What was said; What I heard

I read something that had a pretty big impact on me at a pretty important time which has led to the inspiration for this post. I have not spoken to my mother in a week. This would not generally be note worthy but this time it is. The last time we spoke ended badly and the space I thought I needed to take care for myself expanded from a half hour to multiple days to now a week.

During this week my Dad showed up in his normal role in our family: peace maker/mother fixer. My Dad picks up the messes of others so everything can stay neat and tidy and we can all pretend there is no mess. Dad also takes care of Mom, Mom comes first. Always.

The space has been painful. I feel like a terrible daughter, I feel like I am the problem, I feel like I am breaking my mother’s heart, I feel guilt, I feel shame, I feel like I will be a terrible mother. I feel self-doubt. I worry that my actions are manipulative, I am constantly second guessing myself. I feel unstable, out of control.

As the space has gotten bigger so has my truth; I feel rejected. I feel used. I feel blamed like a scapegoat. I feel resentment. I feel more stable. I am starting to gain clarity. I am starting to truly understand how much bigger than me this is. I am learning how to care for myself since the focus is not constantly on caring for her. My heart is aching. I feel let down.

Yesterday or the day before, I honestly cannot remember now, I was reading a blog that I have been following for a long time. It is a blog similar to my own; personal, searching, honest. I appreciate the honest part most. I admire and appreciate people who are willing to say out loud that life is hard, families are hard, relationships are hard. I see enough posed photos with perfect smiles, sometimes I need the honesty of how devastating losing a pet can be. This blogger shows up in her truth.

So I was reading this post that true to form was painfully honest and I definitely identified with parts of it. My truth is different from hers but I saw myself, my childhood self, in some of her writing.

I wasn’t sure I had the courage to be so honest but right now seems like the time. The only way for things to be different is to do things differently. That means honesty and stepping out from the shadow of denial. Last week my mother and I broke another vase, metaphorically speaking, and despite all his efforts my father was not able to sweep these pieces under the rug like so many broken pieces before it. So now I am going to stand here in the mess I helped make and accept Alma’s invitation to be seen in my truth.

What was said and What I heard:

Calm down: You are acting crazy. You are crazy.
This isn’t going to work: You can’t do this. You made a mistake. You did this wrong.
Your mother is really upset: Your mother is really upset and it is your fault. You need to apologize to your mother. Please fix this for me. I am scared.
Your brother _____________: I love him more. Your accomplishments, life, words, ideas, problems, are less important than his.
Mother-daughter relationships are hard: This is what it is, get used to it. Stop trying to change things. Stop upsetting the apple cart.
What is most important is that we love each other: Do you still love us? Are we good parents? Please don’t leave us. Family comes before everything, including your emotional well-being.
*Silence*: Fuck you. You are the worst. I will not bend. You will give me what I want. Who do you think you are? You owe me this. You are not stronger than me. Don’t make me angry. How dare you. I do not love you.

What I needed to hear:

This started long before you.
This is not your fault.
I own my part.
Take all the time you need, I will be here.
I am ready to really work on this.
The truth, the real honest truth.

 

There are a lot of ANDs that exist in this space of pain but this time I am going to keep my ANDs to myself. I know what they are and that is what matters. I do not feel compelled to make this mess pretty to make myself or anyone else more comfortable. Not this time.

mom

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Badge of Honor

Processed with MOLDIV

I went to the dentist today to have some work done. It was to be a 2 hour procedure, the kind of thing most people dread. I was indifferent.I was indifferent because the dentist doesn’t bother me much. I definitely do not enjoy going to the dentist but I don’t dread it or get anxious either. It is just something I have to do sometimes to be healthy.

So I get in the chair, they numb me up, I put on my headphones and lay back for the next two hours while they do their thing. Some poking here, prodding there, “bite down on this for 5 five minutes”, “open wider”, “bite down”, “open wider”.. and so on.. 2 hours late she asked me to rinse and spit and I informed her that she still had cotton lodged up in my cheek. Suddenly she was flummoxed. Wait, you can feel that? You should still be numb..

Then after talking for a minute about what else I had been able to feel we realized they had not given me enough numbing agent at the beginning. Oops.

She commented on how I must have a high threshold for pain and I confirmed that I do and that was that.

When I was driving home I was thinking about it a bit more though and what that actually means.. People wear that truth like a badge of honor, I have a high threshold for pain, but what does that actually say about us?

Does a high threshold/tolerance for pain = I am really good at numbing. Or shutting down. Are we essentially just saying I am highly skilled at not feeling.

And why is it different for different people? Do some men have a high tolerance because of what it means to be a man in our patriarchal society? Do not show emotion. Do not cry. Do not allow yourself be vulnerable. Don’t be a pussy.

Do some of us have a high tolerance because of the other pain we have bore? Either no pain could ever be as severe as these initial painful experiences we have had or maybe it is that the initial experiences were so painful that we learned how to detach/numb in painful situations as a way of protection/self-preservation..

Either way it suddenly struck me as really odd that having a high tolerance for pain would be seen as a positive thing. Well, actually that is not true. I do think it is a positive thing, I still see it as a protective factor. I think what I mean is, yes maybe it is positive AND it is maybe kind of sad.

Good for you that you are able to take care of yourself this way AND I am sorry that whatever happened to you that made you develop this skill happened.

I do think in our society we try to cover pain up and put pretty details on it to make it more bearable when the truth is there is room for both the light and the dark when it comes to pain.

You can be a strong, resilient, survivor AND being completely shattered by the experience.

You can see a silver lining as a result of a painful situation AND feel engulfed by the storm cloud that created it.

There is room in this world for all of it. I do have a high tolerance for pain. This is true because of the pain my body has endured. I am quite skilled at detaching when I feel the need to protect myself. I have also become a skilled number. I have neither pride nor judgement towards these truths, they just are, and they are mine.

I guess what I am wondering is, will this will always be my truth? As work on rebuilding my relationship with my body and I go back to those places of pain and allow myself to finally feel it will my ability or want/need to numb still exist? Is it possible that I could get to place where I see pain as just a part of life and not longer fear it?

I don’t have answers for this right now but it was an interesting realization to wake up to.

numb

 

Truth Telling

truth

Last night after my revelation I closed everything down and went back to bed. It was 4:22 when I climbed in next to my pup and my hubs; as I did he stirred and then got up to go to the bathroom. When he returned he asked if I was okay and what I was still doing up. I told him I was fine and that I was writing and that I have things I would like to tell him but that it could wait until morning because clearly it was late and we were both tired. He smiled and said okay, told me he loved me and I slipped into a deep dreamless sleep.

Five hours later I woke up. We all did. Each of started to stretch and look around at each other and cuddle. We let Lu out, got her breakfast, got our own breakfast, and then scooted back to bed to eat and talk.

I put on oils in the bedroom, a mix of peppermint and lavender for clarity and calm. I lit my candle, I have many candles in my home but one is special, it is my candle, it’s light is there solely to support me. Then we crawled back into bed, him with his oatmeal, me with my peppermint tea and we started a new chapter in our relationship.

I told him that I experienced a shift last night and that I understood things I did not understand before and that I wanted to share these new realizations with him. Before I started I explained to him what I needed from him while we talked and that was space to be honest without it feeling like too much. He did not think that would be a problem.

He listened as I talked and when I was done, before moving on to another part of my epiphany I waited for feedback or questions. He was on board with everything, all of it. He understood everything I was saying and was open to all forms of honesty in our relationship. I made sure he knew that the standing invitation that he had always held for me, I was holding for him too. I am going to honest with you, in all forms, please trust me enough to know you can be that free here too. Our love is strong enough to hold this for us, it will only make it stronger. We agreed. We will move forward in this relationship without editing ourselves for the sake of the other. We will be real, and honest, and authentic, and build a deeper love on this.

Then I did something I have never done. I asked for help in my dark place. My therapy is what my therapy is, we are still separate from that part of my work because only I can do it. But there are other things that could get better if I ever trusted anyone enough to ask for help. He has shown me I am not too much, I am not asking too much, I am lovable, and he is not only willing but wants to help me should I ever ask. So I asked and he said yes. He is going to help me with practical aspects of overcoming my PTSD. We are going to work together to try and make me feel safe in ways I never have before.

This request was my very first step towards taking him up on his invitation of honesty and love.

Our relationship does not come up often in therapy because he is not something or someone I have to heal from. I realized though that he could help me heal. And that by being open to accepting his help I would also be opening myself up to a deeper level of trust within myself and in the relationship. I am learning to trust myself and trust him. I am learning to love myself and allow myself to be loved.

This is big stuff. It makes me think about the intention I started the year with, transformation. That is what this is. It is transformation, it is a learning and unlearning of love. I have been planted and now I am starting to sprout and grow.

Did You Hear That?

ptsd

One last post tonight to put myself at ease and to experience my own unburdening with the hopes of then falling into a restful sleep.

I have been sitting alone in the living room for the last hour writing. Normally I enjoy this quiet time; just me and the house and my tea and my thoughts. Normally. Sometimes though when I sit alone at night in my living room my PTSD creeps up on me, an unwelcome guest crashing my party, here to terrify me until I can barely breathe.

It started with a noise.

Was that a knock at the door? It can’t be, what time is it? No it’s much too late.. Then what was that noise?

Get up, heart pounding, stomach has already dropped out, adrenaline pumping. Walk into the bedroom;

Babe? Was that you?..
Oh it wasn’t? Then did you hear that?..
Oh you didn’t?.. Well I am sure I heard a knocking..
No but you don’t understand, I am sure I heard a knocking..
Okay, you’re probably right..

Return to my nest on the couch. Continue writing, but not without first enlisting the company of my trusty guard dog.

It was nothing. It was nothing.

Check to make sure the doors are locked..

It was nothing. You are safe. You are alone. You are safe. It was nothing.

Sit back on the couch continue writing.

Hear a knocking. Look at the dog. She didn’t react.

It was nothing. She would have reacted. She would have barked. It was nothing. You are safe. You are alone. You are safe.

You are alone. You are alone. You are alone. It is dark. You are alone.

You are okay. You are okay.

Continue writing.

Feel a bump on the couch. All systems on red alert. Heightened sense of hearing and touch. Aware of every inch of your surroundings. Listen… Listen…. Listen… Nothing.
Look at the dog. She didn’t react.

What was that? I am sure I felt something. Is there a monster under the couch?

You are not a child. Monsters are not real.

How do you know?

Try to convince the dog to come sit on the couch by you.

Come here baby.. C’mon.. Come here honey.

Give up. She is not moving. Continue writing.

No more noises. Heart rate back to normal. Menacing thoughts silence. Ability to focus restored. Sense of safety restored.

Normally I enjoy this quiet time; just me and the house and my tea and my thoughts.

Normally.

 

 

Soap like Erasers

soap

The universe has been sending me a message for a while and I have known this but was not ready. It has been woven into my life disguised as the ordinary; a conversation here, a sign or symbol there. There were three major signs recently and that is what finally made me say okay enough, I am ready.

I was working with client recently and the conversation led to me using validation and body positive messages. After I felt good about the work we did together AND I felt like a bit of a phony.

A few weeks later I was with my love and he said something that I feel like all women want to hear (myself included) but the truth is it hurt to hear it because I did not believe him. It is not that I did not believe that he felt what he was saying, it was that I do not agree and I do not feel that way about myself.

2 days ago I was in the shower, the night before I had been painting and as per usual I still had paint on my legs and fingers. I took the bar of soap and rubbed it up and down my thigh until the streak of black paint faded into nothing and the water washed away the soap. This led to the literal inspiration of this post (although the larger inspiration has been building for some time). As I watched the paint on my leg disappear under the bar of soap I thought about how the soap looked so much like an eraser in that moment. It made me wonder.. How many times have I gotten in the shower and used the soap like an eraser to wash away pain?

We all do it. Showers have never been just for washing our physical body.

If we have a bad day we can step into the shower and wash it away.
If we are sick we step into the shower and let that hot water cleanse us and wash away the germs.
If our heart is broken we step into the shower and cry so no one can tell the difference between the water from the spout and our tears.

The thing about this though is that it doesn’t actually work. The shower is not some magical portal where when you step in it erases bad days or illness and last I checked it does not have magical healing properties that allow it to mend a broken heart.

Me using the soap to erase the paint from my body did not take away the fact that the night before I painted, it just cleaned the paint off.

Suddenly it hit me. All these showers I have taken over the years to erase awful things that have happened to my body have erased nothing. My shower is not a portal that can undo trauma my body has experienced. Until I go back and be with my body in these places of hurt I am not going to feel authentic when having a body positive conversation with a client, and I am never going to be able to believe my husband when he compliments me because I cannot see what he sees.

Something I have said for a long time is that is important to me that I am not asking my clients to do anything that I am not willing to do myself. Up to this point I have been not been ready to do this part of my work but now I am.

I know this next year will be transformative for me and I know with my whole being that this part of my work is going to play a very big part in that transformation. A very big, painful part.. And I am scared. I am scared to go back to some of these places with my body. I have gone back emotionally and started the healing process that way but this is different.

What I can do to help myself prepare for this next part on my journey inward is to remind myself of the progress I have already made in having  better relationship with my body.

I listen better. This shows in little ways like what I eat and when, taking breaks when needed, even in what I wear. Some clothes hurt so I have stopped wearing them. High heels for example, it they are uncomfortable I will not wear them. I set the intention a while ago that I will not cause my body pain for vanity sake. I can feel beautiful and be comfortable.

I am more accepting of my body as it is. I do not feel the need to wear make up or paint my nails for others. If I am doing either it is for me only and I have checked in with my body first. Personal grooming, I have talked about this before, I will not feel shame for the fact that my body naturally grows hair. I shave when it feels right and am not mean to myself when I don’t. My hair has a right to be there and I am beautiful either way.

This is a good start these two things but I know there is much work to be done and I am ready. I have to do things for myself so I know how to helps others in these same places of pain. You do not learn these lessons from the text book, somethings can only come from the soul.

I love hot showers, hot baths, the cleansing nature of water in general. I love the way it can wash over me and hold me and make me feel whole. I also recognize that by doing this work I may no longer need water for this and I certainly will not look to soap to act as an eraser any longer. What if I could hold me and make me feel whole. What if I had the power of water?

 

A Soft Place to Land / A Bed of Nails

I am very tired but as I lay here trying to drift off there is a piece of me who desperately needs a voice and I feel compelled to give her a platform. I keep a notebook in my bedside drawer for inspiration that comes to me at bedtime, it happens often, but this one does not feel it can wait until tomorrow morning.

                          Sometimes dark stories prefer to be written in the dark.

When I was sharing the story earlier today about my elevator encounter I mentioned my ex for a brief moment when I was calculating the math since the last time I had talked to this ghost. With out realizing it I think I triggered someone deep inside of me who now needs to be heard. She is piece who holds a lot of my darkness from that time.

My ex and I brought each other darkness. We had dated a briefly a year prior to when our true relationship began. He re-entered my life in the  middle of one of the biggest traumas of my life. At this time I believe he was in a dark place as well although at the time he was more focused on my crisis. We started in crisis and that is also where we ended. There is something tragically poetic about that I think.

A few months in the turmoil was already present. It continued through out our 3+ years together. It was apparent at this point that we were dealing with our own darkness and we were inviting it into our relationship, and I believe with my whole heart that at the time neither of us had insight into what we were doing to the other person. I may have been able to see his pain, and he may have been able to see mine, and on some level we may have been aware we were both personally struggling but not enough to step back and truly acknowledge it. On occasion his pain would bubble to the surface in a moment of vulnerability and I would do my best to be there with him and give him a gentle place to land. Occasionally I would show up in my pain in a vulnerable moment and he would console me and attempt to give me a soft place to land. More often than not though we were more like a bed of nails to one another, magnifying the ever present pain we were both experiencing. The root of our suffering was not grounded in each other at all, it went much deeper than that, it was present in each of us before either one even knew the other existed. Our relationship was a long process of two hurting humans suffering together. Unfortunately instead of healing each other’s broken pieces, more often than not we amplified the other’s suffering.

Our relationship ended in a explosion of glass and emotions quite literally. I took him to his emotional edge and he scared me to a point of no return. I have never held this moment against him but it was very clearly the end. Or so I thought. So we both thought I am sure.

A month or so went by and we reconnected very briefly, this too went up in flames. Then many months went by. I had the best year of my life up to that point. I was single for the first time in a long time and after a little of mourning the loss I realized that single is my happy place. I was so much better on my own. I know now it is because I was suffering and it was much easier to hide that suffering when there was not another person always around reflecting it back to me.

Fast forward to a few weeks before my birthday that year, he reaches out, and I faltered. I thought I was past him, I thought I was in a different place. It was one of the biggest back slides of my entire life. With one text message we fell right back into each other. This went on for a while until it stopped once and for all. Our final breaking point came in light of the largest betrayal I have ever experienced by any human being in my entire life. In that moment he brought me a darkness that took years for me to overcome.

I did though. And in time the hurt began to hurt less. And even more time I began to see my part in it all. And in more time I no longer saw him just for his darkness. And in more time I started to recognize my own. And even more time I was able to find compassion and love for both.

I have many regrets about the time I spent with this person. Most have to do with pain I know I caused. I have since forgiven him for his part. I know we are good people at the core who were hurting and did not know how to heal at the time. I hate that I made that time in his life worse for him, I hate that he made that time in my life worse for me. I have gratitude for light in that time that we both brought each other because it was not all dark. We were never friends though. That is the only relationship I have ever been able to say that about. I have been friends with every person I ever dated except for him. During our relationship we were never friends. We were just two lost souls sharing space.

It bothers me a little bit that I am coming back to this. I moved past it quite a while ago. I guess there are still pieces of me holding this pain somewhere buried deep though. Tonight I show them love and light. I send the parts of him that I injured love and light. I send the younger versions of ourselves who caused each other so much pain love and light.

There are things I regret about that time in my life but I would not change any of it. That darkness was meant to be. I hate that this is my truth but it is. We all have to show up in our darkness at times in our life to truly get to place where we are in our light. I grateful for his part in my journey and my part in his. I think we both moved on to better places of true love and comfort and that is all I could ask for either one of us.

 

The Bruising Hour

bruising-hour

The further I move along with social work and my own personal therapy the more I have begun to understand that the things going on in our lives are not as arbitrary as we would like to believe. The more in touch with my own story I become, the more I begin to see patterns I never noticed, and the more I tune in to my own patterns, the more I notice the patterns of others.

For example, when someone tells me they don’t like something I know there is a strong possibility that there is an underlying story there. My hubs does not like cinnamon. Why? Because when he was younger he was forced to make cinnamon ornaments and hated it and the smell has bothered him ever since. It might seem silly but this little thing that happened when he was a kid forever changed how he feels about this common house hold spice.

As far back as I can remember I have disliked late afternoon between roughly 3 and 4 o’clock. I never had an answer for why but then I was thinking about all of this a few weeks ago (symbols and patterns in life) and I started free writing. I realized I was playing with words and word association. Here is what I wrote..

It is the bruising hour. The peak of frustration.
3 o’clock
3:00
300
300 degrees..
Way past the boiling point, it is getting ready to blow.

Then I realized that a lot of the physical trauma my body has experienced throughout my life took place in the late afternoon.

There is a book by Bessel van der Kolk (that I admit I have not actually read yet because I do not feel ready) that apparently talks about how our bodies remember what our brains sometimes allow to stash away and try to forget. The book is called The Body Keeps the Score.

This word play I created helped me make an connection to something I did not understand and that is, my dislike for this time of day is not arbitrary. There is a very good reason in fact for why this time of day puts me in a negative mood at times, or makes me feel worn down, or even nauseous. It is because somewhere inside of me I am still holding on to the trauma that took place and this time of day is a daily reminder of those experiences.

I am not something that every preference or distaste for something  we have in life has such deep roots, but somethings do.

Doing this work has really opened my eyes in relation to my own work but also in terms of helping current and future clients with their own. There are a lot of patterns and symbolism in our lives, if we wake up to it all we may learn a lot more about ourselves and how we experience the world around us.