I have had a hard time lately sitting down to write. Even when I am not posting I try to journal, if I do not address all my emotions they come out one way or another whether it be tears, rage, or raging tears. But lately, I have not been able to find words for my feelings. They have been so intense.
I spent 22 years of my life completely avoiding my past and my connections to it. I have never forgotten, in fact, I have even shared a disconnected and much-scripted run down with some close friends, but actually realizing the magnitude of my experiences, of my abuse, of my losses – never felt them. Not really.
Something happened this year and a switch flipped; now it will not shut it off. All I do is feel and it is so overwhelming. The anxiety, the stupid rage that shows up for no reason and the sadness, so much sadness; it is so vast and deep that it swallows me up sometimes.
My therapist keeps telling me that I have 20 years of bottled up loss, hurt, rage and confusion to feel and to be patient with myself. Loss of innocence. Loss of self. Loss of childhood. Loss of family. Loss of safety. Loss of trust.
I do not have photo albums full of childhood memories and family outings. I do not have memories of family vacations or camping trips. One side of my family was directly responsible for my childhood of abuse, the other side so far removed from me geographically as well as personally that it was not hard for decades of estrangement to go by.
For those decades I did not much care either; after everything I had been through I figured all I needed was myself. Why bother hurting over what they had all done to me, or giving them an opportunity to hurt me? What was the point?
Well, I care now. The effects of my childhood are spilling over into all aspects of my life. All the unfelt emotions are so uncomfortable and tiring. I wonder will these tears ever end. Will the irritability and rage eventually go away? Will the memories, flashbacks, anxiety, and dreams eventually stop?
Tuesday, my therapist used an analogy to help me understand how to cope with my emotions rather than just distracting from them when they get too intense. She asked if I have ever been around horses before and explained that when horse steps on your foot (say you’re cleaning the stall) – in order to get the weight off and deal with the injury you have to lean into the horse to push it off your foot. Perhaps this is a goofy analogy – but she still made her point.
I have to lean into my trauma, into my pain, in order to process it.
She asked what kinds of things, small things, that I do to comfort myself when I am overwhelmed with sadness and I sat there like a deer in headlights. Comfort myself, what is that? My whole life, I have pushed negative feelings away; why bother wasting energy. It never occurred to me that ignoring them is literally the same as bottling them up.
Nothing came to mind when I thought of how to comfort myself and help myself cope. It has taken me days to make the connection and realize how simple this can be, and how neglectful of myself I have been my whole life.
I can listen to music – read an article – watch a show – cook my favorite meal – reach out to a friend – eat some ice cream – crochet – color – write, my options are vast and all the while I can cry and I can be sad and I can feel it all. This is what I would do with my children when they are hurting, comfort them with things they like while they feel the worst of the pain.
It is stunning how hard it is to think about doing stuff this basic for myself when I am hurting. It does not occur to me to feel the pain, that feeling it and processing it is okay. Probably because feeling it means it hurt me and in my mind, I have suffered enough already.
I love that my therapist always tells me not to judge myself or how I have coped. Do not judge how I feel, what I feel, and what I do not feel. I run those words through my head a lot, as I work through this chaos.
Over the last few weeks and months, I have been connecting with other survivors, in all different stages of their own recoveries. I am learning that my sadness will likely never go away, rightfully so I guess, but it does get easier to carry. When I first began this journey of healing my pain and facing my childhood, I had no idea what I was getting into. The last 8 months have pushed me to the limits of my resilience, and if I am honest some days, I wish I could just pack it all back away and stop feeling all of this.
That, however, will do me no good at all.
I guess it is time to get serious about learning how to care for and comfort myself in the ways I was never cared for or comforted as a child.
I can do this.
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