Understand Your Life Story & Nature – and Release Your Natural, Unique Self

26.1.2020

Photo by Mikko Nikkinen

I feel that all the way since 2011 when I got the idea for SaimaaLife in the vegetable garden, I’ve made the journey to be able to write this story. For myself, and to you. I published this already in Finnish last spring on my private Facebook. Pressing “Publish” was the size of a mountain thing to me. Thank you for all the people who contacted me afterward!

In 2019 I wrote also a lot of other words out of me in Finnish. I wish I could have shared all of them with you in English as well, but unfortunately, I simply didn’t have time for it. Besides, it felt important to write with my own mother language so that I could feel each word inside me.  

I advise taking the time to read this story. In pieces, if needed. This includes a lot, but I hope it gives you a lot too.

Also at the end of the story, there is 30 minutes video about one speech of mine in 2019. I hope it gives you seeds of thoughts as well.  

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“This is a long story, but I want to tell you.

Relief and fear were just as strong feelings that went through me last autumn when freelance journalist Tiina Suomalainen from Lappeenranta contacted me. She wanted to write an article based on my writing “Minun Masennukseni, Minun Häpeäni” (My Depression, My Shame) that had been published a few years earlier at Finland’s biggest wellness site “Hidasta Elämää” (Slow Living). The article was based on my own story published in English here called “The Story about my Depression and How I won it without Antidepressants”.  

I knew in my heart that one day the time would come for me to talk about the reasons for my depression and anxiety. “Now is the time,” I said in my mind and thanked Tiina that the subjects around the article could be broadened.

“Own your story. Don’t bury it and let it fester and define you. If you own your own story, you get to write the ending.”

Some years ago I’d read that statement by Brenè Brown, one of my favorite authors. I knew she was right, but I fought against the idea for years. I felt that it could have been so much easier if the main features in my story were somehow related to some physical illness. But no. However, now I feel that everything that’s happened is a valuable part of my life story. Without them, I would not be the person I am today and the direction my character is developing.

I am sharing this all with you partly because I want to find a way to support all the men and women, girls and boys, who fight with the same feelings and issues during their lifetime or somehow struggle on behalf of their mental health. It’s a struggle that when prolonged, starts to break down also a person’s physical health. The opposite development can happen too. I want to open up for myself as well: to finally rid myself of the shame and burden, which originally contained many issues that shouldn’t have been my burden.

I have never had cancer or I have never been bullied. I was the one who tried to protect those that were bullied in school. I traveled my own way, somewhat of a lonely wolf, a tomboy. The one who chose to do the outside work at the family farm, rather than working inside the house. The one who left home to live alone at 16. The one they said didn’t need looking after because I always took care of myself.

On the other hand, I was shy and diligent, kind and sensitive. I didn’t want to cause trouble or be a burden. In 6th grade, the school nurse thoughtlessly said the wrong words to that girl. That same week I decided to lose 10 kg. In the very end, I lost almost 20 kg. The girl grew into a woman. The boys noticed that. And the men.   

Many, many years earlier I should have left the relationship where the only problem was that one wasn’t allowed to touch. Or could, but seldom and briefly. Without even thinking of an alternative, I felt that it was my fault. I tried to change myself in many ways, to get rid of our “problem”. “May I look for intimacy from women? I need the touch of another human being.” I finally asked. I wasn’t allowed. The problem didn’t disappear and I couldn’t solve it or leave the relationship but ended up being unfaithful for the first time in my life. At that point, a huge part of me broke up. I confessed we separated, I moved abroad. I felt good to be alone, but then we got together again. Everything was fine for a while but then we ended up where we had been before.

Now it’s clear as daylight that I have looked for acceptance by pleasing men and working hard. It took years and years to understand that. 

Insecurity, poor self-esteem, and diligence was not a good combination in working life either. When looking at photos from that time, I see that the smile on my face had disappeared. I started to tire with the mounting responsibility from work. I wanted the responsibility and took it when it was offered. That was how it was supposed to go, I thought. The numbness was increased by the brokenness in my private life. The darkest stage in my life started and I cared less about everything. The least about myself.

In a predominantly male working environment, I tried to fit in. Be as tough. It was easy when I’ve always felt that I’ve had a bit more masculinity in me than the average woman. Add the “nice girl” image and a woman’s appearance to that and you have all the dark ingredients mixed together.

If you ask any of the men involved, not one would say that I didn’t want to do all the things I did and let be done to me. Quite the opposite. I also offered myself. I have never blamed them at any point and now, finally, I don’t blame myself either.

During those years the fragments of my soul inside me were crushed into even smaller pieces. A human being is skilled in closing their eyes from suffering. A smile can hide so much. Tears can be hidden by turning your head, physical pain can be misled by biting your teeth together. Everything ends sooner or later.

It’s a sad process when something natural and originally bringing good feeling and joy and energy turns into something compulsive and uncontrolled, resulting in increasingly unhealthy features. When experiences that surpassed one’s understanding and ability to process came about, they were suppressed deep into the background of my mind. Life could go on.

Several years passed. On the way, I’d met my husband and became a mother. Life had calmed down and I was happy. I had started to search for a way into a deeper, natural state of wellbeing, soften myself, started to do yoga as well. One could say that I got what I asked for. The day came when the cellar door to my mind opened. First came out of one experience, and then the rest – piece by piece during the next months, from the “easiest” to the worst. I thought I was going out of my mind. When the traumatic and shameful experiences rose to my level of consciousness, they have to somehow be relieved. It is horrible because along with the memories rise the subconscious feelings that weren’t recognizable at the time they happened; “I want out of here”. “It hurts”. “I’m frightened”.

It was awful to understand that some of the experiences had overlapped with my current relationship. The one which I wanted to last forever. It was also awful that I couldn’t understand why. Why had I let myself be touched by people whom I hadn’t wanted to be touched by? Why had I felt obligated to pay with my body for “debts” from receiving attention. Why did I feel so strongly that I didn’t have the right to say no? Why did I feel that a man’s word was law? 

My travel in awareness with a feeling called “shame” began. Shame made me feel that I didn’t have the right to live anymore. I punished myself and self-destructive thoughts took over my mind. I felt that I had shamed my family, relatives, spouse, and children. Everybody. Good thoughts in me disappeared. I felt doubly bad and dirty.

I remember the day I stood by the kitchen table with a sharp knife in my hand and thought, that if I cut my face and body, maybe I would be safe. Only the thought of my daughter sleeping in the room next door, whom I had to breastfeed in a while prevented me from using the knife to relieve the pain and shame that I felt for myself.

We moved to the country, closer to nature. I remember when I found an old, protective spruce forest near to our new home. Sitting on one of the tree stumps I felt good. I found the connection to my inner self and got a grip on empathy and compassion for myself. I didn’t feel inferior to others but just as good and sufficient as I was. In the forest, I could breathe and feel free. My thoughts ran free and I felt I was taking steps forward with myself.

Nature became my lifesaver. Little by little -as I made progress with processing my emotions- the spruce forest changed into a sunlit pine forest, the pine forest into a birch forest and the birch forest into a tall rock. By the water, surrounded by water, embraced by water – that was also a good place to be. My mind calmed down and my body relaxed. Always.

I blogged about my experiences on SaimaaLife, which I’d started before the storm of my life started in 2012. I took photographs and wrote about all the good things in my life, which helped me and which I realized along my way. I wrote to myself and others.

I started to get messages from other countries in the world, telling me that my blog had served them as a place to rest and that my photos and words helped, bringing comfort and hope. I managed to transfer feelings that helped other people.

“I live in the noisy centre of London. During my break at work I take a cup of coffee in my hand and enjoy the peace and quiet of nature, which  is transmitted from your SaimaaLife photos”. “I feel less lonely, when I read your stories, Mari”. “I feel the calming and human atmosphere of your blog all the way over the sea”. 

If only those readers could have known, how important their words were to me. Vital. How much the knowledge of these people being somewhere out there helped me and nursed my wounds. 

”You have not been raped, but you have had to go through the same feelings that rape victims have to suffer”. I remember the words of my psychologist. She said something that I could not say myself. Resulting from my self-destructive thoughts I had started psychotherapy with the support of my friend and spouse. I am eternally thankful that a person, who not until at 30 could learn to talk and especially needed to start talking about one of the most difficult and sensitive issues of human life right away, met a person who was easy to talk to.

We started from the darkest issues, but distressing grey also came up from the cellar to be lived through. During that two-year monologue, I ran through my whole life, from my birth and childhood to the effects of Finland’s wars and world history. Social structures, culture, subconscious beliefs, adopted behaviors and their effects on oneself opened up, piece by piece to me.

Pieces of the shell surrounding me fell around me and I thought about them when hanging clothes out to dry and peeling carrots at home. I found a philosophical person in me during those years.  A person, who mused over different questions about life during a year or two. Sensed herself and other people and the surrounding world and the effects that all of these have on each other.

I would have wanted to let my story out already then, but I was afraid that nobody would believe me. After all, I had been the teenager, who with her own way of dressing had caused the gazes of men to turn on her. I was also a woman with a strong physical and sexual drive. I liked even wild sex. I felt the physical touch to be one of the most wonderful natural pleasures. Based on my humor and the stories that I told in a select company or based on my outer strength, nobody would have believed that I had driven myself onto so wrong track in life and was so lost. At least I thought so.

Being too nice and kind was also an obstruction to me still then. The inner straitjacket and gag, which are part of the dark side of niceness, is awful; Other people cannot be offended. Not to say angering someone. You have to give to others, and not require anything for yourself. One’s own will and self-defense are unknown concepts for people who suffer from being too nice. It is said to be “Nice Girl Syndrome” and yes, it was a strong part of me. However, I know that it does not concern only girls, but also many boys, and adults of both genders as well.

Don’t you know, that a girl of your age doesn’t have the right to say no? I am in such a high position that I can prevent you from advancing in your career at the ministry.” Somebody of another nature would have freed themselves, but I stayed on, putting up with everything, in distress. Examples are many.

I finally left the grip on the dance floor but the dark touch of niceness lingered on my skin. The feeling, which became all too familiar in both my private and working life. The feeling, which restrained me, keeping me small and building a net around me, preventing me from getting up and taking big steps in any other direction. If I had dared to demand using a condom, I would have avoided getting VD. I have also been cheated on. I have taken someone back when he wanted, only to be left a second time. Of course.

How big role my niceness has played in my burnout, depression, and anxiety? Well, very big, shortly said.

“Don’t you feel that you can also make wrong choices in your life?” asked the psychologist. Aloud I answered: “Yes, of course.” But at the same time, my inward voice said “No”. Oh, the austerity that people like me practice toward themselves when after trying to live “right”, they end up doing everything wrong. One can be ill in many ways – people ill with niceness are one group.

A too kind and nice person doesn’t just splat stories like mine in front of everybody. Nor a person who still then was so deep in the feeling of self-shame. Articles in magazines about the evil of cheaters didn’t help at all. Nor, the fact that my shame didn’t relate only to my actions but my self-shame had started to form inside me in my childhood. I felt that I was always dropping in between different worlds. Men and women, theory and practice. When there was too much of this and then too little of that in me. When my ideas and actions were too different. It felt like all people were strongly something, I had everything in me and I understood everyone. I felt like an outsider and that there was something wrong with me. That I should have learned to be like something else. I just didn’t know what and how.

I was also ashamed that I didn’t know how to create strong friendships. My social skills were weak. I also got distressed in the company of strange people and large groups. I was too shy to start talking to people and I could only approach children and elderly people with whom I had always felt easy and approved of.

Yes, my psychotherapy increased my understanding and lessened my self-shame. A big thing was that I had dared to talk to a couple of friends before that. On the other hand, now I can say that I didn’t really know how to open up then. How to break down and dare to be weak for real. 

The change to the original was huge already then in me and I’d found plenty of tools toward a better future, but a big lump stayed inside me. I still had a long way to go, before I could tell my story in public.

My trip during those years had many turning points. One of the most meaningful ones I experienced on a jog in the forest. While running, I realized that if I’d been born in another country, I probably would have already been killed. I used to have nightmares where I was buried in the ground up to my neck. Unknown people, as well as people I knew stood around me with stones in their hands. I always woke up when the last, deadly stone struck my skull. I realized that that is the fate of many people in the world.

After that jog in the forest I didn’t cry for myself, but for others. I cried for all of the other people in the world, who suffered and have experienced and still experience things that are much, much worse than what I have gone through. Many of them without any kind of help, support or understanding. Alone.

Human life can be filled with so many different kinds of suffering. My own life of 38 years has entailed too beside them that I already told; I know what it is to be depressed, but I also know what it is to live with someone suffering from depression. I know plenty about alcohol – consumed by me or others. I know how life is when you try to live according to another’s expectations and try to become invisible so the other person doesn’t get irritated and angry. When you try to place your words right, breathe quietly and clean the mirrors better.

I know what a strike on the head breaks in your soul and how it feels in your body. Physical pain hurts, but I also know what it feels like to be struck down to the ground verbally for so long so that in the end you feel like the words said. “Fucking stupid”, “Primitive person”, “Weird”, “Whore”. In the end you start calling yourself by the same names. Violence is violence, whether it is physical or psychological, loud or silent.

I know how one feels like shit when you’ve been shitty to another person. Lied in the face of your beloved and been an asshole – the worst version of yourself. See in your eyes and feel on your skin the pain, which you have caused to the person dear to you. It is horrible. Or the anxiety, when deep down you know that you are a good person and worth loving, but above that is a feeling that you are not. And you spank yourself for not being good enough. That’s horrible too.

I also know what it’s like when you try your best but time after time the door closes in front of you. What the world looks like and feels when you have no idea what you’re going to live and how to pay the bills the next month. When you feel like you don’t know how to do anything and you’re a third-class citizen. Worthless. When you feel that many people would be better off if you weren’t around. Even your children.

Touching has played a part in my life. I have also cried with sympathy for those who are not touched enough. We all need mental touching also. Stroking with words and authentic approval and secure intimacy. A sense of connection said in one word. There is too little of it in the lives of many of us.

If I can say that I have lived “too much”, then I have empathized also with many of those who would like to live more, dare to do more, show their inner selves more so that they would receive more from life in order to give it more. Living a lifeless life causes suffering as well.

After all my experience, wherever I go nowadays, I see people who at the end of the day are all alike, having the same types of combats with similar feelings and questions, and yearning for similar natural things in life. All of us, in all parts of the world have own types of sufferings and traumatic experiences. And that is what sucks.    

Contrasts suck as well. #metoo types of phenomena are good in the world, but on the other hand, they often get stuck in man-woman, guilty-victim, good-bad disputes in a way that even though handling the issues, the bad feelings of either party are not alleviated. Sometimes things appear to get worse or even become chronic. Bitterness towards life, another person and toward yourself can remain festering under the surface. Often times we can’t or don’t know how to reach a feeling of peace and acceptance.

Of course, there are issues that the wrongdoer has to take responsibility for their wrongdoings and possible crimes. But life has so many more shades than just black and white. We can for example easily put down an alcoholic who behaves violently, but would we put them beneath us if we knew the whole story behind their life. And what comes to men and women, mistreatment happens on behalf of both parties. Mentally and/or physically. Knowingly and/or unknowingly.

At the end of the day it’s not an issue about men and women, but a matter of life and the challenges of humanity. No matter what the gender, or if one feels genderless, we all have our own burdens to carry. Partly as humans, partly as a representative of a group of humans. Partly also as individuals with our own personal nature and roots.

Many times I’ve thought also about how much pain, sorrow, loneliness, and deadweight from gone generations that person left on the dancefloor is carrying around on his shoulders as well.

In addition, being unfaithful in two relationships, I can also say now that I have gone through two work-related burnouts and two deep bouts of depression. Three years ago I became an entrepreneur. A person like me didn’t find that easy. I can say I’ve passed the valley of death now with my company, but the price I paid was high. When the tolerance threshold is higher, also the fall into exhaustion can be deeper.

Recurring depression is always deeper than before as well. The step I took the second time around to the verge of suicide is one of the most frightening experiences. I am thankful that at that point I was too tired and my hand couldn’t reach my laptop to search for “The surest way to kill oneself”. Instead, I grabbed my phone and in the hours of the night, I wrote to two of my closest friends and told them what I was planning and asked them to “Tell me, what is good about me. I need to hear it now.” I promised to wait for their answers. They came in the morning and I reached the surface.

That night was needed so that I could finally break out of the feeling of self-sufficiency that is so common among us Finns. Only after that night could I tell even my closest friends everything about my life. To break up the wall of shame around me.  A new era started in all of our lives and we decided that whatever happens, we would tell each other about it, we would support each other and stay alongside each other.

I am not proud of my line of twos in my life. It feels bad to think that a cynic could easily say that not two without a third. However, two is a minimum numeral and a formula can become evident in matters. To someone else, it may have got clarified the first time, but for me, it went like this.

My formulas were clarified in autumn 2018 when I started to get a room in my mind after moving under my own roof. Nearly a decade of the intuitive unraveling of my dead knots had come to the stage where the still lost parts were found in my self-understanding. A new type of understanding was activated and it felt like the years of pondering started to gradually make sense in my behavior and my being.

After finding connection to myself again, I took my own, old knowledge into use as well as those adopted from others to get my energy back; I slept, ate well, walked in the forest, swam in the lake and sat on the patio of my forest cottage and listened to what the silence of nature and my heart and intuition had to tell me. I spoke to my psychologist, but I especially talked to my friends. I organized my calendar so it had plenty of slack and I asked for help much more often. With the help of old and new means, I felt my strength and senses growing, slowly and gradually.

During the autumn my formulas in relation to men became clear as well. It was a big issue, but maybe an even bigger matter was the illumination that I had internalized the same themes and the same formulas had repeated themselves in my working life as well as other areas of life. It became clear how diligence, niceness, weak social skills, low self-esteem, disability to talk, burnout, depression, anxiety, numbness and looking for acceptance and love had intertwined together in my life. I felt like I’d got bumped on the head. Realization was very painful but the feeling of eternal thankfulness and relief was stronger.  After many years of trying, I had finally got the strong grip I’d been striving for!

I even said to my friends that it didn’t matter if nobody trusted me anymore, because for the first time I could trust myself. Finally, it was clear that if I let this and this and that comes to reality in my life, the same formula can happen in my life also the third time. However, it became also clear that if this, this and this and actualize in my everyday life and being, I can maintain a balance and wellbeing, and become stronger in my life.

I realized too how self-value, respect, and protection had been missing in my life all the since I moved to the forest cottage. Also, earlier themes such as daring and knowledge about setting healthy boundaries, self-regulation and handling of emotions were underlined.

If I hadn’t been able to respect myself physically before, I had been as bad to appreciate the mental side of myself and my skills. I am dumbfounded with the amount of work I have done for example just for free. My naivety and gullibility. Not even saying how demanding I have been toward myself, belittling my experiences and feelings, taking other people’s statements as truths, ran away from facing difficult issues and feelings, let myself be hurt for so long and for so many ways, finally ending up being the one hurting others. How I’ve taken a lot on myself and spread myself into so many different directions that I just didn’t have the strength to handle all my responsibilities. Tired myself out and caused and maintained my own suffering.

Facing shadows relating to humanity is not easy. That is why many – maybe all of us – strive to avoid them to the end. By banning them so you’re not even aware of them – not even thinking about them. Basically, people are good, but selfishness is a shadow at the bottom. The fact that darkness is a part of my past I can understand now is one reason that my mind could avoid confronting the bad selfishness in me up to moving under the same roof. Now it’s clear that despite the darkness, part of my behavior was due to pure selfishness. I hadn’t known how to accept that and partly because of that I ended up both cheating and also putting my work ahead of the people and issues that at the end of the day I feel were the most important to me. Admitting it was difficult, but also after that, I felt so much lighter. A person’s pride and ego do not give very easily but they can also be beaten.

At the end of the day, humbling and breaking down totally on your knees is a very empowering experience.

When you get or dare to get close to yourself in a very honest and open way, sit down to speak vis-à-vis with your’s shadows and shortcomings, look at properly and for long in the mirror, a wonderful stage in life begins. It’s the same type of feeling as when you overcome your fear. You take a giant leap in growing up as a human being.

Your self-respect grows and you start to strengthen mentally, like well-known Finnish psychologist Tommy Hellsten has said. The zigzagging over and above others stops and life begins, where you have a stronger stance as a human-sized person. The path in the right direction gets stronger and you start to grow in a totally different way and carry responsibility for yourself and life on Earth.

“It is silent / Everywhere / Scream, laughter, haste, movement, voices / Everything has quiet down / I’m floating / Surely my two feet on the ground / Attached to nothing / Still rooted deeper than ever / In between / In water / Safe / It is silent / More silent than ever / And no need to fill it with anything.” – When all the burden from my shoulders and soul was away, and I had found peace with everything and everyone, poems started to flow to the paper from inside me. It felt wonderful since those words told me that I had not only healed but arrived in “home” with myself.

If I had known what kind of peace you can make with yourself and the world, when the shadows of humanity can be faced, I would have pushed toward confronting them eye to eye years ago. On the other hand, maybe that stage on your path cannot be forced – you can only try to grow toward it. The moment when everything comes back to yourself – in a good, healthy manner now. No more accusation, but straightforwardness.

We so easily start going around in circles, trying to find someone to blame for our suffering and accuse somebody else of the choices we’ve made. Till the very end, we try to find somebody to turn the mirror on. We create a reality and story in our mind through which we can throw the responsibility on others and stay put in our own stance and place.

And then – then, after years of struggling, you are in a state where you accept everything, everybody’s roles and effects, but uppermost is Me: “No matter what my roots are, what models I’ve got or with whom I’ve been, I am behind my own life. I let myself be treated badly. I treated others badly. Life is not always fair and I have experienced things that I would not have wanted to experience. But in the end, I decide how to relate to something and what I’ll do or not do. I am responsible for my life and my choices. It is my, and only my choice, whether I grow, or do I choose to stay still.” I don’t know how I would feel like in that situation. At least I didn’t expect to find a seed of peace to my soul, a totally new connection and the ability to observe life and open up to it in a new way.

Finally, I heard a peaceful voice inside me approvingly saying: ”I needed all of those experiences in my life to reach where I am now”.

Lights glow brighter in the shadows. At the same time when you understand your own selfishness and shortcomings, you can clearly see unselfishness and all the good in you. Even though I’ve failed miserably many times in life, I have always had good and sincere intentions. I’m sure that you have had it too. But sometimes being a human being and life in general can just be so complicated and difficult. 

In my head, at that state, I heard a compassionate and merciful voice saying: ”I wanted to do good, but it went all wrong”. “I had no intention of hurting, but I did that anyway”. “I lost connection to myself and thereby with others and my surroundings also.” Making the wrong choices, selecting the wrong paths of learning are part of humanity. They don’t make us evil or worse than others, they make us and others humane. A human.

We are all incomplete, but still so very beautiful humans – with all our imperfections, we all are perfect creatures of nature.

I’ve noticed that it’s important to feel both on your skin at the same time – the lights as well as the shadows. Important because they are the birthplace of both mercifulness and sufficiency. I had to make a long journey inside myself so that those feelings authentically landed on my shoulders and under my skin before the new year 2018. When that happened, I knew that I was on the way towards sustainable defragmentation, healing and a softer and gentler way of life and attitude both for myself, all humans, and basically all living things in general.

Another good sign was that after such a long journey I could finally achieve something that a person suffering from niceness fears the most: to feel and let out the real feelings of rage. A huge mound of bitterness caused by pent-up rage was in me also. When I finally screamed it out of me and finally broke down the dam, I felt much better and only knew that I cannot let new dams build up in me anymore. 

I’ve told many people, that I don’t want to hurry out of this stage of life where I am right now. For the first time I feel I’m living a truly balanced life and feel like a whole and valuable person – even though I don’t work and my life does not include a man. Since 14, there’s always been some man in my life. Also, in the future I want to have somebody, but at the moment, everything is good as it is. I feel that this is an important stage of my life not only for me but for my children, my future spouse, friends, work and everything.

I don’t want to rush even because I have finally found a feeling that has been missing throughout my life. It is the love that has finally grown inside me – the love for myself. I want to strengthen that and learn to feel more – so in time, I can also learn to love another person better, become loved myself better and teach my children to love too.

With the love I’ve found, in winter 2019 I nursed the little girl inside me. The one within who there was so so long a vacuum which she tried to fill with all the wrong things and ways. The one that she didn’t know how to attend to and protect for so long either. Whose soul fragments still require gluing together for a little while. I also want to learn to protect my sensitivity through my love. After all, my biggest strength is in my sensitivity and all that is best in me that I can give to this world.

“Father, if I’d been a boy, would you have seen and heard me.” That is maybe the most desolate cry that has emerged from inside me. I have stroked my sorrow after my father’s passing in autumn 2018. I’ve been thankful for all the words and contemplations between us, which I received and had the courage to experience during his last weeks. They helped to fill up the subconscious emptiness inside me as well. I’m also thankful for the moments by his earthly body. I would have wanted to learn to know the gentle and understanding farmer and forester, who pondered on the meaning of life, of whom I have heard after his passing.

On the other hand, the blood running in my veins tells me that he is not far away even though I cannot get to know him face-to-face anymore. 

A bit dazed, I’ve been thinking about the week in November in 2018 when in Helsinki I got the worst panic attack in my life. After I recuperated from it, I wrote 12 pages on the subject: “Who am I?”

Now I can say that that week in 2018 was really a turning point in my life. At the same time it was the long-awaited rock bottom in my life as well as a new beginning. Everything beautiful just seemed to begin to sprout from it in a natural way. I say it to be my second birthday.

I’ve tried to do my best to water that person, which has emerged from inside me. Also, get to know her. I like that person very much.    

This Mari is very sensitive, but at the same time, she is very strong. She lives life strongly within her head but also through her body. She still has her introvert and quiet side, but also very open and talkative nowadays too. Nature is increasingly present in her life, but her life includes more and more also other people. She likes to hug but also likes to touch people mentally. Mental touch by others is also more and more meaningful to her. She’s been amazed at how mental touch and feeling of connection can as its best to feel like physical touch. She is also happy that harmful sexual behavior is now away from her life and instead she has the most natural relation to sexuality and the human body in general.

She alights from deep conversations with another person and being in the sauna. She is not attracted by men or women, but fascinating people. She strongly feels the emotions of all colors. Sometimes she curses her own character, sometimes is thankful for it. She already has the wisdom of life but is also humble in a good way. She is damn proud that this hillbilly with basically no emotional nor social skills have over the years grown to be quite good at those things and understand them rather deeply even.

This Mari wants to control life less nowadays – it feels better to travel with the flow of life. On the other hand, she deliberates and keeps a tighter reign on boundaries. It’s done well. She has many sides to her. An artist and storyteller in her soul. She is nature’s child to the grave. A startup mompreneur from Punkaharju and Saimaa. Still passionate about her work and in private life. Sometimes dead tired and scatterbrained. Sometimes living in a wonderful, intoxicating flow. Balancing and enjoying the calm times.

She is a person who has not suffered from cancer or been bullied, but who has gone through her own kind of hell, which has taught her to honor and respect life in all its forms, and to be merciful both towards herself and others. She is thankful for being alive and well. And grateful that now she can finally say to be ex-workaholic.

In spite of everything, she feels her life has been a gradual climb throughout the last 10 years. She is not afraid of storms and can throw jokes about her most painful points. She dares to go inside the pain of another person and stand by them. She lives her own type of life, making her kind of choices and looking at the world from a broad perspective.

She doesn’t have the need to define herself. She’s a human being and that’s enough.     

“What is the freedom that I crave?” I wrote to myself some time ago. The answer is obvious; I want to free myself wholly from the shackles of the old me. I want and feel strongly, that now I can already let go of the last pieces of shame that have weighed on my shoulders for years. It has brought about so much mental and at the end, even physical pain. It has now given what it has to give to me.

Of course, my past will always be with me and I shall -and want- return there time and again when there is something worth taking up for me or to help others. But I do not want my past anymore to define me or push me down. If somebody wants to stab me with my past, I want to be able to release myself from it, letting it fall on the ground beside me and forgiving the one who stabs.

If in the past a cellar door inside me opened up full of darkness, now the door is wide open and the cellar is full of light. That door I want to open up wide so that the light can illuminate my own life road and shine an encouraging and reassuring light for other people also.

In December 2018 I drew up a list of tasks I thought was necessary to do to rise above my story and heal for good from my depression and anxiety and be able to open light, a new page in my life. This writing is the last task on that list. Weights have already been shrugged off my shoulders and now is the time to drop off this largest stone. That is why I hope that you receive this story of mine.

In me has lived a strong fear that I’ll be rejected and abandoned if I tell this story. I have been afraid of people’s reactions because -as you now know- my story includes features condemned by many. I can understand that somebody can’t understand. Luckily now is enough that I understand myself. No matter what I do, I have accepted it that there is always somebody that won’t like it and will interpret my words and actions in a negative way. That’s ok. I feel that the people who may leave around me can go. I believe that in time the people who are meant to remain and come into my life will stay and I will meet them.

The year 2018 was fierce in many ways in my life. However, I am thankful that now I am here with myself and my life. I am deeply sorry that I have hurt two people with whom I have shared my life the longest. I have loved them in the way I have known at that point in time. Just like I know that they have loved me too. I was a poor spouse in many issues, but also good in many ways. Just like they were too. Imperfect but good us all. Just like I know that my parents have been and all the people who have played a role in my life.

Forgiveness and genuine acceptance have felt and done well. They’ve strengthened the feeling of gratitude inside me and deepened the peace of my soul. 

The article that Tiina wrote about me to the Finnish health magazine “Kotilääkäri” (Home Doctor) was a big and liberating thing in my small, ordinary life. I could only smile, when after that publication Minna Raninen, the director of the Savonlinna regional mental health club and activity leader of the Savonlinna crisis center contacted me. I was invited and honored to be the main speaker at the 40-year anniversary celebration of the Savonlinna regional mental health club.

I wanted to create a channel to talk about the topics that are familiar to me so  that I could encourage and give support and compassion to other people. That channel was opened to me. I am grateful for that and also happy that in the end of this story I can share this first public presentation of mine.

The past years have included a lot of talk about me. So far the whole SaimaaLife has been only about me! I’m partly ashamed of that self-centeredness, but partly I feel it is natural when I’ve tried to clarify herself. I want to keep a piece of sharing my life story in the future of SaimaaLife aswell, but I have immensely enjoyed how I have been able to start leaving myself in the background in 2019. It’s become easier to focus on other things and people when I’ve not had a need to dig into myself anymore.

Having reached a sufficient understanding, I’ve not even had to let go, but things and past have kind of naturally got unattached from me. Nobody knows about the future, nor is there a need to know, but I do know that my future lies on a sturdy base now. That’s the most important thing.

At the end of the year 2018, I dressed up in a short sequin dress and high heels and headed off to a Finnish singer, Lauri Tähkä’s gig. It was a greatly empowering experience to step out seemingly the same as I looked at younger, but now internally quite different. Or not different, but as the person, I’ve always felt inward.

The most authentic version of myself.

It was also a meaningful moment when I happened to look up the Finnish word for “kindness” in the English dictionary around New Year. I understood that while I have always been nice and kind, I have also had a fair amount of goodwill. Indeed, all coins have two sides.

Strong Finnish and rural roots and natural attitude to all life have always supported me, but thanks to my perseverance and “sisu” I realized then too that this last leg of my personal journey had brought third important support into my life. It was other people.

Now I had formed a connection with them, myself and nature. In my mind, I promised that this was the trinity and all the different elements inside them I would cherish to maintain my wellbeing and life balance in the future.

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. That is why be kind and compassionate. Always.”

I wrote that citation some years ago in one of my SaimaaLife stories. All of us humans are vulnerable and basically sensitive and we have our own wounds and traumas. They may be a physical illness or a personal characteristic, alcohol, drugs, an eating disorder, infertility, a disability, accident or the passing of a loved one, homicide, sexual abuse or other crime, war, fungus hell, debt hell or anything else. These all cause suffering and going through the pain caused by these and living with the scars requires a long trip. Therefore a sympathetic and merciful attitude is important. Not only toward other people, but also toward yourself.

During my life, I have had the fortune to meet many wonderful men and women. The door to this story and text was opened by Tiina’s article and the photos that photographer Mikko Nikkinen took for it. Thank you! Thank you also for Hidasta Elämää and its books “Wonderful sensitivity” by Suvi Bowellan and “Hope’s Book About Depression” by Miia Moisio. Without those too -and not to mention my dear friends, family, and YOU ALL  SaimaaLife followers out there- I wouldn’t be here, smiling and feeling deep peace of mind while putting The End to this phase of my life story. Also thinking that even though I was ashamed of my story for so long, I still wouldn’t exchange it for anything or give it away to anybody.

This is My Story. May my travel with it continue.“

Photo by Eve Särkänne Photography

So, this is me; Mari Pennanen, Finnish countrywoman, single mother of two and startup entrepreneur who is turning 40 years old this year, in 2020.

I Promised you my presentation. Well, here it is, from spring 2019:

At the end of the video (17.55-23.30), I guide there 5 minute mental nature relaxation exercise as well. Feel free to make it at your home too.  

Recipe for better Natural Wellbeing and Quality of Life

As I’ve unconsciously made the journey all the way from 2012 to be able to write this story of mine, I’ve also looked for a way to better natural wellbeing.

Already in 2013, I did 365 ways to wellbeing project here at SaimaaLife. As a result of it the 1st version of my recipe for natural wellbeing was born; 3 key elements -Simplifying your life, Listening to your body & mind and Being in nature- as the heart of it.

In 2014, on the other hand, I worked on the theme of everyday work-life balance and wrote story series called On the way to Simple Living. In it, I lead myself and all SaimaaLife followers through one ordinary day of mine, and the ways & moments which I had noticed important.

Life continued -it raised me and I tried to grow with it. As a result of this part of the journey the 2nd version of my recipe was born in 2016. You find it from my free SaimaaLife e-guide: A guide from Stress to Relaxation: 10 Ways to Wellbeing with the Help of Nature. Besides the old material, there particularly two things were opened up; Prioritizing your basic needs and Strengthening your mind, they were. 

Lastly, in 2019, after living through the last 3 years and writing the story of mine above, the 3rd -yeat deepened- version of the recipe was clarified. In the big picture, it finally felt quite ready for me. 

How about the future?

Well, over the years, based on my SaimaaLife Recipe for Better Natural Wellbeing & Quality of Life I’ve already guided a few workshops for groups and individuals in Saimaa. In the future, I want to develop my workshop further and offer participation possibilities for it for more and more people. Just follow SaimaaLife, and you get to know where and when it is possible in the future!

Also -even though I’m still a bit nervous when I need to speak in public- I want to develop myself as a speaker and be available for events where I can offer some added value with my experience and story. Both in Finland and abroad.

What comes to my personal journey and growth, naturally, it will continue. And even though, SaimaaLife content starts to grow wider than just one person life in 2020, you can also follow my journey as a part of it in the future. How could I leave all this now when I’ve really found that developing SaimaaLife and growing strong roots to it is truly my life mission and the thing that makes me happy! 

But now, all I want to say is KIITOS -Thank you!- for all these (8!!) years so far. It’s been quite a ride, and I can only believe that it will continue as an adventure also in the future! If you wanna start your own journey to better natural wellbeing and releasing yourself to live fuller as your natural, unique self, I could say that: 

Start with small steps, and grow. Your steps will take you further, naturally. Breathe in lessons, and breathe out tensions. Don’t let the uphills or rock bottoms to give you up. Trust yourself and trust the flow of life. If this kind of a hillbilly country girl have find herself way here, you can do it too.   

With love from Saimaa,

Mari

Feel free to contact me, [email protected]

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