What happens when you have repressed or minimised your trauma your whole life and you finally reach a place of uncovering that and bringing it into the open. The result can be confusing, and it’s something I’m facing today. Coronavirus lock down gave me a unique opportunity, it gave me time and permission to focus on myself and find a way of life that supports my needs. Those of you following my blog will know that I’ve been writing a memoir of my journey towards and through addiction, this has been the most powerful experience for me and has allowed me to see myself afresh.
My life has been spent living as a false self, the trauma I faced in childhood set me on this path of detachment, never feeling able to express what I truly feel, always feeling as though I need to try harder, be stronger, or do what’s expected of me. In childhood I was forced to do things, or go along with things when I was screaming inside that I didn’t want to, I was forced to submit, comply and show a sunny disposition. The things that happened to me were never acknowledged and I became trapped inside myself, only ever feeling able to be authentic when alone.
Through writing my memoir, which is now close to completion, I’ve been able to look at my childhood and life, and for the first time in my life I’m actually able to admit the extreme trauma faced, and with that admittance has come an acceptance of how that’s impacted me. Most of my life I’ve minimised my suffering, I’ve looked for the bright side, and have often said ‘it’s ok, it wasn’t that bad, there were good things in my childhood, many had it worse than me, I’m lucky in so many ways’. This spirit of gratitude was forced upon me as a child, I had to be grateful for being given a home, I had to be grateful for being taken in, and was often told when very young that I was being ungrateful and silly, that I should cheer up. This spirit of gratitude which is so much a part of modern self-help ideas is actually damaging for me, I need to let myself feel negative emotions and express them, opening up about the ever present sadness I feel, the anger that I find almost unbearable to express, the anxiety that plagues me when it comes to other people and my ability to be authentic, the depression that makes me want to push others away and leaves me feeling cold and unreachable.
I’m aware that writing my memoir has almost been a process of psychoanalysis, just one done alone, and I’m sure Jung would be quite proud of my efforts, I know I am. The last two months has been the most balanced of my life. I’ve worked hard on my writing, revisiting days past in my journals, understanding my childhood afresh. I’ve cared for myself properly, allowing myself the solitude necessary for such profound explorations and the resulting shifts. I’ve focused on supporting my mental health through therapy, exercise, nature and spirituality, and through my writing have had the prescious opportunity to express what I’ve been unable to before. I feel as though for the first time I’m letting that false self go, I feel like a totally different person without all the masks I’ve adourned over the years, and now life has to be different to support this self. I feel strange around people who’ve known me as I no longer feel able to maintain the front that they may be used to, I feel as though I’m in limbo at present, and this has been ok until this weekend.
I was due to start a job today, needed to travel for an hour and a half to attend the induction, in a role supporting other peoples health and care, something I’ve done my whole working life. On Friday I had a complete meltdown and it came all of a sudden. I woke as normal and then my attention was drawn to next week and what I’d be doing, the thought of having to present myself in a work situation caused a panic attack, I had palpitations, felt as though I’d pass out or have a heart attack, reduced to tears and in my head all I could hear was a voice saying ‘I don’t want to do that’.
In the past I’ve experienced symptoms of panic but had previously forced myself to ignore the anxieties and fears driving it, I made myself cope, just like I’ve always done. This time however something had changed, I couldn’t just switch it off, I couldn’t put in a box and go into auto-pilot, it’s as though my true self has found some power, and this, despite being scary is a good thing, it means I’m more open, I’m feeling things fully and allowing myself too. This is a process I’ve waited for years to face, and somehow this Coronavirus situation provided the perfect conditions for such exploration, and I need to complete the process, I need to allow all the lessons to integrate and digest, I need to become comfortable with my true self before I can decide what I can and can’t do next.
Despite this awareness and the intense joy I’ve felt during these revelations I’ve still been driven by old ghosts, all weekend I’ve been trying to find a way to make myself attend this induction, negative thoughts have haunted me, ‘you’re being weak, you’re being lazy, you’re using your mental health as an excuse, you’re letting people down, you’re a disappointment, you’ve failed again, you’re making excuses’. All of this on a loop. I can literally feel the stress in my veins, cortisol, adrenaline, sweating, my heart keeps missing beats and then having frantic spells, my mouth is dry and my breath is never enough. I normally rationalise things when it such a state, it’s anxiety, it can’t hurt you, take each day as it comes, you’ll be pleased when you do it.
These things are true in many ways but I’ll only be pleased because other people will be, the anxiety is hurting me, it’s taken three days of my life, leaving me in a state of tension and stress, and stress is damaging, chronic stress creates disease. I’ve eaten poorly, craving sugar and bad shit, I’ve smoked more, I’ve struggled to maintain my routine, I’ve been restless and unsettled, unable to focus or consentrate. The stark difference between this weekend and the last two to three months is clear to see, I feel it intensely.
Yesterday I walked for three hours on the coast path between Zennor and Pendeen, it was glorious and I felt close to tears many times because I felt relief. As I walked I kept having thoughts, ‘what’s wrong with living life in a way that keeps you balanced, what’s wrong with the life you’re living now, why do you need to do that job, why are you making yourself do something you don’t want to do’. Healing from childhood trauma means allowing yourself to do the things you were denied as a child, it’s about reparenting yourself, creating new ways of being. My wounded child needs to express, needs to say no, needs to have choice, needs to be in an environment that soothes and supports.
I want to be a writer or story teller of sorts, I love writing poetry and reciting it too, I’m writing memoir at present but enjoy writing fiction, and also have skills and experience that I could use to write a self-help or instructional book. I’ve just been held back by limiting beliefs that this isn’t a proper job, that I need to be of service somehow, that my worth is dependant on what I do for others. This is bullshit and I need to out it. My adult self would tell that child she could be whatever she wanted, if writing made her happy then she should do that, and give it her all. I would tell her that nobody will ever make her do anything she doesn’t want to ever again, that she can choose how to spend her time, and whatever it was that gave her peace and happiness she should pursue with passion, that being happy matters, that stress is not normal and is a warning that something needs to change.
So where does this leave me, I’ve not gone for the induction but I’m riddled with guilt about it, I’m trying to have confidence in my decision, that I’m not doing something in favour of a more healthy and balanced choice, that I’m choosing a life that makes me content, a life that gives me what I need.
What I need is not money or status, what I need is solitude, expression and connection to something that matters to me. What I need is to complete this journey I’m on, or at least to pursue it unburdened by other stress. My psyche is evolving and I’m facing things previously unreached, this requires care and mindfulness, it’s also something that has to take its own time, it can’t be hastened, I need to do what I’ve been doing as it’s working, even writing this now I feel better.
I’m taking care of myself and I’m caring for my wounded child, this is my priority right now and I’m slowly accepting that. The rest of life will fall in to place, it may be uncertain and a little dauting at times to follow my passion and purpose wholeheartedly but the truth matters, living my truth matters, it’s what I’ve been waiting my whole life for, sorry world I can’t live for you anymore, I’m choosing to live for myself.
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