspires to live with her furbaby in a treehouse overlooking a vineyard and drive a convertible punch buggy.
On Being Human
Join Jen in Western Massachusetts at Kripalu
March 2 @ 7:30 pm – March 4 @ 11:00 am
For women and non-gender conforming humans.
Get ready to become more free as you tell the truth about who you are and listen fiercely to others doing the same. Get ready to create what it is you truly want for yourself. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was?
Go beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty.