Thursday, October 22, 2015

Holding Steady

I was traumatized over and over again at a very young age.  It didn't last all my childhood, but long enough in the beginning that I habituated certain reactions, reactions to things that triggered me when I felt discomfort or pain.  Like a heightened sense of anxiety and fear, a dread for feeling uncomfortable or hurt. Because I had learned at a young age that I didn't have control and couldn't expect when I might feel hurt and uncomfortable; I lived for years thinking it could happen at any time. And during that time, I learned that my voice was meaningless in stopping the truama from happening.  I could say nothing or do nothing to stop it.

When the worst of it ended, I was around 5 or 6.  And I began getting upset really, really easily. I remember feeling infuriated when someone physically or emotionally hurt me.  I got even more upset when the people I felt hurt me didn't seem to listen  to me telling them I was hurt. Or when they refused to acknowledge my pain.  I became obsessed with getting those closest to me to understand me, to hear me when I felt disrespected. But, I was not trying to get them to understand me in an easy to digest way. I am naturally a very emotive, expressive person.  How I showed anger and urgency was not quiet or light.  It was hard for some of my family.  What they didn't see, was that I was terrified most of the time, terrified they'd hurt me, hurt my heart which had learned to live in mostly fear. I didn't let them know that, though. I learned that showing people that I was scared or hurt made me vulnerable and feeling vulnerability was so terribly uncomfortable.  Hurt and discomfort and fear seemed to be what my life was all about as a kid.

So, instead of showing people when I got really scared, I reacted by becoming mean. I'd lash out, push away.  I was physical with my younger siblings a few times; I remember working through that in therapy as a teenager and just crying so deeply for how I hurt them.  Just balling and balling. I've asked for forgiveness and am not that mean little girl anymore.   I remember feeling like a monster, as a kid.  A monster who was alone and misunderstood. I don't feel like a monster now, I am a long way away from feeling scared all the time and not being able to get close to people.  But I did, feel so alone, so hurt, so scared and so mean for much of my early life.

Most of the abuse didn't happen in my parent's home.  My parents are amazing people who have always supported me and have helped me insurmountably on my healing journey.  But, my family home was a home trying to repair itself from abuse.  My mom divorced my physically and emotionally abusive biological father when I was a baby and although he disappeared and wasn't really at all a part of my childhood experience, the ramifications of his abuse were felt pretty deeply in my home growing up.  At least by me.  We were seven children, most of us traumatized in some way or another and things were explosive. I wasn't the only mean one,  we all hurt each other. But, we were also all healing.

We are all still healing.  We have all grown, so much.  And my relationship with my family and the relationships within my family are very deeply founded on a strong sense of love for one another.  I am so proud of my family.  For the strength within us, the love we've cultivated and the love we trust.  Each of us is so different from each other but we are all so deeply rooted with good-hearts.

And, I am still healing.

I still work on not pulling away when I feel hurt and I still work on not getting short or sharp when I feel disrespected.  I've made big strides but I still feel my own version of 'monster' today.  It's not 'monster' anymore.  It's broken.  It's a voice that tries to get me to see a different, fabricated reality.  A reality I used to live in so it's allure is pretty strong at times.  And that fabricated reality is that I am broken when it comes to being able to sustain a close and intimate relationship; that I'm too much. Too intense. Too reactive.

It's strange because that same intensity is also such passion, about great things in life.  And that intensity is sometimes so deeply loving. But sometimes that intensity falls into fear-based reactions, like pushing away.  I'm not mean anymore, I just, close off.  Shut out.  Not nearly as much as I used to and I grow more and more every time I resist pushing away; every time I trust in being vulnerable with someone.  But I struggle.

I've recently encountered that voice, telling me I am too much.  That I can't control how I react in relationships when I am hurt. At 29, with years of hard work, I don't let it root in me but it is hard during the downs of my life to keep it from taking up a residence. It is hard not to think back to the many years in the most formative part of my life where my habituated actions called the shots.  I see that time, sometimes right up close in front of me and I practice, over and over again and say, that was then, this is now.  I am not there anymore and the future is open.  \

I've had some big downs, which is why the allure of that fabricated reality has been strong.  It's hard to not believe in those detrimental voices we hear about ourselves when we are feeling low. And I lived in a deep low for a long time, consistently, so battling off that voice, that reality was a daily struggle for years.

Looking back, it kind of feels like I have been living in a kind of lifelong volleyball match; between a storm and sunshine.  For the first twenty years, I felt pretty strongly stuck on the stormy side.  This voice, this fabricated reality, got me to believe that my life would always be a storm; relentless.  And that thought, railed on my spirit plunging me into such deep, deep periods of darkness.

But, if you know me, you know I persevere, I keep going.  And, that my commitment to healing has never wavered.  I think it was exactly that, my connection to some kind of faith that I could get through, however small or fleeting, that sometimes was the only thing that kept me from taking my own life, during the times I was severely suicidal. During the deep, deep downs. So, I've worked hard, really hard and facing this voice and others that try to pull me into dangerous places.  Places I used to live in.

I haven't lived in dangerous places like that for a while; but I'm in a bit a storm right now and while on the stormy side I get reminded of life when storms were raging one after another; times when I couldn't remember the last time I'd felt any reprieve from sunshine.  What I am in right now, is not that kind of storm.  Not by a long shot.  It's challenging at times, sure, but it's not hopeless. It's not taking over.

Earlier tonight, I was cleaning, because cleaning helps me weather storms sometimes.  I've learned to listen and practice things that help. I've worked on finding hope and strength from outside myself, and inside, to help keep me from falling into feeling like the storm has come to root itself in me forever, to keep me from feeling broken.  To keep me from hating myself for how I feel.  Cleaning helps me love the part of me that is productive.  Running helps me love my strength.  Singing connects my voice to my soul in ways the soothe me.  I've grown to love and respect myself through the ways I treat myself; I've learned to love and respect myself in the ways I needed when I was younger but couldn't feel.  And that love sustains me through the storm.

But, I still struggle.  Pretty intensely sometimes.

So, this week, which has felt like a shipwreck with the storm still raging, I've been trying to do some of those things that help.  Cleaning while listening to music, crying whole-heartedly, singing, sleeping, being gentle with my expectations of myself.  And while walking into the kitchen to put some things away, an image of myself flashed before me in my mind.  I was sitting, legs crossed, in the rain.   It was cold.  The sun was gone.  But I wasn't empty. I was exhausted, I was sad.  I felt like I had been crying with my whole body for a while..  But I wasn't empty.  I had hope. I was holding steady.

And I thought, I'm proud of you, lady.  Because holding steady isn't running away. Holding steady isn't falling into a fabricated reality.  Holding steady onto hope.  Holding steady onto love.  Holding steady, feeling strong.

The storms haven't disappeared and they may never disappear, but it's not as tough anymore; it doesn't feel hopeless. They don't rage on and on and on.  Still frequent, but the sunny side of my lifelong volleyball match gets the ball more often than it used to. I'm working on a career, I've got an amazing son and I have people in my life who love me and challenge me to grow, to heal, to get closer.  I stumbled, I make mistakes, but looking at myself, I'm holding steady.

Standing there in the kitchen, thinking about holding steady, I thought about my journey. My healing journey. And, realized that the thing about a journey is that you're moving, you aren't static.  I smiled, thinking of myself sitting there, holding steady, feeling hope in my heart, not fear. And I thought, hey look at you.  You're moving. Look at how far you've come. Holding steady.