Trauma

Pieces They Left Behind

atoz-theme-reveal-2016 v2

Last April, I participated in the scintillating madness that is the April A to Z. I accepted the challenge to write 26 posts, each corresponding with a letter of the alphabet and now I’m going back for more. For my A to Z 2016 Challenge I am combining my love for visual and musical storytelling with my passion for words.

I’ve been experimenting with poetry for a little over two years and while the adventure has been wonderful and reviews have been encouraging, I know that many of my poems don’t reach the emotional depths I would like them too.

Here in this space I write a lot about honouring our emotions, about allowing ourselves to sit with the darkness, kicking at it until it bleeds light, but truth be told, the complete vulnerability and surrender that any sort of healing needs, is still difficult for me to give in to.

It is my intention with this year’s A to Z to reach deep down to the dark, murky, frightening depths with both hands and pull hard against what needs to be uprooted, clearing away the weeds and plastic debris that are stunting my growth. It is my hope that by April 30th, I would have come to a greater understanding and acceptance of the dark emotions I keep at bay and become more welcoming and appreciative of them.

My A to Z Blogging Challenge Theme:

Pieces They Left Behind: Poems inspired by Movies about Addiction & Absolution

Do I Deserve to Be Happy?

Claudia Tremblay

Artwork by Claudia Tremblay

“It’s as if you won’t allow yourself to be at peace, because you don’t think you deserve it. When will you begin to understand the preciousness of your own life?” ~ Richard from Texas, Liz Gilbert

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I held myself back for so long. For years I knew without a doubt that I could have a better life. I could be healthier, more focused, embrace all that life had to offer, and grow. But self-sabotage walked hand in hand with any progress I made and I always ended up kicking myself for not following through on plans to exercise, connect more with family, stand up for myself, take care of my skin or hair or home. I’d make all these great plans and then never act on them. Then I’d beat myself up for not trying, end up filling my life with people and things that were wrong for me, and then tell myself I wasn’t worth it anyway.

Allowing ourselves to grow has a lot to do with learning how to be accountable for our actions, accepting ourselves as we are and believing that we are worth investing in. It is also, particularly for those who made as many mistakes as I have, a great deal about forgiveness. While I’d come to terms with a lot of my mistakes and I’ve learned how to own them, self-forgiveness is something that I find challenging. It is one thing to know that I deserve to forgive myself and it is another thing to actually do it. I have come a long way since Feb 2014, and even though I get frustrated with myself sometimes for not “growing fast enough”, I also know that life’s lessons take their time and are given to us when it is time for us to learn them. I have to remind myself often, to be gentle with my thoughts and self-judgments, and to treat myself with care.

In my last post I wrote about finding a way to let go of the hurtful aspects of my relationship with my father. Through guidance in a metaphysical workshop I was able to let go of difficult memories of certain aspects of our relationship and deepen the healthy connections we do have. The workshop was geared toward helping us to release relationships and energetic connections that no longer serve us.

After the ebb and flow and relief of the first letting go, I settled myself in and breathed deeply, allowing whoever / whatever I was supposed to let go of next, to present itself to me.

Expecting to see an ex-boyfriend, or a shadowy image of a traumatic experience from the past, I was startled beyond belief when I recognized the two figures walking toward me. It was an adorable little girl and a beautiful, confident young woman, holding hands and smiling. The little girl was Little Phoenix, my toddler self. She was the one who I hid from because I felt that I’d let her down. I was ashamed that the innocent, bright eyed and hopeful little girl had turned into someone who I thought was out of control, ugly and a mess. I couldn’t look at photos of myself as little girl because I felt so far removed from that child, and so ruined. I’ve made my peace with that which is why I was surprised to see her walking toward me. The young woman she was holding hands with was me when I was in my twenties. She’s the one I call That Girl, and she was incredibly passionate, strong-willed, determined, brash and bold. She was also in a lot of pain and numbed that pain in all the wrong ways. I was bound to her, to that part of me, because of all the rough stuff we experienced together and the rebellion and reckless behaviour that came afterward because of it.

So there I was in the middle of the workshop, approached by two younger versions of myself, who evidently had something to say. I was confused. What was going on? Why would I need to sever ties with myself? Maybe I didn’t understand the instructions.

While Little Phoenix smiled and twirled her yellow dress, That Girl studied me. Without any sign of accusation or judgment on her face and with only love in her eyes, she said “We forgive youIt is okay to move on and to get better. You are not abandoning us. I am happy for you and for us, that you are finally building the life that you deserve. It is time and you can let go.”

I broke down. I had not realized that I’d been holding on to her so tightly. From a sense of responsibility or perhaps it was attachment to the familiar, I felt that to truly move on would mean that I would be leaving that side of me behind. That I would forget and to be honest, I didn’t want to forget the person I was underneath all the drinking and self-sabotaging behaviour. We had shared so much. In some way I needed her too.

But I understood. I needed to release all the painful experiences we went through… that I went through when I was that age. I needed to forgive myself for everything that happened after. I needed to trust that the best parts of me grew and are still growing, from the worst experiences. Those parts are with me now and I have been made stronger for it. It was time to move on. I took a deep breath and smiled through my tears. Little Phoenix giggled as That Girl lifted her into her arms, and they turned and walked away, leaving me with a very large lump in my throat and a heart filled with joy.

~*~

“Oh darling, it’s OK that you faltered…that you engaged in a destructive behaviour that was not in keeping with your true values. You did it to dull the pain, diminish the anger. But you realised that it still lay there…pressed further down. Let it Come Up a thousand times, again & again. Let it Rise…and Drift Away.” Patrice Charles

~*~

“How shall I go in peace and without sorrow? Nay, not without a wound in the spirit shall I leave this city. Long were the days of pain I have spent within its walls, and long were the nights of aloneness; and who can depart from his pain and his aloneness without regret? To many fragments of the spirit have I scattered in these streets, and too many are the children of my onging that walk naked among these hills, and I cannot withdraw from them without a burden and an ache. It is not a garment I cast off this day, but a skin that I tear with my own hands. Nor is it a thought I leave behind me, but a heart made sweet with hunger and thirst.” ~ Khalil Gibran

~*~

On February 6th 2014, four days after I stopped drinking alcohol, I started this blog. My two-year soberversary is fast approaching and my January posts, inspired by fictional philosophers who’ve inspired me with their bad-ass thoughts, is a way of celebrating my journey. I hope, in turn, to inspire you on yours.

Trauma

Korra Katara Healing 2

Katara: I can help guide your healing process, but whether you get better or not is up to you. I know what it’s like to go through a traumatic experience. And I promise you, if you dedicate yourself to getting better, you’ll recover, stronger than ever. The mind can be a powerful ally, or your greatest enemy.

Korra: I am trying to understand why this happened to me, but nothing makes any sense! I’m tired, Katara. I’m so tired.

Katara: Korra, I know you feel alone right now. But you’re not the first Avatar who’s had to overcome great suffering. Can you imagine how much pain Aang felt when he learned that his entire culture was taken from him? But he never let it destroy his spirit. He chose to find meaning in his suffering and eventually … found peace.

Korra: And … what am I going to find if I get through this?

Katara: I don’t know. But won’t it be interesting to find out?

Very upsetting, frightening, or traumatic events that happen to us, or that threatened or hurt someone we love are very powerful incidents that affect daily life. They are usually defined as experiences which are life threatening, or where there is a significant threat to one’s physical or psychological wellbeing. For example: physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; neglect; war experiences; outbursts of temper and rage; alcoholism (your own or in your family); physical illnesses, surgeries, and disabilities in your family; loss of close family members and friends; natural disasters; accidents.

When these kinds of things happen, we may not “get over” them quickly. In fact, we may feel the effects of these traumas for many years, even for the rest of our lives. Traumatic events result in frightening, distressing, and sometimes disabling emotional symptoms such as phobias, anxiety, depression, delusions, flashbacks, and dis-associative behaviour. Sometimes we don’t even notice effects right after the trauma happens. Years later we may begin having bothersome thoughts, nightmares, and other disturbing symptoms. We may develop these symptoms and not even remember the traumatic thing or things that once happened to us.

Some things that may be very distressing to one person hardly seem to bother another person. If something bothers you a lot and it doesn’t bother someone else, it doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you. People respond to trauma differently. The impact of an event may be related to the person’s mental and physical health, level of available support at the time of the event, and past experience and coping skills. As much as possible try not to trivialize your feelings about what happened to you, because you think others have or had it worse than you. Every experience you have is personal to you and how you feel about it matters.

As likely as it is that traumatic events can have debilitating repercussions, it is also as likely, that we make a conscious choice to ignore what happened. I know for me, I told myself that it did not happen. Just matter of factly, and very firmly, told myself that it did not happen. Unfortunately, in denying myself the opportunity to deal with the event, my emotions sought an outlet. And in the end it was not a healthy one. I turned all the anger, pain and confusion over what happened me, inward. Because I was ashamed and told myself that I was to blame, I was not very kind to my self, my mind or my body in a myriad of ways: binge drinking, obsessive compulsive behaviour, smoking, disrespecting my body, having unhealthy relationships, etc. The list is long. I’m sure you can imagine.

The year before I quit drinking, I started thinking and talking about what happened, but only when I was pretty intoxicated. Seemed like the story was trying to get out and be dealt with. Perhaps my authentic self had had enough. For whatever reason, when I finally quit drinking and started actively dealing with all the things I believed were at the root of the reason for my addictive personality, I had to come to terms with what happened. I did. I still am. It was a big step learning to accept what happened. The second step: not thinking that it was my fault was a lot harder, but the more love and understanding I showed myself, the easier it was to let go of self-blame. The third step: Learning and growing from the entire experience, is a work in progress. It will take some time but I know I will get there.

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” C.S. Lewis

Love and light,
Phoenix

~*~

In coming terms with a traumatic event, Mary Ellen Copeland, Ph.D recommends that we begin with the following:

  1. When you are traumatized, you lose control of your life. You may feel like you still don’t have any control over your life. You have to take back that control by being in charge of every aspect of your life. Others, including your spouse, family members, friends and health care professionals will try to tell you what to do. Before you do it, think about it carefully. Do you feel that it is the best thing for you to do right now? If not, you should not do it. It is important that you make decisions about your own life.
  2. Talk to one or more people about what happened to you. Make sure it is a person or people who understand that what happened to you is serious and that describing it over and over again to another person is part of the healing process. It should not be a person who says something like: “That wasn’t so bad;” “You should just forget about it;” “Forgive and forget;” or “You think that’s bad, let me tell you what happened to me.” You will know when you have described it enough, because you won’t feel like doing it anymore. Writing about it in your journal also helps a lot.
  3. You may not feel close to anyone. You may feel like there is no one you can trust. Begin now to develop close relationships with another person. Think about the person in your life that you like best. Invite them to do something fun with you. If that feels good, make a plan to do something else together at another time, maybe the following week. Keep doing this until you feel close to this person. Then, without giving up on that person, start developing a closer relationship with another person. Keep doing this until you have close relationships with at least five people. Support groups and peer support centers are good places to meet people.
  4. If you possibly can, work with a counselor or join a group for people who have been traumatized.

If you are having difficulty dealing with a traumatic experience this website offers tips on managing psychological trauma and can point you in the right direction: https://www.psychology.org.au/publications/tip_sheets/trauma/

~*~

This is Post T, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is in an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.