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't think other people would like the person that I was.
It really was that time I said to my partner, the first time I met him, ‘You know what, I'm addicted to drugs, and I'm in a really low place in my life. That honesty is literally what got things started. I don't think everybody needs to have an encounter like that or a specific experience like that, but I think you have to receive support in order to understand how to care for yourself in a way. So once he offered me that unconditional love, I was able to really think about how I can apply that to myself. That's a big part of why I love being online, is because I can maybe be that person for other people because I am unconditionally loving of everybody else. If I'm unconditionally lovable, everybody else definitely is too, right? I can kind of be that beacon for other people, to let them know unconditional love exists, and you can do it no matter what you've done in the past. I've done some pretty horrible things. In videos, I've talked about times where I was really impulsive and did a lot of things, like cheating on people and stealing and a lot of things that I really just wasn't honest with anybody about. But being authentic is definitely something that just jump-started my recovery.
SWY: Thank you so much for sharing that. We have a question here in the comments, which is pretty much my exact next question. This person asked, “Everyone talks about being your authentic self, but how? The only scenario in my mind to become my authentic self is to escape and cut off all the people around me”. So the question I had, which is pretty similar to this is, do you have any advice for individuals who want to become more authentic or find their authentic self, but really don't know how?
LC: Such a good question. I struggled with this too, because I said, ‘well, my whole life is going to change then because everything's kind of a lie’. ‘Are those people who I'm friends with even gonna want to be friends with me because this isn't who I am? I'm the person that I thought they liked’. This is a really good question because it is a real issue that people have to think about. The honest answer is that I like to refer to something called, ‘shaking the tree’. If you shake a tree with fruit, some of the fruit falls, but some of it stays. I think becoming really honest is similar to that because you're shaking that tree, you're saying, ‘hey, guys, our relationship is actually going to change. Certain things that you're going to learn about me are going to be different, and we're going to have to work on this relationship. That's really kind of what happens. Because they're gonna be like, ‘well, who is this, right? Because if you're deciding to come out and be authentic and be really honest, sometimes relationships will sort of fall to the wayside, or you will have a disagreement with somebody about the way your relationship is. It's unfortunate and I did disconnect with some of my family, and some of my friends, but not everybody. Even if it was everybody, because that's what I was prepared for, I'm like, ‘I'm prepared for the worst. I was at that point where I was so low in my life, I said, ‘alright, bring it on, kind of thing. We don't always have to be in that state to make a change to become authentic. I think we can at any point in our lives make that choice to start to be more honest with ourselves. Once we start to be honest with the people around us, you kind of see which fruit sticks. If you're not able to maintain a relationship with somebody, then my thoughts are, ‘if you weren't being your true self, were you really in a relationship with that person?’
SWY: I really, really liked that metaphor. I've never heard anybody use that before. So thank you, I think that gave some individuals a different perspective of this topic. The person who asked the question said, “Thank you for answering it. My concern is not friends, but it's my family”. Do you have any advice for that person on maybe trying to be their authentic self with their family or what that was like for you and your experience?
LC: I'm just thinking back, it's taking me back to my family. It was so hard being honest, especially about things like addiction, mental illness, the ones that don't always fit in the boxes of, you know, anxiety and depression can be so hard to come out with all those things. It’s different for every family, so it's really hard for me to say, everyone's situation is different. I can say that for me, it was difficult because there were some people in my family that really didn't resonate with me anymore. They weren't prepared to talk about the things that I was being honest about. There was somebody actually, my mom, I distanced myself from her. Then she became accepting of me and wanted me in her life, but I actually set a boundary where we're not in communication. I really had to figure out what our relationship was going to look like going forward. But both people have to be willing to do that. For example, my mom and I aren't on bad terms, but I know that right now, a lot of the things unfortunately that she says and does, from my childhood, can be a little bit triggering. That's why we have a sort of a distant relationship right now. Because I do get triggered sometimes and that's okay, but we're slowly trying to rebuild that relationship. It's something that I think takes time and it takes a lot to be honest. It’s so courageous to be bluntly honest and really shake the tree. But when you're honest, you're coming from a grounded place, you're coming from you. So there's nothing to run away from and it takes a lot. They should be proud of themselves, even just for thinking about authenticity. And what that means because it can really change your whole life.
SWY: Thank you so much for sharing your perspective of that, Lori, and I'm sure anybody here who's listening tonight appreciates that advice as well. Somebody else in the comments wrote, “I feel like your authentic self is different for different people. I feel like sometimes you'll lose relationships, but you may gain stronger relationships, too. Do you think that's also true that your authentic self is different for different people? Or when you're being yourself? You're 100% the same self with every single person that you encounter?”.
LC: Good question. I would say that I am kind of different around different people because there are different sides to me. I kind of see it as a diamond. There are so many different sides when it's cut and it's sparkling and there are all these different facets that you can see that shine in the light at different times, but it's all part of the diamond. I kind of see our authenticity like that. There are so many aspects of us, often contradictory aspects, like a part of me that will hate something one day, and then the next day, I really like it. And it's like, ‘well, I guess there were two parts’. I think that overall if you're being authentic and yourself, you might appear different to different people, like you might get a little bit rowdier when you're with friends, and then a little bit more composed when you're at work, that kind of thing. So I do think that can definitely feel like that, like, it's almost different people. But I think if you're being authentic, it means that you're really in touch and connected with whatever it is that your feeling and whoever you're feeling like at that moment. So it might look different around different people, but as long as that's truly you, I think that's what matters the most.
SWY: I 100% agree. I feel like even for myself, depending on what situation you're in, like, as you said, you could be going to a party with friends and you may be feeling super excited, but you may be at work and you're maybe feeling a little bit more composure and calm and professional in that instance. So I 100% agree that it's not only dependent on the people that you're around, but maybe the situation, and sometimes it can depend on what you're feeling at that time and moment. So the last question I have for you is, you've had experience in the mental health system as a patient, but also as an occupational therapist. Could you share what it's like being on both ends?
LC: As you mentioned, I have been trained as an occupational therapist and I do have some experience. The thing is, I'm trained, but I'm not practicing at the moment, but I do have some experience that I can definitely speak on. In terms of working as an OT, one of the units that I was on was an inpatient unit. It was amazing, I loved working with individuals dealing with mental health issues. I just really related to a lot of my patients, like my clients that I would see, I could really feel like that empathy aspect allowed me to form connections with my clients at the time, and be able to have sort of a really honest and equal dynamic. Not to feel like I'm the professional and you're the patient. So it was just kind of amazing to create a level playing field where you could bring that person up because a lot of times people who are dealing with mental health issues are living with shame, living with guilt. So it was really amazing, being an OT, and being able to work with people. Being on the other side, like I mentioned, I was hospitalized three times. I remember the first time it was very, very challenging for me because I was normally on the other side of the nursing station. I don't know how many people are aware, but there's the area where the patients walk around, and then there's like a glass area that's sectioned off for staff to go on the other side. That's where they do charting and that kind of thing. So I kind of was used to being on that side. So coming in as a patient, I really well, firstly, I humble myself and go, ‘Lori, you're not an OT right now, you're here because you're having your own mental health challenges. So I really had to take a step back and kind of have to like almost forget what it is that I knew, because a lot of the things that I was learning in the groups and things from talking to the social worker, and the nurses, a lot of the stuff that we were doing were things that I had worked with my clients on, and actually like taught in some instances. I had to really just say, ‘no, it's not about my intellectual understanding of what they're teaching me, it's how can I actually apply this to me, and that was so hard to do. Not just because of pride or anything, but just because my whole life was studying mental health. That's what I did with my education and my work and all that kind of stuff and it's like, now I'm on the other side. It's quite an amazing experience in positive and negative ways. Being on the patient side is difficult, I can say. There was an incident actually I talked about in one of my YouTube videos. I actually blogged while I was in hospital, which was kind of amazing and it was very therapeutic. They recognized that and that was amazing because I still have access to my laptop and phone and I was able to do what was really helping me. There was one instance where there was a nurse who was I guess new to the unit or hadn't worked in mental health very often. They were covering a shift, and they were assigned to me, and they came over to talk to me, and just to get to know me in the morning, they wanted to know who they were working with for the day. They had asked me, ‘what were you doing before you were in the hospital?’ and I mentioned, at the time, an occupational therapist. And she was actually like, blown away, like, to the point where I felt so patronized, and I don't think she was even meaning to. She was looking at me going, ‘Wow, wow, that's amazing. In my head, I'm going ‘people with mental illness come in all shapes and sizes, you know, we're smart, we're intelligent. We're all different and we all have a different history with our mental illness. Mental illnesses can affect us at different times in our lives. Mine just happened to happen after I did my education and after I worked. I felt really stigmatized in that specific instance. It is tough because you're dealing with the dynamic of power and control of feeling who knows what's right. Just trying to really cope with the environment, which is generally stressful on an inpatient unit, and then on top of that, you're trying to get better, so you're trying to navigate environmental stresses. Being an inpatient, which I have to say, was the best thing at the time for me.
SWY: Someone in the comments said “therapists need therapists all the time and you dealing with your own trauma and you coming from your own place of healing as well”. So thank you for sharing that and your perspective. If anyone has any other questions for Lori, feel free to put them in the comments. We have a few minutes left here before we say our goodbyes. We covered a lot in this interview today. I'm really excited that we were able to do that and bring everybody into this conversation because it's so important to do so.
LC: Absolutely. Just one more thing I wanted to say, I went to the hospital, and then I went back to practice OT, and then I went back to the hospital and now I'm on disability. It's been a long journey. But going back to one of the times when I went back to work after being impatient because I got to experience being on that side. I came into practicing an OT with my team in a way that I always was advocating for the client or the patient, like for their well-being and all that kind of thing. But I was coming in now with a new way of looking at the relationship and the hierarchy and stuff like that. It really showed me how I could advocate for the client as well. Because prior to that, I didn't know really what the needs were and what it was like to actually be a patient, you know.
SWY: So someone said, “what do you think has been the most helpful for you throughout your healing journey?”.
LC: So many things, the most helpful, I would say, was having a supportive doctor, or health professional for me. It was my psychiatrist who I'm so thankful to have. I feel like I'm able, to be honest with her, and I'll come in ashamed sometimes, like, I'll come into our sessions and be like ‘I used again, or I coped in an unhealthy way or I've relapsed’ or something, which I never used to honestly say. I used to lie to my therapist. This is where the inauthenticity would come in because I always wanted to portray myself a certain way. I learned that I could be honest with her and it took a lot of time and relationship building, but through working with her and being able to be totally honest, I'm actually able to receive the care that I need. Prior to when I wasn't telling her about certain things I was doing, I didn't really get honest with her about having addiction dreams and using dreams, that kind of thing. But once I did start being honest with her, I found out there was a medication that can actually help you with night terrors, which I had no idea about. Not just medication, but other certain therapy groups. Just different options, basically. So I would say having somebody who's a professional that can really show you the options because not all options work for everybody. But different things work for different people at different times. So that's something that I had to learn, which is, sometimes they might recommend something and it might not be for me. But then who knows down the line, I might be like, you know what, ‘I'm at a place where that sounds like something I would try.
SWY: Thank you so much for sharing that and thank you for coming out today and sharing your knowledge and experiences with us. I'm so happy that you were able to be here and create an awesome space for people to join and ask questions and be authentic. So everyone who's listening, feel free to check out Lori's Instagram and YouTube channel where she shares all of these experiences and vlogs about all these super cool things.
Lori: And message me if you have any more questions, the dialogue is always ongoing!
SWY: So thank you so much everyone for coming out today. I hope you have a great rest of your weekend. And thanks again Lori and hopefully we can do this again sometime!
Lori: Definitely Dayna, thank you so much. I think you're doing such an important and amazing thing. So thank you for asking me!
We want to thank Lori for sharing her journey of authenticity and healing with us. Make sure to check out her Instagram and Youtube where she talks more about her day-to-day life experiences as a survivor.