Camille is a lover of all things skin, curls, music, justice, and wanderlust; oceans and islands are her thing. Her words inspire and her power is her voice. A California native with Trinidadian roots, she has penned personal essays, interviews, and lifestyle pieces for POPSUGAR, FEMI magazine, and SelfishBabe. Camille is currently creating a life she loves through words, self-love, fitness, travel, and empowerment. You can follow her on Instagram @cam_just_living or @written_by_cam.
Christmas in a Caribbean household is full of laughter and vibrance. I remember my father playing his soca, calypso, and parang on vinyl. I remember my brother and I wine down the whole living room. We loved to dance, and we liked to cut up. I remember my mother would start cooking from the night before.
I would wake up to the aromas of freshly baked bread, fry bake, ham, brown stew chicken, curry goat, callaloo and rice, dahl, macaroni pie, and roti---all the traditional holiday foods of a Trinidadian household. I had thoroughly enjoyed being around my family during the holidays. And I truly miss those days.
Navigating estranged family dynamics is a reality for many during the holiday season.
As I transitioned into a young adult, the holidays started to look a lot different for me. Life happened – my uncle, brother, cousins, and I all moved out of state. So, while my mother’s house was still the gathering spot, not so much anymore. And it wasn’t because of physical distance. But because of distance, something else became more visible even though it was always there. My home environment was subject to strain and tension among family. Yes, I have already stated my mother, and I never had the best relationship. However, this type of strain was before I came into this world.
Some family members have gone for years without speaking, and to this day, I couldn’t even tell you why. What I can say is pride, jealousy, ego, and envy ruin every single thing, including familial relationships.
At the time, I was too young to understand. I was told to “mind my business.” But I will say the notion of family not speaking in my immediate family was and still is a generational and/or repetitive cycle. An off-and-on type of thing where nothing is ever resolved – but hidden and buried. When you’re a child, you don’t notice these things at all. As an adolescent, you notice but you avoid asking questions to not add fuel to the fire.
As a young adult, you take mental notes, but you avoid addressing the issue. And as an adult when you finally leave your home environment, it is then you start to fully understand. You realize certain behaviors that you were surrounded with were completely toxic, unhealthy, and definitely not normal.
This holiday season, let's take a look at the true definition of estranged family and how other women, including myself, navigate the holidays with estranged family dynamics, create new traditions, and find peace.
What Is Family Estrangement?
Psychology Today describes family estrangement as something that occurs when at least one family member begins distancing themselves from another because of longstanding negativity in their relationship. Causes of estrangement vary – this includes abuse, neglect, bullying, unaddressed mental illness, lack of support, destructive behavior, and substance abuse. It could also look like a parent not agreeing with a child’s sexual orientation, choice of spouse, gender identity, religion, and/or political views. This includes sibling estrangement, too.
According to an article from The Conversation, 27% of adults experience family estrangement that either they or another family member initiates. The article further emphasizes family estrangement is a process that is ongoing and varies in degree.
It is voluntary, intentional, and based on ongoing issues. It is not a particular event or outcome. My therapist states, “In my professional experience, estranged families are often in adults that experienced developmental and/or childhood trauma by one or both primary caregivers and/or other relatives that may have been closer, or when they realized that these relationships are toxic, unhealthy, or damaging to them.
"These adults have set boundaries expressed verbally or with their behaviors for their well-being and mental health. Taking this decision can be difficult for many and tends to happen after years of trying to navigate the challenges, disappointments, and upsetting interactions. For some, having clear limits about how they will continue some sort of relationship, making these changes, and being consistent suffices. For others, this estrangement is absolute.’”
Estranged Family & The Holidays
When undesirable family dynamics exist, it’s never easy. It is difficult AF. Whether you are the person who initiated the distance or on the receiving end of it. And I want more people to understand this. Regardless of whether it is the holidays or not – dealing with estranged family dynamics can be a constant emotional torment that may never end. You’re constantly longing for a reality that could never be true. For something you do not have.
Over the past 13 years, I have always spent holidays with my uncle, cousins, and friends as I live out of state. Despite a non-existent relationship with my mother, a conditional relationship with my brother, and a stable relationship with my father, I managed to find family in friendship.
As a child, I always felt lonely within my immediate family. So, from an early age, I gravitated towards others as a means of survival. Whatever emotional needs that my immediate family was incapable of giving, I was able to get from uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends.
Even if you're experiencing family estrangement during the holiday, choose to make joy the center.
Image by Milko/Getty Images
Last year, for the first time in years, the holidays were not something I looked forward to as my parents divorced after 40 years of marriage. I just couldn’t get into the holiday spirit at all. What little family I was holding on to was officially gone. At least, I felt this way. How the hell do four people become somewhat strangers? I had to find a way to grieve and/or cope with my reality despite my family and friends' opinions. Because at the end of the day, it is my reality and mine alone. I had to realize my decision to not communicate with certain family was for my own protection from dysfunctional, hurtful, and unhealthy behaviors.
My process for coping involved journaling, talk therapy, and connecting with friends who have similar family dynamics to mine. But this year, during the holidays, I chose to make joy the center of my life.
Krystal, 35, V., 31, and Kendra, 37, share what the hardest part of the holidays is for them and how they have coped with their feelings and reality over the years.
Krystal: “Having to re-establish boundaries, particularly with certain family members. As much as I would desire to have a 'typical' family holiday that I can spend with my mother and brother, it's just not possible, and the anxiety is triggering knowing I have to reiterate that I have set my own traditions and should not nor will jump through hoops in order to make others happy when there is no respect, to begin with.”
V.: “The hardest part about holidays for me over the years were the times when I didn’t have anyone to celebrate with or spend the day with – it felt really lonely and isolating.”
Kendra: “The hardest is seeing the families around you come together. Seeing them be a family and a happy one at that. Being envious and wishing you had that. I still get that way occasionally, but it's a very small thought.”
Finding Acceptance & Peace In Estranged Family Dynamics
I am not sure that acceptance and peace is something that is truly absolute when it comes to one’s own family. As children, we are socialized with the notion of “family first” and “blood is thicker than water.” What if the importance of family is not those things? I think we ignore the percentage of people that have family dynamics that bring more hurt than love. But if peace is absolute, it definitely takes time to get there simply because we are human. We are meant to feel, and we feel every single thing.
You can be triggered by the smallest of things – holiday movies or seeing other families doing holiday activities together. Yet, secretly wishing that your family can be that family. However, it takes a level of self-awareness to catch your triggers and thoughts, and reprocess them.
For me, I found acceptance and peace by learning how to accept my family and making peace with who they are. Also knowing it’s not going to change. It’s not on me to fix or do anything because I am not responsible for the dynamics at play.
Here is how Krystal, V., and Kendra found acceptance and peace with their families.
Krystal: “Journaling and therapy are vital. Making sure I do not compare my family dynamics with other families during the holidays and reminding myself to be present as opposed to looking at the past or future. Holidays do not have to be negative if your family dynamics are not what you would hope for. But also allowing myself space to grieve and process because you need to give yourself grace.
"Moving on and establishing boundaries is a lifelong process, especially when you come from a culture (Hispanic) that pushes heavily on family first, even if they are narcissistic and toxic. You have to be willing to accept that some family will not accept your decisions.”
Kendra: “My family is messed up, and I chose to kick them to the curb. I wish I had different circumstances, but I don't, and I accept that I don't like these people, that I want nothing to do with them. I am very happy with my decision. It takes a while for some to accept that or get the courage to be on their own. Don't be afraid. Just fly!”
Self-Care & Wellness During The Holidays
Social media and media in general portray holidays as the most joyous time of the year. We see this in posts, Reels, commercials, television, and movies. It’s all around us in public places, at restaurants, and at holiday parties. The messaging and emphasis is always on the concept of family, love, warmth, togetherness, and creating memories. Again, what they get wrong or neglect is the percentage of people who may be unable to enjoy the holidays because of their family.
This is where self-care and wellness practices come into play. People who are navigating unfavorable family dynamics have the right to put themselves first to protect their mental health. It is not an act of selfishness to choose not to be around family for the holidays.
The intention is not to offend or hurt other family members, even though outside opinions may view your decision this way. In an article published by Monarch Therapy, it is stated that you must honor boundaries, own your feelings, recognize triggers, be compassionate to self, and engage in a self-care routine when it comes to how someone deals with their family.
Acknowledgment of self and wellness practices are key to coping and healing. This looks like being mindful of your thoughts, allowing yourself to feel, processing your feelings, and creating a routine you enjoy. As I mentioned previously, I practice all of the above not just during the holidays, but daily. And I think this is what makes holidays easier for me even though I have my moments.
Self-care around the holidays for me is allowing myself to process how I feel regardless of how uncomfortable it is, choosing to be around people I feel happy and emotionally safe with, and doing whatever makes me feel good. Whether that is lighting my favorite scent candle, binge-watching my favorite holiday movies, or making my favorite holiday treats.
Krystal, V., and Kendra explain how they handle their triggers and what self-care looks like for them.
Krystal: “Making little traditions for myself and those around me who are supportive and whom I consider family, as well as making sure to keep myself open to doing new or non-traditional holiday activities, also help. Yoga and moving my body have always been important, so incorporating movement such as walking outdoors to see a tree lighting ceremony or a winter art festival are other forms of self-care I like to implement.”
V.: “Giving myself permission to always do what’s best for me and my mental health. Knowing that at any moment, I can choose to leave a space that I feel isn't serving me. Also, giving all the parts of me extra love and comfort.”
Kendra: “I do what I want. I have a great partner that I lean on if I need it, and vice versa. He's way more into the holidays than I am, so he tries to bring all the cheer that I'm not a big fan of. I like making others happy, so I’ll be all festive for him.”
Creating New Traditions
The holidays are strongly tied to tradition, values, and societal and/or cultural norms regardless of where you are in the world, especially in America. With that said, I find at least in America more and more people are getting away from tradition. They are choosing to celebrate holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas through non-conventional choices. There are a number of reasons for this, too.
However, in an article byThe Atlantic, it is stated that there has been a shift in American family values, and this is the underlying cause of family estrangement. We as a society fail to realize the rules of family life have changed in the last 50 years regardless of how we try to hang on to tradition. And for people who struggle with being around family around the holidays — they are opting to do their own thing and create new traditions for themselves willingly.
I am still navigating through what new holiday traditions look like for me as a single 38-year-old woman with no kids. Ideally, I’d like to travel to different countries to spend the holidays there, and I have before.
I spent Christmas in my parents' home country of Trinidad as a child and as an adult. In 2020, I spent Christmas with a friend in Jamaica for a friend’s birthday. I loved every second of it.
However, this year, I proudly decorated my fireplace with a mini garland, gold beads, and red and white mini stockings. I put up a mini-Christmas tree with gold, silver, and bronze metallics. So, I guess I will start there.
Krystal, V., and Kendra share what holiday traditions they are creating for themselves and their family.
Krystal: “I just had a child, so focusing on giving him and my partner and being able to pass on the experiences and traditions I would have enjoyed is big for me. I still want to maintain cultural traditions such as Three Kings Day, which now, with a child, I can find a way to make it our own. I had already implemented a holiday ornament to add to the Christmas tree yearly that represented the year and all that has happened as well as going to a winter festival or tree lighting festival is also essential.
"A new tradition we are starting this year comes from Iceland where you gift each other a book to read and spend that evening (usually done Christmas Eve but could be done anytime) reading together.”
V.: “Some new traditions I am creating for myself are reminding myself that it is just another day and the day has whatever meaning I choose to give it. And just like any other day, I can spend it with whoever I choose - whether that’s my birth family, friends, or no one but myself.”
The holidays do not have to be a painful or lonely experience for you. Know that you are never alone.
Image by PeopleImages/Getty Images
Kendra: “I surrounded myself with friends, and they turned into my family. I have a nice group of them. Thanksgiving, I go to a few houses, eat, drink, socialize, and I'm truly happy. My 'real family' isn't even a thought. Christmas, however, was ruined for me early on, so I don't celebrate in a traditional way. I don't do presents. I think it’s a tradition that should be broken. I will bake sometimes and give them to people. Mostly, I do the same thing as Thanksgiving.”
With all this in mind, I want to say the holidays do not have to be a painful and/or lonely experience for you. But I wholeheartedly understand that if you are still in the process of making peace within yourself surrounding an estranged family.
There is no doubt you are going to feel all the things. It is more than okay. And it takes time. Your truth is your truth. Your experiences are valid.
Please do not let anyone tell you differently. You do not have to feel obligated to do anything or go anywhere. This includes forcing yourself to be around family and responding to texts and calls from estranged family if you do not want to. You can choose to hold space for estranged family in a different way.
By doing so, you are choosing to protect your mental health and choosing not to relive unpleasant memories. Ultimately, you are choosing not to repeat an unhealthy cycle. Instead, you are creating new moments and memories for yourself.
When asked what advice Krystal, V., and Kendra would give to other women who are struggling with estranged family dynamics during the holidays, this is what they had to say.
"Life throws us so many things, especially us. We can choose to dwell, be pissed or we can choose to find the little good things."
Image by JulPo/Getty Images
Krystal: “Remember that it's okay to grieve what you do not have but to focus and stay in the present. You have made it this far, and no one should shame you for establishing boundaries and taking care of yourself. Above all else, therapy is something that even if you have dismissed in the past, give it a second chance.”
V.: “Tend to yourself – love on your inner child/inner teen, whatever part of you that may be feeling the most affected. Figure out what you need – whether that’s to attend or host a Friendsgiving because you want to celebrate with others, or making your own dinner and having a movie night because you want to feel comfort. Know that you are never alone no matter how lonely a moment may feel.”
Kendra: One of my favorite quotes from Viktor Frankl is, 'Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.' Life throws us so many things, especially us. We can choose to dwell, be pissed, or we can choose to find the little good things. Pick yourself up and do whatever it is you are wanting.
"Yes, it's better with people who love you and you love back. So love yourself first because everyone is worth self-love, then go out and find the people that love you and you love. Whoever it is. We are born into a family, but we choose who ends up being that family.”
The key takeaway here is to always remember you deserve to feel a sense of happiness, peace, and joy – holidays or not. This holiday season, I encourage you to partake in all the things that fill your heart with love, warmth, and goodness.
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They say you can’t heal in the same place that made you sick. And I couldn’t.
The year was 2019, and I knew I had to go. My spirit was calling me to be alone and to go alone. It was required in that season. A few months prior, I had quit my job. And it was late 2017 when I had met trauma.
I was completely broken, and every part of me hurt. I was no longer the lighthearted Camille that everyone loved and knew me to be. I remember a family friend saying, “You’re not the same.” And I wasn’t. I no longer recognized the girl looking back at me in the mirror. I needed major healing.
It was 2018 when I found the courage to seek mental health therapy. At that point, I knew there was nothing more that my friends could do for me. I was all cried out, and the silence was killing me. At the time, I was diagnosed with clinical anxiety, depression, and PTSD. How?
How did I let trauma take complete control of my life? But I had to forgive myself for all the things I did not know.
At the time, my therapist introduced me to journaling as a coping mechanism. Words ultimately became my best friend. In many ways, I would like to think that writing saved me. I am in love with words, and I always have been. My writing was and still is my safe space. It unlocked opportunities I never imagined – like writing for xoNecole.
And with this gift, I can now tell you a story about my own trauma, healing, self-discovery, and the journey to learning how to celebrate myself.
Starting a Healing Journey
In early Spring 2019, I was told by a Reiki healer that I was going to embark on a journey. She told me it was going to be lonely, but I was never alone. The thing is I never once mentioned to this woman my travel plans. It was August 2019 when I planned my solo trip to Europe. It was going to be 38 days alone on a continent I knew absolutely nothing about. By the end of summer and a nine-hour flight later, I touched down in London.
I fell in love with every single thing. I fell in love with everything I could see – colors, cobblestone streets, spiral staircases, adorned windows, architecture, garden terraces, nature, and people. I fell in love with everything I could hear – accents, language, history, and music. I fell in love with everything I could taste – wines, foods, and desserts. I fell in love with everything I could feel – ocean breezes, white sands, and well-designed buildings. I fell in love with everything that fed my soul. People, stories, and connections. I fell in love with myself.
I always say women have the ability to heal others naturally. It was here in my travels that I started to pay attention to the concepts of purpose, connection, energy, alignment, and universal signs. I began to truly realize not only my strengths and universal gifts but also how to use them too. I started to step into my authentic self. I began to realize who Camille really was. A free spirit with a heart of gold.
Courtesy of Camille Ali
A New Season
By the time I had returned from Europe, it was late Fall 2019, and I was a completely different person.
I spent most of my time pouring into myself. Self-development and self-love became key. Everything that I previously settled for in family, friends, and relationships – I went and gave to myself. Read that again. I became completely in love with who I was becoming, and I still am. I had let go of tradition, conditional beliefs, people pleasing, and living my life to make my parents proud.
I had let go of being a “straight arrow,” and the idea of having it all figured out. I outgrew tradition and cultural norms. Sometimes, those things can be so blinding.
I began to shift. I adopted and altered the things that aligned with my purpose and values.
I became risk-tolerant instead of risk-averse.
I canceled my fears.
I welcomed uncertainty, knowing I would always land on my feet.
This newfound level of confidence came out of nowhere. It was no longer a question of if I can do this. The question became, how can I do this? I stayed open to possibilities and opportunities in whichever form they came to me. I became selective and intentional with my time and energy, too. I went from being a 9 to 5 government employee, then a corporate consultant, to a small business owner not once but twice by 2021.
If you ask me who I am now, I would say I am authentically a creative. I write from my heart, and I speak from my core. My voice is my power, and my words hold weight. By trade, I am a paralegal and a business consultant.
How Trauma Shows Up in the Body
Even though I was able to heal my heart, my mind, and my spirit, I wasn’t quite done healing. And I didn’t even know it. In the last seven years, I gained weight. This was a direct result of a broken heart, emotional trauma, mental health issues, stress, and poor lifestyle choices. I was a good 50 pounds overweight, too. I knew something was wrong with my body when it stopped responding to my dietary and lifestyle efforts.
I started to advocate for my health in the winter of 2022 to get clarity and answers. I sought the care of medical specialists, asked the right questions, requested second opinions, and tested and retested my blood. Not one doctor could properly diagnose me, either.
When Western medicine failed me, I chose holistic medicine. What I learned and what I understood was that my physical health issues were a straight-up trauma response. I cried. I was always conscious about my health, and now I’m sick with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Yes, PTSD triggers and is linked to autoimmune diseases.
I remember thinking, “I did this to myself, and I have to fix it.”
I spent the majority of 2023 detoxing with Chinese herbs, making every lifestyle change possible. My body was holding on to dead weight – it had to go for me to continue to become.
Courtesy of Camille Ali
Summer 2023 couldn’t come any faster. I completed my holistic detox with sacrifice and ease. While everyone saw just a “body transformation,” for me, it was an emotional release.
I was no longer reminded of what transpired. I cried again.
There were so many days, months, and years that I thought I would never get me back. And I believed it. I mean, who wouldn’t? Medical experts adamantly told me that there was nothing wrong with me. All I wanted was to feel like myself again. I missed me so badly.
I looked for me everywhere. I couldn’t find her until I paused and did the inner work.
I wouldn’t change one thing about my healing journey. It all had to happen so I could be in this current moment. And this girl right here – I know exactly who she is. I know what she stands for through and through. And I’ll never stray from that.
I’ve grown so much, yet in some ways, I’m rediscovering who this girl is again. It’s so intoxicating.
Courtesy of Camille Ali
Returning to Europe
I have always wanted to go back to Europe. Europe is a magical place to be. It's the energy, the people, and the lifestyle for me. But the timing wasn’t right. It took the wedding of a close friend of mine to make my return happen. I returned to Europe in August 2023. This time to Greece.
At first, I didn’t realize the significance of the timing. But make no mistake, this was alignment, a full circle moment, and a testimony to myself. I started a healing journey in August 2019, and I returned as a completely different person this year.
Happy, whole, and healed. Resilient and confident.
I knew I was meant to share a pivotal moment in my friend’s life and celebrate myself. My word for 2023 was joy, and I wanted all of it. More importantly, I deserved it.
I fell in love with everything all over again. Everything that I can see, hear, smell, touch, and taste, that is. I created moments and memories. And I felt each moment and memory deeply in new places and with new faces. Greece owed me absolutely nothing. Europe will always and forever have a special place in my heart.
My five-year healing journey taught me to always choose myself. I am grateful because my entire journey brought me home to myself. And one thing about me is that when I am in the right environment — I thrive. Always.
The journey to self-discovery is worth the uncomfortable moments and ugly crying. It’s worth the undoing, redoing, and reprocessing to finally come to a place of happiness, peace, and being comfortable in your own skin.
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I used to be a child that sought constant acceptance, approval, and validation from my mother. I longed for the mother-daughter relationships that I saw on TV, in movies, or that my girlfriends had with their mothers. I would be triggered watching mother-daughter Lifetime movie scenes. Warm tears slowly rolled down my face as I watch rehearsed scenes of what a mother-daughter relationship should look like.
As a child, I remember feeling like I was not worthy of my mother’s love. I remember feeling jealous of the love my mother would show to my twin brother and cousins. But when it came to me, my mother seemed to treat me differently. Every difference of opinion seemed to create distance. Every conversation turned into an argument. And I could never understand why.
From the time I was in middle school or either high school, I looked for motherly love in other women – my older cousins, aunts, godmother, my girlfriends’ mothers, and colleagues. At one point, physical distance made our relationship more amicable. But as I started to undo conditioned beliefs, become my authentic self, and heal my inner child, my relationship with my mother went from strained to completely estranged over the years. Believe me — I have tried to fix things with my mother. The pain just lingers. This is never what I had wanted. And I still don’t want it to be this way. I mean, what daughter would want that?
It took time and therapy, but I had to protect my energy and make peace with my reality. I love my mom as any daughter would. My mother is the reason I stand on my feet and not on my knees. I am more than grateful for my mother and everything she sacrificed for me. Because of my mother, I present and carry myself well. Extremely well. I am strong, independent, respectful, confident, responsible, educated, eloquent, well-dressed, successful, compassionate, well-rounded, graceful, disciplined, and hard-working. She raised one hell of a woman.
The relationship we have with our mothers is seen as one of the most important relationships in our lives. It is this type of relationship that dictates your interactions with other people. It is said what happens in your childhood shows up in platonic and romantic relationships. It’s true. Most of the time, mother-daughter relationships are portrayed as healthy, secure, loving relationships. Women often say, “My mother is my best friend.” However, this isn’t true for some women. As women have become more transparent about generational trauma, it’s definitely not true. What is true is that more and more women are sharing their experiences with having a toxic mother.
And I think it’s time we elevate the conversation about toxic mothers. It was within the last year or two I learned that the psychological term for an unhealthy relationship with our mothers is called the "mother wound." Thanks to theInstagram page @motherwoundproject, women like me have a resource to understand, validate, and cope with our own mother wounds. Let’s take a closer look at what the mother wound is, the signs of the mother wound, and how to find healing.
What Is the Mother Wound?
According to Stephi Wagner, the founder of the Mother Wound Project, themother wound is all the pain we carry from our relationship or lack of relationship with our mothers. It is thegenerational pain and a intergenerational complex trauma inherited and passed down between grandmothers, mothers, and daughters. The mother wound usually affects women of color, women from immigrant families, or women living in poverty. This pain can stem from childhood, adolescence, or adulthood.
It is important to note that the mother wound is not gender specific – both men and women can have mother wounds. However, it is more common in mother-daughter relationships. The mother wound can also be described as a loss or lack of mothering. For example, your mother may have been able to provide physical needs but could not provide for your emotional needs. Causes for the mother wound can range from neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, financial abuse, and/or sexual abuse.
The Signs of Having the Mother Wound
Every mother's wound is different and is experienced differently. It can cause emotional and mental damage. For me, my mother wound showed up as wanting my mother’s approval, trying to please my mother with my academic accomplishments, shaming my body, thinking my mother didn’t love me, conflict avoidance, and having weak boundaries.
According toPsychology Today, signs of the mother wound can look like this:
"Never feeling they had their mother's approval or acceptance;
"Concerns about not being loved by their mother or not being loved as much as other siblings or family members;
"Difficulties in relating to the mother on an emotional level;
"Feelings of having to protect, care for, or shelter your mother rather than her protecting, caring for, and sheltering you."
And according to theMother Wound Project, other signs of the mother wound may be described as the following:
"You feel responsible for the feelings and happiness of others;
"You have a history of unfulfilling, difficult, or even abusive relationships;
"You are either afraid of conflict and find yourself avoiding it at all costs, OR You find yourself seeking out conflict for the wrong reasons;
"You believe deep down that you are 'unlovable' or 'hard to love';
"You have a hard time saying no, setting boundaries, or asserting yourself, especially when others may be disappointed or upset;
"You care too much about the judgments and opinions of others."
These negative feelings lead to reduced self-esteem in your childhood and as an adult. Ultimately, one can end up having codependency issues in their adult relationships or struggle with an attachment disorder.
Healing From the Mother Wound
For the longest time, I thought I was the only one who had a difficult relationship with their mother. By speaking my truth, I found that three of my close friends also do not have healthy relationships with their mothers. And honestly, there was so much comfort and healing in knowing I had a friend that could relate to my experiences. It’s not easy to talk about the pain of not having a relationship with your mom. You are often envious or feel a way knowing that your friends have what you desire. The type of mother-daughter relationship filled with open communication, transparency, love, affection, and friendship.
Most of the time, friends like this don’t understand or can’t relate. They say things like, “I can’t imagine not speaking with my mom,” “You only have one mom,” or “It’s still your mom.” And to someone who struggles with not having their mom in their life - it’s probably the worst thing you could ever say simply because that is not our truth.
An article byMindbodygreen states that in order to heal from a mother wound we must learn to re-mother ourselves and set boundaries around the relationship with our mothers. We have to create a new relationship with ourselves and learn to meet our own emotional, physical, and practical needs. This means acknowledging our pain and grieving that pain with our inner child. It is recommended to work with a therapist to process those feelings.
I first addressed my mother wound in talk therapy and journaling. I also worked through my pain in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), a past life regression (hypnosis), and equine-assisted therapy (horse therapy). The memories and feelings I had to unpack were uncomfortable but necessary for me to heal. I had to come to the understanding that the women before me didn’t know any better and were doing what they thought was right. By acknowledging this, I was able to change my reaction and/or responses, show compassion, and forgive my mother.
Please note that the mother wound is not a clinical or medical diagnosis. The mother wound just cuts deep. It is something that many women struggle to heal from. And if you are trying to heal from the pain of having a difficult mother-daughter relationship, I want you to know you’re not alone. It’s going to take some time.
And it’s going to take remembering things you don’t want to remember. You’ll unpack a whole lot of feelings. There’s going to be some ugly crying too, but the pain will soften. You will still have your moments and internal battles, but you will find acceptance, comfort, and peace. I have found that women have the natural ability to connect through our pain and heal each other just by sharing our truths.
So, if you think you are suffering from a mother wound or have a broken relationship with your mother, you can and will find healing.
I did and I am still healing.
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I usually pride myself on being a healthy person. I consistently eat the right foods, stay hydrated, and work out four times a week. It wasn't until this year that I realized I may not be as healthy as I thought. I was devastated and I still am. For me, the key symptom was my inability to lose weight. This went on for eight months and continues to go on.
No matter how much I kept a clean diet, burned calories, and tracked my macros, the weight would not move. It seemed so simple – eat right, do cardio, and lift weights. At least, that's what we're told. It's what we read and see on our social media feeds. My personal trainer was patient yet frustrated. And I was even more frustrated and had no patience. Nothing he did, or I did was working.
For months there was no progress or results. I could not understand it. I thought to myself, You can’t tell me I’m going to be stuck weighing 180 pounds for the rest of my life, it makes no sense. Something is wrong with my body.
In February 2022, my primary care physician referred me to an endocrinologist. It was then I learned about the role of hormones in our bodies. Of course, I know about reproductive hormones at a basic level. At my big age of 37, you would think I would understand that other hormones regulate our entire body. But I didn't know until I did.
After extensive blood work, the results showed I was insulin resistant and diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. Now, what does this mean? It means that the cells in my muscles, fat, and liver don't respond well to insulin and can't use the glucose from my blood as energy. Therefore, I store fat instead of burning fat. As a result, my body overproduces the insulin hormone.
What I understood was that I'm metabolically messed up. I now have what is known as a hormonal imbalance.
Since I learned of my diagnosis, I started doing all the things to begin to heal myself. When I learned I had uterine fibroids, I changed my diet. I reduced the intensity of my workouts. But because I have fibroids coupled with a hormonal imbalance - this still wasn’t enough. My body was completely unresponsive. I desperately scrolled the 'gram trying to learn more about hormones and what I could do to balance my hormones.
I started following every single hormone coach and functional doctor I came across. A friend of mine slid into my DMs and sent me the profile of Dr. Jolene Brighten. Dr. Brighten is a board-certified naturopathic endocrinologist, clinical sexologist, and leader in women's medicine. She is known for educating women on hormones through a variety of resources and uncovering the root causes of hormonal imbalances in women.
Let’s take a closer look at what a hormonal imbalance is, the symptoms, the types of hormonal imbalances, and how to balance your hormones through natural practices.
What Is a Hormonal Imbalance?
Did you know our body produces over 50 different hormones that contribute to how our body functions? I did not. A hormonal imbalance occurs when the body has too much or too little of one or more hormones. When this happens, it can lead to different medical conditions.
According to Dr. Brighten, "Many women experience hormonal imbalances that manifest in menstrual cycle issues. Irregular periods, for example, can be due to elevated testosterone, which is common among women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Hypothyroidism, when there is too little thyroid hormone, can result in heavy periods, long cycles, irregular periods, and failure to ovulate. PMS, heavy periods, and breast tenderness can be due to lower levels of progesterone, which creates a state in which the tissues can be stimulated by estrogen."
Symptoms of hormonal imbalances vary. An article by the Cleveland Clinic states that if a hormonal imbalance affects your metabolism, you might experience fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, depression, anxiety, dry skin and hair, high cholesterol levels, unexplained weight gain or weight loss, skin tags, and extreme thirst.
Sex hormone imbalance symptoms include acne, hair loss, heavy periods, excess body hair, hot flashes, infertility, irregular periods, loss of interest in sex, and vaginal dryness.
How to Diagnose a Hormonal Imbalance
Hormonal imbalances are discovered by testing specific hormones and other markers through a series of blood tests. I lost count of how many times I drew blood from my veins this year. For me getting a proper diagnosis seemed like the most discouraging thing. My doctors were not listening to me. I was told, "Your lab results are perfect. You are healthy," except I wasn't. And I knew it. I mean if I was, my body would not be fighting my efforts to lose weight."
In addition to unexplained weight loss or weight gain, symptoms of a hormonal imbalance can include tachycardia (or a slow or rapid heartbeat), constipation, fatigue, anxiety, depression, high levels of blood cholesterol, and even diarrhea. If you are experiencing these symptoms, Dr. Brighten advises seeing a "primary care physician, gynecologist, or naturopathic physician who can help you in troubleshooting hormonal symptoms. If they are significant, that may warrant a referral to an endocrinologist."
It Starts With Your Diet
The saying "you are what you eat" is true. Foods play a vital role in our health. What we put into our bodies ultimately dictates how our body functions. I personally have eliminated the foods that cause inflammation and may make my symptoms worse. In Dr. Brighten's book, Is This Normal, she mentions that, "Women should include nutrient-dense foods that provide us protein, fat, and fiber at each meal. This trifecta helps stabilize blood sugar, while also keeping us full and our bowels regular. Because many women experience menstrual cramps, I often recommend focusing on increasing omega-3 fatty acids in the diet, while decreasing omega-6, the latter can make cramps worse."
Some foods that women with hormonal imbalances are encouraged to avoid are caffeine, sugar, alcohol, red meat, soy, dairy, processed foods, gluten, fried foods, and white carbs (potatoes, pastries, white rice, or white bread). These foods may cause inflammation and worsen current symptoms. When I removed these foods from my diet, there was such a big difference in my skin, energy, and my period. Not to mention, my fibroids have not grown any bigger either.
Prioritize Lifestyle Changes
When it comes to lifestyle changes, we automatically think of food and exercise alone. While nutrition and movement are daily essentials, we often neglect the role sleep, stress, mental health, and other environmental factors play in our health in general. It really is a holistic practice to heal the body, let alone hormones. Women must consider every aspect of their bodies and health. I had to and I do daily. I’m in bed by 9 p.m. and my phone is on do not disturb.
"Making quality sleep and stress management a priority is a must," Dr. Brighten emphasizes. "Both of these issues can create problems for our hormone and metabolic system that makes it very difficult to maintain optimal hormone levels."
Did you know certain household products or home goods can contribute to your hormonal imbalance? One example is candles – they contain phthalates (usually found in scented candles) which are endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or endocrine disruptors, mimic the body's hormones and can therefore interfere with the body's hormonal functions. While there has been some opposition to whether or not scented candles are truly harmful to you, Dr. Brighten says "removing endocrine-disrupting chemicals from your personal care products, cleaning supplies, and kitchen can have a tremendous impact on hormonal health."
For me, this meant switching to glass food containers, non-toxic cookware, clean beauty products, and a metal water bottle because plastics have synthetic estrogen in them.
Supplements Are Your Best Friend for Balancing Hormones
As a woman in her late 30s, I have learned vitamins are key. Vitamins help support the body and provide the nutrients I may not get enough of daily. I have a whole kitchen shelf dedicated to vitamins and supplements which I take daily. Multivitamins, vitamin C, fish oil, and biotin. Supplements to support your hormonal imbalance are dependent on the type of hormonal imbalance. Dr. Brighten believes "including supplements in a routine that is focused on nutrition and lifestyle changes can really move the needle with regards to your hormone goals."
She adds, "For estrogen issues, I often recommend DIM, sulforaphane, and Calcium D-Glucarate. When progesterone is the problem (which is common), I like to use Vitex and vitamin B6. Clinically, I've seen a lot of patients benefit from these, which is why we included them in our Balance Women’s Hormone Support formulation."
Healing a Hormonal Imbalance Naturally
Every woman and every hormonal imbalance is different. You have to be intentional and make a conscious effort to want to heal, which is what I am learning about myself. And while most struggle with making such a dramatic change to their life, for me it came with ease. I love a good time, but I value my health more. I jokingly tell my friends it all starts in your thirties. I swear. I don’t want to be on medication ever or have surgery for anything.
I had to learn acceptance. I had to accept my body was not functioning how it should, even though I looked healthy.
The lab results revealed the truth. And I know I’m one of many women that have a hormonal imbalance. It’s a common thing. But for me, it was a big deal and was a hard pill to swallow when you keep being told you’re healthy. I also had to accept that hormonal imbalances do not go away overnight. It takes time to get your hormones back at the right levels and stay there. Our hormone levels are constantly changing.
When asked how often women should test their hormones and how long it takes to correct a hormonal imbalance, Dr. Brighten states that "it really depends on what is going on. For example, with hypothyroidism that is treated with medication, we often retest 6-8 weeks following dosage changes. Once the thyroid levels are stabilized, we may only follow up every 6-12 months or if symptoms arise. My approach to testing is very individualized, as are most providers."
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If you think something in your body is off, don’t ignore the signs. It’s probably your hormones. The slightest symptom could be a sign of something more serious.
If you've been struggling with a hormonal imbalance, there is hope. Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before. Any healing journey begins with forgiveness of self. I had to do this very thing.
Hormonal health is trending. And in 2022, women are taking control of their health by being their own advocates with the help of doctors like Dr. Jolene Brighten.
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I was never a coffee drinker. My body simply cannot handle the caffeine crash three to four hours later. However, I do love tea, especially black tea with flavored coffee creamer or milk. I usually go for a spicy chai, English breakfast, or Irish breakfast tea. That changed recently when I discovered I have uterine fibroids and a hormonal imbalance. Like most women who love a good cup of coffee or black tea to get them through the day, the main ingredient found in our favorite morning drinks isn’t always good for us.
Yes, I am talking about caffeine. I have learned caffeine feeds the growth of fibroids and doesn’t help balance your hormones. I was never the biggest fan of herbal teas, but I had to make the switch for my health. And I am still exploring the type of herbal teas I enjoy. Nowadays, I start my mornings with peppermint, turmeric, ginger root, or chamomile tea. The thing about herbal teas is that they are naturally healing to the body. And dandelion tea is one of those herbal teas that can do wonders for your body.
What Is Dandelion Tea?
If you've never heard of dandelion tea, you’re not the only one. As someone who is new to finding holistic ways to heal my body, I am still learning the basics. Yes, dandelion is a common weed and/or flower that grows in one’s yard, but dandelion has also been used for culinary and medicinal purposes for centuries. Dandelion tea is made from the dandelion root along with the stem, and leaves. It is also considered an ancient herbal medicine. Dandelion tea is also a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, and zinc. But most people drink dandelion tea as a coffee substitute due to its smoky flavor and dark coloring minus the caffeine.
How To Make Dandelion Tea
The easiest way to make dandelion tea is to buy store-bought tea bags and steep them in hot water. But, if you’re old school, you can pick dandelions from your yard (as long as there are no herbicides, pesticides, or animal feces). Rinse the leaves and/or flowers. Place six leaves and/or flowers in a mug, add hot water, and seep for 10 to 20 minutes. Be sure to remove the leaves when you’re ready to drink.
If you use the root of the dandelion, you want to chop the root into small pieces and roast it for two hours. Place 1 to 2 teaspoons in a mug of hot water and steep for 10 minutes. Any remaining leaves or roots can be stored in an airtight container.
Benefits of Dandelion Tea
Around the world, dandelion tea is a common home remedy for urinary tract infections, inflammation, detoxing the body, and the common cold. Here are a few ways that dandelion naturally heals the body.
If you struggle with feeling bloated, dandelion tea acts as a natural diuretic and increases urine output. The high potassium levels found in dandelion flush out sodium from the body. Studies show increased urine output after one cup of dandelion tea made from the plant’s leaves.
Lowers Blood Sugar
Blood sugar has been trending in health and wellness on the gram, and people with diabetes can benefit from dandelion tea. The healing power of dandelions can help moderate blood sugar and improve insulin resistance. This is due to the phytonutrients found in the dandelion plant as it stimulates insulin sensitivity.
Detoxes The Liver
Did you know our bodies are full of toxins? These toxins come from the types of foods we eat. This is why it’s important to eat whole foods and reduce processed foods. Drinking dandelion tea can help the body remove toxins from our body systems. Dandelion helps the liver filter out harmful chemicals from the foods we eat and reduce markers of liver damage.
Improves Skin Health
Flower extracts and other plants are common ingredients in skin care products due to their ability to soothe and heal the skin. When it comes to skin care, dandelion is the ultimate skin glow-up. It protects the skin from sun damage, signs of aging, acne, and reduces inflammation. It has also been said that dandelion can increase collagen production and hydrate your skin.
Promotes Gut Health
According to prevention.com, dandelion makes it easier for the body to receive the nutrients it needs. Dandelion tea soothes the stomach lining, allowing our gut to absorb more minerals. It also increases our body’s natural probiotic properties as it enhances a beneficial bacteria called lactobacillus. And gut health is key in regulating other systems of the body.
Supports The Immune System
Since dandelion is high in vitamin C, it helps the body with healthy cell growth and cellular health in general. The antioxidants found in dandelion protect our cells from free radicals which can lead to health conditions such as heart disease and cancer. Overall, the nutrients found in dandelions strengthen the immune system to fight against common colds and cases of flu all year long.
Whether you are looking to reduce your coffee intake or heal your body, dandelion tea has infinite healing benefits for the ultimate health glow-up.
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Health and wellness have always been trending topics on social media. Our social media feeds are oversaturated with resources for balancing our hormones, improving our reproductive health, and prioritizing our mental health. Even the concept of spirituality has become a wellness trend. We focus on questions like, "What does it mean to be spiritually healthy?" But for the purpose of this article, let's focus on gut health.
Gut health has been a highlighted conversation in the wellness industry. More and more people are recognizing how our gut health plays a role and affects our bodily systems. I myself, also have become more aware of how to heal my gut with food and probiotics. And thanks to TikTok’s newest wellness trend,internal showers, we now have the latest at-home remedy to make “going number two” a whole lot easier.
What Is an Internal Shower?
The concept of an internal shower is a holistic approach that many TikTok users have been swearing by to help alleviate constipation. And how do you make one? An internal shower is a concoction of two tablespoons of chia seeds, the juice of half of a lemon, and a cup of water which is consumed and said to help relieve constipation and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). But the key is the mixture has to sit for ten minutes to turn into a gel-like substance prior to consumption for it to work. So, what happens next? You let your body do its thing and be prepared.
Where Did It Come From and How Does It Work?
It has been said that board-certified chiropractor and celebrity nutritionist Dr. Daryl Gioffre is named the creator of the internal shower drink. He promotes it as a “constipation reliever shot” that has helped him with his owndigestive and gut health issues. OneTikTok user, (@_mimzilla) has said the origin of the drink isn’t a trend, it's an ancient Aztec and Mayan tradition known as “agua de chia” (chia water). According toCosmopolitan, the link between chia seeds and constipation is that fiber is needed to bulk out the stool, and water helps soften it. Now you know why they say drinking a lot of water helps you go to the bathroom. As long as there is enough water and fiber in your system, it is easier to pass bowels with less pain and constipation.
Is Drinking the Internal Shower Drink Good for You?
The short answer is yes and the long answer is no.Chia seeds are considered a superfood packed with protein and antioxidants. Chia seeds also contain about half the daily fiber our body needs (25 grams per day). So, two tablespoons of chia seeds is an adequate amount of fiber to meet your daily intake. But while we are told our bodies need fiber, too much fiber can cause abdominal pain, bloating, cramping, and gas. If we consume more than the daily amount of fiber required, it can lead to diarrhea or constipation.
The internal shower drink is generally safe but not recommended to be a part of one’s daily routine. I was once told by a gastroenterologist that we should be having bowel movements at least three times a week and anything over that is excessive. You have to listen to your body, what is normal for someone else, may not be normal for your body. It is highly recommended by most doctors, nutritionists, registered dietitians, and wellness practitioners to eat a regular balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and high-fiber foods like oatmeal, whole grain bread, or avocado.
With over 150 million views on TikTok, the internal shower has become a popular wellness trend to try. I am not sure if I would try the internal shower drink. The issue with health and wellness trends is that they are quick fixes and oftentimes can be addictive. It is not always sustainable and can cause more damage than good. And sometimes the damage done to the body can take several months or years to reverse or repair. To be honest, I am going through this right now, and healing the body is a very slow yet frustrating process. But nonetheless, natural home remedies do work and can be incorporated into your daily routine depending on what they are.
Now that you know what TikTok users have been raving about, would you try an internal shower?
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