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courageously.u Turns One

With a year in the books, I thought it would be fun to take you on fast speed journey to what led me to identify my “why.” If you’re feeling brave, buckle up because it’s going to be a quick ride. Let’s go!

A RECIPE FOR DISASTER

Grad school is a funny thing, well at least grad school for counseling. They make you wade through your emotional garbage so you can show up for your clients and not have countertransference. I spent two insanely long years trudging through past pains, crippling dialogue, and larger than life fears. It was tough, it was painful, and it was healing- I just didn’t recognize the healing part until way after the fact. Then you top off all that inner work with a busy schedule and a full plate. Let me tell you, it was a recipe for disaster, and a disaster it was. 

I was going 360 mph for two years. Two years where self-care was a foreign concept and the farthest thing from my mind. I was working a full-time job for the state of Idaho; I was enrolled in full-time graduate classes; I took on a part-time internship; bought a home; took care of said home; bought a puppy (which felt like a baby for a few months); got engaged; planned a wedding; maintained a relationship (during what little time I had); had step kiddos, and to top it all off, this all took place during the worst snowstorm Idaho has seen in years. 

I was miserable, I was drowning, and I was depressed. 

I cried every.single.day. 

CONSTANT STATE OF DARKNESS

I was waking up at 3:30 a.m. so that I could hit the gym by 4, not because I cared about my well-being, but because I had a wedding dress to fit into. If you could’ve only seen me. I was stepping my heart out for an hour while holding a giant book, studying for my licensure exam. Gym time equaled study time. 

I was at work before the sun, and I pulled into my driveway after the sun. My life was a constant state of darkness. What little light I saw was between my drive to internship or my drive to classes. Keep in mind I worked inside a maximum-security prison, which felt like just that — a prison. 

LITTLE MOMENTS

Many little moments led to the great emotional breakdown of 2018. There was the time I sat in my car outside the gym after an intense therapy session on the treadmill. I was desperate for connection; for normalization. I felt weak, exhausted, and alone. In an attempt to connect, I let my heart share a vulnerable post. After I hit that share button, I headed home. Somewhere along that drive, my fears grew louder, and my insecurity did what it did best. By the time I pulled into my driveway, I had deleted my cry for help off of Instagram. I walked through my front door and prepared for my day, emotionally exhausted, and feeling even more alone.

Then there was the night I came home after a 13 hour day and sat on the foot of my bed sobbing crocodile tears of pure emotional exhaustion. I looked at my now-husband and said, “I don’t want to wake up tomorrow.” I was never suicidal. I just couldn’t bring myself to do another 13 hour day. Being the stubborn kid I was, I refused to let something go. I had to prove to myself that I could do this. That I could juggle all these roles and knock them out of the ballpark. I needed to prove to my inner dialogue that it was a big fat liar. I believed with every cell in my body that if I let something go, I was a failure. My pride and perfectionist tendencies nearly broke me.  

Keep in mind, my days weren’t emotionally chill days. I was working in a toxic environment for the simple fact that I was inside a prison. My clients weren’t the friendliest bunch out there. Then you mix in acute mental illness, some vulgar language, and the possibility of being assaulted. Talk about relaxing, right?!? Once work was over, I then headed off to my internship, where I held space for people struggling emotionally. 

THE GREAT EMOTIONAL BREAKDOWN OF 2018

It all came to a head in January of 2018. It took one work email to push me over my emotionally burnt out edge. The wheels had finally come off the bus. I was a mess! I grabbed my stuff, wiped my wet face, and walked out the front gates of a maximum-security prison. Imagine the sight. I drove to the nearest family member’s house as I sobbed uncontrollably and was borderline hyperventilating. The whole drive was a blur. That one email was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I knew at that moment my job had to go, or it would be me going. 

THE GIFTS OF IMPERFECTION

Fast Forward to an early Saturday morning in November of 2018. My husband was gone hunting, and I was home alone with Brene Brown and my comforting coffee. Grad school was finally behind me, wedding planning was over, and for the first time in a couple of years, I had nothing to work towards or plan-or, so I thought. 

It was that morning, Brene gave me permission to show up as myself. To have the courage to be seen and heard. Her book The Gifts of Imperfection changed my life. Her words hugged me tightly. They pulled me in and let me know that it was okay to be seen. I still cry when I reflect on that cold early morning. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel weak for wanting to share my struggle. I felt an overwhelming sense of strength and courage come over me — a fire burning in my soul to do more. 

COURAGEOUSLY.U WAS BORN

courageously.u was born out of an overwhelming desire to do more, an intense fire burning in my soul to normalize struggle and provide psychoeducation and tools. I wanted to ensure no one struggled alone in silence like I did.

It might be hard to believe, but my life hasn’t always been emotionally smooth sailing. For years I wandered through life without the appropriate tools in my best life tool bag. I was an emotional train wreck for the majority of my life. I struggled with big emotions and never truly knew how to regulate them. My narrative was toxic, and so were my coping skills. Let’s not forget all my insecurities, self-doubt, and insanely low self-esteem.

My life has been blessed, but internally I struggled in big ways. Such big ways you might one day see a book on your local bookstore shelf, but for now, I’ll keep it short. 

This last year has been the most exciting time of my professional journey. Showing up for you through courageously.u has warmed my heart in ways I can’t articulate. If I can speak into one person’s life and let them know they are not alone, I’ve done my job. 

I never imagined that courageously.u would grow in the way it has. I’ve had the privilege to speak into thousands of courageous people’s lives. I’ve been awarded the opportunity of being your virtual hug when you needed it most. I can’t dry your eyes, but I hope my words can. 

I believe with all my being that NO ONE should struggle alone in silence. We are all human, and we all have big emotions. Some just handle their emotions better than others, but that doesn’t make you weak. They are just better at hiding it. 

If you’re ready to navigate your swampy waters so that you can step into your best life, grab my hand and let’s do this. 

Biggest hugs, 

Tara

P.S. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to be a part of your courageous journey! 

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