Authentic Journey Towards Healing: Our Instagram Live with Lori C

Content Warning: we will be discussing the topics of self-injury, abuse, and suicidality.

“I believe everyone is unconditionally loveable and deserving of taking up space. I encourage people to never shame themselves for their past and to recognize that we all deserve healing.”

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SWY: Hey, everyone, welcome to today's live! I'm really excited because we have Lori C here with us from @notsorrylovelori on Instagram and YouTube. Lori is a childhood abuse and trauma survivor who is here today to share with us some of her experiences and her journey towards authenticity and healing. Before we get started, I just wanted to mention that we will be discussing some heavier topics today, such as abuse and suicidality, so it may be triggering for some viewers. If you feel that you need to leave, feel free to do so and if you need some assistance in finding some grounding, potentially after this live, we have a lot of resources on our Starts With Youth page. So feel free to check those out. If at any time during this live you have questions for Lori, feel free to type them in the comments and we'll get to them. We'll leave some time for that at the end of the interview. With that being said, grab a drink or a snack, and let's get started.

SWY: So welcome, Lori, we're super excited to have you! The first question I have is, do you mind telling us a little bit more about yourself and your experiences with childhood abuse and trauma?

LC: Yeah, so I guess it's always kind of hard to start this off or know where to start off. I guess for me the best way to explain it is from the time I was born. There were a lot of unstable relationships in my life like my biological father was not a part of my life and was very abusive during the time that he was. I also had a mom who unfortunately wasn't able to meet my emotional needs. There was a lot of physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, that was going on, not just under our roof, but among cousins and family, that kind of thing. That was all not being addressed. Essentially, I think, a big part of why with the diagnoses and my coping skills and how it is that I am today, a lot of it is influenced by my environment and how I grew up. Ultimately, I really wanted to be loved and accepted by other people. But really, from a young age it never really felt safe for me to ask for my needs directly. If I wanted attention or something, if I asked for it directly, I felt like I wasn't able to receive what it is that I needed. Physically a lot of my needs were met like food-wise and having a roof over my head, but emotionally, I really wasn't able to find ways to self-soothe in healthy ways. I just wanted to be loved and accepted, but felt like if I was myself and truly me that I wouldn't be accepted and I would be rejected. So from a young age, I remember being like, just do whatever makes people happy, I just wanted to be loved. Because I never really had these emotional needs met, I never really learned how to soothe or cope with the stress that I was under. Because of all this abuse going on, I never really had healthy ways and we didn't talk about it. In a lot of the abuse that I experienced, I was told ‘this is between us, and what happens under this roof stays under this roof’. Because of that, I had to find my own coping mechanisms. Unfortunately, which is understandable given the fact that I didn't know any other way, I would turn to self-harm, things like cutting, pulling my hair, picking at my skin, and having a lot of rage that I would release in secret, like punching things. Then once I turned 18, that was when drugs really came into my life and I started to use that as a coping mechanism. To this day, that's still one of the things that I definitely struggle with trying to manage. Because it has been so ingrained into my way of coping really, how do I find an entirely new way of really living and finding a way to live with myself? I think my childhood really contributed to me not knowing how to be authentic, knowing that I was lovable as myself. Childhood trauma and abuse can really affect somebody, not just their personality, but how they internalize the world and how we see ourselves, it can really play a huge, huge role in that and make it challenging as an adult.

SWY: Thank you so much for coming today and joining us on our platform and I'm so happy we're able to provide you with a platform to share your story and to be open and honest. I really admire your courage. They say that your childhood sets you up for your future as an adult. If you have those adverse childhood experiences or aces as a child, you don't know any better or anything better.

LC: Absolutely. I've learned that sharing my story and just being really honest about the real raw stuff is where growth comes from, as well as connecting with other people. I’m sure I will talk about this more later.

SWY: Exactly, I was just about to say we’ll get a little bit more into that. The next question I have is that you have a wonderful Instagram page and YouTube channel where you speak about your experiences and mental health, as well as you, share some tools and knowledge with people. So what inspired you to start these? And how do you think it's been helpful in your healing journey?

LC: In terms of how it started, it was back in 2019, when I had sort of reached the climax of my life spiraling out of control. I found myself in a really dark place, you know, abusing drugs, not being able to function how I was prior. I really didn't know what to do. Basically, I felt like my entire world was falling apart and I had nothing left to give. I really questioned whether my life was worth living or not. It was around this time that I actually met my current partner. He's somebody who came into my life and the first time I met him, it was actually online. We were saying, ‘Hey, how are you?’ and I decided, you know what, I'm just going to be really authentic. My whole life, I put on a show, trying to pretend to be somebody and trying to make people like me, but then I said, ‘You know what, I'm just going to kind of lay it out on the line and watch this guy run’. That's what I was thinking because I'm like, nobody's gonna actually want me the way that I am and who I am and my addictions and that kind of thing. But I just straight up told him and he said, ‘Okay, and then we started talking, and he actually showed me what unconditional love looked like. I heard growing up that I was receiving unconditional love, but it didn't feel like it. I always thought that I had it but then when I came across him, he genuinely accepted me for me, and I was able to be flawed and the weird person that I thought was so annoying and everybody hated. As a child, I was always told ‘Shut up, shut up, you're so annoying, but I started to really kind of actually see that I had value. It was that combination, in that time period of my life where things were really crumbling, and he was there and he never even said ‘I hope you go to treatment’. He said, of course, ‘I hope you're well and I want you to be healthy, but he never said, ‘Go, you need to go’. It was always my choice. But it was from learning what that unconditional love looked like coming towards me, I realized maybe I can actually apply this to myself and actually offer myself that unconditional love. So that kind of ties into me figuring out how am I going to actually fall in love with myself. And part of that was, why don't I just start something where I can actually hold myself accountable. YouTube and Instagram really just sort of came to my mind like, you know what, ‘I'm finally coming to find out who I really am, I don't need to be so embarrassed, I don't need to be so ashamed’. And I just decided I'm going to be really honest and if the world doesn't accept me, then the world doesn't accept me. It'll just prove my thinking, right? ‘Oh, everybody does hate me’, but I put it out there for me to say I'm just gonna be honest, and people may hate it, but I'm gonna have to own it and appreciate what I'm doing. I actually have to sort of face myself every day. When I record videos, I have to watch them back, right? I have to edit and I have to hear my own voice and stare at my face. I used to hate myself so much that, in the beginning, it was so hard even to be like, ‘Oh my god, like, am I so full of myself? Why am I talking about myself so much?’. But then I realized that I've been silencing myself my whole life, like my true self. So really, the YouTube channel has offered me a chance to really learn to face myself and to be lighter with myself and not so hard. I look at myself and there's somebody, some videos of me crying, and like real emotion and I'll watch it, and I'll be like, ‘I feel for that person, that person has been through so much. It makes me want to cry thinking about it, but it's really given me a chance to sort of find my authentic self and hold myself accountable, where every word that I say, is truly how I'm feeling.

SWY: It's because of people like you that other people feel that they're not alone. So thank you so much for coming out and being your honest and true self. I think what's so wonderful about social media is that it creates communities for so many people around the globe to connect to who don't even know each other but maybe have similar experiences. So thank you for being one of those people to create a community for everybody else. I see somebody wrote in the comments here. “Such a beautiful and authentic relationship, sometimes it just starts with the one act of kindness or that wholesome experience to get the ball rolling. Someone to show you something different that there is love out there". Absolutely, that is so true and so beautiful.

LC: I absolutely agree. What you were saying about the community that's the other side of it. I have been able to work on my relationship with myself. Then to know that there are so many people I got such a reaction back from a community of people who are like, ‘yes, we need to talk about this, we don't hear this enough. It fuels me even more, it is like the cherry on top because I already felt like I was getting something out of it. It was therapeutic doing these videos and have so much support from people and love. I didn't build a community, the community came together on its own. We can all be those beacons of light that kind of attract people around or get people who are like-minded. I think the best thing about having my channel and my Instagram is that it's not just me, I know that people relate. People are going through the same stuff too.

SWY: Adding on to that with our next question is, do you have any advice for individuals that are beginning their recovery journey?

LC: Yes. A lot. Recovery is so hard. I think the first thing is that people need to know that their existence is valuable. That's where I had to start, just to commit to life because I wasn't committed to life anymore. I didn't think that I had a real purpose or I just felt like I was a reject of this world, right? like I mentioned through my partner and through people online and just recognizing that we are all deserving of healing and time to recover. I think that it comes back to the point I was just mentioning before about knowing that your existence is valuable, but that has to start from somewhere like it doesn't just come out of nowhere. That's why I think that things like the internet and because we're not really meeting in person so much, but getting to meet socially, we can recognize that we do influence people and that we have an effect on people, whether it's positive or negative, but we have some kind of impact. I think we all need to realize that we are deserving of time to recover and heal and to actually take time for ourselves. Maybe we're not able to, but just to recognize that everybody is deserving of healing no matter what we've done. We all deserve recovery and a gentle one, not something that's shaming, or blaming, or trying to make you feel bad or pressuring.

I also have another point. I want people who are beginning their recovery journey to know that how they feel is always valid, no matter what you've been through. How you feel is valid and there is no shame in how you've coped. That's something that we tend to do, at least I know for myself that has prevented me from wanting to reach out. For any kind of health professional or otherwise, I shamed myself so much. I didn't want to open up and admit to the things that I was doing. For years, it felt like I was living a double life because I was this person upfront, but meanwhile, I thought I was an evil person because I was using drugs. I was lying and self-harming and doing all these things that were behind the scenes. That's where, being really honest, to myself, and to the people around me, was also a big part of my healing journey. In terms of the recovery journey, it's different for everybody. That's something that I had to and still have to tell myself all the time because I'm always comparing myself to the people that I went to school with, to the people in my last job, other people who are my age, other people who are in recovery. It always makes me feel bad when I try and compare things like ‘what have I done, I'm such an embarrassment. It comes down to realizing that our journeys are all unique and life isn't what we planned. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Everybody has a different story and a different way that they're here to influence things. Just remembering that having to ask for help doesn't mean you failed. It's just part of our journey.

The biggest thing that I use every day when it comes to how to continue but also starting my recovery was the saying ‘one day at a time. It's so critical, whether it's addictions or other mental health stuff, to live life one day, sometimes one hour at a time. I literally follow that rule, even to this day, even though things are relatively stable. I will have moments of panic and moments where I don't feel like I can exist in my own body. That's when living hour to hour is so important, especially when starting.

SWY: Thank you so much for all of those amazing tips on not only your recovery journey but the fact that everybody else has their own trajectory of recovery and healing. We all have our own stories, but we have this amazing community to bring us together and there are resources and help out there.

LC: I was also gonna say that I know it might sound overwhelming, all the things that I threw out there, but it really is the mindset of just recognizing that we are lovable and finding out how we can find that in ourselves. I think it all really comes down to just recognizing that we need to be gentle with ourselves and that gentleness can be the start of someone's recovery. It doesn't even need to be professional help at some level, just not blaming ourselves and not shaming ourselves.

SWY: Self-love and self-care is so important, especially now with the pandemic going on, which adds extra stress to life. I encourage everybody to do one thing for themselves today. Just give yourself some love, whether that be a positive affirmation, a bath, anything that makes you feel good. The next question I have for you is, you've talked about being your authentic self, do you mind telling us a little bit more about being authentic and how you think this has helped your recovery?

LC: I mentioned it a bit before, but I always felt like I was living a double life ever since I was a kid. I remember being like four years old and kind of knowing I have the side that I present to everybody, likable Lori, and then I had that other part of me that was experiencing a lot of abuse. It was that alternate side to me and I lived that secret life for so long. It's connected a lot in ways to my borderline personality disorder, and complex PTSD. I've been diagnosed with those once I was in my 30s, I guess, but some diagnoses were earlier. I had been in therapy actually since I was a kid. Interestingly enough, I found out years later. I didn't know why we went when I was really young and my mom said we went as a family because you were talking and I was like, ‘what, I had no idea about that. So I was even already showing signs as a kid that something was going on and I wasn't handling things well because I just sealed my lips. I don't even remember that, but thinking back to it, it makes a lot of sense. I lied about who I was so that people would like me. I always had an image in my mind of what would make me happy, like if I had this group of friends and I was doing this kind of job or this and that maybe I'd be happy. I would do all the things I could to get what I wanted and then I'd be there and because it wasn't really me I wasn't happy. I always found myself in a hole and it just sort of built up over time as I can only survive so long of living a double life and having such unhealthy coping mechanisms that it drove me to break down.

Becoming authentic was such an integral part of my recovery just because it really allowed me to see and understand the full extent of what I was dealing with. I remember sitting on the couch like three years ago, just before I ended up being hospitalized for the first time. I've been in hospital three times, no shame just to let other people know. We all need help sometimes. I remember thinking, ‘Lori you have a lot of stuff like flashbacks, nightmares, all those kinds of things like you have a lot of trauma to work through and I just remember my brain picturing this bottomless pit basically of darkness and thinking ‘oh my god, I do not want to start looking in there because how far does it go down?’ All the things that I lied to myself and all the things that I had pushed down and pretended weren't there, like blocking traumas, things like that. I really was so afraid to figure out who I was. I was really scared because I didn't think I would like the person and I didn&