Earlier this year I did a podcast episode where I talked about my mom. (Read the blog post HERE, or listen to the podcast episode HERE.) Basically, I talked about how she went to prison for the first time when I was in 7th grade, and how she went back again when I was older because she had basically written bad checks in my name. That was really hard to talk about and write about. She’s my mom, but she did a lot of bad things. As a result, I have a lot of fears about becoming like her. 

Have you ever shared something really personal and then afterwards like felt sick to your stomach. Where you think, “Oh no, what did I just do? Why did I just share that?” That’s called a vulnerability hangover and I definitely had one after the podcast where I talked about my mom being in prison. In fact, each time I talk about her, or something else really personal, I get that hangover.

In this blog post, I talk about how I felt way back in March when I first shared that podcast episode. Honestly, I spent the whole night crying. However, I think that’s okay to go through. And it’s a reminder to keep taking steps towards healing. 

My Vulnerability Hangover 

After I released that podcast about my mom, I had a vulnerability hangover. Yeah, it’s a real thing. I knew that podcast was coming out, and the second it did, my stomach was doing flip flops. I instantly thought, “Oh my gosh, what did I do? Why did I share all these details of my life? Who do I think I am? Everybody’s going to know all this about me.” Now, the one thing that I’ve learned is that the feeling is quite normal. Every time I share something vulnerable, I remember feeling that same way. 

I felt that when I first showed my stretched skin, and when I first talked about being in debt. I felt it when I first talked about my divorce. The one thing I have to hold onto is that I know what to expect. I’ve done it enough now to know that when you’re the one being vulnerable, it can make you feel small and scared. But to everybody else around you, it looks brave and strong and courageous. 

When I shared that story, it was amazing. So many of you guys reached back out and sent me your stories and messaged me. We got hundreds of messages and I read and responded to every single one that came in personally. So if you were one of the people who wrote me all those months ago, thank you. It also reminded me that the more we share our stories, the less power those stories have over us. 

Reliving the Past is Hard 

However, the night I did that podcast, I didn’t have the view on it that I do now. It wasn’t that pretty. So I released the podcast, I sat in my chair, and I literally don’t think I moved for like three hours. I was reading people’s comments and then I listened to the podcast, then I listened to it again. And then I went down this rabbit hole of trying to find any information online about my mom that I could. I started messaging people from her Facebook to see if they’d heard from her.

Tears were just tears streaming down my face all night because the podcast brought back all of that old stuff. 

Then I was like, “I gotta get outta here. I can clear my brain.” So I went for a hike and that helped. And then it came back. I was sad, and my kids were with their dad, and I was all alone. So, I had this brilliant idea to open a bottle of wine. I brought down two big boxes that I have in my garage that I haven’t opened in probably 10 years. They are filled with all of the paperwork that my mom saved while she was in prison. When she disappeared, her storage unit and all of her belongings were going to auction, so I paid to to be able to get into it and I pulled out anything that looked important. That night, I went down a rabbit hole within those boxes. I wasn’t just going through it, I was swimming through it and crying. 

I read letters that my mom had written to people like her friends justifying her sentence. In one letter she said:

“At a complete surprise and shock to me and all those who know me. I was sentenced to two years in prison for bouncing two checks to myself, both under $300. I thought it was facing a reprimand, probation, and monitoring of my checking account, which I had already autonomously corrected at the time of the incident.” 

She tried to say that her attorney was high on cocaine… just crazy stuff. And then I pulled up the old court hearing. I had really forgotten that my mom was so accomplished for a while. She had created this TV show that interviewed people that were making a difference on the planet. She authored a book about the same thing. She created global marketing initiatives in implementing humanities flags. She conducted workshops providing marketing tips to small business owners within the spiritual genre, she was on the board of directors for an economic development nonprofit. I could go on and on. She was previously the senior vice president of sales and working for a nutraceutical company where she administered all aspects of sales and marketing. She had two laws passed in the state of New Jersey, she was the president of national childcare, she gave lectures to corporate clients like Johnson and Johnson. 

She had this amazing resume and I had forgotten a lot of it. I went down through this big rabbit hole of reading. I found a copy of what the judge said when she went to prison for writing checks in my name. She said:

“So you’ve had victims in the past, but this time it was your daughter. And certainly in these cases there’s a decision about whether to go forward and it’s one thing to secure convictions based upon what the facts may show. It’s another thing to realize what it’s going to do to everybody. And I find myself really in a lot of that circumstance today because whatever happens to you, you have created it. But your daughter is also, in essence, continues to be a victim because she has to know that what happens to you is then precipitated by her having to make this report and it’s a no win situation for her. She has to maintain her credit. She has to not let you steamroll over her life. On the other hand, you’re her mother. 

You have not done right by your children. I think that you probably have good intentions. You are obviously highly intelligent, is born out by your IQ information. It’s born out by the whole record of what you’ve achieved. So you have intelligence, you have ability, you have ideas, but something is very wrong in the way you think through things. Could I justify six years? Yes I could in light of your prayer history, but this I’m doing primarily because of your daughter. Having been the person who was forced by you in creating the factual circumstance. She had to be the one to be the complaining party. And I want this to be a situation where she knows that part of it is punishment, but a lot of how much time you end up serving is because of you and your choices after the sentences imposed. 

So, in other words, she doesn’t have to live with the fact that she sent her mother to the penitentiary for six years. It’s going to be bad enough to deal with the two years. But in my view that is minimal. I’m going to recommend that you get into cognitive self change. As I said, I have to try and insulate your daughter from having to live with this and it really is so unfair for you to have done this to her. But in the sentence, I think that it’s a good balance of the things that need to be done for the public. It lets her understand that while a certain amount of it is punishment, that how much you ultimately serve depending on what you put into it.” 

How Therapy Has Made a Difference 

I stayed up till two o’clock in the morning drinking that glass of wine and reading those letters and just reliving everything. I don’t think that was necessarily healthy, but that’s what I did. I woke up the next morning and my eyes were literally swollen shut. I couldn’t even hardly open them. Thankfully, I already had a therapy session just scheduled. That was just by chance. I talked to my therapist about my fear of turning out like my mom. Which I think can be a common fear for the kids of toxic parents.

He asked if I had any factual evidence of me being like my mom. I told him I have the capacity to be very charming and likable like she did. He asked me if I’d ever used that with bad intentions, and I told him no. I always follow the rules, to the extreme. He told me he has the ability to be a bank robber, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to go out and rob a bank. And that logic really made sense to me. 

I had this fear, and family members always said I was like a mini version of my mom, or other hurtful things about our similarities that caused a lot of my fears. He really had me take that piece of me that was afraid that I would become like my mom and just open it up and see what that looks like. We recognized that we were born from the same mold. We really are. There’s so many similarities. People who knew my mom when she was my age always say I look and act just like her. The difference is that we followed different paths, and I don’t have the mental illness concerns that she has. I’ve made very conscious decisions whenever I’m put in an ethical situation. I mean obviously I’ve made mistakes. We all make mistakes. But the difference is that I try to write my wrongs and I try to learn from them. 

I feel better about not being like her now, but that night I almost called my friends for a confirmation that I’m not like her. “I don’t do those things, or take advantage of people, right?” 

Here’s the thing I’ll say about past experiences… We have all gone through hard stuff, right? Every single one of us has, and we all have the ability to change. I do think going to therapy helps when you’ve had past trauma. I also recognize that there’s two things in our life that we can control: our attitude and our effort, and that’s it. You can control the decisions that you make. I think being aware of some of these past tendencies that have driven certain behaviors can help guide you towards the right direction moving forward. 

The Aftermath Can be Hard, But Sharing is Still Cathartic

In terms of having a vulnerability hangover, have a small circle of people that you trust that you can lean into. I still get them even though I’ve been super vulnerable for years and years now, it still happens. After I released that podcast, I had so many friends reach out. Work friends, old friends, people on my team. My close group of people really reminded me that I was loved by reaching out and making sure I was okay, or just texting to say they were sending their love. Thankfully, I didn’t really get any negative feedback like I have in the past.

Like Brene Brown says, the more we own our stories, the less power they have over us. And the more we open up and share and talk about these things, the less alone we feel. It helps to realize we aren’t the only ones struggling with this. It helps to realize we are all in this together. It makes you feel more connected than ever possible. So, if you’re feeling a vulnerability hangover, give yourself a day or two to get off social media if you need to, and to take care of your feelings. 

Just know, the benefits definitely outweigh the scary feeling you get right when you share something sensitive or vulnerable. 

So, I just wanted to share some reality about what it feels like sometimes when I share a lot. That way you all know that if it’s hard for you, you’re not alone! I share all the time, and it’s still hard for me sometimes. 

I hope you know that I see you guys, those of you who reach out, those of you who are also doing hard and brave things, I see you and I’m here with you and I’m excited for us to all do hard things together. 

I have this vision five years from now, or 10, or 15, of what things will look like, and what we can all create together if we all bring our guard down and recognize that we all have baggage. The bravest thing we can do is have the courage to acknowledge our shortcomings and agree to do everything we can to work through them.

I love you guys. I appreciate you guys. 

Thanks for reading.

xo Natalie 

P.S. I also talk about this topic on my podcast, so if you’d rather listen than read, click HERE!

P.P.S. The second season of my podcast drops next week! Keep an eye out for it!