Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Healing from trauma

Today's post is written by a close friend of mine. She didn't feel ready to put it on her own blog, but said I could share it on mine.

Life is a journey and like any long trip, often we encounter pitfalls. Sometimes those pitfalls leave deep scars on our souls and it can take years, even a lifetime, to heal. If we are fortunate, we are able to share a leg of our journey with someone who understands something of the road we have walked, because they have walked it too. And the empathy and compassion borne of that shared experience allows the balm of healing to penetrate that much deeper, and before we know it we are walking taller and breathing deeper because our load is suddenly lighter.

My friend, it has been a gift and an honor to walk with you.

*  *  *  *  *

Here is her post:

I was sexually traumatized when I was young. Very young. And I’m not going to say abused or molested. Because regardless of the actual insult, the injury left behind was trauma. I have been traumatized now for years – for decades, this trauma defining the entire path my life has taken in ways I could not and would not see, but that guided me purposefully and powerfully always, protecting and supporting me in ways that are just short of being as fully destructive as the trauma itself.

When I first experienced the trauma, I stopped breathing. And then mostly I just stopped breathing out. And I withdrew as deep and far inside of myself as possible, wanting to be a certain kind of invisible. With all that trouble breathing, I got a breathing disease, asthma, and my inability to breathe well and oxygenate my body, left me as sick and tired as I was feeling emotionally anyway. And I got sick a lot, my body expressing the discomfort that had no other outlet.

I did ok. Until I turned about 12 or 13. And then boys my age and older, and even men noticed me differently. And the need to be invisible to that kind of attention was a force beyond any other. So I became invisible the best way I knew how, which was to become fat. It was the one thing my father just hated, so I knew it would work. I mostly stopped getting the kind of attention I didn’t want and couldn’t handle, but I was so uncomfortable with my body. I didn’t like being fat. So I ate a lot, but the bulimia compensated for a lot of that crazy eating. Still. I didn’t feel like myself, and I didn’t like what I was becoming. And I didn’t like anyone else much either.

And then I went off to college, where I could reinvent myself. And I thought maybe the problem was just men, and that relationship with women would make things better. But it took absolutely no time at all to realize that I am not attracted to women sexually in even the teensy tiniest way. So I figured I was just that rare individual that wasn’t really going to connect that way. I had already decided years earlier I didn’t want to marry or have children, so what difference did it make anyway?

Then I found G*d. And I don’t mean that facetiously or in some evangelical way. And I didn’t find G*d – G*d actually found me. Which changed everything. For the first time I felt totally loved and accepted and where I belonged. So I threw myself completely into the discipline that introduced me to this G*d. And my new spiritual practice came along with the notion of celibacy as the highest sort of virtue and surrender. So now I had a whole community of people supporting my choice to be invisible sexually, and believing that choice was a divine one.

Which made me feel a lot better about how bad I was feeling. It just never made me feel good. Feeling better is not at all the same as feeling good when the twisted seed of trauma bears the bitterest fruit in all sorts of convoluted ways in your life.

But I was willing to accept better for the longest time. And then my father committed suicide. At the too-young age of 49, leaving behind so much devastation, and me, who finally felt free of the burden of his existence. Which made me realize that ‘better’ wasn’t going to be enough anymore.

So I ventured out a bit beyond the strict discipline of the choices I thought were required of me and tried things on my own. And had some fun, did some exploring, and even tried relationships with men. But I was mostly disappointed, mostly in myself. And I didn’t think my decisions and choices and life reflected any sort of improvement. So I dove back in head first, not breathing again, giving up everything in hopes of recovering myself.

I took on even more responsibility for becoming an angel, a human so connected to G*d that their humanness is transformed into divinity. And as I did, I felt more and more suffocated, more and more constrained by trying to do what I though I must to redeem myself from the awfulness I felt most of the time. I was naughty, wanting to cheat on the rules I’d agreed to live by, rules I was certain were useful, but that I couldn’t bear anymore.

And I knew that burying the trauma, the horrible, overwhelming feelings of being humiliated and shamed and betrayed, the certain knowledge that no one would help or protect me, the cynical detachment of knowing that no other human being could be trusted, just wasn’t a workable solution anymore.

I stumbled across a new community, a group of souls who were wrestling with their own humanity, but without the certainty of the answers I thought I had. And because of their own struggles and uncertainty, they were warm and inviting and accepting in the most wonderfully human ways. Which I’d had no value for before, never exposed myself honestly to anyone before. And I didn’t trust fully, and I didn’t trust a lot, and it didn’t all turn out roses, but from where I had been? It was a stunning change.

I just had to give up trying so hard to overcome the horrible feelings eroding my sense of self for so many years. And I stopped being so certain of the exact right things I must do every moment of every day to make things ok. And I surrendered the glorious spiritual vision of my divine future for the much more humble reality of daily life.

I returned home after 25 years to let all this settle, to use the great gifts t of my spiritual experience in ways that I know are personally meaningful, to take support of family and friends and community who are willing to be there just because that’s what they do, and to get comfortable with myself. I returned home after 25 years because being invisible was killing me, and whatever was taken from me so many years ago as a small girl, I’m taking back.

I have been unnerved and emotionally overcome and unable to share most of this ever. With anyone. And it isn’t getting much easier just yet. Right now, in fact, it feels harder than ever. I find myself in tears which is kind of horrfying. And I’m having a hard time focusing or paying too much attention. And talking about this helps just a little, but not nearly as much as you’d think. Though feeling anything at all feels like progress. And at least now I can breathe – literally and figuratively. So I know it’s getting better. And I know that good is next.

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  1. Thank you for being brave enough to share this. I am glad for you that you are going back to reclaim yourself. You deserve that, and so much more. You are strong to have survived all that you have.

  2. Wow. Thank you so much for trusting us with your trauma. You write beautifully and you are clearly very strong. I hope coming home helps you find your authentic self.
    Give yourself permission to shine.

  3. What a terrible wrong has been done to you! I hope you can face your tormentor one day, even though he is dead, and tell him just how selfish he had been. But that you forgive him!
    Thanks for sharing! Glad you are reclaiming your life!

  4. I wish you strength and the happiness you deserve.

  5. That is some strong, and beautiful, writing right there. May you take strength from this first step, and use it to take many more steps in your journey...

  6. I wish you the peace and happiness you seek.

  7. I recognised some of what you said from my own life. I hope this next stage in dealing with your trauma brings you even more release and freedom (to breath) than you expected. I know it will be of help to others in their journeys to read what you have shared.
    Thanks for letting it be shared on Wanderlust.

  8. I have no words just tears to shed on your behalf. xxx

  9. I have cried those same terrifying black tears that threated to consume you. I have creid to the point of blackout and then woken again with a wailing from my soul. But once the gates have been opened and the pain has rushed out, there is space for the light to creep in.
    And then slowly, ever so slowly, the light grows and squeezes out what is left of the pain.

    I still hurt. A lot. But I am happy more.

    You will get there too. I know you will.


  10. Thank you for taking the time to share your supportive comments. My friend wanted me to pass along her gratitude as well. She said that she deeply appreciates your concern and that you took the time to read and accept what she wrote, and comment on her story. She spoke of the healing that comes from that seemingly simple exchange.

    Having shared my own painful stories and having had the experience of receiving the incredible acceptance and support of the blog community, I know just what she means.

    If you're ever in need, don't be afraid to reach out. And when you are feeling stronger, pay it forward. x

  11. Your post evokes such strong emotions in me. Rage - that a person you should have been able to trust implicitly, a person who should've been your rock, your protector, your hero - abused his role in the worst way possible & shattered your entire life.
    And absolute respect & admiration - that you have been able to go on at all, survived & made an effort to find a path through the deep darkness, betrayal, pain & despair.
    You are so much stronger than you probably feel & so brave to share your story - even anonymously.
    I wish you peace & light & one day, to know pure, unclouded happiness.
    Be kind to yourself xoxo

  12. Sometimes finding others who have wrestle with the same demons because knowing we aren't alone and that it's okay to struggle is empowering.

    Good luck to you love in confronting your past and wrestling your demons love.

  13. I guess healing is always a journey and never a destination but I hope you are every day getting nearer and nearer...


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