No matter how long I’ve spent running from healing, hoping it wouldn’t have to happen to me, and wishing the need to do it would just leave me alone, eventually I couldn’t look anywhere else anymore, and the need to heal was staring me dramatically, and somewhat intrusively, in the face. The healing did begin to happen and it was not a patch on what I thought it would be. It’s more terrifying but way more okay. It’s so unbelievably painful and seemingly neverending, but somehow I always know I’m on the right path because the clarity and compassion that follows, and lives alongside this process, just continues to blow my mind. I taught myself to heal, even though I had no idea what to do…I followed the words from others, I learnt what worked for me and what didn’t (and I’m still learning), and I continually noticed how what I had done to cope before – self destruct – was a no, no, right from the beginning of this journey, onwards.
Below is a piece I wrote about this experience of beginning to heal, for the project This Place Is Yours.
I’ll be contacting you lot for stories for the project, because I sure would love it if you wanted to have your words on the site. And I know all the other readers would too. See the site for more details, but I will be in touch.
I have had a niggling feeling that I’ve needed to ‘break down’ and begin to heal for a long time. I heard it over and over from people around me over the last few years too. The thought of even a tiny bit of crumbling and beginning to heal, terrified me beyond belief, so I shoved my niggle away, and frowned at someone who reassured me that I could allow myself to crumble. I thought it wouldn’t need to happen to me – I’d be able to avoid the messy break down thing. I thought I’d never need to look at all the dark, twisted and terrifying stuff that’s happened in my life – why on earth would I want to spend time digging up and looking over all that? Surely I could just leave that and never look at it again?
But I didn’t ‘get it’ then. I do now. I didn’t know how it could ever be safe for me to allow myself to heal. I now know that it is. I didn’t know that in order to live a life of health, this kind of healing has to happen. I now understand, that I have had to fall apart to be able to put myself back together. Repeated trauma from the age of three, left me wondering whether I even had a voice – it had gone so quiet. I now know I do have one, and it is booming. After a lifetime of abuse and neglect on top of this trauma, I believed that with any glimpse of my voice I did find, it was best held on mute. I now know that this couldn’t be further from the truth.
It has taken me so long to realise quite how fucked up things in my life has been and just how much shitty stuff is needing to heal. Somewhere beneath the painfully violent, self-destructive coping, I was doing to manage my teenage years and early twenties, there was a part of me that knew how ‘wrong’ my homelife was, but I was too terrified to listen to this truth that lay within me. Instead it took constant confirmation from a therapist, to really start to believe that what went down during my childhood and early adult years, was heartbreakingly twisted and deserved to be healed. I am still afraid to truly connect with some parts of my story but instead of pushing this process, I am doing the rest of the connecting, slowly and gently and with unconditional compassion towards the wounded parts of myself. Because anything else still just scares the crap outta me.
I created a bubble of beauty around my childhood in an aim to protect me, and it. Two summers ago, I was hit by my boss and this was the beginning of my bubble bursting – watching other peoples reaction alongside to mine, made me realise this kind of thing wasn’t normal. To me it was. From then, my story began to unravel – outwards and inwards – and I began to spiral down, lonely and scared, until I was nose-to-nose with the pain that had been bubbling beneath the surface for so so many years. A few months later, I found the first long-term therapist I’ve ever had and continue to work with now.
Therapy changed everything for me, but it also brought me to my knees. I sat for hours on the couch, spilling out my life, week after week. I watched as my therapist frequently teared up at stories I would tell; I felt amazed, and worried, by the constant discovering that the bits of my story I didn’t think to be that bad, were actually the most traumatic bits; I watched as I was heard for the first time in my life; I felt the relief and the pain as I finally got to tell someone all the stories I’d kept wrapped up inside; I felt angry I hadn’t had this support since the early age of three, when it all began to go to pot; I began to wonder how on earth I had gotten through all those years up until that point.
All this talking was the beginning of the healing. In place of this bubble of protection that had been there for all those years, a fiery PTSD was born. It had been simmering for a few months, but after overdosing four months into my therapy journey, the PTSD exploded into a painful mess. My whole life was there, riggling around my traumatised body and sitting right in front of my eyes, with no break, day or night. I had no other means of escape anymore. I had used up every self-destructive coping mechanism I could do. After overdosing I made a pact to myself that that was the end of my self-destruct. So instead I chose to stare my long history of trauma in the face and begin to get to know myself in the most painful, terrifying, isolating, bizarre, and seemingly endless, states.
This explosion of mess has taken a year to settle and is continuing to. For the last 14 months, my full time job has been Me. Following the overdose, I have done nothing but focus on my healing. The first half of these 14 months was me finding my way with this: learning how to do it; beginning to trust that it is okay, safe, and essential; slowly undo-ing the pattern of living in trauma, from myself or others; learning that it is safe to live a life of health; and breaking the pattern I’d been so deeply taught by my mother, by learning to believe I deserve it. As this art of dedicated self-care clicked, it has been like one long retreat. Painful but beautiful. Isolating but reaffirming. And I know that I couldn’t be doing anything else.
Yesterday I read a line in a book about personal experiences with healing from PTSD, and smiled at the truth of it: “my baseline of awful will never be the same again”. My baseline for awful will never be the same, but neither will my baseline for beauty. The more I tap into the pain, the more I feel the joy. This is what reminds me I’m on the right road. My fragility and sensitivity is one that leaves me deeply worried, concerned and frightened at how long I will be like this, but my soul knows this stripping back, getting to know my shadows, and all this healing needs to happen in order for me to live a life of health.
There are a million words to describe this time that’s passed, but right now they are nowhere to be seen. There are so many steps I’ve taken along this road that have been so fundamental, and huge, that I will forever remember them. But most of all, it’s the little steps every day that seem to matter the most. I go further and deeper into my healing labyrinth, I get to know more corners of hell but I also get to know more corners of myself. And the elements that are growing alongside this process – the self-love, the compassion, the mindfulness, the mind-body connection – are the things that make me glow inside.
I’ve stepped off the shore of self destruct and I’m swimming in the ocean of healing. Sometimes I catch glimpses of the horizon or the foundation of health that’s growing within myself, and I know I’m headed in the right direction. Other times I feel like I’m lost in the white water of a messy wave, having lost sight of up or down so all I can do it is let go and roll with it, trusting I’ll come up for air at some point soon. Other times I get my metaphorical surfboard and kick the shit outta whatever wave hits, riding it until it smoothes to little ripples. And sometimes I just cry and add more water to the mix.