What I’ve Learned: My Swan Song for 2018

DenaDecember 31, 2018

“If you want to know what it’s like to survive hell and still come out shining brighter than the sun, just look into the eyes of a woman who has survived intense damage and refused to allow it to destroy her softness.” –Nikita Gill

For me, 2018 was transformational. It was a year of incredibly high highs, low lows, and everything imaginable in between. I had some of the most beautiful moments of my life, and I also hit rock bottom and experienced a pain that I hoped I would never have to face.

More than anything else, this year I learned and I grew. Many of the lessons that this life has been trying to teach me for as long as I can remember, finally got through to me. It was not an easy process, it hurt like hell, but it was necessary. Life had been trying to teach me these lessons since I was a child. Now when I look back, I can see that over and over, I was presented with situations and individuals that taught me the same lessons, but in my oblivious human condition, they went right over my head for 34 years. That is until this last year, when God finally decided to slap me so hard with these messages, that I had no choice but to listen & to learn.

There were 7 lessons that I learned in 7 key areas. I could write a novel about each of these and perhaps I will get deeper into each in the future, but for now, I have it on my heart to share these lessons, not only in case anyone else needs to hear this, but also as a reminder to myself of the insight that I have gained in these last twelve months.

First it hurts, then you grow.
Rock bottom means something different to everyone. Some people will use the term to describe this bottoming out that happens to an addict, a moment where they lose everything and literally hit the pavement. When I hit rock bottom in 2018, that wasn’t how it happened for me. I never had an addiction that caused me to lose everything, wind up homeless & alone, or anything like that. That is not to say that addiction had nothing to do with it, because I was in fact leaning on addictions to help me bear the pain at times, but more about that later.

My rock bottom was a spiritual rock bottom, a point when I reached such a low place in my spirit that I was ready for it all to end. I could not see a way forward, past the pain, and I was ready to give up. Essentially, all of the pain and poor decisions that had accumulated on my shoulders over the last decade finally broke me. A final series of unfortunate events was the spark that lit the fire that had been waiting to rage for a very long time. And at that point, I hit rock bottom, and everything went up in flames.

One of the reasons that I wrote so much less this year than I have in previous years is because I spent most of the time “getting through it” and I prefer to write about my struggles and my journey after I have come out on the other side. When we are walking through pain, what we have to share is pain. After we have come through the pain, that is when we receive the gold, the lessons, the light, the wisdom. I have always wanted to share the gold, not the pain. Now that I have come through it, perhaps one day I will share it all including the pain, but for now, I will share the gold.

Before I get into the lessons, one last thing that is missing from this story is the turnaround. What happened that took me from rock bottom and carried me into the most beautiful period of my life thus far? I had a miraculous intervention, a stillpoint where my perspective was permanently shifted. It was like a light went on and suddenly I came out of the darkness. The climb out wasn’t easy or quick, it took time; but once I saw the light I never turned away from it again.

Here is what I have learned.


Self-love will save your soul.

After the turnaround, a message came to me. “You deserve health & happiness.” That became my mantra. It was simple, but it was profound. Somehow, after a lifetime of being told and telling myself that I was undeserving, I came to understand that I am deserving. Health and happiness, two simple but revolutionary things. Since becoming a mother, and as a result of all of the trauma that I endured before, during, and after motherhood–my health was not a priority.

When you are in survival mode, using every resource that you have just to get through a given day–to survive–you don’t have time for the luxuries of health & happiness. You are grateful just to get through the day. But, for me, after the breakdown came the breakthrough. First, I had gotten to a place where I was no longer in full on survival mode. I had removed myself from the danger, at least enough where I could begin to see clearly.

Then, after the breakdown came the breakthrough. I finally realized that I had it all backwards. Health & happiness were never going to be a result of my actions. These things were not going to just come to me magically one day. I deserve health & happiness now & always. We all do. We have to make these things a priority. We have to make this a priority because we deserve it. Every single day.

When I realized this, I unlocked the door to self-love. For me, yoga is the ultimate experience in health & peace, so in September, I finally made it a priority. I joined a yoga studio and I attended classes twice a week without excuses. My commitment to myself and to my health in that one small way changed everything. My self-love revolution had started and it has not stopped blossoming since.


The way that you treat people has absolutely no bearing on the way that they will treat you.

I could sit here and howl when I read that sentence. I mean, it really brings me down to my knees. The agony that I have suffered through for my entire life could have all been avoided if I had learned this lesson sooner. But I couldn’t have. For me, it took this lifetime to learn. It took being hurt over and over again. Being lied to, abused, used, humiliated and destroyed. That’s what I needed to endure in order to learn the simple truth that the way that I treat people has no bearing on the way that they will treat me.

Once again, I had it twisted. From my empathic mind, I believed that love could fix anything. If only I loved a person hard enough, if only I gave enough of myself, if only I infused so much goodness into another person’s soul, then surely it would be enough. I would love and be loved in return. I believed this myth from the time that I was a child all the way into this last year. It sounds beautiful, but it simply is not the truth.

The truth is that there are people in this world who simply do not have good intentions. They will use you and hurt you without end. They will take everything from you to a point of destruction that you yourself could not fathom. And they will walk away from it all unscathed or even pointing a finger at you.

It’s a shocking revelation to me. Perhaps of all the lessons that I have learned, this one has been the most difficult because it is just so far from anything that I can comprehend. How and why would a human being choose to hurt another human being? I will never know the answer to that question and, though it makes me naive, I am so grateful that I do not understand it, because I do not want to. And most importantly, I do not need to understand it. I simply need to be aware of it and to protect myself from it.

Protecting myself from it means a lot of things, but mostly it means having the ability to walk away from anything and anyone that hurts me. Again, sounds simple, but for some reason, I never developed that ability. Until now. Never again. No matter how much love I have for a person and no matter how much time I put into our relationship, I will never tolerate mistreatment again. I will never again be so afraid to lose another person that I lose myself. Never again.


It is none of my business what anybody thinks of me.

Now that you have read my first two lessons, it’s easy to see why this one comes next. After all of that difficult and painful work, confidence flows in naturally. It is the most beautiful feeling to be so proud of yourself and so secure in who you are that you finally see your own light.

You need to stop valuing the opinions of others over your own. You need to love yourself. When you do these things, confidence flows into your life in abundance and you finally stop caring about what others think. For a people-pleaser like me, it is a drastic departure from the life that I knew before, I am slowly stripping away all of the layers. I have done so much “pretending” to be this vision of who other people wanted me to be. I was ashamed to be myself, forever hiding behind masks & illusions.

Now, I am coming into my authentic self. She is different. She is wild. She is beautiful. She is dark. Many people will not like her at all. Many people who loved my masks, will hate what is underneath them. And that is okay. It is not my business, and no longer my concern, what anyone thinks of me. Of course I have moments of self-doubt and insecurity, but they are becoming fewer and farther between. My soul alignment is shifting.

My job is to please myself; to become the best version of myself; to help & inspire others; to make absolute magic during my time on this earth. There is no room in my life equation for other people’s opinions or judgments. I am too busy creating magic for that nonsense.

Faith & Magic

He gracefully moves her forward and her wounds begin to heal.

My relationship with my faith has taken many turns over the course of my lifetime. It has never been a straight line. It has strengthened and also wavered. But this last year, it all came full circle. When I was at my darkest moments, the real pit of rock bottom, when I was quite certain that I would not be going on, it was the light of faith that seeped into my heart when nothing else could.

I experienced miraculous divine intervention this year. The stories of all that happened to me, and how the Divine put hands on me at my darkest and carried me out of it, are personal to me. These are my stories, my experiences. Just like dreams, it seems the more I try to describe them to other people, the more difficult they become to translate. Dreams and miracles are elusive. In the dreamers mind, we recall our dreams clearly, but the moment we try to describe them they start to evaporate like smoke into the air.

What I can say about faith and being saved is that you need to open your heart, and it will happen. You can make the choice or you can be so broken down that you have no other choice and your body heaves open like land parting in a massive earthquake. But one way or the other, when you open to it, and yield to it, it will fill you.

Another enormous lesson for me this last year is that faith & magic are completely woven together. Magic has always been a force in my life. From the time that I was a child I experienced magic, both in how I perceived the world and also in how I interact with the world. I always knew that I was somehow different, and other people saw it too. Sometimes I have come upon kindred spirits. But through all of it, I always denied my magic, mainly because I did not understand how magic & faith could fit together. Somehow in my conservative Roman Catholic upbringing, I saw magic as something bad, something wrong, something wicked.

This year taught me that faith & magic are beautifully linked together. They are one and the same, both deriving from the same divine source. I am so excited to move into this next phase of my life, strengthening both my faith & my magic at the same time.


What nourishes you also destroys you.

I’ve struggled with addiction on & off for my entire life. I’m sure there have been others but a few of the main things I’ve been addicted to are: food, alcohol, medication, weight loss, & abusive relationships. At the end of the day, there is so much that I could say about addiction about how I have used it in the most destructive ways, but the reality of addiction for me has been simple.

Addiction has always been a means of escape and numbing myself. Instead of dealing with my reality at any given time, it was easier to simply do something else or numb the pain. Because of my empathic nature, I feel things incredibly deeply. This leads me to feel beautiful things, create beautiful things, and experience life in an amazing plane of reality; but it also causes an extreme sensitivity wherein I feel pain so deeply and so often that it can tear me apart.

Rather than finding healthy, rational ways to remove pain from my life or to overcome it, I simply didn’t know any better so I turned to my addictions over and over again as a means of survival. This year, I finally woke up and realized that my addictions were never, ever going to make anything better. Even though something could feel good temporarily, the damage is always greater than the temporary reprieve. I am still working through this lesson. I haven’t come to the end of this struggle, but I have made more progress this year than ever before and I am on the right path. The “knowing” that I have now is the first step and I am using this knowledge to unwind all of these years of self-destruction and break the cycles.


You get one body during this lifetime. It is up to you how you treat it, and how you treat it will be directly reflected in the life that you are given.

Health & wellness is not a new theme here, and like many of the other lessons I’ve shared here, my journey with it has not been linear. One of the things that I have learned differently this year is that good intentions don’t mean a damned thing when it comes to health. The only thing that matters is what we actually do consistently.

Without this one little component of our lives–health–we have nothing. Health is so much more than what we eat, how we exercise, or any other single element. True good health means holistic wellness, a state in which our minds, bodies, and spirits are being fully & thoroughly nourished. I am ready to jump into the possibilities of good health & holistic wellness like I never have before and I am truly excited to share this magic with you along with everything else that is coming next for me & for all of us.

Thank you for reading, friends. This is me baring my soul to you. I hope that it inspires you in some type of way. Feel free to share it if you feel so moved. Let me know what you have learned this year. What you are hoping to carry into 2019? What are you hoping to leave behind?

Happy New Year. I love you.

Comments (3)

  • Robert Ferdon

    December 31, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    great life lessons here…

    1. Dena

      January 2, 2019 at 10:25 am

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read it & for the feedback. <3

  • Cindy

    January 2, 2019 at 11:14 am

    Hi Dena, Happy New Year…a perfect read for first days back in the grind….I can relate wholly on every issue. Thanks for taking the time to put into black and white for us. I will re-read several times this week..:)

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