It’s Time to Stop Running

runningI’ve sat through group and individual therapy each week for the last eighteen months, and during that time, we touched on every aspect of my life. My presence is no stranger to the therapy room, but this is the first time I was ever able to untangle childhood trauma. I thought we were making excellent progress, but I was aware of bouncing from one topic to another, which eventually led to disorientation and feeling very lost.

It felt as if something fundamental was missing from the therapeutic journey and it took me all this time to understand what that might be. I may well have dutifully conjured up challenging memories in therapy and identified all the right feelings, but I didn’t sit with them long enough to form any kind of conclusion or attain healing

It’s devastating to reach this stage in therapy and I even wondered if the entire experience has been one big avoidance trip. The thought of having to go back to the beginning and trawl through the feelings all over again is a daunting prospect and there’s something very shameful in admitting that this is where I’m stuck…. at my age… a prisoner within the same past trauma.

When I first started this blog, the tagline read, “A tale too tragic to tell.” I was trying to convey how it almost sounds tragic to recount so many traumatic experiences in one short life. I find it difficult to hear pity and the last thing I ever want to do is sit around licking old wounds until they’re raw. What I do need to do during my final months of therapy is to stop bouncing around and learn to sit with certain emotions long enough to hopefully generate a solid state of recovery.

Shame. Humiliation. Fear. Anger. Those may well be some of the hardest emotions to admit but they are much more painful to sit with. They are the fuel to my avoidance and the catalyst to a lifetime of mental health problems.

Something happened in group therapy on Friday that seemed a benign interaction at first, but it inadvertently made me aware of something I’ve not quite grasped before now. The only other male member of the group asked if I have a problem with him. “You always seem to look straight through me,” he said.

I don’t have any particular issue with him, but our small interaction did feel slightly uncomfortable. I thought about his comment for some time afterwards and I reckon that he probably does detect subtle hints of something uncomfortable. I realised last weekend that the issue is not with him, but rather what his gender came to represent in my own life.

When I was a little boy, people would easily mistake me for a girl. Everything about me felt feminine and this played out in how I walked, talked, and the toys I liked to play with. I was only ever comfortable playing around girls and the boys found my lack of interest in football distasteful.

Maybe the gender confusion infuriated dad or he may just be carrying baggage from his own childhood. Those reasons bare little importance to the healing today, but he was always an angry bully who terrified me from an early age. His loyal-family-man principles worked hard to put food on the table and clothes on our back, but I was still unable to trust his apparent goodness. I’ve never hated anyone as much as I did my own father and his obsessively strict parenting instilled an incredible – sometimes inappropriate – fear of aggression and violence.

Unfortunately, a fear of violence mixed with feminine characteristics didn’t go down well in a deprived housing estate where violence was an everyday part of life. Fortunately, I wasn’t often a victim of physical attacks, but the verbal abuse felt every bit as bad. “Sticks and stones will break your bones, but names will never hurt you,” is a load of old baloney.

It was the older boys on the estate who would spout a tirade of derogatory names while threatening all manners of violence. My close group of friends – made up of both boys and girls – would say, “Take no notice,” but the shame and humiliation was devastating to live with. The gauntlet of abuse contributed to my refusal to attend school and all because I was not your “average” boy.

I’m not blaming myself, but those characteristics became an easy target by two separate paedophiles. The first lasted from the age of about five to eight, and the second from nine until I turned thirteen. At the time, I seem to have been a willing participant in our “games,” but of course, it was still abuse and the experiences had a significant influence in my overall trust of adults, especially men.

When I shared my gender confusion with the group months ago, everyone looked genuinely surprised, as there are no traces of femininity today. It took many years to rid myself of those very natural characteristics, although I do still harness a female part deep within.

I watched a programme on female to male transgender. One person said that one of the hardest things was to change some of her feminine characteristics into more masculine ones. He had to learn how to walk, talk, and sit like a man and be constantly aware of his demeanour in public.

I identify with that experience and even remember having to lower my voice to a tone that sounded more masculine. The world was very different back in the 70’s and if I wanted to avoid further persecution, there didn’t seem to be any other option. Through the years, all of these experiences came with a painful price of shame and humiliation, which harnessed the intense fear and anger.

I often wonder where the inner strength came from back then, but the desire to bounce back was always much stronger than the destruction. There was an element of self-blame and my narcissistic mother’s critical voice would ring out in my ears, “You brought it all on yourself.” The guilt soon became the mortar for shame and humiliation.

The ultimate betrayal came as a young adult when I became the victim of an attempted murder and my assailant was another male that I liked and trusted. It was never just about my attack, but the experience opened the door to a world of extreme violence and psychotic killers. I had never even spoken to a police officer in my life and now I was interacting with the judicial system and High courts. The reality became more traumatic than I ever imagined possible and it destroyed the last bit of faith I had in my fellow man.

I am very comfortable and happy with my sexuality and gender today, but I don’t understand why I’m unable to heal from the shame and humiliation, and the fear and anger. I do get along with men in my day-to-day life, but there’s always an underlying discomfort and this particular interaction in the therapy room has connected me with something I spent years avoiding.

It’s time to stop running

stop running

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61 thoughts on “It’s Time to Stop Running

  1. Priceless Joy

    I sure understand your “offishness” toward men after you explained all of this. Sounds like your father was a bully and bullied you a lot as well as many other boys your age. I think years ago (and thankfully I believe that is changing) boys/men thought in order to be men they needed to be a bully but all they were doing were feeding their own sick egos. I personally am probably “offish” to men because of the pain and bullying men have put me through. It’s not something you can “turn off” in your mind. From a very young age, we associate with our parents in forming our identities and you were getting a lot of negative communication.

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    1. Cat Post author

      That is spot on Joy, it’s so difficult to turn it off at will. I do believe things have changed since my own “boyhood” but I’m guessing the same stereotyping does still happen to various degrees, depending on what part of the globe we’re on. Thank you, Joy 🙂

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  2. D. Wallace Peach

    You write beautifully, Cat, and with such clarity. You describe your confusion and resistence, and yet with each post I’m left with a vivid sense of an ongoing journey through a strange landscape. I envision an aura of strength surrounding you that perhaps you don’t quite see. To me, you seem brave in your willingness to take each forward step, to put into words your impressions and fears along the way. The greatest valor lies in the hearts of those most fearful. Courage is what happens when you’re afraid yet persist in spite of your fear. Tall words, and not a call to arms, but an assurance that you are capable of this trek. Be gentle with yourself as you find your peace.

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    1. Cat Post author

      That is a great compliment, thank you. It has been a difficult journey and, yes, I do see traces of strength, but maybe I haven’t believed in it for a while. I love your kind words of encouragement… just what I need right now

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  3. drgeraldstein

    In my 30-year independent practice of therapy with too many abused people I have rarely encountered anything so frank and courageous. I could not have survived your experience, I think. I’m moved by what you wrote by more than anything astonished by the qualities that enabled you to write it. You have won my admiration.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Dr G, I am lost for words… well, almost. I guess I don’t see the same strength and courage that you or other people see, but I’ll be working on it in the coming weeks. Thank you so much for your very kind and encouraging words, much appreciated

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  4. Dawn D

    Sometimes it’s the smallest interactions that bring an Aha moment.
    I’m glad yours came about in the relatively safe harbour of your therapy group.
    I do believe you foresee it correctly: healing may require you sitting through these emotions again.
    Yet I want you to be hopeful too. Your mind won’t let you broach anything you are not ready to face.
    It may still take years until you feel everything in you is healed. Or it may be very fast.
    It all depends how ready you are for it. And this isn’t written in a judgemental way: only you can set the pace.
    But when you are ready, things could go very fast.
    I pray for you to get all the strength you need to heal from all these hurtful childhood experiences.
    Hugs
    XO

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Dawn, from experience, the healing does come from sitting with the emotions and it feels as though things are starting to move along pretty fast… I do hope this is the right time for me to finally experience change

      Thank you so much for commenting. Sorry, I haven’t been blogging for a few weeks… my head has been a little scrambled. I hope you’re well and will be catching up with you soon…oh, and thanks for the hug, much needed 🙂

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  5. myspokenheart

    Hey Cat, reading this made me happy. You have made so much progress. You have accepted and are facing some very difficult things. And you are putting yourself in a position of accountability by sharing with your network and “family” here on online. That takes guts.

    I hope you understand how many people you inspire. Keep it up friend.
    ((Hugs))

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hello Andrea, I almost didn’t recognise your new avatar pic (or whatever we call them now!) I haven’t been blogging for a few weeks, but it’s lovely to receive your comment. I do believe progress is underway and feel grateful and privileged to have so many lovely people encouraging me along the way. Thank you so much

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  6. cardamone5

    I have felt everything you describe here: the frustration of realizing all my supposed progress was just more stalling to avoid feeling my feelings. I don’t have any wise words to tell you because the truth is I am still idling, esp. lately. I think you have it right though: you just have to get to a point where being with your feelings is less scary and easier than not, and then do it. But there will be doubts, fear and strong resistance along the way because change is not instantaneous. So, go with it, but don’t force it because that can create its own set of problems. I wish you peace and resilience as you face your feelings and yourself. You are a wonderful person who deserves complete love and fulfillment, and only you can provide those things or be ready to accept it from others.

    Lots of love,
    Elizabeth

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Feeling the feelings is a bugger! From my experience in therapy, they’re often not as bad as we anticipate. Yes, they’re terrifying to ponder, but there’s something very cleansing when we do connect, although this can take years to work towards. My problem – and you may be similar – is not so much feeling the pain, but identifying it in the first place. We bury everything under years of avoidance and self-protection and it can be more of a challenge to find it. That probably does not make much sense… my head is a little messed at the moment, but it means a great deal to hear from you, thank you

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  7. Ellen

    I think with trauma, you can only productively face it and work with it when you’ve gotten to a certain point. It’s not really true that you ‘missed it’ previously. I bet you had to work up to being strong enough to work with it – that was the case for me anyway. I also believe you need to approach this stuff slowly.

    I’m sorry you went through all that abuse and trauma. It is so much to deal with. And I really admired how you were able to use your responses to the group member to think about your own feelings and responses and what they mean, and not blame that person. That’s what group therapy is all about IMO.

    Take care.

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    1. Cat Post author

      You have a very important point there, Ellen. You’re right, I didn’t miss it before, I just wasn’t quite ready…. or at that stage in the therapy process. I’m not sure if this is the ‘be all and end all’ either, but it’s one step closer

      Yes, group therapy is an odd one and people are triggering. I feel guilty because this particular gp member has come to represent three major things in my life 🙂 Imagine how he must feel. Thanks Ellen

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  8. jamborobyn

    Perhaps your idea of how you will feel when you are “healed” is not based in evidential reality. After all, how can you know how it will be if you’ve never experienced it before? You are one of the most inspiring and wonderful writers I have the pleasure of reading. You are more balanced and centred in the reality of your life than anyone I know, more than those who have not been through such trauma as yourself. I see within your attitude a willingness to face what life brings and learn everything you can from every experience. Your courage is stupendous. Peace be with you.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Robyn,

      You touch on something that has been on my mind about how we know what it feels like to heal… very interesting thought. You are so nice to compliment my writing and I am touched that you see so much positivity… Judging by this and other comments, I obviously don’t yet see what other’s do.

      How are you doing? I stopped by your blog, but you haven’t been posting. I haven’t been blogging for a few weeks either.

      Thank you, Robyn, your comment fills me with encouragement

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  9. Glynis Jolly

    Cat, I do think you need to stop running, but not necessarily to face fears, anger, humiliation, or shame. Most people have emotions from their past that haunt them. It’s part of being human. Accepting these haunts may be difficult, but (no, I’m not a therapist of any kind) by accepting haunts, I would think you could go on with your life as it is today. I know I do. I accept the fact that I have fears and aggravations from my past that will never be resolved. Yes, I think about them, but not all the time. There are other things in my life that need my attention just as much.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Glynis,

      Everyone seems to be touching on such valid points in this post. I used to think healing meant that we would not feel anything about our traumatic past, but that didn’t make sense. If you told me of a traumatic experience from childhood, then I probably would feel a whole range of emotions, so why wouldn’t I feel a certain degree of trauma when I look back on my own. Of course, there will always be a degree of pain related to these experiences, but I guess there is a fine line between what is “appropriate or acceptable” pain and what is unbearable trauma. Does that make sense?

      I suppose, in many ways, it’s about knowing when and where to stop delving too deeply. All I know is that something very powerful happens when we identify and sit with the feelings. Shame and humiliation are two emotions I was not able to admit, but now that it’s out there, the admission feels good. Through this process, I came to understand yesterday that a large proportion of shame and humiliation is down to an inappropriate level of self-blame.

      So, there’s a lot to be said for delving into the past, but I also agree that we need to know when to stop and learn to accept it for what it is. Thank you Glynis

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  10. sensuousamberville

    “Shame. Humiliation. Fear. Anger. ”

    The feelings from abuse. Powerful feelings.

    Facing this now, your past abuse, may help you confront the shame that you feel, the shame which occurs with abuse, the guilt, the feeling that it is often your fault. The body does not always agree with the mind and reacts differently from sexual abuse. Which evokes more shame. But the mind can not always control the body. I hope you understand where I am leading with this. You had no control. Innocence was taken advantage of.

    Your abusers being male will certainly cause you to be less comfortable when in direct interactions with males. Fear and anger may be lurking not too deeply within you. A defense mechanism.

    When you trusted in the past, it turned on you, you built strong walls to protect yourself. To deal with the why it could happen, is difficult. It is difficult to understand why someone could do such a thing to you, so shame and guilt become the reasoning. The justification. Now, you could see that it was not you, but as a child, that reasoning did not occur. Those feelings are deeply instilled now. Part of your schema. You can overcome them, it will come from within though.I can tell you that you were not responsible, to not feel shame or guilt, but you have to feel this not hear it. I think you may be ready to tell yourself this now, and possibly believe it.

    Perhaps by facing your past now, with your adult mind, allowing the reasoning to take other routes, routes that show an innocent child was abused. Even when you were an adult and your friend took advantage. It is not the child’s mind now that has the shame and guilt, it was not the direction you wanted that relationship to go, you were attacked Mr. Cat. You did not raise your hand and say pick me. Anger is good, allow this, but only at what happened, not in the present. Allow the anger to replace the guilt and shame.

    The world may be easier now, for someone to wrestle with gender identification. In some countries. There is more communication. More openness, more awareness. For you it was much more difficult. This struggle is still within you. I am glad you are comfortable now Mr. Cat.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Amber, your comment’s very interesting. I had been wondering what causes the shame and humiliation, but of course, it is self-blame… why did I not think of this before 🙂 I seem to have a block against this idea of “not feeling responsible.” I am not consciously aware of this, but there must be an element of blame or guilt if the shame and humiliation are still there.

      I am not very sure why I am not interested in other people’s reasons for their abusive ways. Do you think we should try to understand?

      Fear and anger have always been extremely powerful and destructive emotions. They only add to the shame and humiliation for having them in the first place.

      Thanks for your comment, Amber. I am taking away this idea of feeling responsible… I wonder why I don’t feel it, even though I know it makes sense.`

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      1. sensuousamberville

        Yes self blame, why did I not stop it, why did my body respond to it. It must have been me that caused it, my actions, messages i may have sent and so much more, but these feelings are all false, There is no justification for abuse or assault. The shame should be theirs, not yours.

        When assaulted, abused, the feeling of self blame is often very powerful, it is sometimes how the mind accepts how this could be done to them, that they must be responsible or somehow encouraged the actions. This too is false. You did not jump up and down yelling out pick me pick me.

        The dirty feeling one has when someone enters into their house and robs them, violated. Humiliated. This is amplified so much more with assault. It is hard to overcome.

        No you do not need to understand why they were capable of doing this to you, just to know that this is not normal behavior, not something you encouraged or sought. Their minds allowed them to do this, not yours.

        Mr. Cat, feel proud that you survived all of this, do not feel shame. You were not responsible. You were attacked.

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        1. Cat Post author

          Your comment has my mind working overtime 🙂 I’ve written and rewritten this comment and changed my mind each time. I understand what you are saying, but then it becomes a little complicated when I attempt to apply the details to myself. Mmmm…how can I explain this… If I feel shame and humiliation, then it stands to reason self-blame must be at play, but I am not aware of ever really blaming myself. Yes, I did back then, but not today. This needs a bit more thought… Thank you so much, Amber.

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  11. edwinasepisodes

    You have has so much heartache and trauma to put up with throughout your younger life Cat that I am not surprised you have had a problem with men. I can’t imagine how tough it was for you growing up in a totally different time with such blinkered attitudes and expectations of how genders should behave.
    You have managed to survive all of this though Cat, and are far stronger than you think, I admire your courage and tenacity, and am sure that you can tackle this last hurdle.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hiyas Edwina, lovely to hear from you. I haven’t been blogging for weeks, but will catch up soon.

      I find it odd that I never identified a problem with men before, but I’m always grateful that we live in a better world today. Thanks Edwina

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  12. dgkaye

    Oh Cat, you’ve endured so much, certainly more than one person should have to bear. But look how much progress you have made. You’re confronting and analyzing instead of brushing these things under the carpet. I truly commend your strength, courage and progress, and hope you find some kind of peace within yourself after therapy ends. And if you wish to find a new circle of therapy, there’s nothing wrong with that either. You’re empowering yourself by facing your adversity. I just want to add that it’s really sad that parent’s play such an integral part in our young lives, and their ignorance of knowing what a good parent does, can create a lifetime of inner damage to a child. 🙂

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Debbie, it is tragic that a parent can wreck so much havoc yet still see themselves as perfect and faultless. This makes reconciliation and forgiveness much more difficult. Thank you for your kind words of encouragement

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  13. mandy

    I so love that final meme, Cat. Confronting the issues in our life is probably so much easier than we make it. I know I dig in my heels, resisting, fearing the unknown (that’ll I’ll die of of heart attack? 🙂 ) Letting go of the toxic people in our past is probably the first, best step…

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  14. Ellen

    Hi Cat,
    Hope you’re well. I’ve been missing your posts but I figure you’re likely deeply immersed in your therapy. I know how overwhelming that can get. I know you’ll post again when you’re ready and when it will be helpful to you. I’m doing OK and really immersed in work and just staying afloat, so am not posting much either lately. Cheers, Ellen

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    1. Cat Post author

      thanks Ellen, that’s kind of you to think of me. Yes, therapy is tough and Paul has been off (again), which hasn’t helped… loads of transference sit going on! My PC is in for repair and should be back this week. This 18yr old laptop has an issue with typing, hence the silence. I hope you’re not too overwhelmed by work, but that’s easier said… look forward to catching up soooon.

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      1. Ellen

        Ah, technical difficulties! Here I was picturing you suffering the throes of therapy despair…..Maybe a bit of both? I’m glad some of it is just technical. Work is good actually, thanks, just it’s bringing up my issues, but then, what doesn’t. My T being off would really bug me also. Cheers

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      2. Shivangi

        I was checking my early posts and found your comment on one of my blogs. So here I came to check on you and to say hello. This post tells me you are healing fast and soon you are going to heal others too. Take care and stay blessed😀

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  15. Juana

    Thank you for sharing your story and your road of healing.

    A few things came to mind when I was reading, and one of the first things I saw in the post, “It felt as if something fundamental was missing from the therapeutic journey” really struck me. After I survived a rape in 2010, I had a hard time finding help for low-income folks, and so I had no options for therapy, which led me to seek out other ways to heal. This led me to shamanism, and to soul retrieval. The more I’ve learned about soul retrieval, the more I’ve felt that it’s sort of “the missing link” in modern therapy.

    In the Western model, we live in our heads while disregarding our bodies. In shamanism, the model is that the body informs us and we then can decide how to direct ourselves from there. When soul loss happens, we lose a fundamental part of ourselves that can contribute to our wellbeing in life. That’s why when I saw those words you wrote, about “something fundamental…missing” from your therapy, I thought of soul loss.

    Soul loss can happen in a variety of ways, including under intense stress and trauma. I’ve heard modern shamans talk about soul retrieval as something that needs to happen for healing to really “stick”. You can talk and talk and talk and talk about what happened in your life for ages, but if you don’t have the soul piece that needs to feel safe in the now, all the talking doesn’t get through to the soul part of you that really needs to hear it and needs to heal. That’s my understanding of it, anyway. So, without our soul parts, we just end up talking and talking and the message isn’t getting through.

    I hope I’m not being preachy or anything, I just feel that soul retrieval is something that people who’ve experienced trauma like you describe can really benefit from, and it might be something that could really help you to come full-circle in your healing.

    I like this podcast, http://www.whyshamanismnow.com, which is hosted by Christina Pratt, who’s worked with people in this way for over 20 years. I also like the way Sandra Ingerman explains the process on her website, http://www.sandraingerman.com. She has worked with shamanism since the ’80s, and teaches/speaks regularly about it.

    I hope you find your way. I’m rooting for you. 🙂

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Juana, this is quite a coincidence. I’m sure I read a post on your blog a few weeks ago on soul loss (Debbie Kaye recommended) and I was just talking to a friend about that on the same day your comment arrived. I’m very interested in what you write and read a little about shamanism this morning. I was looking on your blog for that post on soul lost but I can’t seem to find it. I’d be grateful if you sent the link. Thank you so much for taking the time to write, much appreciated

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      1. Juana

        Hi, Cat. Yes, I read your comment for some reason, and then came back to your site to read some of your posts, then made a comment myself on your blog.

        I just added a Search function to the website on the sidebar, to make it easier to find content.

        Here’s the link I think you’re looking for: https://bringingbacktherubies.wordpress.com/2015/09/02/thoughts-on-soul-retrieval/

        I have several posts about soul loss/soul retrieval up on the site. Thanks for reading, and good luck.
        If you have other questions, let me know.

        You’re very welcome.

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  16. Sharon Alison Butt

    Are you okay Cat? Not heard from you for a while. When you have a free moment, please sign in and say hi so we know how you’re doing. I’m a great believer that friends are not friends until you need them to be, so online friends are valid despite not being near you physically – because we are there for you – to listen, uplift and support – and when you’re up for it, we can have the occasional laugh too. Don’t know how to end this so I’m just going to shut up.

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