Day 1. Really, Day Won.

It’s not a secret, I have kept a blog since I moved to New York in 2003 and written privately, in over 200 journals. I know writing is more therapy than anything, but it is still never an easy process.

In recent weeks and months, I have written a lot about my mental health and been reflective, wondering what lessons should be cultivated because of what I am learning about myself.

Lesson #1- Self-Evaluate

We can be our own worst critic and talk ourselves out of our purpose. I recognize what challenges us to grow can also cultivate our greatest successes.

We need to do more than consider the pros vs. cons. We need to evaluate our purpose, goals, action steps and results. We determine each and every step of our lives and we need to evaluate ourselves in such a way, that we can make progress no matter the process.

Lesson #2- Develop a Growth-Mindset

Self-doubt is my Achilles heel and I know that I need to work on my self-belief and confidence because I know I am capable of rising above mediocrity.

Self-doubt sows more self-doubt and suddenly a “maybe” becomes a “indefinitely maybe.” I don’t know why, but it is very easy to step back into old patterns of thinking and stop short of goals because I choose to wade in self-doubt. I need to make a list of the “cans” rather than the “coulda, woulda, shoulda’s.” Finally, and I mean FINALLY, I need to focus on the possibilities rather than improbabilities and lead with purpose.

Lesson #3 – Focus Forward

I am focusing forward. If I do fail, I can start again. I don’t have to be ashamed of failure as long as I learn the lesson forward.

Showing weakness gives me an opportunity to develop my strengths and step into my future.

We cannot step forward alone. I definitely have a circle and advisory board that helps me cope and rise above life’s challenges and setbacks.

Lesson #4- Speak Affirmations

Insecurity,  fear, self-doubt, toxic relationships, and negative self-talk is dangerous and impacts mental health, so we need to learn to change the narrative and change how we speak power, kindness, and affirmations into our lives and everyone around us.

Our mental health depends on us to speak up while silencing stigma.

Lesson #5 – Choose Solutions

I saved this lesson because real change requires more than seeking and being open to the idea of it. We have to be proactive and choose to live differently. In my life, this is  bigger than self-evaluation, developing a growth mindset, focusing forward and speaking affirmations. Yes, I needed all of those lessons but they were not enough by themselves. In the middle of my mental health journey, I decided to ask my doctor for help. We discussed my medical options to improve my mental health and for the first time, I chose an antidepressant.

This solution had been offered previously, but I refused it.  I had these messages that replaced my daily affirmations.

I thought if I took meds, I would be confirming that my past held me captive.

I didn’t want “them” to win or still have power over me.

My parents had already changed my life when I became a ward of the state. The changed my life and I didn’t want them to further influence my life.

I wanted to prove that I was okay on my own  and that “I had made it.” Taking meds would prove that I was still a hurt teenager.

Finally, I was afraid of the side effects and didn’t want to experience suicide ideation, so I avoided meds.

Avoiding medical help made me feel like I was a survivor but finally accepting it made me feel like a warrior, someone who has a real chance of winning my struggle with anxiety and depression.

So, here is to Day 1. Really, Day Won!

Reflection:

1.  Do you self-evaluate regularly? (Not constantly, just enough that  you know you are making progress on your purpose?)

2.  What are you doing daily, to develop a growth mindset? What prevents you from focusing on your “cans.” If you do not have a list of “cans” make one now.

3. Draw a circle. Who is in your circle? Write down the people who support you (in the valleys and mountiantops). If you don’t have anyone, start asking for help.

4.  What daily affirmation or mantra can you practice to help you cope and grow?

5. What solutions so you need to choose for yourself? What will you need to do to make change in your life?

Soul-Inspired Affirmation:

You can choose to break free but your decision requires you to change. You can do this but it is going to take effort. All change begins with one step. Are you finally ready?

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Kimberly C. Rhyan is a former foster youth and speaker/trainer/consultant who inspires/empowers foster parents, caseworkers, supporters, educators, and foster care youth/alumni to step into their future better prepared to facilitate/achieve foster youth’s successes. Please contact kimberly.c.rhyan@gmail.com in regard to booking your next event and/or consulting services.

My Mental Health Journey

“I live with anxiety and depression and try to do and be better every day.  Living with both makes me obsess and not care at the same moment, because it can feel like everything is crumbling around me and I want to fix it, but sometimes it feels like I don’t have hands to do anything at all.”

World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health. Need help? National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. 1-800-273-8255

Trigger warning: Molestation and sexual abuse.

My journey struggling with mental health began as a child. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in my 30’s but I had symptoms and signs throughout my life, noticeably as a teenager but very present during college.

Stressors and trauma began when I was just a baby. My parents divorced when I was a year old, when my mom entered tumultuous relationships; she did not keep me safe and I went into foster care. She eventually got me back with my siblings, but life didn’t get better. I grew up with abusive parents that were non-supportive and not present emotionally. I was constantly berated and tore down by my mother’s words. She would say that she wished I was never born. As a result, I never wanted to give hugs to kisses to any of my family. I don’t remember feeling safe or wanted.

All of these feelings flowed through my body by the fifth grade and that’s when the molestation and abuse began while my mother ignored and refused to take action against my step-father. I didn’t have a relationship with my biological father and when I asked to talk to him, my mother said I couldn’t because I didn’t even know him. This was not a normal childhood.

Entering foster care at age 14 was frightening and life-changing. I was glad that I was safe, but I really didn’t feel safe. I didn’t know if I was going to fit in or be wanted. I continually lived in fear that I would be rejected. These feelings still haunt me, even now, as I write these words.

I literally remember sleeping in my best friend’s backyard. I told my mom that I was spending the night, but really, they were not at home. I slept in the backyard all by myself and I don’t remember being afraid. I was numb and didn’t know how to ask for help. I also remember that I would mentally fade out as a kid. Especially when I was being abused. I physically would fight at first and squeeze my legs together, so I wouldn’t be violated. When that wouldn’t work, I would pretend I was in the story of one of my books. And I kept a diary/journal. That’s how I coped because I never asked for help until I was in eighth grade. I remember hating my step-father in fourth grade and writing in a diary about him. My mom found the diary, didn’t’ take me seriously and told me that I wasn’t allowed to keep a diary anymore. That’s when I started to write on pieces of paper and hide them in my room.

Yes, I am a survivor and warrior, but I am still surviving my trauma. A certain phrase comes to mind, “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” Walking around with trauma, is walking around with a wound that you can’t see, but it still hurts, months and years and decades later. The tough part is that there is such stigma around mental health and foster care, that people can respond to people’s past traumas, with generalized statements, such as….“It’s in the past, get over it.” or  “You always act like a victim.”

I was two years old and in the foster care system and I am positive that in the 70’s no one was aware of PTSD and trauma like we are today. I never got treatment for being a victim of domestic violence. I grew up thinking that there was something very wrong with me. I felt like my life didn’t matter to anyone. I cannot count the times, that I said, “I wish I was dead.”  I hurt myself often and no one noticed.

Triggers are memories that feel like you are living your nightmare of a past all over again.

I live with anxiety and depression and try to do and be better every day.  Living with both makes me obsess and not care at the same moment, because it can feel like everything is crumbling around me and I want to fix it, but sometimes it feels like I don’t have hands to do anything at all.

Fortunately, I learned how to build my resilience, since I was a child.  Not every survivor can say this, but people have always intervened and helped me along the way. I also built resilience as a teenager when I attended mandatory counseling and participated in a support group for victims of sexual abuse. I learned to cope in new ways, and recognized that when I cannot handle my emotions, that’s when I have to seek professional support and counseling. Every time, I have faced insurmountable odds, that’s when I decide to pick up the phone and call a counselor. For example, I was assaulted on a date and was afraid for my life in 2014. I called my support network but I also went back into counseling. It’s not easy admitting that you cannot do everything on your own, but I know that without support, I could end up being the statistic everyone has always said I would become. The pressure of failing, helps me cope, even though I recognize how unhealthy it has become, to constantly re-center myself on the belief that I just have to keep it together another day and another month and another year. It works, but it’s not the best solution.

I know it is mandatory to ask for help when my anxiety increases because if I don’t, I become irritable, angry, and cry a lot. I also self-sabotage relationships and distance myself into isolation. I have always prided myself in not being tearful- it’s easier to put up walls and be tough to prove to everyone that I am going to keep surviving. When I feel completely overwhelmed, I know I need to take care of myself.

My past traumas were caused by others and some were caused by my own deficiencies and poor decision making-skills. We cannot erase or wish away the hurt. Some push it away, but it always seems to be the loudest voice, fighting to be heard.

When I experience anxiety, there are small steps I take to cope. Meditating, journaling and making art are my three go-to coping skills. I also keep Aromatherapy lotion on my desk at work and post inspiring messages. I practice positive self-talk and speak affirmations when I start to overthink. When anxiety is overwhelming and I cannot stop being overly anxious, I schedule a counseling appointment. I know I can’t cope on my own and it took me a while to recognize that that is nothing wrong with me visiting a therapist. I think it has only become more difficult as a single mother to make the call, because I don’t want to be judged as a parent and caregiver of my child. Regardless of my fears and insecurities, I know this step forward is the most important decision that can be made during my mental health journey.

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As a survivor of trauma, there are additional steps that I have taken in my life to practice resiliency and maintain growth in my mental health journey. Also, there have been lessons learned about managing myself to safe-guard my future. Here are a few actionable steps that can replenish and restore us before everyday tension and pressure become cumulative and overwhelming:

  • #1- Reconnect: Do not disconnect. Don’t be stubborn and try to figure it out all on your own. Build a support circle. Find a therapist. Learn from your friends but don’t rely on them for mental health support.
  • #2- Reflect: Take time for yourself. Don’t feel bad about taking a “mental health day.” Your self-care is necessary. You cannot help others if you cannot help yourself first.  Take time to realize your growth and successes and what lessons you still need to learn.
  • #3- Reevaluate: Do not avoid the most important step – Pay attention to your needs. Take care of your physical body. This means drinking plenty of water and getting the rest you need every day. It means that you actually go to the doctor and do what he/she/they tell you to do.
  • #4- Regrow: Nurture your joy and inner peace because you need to focus forward more than ruminating on the past. We all need to know where we come from and share our story as a testament of our progress. But that’s not the place where you should be walking through every day.  You need to add to your life, not beat yourself up for what you didn’t do first.

Again, we need to Reconnect. Reflect. Reevaluate. Regrow. These are four ways to practice resiliency when you are feeling anxious and depressed. Your mental health journey matters and make the call to a mental health counselor if you are in need of more support.

Reflection:

  1. What are three ways you cope with stressors?
  2.  Draw your support circle on a piece of paper and hang it up where you can be reminded that you not alone.
  3.  What do you need to do today to take care of yourself?
  4. How can you add joy to your life?

Soul-Inspired Affirmation

You are capable of growth and full of potential to become greater than your past. Do not let anyone define you, but allow yourself to be refined by setbacks and hardships because you are a SURVIVOR and WARRIOR. You got this! 

Kimberly C. Rhyan is a former foster youth and speaker/trainer/consultant who inspires/empowers foster parents, caseworkers, supporters, educators, and foster care youth/alumni to step into their future better prepared to facilitate/achieve foster youth’s successes. Please contact kimberly.c.rhyan@gmail.com in regard to booking your next event and/or consulting services.

Expanding Mantra: So here I am.

I am not quite sure when I started writing this mantra, “So here I am.” I do remember that this phrase was articulated in high school but showed up later in my art and writing in college (As evidenced by the print below).

As the years pass, I continue to gain insight and life experiences, which solidify a longer mantra: “So here I am right now with you.”

Combining these phrases together celebrates how I have learned to focus my life forward.

Confused?

Let me explain, from the beginning.

So….

“So what? So why? So who? So when? So how?”

My “so” is tied to many negative messages from my childhood and adolescence:

“So what? Get over it.”

“So why do you harm yourself? Is it because you want attention?”

“So who do you think you are? You know you have it better than other foster kids, right? Why aren’t you grateful for what you have been given?”

“So when are you going to quit having this pity party for yourself? Go ahead and ask yourself, “Is it going to change anything? Never!”

“So how do you expect to change if you keep overeating.”

“So here I am.”

This was my mantra for many years. Ironically, I proudly thought this phrase embodied my stubbornness and tenaciousness to never give up. However, my “so” also trained me to doubt everyone, including myself.

I spent most of teenage years exclaiming, “Life isn’t fair.” And guess what? It wasn’t fair. I lost a lot and no matter the gains, loss is learning to live with a permenant vacancy and hurt always feels just heavy enough that you cannot imagine wrapping your arms around anyone else.

Despite setbacks, I was always expected to bounce back and be resilient. And I learned to navigate through every single “so” and that’s how I managed to proclaim, “So here I am.”

Looking back, my artwork that I created during college seemed to tell a different narrative. I drew a little girl sitting crouched in a corner with her arms wrapped super tight around her chest while a light bulb hung down from the ceiling.

“So Here I am” was a metaphor for my life, which represented the common practice of hiding. As a youth, I hid in the closet, behind my dresser and under the bed to avoid my abuser and people’s judgement.

I also remember hiding under the desk at the police station and hiding in the basement of my foster home. More than hiding my body, I also hid in other ways. For example, I went to counseling sessions but I felt like a zombie. I was hiding under a smile, to show that I was strong, when I was really thinking about ending my own life.

During my first 33 years on this earth, I was fighting and hiding at the same time, which made my existence all the more agonizing and unrecocognizable. I felt like I was never meant to arrive because I was always trying to avoid judgement or reproach from others while failing in my relationships. Surface stuff was fine, but beneath all my accomplishments, I was filled to the brim with anxiety.

I isolated myself from others, creating distance, emotionally. My relationship choices were less than ideal and I kept avoiding the pain, which only intensified with every failed relationship. Honestly, I let those men gut my spirit like a fish.

“So, here I am” was a coping mechanism – It let me escape my body when I was violated, threatened or made to feel unsafe. Technically, this is called dissociation and because of it, I survived, time and time again, even as an adult survivor of assault.

I guess you can say that I used the abandonment from both my parents as an excuse to embrace the hurt, rather than accept hope and healing. I allowed the pain of abandonment to hold me back until I learned to embrace life’s most meaningful lessons….

#1-

“So, here I am….right now.”

Yes…here and now.

I practice presence over perfect. (THANKS Holley)

Slow is fast is another way to think about purposely not rushing progress. (THANKS Sarah)

I have spent my life earning my resiliency wings & I am not ashamed to celebrate my transformation from despair to hope, anxious to inspired and fear to courage. I wasn’t on a journey to make peace with my past, but it happened when I learned to let go of my questions and began accepting that my life had a unique purpose.

After I became a mother, it was difficult to hide and for so many reasons. My son needed all of me, a whole woman guided by purpose. My son saved my life and taught me to love.

“So, here I am, right now” is the best way I can describe my healing journey that allowed me to forgive my parents. Only now, am I empowered to move forward.

I am standing- not cowering.

I am peaceful – not left in pieces.

Ultimately, I bounced back because of my mentors and teachers who affirmed my gifts and supported me- even when I my flaws and decisions made me less than perfect.

#2-

“So, here I am right now, with you.”

I discovered in my graduate program for Creative Arts Therapy about the power of symbolism. There are key symbols in my earlier artwork. As an artist, I can tell you that the lightbulb meant I wasn’t completely in the dark; initially, the light represented hope but through the years, the lightbulb’ symbolism became a metaphor for healing and connection; a source of energy greater than myself.

My resiliency is a reflection of you….

My mission has evolved from my hurt and healing, but it is also derived from a gradual evolution of self-belief that I am not alone. My mission grew from this lesson. I don’t want people to feel like they have to figure out life and solutions on their own:

I strive to lead with purpose & help others affirm and celebrate their journey forward.

Rueben Welch wrote a book called, “We Really Do Need Each Other.”

It’s truly another mantra that reverberates in my mission. Thank you for taking the time to learn about my story. But this is also our story too. I hope you will take the time to think about your purpose and mission. No matter the hurt, relational resiliency gives us a chance at developing ourselves and progressing. Do not go this path alone.

Okay?

Reflection/questions:

  1. What prevents you from achieving your purpose?
  2. How do you live out your mission each and every day?
  3. What goals can you work on in the next six months?
  4. Do you need support? Reach out to a mentor, coach and/or friend. Personal plug: You can also contact me for coaching (check out my bio below).

Closing affirmation:

You got this. Believe in your purpose and imagine how we can achieve our missions together.

Kimberly C. Rhyan is a former foster youth and speaker/trainer/consultant who inspires/empowers foster parents, caseworkers, supporters, educators, and foster care youth/alumni to step into their future better prepared to facilitate/achieve foster youth’s successes. Please contact kimberly.c.rhyan@gmail.com in regard to booking your next event and/or consulting services.

Just a little perspective.

AnXiety-

You X the spot where I don’t want to be.

Even in the light, you sneak around it and make it impossible to feel safe and in the worst of situations, you completely cover it up like it never existed. Anxiety is very sneaky and I know it is coming. I am its prey.

The irony is how my insta-happy photographs do not capture everything. During one of recent joyful trips, I experienced a panic attack that left me wiping away tears, while I was hiding in the bathroom to protect others from seeing me so defenseless.

Stigma sarcastically insinuates how anxiety doesn’t have validity because we have all been through something tough and most people get over it, so anxiety launches grenades and asks,

“Why can’t you just get over it?”

“Why do you constantly act the victim?”

“Don’t you know this is your fault?”

There are moments when I can’t remember basic things and the reality is that anxiety is
wrestling for my attention because I feel mentally exhausted; there are times when it is difficult to bounce back but I am fighting trauma dating back to the day I was born.

There are instances where I check, double-check and tripple-check electric outlets just to make sure nothing bad is going to happen and then I get into my car, only to go back inside and check one more time. Anxiety just sits back and has a good laugh.

I literally have moments where I just hate the way I am feeling and I have to push through because someone is counting on me and I cannot give up or tag out or quit. I just take a deep breadth and exhale all the chaos trying to make me to lose my sh*t.

Anxiety has this way of speaking bold-face lies and sabotaging potential – potential of a job, relationship, friendship, opportunity and/or possibility. People who judge me need to reevalute their hearts, but for the people who love me, thank you for never giving up on me.

And anxiety has cruel intentions. It tries to convince me that because I failed once, I must be a permanent failure. It constantly presses me into a corner of a boxing ring that I cannot be ejected. Anxiety forces me to box my way out, but I manage to only relocate to the middle of the ring, which imagine, is not more safe at all. No matter where I stand in the ring, a fight is a fight is a fight. Arms up. Defenses raised. Heart dismantling again. Prepared to be defensive, it is hard to believe what life could be like without anxiety. Where is the peace? Where can I find a white flag?

Let me say it another way.

Anxiety has triggers. It happens to you without your permission.  You strive for constant composure and togetherness but at times it feels like everything is falling apart. It takes resilience to decide not to let self-doubt sabotage any potential of success. It takes hope to break through fear and anxiety, but over time, it can distintegrate your confidence and exhume the past. It mercilessly takes every bad decision and every lesson learned and turns it into one hell of a mental parade of ache and agony that needs deflated. I have to choose to let it go and preserve my energy.

Some may say that anxiety is all in your head and that you simply have to renew your mind, but anxiety can be a mental shredder that takes positivity and destroys it with a tsunami of dis-belief that literally reinstates untruths.

It’s not fair how a simple thing can become a very complicated something while making you feel like nothing.

This is anxiety. It kicks you in the shin and while you hold your ankle and wonder what could feel worse, anxiety kicks you in the gut and while you are hugging yourself from the pain, anxiety will show no remorse or compassion while it proceeds to kicks you in the head. Anxiety doesn’t write rain checks. It is always ready for purchase, even when the account has a zero balance.

When I post that perfect Instagram picture, just realize that picture represents all these words and a thousand more…

I cope. 

I am healing.

I am working on myself. 

Anxiety isn’t laziness; it doesn’t care if I care. It doesn’t complete an assessment to determine its path of destruction. It just comes, as an unsuspecting setback and it sucks the life out of you and tries to defeat you in the ring.

Depending on how I view myself…

I choose to let it go.

OR

I just hold on for dear life and hope it doesn’t wipe me out.

The real message:

Recovery from trauma is possible.

It is strengthened by relational resiliency, so when we fall down, we have to ask for help. And when the tears come, it feels good to have people in OUR corner. I am thankful for the compassionate people in my life that have supported me during every single battle round and kept me from complete defeat. I am surviving, thriving and arriving because I am working on my growth strategy and you can too.

I strive to lead with purpose & seek to fulfill my soul-inspired mission by helping others affirm and celebrate their journey forward.

In closing, I clearly have rough moments but I am okay. Those tough moments are opportunities to be refined, but they don’t define me!

But please check on that one friend…who you know is struggling but may not want anyone to know…

CLOSING QUESTION:

  1. How honest are you with yourself and others about your anxiety?
  2. How do you cope with your anxiety?
  3. Will you commit yourself to journaling or meditating to ease your anxiety?

Closing Affirmation:

Anxiety happens but don’t let it deter you from living your best life. And a better life may feel different a year from now, but just start with today.

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Kimberly C. Rhyan is a former foster youth and speaker/trainer/consultant who inspires/empowers foster parents, caseworkers, supporters, educators, and foster care youth/alumni to step into their future better prepared to facilitate/achieve foster youth’s successes. Please contact kimberly.c.rhyan@gmail.com in regard to booking your next event and/or consulting services.

Relational Resiliency & Foster Care Awareness Month

For the past four weeks, I have been doing something for ME and I have to thank my friend because she is babysitting my son and  making it possible for me to take a 6-week class on Thursdays. It just so happens to be Foster Care Awareness Month and my class is about Relational Resiliency (Hosted by “The Hive”).

I signed up for the class because I thought it would enhance my perspective and practices at work. But it has also provided a safe and authentic space for me to be ME an so much more:

  • As a bonus, I feel like my son and I are part of a community with other families. I believe that Carter has a village (here in Cincinnati) that embraces and cares for the both of us.
  • Guess what? I can finally breathe, after 20 months of living here. Say what!?

My class has been opening the windows of my soul and inspired me to expand the periphery of my heart… and it keeps me aligned with the daily reflection process to acknowledge that heart work is hard work and that we really do need each other.

More about Relational Resiliency….

I have always been a night owl and when I think about time itself as a resiliency factor in my journey, I recently stepped back and took a big long pause…. I considered how much time that it has taken to heal, forgive, grow, thrive, and finally arrive…

I have been specifically recalling how much time it took to reconcile with my bio mom and how for ten years I didn’t speak a single word to her and then one day, I showed up with my son. And then about 18 months later, she was diagnosed with brain cancer. And I was angry because I wanted answers to my life’s questions. But in the midst of hurt and heartbreak, I had to let go of my questions to just forgive her and make peace with my past. And people ask me all the time, “how were you able to forgive and move forward?”

I believe the passage of time and the wisdom from waiting my whole life for this moment, helped me repair the rupture. It wasn’t easy. I knew since my mom was adopted that she came into this world feeling unloved and unwanted and I didn’t want her to leave this world thinking she wasn’t loved or wanted.

And the rupture was deep and wide. Just this week I recalled the day I went into foster care and it was the same day as a court hearing where my mom asked me to lie and I refused to tell the version of the story she wanted and it was on this day she was pissed at me. And it was on this day she decided to find a note in my room, the same room that I had been hiding notes for 6 months. My mom cleaned my room every day and left items that were out of place, on my bed. And so I know she must have found other notes and ignored them. But on this day, I defied her, & she chose to find a note and my life changed forever. She was suppose to protect me on so many levels and she failed me and she set me up for failure.

This is the mother who said, “Don’t make me choose between my husband and you, because I will always choose my husband.”

Understanding resiliency has allowed me to appreciate time as a way I have recovered through my foster care journey. I am continually processing my trauma and adjusting my practices to prevail. It’s never just one and done. It’s about never giving up.

I look back over my life and I feel blessed instead of cursed. I walk away with lessons learned instead of feeling burned. I look forward and know hope despite all the hurt. I am not just a survivor, I am an over-comer and advocate for you.  I am here to say, “You got this too.”

As a result of the past year and specifically, the last month,  I definitely have a better idea about the difference I seek to make every day-

Update on my goals & a Few Announcements

Today is the last official day of Foster Care Awareness Month and I want to make some special announcements (if you are still reading….).

When I started this year, I had very three specific goals in mind- 1) I wanted to gain three new clients, 2) speak in five different states,  3) publish my memoir and 4) launch a not-for profit. I’m excited to share that I have four new clients and I have been invited to speak in four states this year (of course, I am including Ohio). Finally, this August, I hope to find out if my memoir will be picked up by a publisher, or else, I will choose to self-publish.

The memoir I have been writing for two whole years is finally, finally wrapping up this month, just in time for my 42nd birthday.  One of the reasons that I have been stalling is that I want to start a foundation and allow 100% proceeds from my book sales to help fund other foster youth to follow their dreams.

I seek to broaden opportunities to grown inter-generational foster youth’s talents through the arts, educational scholarships and mentoring circles. More details will be forthcoming this summer/fall about this new network!

In closing, it is important to share my vision because I believe you have to name your goals to make them a reality. This is really happening and it is not just a dream!

Closing Question:

What’s your dream and what are you willing to do, to make it happen?

Closing Affirmation:

You got this!

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. (Lao Tzu)

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Kimberly C. Rhyan is a former foster youth and speaker/trainer/consultant who inspires/empowers foster parents, caseworkers, supporters, educators, and foster care youth/alumni to step into their future better prepared to facilitate/achieve foster youth’s successes. Please contact kimberly.c.rhyan@gmail.com in regard to booking your next event and/or consulting services.

Purposefully Playing the Hand that You’re Dealt

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#happiness💕
#reflectionsfromaformerfosteryouth

#mothersday
#mentalhealthawarenessmonth
#nationalfostercaremonth

May is National Foster Care Month. Foster care is more than a label & Foster youth are NOT a statistic.

This month and all through
the year, may we foster strength and humanity by celebrating foster care voices.

Voices of Foster Strength: I am sharing my own journey!🎉

This week, I stepped out of my comfort zone ( I am an intravert) and conversed with a Humanist, someone who believes in the necessity of kindness as an expression of community. I re-learned that within community, we can just be ourselves, hopefully without judgement, too much self-criticism or fear.

Fear of what? Rejection. Isolation. And being less than.

And I suppose that’s why I reached out for conversation in the first place. I thought a conversation would be helpful, so I could better navigate my path in life. I was in search of wisdom and insight. Ultimately, I was curious and hopeful that something could be gained from sharing our stories, because something about his story resonated with mine.

And throughout the conversation, I felt this heaviness being lifted slowly as I realized how much fear I had been holding onto because I had become attached to guilt and uncertainty.

And I finally accepted that my guilt and uncertainty wasn’t necessary. Over the course of my life, I  had developed coping mechanisms (with good intentions), which simultaneously made me feel like a constant failure for not measuring up.

So what about the hand I was dealt? No matter how much my cards were valued, I made matters worse, due to my actions or inactions, which only served to increase my anxiety.

Where did my anxiety start? All throughout my life, I was hoping for parents to love me unconditionally.  My anxiety showed up in school when I couldn’t focus. It revealed itself when I wouldn’t hug or kiss my own family. I lived in fear for my life and anxiety poured out of my pores in my body.  I didn’t trust anyone’, not did I feel loved. Which is why my entrance into foster care at age 14 convinced me that it was up to me to break the cycle. I was going to live my life differently and make better decisions than my parents. They gave me up, and my mother’s mother gave her up. I decided that I would never have kids to prevent myself from making their mistakes.

And at age 33, I was staying the weekend with my HS English teacher (who inspires me to write and share my story) and she asked me if I ever wanted to have kids and I quickly said, “No.”

And ironically, my cards at the time were not visible, but I was most likely pregnant at that very moment. I was also in desperate straits and broken. I was living a facade and lost. I was existing in complete darkness. My remaining shell of a person was blockaded by self loathing, insecurity and fear of disappointing the people who loved me; and frequently wanted to hurt myself, but I was determined to push through the pain anyway. Externally I was a survivor and thriving in a career, but internally, I was undoubtedly failing and crashing into a downward spiral of self-destruction.

Even in the midst of my depression and anxiety, I wouldn’t give up.  I didn’t want to become another statistic. I fought through my anxiety everyday but still experienced frequent panic attacks. They were regular episodes in my life. I am being very honest about my mental health because the facade I had carefully built had limits.  I had coped by binge-eating and causing self-harm. Taking away all these extra paragraphs, it would be easier to just write that I didn’t love myself. 

Despite my worst efforts,  I kept holding on, no matter how empty I felt. And deep down, I hated myself.

I thought my fall from “grace” was permanent exile.  I didn’t think I was worthy and defaulted to one unhealthy relationship after another.

It hurts so much that my son doesn’t have two parents in his life;  I haven been heartbroken for a little boy that wants to know which parts of his biracial identity he got from each of his parents. And the devastation and the weight of making the wrong choices during the darkest point in my life, ultimately brought me my greatest gift. I am not perfect, but my #1 goal is to be attuned to my son and help him develop his strengths and overcome any barriers he may face. I know he hurts because he doesn’t have all the answers- I know that feeling and it’s heart-crushing and unfortunately, creates self-doubt.

And I wondered what everyone else wondered…

Would I even be a good mom? I doubted myself  and honestly, I needed an intervention, and that card was handed to me on a day that I was volunteering in Seattle, Washington. Prior to leaving for alternative spring break with 12 female students, I didn’t know the many ways my heart would begin to transform and heal.

However, Abortion was always a choice and I scheduled my appointment and was confident in my choice to end my pregnancy. I am pro-choice and you cannot tell me what I can do with my body.

And  back to Spring break,  I volunteered with an organization that supported mothers recovering from addiction. A mother walked into the playroom and handed me her child with a full bottle. I never held babies and was never a baby person. Naturally, I was resistant but I looked around the room and all of the other volunteers had tasks. I took her child in my arms and fed her. That moment changed my heart and when I returned from the service trip, I never went to my abortion appointment.

And my pregnancy at 33 became a gift that revealed to me that my purpose could begin with hope. I put my child first and took care of us differently. I started to practice self-care and re-prioritized my goals.And the miraculous wonder of having my son, is that I learned (and still learning) to love and respect myself in ways that I never loved myself before I became a mother.

And my son’s love for me, is a huge bonus. His life affirms my existence. All those times I wanted my mom to wrap her arms around me and whisper she loved me, I make sure that my son knows he is loved. We have a nexus that is celebrated everyday and I make sure to squeeze him and whisper, “I love you.”

The idea that I was dealt some cards that made me feel abandoned, unloved, and disregarded always weighed heavy on my spirit. My parents were asked if they wanted me back, and they passed. My mother actually said, don’t make me choose between my husband and you, because I will always choose my husband. I thought that was her way of telling me that she wished I had never been born.

I never wanted my son to feel the pain of not having both his parents present in his life.

And yet, this past week in a coffee-shop, during a powerful conversation, I recognized I am here for him and how good I am.

And not how bad I am.

I am a product of a heartbreak and hurt, not the best hand, but I am not defined by what cards I have been dealt, but I am held accountable for what I do with them next. I choose healing everyday. I choose love. I choose to forgive. I choose to be the change (Thanks Gandhi).

After all, I had 48% chance of graduating H.S. and despite failing “Transition to College Math,” I graduated as an honor’s student.

I was once held back in third grade, but I went on to earn my B.A and M.A degrees. Not too bad for a foster kid, right?

I am still here. Never perfect, but I am becoming a better version of myself everyday. I am coping and building hope through resilience. Not too bad for an adult with mental illness, right?

I am  NOT a statistic. I am a leader, mother, warrior, artist, writer, advocate and so much more.

I recognize that I was “dealt a hand” I didn’t want,  but it made me the woman I am today….

And when I met with my new friend, this metaphor hit me harder than I thought possible, which caused tears to cascade down my face. My hurt showed & vulnerability exposed my deepest fears. But it’s okay because I am human and challenging myself to grow. I hope I can help others figure this mess out too.

I know my son doesn’t have the best hand either, but he is going to be okay too. I am giving him my best and he will get better at life as he matures and grows too.

This is the life I want….the life where I don’t live in fear, but rather, accept the hand I have been dealt and figure out another way to bounce back from adversity. This is the hand I am fighting everyday to win for the both of us.

Closing Questions:

  1. In your own life, what will you fight for today?
  2. How will you choose to be resilient and bounce back?
  3. Will you take a deep breath and forgive (yourself and others)?
  4. Will you choose to believe your purpose is greater than your imperfections?

Closing Affirmation:

You got this. Your life matters. You will recover from trauma, foster care and/or mental illness.

None of these things make you less than someone else. Purposefully leverage the lessons you are cultivating and step into your future!

Kimberly C. Rhyan is a former foster youth and speaker/trainer/consultant who inspires/empowers foster parents, caseworkers, supporters, educators, and foster care youth/alumni to step into their future better prepared to facilitate/achieve foster youth’s successes. Please contact kimberly.c.rhyan@gmail.com in regard to booking your next event and/or consulting services.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gratitude & Ending the Cycle

I’ve always wanted to write my memoir because I want to help others overcome.


I didn’t realize until very recently, that my son and I had very similar hand gestures that we made as babies. And for some reason…the very thought of us being uniquely the same, even though it’s just represented in a few photographs, makes me affirm grace at work within our lives. It began with a determined heart-I was convinced that this child was not going to be put up for adoption.

And for some reason, a few people along the way tried to convince me that adoption was best for my child. I completely respect anyone who makes this sacrifice. I also know there are so many people who want to adopt & we need their love in this world for so many children.

Honestly, there have been times, in the middle of the night, when these thoughts attack my spirit, “Am I a selfish person for keeping my child?” “Does he deserve better than me?” Many times throughout my life, God was at work in my life and I knew he loved me, even when I couldn’t love myself. I know my son deserves ME & I offer him the best version of myself every day.

After all, my mother was adopted and my mom gave me up when I was a teenager because she chose her abusive husband over me.
And guess what? For some reason, I survived, thrived, and arrived!

Those tiny fists and little waves represent determination & success.

We are mother & child. We were destined for this journey together.

We are family and on our way to breaking the cycle of abuse.
I am not angry anymore about the people who told me to choose adoption. Life’s challenges changed me and made me the mom I am today. I am not perfect. My son will probably tell you that! He knows more than anything, how much I loved him from the start. I have self-belief & aspirations for an even brighter future; this didn’t just happen overnight. The irony is that the same people who told me to give up my son for adoption…they are the same people who told me when I was in fostercare, that I could change the cycle of abuse when I was 14 years old. My anger has transformed into gratitude & only strengthened my resiliency….


#resiliency
#thepathwaytosurvival
@soulinspiredkcr

Closing Questions:

  1. What are some of those negative thoughts you tell yourself and how can you change them into affirmations rather than self doubt?
  2. Where does your strength come from?
  3. What are you thankful for?
  4. What can you do today to express your gratitude?

Closing Affirmation:

Your life represents determination & success. You are destined for this journey.  You are on your way and nothing can stop you.

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Kimberly C. Rhyan is a former foster youth and speaker/trainer/consultant who inspires/empowers foster parents, caseworkers, supporters, educators, and foster care youth/alumni to step into their future better prepared to facilitate/achieve foster youth’s successes. Please contact kimberly.c.rhyan@gmail.com in regard to booking your next event and/or consulting services.

Make it Happen: Action + Reflection = Change

This year, I decided to choose a mission word for 2019. My word is action because dreaming big is just the beginning, but change requires so much more than a great idea.  We need a plan for action with results… No matter if we are 14 or 41….

Every month, I am going to complete #soulinspiredchallenges and make my goals a reality. I have chosen “action” as my mission because I want to demonstrate what can happen when you fully believe in yourself.

I am a former foster youth, survivor, warrior, and single parent. My story is about overcoming but it is also a story of choices – I choose not to be limited by failure. Throughout my life, I have struggled with self-belief and making the best choices.

Self-belief is the ability to visualize my potential instead of focusing on the pain of my past. Self-belief allows me to live and fulfill my passion and purpose.

Early on in my journey, I rarely opened up in relationships, mostly because I over analyzed and started to think that if I was completely honest, I would get hurt. In the past, I had reservations about being completely authentic because my fear would seem to get the best of me. I would retreat and let self-doubt take over. My anxiety told me that something would go inevitably wrong. Relationships were unsuccessful because it was easier to brainstorm all the things that could possibly go wrong than all the ways it could go absolutely right. I knew my disbelief kept me stuck when I knew I had every right to be free.

Why didn’t I self-correct? Why didn’t I try harder to become less defensive? Over time, I learned that relationships are hard work, but most of all, they just need trust, time and patience to grow. Action is required to progress and propel ourselves forward. This is for sure- we are constantly in flux.

I have found myself on the fringe,  and almost given up entirely, resigning myself to my setbacks. Fortunately, I eventually self-corrected and chose transformation. I emerged stronger and more determined to succeed.  I learned to overcome my fears. It didn’t happen naturally. It was difficult because I had to acknowledge my flaws and change my focus.

The irony is that I was hindering my own evolution because I  was fighting the woman I “could have become” if I hadn’t failed myself and others. It took me a while to realize that we have capacity for healing… There is not a special code for breaking through your pain to get to your purpose. Sometimes purpose is revealed in the pain. I have failed countless times in relationships because I built walls of steel or wore my heart on my sleeve.

Guess what? A few people actually stuck around to reveal unconditional and unrelenting acceptance. I have been fortunate to experience relationships that flourished because of compassion and grace. Thanks to them, I can write these paragraphs.

I have battled my insignificance and learned that my flaws are not a death sentence but an awakening to my own discovery. I am much more on my way to experiencing freedom than staying imprisoned by fear and anxiety. In the past, my fear of abandonment latched onto small indiscriminate facts and turned themselves into novels within seconds. These moments translated into self-hate.  I didn’t even realize I was struggling because I was in survival mode. I felt numb while trying to cope with loss after loss. I wasn’t living like my life mattered…and I was only susceptible to more ache and loss. I finally made changes in my life. . .

My Mantra.

Every day.

I will understand my value

In this world

and take action.

I will practice-

Self-care.

Mentoring.

Therapy.

Journaling.

Positive self-talk.

Forgiveness.

Self-acceptance.

I understand my value

in this world and 

 will love myself

Every day.

This journey affords many lessons to be cultivated- remnants of the previous seasons exist to provide my life with lessons not to be taken for granted.  I am very much that lotus in muddied waters. I am surviving and learning to thrive as a warrior.  I want to make a difference and  keep growing and expanding my understanding of myself and others. I want to show compassion and grace, but in reality – I need to offer myself compassion and grace each day.

I will live intentionally and take action. I embrace my full worth and will keep stepping into my future because I know hope through resiliency.

Finally, I am not ashamed  of my past. I claim my recovery.  I affirm how my action and/or inaction determine the outcomes for my life. There is a promise hidden in the muck, a pearl of wisdom waiting to be grasped-  Our trauma does not have to hold us back, if we understand how our healing can move us forward.

This year, I will be posting  #soulinspiredchallenges via @soulinspiredkcr

(Facebook, Instagram and twitter)

You are invited to follow me and take action in your own life. Together, we can make it happen!

#actionplusreflectionequalschange

#makeithappen

#yougotthis

#nevergiveup

#soulinspiredchallenges

#nomudnolotus

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Resiliency Lessons in Action

#resilience
#mamapriorities
#nevernevergiveup

I recently attended the #ocpa2018 annual conference about Resiliency and was also scheduled to be a program session presenter on Friday at 9 a.m.!

Early Friday morning, I was getting ready when I got a call on my hotel phone at 6:30 am from my babysitter.

It’s not the call you ever want to get, but at this time, my babysitter told me that my son had a temperature of 102.

I made a few calls, one of which, was to my emergency contact who had a sick child of her own. I made the call to leave the conference and cancel my program session. I spent a great deal of time preparing and was going to share 15 resiliency practices.

I knew the workshop was just an hour but my son was every second of my life. I loaded all my stuff into the elevator and headed home.

I am thankful for the lesson about managing priorities and actualizing what is most important.

I reflect a lot (a resiliency practice) & knew there was also a secondary lesson in this!

In life, we are asked to prepare ourselves for the next step, even when it fails to send a formal announcement. Change just happens. Life precariously unfolds & we have to be willing to do the heart-work, the hard work of preparing and fulfilling our purpose in the midst of stressors and stress.

We never know when we will be given the opportunity to step into our future.

My session for others became a reminder & full-embodiment of what I need to practice in my own life, daily.

Resilience is accessible to everyone. We ensure our ability to cope when we welcome change, even when it is uncomfortable. Give yourself permission to try and fail and try again. It’s especially hard when we experience chaos. We can bounce back when we make the choice to lead with our purpose. Our attitude and choices are integral to how we move forward, through pain, loss, illness, trauma, abuse, disappointment, fear, hurt, etc.

Begin the heart-work today. Cultivate ways to stay viligant about caring for your own needs and the needs of those you love. Do not procrastinate or say, “I have plenty of time.” Start with a single step and another. Write down one goal today and do it. Never Never Give up!

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The Gift of Mentoring

In the fall of 1996, at age 19, I was a former foster youth and freshman at college. I knew I was financially on my own  but was scared about navigating life and so much more. There was so much unknown and I wondered many times, “Will I make it?!” In my first semester, I was designated a federal work study (FWS) student in my financial aid award package. I was offered a job in the college cafeteria and met my first job supervisor, Crystal Browning. She told me about my job duties; I was required to clean the waffle bar every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, as well as, serve food in the buffet lines during the evenings. I remember being a little pessimistic- I knew there had to be better jobs on campus, but it all worked out! I am thankful that my student employment job led me to my life-long mentor and friend. (And I loved my job so much, I worked in the cafeteria all four years during college!)

My college didn’t offer a mentoring program, but I remember all the times that Crystal asked me about my goals and what I wanted to accomplish. I told her that I always wanted to get my driver’s license but didn’t have a car or lessons to drive. Crystal not only heard me, she responded. She taught me how to drive, with her three-old daughter in the backseat! When I look back over my time in college, Crystal was my “unofficial” mentor.

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I remember when Crystal got another job on campus and she made sure to let me know that I was welcome to visit anytime. That might be an expected statement, but it meant a lot. No matter what story or experience I shared, she listened. During college, Crystal was more than my mentor and ally, she was my family. She not only taught me how to drive- she taught me how to believe in myself. Her faith demonstrated so much love and compassion. I have always admired how she lived with purpose and faithfulness. She is an example of a strong Christian woman and want to follow her lead and walk worthy in my own life.

Twenty-one years later, we still have a strong bond. Over the past seven years, she has helped me grow as a new parent, and has always welcomed her home to my son and I. In 2015, she nominated me for a Survivor’s Award from the Survivor Foundation. I was awarded the winner of the Foster Alumni and Educator Award. Once again, she impacted my life. Her simple affirmation helped me to actualize my purpose in life. I am an educator and advocate for foster youth.

(One more story, I promise!)

In January of this year, after a short battle, my biological father passed away from Kidney Cancer. I began a relationship with him at age 14, after I went into foster care. My dad didn’t gain custody, but we became a family, one day at a time. During my dad’s funeral, Crystal came up to me and hugged me. During my dad’s eulogy, I spoke about a gumball machine that my dad gave me for my birthday and how my dad visited my office every semester and dropped off gumballs. He was always being thoughtful. I spoke about how I recently visited the office and noticed that the machine was completely empty- which led me to tears. It also inspired me to ask everyone to honor my father by sharing a random act of kindness. When I returned to my office later that week, I found a package on my desk. I opened it and saw a box of gumballs from Crystal! She shared, “I hope these gumballs serve as a source of joy, rather than sadness.” Her act of kindness transformed a moment of ache into a memory of love. I am so incredibly thankful for Crystal and her role in my life. She made a heartfelt choice to support and guide me towards my dreams. She continues to be in my life and I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without her mentoring and care!

Thanks for letting me share my story of mentoring. I hope that others will be inspired to think about the gift of mentoring and how we can make positive change in each other’s lives.

crystal