Permission to Feel
with Ashley Bernardi
With mental health among women suffering after the pandemic and all we’ve been facing the past few years, it may feel challenging to feel connected to your authentic self.
If you’re looking to move through adversity in your life, then listen in to enjoy this week’s podcast. Today you’ll discover how you can own your authentic power and transform the mind, body, and spirit with the power of hope – just as it did for my guest today, Ashley Bernardi.
As the founder of a national media relations and publicity firm, Ashley has the privilege of access to many of the world's leading experts in health and wellness who offered healing and hope with her personal challenges—a rich collection of top doctors, neurologists, psychologists, nutritionists, coaches, spiritualists, and others. She shares their profound wisdom so that you can build hope during your times of struggle in her recent book, Authentic Power, Give Yourself Permission to Feel.
Listen in as Ashely shares some insight to help you how to move through your pain, let down the mask of strength, and feel your genuine emotions to FEEL and HEAL.
Listen below, or tune in via: Apple Podcasts,Stitcher or Spotify.
In this episode you'll discover
JOIN IN THE DISCUSSION ON THIS EPISODE AND MORE IN MY FREE FACEBOOK GROUP, FIND YOUR FEMININE FIRE HERE.
At some point in our lives, each of us will endure unexpected challenges that test our definition of strength. For my guest today, Ashley Bernardi, it was the traumatic loss of her dad as an eleven-year-old. For years, she ignored the trauma, grief, and guilt - or what she calls her “mess” - from the horrifying experience, and in her 30s, she suffered from a debilitating mystery illness that left her bedridden and unable to care for her three young children. She had two choices: continue to spiral downwards or summon her authentic power and rise up. She rose up and the healing began.
Drawing from practical techniques from over 20 healing luminaries plus her own personal story of surviving trauma, Lyme disease, and postpartum depression, in this week's pod Ashley shares the insights she’s gained and her personal story of adversity that taught her the power of prioritizing mental health.
Connect with Ashley and find her new book here.
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If you are feeling it is HIGH TIME for more pleasure and satisfaction in your life, Schedule a confidential heart to heart connection call with Amanda HERE.
EPISODE 206: with Ashley Bernardi
Amanda Testa: Hello, everyone, and welcome to the podcast this week. With women’s mental health suffering after the pandemic and all that we’ve been facing these past few years, it sometimes can feel really challenging (at least, for me, I’m noticing) to feel connected to myself in the way I want. And so, you know, we all deal with adversity in our life, and if you are looking to move through any challenges in your own life, then you're gonna really enjoy today’s podcast because today you’ll discover how you can own your authentic power and transform the body, mind, and spirit with the power of hope just as it did for my guest today, Ashley Bernardi.
Welcome, Ashley! I’m so glad to have you here.
Ashley Bernardi: Thank you so much for having me, Amanda. I have so been looking forward to our conversation.
Amanda Testa: Yes! Me too. So Ashley is just extremely talented in many realms. She’s the founder of a national media relations and publicity firm, and, as such, she has the privilege of access to many of the world’s leading experts in health and wellness, and so, as she was working through some challenges in her own life, she was able to get a lot of support from some of the best of the best.
And so, through this rich collection of doctors and neurologists and psychologists and nutritionists and coaches and spiritualists and all these types of people, she gathered so much research and put it together in a beautiful book called Authentic Power: Give Yourself Permission to Feel, which we’ll dive more into today as well, but I’m just excited to have you here, Ashley. Thank you so much, and I’d love if you wouldn't just mind starting with kind of what inspired you to write this book about your healing journey, and maybe sharing a little bit more about your story.
Ashley Bernardi: Yeah, thank you. Thank you. I mean, I feel like asking someone to share about their story is such a loaded question. We could go on forever.
Amanda Testa: Right, totally.
Ashley Bernardi: I’ll give the Cliff Notes version, but I’ll start with -- yes, what inspired me to write Authentic Power: Give Yourself Permission to Feel was March 2020, to be honest. We were all faced with these very uncomfortable feelings of grief, anxiety, despair, confusion, sadness, anger.
These are all uncomfortable feelings that I have felt before in the past, and in the past, I would numb myself to them. I didn’t want to feel them. I would bury them. I would ignore them, and that came at a detriment to my health and wellbeing which we can certainly get into.
Instead, this time, I had taught myself the tools. I had all the tools in my toolbox. I know what I needed to do to move through these very uncomfortable emotions, and I did it, and that’s where I was like wait a second. I felt called to write about my healing story in hopes that I could share this with readers because my fear was that we would exit this pandemic -- and I feel like we’re hopefully on the cusp of exiting it -- and that we will all have buried our trauma, ‘cause this was a collective trauma that we’ve experienced.
Amanda Testa: Yes.
Ashley Bernardi: And we haven’t processed it in a way -- most people, unlike me, have not processed it in a way that our bodies need to. I mean, I have, certainly, and that’s why I wrote the book. I wanted to give people a tool and some hope that our feelings don't have to be scary, that it is possible to move through them and process them. Of course, it’s gonna be uncomfortable. That’s why we don't do it. That’s why we numb ourselves, and that’s why we bury our feelings, but my message is that one you give yourself permission to feel, you’re able to tap into your authentic power which is what I define as the wisdom that we all have within us. We all are experts on our own lives. Once we quiet the noise in the world around us and really get quiet, still, listen within, allow ourselves to feel, that’s where true healing and transformation happens.
So that’s what called me to write this book, and I feel like it’s so timely where we’re at right now, two years later.
Amanda Testa: Definitely, and I think, as you mentioned, we’ve all been through this collective trauma, and there’s a lot of residual, real challenges that we’re left with.
And so, I’m curious, for you, with regards to your healing journey and kind of all that you’ve been through, I would love if you would be okay to share with the listeners maybe a little bit about that and kind of what led you to the healing that you’ve been able to enjoy?
Ashley Bernardi: Yes, thank you for asking that. My healing journey has been a very, very long one, and I hope that no one has to experience a very long healing journey, but if you do, I want you to know that you can still tell yourself it’s temporary. You’re not alone.
Amanda Testa: Yeah, yeah.
Ashley Bernardi: So my journey started when I was a kid, and I grew up in a military family. My father was an Army Colonel. I was born in Schweinfurt, Germany. We lived in California. We moved to D.C. where he worked at The Pentagon. When I was 11 years old, on a Sunday evening, we were all watching a family movie -- mom, dad, little sister who was two years younger than me, and my dad wasn’t feeling well that night.
He went upstairs, and I decided to tuck him into bed instead of him tucking me into bed that night. I tucked him in, and I kissed him, and I said, “I love you, dad,” and his reply was, “I love you, honey,” and those were the last two words that we ever spoke to each other.
Right after that, just moments later, when my mom was tucking me in, we heard moaning from the other room. My mom ran in, started screaming. I knew there was an emergency, so I ran to call 911. My mom and sister -- I didn't know this at the time, but they started tag-teaming CPR on him. My sister was nine years old -- my mom and sister, and then I called 911, and I ran out to get the neighbors, and after that -- truly, this happens, I think, with a lot of people I’ve talked to who’ve had traumas, I blacked out. The next thing I remember is I was in a hospital room surrounded by family members who started arriving. I was waiting for my mom. Wondering where my dad was, and a couple minutes later, my mom walked in and her face looked completely flushed and stunned, and she walked in with my aunt, my dad’s sister) and she said, “You know, we lost dad. He went to heaven tonight. He’s gone,” and that just changed the course of my life forever.
I lived with so much shame and guilt that I didn't do enough to save his life. I had painted this entire picture in my own child-mind that it was my fault that dad died. I couldn't save him. I didn't call 911 fast enough. I didn't get help fast enough. I didn't help my mom or sister with CPR. I should have been up there. You know, I had every single scenario played in my head. What I told myself was that -- and I think what society also told me and culture is that you're strong. You're a military child. You’re the daughter of an Army Colonel and a decorated war veteran, so, therefore, you are strong, and you are brave. I felt the need to put on a stoic face and a strong face for society, and what I learned was that was a complete act, and I became an Oscar-worthy actress acting like everything was okay on the outside, but on the inside, I was dying.
And so, of course, what happens when you bury trauma and your emotions? it comes out in other ways. For me, for many years, it came out with very destructive relationships with men, a destructive relationship with alcohol, a destructive relationship with work. I had a work addiction. I was a people-pleaser. I was almost like a chameleon. I wanted to make everyone happy around me. I didn't want to feel what I was feeling because that was too painful. So what was more important was to make sure everyone around me loved me, adored me, told me how great I was, and, to be honest, on paper, it looked like I was fine.
As an example, in high school, I was captain of my dance team, secretary of my class. In college, I was president of my sorority, editor of the school newspaper, getting all sorts of awards. Then, after college, I took a job at CBS News and became this top TV booker traveling the country, covering breaking news stories, never stopping, horrible sleep habits, and I lived like this until my early 30s when a health crisis hit me over my head and stopped me in my tracks because you really can only put on that act for so long before your body shuts you down, and that’s exactly what happened to me.
I was married. I had two young kids at the time, and had still been living this act, trying to be the perfect mom, the perfect wife, the people pleaser, the doing all the things, the cooking the meals every night, all the things. I will never forget, one day I felt like I got a stomach bug, and it was a stomach bug that wouldn't go away.
It lasted for so long, and it ended up months and months and months where I started losing weight. I started getting other symptoms like brain fog and extreme fatigue, losing all this weight, but then I got pregnant again with my third daughter, and, interestingly enough, when you are dealing with a chronic illness (or it could be an autoimmune disease, anything) when you're pregnant, the immune system suppresses those systems. The immune system goes quiet, and I remember my doctor was like, “You know, if you have a chronic illness, usually, your immune system goes quiet so you can go through this pregnancy.” It’s amazing what the body can do. So that’s exactly what happened.
But the moment I delivered my third child, Scarlett, my sweet little Scarlett, every single symptom came back times 100, and I was dizzy, I was vomiting, I was passing out. I remember, in the hospital, my blood pressure dropped to dangerous levels. I was sent home a couple days later, zero improvement.
From there, I started having daily panic attacks and fainting spells. I was bed-ridden. I had so much numb pain. I mean, I had muscle fasc -- I could go on and on about the symptoms, but it was like I had the flu every single day. That’s what it felt like. It only got worse from there.
I mean, there was one moment where -- just to, like, give a full description -- I was in a doctor’s office. They were checking me out because, of course, I had visited so many doctors, and I started fainting again. It got so dangerous that they actually called an ambulance, and the ambulance took me to the hospital. My mom said she thought I was gonna die that day. I lost complete control of my bowels and was just peeing out of a bedpan. It was the most mortifying and demoralizing moment of my life. I will never forget my mom and my husband by my side.
I’ll never forget, I came home that day, my husband took the kids to the parents because, at that point, I couldn't care for my children, and I just woke up out of bed and tried to get out of bed and collapsed onto the ground and just surrendered.
I was like all right, God, universe, higher power, whatever, you either take me now or I will fight. I will figure this out. But that was the first time in almost 25 years that I actually got quiet and still, and it was like my body forced me to get quiet and still and start listening within, and that was my turning point. I was, later, diagnosed with severe postpartum depression and put in a part-time mental health hospitalization program which was great. I needed the help because I was having daily panic attacks. I had extreme anxiety, extreme depression, border-line suicidal ideations, and we discovered that much of this was because of the other diagnosis, after 30 doctors, which was Lyme disease, and I had encephalitis in my brain, and because the Lyme had gone undiagnosed for so long, it was almost like there was no hope, but the doctor was like we’re gonna treat you with antibiotics, and if it works, you’re gonna get a PICC line.
So I got a PICC line to my heart, an IV antibiotics for eight weeks, and I always tell people this: the physical healing was only 20% of what needed to happen. The rest of the 80% healing was spiritual, mental, emotional, and that was up to me. That is where I started.
That’s when I started discovering the power of my own authentic power, listening to the wisdom that I have within, which is a very spiritual experience, and I can get woo-woo all day long, but for anyone who’s not woo-woo, if you've heard of The Law of Attraction, I started believing that I was going to heal myself. So I started journaling. I would take better care of myself. I would take naps during the day. I fed myself with nourishing foods and supplements. I surrounded myself with people who had healed themselves from Lyme disease and postpartum depression, and a year later, I was feeling like myself again but in a better way.
I’d almost say that, in this period of time, I was a caterpillar in a cocoon birthed into a butterfly. So the Ashley that you're speaking to today, Amanda, is a completely different Ashley than the one in 2015 who was dying and crying and wanting to get out.
I learned the secret antidote for healing was to give myself permission to feel, because once I did, I first, started grieving for my health, but then, I noticed that I was also grieving for my dad, and I was very curious and peculiar about that, and I was like why do I miss him so much? Why is this all coming out? But I let it happen. I let it flow, and then more of the trauma and the grief started flowing, and I started telling people about it and connecting with people about it, and that’s truly how I healed myself, because I gave myself permission to feel, and that’s the subtitle of the book.
So I’ll stop there. I know it was a mouthful, [Laughs] but it was a long journey. It didn't happen overnight.
Amanda Testa: Yeah.
Ashley Bernardi: I did it alone first, but then I got help from others, and the message is that it’s because I gave myself permission to feel for the first time in my life.
Amanda Testa: Yeah, thank you for sharing all that. And just inviting, you know, too, if you're listening, if you need a breath or just -- yeah, just honoring whatever that might have sparked in you, and also, I really want to celebrate you in listening to that inner voice. I think it’s so interesting how, sometimes, it does -- our bodies are wise, and we just don’t pay attention. That’s a very common coping strategy, right, is, like, we’re gonna stay so busy and do all the things so that we don't have to go in. I’m curious when you mentioned you first started to let yourself feel that there was a lot there.
Ashley Bernardi: Phew!
Amanda Testa: And so, I’m wondering, and I know it’s just an important thing, but you kind of have developed a framework around being able to do that, and I’m wondering if you might share a little bit around that for those who are like, “Yeah, yeah, I can feel my emotions, but maybe I don't really always allow myself fully.”
Ashley Bernardi: Well, yeah, and, like I said, you're an expert in your own life, right? I would always look for external validation. I was hoping to have that magical doctor, the magical therapist, the magical spiritual mentor to tell me what was wrong with me, and that is the -- I learned, for me, that was not the right mindset. The right mindset was that I need to get curious about feelings that I’m feeling and maybe I’m frustrated with my kids one day, but maybe there’s something deeper than that, right? And so, I learned, after -- yeah, I’ve gone through a life coaching program now, and I have a life coach certification, and what I learned is that you have to get curious about your emotions. So I did teach myself how to move through my emotions, and then when I was teaching myself to do it, I was like oh, my god, it literally spells FEEL. This was more like divine channeling for me than anything else because I was like, of course, it spells feel!
The FEEL Framework is a technique that I’ve used for years now, and it can be done as a meditation, through writing, through walking in nature, however you want it to look. It’s just a framework, so think of it as, like, a skeleton. It’s the bones, but you can fill it up with your own meat. So the first part is focus. Focus on that emotion that you're feeling, and, what is more important, is that oftentimes we can’t really identify or label that emotion; we’re just off in some way, and that’s also okay too. So focus on that emotion. I love to do the FEEL Framework on my yoga mat, but if that’s not for you, just get a journal out and say okay, focus, what is it that you're feeling?
Next is enter within that emotion, and this is what Ashley would never do before my health crisis. I would never let myself enter within the feelings of grief, trauma, I had postpartum depression, I have PTSD, I mean, all the PT-whatever labels, I had it. Post-this, post-stress, post-that, I had it, but I didn't want to feel it.
But this time, I discovered that if I enter within it and I allow myself to move through it, there’s gonna be healing and transformation on the other side. So enter within that emotion. You could close your eyes. It could look like a meditation. Like I said, it could even be you taking a walk, but allow yourself to get into that emotion.
Next, and this is another hard part -- this is not easy work, I just want to say. This can be very uncomfortable work, but knowing you’re moving through it, there’s beauty on the other side, and there’s lessons on the other side. Next, is experience in that emotion. So allow yourself to just get wrapped in that emotion, in love, and there’s a big difference between wrapping yourself in the emotion and wallowing in the emotion because we’re moving through this emotion, we’re not sitting there and staying stagnant. I think there’s a big, big difference. We’re allowing our self, in that moment -- saying, “All right, Ashley. I give yourself permission to feel this anger,” and then see what comes up for you. What do you need to do to feel anger?
Maybe it’s screaming, and I can tell you, screaming, for me, is the most satisfying thing. Maybe it’s getting primal and punching a pillow, doing something in a safe way. Maybe it’s crying. It could be anything. It doesn't matter.
I’ll never forget, when I went through Reiki training, I was on the Reiki table getting a treatment, and I was just laying there allowing myself to have emotions. I was like, “All right, here we go!” One of the other students had her hands on my eyes. Out of nowhere, I just burst out laughing, and I laughed uncontrollably for 20 minutes, and my Reiki master was like, “This is great, Ashley! This is suppressed energy that needed to come out,” and it could have been anger, but it was coming out as laughter. So whatever your body does, let it happen. So allow yourself to experience that emotion.
Finally, is listen to that emotion. What is it there to teach you? Learn from that emotion, and love it back. Thank it for being there in the same way that we allow ourselves to feel joy, happiness, elation, ecstasy, right? It’s the yin and yang and flow of life. We have to give ourselves permission to feel the uncomfortable feelings too. That is how we heal and grow and transform.
So that is my FEEL Framework. It is a framework that you can do anywhere, anytime -- 30 seconds, two minutes, 30 minutes, while you're writing. It’s there. It’s accessible at all times for you, and it teaches yourself how to move through your emotions in a safe way and give yourself permission to feel, because that’s where healing happens.
Amanda Testa: Yes, I think that’s so true. You know, people always say you have to feel it to heal it.
Ashley Bernardi: Right!
Amanda Testa: Which I know, sometimes, people don't love that, but it is so important because, you know, our body does -- it traps these stress cycles in our system, in our bodies, in our cells, and we have to allow those things the time to move, and allow those stress cycles to complete, and that feeling of the emotion is part of the process. Always, you know, if it’s something you need additional help with, you can always reach out, but also knowing you can do it on your own too. Like, really trusting the wisdom of your body.
Ashley Bernardi: It’s all about trusting the wisdom of your body. Now, I will say this, because the first thing I’ll always say is that if you are feeling depressed or having depressive thoughts or any dangerous thoughts, get help. Call a professional. I did that. It was the first step that I took, but then after that, I taught myself because, as I was sobbing on the floor, I had that aha moment of release, and I was like oh, my god, I think I’ve figured something out here. I haven’t let myself feel my trauma for years, and I numbed myself for years with just terrible relationships, with alcohol, with work, and I feel like, in society, that’s what -- and I talk about this in my book, Authentic Power, we are taught to wear our mask of strength. We are taught to look like everything is fine.
I even say even the question ‘how are you’ is kind of an empty question because you know we’re gonna say fine or good, but what does that really mean, and are you really being honest when you’re saying that? And so, now, when I ask people how they're doing, I’ll say, “How’s your heart doing today,” right? That’s a more honest question, and that allows people to get vulnerable about how they’re really feeling.
My goal with this book is to, one, teach people how to feel, but to ignite more vulnerable and deep conversations and connections about our authentic selves. We don't need to be social media Instagram-worthy every single day. That’s fake. It’s not authentic. It’s not real. That’s the flow in the yin and yang of life. We can be angry. We can be sad. We can be lonely. We can be depressed. I just want to teach people that that’s okay too.
All moments -- and I have this great affirmation in my book that I love, and if you're feeling these uncomfortable emotions, remind yourself that this is temporary. Every emotion is temporary if you allow it to be. Joy and happiness is temporary. Sadness is temporary. Trauma could even, potentially, be temporary in that moment, but if you don't move through it, it’s always gonna live in you and come out in other ways.
Amanda Testa: This is so true. I think it’s interesting. I love that, how every emotion is a temporary experience. I think it’s like you know you're going through this tunnel, and there is an end, and just trusting that. I do feel like just witnessing the wisdom in bodies -- you know, a lot of the work that I do is around trauma resolution and working with women in that aspect, and it’s amazing because it’s always them, right? It’s always that little blueprint of health coming to life, and it’s amazing what happens. I think that I just -- you know, that’s the beauty of your journey too is just trusting that piece, that hope that allowed you to keep moving forward and to keep moving forward even when it was extremely hard, and letting yourself just surrender. You mentioned, “I just had to surrender in this moment.”
Ashley Bernardi: It’s so true, and you brought up something that’s so important. That trust, right? So we can listen to our own wisdom, our authentic power, but what makes your authenticity powerful is trusting that wisdom, and that’s a step that I think we skip a lot. It’s like oh, I have this feeling or I’ve got this inner calling, this inner knowing, this whatever it is -- it’s your inner guidance, your authentic power, but we don't trust it. And so, I define authentic power as listening to that wisdom within you, but then, in turn, trusting that wisdom. There’s a big difference.
Amanda Testa: I’m wondering, along those lines of being able to trust that wisdom, what would be maybe some tips that you could offer to be able to trust more of that?
Ashley Bernardi: Oh, my gosh, yeah. So I’m gonna say this. First of all, it takes practice. So if you're coming into this with a beginner’s mind and, look, I’ve been there -- I first started with one meditation. So I was not a meditator. I was a type-A people-pleaser, workaholic sun up to sun down, 12 hour-a-day, didn't stop. So if that’s you, I can relate. I first started meditating, and I could get through probably ten seconds, and I was so frustrated and like ugh, this does nothing for me. Here’s what I’ll say, much like you don't start a marathon by just running a marathon, you start by running for five minutes, start meditating for 30 seconds. Give yourself a 30-second timer, and do that for a week, and then after a week, move up to a minute.
Then, after the second week, move up to a minute thirty. Like, so easy the theme of my healing was, first of all, baby steps. Second, easy does it, Ashley. That was an affirmation. Easy does it.
So that’s another tip. Tell yourself, “Easy does it.” Be kind on yourself. There is no zero to sixty when it comes to healing; it is zero to zero point one, zero point two, zero point three, and so, just remember that. Some other tips -- meditation, one. Now, I can sit and meditate for hours if I wanted to. This is years, years later, and I have had so many beautiful revelations and insights through meditating. If anything, it just calms your nervous system. That, in and of itself, gets your body out of the fight or flight mode and back into yourself. That is just one way to get quiet and still and access your authentic power. So, for me, meditation has been huge; Going baby steps is also huge.
Something else that’s been very powerful for me is breath work. I, personally, love, I don't know if you've heard of The Art of Living, but they have a breath work called Sky Breathwork Course. I’ve been through that a couple times, and it’s incredible, but just the power of breath. We forget about how powerful our breath is, and notice your breath. If you're in an angry or tense situation, your breath is more shallow, you might be breathing more quickly versus when you're relaxed you're breathing so slow. Throughout the day, I put my hand on my heart and another hand on my belly, and I allow myself to take ten slow deep breaths in and out just to calm myself down and get curious about how my body’s feeling in that moment and how I’m feeling and asking myself what I need.
The other tip I’ll -- I mean, I could share tips all day long. I’ll give one more. To remember that you are your expert in your own life. So ask yourself powerful questions.
So what is it that I need to feel supported today? You could do this through journaling, through meditating, through breathing through it, but get curious about what you need, maybe, to feel supported, to feel rested, to feel loved, to feel whatever. What is it that I need to do today, and it could be any question. But in the same way we ask our friends questions like, “How are you, what do you need, how can I help you,” ask yourself, “Amanda, what is it that you need to feel helped and supported today?” Listen to what you have back to you. Now, I’ll say it first, like this is like oh, my god, what am I listening for, this is weird but I guarantee you if you keep sitting and asking the same questions, see what comes back to you, and if you're not sure, I would say journal it. I call this sacred writing, it could be free writing journaling. Journal -- ask the question, write the question down, and then journal it. You will get some very, very profound answers. I’ll say, the first time you’ll be like, “This is stupid,” because that was me, but years later, I do this every single day.
I asked myself today -- I have a little bit of a cold, and I was like what do I need to be supported today? The message that I got back from my authentic power was that I need to rest, I need to take it easy, I need to go with the flow of life, I need to just stay calm, not try to do too much work today, and that was my message, and so, that’s my theme of the day. Those are some of my tips. I have many more, but I’ll stop there. [Laughs]
Amanda Testa: Those are amazing, and I think the beautiful thing that you mentioned that I feel is so important is slow, doability, and oftentimes, like you say, type-A, people-pleasing, go-go-go people, it’s sometimes really hard to let that sink in. That I want it to be done now -- you have to just trust that it takes as long as it takes, and it’s okay, and we all are always -- I also say there’s not really an end goal.
It’s just like the journey of listening and growing and knowing, over time, it eventually gets easier and easier, and you start to realize, “Oh, this kind of stuff that used to make me so crazy doesn't even bother me anymore, right?”
Ashley Bernardi: Yeah.
Amanda Testa: Like, the things that used to make me so anxious, I’m like huh. You start to notice, right? Then, over time, you're like wow, that’s a huge amount of change. [Laughs]
Ashley Bernardi: And, you know what, to me, it feels like I’ve come home to myself in many ways, and that is my hope for all the readers, that by feeling, by learning to feel, by giving yourself permission to feel, you’ll not only heal your life, but you’ll come home to yourself, and you’ll be that truest, you-est person that you were meant to be on this human experience.
Amanda Testa: Yes. I’m wondering, too, because I know, for your book, you interviewed 20+ experts in the field of trauma resolution, all kinds of things, and I’m wondering if maybe there’s -- maybe one of the most surprising things you learned or one of the most ‘oh, my goodness’ things you learned in that process.
Ashley Bernardi: Yeah, oh, gosh, I have so many experts. I think that’s a great question. Definitely one thing comes to mind. So, in the book, as you've said, I interviewed so many experts from energy healers to life coaches, trauma experts, spiritual mentors, psychologists, ER doctors, you name it. One that stands out to me that I feel a lot of people get curious about is my interview with Dr. Jaime Hope, and she is an ER physician based in Detroit. We were talking about primal emotions, why it’s important to get primal with your meltdowns. That’s actually one of my chapters, and Jaime says, “We’re primal beings. We are meant to scream and kick, of course, in safe ways, in loving ways where you don't have to yell at other people, but when you feel angry, you can scream.” And so, Jaime recommends a stress-hard toolkit and a stress-soft toolkit.
So for those days when you're feeling angry and you feel like you need to get something out, she recommends something called dish therapy where you take a bunch of old dishes, get a trash can, tell your loved ones and neighbors you're gonna do your dish therapy, put some glasses on, and smash dishes into a trash can. She’s like, “This is the most satisfying thing I have ever felt.” That’s why, even in my local region, and I live in the D.C. region, there are smash rooms popping up where you can take bats and just smash old junk because it’s a primal way to release our emotions. So that’s an example of stressing hard. Stressing soft can look like, maybe, breathwork or meditation, but the main thing is that in these moments of stress, we often forget how to move through that.
So, what I recommend is writing it down, and so, I do, in that chapter, I have a prompt where it’s like okay, let’s write down what you can do for your hard and soft stressed toolkit, and put it on your mirror, put it on your refrigerator.
Mine used to be on my refrigerator so when you are in those moments, you're like okay, I’m just gonna let out a scream or let out a sigh, or I’m gonna throw a pillow and hit it on my bed, but those are just a couple of suggestions, and this is Doctor Hope’s advice. Hearing an ER doctor say this was actually very surprising and also liberating. Like oh, I’m not crazy ‘cause I really do want to do this, but I’ve been holding myself in for so many years.
Amanda Testa: Oh, my gosh, yes. I love the primal expression. That's one of my favorite things. I, actually, one of my friends Aria Tru started a business called Women Breaking Plates, and it was a traveling event, and so, there was all kinds of things happening, all these different ways you could relieve stress. The plate-throwing was so fun and, also, so important. We don't often give ourselves permission to do that, and, like you say, it’s creating a safe container to do it and allowing it to be part of who we are ‘cause it is, right?
Ashley Bernardi: It is. It’s exactly who we are, and I think that we’ve been suppressed to be our true selves in our society.
The conditioning starts when we’re kids, and I’m working to undo that with my own children by creating safe spaces and atmospheres for them to feel, and if they’re crying I’m like it’s okay that you're crying or if they're angry and they're punching the air I’m like all, right, let it out. This is healthy and safe for you. I wasn't taught that as a child, and that’s no fault to my parents. This is our societal and cultural constructs. I’m trying to break that, and it really does start at home.
Amanda Testa: It’s so true, and, like you say, I feel like, in a beautiful way, a lot of these healing tools are becoming more accessible and more open and more readily available for everyone because we all need this. Back in the day, people didn't really talk about what was going on, and that’s kind of one of the reasons, I think -- you know, our parents all do their best, right? We come from whatever environment we come from, and everyone has their own journey, and, at the same time, I do appreciate now that it’s more and more open to talk about things. it’s more and more normal to be like, “Yes, we all have mental health challenges.” I feel like we should all see a doctor regularly for our mental health just like our physical health.
Ashley Bernardi: Oh, hello, yes!
Amanda Testa: I mean, hello!
Ashley Bernardi: Once a week! [Laughs]
Amanda Testa: Wouldn't that be amazing if we grew up like that and learned that? I mean, and I think it’s okay that wherever you are is a beautiful place to be. I love that question of asking yourself, “What do I need?” One of my teachers, Layla Martin, always says, “What do I need, and how am I gonna get it?” Like, what do I need, and how am I gonna get it? ‘Cause part of the process is even understanding what do I need. I don't know. Let me figure that out, right, and taking that time.
Ashley Bernardi: Yeah, and asking yourself that question. Like, when’s the last time you actually asked yourself, “What is it that I need?” Do you know? Like, do an inventory on your life. Again, journaling, meditating, breathing through it, taking a walk in nature and asking yourself, “What is it that I need?” You will probably get a lot of answers.
Amanda Testa: Yeah, and I think just tuning into that is so powerful.
Ashley Bernardi: So powerful.
Amanda Testa: For many people -- I mean, I talk to people all the time, and they don’t even know what they want, and it’s the beauty of okay, good, now you will have an opportunity to explore that.
Ashley Bernardi: Yes, and my hope is that authentic power gives readers an opportunity to explore that.
Amanda Testa: Yes.
Ashley Bernardi: But also, at the same time, explore repressed emotions in a safe way. I also wanna say this. For anyone that has gone through trauma, it’s not gonna take one FEEL Framework to get it all out and heal you. I am still moving through my trauma, and in some ways, I almost believe that my trauma will live with me forever, and I’m still going to expel it from my body in different ways, but I’ve looked at it in a different way, and I’ve surely healed myself and reframed it and have a different mindset. So, like I said earlier, go easy on yourself. Go easy. Easy does it. Put that up on a post-it note on your mirror: “Easy does it.”
Remind yourself that this is -- I have the reminder here. I have a little turtle to go slow. My daughter drew this, because I need that reminder that this is not a race. Life is not a race. Healing is a marathon. It’s a long, long, long journey, and the slower you go, the more profound your healing will be.
Amanda Testa: Ugh, I love that. And so, I’d love if you would share a little bit more about where people can find the book and learn more about you.
Ashley Bernardi: Yeah, thank you. So you can visit my website, www.ashleybernardi.com, there’s all the links to buy my book there, learn a little bit more about me, and if you do buy the book, I’d be grateful for any review. Reviews help get books to the readers who need it most. So just thank you, and thank you, Amanda, for your support and this fantastic interview today. It’s been so fun.
Amanda Testa: Yes, and thank you. I’m wondering, too, before we close, is there any -- you know, maybe a question that you really wished I would have asked that I didn't ask or any other thoughts you want to share?
Ashley Bernardi: I think the final thought is something that I did bring up earlier. It’s that affirmation that this is temporary. This moment is temporary. As your listeners move through any difficult times -- and we all will. It’s inevitable. It’s gonna happen. We’re going to have uncomfortable, difficult times. Reminding yourself that these moments are temporary. At least, for me, that has helped me feel safe with allowing myself to feel those emotions, that they’re not gonna last forever. This is temporary. This uncomfort is temporary, and so, I’ll just leave with that affirmation. That these moments are temporary. Joy, sadness, all the feelings. They're temporary. They don't last forever, and, hopefully, that will help you feel safer as you move through all of your emotions.
Amanda Testa: Yes, thank you so much, again, Ashley, for being here and for sharing such gems with everyone and the listeners. I’ll make sure, too, to put in the show notes where you can find out more about Ashley and get the book, Authentic Power and all the ways that this book can support you. So thank you, again, for being here.
Ashley Bernardi: Thank you so much, Amanda, This has been such an incredible conversation. I appreciate you, and appreciate your support.
Amanda Testa: Yes, of course, and thank you all for listening. We will look forward to seeing you next week!