Dianna was introduced to me as a coaching client. She had recently gone to see the naturopathic doctor that I partner with and so we had an introductory session of exploring her lab results and developing the best plan for her healing. Although I am not a buttoned-up professional, the dynamics of these situations often put me in a space of being more of an educator and the patient being more of a student. However, with Dianna, it didn’t really feel like that. When she shared her story with me, it was obvious that this woman had lived many lives and had a richness of experience to share with others. I remember leaving that session feeling taken by her grace, resiliency, and wisdom.
Dianna is a committed mother to three young adult children. She begins our conversation by reflecting on her relationship with her own mom. Dianna was adopted and remembers her mother being very insecure when she was growing up. She states, “I think for me I just never had that someone who built me up as a person—who taught me that it was safe to believe in myself. And I really believe this is a big big piece for people to understand in terms of my story.” Dianna quickly continues that she isn’t blaming her mom, but rather she is reflecting on the relationships and types of attachments that made her who she was before her life unraveled years into her marriage. She notes, “[My mom] had her own insecurities and projected them onto me. And for my own safety and protection [I] became very chameleon like.” As a result of these unhealed wounds, Dianna—like so many of us—married someone very similar to her mother.
In her twenties, Dianna met the man who eventually became her husband. She reflects on their courtship: “He was the first person that loved and adored me in a way that I had never previously been loved or adored.” The courtship occurred at a point in time when she felt that she didn’t have a good sense of herself or who she was in the world so his protective energy initially felt attractive. However, over time, it morphed into a situation that felt controlling and manipulative, leading Dianna to turn a blind eye to his actions and behaviors. Before getting into the meat of what happened years later in their relationship, Dianna and I discuss the enormity of emotions that occur when you have to let go of relationships, jobs, experiences, and ways of identifying in the world that no longer serve you. Dianna says,
“You feel very naked in the beginning. And I remember just literally feeling naked after I had reached that point where I just knew I had to let go of people and I had to start from scratch. But [also] there is this really beautiful sort of coming home. It just feels like you’re coming home. And it’s a feeling I had never experienced before of just actually being in my skin and feeling like it was okay to be there.”
From the outside, Dianna’s lifestyle resembled the perfect American life. And yet, Dianna always “felt like [she] was floating outside of [her] life and [she was] not really sure where [she] belonged there.” Years of the marriage were spent with Dianna becoming a chameleon to her husband’s needs, thinking that she could save him from his demons and addictions. She remembers doing a psychological dance with him in which she would ask for what she needed, he would make promises, and then he would pull back on those promises. In 2010 she had finally reached a point in the relationship in which she felt confident enough to let go of all that had been created in order to live the life that she authentically wanted for herself and her children.
It was around this time that she received a phone call from a woman saying that her husband was having an affair. The initial reveal of betrayal initiated a week of discovering lies and deceit—a complex double life—across all areas and aspects of her husband’s life. After 10 days of investigation, her husband ultimately decided to take his life, leaving Dianna and her children alone to pick up the pieces. She remembers a lot of questioning about who she would be after her husband’s death:
“Those first couple of days right after he died were for me a very big awakening into ‘Wow, who are you going to be in this next chapter?’ . . . I didn't want to go back and relive what I had been living. I didn't want to be oblivious anymore. What I wanted to be was a woman who could get my kids through this to the other side.”
Dianna speaks about how, in the midst of all of the chaos, she learned to let go of being concerned about how other people would perceive her and her family. She allowed for this moment to become a “kind of surrendering to [the] experience and saying okay it happened.” She recalls thinking, “I have no control over what people think of me and I’m going to jump in and save myself and my children. That really became the guiding light for me.” She leans even further into the fullness of her being when talking about her husband’s taking of his own life. As suicide is unfortunately something that very few people talk about, Dianna became committed to stepping into the truth of the experience eyes wide open, knowing that for herself and for her children there was going to be an immense amount of discomfort. She encouraged her children to speak up, ask questions, and go through their own processes of surrender.
Our conversation goes on to explore the topic of antidepressants and the stigma that comes with using a prescription drug to cope with emotions. Dianna and I are on the same page—we believe that there is a time and a place for medication whether that be amidst an enormous amount of grief, due to an imbalanced physiological chemistry, or because of a need to function in the face of adversity. Sometimes a person needs a bit of help to remove the veil and get them to the other side. The topics of conversation that Dianna and I discuss are quite serious, but somehow they feel light with her and I am incredibly grateful for Dianna’s openness and willingness to explore the darkness.
Since her husband’s death, Dianna has gone on to develop her own company: Living on the Fault Lines. This organization ignites the fuse of healing through a deep dive into the loss that has individuals stuck in pain. It is her belief that trauma should not impede one’s ability to live a fulfilled existence and Dianna demonstrates in both her words and her actions that the fault lines have led her into her wholeness with eyes wide open.