It’s hard to believe six months has passed since my full two-week return to work. My crash and burn moment. The all-knowing response of my mind and body telling me “accept that your life will never look anything like it once did. Twist, toil, and hope all you want; life evolves, whether you like it or not.” I had to know. I could no longer go through life saying, “I can’t” without truly knowing this to be true. It only took a day; a need to know turning into a need to prove and be accepted. Ignore the pain. Embrace purpose. Chase the money. Honestly believing I could somehow morph into a previous version of myself. In many ways I did, but my body was having no part of it. Every day I worked, was another brick added to the weight of pain and anxiety, I carry daily. The idea of doing something – accomplishing something, had me fired up. My mind was amped with energy – overpowering what was happening to my body. But then…. It happened swiftly, my body overpowered the ego rush of accomplishment.
Acceptance & Understanding
I awoke one morning to find myself frozen in place. My back, from thoracic to cervical spine, consistently in excruciating pain and now… my lumbar had completely seized my ability to stand and walk. Locked me in place in the shape of an upside-down “L.” The pain alone was devastating but the humiliation of my son helping me out of bed and into my clothes, nearly destroyed me. It might have, if my anxious mind hadn’t stepped in to point out how much of an epic failure I am, was, and always will be. Leaving me swimming in disappointment, while desperately grasping for the chance to overcome the chaos. In the end, I was left sobbing, a pathetic mess of a human being desperately needing someone to understand. Seeking acceptance and understanding in the eyes of a stranger – a momentary acquaintance.
So, I find myself back here – always seeking acceptance and understanding in the eyes of others. A lifetime driven by the need to please and achieve replaced by the anxious need for understanding. Knowing at the depth of my soul that no one could ever understand.
Today is a perfect example of what I cannot explain – what I cannot put true words to. I’ve spent the last six days (and every week prior) actively pursuing peace and healing. I have these moments – I call them meltdowns – the experts call them “emotional flashbacks.” Something I have suffered through and with for as long as I can remember; though I never had a name for it. I simply viewed these moments as the lowest moments of my life – momentary reminders of how flawed I really am and always have been.
Triggers – that’s the word they use. It’s a moment – a blink of an eye – a flash of light often unseen and always unwelcome. An energy hidden deep inside, hiding in the pain and darkness of past hurts – deep wounds. Patiently awaiting an appropriate time to RISE UP – cautiously navigating the water of perception and implication. Reading every tone, look, and word – happily viewing the communication of others through murky glasses of fear and shame. Though I am now mindful of my triggers, and the source of most, I often do not see the warning signs of what’s to come. The nightmare of physical and emotional pain bathed in the shame and condemnation of my inner critic. Holding me hostage! Picking at old wounds and leaving new scars. Disgust in a tone. Disappointment in a look. Disdain in one’s words. My Father’s voice – the guttural growl. My Mother’s voice – oozing with disgust and disappointment. The feeling of overwhelming abandonment. Left alone with the pain of it all. Then and now.
Source of Pain
Left with the vision of my Mom punishing repeatedly. For what? I was a good girl, right? That’s what she said, but there I am; 5-years old – punished for wetting the bed. Made to clean my sheets in a washtub full of hot water and bleach. Screamed at the entire time for “not being good enough.” That’s what I heard anyway – that’s what I felt. Recurring visions from 9-years old on, of my Mom towering over me, hand held high – me, patiently waiting to be smacked or back-handed. I deserved it. Right? I was no good – she was teaching me to be better. To be good. But why? What was wrong with me? I cared too much. I felt too much. I questioned too much. I wondered too much. Simply put; I was punished for being “me.”
I honestly couldn’t tell you how often my Mom treated me like a wounded and hated dog. But I can tell you, I made every effort to take control of the situation. Keeping my mouth shut – my tears and feelings buried deep. I stepped in with ease as my own caretaker – leaving her to live the life she so desperately craved. I would manage my life; our life, and I would do it in a way that would please her. If I made every effort to bend to her will, she would have no reason to lash out in anger.
This approach worked beautifully on the good days but on the bad, there was nothing I could do. Sadly, my approach at self-care involved stepping in as disciplinarian – my darkest secret! At 9-years old, I started punishing myself – smacking myself in the face, hitting myself in the head, and slamming my head against the wall. I couldn’t see it then, but I see it now. When something or someone triggers the feelings of disgust and shame placed within me by my Mom, I instantly flashback and find myself taking the place of my Mother. And the little girl lost, is left spinning in a fog of chaos, confusion, and discontent. Always seeking. Never trusting. Always rebuilding!
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
“Train up a child in the way he should go; Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Photo by Rob Potter