More contemplative than thankful

Today is Thanksgiving. The last few years I have done sort of the opposite of traditional Thanksgiving activities and I have spent the day alone, being grateful for me. Maybe that sounds callous, but I spend every day of my life being thankful for everyone and everything around me…often paying little attention to myself in this respect. Today, however, I sit here and work away. It has been a month since my life got flipped upside down. So much has been stripped away from the life I knew before that day. I’m sitting here trying to create something I am proud of. This project will change the world. In a real way. It will give people all over the world access to my industry as well as provide at least the basics of how to do what I do in a truly professional and secure way…or least I hope it will. 

Looking back over the last month, the last year, the last 3 years the last decade and beyond I realize that I have overcome a lot. I have been brave and strong and caring and good. I have been there for others, even when it felt like no one was there for me. I have given more than what I truly had to give. I have seen the world through the stories and eyes of so many. Yet, somehow it doesn’t seem like enough. I am so ready for things to just be good. For something, anything to just be easy. But it’s not. Every direction there is another pitfall; another obstacle waiting, hoping to take me down. Why? Why does it have to be so damn hard?

Over the last week or so I have worked hard on letting go of the future I held so dear with the man who longer wants me in his life. The man who thinks I am abusive. Than man who I still somehow can’t be angry with. I wish I could just hate him. It would be so much easier. Instead I sit here and lack the ability to understand what was so terrible between us that he had to go. I want so badly to make it my own fault because at least that I could control. If it was my fault, I could take responsibility and learn from it. I could forgive myself. But no. There is no blame to be had here. It’s no one’s fault. It happened. Nothing else matters. Logically I know this. I feel this. But my heart still won’t accept it. We had so much fun together. He was there for me through so much, and I for him. We grew and challenged each other. He went around introducing me as “the one” to so many of his friends. We hadn’t even been together for a year, and yet we were basically living together, planning a family and figuring out the rest of our lives. 

Everything ended so abruptly. I can’t wrap my mind around it. 

One good thing I’ve learned about myself recently is that the vision I have had in my head my whole life of finding a lifelong partner has finally be extinguished…except for with myself, of course. I now know that I will likely have many “great loves” of my life, and that relationships in my world will last as long as they last and then they will be done. I am never meant to know that kind of everlasting love. Maybe that sounds sad to you, but it’s a relief for me. It means no one can ever destroy me like this has. Or at least, with the rationalization that everything ends, I can at least decide to not be surprised when it does. This is a blessing for me. 

I have had so many incredible people show me love and support over the last month. It has helped so much. Thank you. All of you. I know that I cannot go through my days alone. Maybe I won’t always have a partner, but I will always have my community, my family and the love I have for myself. 

The last piece of the future plan that I held in my head prior to all this is on the edge of breaking. My studio; this space that I have given my life to, has become a part of me. I have worked so long and so hard to create this space that feels good. That allows people to heal. Working here for the last year for free has really been trying for me. This thing I have created and dedicated myself to has been able to help so many, just not myself. 

The fundraising campaign was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. I’ve set up my entire life- everything about who I am and what I do, to never have to rely on anyone else. I’m such a hypocrite, I know.  But that is part of why I needed to ask for help. This last month has shown me that the way I was living my life was phony. I can’t do it alone. I don’t expect anyone else to, and I know now that I am no different. I don’t have to be stronger than everyone else around me. Growing up in the household I did, I was afraid constantly of being the straw that broke the camel’s back. Everything was so fragile. I didn’t feel like it was fair for me to pile on. Certainly I would ask for frivolous things: food, clothes, help with school projects, rides…but never the emotional stuff. 

My parents are incredible people. I am very lucky to have grown up the way I did, but honestly, a lot of what I learned was who not to be and what not to do. They gave us love and hugs and provided for us with everything we could possibly need in the day to day stuff. There was a lot of freedom and very little structure. We were encouraged to be ourselves and to experiment with what that meant- what an incredible gift to give a child. But the lack of stability…the bankruptcies, the alcohol, the fights, the lack of responsibilities/ repercussions…they brought me to a place where I didn’t know what was what. I was worried a lot. Even though we had tons of gifts under the Christmas tree each year, I would randomly see the “2nd Notice”  and the “3rd Notice” and the “Shut Off Notice” envelopes in the mail and wonder if we would lose it all someday soon. My parents are artists and they never really knew where the money would come from, only that it would. They somehow always found a way and it was rare that I would notice the struggles overall. I mean, as a teenager, I was self involved to the nth degree. 

I grew up relying on my now ex-husband for emotional support. We talked about everything and helped each other through so much. He was a good man…until he wasn’t. Over the years the lack of touch caused a rift as big as the Grand Canyon. He didn’t see it. He probably still doesn’t get it. That’s ok. The point here is that I grew up in a way where I had all the comforts and first world crap all figured out and that I never had to really dive into the emotional aspects of who I was…until I did. 

I have now dealt with and found closure on: my best friend dying in a plane crash 11 years ago, saying goodbye to my father (who is still alive…long story), my issues with alcohol (well, really my refusal to have any drugs or alcohol in my life due to my mom’s addiction issues- she is now many years sober by the way), my marriage, the impact the 8 car accidents I’ve been through have had on my life, and now my need for a lifelong partner. 

What I still need to get through: my issues with abandonment, my relationship that just ended, and deciding what my life should and will look like in the future. Along with many other things I’m sure I’m unaware of at this point. 

I am a firm believer that if I’m not growing, I am dying and I never want to get to a point where I am done growing as a person. Life is dynamic and I refuse to be static.

I realize this has been a meandering group of tangents, but that’s ok. That’s what I needed right now. My big take away today is this: I am strong. I am capable. I can break. But I will always keep moving. I am letting go of J. I have to. If he wanted me in his life, I would be. Maybe someday I will get a chance to talk to him and get some of my questions answered, but even if not I will still wish him health, happiness and success in all he does. He is a good man and no one can tell me otherwise. My business may fail in the current form. I may lose everything I hold dear. My home. My car. What little security I have left. And it’s ok. I am strong enough to always keep moving. I am down, but not out. 

Today, in the spirit of the holiday, I will ask one more time for anyone who is capable, to help pull us out of this rut to do so by donating here: www.youcaring.com/cuddleuptome  Those who cannot, please know that your support, in any capacity, is absolutely necessary and appreciated. The likes, shares, comments and input is vital to my success, not just as a business, but more importantly, as a person. It’s nice to start to feel like myself again. I’ve got another 20 hours to put into this project before the first so, I better get back to it. Thank you for taking the time to listen to me. If I can’t have one person who will witness my journey from start to end, perhaps I can have the hands of the random passers by as they come along. That is enough. You are enough. I am enough. Sending love to me, you and the whole big blue. 

Peace, Love and Cuddles,

Sam Hess

The more objective, less emotional version

It has been just over 3 weeks since I was in the hospital. A lot has happened in that time. I have typed out 22 pages of the experience that brought me to where I am today, and I hope to share it with those who want a full account as I move forward. I am not ready yet and honestly, the logistics of sharing something like that without overwhelming others is something I am putting a lot of thought into. For now though, I wanted to give you all a basic rundown of events without so much emotion for the simple reason of explaining what I’ve been through and where I am at.

Here we go:

I was invited to a personal development seminar by someone very dear to me. This seminar company has been in this person’s life for 6 years and his whole family has benefited from it. They were aware of my struggling financial situation and offered to cover the cost for me. I took time off of work and ended up going to 2 of the 3 days required. The seminar was a 10 hour a day program, held in a group setting with breaks every few hours and a working lunch. The purpose of the course is to develop and improve the skills needed to create the best possible life for each person.

Over the course of 20 hours, in 2 days, we completed a myriad of exercises in many forms and with many different goals. Many of the exercises included a form of guided visualization, including visualizations from many challenging moments from our own past. We were asked to categorize our personalities and define who we are. We were asked to set SMART goals and to share them with our small groups. None of these things individually would have the power to harm anyone, in my humble opinion at least.

What ended up happening to me was that I relived every painful, harmful and difficult situation throughout my entire life that I could think of…for me, that was a lot. The speaker of the seminar also used negative reinforcement and shame in his teachings. I was even stopped from using the restroom at one point. The temperature of the room changed throughout the day as well, going from hot to cold. As far as I could tell, the staff did their best to regulate temperature, but many participants found it uncomfortable.

By the end of the second day I was overwhelmed and numb. I was not even able to listen to the radio on my way home as it was too much stimulation while I drove. I had a difficult time picking out food at the store for dinner, and by the time I got home, even though I had not eaten much all day, I was not hungry. I poured myself a glass of wine, grabbed my notebook to do my homework and took a bath. As I sat there, my mind reeled at everything I had gone through. I began to lose control of my thoughts. When the person who invited me to the course came over, I was all but lost.

I tried to reconcile my thoughts, but I could not. I tried to talk through it, as that usually helps me. It felt like all of the coping mechanism and closure I had come to know from all of these painful memories had been erased and all that was left was this:

“I am bad. Everything is bad. Everything is supposed to be bad, so I might as well kill myself because the pain that my friends and family will experience is what life is supposed to be.”

At this moment, that was logical, and there was nothing left in my head to counter that argument. Nothing came to mind that would allow me to negate this thought cycle. Every positive thought I had was countered by what I had just learned. Although I still cannot recall this happened, I hit this person who was trying to help me. Knowing this now, I have so much remorse. They attempted to help me by bringing me paper to journal, hoping that if I just thought through it I would snap out of it.

When I got the paper I wrote the word “Why” over and over, page after page. They asked me what I was doing and I explained that it felt nice and I liked the rhythm of writing this word. I disassociated at this point and became the 7 year old version of myself. I spoke in the tone of a child and could not even remember my own name. This person did their best to take care of me as they began to realize the depth of trauma I was experiencing. They brought me to the kitchen and cooked us dinner while I peered just my eyes out over the couch as I watched them cook. I asked questions like “Are you a good person? Am I a good person? What’s your favorite color? What’s your favorite thing in the whole world?” I still had butterflies in my stomach. I ate a couple bites of food, but had no interest.

They lead me through one of the visualization exercises from the seminar based on healing. I improved, but was not able to fully recover after that. I wanted to watch a cartoon in hopes of letting my mind rest for a moment to stop the chaos in my brain.

After a little while I was able to speak in my normal voice again and I began to journal for real. This person tried to help me through and let me talk it out, but it soon became apparent that they were exhausted and sleep was the only option for them. I tried to wake them up a couple of times, but didn’t have much luck. I became angry and explained that I didn’t want them in my life anymore. (obviously, this was a poor choice in trying to ask for help by pushing them away when they didn’t know what to do). They ended up leaving, still being very sweet and thanking me for being in their life as long as I was. I lashed out again and thanked them for ruining my life.

I tried to sleep, but couldn’t. I texted a dear friend of mine who luckily for me, called me soon after. I explained what was happening as best I could. She gave me an open ear and enough positive reinforcement that I felt like I could find my feet again, if only for a moment. I went to bed, sleeping for 20 or so minutes at a time from 2:30-about 6am.

I went to bed hoping the day before would just be a bad day, and that I would have my right mind again. This was not the case. All the bad thoughts were still there and I still had no connection to my coping skills. I had enough sense in me that I knew there was something wrong and I reached out to the person who had left the night before. I asked them to come hold me. They said no and that after how I treated them I couldn’t get them back. As I later found out, they thought this was a power play and that I was trying to manipulate them. I really just needed help. I kept sending them messages, hoping they would understand that I was not ok.

Without giving too much detail as it may trigger others, I will tell you that this person did end up helping by calling 911. This was the best thing that could have happened, and I am eternally grateful that they did this. The police came and took me to the hospital. I cried and shook uncontrollably for a good hour.

I was admitted fairly quickly at the hospital, maybe 20 or 30 minutes. They had a nurse come by and take down what was happening. A social worker came next. The hospital was all extremely helpful and allowed me to go through this without any shame or judgement. They were all very kind. The social worker allowed me time to explain everything I needed to, and helped me understand that I could decide to essentially throw out everything I learned at the seminar and allow back my life before that happened. It somehow clicked that I could regain control over my thinking and disregard the trauma from the past few days that wasn’t helpful to me.

He offered to put my in the inpatient program, but I didn’t want to be stuck in a hospital. I wanted to be at home. He then offered me an outpatient program as long as I had someone who could stay by my side until I began treatment the next day.

The friend I had spoken to the night before offered to do this for me. She came and picked me up, got me food and let me process in my own way. She took care of me, watched movies with me, went on walks with me, and listened without telling me what to do. I slowly began to come back into my right mind.

By the next morning I was out of the “danger zone” with the self harm thoughts. (They have not returned, and there is nothing to worry about as far as a chance of me harming myself by the way). She came with me to the treatment center and stayed with me while I met with the therapist.

I explained what had happened and all of the trauma from my past in that first hour. Somehow, with this setting, it wasn’t traumatic to explain. She listened, took notes and told me it wasn’t my fault. She explained how dangerous these personal development courses can be and how there are lots of other people who have gone through similar breakdowns due to programs like the one I had just been to.

For the next 2 weeks I worked diligently on self care- making sure I ate at least something 3 times a day, going for walks, stretching, journaling, reaching out to family/friends/online support (thank you by the way). I spent 4 days in the outpatient treatment program over 2 weeks and I met a lot of wonderful people who were also experiencing difficulties in their lives.

I have slowly begun to reincorporate work back into my life and I do feel like myself again. I am taking much better care of myself now, even taking days off. I am back to eating meals instead of a bite of this or that. Still going on walks and working hard to listen to my intuition on how to take care of myself.

A few days ago, the last piece of trauma surfaced from all this and I lost my relationship…or at least he needs a break. This is totally fair and acceptable, but now I have to decide if I have room in my heart to hold hope for that future that seems but a distant memory. Today I am going to meet with a therapist outside of the treatment program for ongoing support. Hopefully he can help me understand myself and my thought process better so that I can continue to make progress and be even healthier than I am now.

Life changes in the blink of an eye. A lesson I seem to learn over and over. Right now, I have the opportunity to redefine who I want to be and what I want in life. This is something I will not take for granted.

Over these last few weeks I have had to ask for help and support in ways I have never been able to before. The biggest lesson I have received is that it’s ok to ask for help, yes, even I get to do this. I don’t have to feel guilty or reciprocate when I don’t have it to give. We all need a turn once in awhile to be the one who needs help. I am so grateful for all of you whom (no matter which version I use, it always sounds wrong haha) have reached out a hand and allowed me to rely on you. The whole point of my business is this:

We all go through moments in life when we feel unloved, unappreciated or just plain lost. We provide a safe and comfortable space for everyone to know they matter.

Now, I have gained this insight for myself as well. Thank you.

I hope to use this blog as a way to continue to connect with all of you and to build a community of support. I will eventually share the 22 pages…or some version of it with those who want to see it, but for now you can expect to see more of what I’ve been through, what I’m going through and where I’m going. I hope you will tune in and share this journey with me.

Life is good with the eternal 7 year old.

Peace, Love and Cuddles,
Sam Hess

Introduction

Hello, 

My name is Sam, better known as Samantha Hess, professional cuddler, author, that girl who hugged NPH on America’s Got Talent, the person who was on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, CNN.com, Yahoo (3 times), and has likely wound up in your Facebook newsfeed (if you have one) for starting a service that will change the world, one hug at a time. 

The reason I wanted to start a blog is because recently I had a very traumatic incident occur in my life, and I wound up in the hospital. I am ok now, but only just getting back on my feet. My experience, above all else, has given me this incredible opportunity to share with the world my struggles in the hopes that others will feel less alone through theirs. We all struggle. We don’t have to do to it alone. 

A few things I want to say up front- I apologize for grammar issues. When I write I tend to do in more of a journal style and I’m mostly too lazy to go back and make corrections. You are always welcome to send me any grammatical issues that drive you crazy. It’s been more than a decade since I’ve had to know any of this stuff, and a lot of it seems to have been replaced with Hexa Blast, Futurama, cookie recipes and internet memes.

I swear. A lot. If this offends you, please feel free to follow me on facebook instead. I am found under Samantha Hess as a public figure (still sounds pretentious, but it keeps things simple for me haha). 

The only other things I will say is that I hope you will take nothing I say as fact, but rather information filtered through my meandering experiences. I will be open and honest, likely more so than what is appropriate, but I prefer to not have a filter unless absolutely required. I am not intentionally here to hurt anyone’s feelings or make anyone feel anything bad in any way. I am simply here to share my thoughts, insights and struggles. You’ll get it all as I believe life is about contrast, and I’ve had lots of that! 

So, come along with me. Read, comment, share, and care. Together, we will get through the impossible, laugh at the rest and know that we are not only are loved by others, but more importantly, that we can and DO love ourselves too. You hold my hand, and I’ll hold yours. Together, we will bring a little more light to this world. Are you with me?