Do you have an old injury that lies dormant most of the time? Then in a rush one morning, you move the wrong way, and feel it resurface? You take it easy for a few days, and give it some TLC, to find that it eases back into an easily forgotten thing; that will once more lie dormant, until you inadvertently move the wrong way again, and see the process repeat. I have recently found this is the exact same thing that happens with trauma, grief, and loss. Healing, of any sort, is not a linear process.
From the time that I was seven years old, people would tell me that I had an “old soul” or was “mature for my age.” Then, I thought it was a compliment. It meant I was doing my job effectively. I learned from a very young age to be “on” all the time. I also learned to lie effectively. It was threaded into the very core of my personality to be guarded, and not let anyone get too close to me. I was pleasing, and I learned to acclimate to any environment I was in. I was groomed to be the caretaker of those around me. This meant that outside of those relationships, I could not form any real attachments to the kids my age. Therein, missing much I was supposed to learn during those formative years.
Life went on. I grew up and got married. I finished college, and started a career. I took trips, and posed for “happy” photos with friends. I had a cute place on the lake, nestled beautifully in the mountains. From the outside looking in, I had it all. For this reason, I constantly told myself that I should be happy. I thought that if I said it enough, I would believe it. That worked well, until it didn’t. The thing about lying, especially to yourself, is that when the truth comes to light, it shatters every illusion you’ve worked so diligently to keep in place. It seemed my self imposed illusions outweighed my reality, by a mile.
In an instant, every truth I attempted to bury, had risen to the surface, and the only options I had were to face them, or let them consume me. I admitted I was in a marriage that neither of us wanted to be in. I left my career without a second thought. I came out as gay. I stopped taking the trips I did not want to take. I stopped pretending to be happy, when I was not. More than any of that, though, I realized that I was truly alone. I had gotten so good at alienating myself, that I had backed myself so far into a corner where love could not touch me, even it wanted to. I began to see patterns repeating in my life. Mostly that I hurt people, trying to protect myself from the possibility of getting hurt. They loved me, but I could not accept it. I did not feel worthy of it.
This went on for years more, until someone told me a truth, I had desperately needed to hear. “Trauma is held in the body. Just like a physical injury, the damage can be repaired, but it will always be there.” The power of that statement was the one that led me to therapy. Therapy led me to a list of diagnoses that made my life make sense. Those diagnoses led me to understand that healing is not linear. We are not what has happened to us, but how we choose to react to it. This has been the most profound journey of my life. I see progress, daily – and I am thankful for that. It doesn’t mean that dark days don’t fall upon me; I just, now, have a box of tools that help me more easily navigate them. I cannot tell you the exact moment I chose to #LevelUp, but I can tell you that once you start, you will not ever want to stop. Here’s to a better you, and a better me, making this world a better place. Back to back. Together we can.
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