FOR THOSE WHO FEEL THINGS INTENSELY: WE DESERVE LOVE
I hate trauma. It sucks. It feels different and scary each time I feel triggered — that overwhelming, groundless-leaving, kind of triggered.
The times when my feet get lifted up from underneath me and I feel shaken deep to the core with a memory or experience of I am not sure what… sometimes it feels clear what is surfacing, but then other times, it doesn’t.
It feels messy and confusing as hell.
There isn’t a foundation on which I can step on to make sense of anything. My mind so desperately needs to, longs to, but I can’t. There is an eclectic collection of stuff I am wanting, needing, to process, share, figure out.
I feel helpless, lost, and scared beneath it… I so desperately want it all to make sense, I want to articulate it with someone who gets it, who understands the making of trauma in the system.
A softer, gentler, part of me steps in here and wraps me in a warm embrace. The last few days I have been trying to process like a motherfucker and I feel drained. I so desperately want to understand and figure it all out and not leave any stone unturned because I want to heal, I want to thrive, but I feel exhausted.
I need to heal, but I need to sleep too.
And we heal in our sleep, it just feels hard to trust that sometimes — that it is safe to stop, to rest, to let my body do the healing. The part of me who needs to know what is happening constantly, the part of me who needs to be awake, alert, struggles to know it is safe to let go and wait.
The need for productivity, the need to feel and be busy, is what comes up when I think of sleep. The need to be with it blinds me. I feel scared of letting go. Trauma paralyzes me. My body feels numb and distant from me, a line cuts between my head and my body.
I feel confused how I can feel things so differently: sometimes a whirlwind of busy lives inside of me — anxiety, stress, a whirlwind of memories, adrenaline floods me, unable to be still without feeling overwhelmed with trauma hitting me, so I move… I’m not still in these moments, these hours or days.
And other times I feel stuck, frozen, lost inside the grief and fear in me, unable to move or sleep or do anything except be exactly with what I’m experiencing. Not mindfully — I literally feel/am frozen in it.
Stuck inside a loop of incessant critical self-talk, harshly encouraging myself to do more — even if that more is to give myself an act of self-care, to stop, to sleep, to reach out, to eat — but I feel unable to meet these demands, unable to even move.
So I stay, and bash myself over the head — and the heart — with stories of how I am not enough, not doing these things I need or want… and feel fear and worry because also, part of me doesn’t want.
Part of me doesn’t want to do anything at all. The voice of shouldis there, over my shoulder, telling me I should be wanting to move, I should be wanting to do… but I can’t.
I feel confused at the tug, the pull, my mind and physical experience has on my desire to do anything loving or productive in these moments. Or any other when I feel, or am, lost in overwhelm, confusion, sadness, anger, or fear.
I feel deep in concern and worry that I’m not doing more, not reaching out, getting the support I need — from anyone or myself — but I feel helpless.
I don’t really know how to because I seemingly (in these moments) can’t — how do I explain my experience? What do I say? I feel shitty… I feel grief… I feel angry… I feel sad… those words somehow don’t really cut it when I feel so incredibly lost, helpless or scared. They don’t meet the intensity of my experience.
Sometimes I feel scared of the grip that trauma has on me, the label of PTSD, the desperate need to understand and articulate my experience but not feeling able to. But other times I see the beauty in it, the fragility of it.
The way it opens me up to others’ experiences, the way it teaches me the way that being a human is so multi-faceted and always so fucking different, moment to moment. The way I get to know, see, and meet myself in all these different places, in all these different feelings.
I hope that one day I know a slightly less intense experience, but I laugh writing that because what if life is intense? What if things are just intense? What if I am intense and I feel things intensely, and that’s okay? Because it is. It sure doesn’t fucking feel like it, but ultimately I know it is.
I do hope — and have faith that — I will continue to heal and know things to be different, to not feel such a tight grip of my psyche or the fear and grief I feel in my body, but for now, may I — and everybody else — know forgiveness and gentleness in moments of fear and judgment.
Because we deserve love, whatever our experience.
Originally published on Rebelle Society.
diving out of silence
Trigger Warning: subject of sexual-assault.
There's a universal pain that's shared by so many women.
This morning I woke and could feel it in my system—I could feel the pain of those millions of other women melt in and sit with mine. I could feel it wash over the skin of my aching body, diluting and uniting the pain that was already there.
Something happened three and a half years ago that I never, ever, thought would happened to me—I was raped.
Sharing this experience that so many other women have experienced, too, leaves me also sharing this pain.
This universal trauma.
By sharing it and knowing this, I can feel connected rather than solely alone. My pot of pain, sorrow, anger, rage, heartbreak and shock isn’t the only one in the world, and it’s not the only one I feel, either.
I feel it all.
I can see that my world won’t end because this hideous thing became my own tale, too, because it wasn’t the end of theirs. I can live with the trauma as part of me, rather than live with it as a heart-shattering dream that lives in secrecy.
It can sit with me as I speak—about it or about the weather.
It can be with me as I walk, without needing to look over my shoulder.
It can be with me whilst I’m afraid—it can be the tears that fall or the shadow into which I retreat.
It can be the strength that guides me forwards, ensuring I’m protected and safe.
It can be the voice that reminds me of my boundaries, my limits.
My outsides can become more my own, rather than a coat of protection and terror—my skin can feel safe to be in, again.
It can be a chapter of my story that is read aloud, rather than one that rattles un-read, inside.
Something I’ve run from, something that I’ve longed to hide and bash back, deep into my internal tide, is something that can be safe to be here.
Sharing it with other women—next to me or worldwide—feels like maturing. I’m allowing myself to be a woman in all my fragility, my vulnerability, my fire, my power, my strength, and my wounding.
By leaping out of my pocket of fear and into the arms of the other women—metaphorically or literally—who have also experienced this pain and trauma, I’m allowing myself to be the whole of me, to see the whole of me.
What happened, happened when I was travelling in Morocco.
I’d headed out for a two-week surf trip and last-minute adventure before I began a PhD. I went solo—as I always did, whenever I travelled—to meet folk to explore with.
During the second day of my trip, I went in search of a beach I’d read about. I stepped out of the walls that surrounded the town I was staying in, and walked down the dusty track towards where the beach was supposed to be.
As I walked, about ten minutes in, I heard her boom:
“Turn around, Amani. Turn around.”
I carried on walking.
I’d never heard her—my instinct—speak to me like this before and I was breathless and baffled by the volume of her voice. The strength of her pull within my body and the effort it took to continue walking in the direction I was is something I’ll never forget.
She was offering a blanket I had not yet learnt how to reach for, keep myself warm with, and ensure I feel safe beneath. I ignored her because I didn’t know how to do anything different.
I began to realise that the beach was miles further from where I thought it would be, so I gave up looking.
I stepped off the dusty road and headed down a litter scattered path, towards the water. I sat there for a few moments and felt my enthusiasm quickly dwindle. Exhaustion and deflation surfaced—inside me lay a of solid determination to follow my drive and stick to my plans but my instinct was still swirling around and knotting my belly telling me something wasn’t right.
I got up to walk back to the town. As I did, I remember catching a glimpse of a his yellow t-shirt out of the corner of my eye. My defences sprung up immediately and we weren’t even close, yet. I felt terrified. Apart from an old guy sat on a wall near to where I sat and gazed at the sea, I hadn’t seen anyone else for what felt like miles.
I walked as quickly as I could with the dry sand beneath my feet. I headed into the entrance of some old ruins that stood behind where I’d been sitting.
Suddenly, the guy was behind me, pulling my baggy harem pants out behind me. He’d flung spit onto my trousers, and pointed down to it, as if he was catching up with me to do me a favour and let me know it was there.
Confused—and terrified—I frowned and said, “Thank you.”
The spit looked a little like the white milk sap that falls out of some plant stems, if broken. I remember wondering, in that moment, whether perhaps this was just some sap on my trousers—perhaps this guy was just showing me, just helping me out.
Even within the terror of the situation that was beginning to unfold, hope, possibility, and best-case scenarios floated in, too.
Except that there wasn’t a plant in sight.
I felt sick.
I had begun to survive: my body flushed with fear, my eyes had blinkered to only see what was going on around me. I was more in-the-moment than I had ever been. My heart beat loudly, screaming out to him to get the hell away from me. My breath was far away—light, short, faint—but keeping me above the surface.
I turned and started walking again, thinking it was over.
He grabbed my arm, and pushed me against the wall of the ruin.
“No fucky fucky,” he said.
I could feel confusion swamp me.
It was in that moment that my innocence was permanently lost. Despite the terror of the situation, I had never contemplated forced sex as something that might happen. In that moment, my body and mind were imprinted with terror. The way I saw the world—the way I saw men—was flipped upside down, and it has been like that since.
He didn’t want to have sex, so what the fuck did he want, then?
I began to show him my camera, my purse, the bunch of bananas I had, pleading with him to take these things—to take anything but me. I felt desperate and scared. I wanted to give him anything but me.
The more I offered belongings, the more agitated and determined he became. He wanted me, as though I was the ultimate object right there, in his reach.
He picked up a rock and imitated bashing it against the wall, beside my head.
I shut down.
The idea of running or fighting back didn’t even come to me—I was frozen.
“Okay, okay, okay,” I said.
We walked over to another wall, his arm directing me. He gestured to his crotch, as though I would know what to do—as though I’d done this before.
I had, but never in this way.
I felt sick, confused, and so alone.
He undid his trousers, and flipped out a limp, gross looking dick. I took it and rubbed it, over and over, not saying a word. The action familiar, the situation foreign. He reached for my breasts and rubbed them aggressively, as though he had been there before.
No wonder I haven’t let anyone else—not even me—touch them, since.
My body was on autopilot, in survival—we were in it together. Even though we’d never been there, she knew what to do. She kept me safe despite the intrusion, she kept me whole despite the breaking that was going on inside.
I remember feeling confused that something so gross and totally unromantic could be something so thrilling, for him.
Did he think I wanted it, too?
He came all over my chest as though I was there just for this very reason, this very climax, this very ending, this very beginning of a new kind of life—one in which I was numb for a long time, and then one in which I was overwhelmed with fear, flashbacks, and pain.
I felt relief and a panic to move—it was over.
I grabbed my flip-flops and bag. I walked over the little hill of sand above the ruin, sand falling behind me. There sat the old guy I’d walked past, still in the same spot. If I’d have screamed, he would’ve heard the lot.
If only I’d known.
As I reached him, I realised I only had one of my flip-flops. In the immediate aftermath of the most terrifying situation of my life, I wanted—and needed—my other flip-flop. My heart had begun to open wide again and wrap me in her hold—tears fell, I breathlessly sobbed.
I asked the old man to go get my flip-flop. In return I gave him my bananas.
I treaded back along the path where my instinct had boomed, just an hour before. Beneath my sunglasses, tears fell and fell and fell, all the way to the closed door of my hotel room. Confusion, isolation, and a depth of sorrow that I had never felt before, washed over me as I walked.
I lay on my bed and sobbed.
I felt numb, sick, dirty, and so, so, alone.
I will never forget the need to shower, that I had that day.
The realisation that I could have died and no-one would have known until I didn’t return on my flight home, flooded me—nobody knew where I was, and at this point nobody even knew my name.
I doubted the desperate need to call a friend out of fear of it not being a big deal. I doubted the desperate longing to fly straight home out of fear of the embarrassment of heading home only two days into my trip.
I buried the experience and the trauma because I didn’t know how to do anything different.
I wish I had known then, what I know now.
At the end of my trip, I returned back to the town I’d been in with friends I’d made. Talking with a local, he pointed in the direction of where I had walked that day and said, “Never go up there, bad people live there.”
My heart skipped a beat, shock washed over me, and I could’ve been sick.
If only I’d known that that day.
I don’t want rape to be a word I’m ashamed or afraid of.
It’s hideous, gross, and fucking horrible, but it doesn’t need to be scary anymore. It’s a word that can be hand-delivered onto a palm of understanding, rather than a word buried deep in secret.
I still can’t believe it happened to me, and I still want to pretend it didn’t. I know I won’t ever be the same, but I also know that I am okay.
I am strong, I am tough, I am fragile, I am wounded.
I am beautiful.
Tonight, as I finished writing this piece, I lay in bed and cried.
My whole body sobbed, and a voice inside said, “You can be free, my love.”
Something that has sat with me, in me, and haunted and burrowed so deep into my being, can now begin to move from the shadow into the openness and understanding that lies within me and around me.
I feel naked, exposed, scared, and at risk, but the risk of staying quiet is a risk that feels so much greater than the risk of letting the rape be here, with me.
“The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~ Anais Nin
Originally published on elephant journal.
Freedom from my inner critic's bullshit: why i'm not fucked
Sometimes I’m worried that I’m fucked because of everything I’ve been through.
Sometimes I feel scared that the scars I hold, the wounds I feel, the rawness that’s here, isn’t ever going to heal, soften, integrate, or become something I can notice rather than feel all-consumed by.
I fear that it runs too deep, it spreads too wide, or that it’s all way- too-big.
In these moments, my inner critic is almost always holding a megaphone to his lips, making these worries feel even more real.
He takes acid with my inner psychic and they drink heavy liquor together, until they’re boozing and tripping in my mind, telling stories of my future, and attempting to publish theories in my library that lives inside.
These stories and these theories that I’m fucked not only become vividly real, they also become a future prediction that I can see.
In these moments, I fear that the silence I held for all these years — until two and a half years ago — won’t ever be broken in the complete way it needs to. That I won’t ever find ways of healing and opening in the way I need to.
Or I hear stories from my inner psychic of how the silence will break all and completely, and take me tumbling with it into a hole of overwhelm and disconnect from the sanity that lies within me, and the sanity that lies in the world outside of me, no matter how insane either me or the world, feels.
The funny thing is, though, these things have happened already. My silence has been broken, and is continuing to be, it just hasn’t been broken as much as I need it to, yet. But that’s natural, that’s normal, that’s healthy.
To not let patterns or habits be broken all and completely, to not tackle defense mechanisms head on, but to let them fall and change, gradually and softly, gradually and safely, confidently.
I’m learning it’s safe to talk, it’s safe to trust people, it’s safe to need. I’m learning it’s safe to be the one at the party, on my knees beside someone who loves me, hand holding my heart as she beats, saying softly, ‘I’m not okay’.
And when my silence did break for the first time properly — when I began my journey with therapy — it broke in a way that I burst through my four walls of silence, falling into a rabbit hole, where I tumbled and tumbled, and the world seemingly tumbled around me.
The traumas in my life began to run through me like toxic waters.
Memories and images sat on my face and my chest, leaving it seemingly impossible to breathe or to see without seeing them. The memories caused riots throughout my body, leaving stillness or anything other than wild waters, impossible to feel or be.
I had left the riverbanks of my Known, and was being swung forwards into a life where I would swim in a river I had been yet to be shown how to, but a river I innately knew I needed to.
So the thing I fear in these moments my critic is yelling I’m fucked, and my inner psychic is tripping out stories that it’s true, has already happened — my silence was broken and I survived.
It was incredibly painful and scary, but I survived.
This truth makes their future-tripping and theory-throwing even more ridiculous and hilarious, and not-able-to-be-believed, yet I still do believe it sometimes, because they’re convincing motherfuckers, and what they say seems so incredibly real.
To not believe them would be to allow myself to feel completely free, which feels fucking scary, but I’m beginning to really believe that I deserve freedom from their bullshit.
I’m not fucked.
I still have resistance and a deep knot of anxiety around all that has happened to me, to all the sections of my story — and the inner girl in me can’t help but feel sick or want to curl up in a ball and hide away when I think of the magnitude of it — but something’s changed recently.
I have the same reaction others have had when I’ve told them my story, or parts of my story.
I feel shock, compassion, sadness and admiration for the wounded part of me telling me her story. My heart aches and offers her deep unconditional love, and my body fills with warmth, support, and respect.
I realize what others have told me is true: my sanity is a sign of my strength. And it’s never going away. It can’t just up-and-leave without me one morning after a stressful and painful night of grief. And I can’t do the same to her: I can’t decide to not take her with me when it all gets too much.
She’s here with me because she, my sanity, can’t abandon me.
I’m learning to love my crazy — the crazy I find living in this nutty society, and healing from my youth and early adulthood of trauma — but I don’t have any axis II living inside me.
So that makes my friend, Sanity, a companion on my journey, no matter how much distance feels between us, or how far from home she’s seemingly roamed.
I do feel scared when memories unfold or catch me deeply, but I am increasingly seeing that I can hold my story.
I can hold all that has happened to me, because I’ve already lived through all it and survived it, so I can live through and survive — and thrive — from this time now. This time of healing and letting my wounds speak.
This time of breaking my silence all and completely, however long this time takes.
I do still fear losing myself completely — I fear falling from the riverbanks that I’ve now formed, on which I can swim to and take time-out when my internal waters feel wild — but I know now that to get incredibly messy and fall apart, to leave the banks of the known, is the beginning of a rebirth.
Because even when I was seemingly losing myself completely, I was finding myself entirely.
Sometimes we need to lose all ground to find what keeps us afloat. Sometimes we need to skinny dip with all that has been before, and the fear of the unknown of what we’re swimming into, to be able to figure out what ground we can hold and what ground we need to let go.
Sometimes we need to be with the weeds, the fishes, the fellow river swimmers, to find what keeps us nourished and healthy.
Sometimes we need to immerse ourselves in the wilderness of the earth and the world inside us to learn the tides and how they turn, so we can find our feet and figure out what stroke we want to swim.
Previously published on Rebelle Society
Keeping what's mine, leaving what's hers
I have a shame that’s here at the moment.
A shame that feels heart-breaking to write, and heart-breaking to read in my internal library, but a shame that needs to be read—and written—aloud.
Because shame is a sneaky motherfucker and for the last few days, I didn’t realise that shame what was happening but I was tumbling deeper and deeper into a hole of silence and suppression, trauma and desperation.
Then this morning I woke and realised with a bang, that it is shame and a deep fear that has been keeping me from expressing what I need, and needed, to.
It’s been shame that’s been leaving me believing from my core that I’m not worthy, I’m not deserving. I need to be alone, I can’t feel united or together. I’m fucked and helpless. I can’t be loved and I’m not able to be, either.
It’s shame that’s been eating me up and keeping this all quiet, and keeping in a place of feeling fearful of being authentic and being me—the thing I’ve been embracing, lately. It’s shame that seemingly lost me my feet in my healing.
It’s the shame that I came from my mother.
Just writing those words, I feel shame around my shame.
This shame that I am my mother’s daughter is something that has felt so incredibly present recently. In many ways it’s been present for a long time—particularly the last two years I’ve begun healing, the two years I’ve cut contact—but there’s something different about its presence now.
It’s here to be shared, to be told something different, to be told that I am new, I am not her, and I never was and I never will be. It’s as though, by cutting contact, all these things, these feelings, this shame, this part of my story, can be even more present than it was before, because it’s here to be healed, not here to hurt.
When I see her in my face, I want to run.
I want to hate myself just as much as I hated her.
I feel sick at memories of her ugliness.
I want to take off my face and replace it with someone else’s, something else, anything except the one I see.
My face reminds me of my story.
It reminds me of my pain, of my trauma.
It reminds me of her.
I try to see my beauty, but in these moments I can’t because I’m flooded with memories of her, and trauma. These moments remind me that even in her fucked-up-ness, she held beauty, and that is something I am so, so, not ready to believe.
Instead, I tell my wounded girl that’s looking at herself, “You’re not your mum”. I tell her, “You’re your own person. You are not her. You are so incredibly beautiful. “ We both smile, tear-up, and gently laugh, knowing it’s true.
We know that I am so incredibly different, so incredibly beautiful, so incredibly me.
So incredibly not her.
We realise that these demons haunting me, are trauma…it’s not truth, and it will settle. Things will settle, I will settle.
We find each other again, and I find the me I am now.
The me away from the trauma, beneath the flooding, and separate from this haunting connection.
When I realise and remember that I came from her—I was born from her body—I feel sick.
My stomach knots.
I feel dirty. I feel tight and restricted, disconnected and full of disgust.
I feel traumatised just knowing this.
I desperately need to vacate my own four walls.
I want to run as fast and as far as I can.
I want to inhabit a new body, a new home, a new me—anything but what’s mine.
I want to find a rock, hide underneath it, and never come out.
It’s the knowing I came from her.
The knowing that she made me and I am part of her, she is part of me.
I long to abandon myself, but I can’t anymore. There’s a part of me blossoming lately. She loves me and holds me and tells me I’m different to what I always knew before, I’m so incredibly different to the person I came from.
She tells me I’m blossoming and becoming the person I always was away from her, and that this is only strengthening and will continue to.
In these moments of remembering where I came from, and the feeling of being flooded by it, I struggle to feel this and her voice is a faint whisper that’s hard to hold onto. The trauma swamps me as it did before, for all the years she was intimately part of my story.
The shame that’s here now is the same shame that kept me silent then.
Knowing I came from her easily leaves me believing I’m not loveable—according to my critic, I am dirty, fucked up, and hopeless. And the wounded parts of me believe this.
The shame swamps and seeps, leaving me believing whatever trauma is here, whatever has been triggered, is my fault, because I came from her.
Because she is part of my story, part of me.
And, according to my critic, if it’s my fault then I don’t deserve love and support, compassion and forgiveness, from those around me.
I don’t deserve to talk. I need to be with it alone, and I need to heal it alone, too, because it’s my shit to deal with. It’s my fault for being her daughter.
It’s my fault I chose her as my mother.
I remember feeling this a lot as a kid and a teen.
When I would be torn up sideways with pain and discomfort, responsibility and trauma, I would feel a deep sense of understanding for those around me who weren’t helping me in the ways I so desperately needed them to. An understanding that has now shifted, as I’m developing new understandings.
When I look back and realise my younger self had this understanding—this compassion, this forgiveness— from such a young age, I feel a deep sorrow, a blinding rage, a vast sense of protection, and a nausea so thick it swamps me.
I hate that this was what my younger self knew—I feel so angry that she didn’t have anyone to tell her that things could be different, and that this belief she held wasn’t truth.
From the eyes of my inner girl, she was my mother and so I needed to help her, alone. Because there wasn’t anyone else there to help me, and that’s all she knew what to do.
From the eyes of my teen, of course they weren’t going to help me. She wasn’t their problem, she wasn’t their story, she wasn’t anything to do with them—she was everything to do with me.
From the eyes of my critic, this was my story and my situation, so I needed to deal with it, solo.
Now she isn’t everything to do with me at all, but she’s still here—not in person but in the sense of me healing. And I fucking hate it.
I long, long, long, for it to be different. I long for cutting contact with her to mean cutting her from my storycompletely. I feel so angry that it doesn’t and it won’t and it couldn’t and it never will mean that.
The difference is, I’m in a distillation process.
I’m learning to figure out what’s mine to keep and what’s mine to get-the-fuck-rid-of and leave-the-fuck-behind.
I’m filtering out the old from the new.
I’m determining what is her and what is me, what was her and what was me.
I’m figuring out how to have all of my story be here—the pain, the agony, the trauma, the wisdom, the beauty—and not let one part of it, one part of me, define me completely. But rather to have it and me be here as a whole, and for me to live this whole completely.
I’m learning to find a way to let my mum be part of my story as a character is part of a novel, but not let her presence in my life determine where I see my life going. To not let it, let her, determine what I believe my life is worth and what I am worth.
I may be her daughter, but I will never, ever, be her.
I am, and always will be, me.
Originally published on elephant journal.
my internal hurricane
For the past couple of years, I’ve had PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder).
To be honest, I believe what was going on before that was PTSD, too, but two years ago I began to develop, and experience, clear-cut PTSD symptoms.
It’s shit. They’re shit. The symptoms are shit. But they used to be so much more shit than they are now. I’ve learnt to make friends with them, slowly. For a while it was like making friends with a hurricane, so I didn’t.
Hurricanes destroy you or anything else in their path, and that’s what the symptoms were seemingly doing, so why on earth would I sit with them and breathe with them? Why would I notice them? You don’t notice a hurricane, you run in the other-fucking-direction.
The symptoms were causing chaos with everything and anything I knew before. They tore down bridges between my openness and my ability to trust the world. They introduced wide-open wounds — big gaping holes — where these bridges of interaction and trust once were.
They cut off the contact I had with the world around me in the way I had always known, and left me needing to build new bridges between me and myself, before then beginning to build bridges between me and the world around me, and me and people. Bridges I’m still learning how to build.
The symptoms tore up my Ability to Cope roadways, leaving messy and terrifying paths that I couldn’t see, only step down one foot at a time, instead.
They haunted, and seemingly stripped me of, my sanity. The ground beneath my feet became quicksand. I forgot what it was like to be stood on bricks or concrete, or grass.
Even though the ground I stood on before PTSD wandered into my life, was painful and full of inner turmoil, it was still more solid than the quicksand I began to stand on and get to know.
I spent a good year and a half running as fast away from my hurricane — the symptoms — as I could. Trying to hold on to what I’d known before, or resisting what I was learning as new truth.
At the beginning of my running, I was trying to cling on to at least one or two bricks from the foundations I used to live on, no matter how rocky they once were. And now, when I run, it’s because the new ground I was see in front of me feels too simple, too without-trauma, too easy…
My Ability to Cope roadways are new, and increasingly healthy. The roadways — my roadway — is still messy, but the difference is that this mess is a mess that I’m becoming familiar with. A mess I’m not so afraid of.
A mess I’m beginning to trust, understand and truly know — that makes me healthy and human. A mess that unites me with the rest of the world, not a mess that leaves me needing to hide away from it.
My bridges are building again, but they’re being built slowly and with wisdom. I’m learning to honor my defenses, and to protect myself. I’m learning that my wounding is here and I can’t escape it anymore, but the wounding can come with me and no longer be abandoned.
The bridges I’m building are ones of mutual respect and understanding, and love without conditions.
One of the things I still struggle with the most from my symptoms, my hurricane, that is still here by the bucketloads, is the survival. The way my body is prepped for danger, for attack, for protection, for threat, almost constantly.
A threat that professionals would say is perceived, but a threat that, to the part of me on guard and alert, isn’t perceived — it’s fucking real.
She knows this threat, this danger, is coming, and she needs to keep my body ready and alert for this. Sort of like waiting for a hurricane to come that you’ve heard about on the news. Because if it came and I wasn’t ready, I’d be fucked.
If the threat came — the one that is seemingly going to hit any second — and I wasn’t prepared to deal with it or to attack back or to hold on to my protective armor that this part holds up for me, then I’d be screwed. I’d be wide open, raw, and irreparably wounded.
And she wouldn’t have done her job. This part of me who protected me so, so, well during my childhood and early adult years, would have failed, according to my critic, and according to her.
Her lifelong duty is to protect me and so protect me she does… but the thing is, it’s painful and it’s not applicable to my life now.
She’s hurting and she’s exhausted, but she doesn’t know how to stop and let things be different, because to her, life was the same way for so long, why on earth would it be any different now?
She doesn’t understand that things can be simple, that I can feel safe and relaxed, and it’s okay — it doesn’t mean that something is going to happen any second or that I’m giving up or opening myself up for wounding.
She needs to be alert and on guard, on top of things, because — to her — the idea or feeling of simplicity and calm is when the shit happens. Growing up, when things were calm, things were the scariest because she knew a storm — a hurricane — was going to hit any second, any moment, any hour.
So now, to have calm and stillness, peace and stability, feels just like the calm before the storm.
She needs to witness that things can be different before she can begin to soften and mingle, to integrate, with other parts of me who are here to protect me. She needs to know it’s safe. She knows only time will show her this.
The parts of me that guide me and tell me I’m safe, it’s safe for things to be simple, are parts that are blossoming lately. Even though I’ve never experienced it, their innate wisdom shines through and ripples through me.
They know that this way of living on alert, of having my body in constant survival, isn’t the only way of living and doesn’t need to be the only way for me. And they know it won’t be.
They know that I’m figuring things out and that this figuring takes time — the time the part of me watching out for danger, looking out for a hurricane, needs.
I’m walking the line between the old and the new — between what I grew up with and what I’m growing into, between health and stability, and trauma and turmoil — and I’m beginning to watch myself build bridges between them.
I hope this hyper-vigilance softens. I hope that these parts of me who knows things can be different, and knows that what happened then won’t ever happen now, will continue to bloom into a stronger presence.
Because they know this time is only a chapter in my lifelong story.
A chapter that will bring me strength and wisdom that I wouldn’t get in any other way.
Previously published on Rebelle Society.
the war within
PTSD is a term I have beef with.
One of the reasons I don’t talk or write so widely about it, is the stigma.
I fear judgement, I fear what people will think, I fear losing myself to these worries when I know—and so many others know, too—that PTSD is a natural and completely sane reaction to terrifying and insane events. Events that leave ripples through our minds and our bodies that are too huge to handle or process there and then, or there wasn’t the space and the time and the opportunity.
Or events that happened when we didn’t have the insight, the emotional wisdom, the understanding of ourselves and our needs, to be able to support ourselves through the emotional release we needed.
So the ripples come out later.
They come when there is space for the trauma to be here, again. When there is safety and holding, in a way there wasn’t before—when the trauma happened
What I experience now is not a patch on what I used to, but it’s still hideous when it’s here intensely, like it has been the last few days.
But I also don’t write about it with my name attached (I wrote extensively about it on my personal blog, which I kept and keep, anonymous) because I don’t want it to be part of my story.
Yet on days like this, there’s no avoiding the fact that right now, the trauma is here with me. And when I try to avoid it, it only brings more pain.
When I try to look the other way, to focus on everything else except the hurricane that’s happening inside of me, I feel worse. The hurricane worsens, increases in intensity, and the seeming uprooting of my sanity feels even more vivid.
To lovingly sit there with my symptoms, and ask them what they’re needing or why they’re here or what they’re feeling, soothes rather than abandons. Noticing them and saying, “I see you, I’m here,” is what has gotten me through the last two days. And what increasingly continues to get me through this time.
I no longer abandon myself in my process as much as I used to. I no longer run from the roots and stability I have in me. I no longer try to find new ones outside of me or plant new ones on other territory—territory that looks shiny from the outside, but territory where I lose me. I lose the thing, the person, I need to guide me through this process.
I spent so long feeling terrified of what was happening inside of me.
The memories, the anxiety, the terror, the loss of ground. I still do run a bit because to stick with myself throughout days like this, and through intense waves of trauma surfacing, is incredibly hard. But the ability to not run, to not turn away, to be with myself, is strengthening the more time goes on.
On days like the ones that have just passed, all I can see when I’m not tucked up in my computer screen, writing, is the trauma. Yesterday, I went for a walk, I tried so hard to feel out in the present, but I couldn’t. I needed to be home, where stimulation was low, and where I knew I was safe. I needed to be where I didn’t need to look over my shoulder, even though I still do that a little, here.
For me the trauma is here because of an anniversary.
PTSD is worsened by anniversaries, of course. Dates that mark when the trauma happened, naturally can bring greater whirlwinds inside. This is what I’m experiencing now, and it’s really, really, hard.
So much story comes with the trauma, and in many ways, this—along with the physical sensations—is the hardest thing about times like this. My critic holds a book open almost constantly, reading me the imaginative and detailed narrative of how I’m fucked, of how fucked things are going to be, of how fucked-up I’m going to be…and am. The trauma blinds me to reality. It stops me seeing the truth of my experience.
It takes me to a place inside me that is shattered with destruction, scattered with debris. It takes me to where I was when the trauma happened—to the place inside me that is scarred and wounding, open and raw, and struggling to make sense of it all, to keep afloat, to continue to breathe, and to know she’s not alone.
Increasingly, there’s a compassion inside myself for myself. A gentleness and an understanding of what’s happening. A reducing need to figure it out, to work out the symptoms and to stop them or to try to fix them. Instead, there’s an ability to witness, compassionately and openly.
To give myself what I need, and to know that as much as this time is scary and intense and seemingly not okay, it actually is—I’m safe, and I’m okay, and for now it’s going to stay that way.
Whatever happened isn’t happening again, no matter how real it seems or feels.
And there’s no possible way it could.
Originally published on elephant journal.
the only moment you have to focus on is now
A lot of what I’m doing in life, and in my journeying, is learning how to parent myself.
And re-parenting myself.
This morning I wrote a note to myself (above) that flowed out of a place of really needing it. I connected with my inner parent, as I often do when I begin to write to myself, for myself, and with no-one else.
It’s like in those intimate moments of journaling, scribbling, witnessing, there’s no-one else here to watch me or soothe me or be with me, except myself.
And so in that solitude is a comfort that so naturally comes.
A comfort that I have always and forever, inside of me.
A presence I know resides within me regardless of my knowing or regardless of my attempts to find her.
My inner parent is always there—watching, witnessing, listening.
I really struggle to trust that the only moment I have is now. I easily feel wrapped up in anxiety and a desperate need to get-it-all-right and get-it-all-figured-out now. The future easily feels like a terrifying body of unknown and potential danger that to relax into right now feels even more uncomfortable than sitting here wrapped in the discomfort and anxiety that so easily floods my system.
But you know, my inner parent knows it’s okay to trust.
She knows it’s okay for things to be different to what I witnessed growing up.
She knows it’s okay—it’s safe—for me to not be like my mother and for me to be authentically and completely me. For me to have calmness and stability, gentleness and a holding of myself and the world.
She knows it’s okay for me to trust the current moment and not try to figure out anything else.
She knows that inside me is a key to witness the box of compassion that I hold so deep within my chest, my heart, for myself and for the world.
She knows that to breathe and to let myself rest, to let the moment unfold in front of me is what I can do the best, and what offers me the most support.
She knows that the ability to breathe lies within me, whatever anxiety is floating around or holding tightly of my chest.
She understands that this faith, that this courage to step forward with the fear but not within the fear, takes a lot and is often exhausting, but she also understands that to do this is what I need in order to struggle free and thrive.
To struggle free from the constraints of the childhood I lived and watched and experienced and saw, and step into the future that contains the me I am now and the me I have always known beneath the experiences I witnessed and lived through and saw.
She knows that to live is to be right here, right now.
She knows that to live is to relax and to let myself go. To nourish, to cherish, to treasure all these things I give to myself—the moments, the laughter, the madness, the creativity, the ability to express, to connect, to say what I need, to say what I’m doing, to say how I’m feeling, to say where I’m going.
She knows that this is me growing and she knows that this is me freeing from the constraints of the childhood I experienced and witnessed myself go through, to come into the person I am now.
She knows that to be where I am is to not be any different from the person I am becoming or from the person I am—to not mould or shape or become what I think others want me to become, or be what I think others want or hope for me to be, and instead to be 100% me.
She knows that to become me is to listen to the butterfly within my chest—the butterfly of forgiveness, the butterfly of compassion, the butterfly of acceptance, the butterfly of transformation, the butterfly of bad-ass-ness, the butterfly of not-taking-no-shit…the butterfly of everything.
To watch it step out of the chrysalis that’s held it tight and safe inside my chest and let it, watch it, flutter out into a world of glory and a world of wisdom, a world where I’m with it all—the pain and the beauty, the light and the darkness, the joy and the anger, the love and the hatred, the pleasure and the envy, the humour and the seriousness, the sarcasm and the laughter, the quiet and the booming-loud, the solitude and the company.
Because within that world is me being whole, and within that world is a world holding me.