Adverse Childhood Experiences and the path towards healing. You are not alone.
I share my trials, my victories, and my stories with you in hopes that if any of you were ever touched by childhood abuse or neglect, as I was, you will see yourselves in my experiences and feel strengthened to voice what you had not been able to before. I hope we can learn together why we respond to life through a particular lens, and that there are ways to climb out of this prison of pain, silence, and shame.
My name is Bess Hilpert

Original Goodness

Social Media, Depression, and Self-Compassion…

This is hard for me to admit, but after releasing last week’s newsletter I became very depressed. The feelings of failure began to seep in as I pressed the “Publish” button. I fell prey to the snares of social media watching the number of likes equal zero. I seriously questioned whether I should just stop writing, posting, researching, and sharing. If I was not making a difference, what was the point?

As I found myself slumped in my creaky office chair pondering life without “finding I,” I found it hard to breathe, let alone think clearly. I became trapped inside the merry-go-round of voices, convinced I was a failure. Convinced my motives had been selfish. Convinced I was not touching anyone out there. And so again, I asked the question, what is the point?

Embarrassed and sad, I found my hobbled husband buried within ice machines, pillows, and blankets, and admitted my sense of failure. He very quietly and gently suggested I pray. I pray fervently to God to bring me a sign. If God directed me to write finding I, ask God to give me some encouraging sign that He wants me to keep going.

The writing of finding I began in 2019 following a difficult and challenging shoulder surgery. Alone with my thoughts, the stillness of the early morning hours, and the sweltering Texas heat, God repeatedly called me to share my story, as the only sound waking the new day were my feet on the concrete pavement. I was being asked to be brave, bare my pain, and find my lost soul.

As usual, when a deep depression takes over my body, mind, and spirit, paralysis set in. The only thing I wanted to do was to lie down with the covers over me and shut the world and my head out. The creaking of my office chair, however, urged me to get up, and get outside. Throwing my old sneakers on, I left through the garage and gathered the hose to water the Texas heat-parched azaleas that grace our front yard.

My husband planted the azaleas after eradicating the front flower beds of the spiked aloe plants that once would cut your leg every time you approached our front stoop. Interestingly, while they are all “Encore Azalea bushes,” each azalea bush is different. One is bushy and green. One is small and low to the ground. One has few leaves but is flowering. One is dead and bare. One is tall. One outshines them all.

As I poured the much-needed water on each one, I realized I was feeding their spirit. I could splash the water over their leaves, but it was the hidden root that was parched. It was the hidden root that needed the life affirming water. And it was the hidden root that I was pouring love and care into.

It did not matter how different or unique each bush was on the outside, it was the root that needed the tender attention.

It took me three years to write finding I. It took me a near-lifetime to find the “I” I lost with each hit, verbal denigration, inappropriate touch, and times of sheer neglect. But this “I” was the same as the root I was watering. I am more than the wounds of my past. I am more than my brokenness. And so are you. And so are you!

We all need the life-giving force of water to refill our empty tanks. We need compassionate nourishment to feed our spirits. Our souls. For it is our soul’s spirit that keeps us moving. It is our beautiful soul’s spirit that never was broken; that never was stolen.

It is said that when we activate our care system it soothes our panic and grief system. I was caring for the azaleas and in turn the azaleas were reminding me to care for me. Caring soothes our fears. Compassionate presence is medicine to our body’s systems, and it truly was wrapping me in its arms as I, in quiet contemplation, watered the souls of the azaleas. Or was I watering my soul?

When we learn to be self-compassionate with our deep self, we turn on the restorative function of our nervous system. Our internal physiology changes to healing mode when we experience self-compassion.

Father Thomas Keating said that “discernment is the process of letting go of what we are not.” I am not the fat bush or the skinny bush or the flowering bush. I am the root (apologies to Guardians of the Galaxy). I am the spirit hidden deep inside that has never been wounded. I am only goodness. “Original goodness” as Father Richard Rohr would say.

Mark Nepo says “It is so easy to define ourselves by the moment of struggle we are wrestling with.” This sense of unworthiness, failure, and what-is-the-point depression was what I was wrestling with and how I was defining myself. I was allowing the emotions to consume me.

But as I watered the azaleas and prayed fervently for God to show me a sign, I was brought forward into this moment. And in this moment my soul was tickled and reminded of who “I” am.

With great gratitude, I put down the measuring stick of “likes.” With great gratitude, I was smothered in love by the texts, emails, and kind words you sent me. With great gratitude, an angel appeared in my life to hold my hand guiding me down this road of writing, publishing, marketing, etc., that will offer healing tools for any one ever touched by Adverse Childhood Experiences.

With gratitude, I turned the water off, rolled up the hose, blessed the bushes, and sat down to my computer and kept going. Let us keep going together.

I want to leave you with these thought-provoking words from Mark Nepo: “The many ways we suffer, both inwardly and outwardly, are the chisels of God freeing the thing of beauty that we have carried within since birth.”

Let us be reminded of our “original goodness” and add this to our ever-expanding toolbox.

Until next time, friends.

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