Tag Archives: identity

Through the Woods to the Sea: A Journey of Becoming Me

For a while I was putting up chapters here but then I got so entrenched in the editing process that I kind of neglected that. After several rewrites and many – many edits and a  title change my memoir is done.

It was published at the end of April and we have been doing a soft release. As I get ready to put it out into the world it is scary exciting! This is after all my life, my story, events and details.

Why would anyone want to read about me? my life?

I hope that in sharing my story other women who have been through challenges, lost their sense-of-self, felt empty or gave up on their dreams to meet the demands of others or the world will feel connected and not alone. I hope it inspires you to believe in yourself and follow your dreams at any age or stage of life.

It is never to late to become your true self and live the life you dreamed about in secret.

It has arrived. Come along and be a part of My Journey of Becoming Me!
Get it on Amazon.com
or at The Mermaid’s Purse and Sugar Island  Bakery              on Topsail Island


update Memoir CoverIn her Memoir, Through the Woods to the Sea: A Journey of Becoming Me, she shares her story, her life, and her journey of stepping out of life to create one. It is one of emotion, hope, perseverance, letting go and beginning again.

“I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. What a journey you have been and still are on. I laughed, I cried, I rejoiced in your life experiences.” Marie


I’d love to hear your story – send me an email at cathyt@cathyteoste.com or jump onto my facebook page

Step Deeper into Your Dreams

Today is the day I take another step into my life – deeper into the sea of dreams, desires and journey into the next adventure.

My new book, Through the Woods to the Sea: A Journey of Becoming Me is now available. update Memoir Cover

Sharing my story, my life with the world is scary exciting!

Writing being an author has been a long buried dream of mine since I was a little girl, but like I pushed aside my love of the ocean, I buried that dream because I was told it was impractical and unrealistic.

It took fifty years of my life to dig it up and resurrect it. It took almost another ten to write it and find the courage and confidence to rewrite, edit, and publish it.

After writing the rough draft, fear took hold. A friend suggested I test the waters and write a short book on my love of the ocean. That is how Dancing on the Beach came about. A collection of essays expressing deep love and connection to the wisdom of the ocean (501x800)

Rewriting my life story was a long emotional process. I would work on it, have a reader or editor look at it, think about the suggestions then finally rewrite. I went through four different versions and formats before I found the format that fit my story. In hindsight, it was the most logical choice but it took me a roundabout way to get there.

It is my way I guess, I never seem to approach anything in a linear fashion. I love jumping around here and there to see what side trips might be interesting or what I might see or discover.

When I thought about becoming a writer, I never thought about writing personal essay but it is where I found my voice. Writing my own life story wasn’t in the plans either but years ago a teacher had suggested that I write about my experience with dissociation. Years later as I was in the midst of my midlife free fall, other women I shared my story with asked me to write and share it when I arrived.

Truth is arriving at one point just sends me off to another point on the horizon I see. Life is like that. We are never meant to arrive and stay long term just for a while and then to move forward towards something more.

So I have shared my story in hopes it inspires you to free fall or jump into becoming your true self and share it with the world in whatever expression that is for you.

We live life in our experiences expressing our spirit in the present moment

Step Deeper into Your Dreams!

Self Discovery: Getting to Know Yourself

Self-Discovery: Getting to Know Yourself

 This is a journey into the depths of yourself and your life. It is an excavating process. Make it fun- enjoy it.

If you stay present with it you will walk through the forest and see the light at the end of the tunnel. On your way you will probably get lost, confused, and discouraged but you will also be delighted, amazed, astonished, and excited about some of the things you discover.

This part of my process, I began in the middle of my chaos of confusion, depression and disillusionment with myself and life. I was lost and empty. I felt like I didn’t exist anymore. It was a start and stop process even when I stepped out of life to focus on the process, I still didn’t jump completely into it. I took small steps at a time. (You can read my full process in my soon to be released memoir, Through the Woods to the Sea)


Identity and Sense of Self

What is your identity? What is your sense of self?

We often identify ourselves using a combination of our

  • Occupations – teacher, doctor, engineer, accountant
  • Social relationships – colleague, friend, husband/wife
  • Family relationships – brother/sister, mother/father son/daughter
  • Avocations – musician, athlete, artist
  • Abilities/disabilities and attributes – funny, shy, reliable, good looking, kind, intelligent

It is a collection of these identifications, the roles we play, and our personality traits that we choose, consciously or unconsciously, to incorporate into our self-perception.

Who do you think you are?

We all have a story we tell ourselves and others who we are.

  • What roles do you use to define yourself?
  • How do you see yourself?
  • How do you feel about yourself?
  • What do you see in the mirror?
  • How would you describe yourself?

What is the story you tell yourself about who you are and why you are who you are?

The story I believed for most of my life about myself was that I was told I wasn’t good enough to be out in the world. So I hid myself away at home and became some stranger when I was at school and out in the world. Eventually the separation became blurred as did my identity and sense of self. I never had a sense of self or knew who I was. When I became a mother, I escaped into that one role and I went completely missing in action. I believed I couldn’t be myself because I wasn’t good enough to exist. So I became nonexistent.


Getting to Know Yourself

Walking the Paths of the Past: Excavating the Formation of Your Identity

Make a chart or take a piece of paper and label each stage of life: Infancy, Early Childhood, School-age, Adolescents, Young Adulthood, Adulthood or you can separate your life using years or decades: Years 1-5, 6-12, 13-18, 19-25, 25-29, 30’s, 40’s etc.

Write down what you remember or know about each stage of your life. Answer these questions for each stage. Write down anything that comes to mind. It may not be seem significant to you now but it may later.

  • What significant events, circumstances, situations occurred during each stage? Who were you at each stage of your development?
  • How did these events, circumstances or situations impact or influence your identity? Your sense of self?
  • What were you like during each stage?
  • What did you love/hate about your life? Yourself?
  • What activities did you love? List all the things you did that gave you joy, made you happy and had fun doing.
  • What were you good at? What did you excel at?
  • What roles did you play?


Looking back on what you uncovered:

  • What parts of yourself have you rediscovered during the excavating process?
  • Did you discover something about yourself during the excavating process that amazes you? Are you stronger than you believed about yourself?
  • What part of yourself is not being acknowledged?
  • What have you learned about yourself?


During the excavating process I discovered that I was a confident active fun little girl. I rediscovered things I loved, the weather, music, dancing, horseback riding, writing stories and poetry. I discovered that during the time I was missing in action that I became stronger inside. That I developed a determination to find a way back to life.

I realized that there in the books and movies I loved as a child was my inner self that I had been denying. They were my way of connecting and being myself in my imagination when I felt I couldn’t be myself in my everyday life as I child. I kept myself alive through them. When I was a teenager and into my adulthood I kept my essence alive through the stories and poems I wrote.

 So the first steps in reconnecting with the person deep within was is relieving those childhood loves. It was my first step to connect with who I had been. And became the starting point for becoming liking who I was and realizing that there was nothing wrong with her.


Self-Discovery Activities to discover more about Yourself

Connecting with your inner self is a deep soul searching process. It should be fun and exciting even in the moments of uncertainty and growing.

Pick one of your favorite activities you did as a child and do it again. See how it makes you feel now. What does it tell you about yourself?

Now pick an activity that you wish you had done that haven’t yet. Now plan a day and time to do it. How does planning it feel? Are you anticipating it with excitement or are you anxious. Once you have done it – How was the whole experience? What did you learn about yourself?

Do something you do not like to do. How do you get yourself to do it? How did you feel before you did it? How do you feel about doing it now? Would you do it again or do you still not like doing it?

Talk to someone who has known you for a long time. Ask them some of your self-discovery questions. Ask them to describe you as if they were telling someone else about you.

In returning to school and studying some of those childhood loves at an adult level I began to cultivate a relationship with the person I would have become. In studying mindfulness and present moment I cultivated a relationship with who I was in that moment – a mixture of all I had hidden away, lost and all that I had experienced as a disassociated person. I uncovered wonderful things about myself.

Yet until I found myself in the woods I hadn’t really thought about who I was becoming and who I wanted to be. I connected to the little girl inside and the person within the mother but I didn’t have a solid sense of self without the structures of my life.


Self-Discovery Questions

 Who do you want to be? What do you want?

 No one asked me those questions until Sr. Henrita asked me. My life was always about what I was expected to do or what others wanted. Having connected with the person I had hidden away and lost now I had to figure who I was now and who I wanted to be in the world.

  •  What activities do you love? Do you hate?
  • What makes you happy? Sad? Peaceful? Excited?
  • What excites and inspires you?
  • What new activities are you interested in or willing to try?
  • What are your goals and dreams?
  • What do you really want to do? Are you doing that?
  • What do you stand for?
  • What is it that wants to speak from your heart?
  • What do you want to contribute to the world?

Moving forward begins in the present moment but it helps to have a vision. It doesn’t have to be a clear ridged goal, but you must have a direction to begin walking towards. Take some time to think about those questions, explore them, and explore possibilities. Stay present follow your intuition and your heart. Each day, each experience you will discover more about who you are becoming.

You have come far, before you move forward it is time to take a breath, to marinate and blend what you have learned and what you know now with what your heart and soul know. Breakthroughs happen in times of mental relaxation.

Let go of anything you no longer want to carry around. Plan a ceremony or ritual where you symbolically let it go and release it.

Plan a Celebration – A Celebration of You. Plan it yourself. Plan it your way. Invite who you want. Or go out and celebrate you with you! Celebrate by doing something you have always wanted to do! Or just pamper yourself.


Stepping into yourself and your life is a path of perpetual movement and personal growth to come into alignment with your true self and authentic self-expression.

Next is taking what you have learned and begin to express that inner person in your everyday life.

To Experience a New Perspective of Yourself.

Cultivate Authentic Self-Expression.

Dissociation: Separation of Self

I lost my sense of self at 5 years old. Before that I have only what I can construct from pictures and stories told to me of my early childhood. I look at those pictures of myself and see a happy, curious, adventurous little girl. I don’t have any sense of recognition of her but yet somehow I sense she is my foundation.

In kindergarten I began molding a new self from outside direction, interactions and responses. I was recreating a new person-shaping and forming her to adjust to the perceptions of what I thought I was being told who I was suppose to be. My reaction and handling of simply being told I couldn’t be Cathy (the name I went by and associated as me) in school and had to be Mary (my legal first name) sent me into a lifelong road of dissociation, separation and alienation of myself.

Maybe my perception was all wrong. In fact I now know that my perception was out of proportion to what happened. Today I realize that the teacher’s intention was to correctly use my legal name she was not attacking my personal identity but as a five year old I had limited capabilities of reacting to someone who made me feel like I was not acceptable to be there and believed I was being told I had to be someone else. Mary’s emergence created confusion and an identity crises in a five year old.

I lived as two different people throughout my childhood. One person at home and the other person at school. In the beginning I was comfortable at home being the person who I thought of as me. The other person that appeared at school was someone else. She wasn’t me. I didn’t even like her. Pictures of me through elementary school were of some stranger, no smile, her eyes seem distant like she has retreated inside herself. She seems lifeless almost invisible. We see an immerging of someone who is acting and doing what is expected of her. I was Cathy at home and Mary at school. I switched back and forth between personalities. It became natural and normal for me. My sense of self was split apart.

As I grew up. That other person began pushing me down, drowning me out. I began to disappear as she took control over more and more of my life. I was drowning and I was spending less and less time out in the world. I stop developing from within. Mary disrupted my growth and influenced who I became. I still see Cathy and Mary as two separate people. I speak of them in the third person. Mary was and is not me. Cathy is some hazy memory of me that no longer exists. I have few real emotionally attached memories of my life. What I do know and feel strongly about is that I hated Mary.

I became distant, shy, introverted, and fearful. I withdrew more and more. I became distanced from my feelings. Dissociation became a way of life. This coping device became a pattern that I used throughout my life. It allowed me to distance myself and my feelings from the experiences of my father’s post-traumatic stress disorder. His dissociation impacted me and in turn affected our whole family. I, however, used the same technique to just disconnect from his emotional turmoil without becoming emerged in it. I also used it to disconnect from my mother’s reaction and handling of it which actually frighten me more than my father’s nightmares and handling of them.

This is how I become a shell of a person. Empty inside. It began with what I thought was a rejection of myself from the outside world. I then turned that rejection upon myself. In rejection of who I was, I abandoned who I thought of as myself. In abandoning her and allowing this other person to take over she became hurt and lonely. And then I distanced myself from the lives going on around me and the people who made me feel like I was in the way. I became good at disappearing and becoming invisible.

There were moments during my life when none of it mattered. Moments when I felt alive and real. Those moments were always when I was at the water, be it a lake or the ocean. On those occasions when I was able to be at sea. I was just present in the moment, being. I never understood what was different at those times or why. I never thought about it. As a child I was just grateful for the reprieve of the constant battle inside myself and the battles of life going on around me. Everything I couldn’t do anything about I receded from. In actuality being away from home and at the beach or on the sea on a boat was the ultimate escape from reality. An acceptable form of dissociation.

For years I made failed attempts to either reconnect with that lost person who was abandoned and pushed down. Then I failed at trying to merge the two personalities into one whole person. During this time from adolescents, young adulthood and on towards midlife depersonalization or derealization aspects of dissociation emerged because Cathy had given up fighting to exist and Mary wasn’t needed anymore.

I fell into an abyss. I slipped into a shell of a life with no person inside. Life was a fog and I wasn’t a real person. I was just a body with no feelings. Aware that I was not having the feelings I should be experiencing with my children was the catalyst for my wanting, no needing to resolve this sense of self issue that had plagued me all my life. Deeply wanting to live through my inner core to feel and experience life, experience life through the senses, sight, smell, touch, and taste. I had no choice but to step out into this journey of connecting with my true self and to live in alignment with my authentic self.

There was no road, no plan of action, to follow. I just began by being present in the present moment and making choices as they came along. It guided me into the woods and eventually to the ocean. The woods unraveled the past where I shed the beliefs I had carried with me. The ocean navigated the way for me to emerge from my shell, the hard shell I had hid myself in. I am always at risk of slipping back into that pattern of coping. I am now aware of the signs and I know the place I need to go.

Whenever I perceive my sense of self receding or feel the inclination to revert into disassociation I know the first step for me is to go to the beach, to the ocean, to the sea. Being there pulls me into the present moment into connection to nature, to the wisdom of being. It guides me into the space of emptiness that is pure being. In that space I connect to my soul, where I reside. Once I am grounded in that space, I can them return to everyday life living from within rather than a place of withdrawing or receding within and disconnecting from life or from myself.