Owning It

I have no intention of spending my entire adult life healing from my past, but I do have every intention of doing the work as thoroughly and deeply as I can for as long as it takes because I AM worth it. In the rooms of AA I have often heard it said that at 5 years the “real work” starts. I have to assume that means 5 years is around the time people start figuring out what the Hell happened in their lives to cause them to seek solace in a substance to begin with. There are those who strictly feel that nothing happened and they were born with the gene. That may be true for them. I am certain I was born with that gene. My family is full of alcoholics and addicts. Throw some “complex trauma” into the mix and I really didn’t stand a chance. Gene or no gene. As many times as I have been in therapy in my life, never have I ever addressed that complex trauma. Until recently. The complex trauma I am referring to is ongoing childhood sexual abuse. Things that were never my fault, but affected me for a lifetime. I’ve eluded to it here before but never came right out with the words. Because they are hard words to write about. I know the statistics, and I know that I am NOT the only one. Not even close. I am not writing about it for sympathy, I am writing about it because sharing my truth with the world is the best thing I can do for ME. I won’t go into details, but I will say that it seemed to me like I grew up with a stamp on my head indicating that I was the one to be used in this way. I was the one. It was OK to do these things to me. And I always wondered why. I thought something was wrong with me. I KNEW something was wrong with me. Today I know that this is just the way it goes with a child who has been sexually abused. We are either stuck in the vibration of being a victim or our body language changes in such a way that we are an easy target. And it happens again and again. To so many children. I’ve always been resistant to processing it in therapy, because I am an adult and these were things from my childhood. It seemed silly for me to go back and dig shit up. Especially since I didn’t necessarily think it was still affecting me. But, then those repressed memories started flooding back and I really had no choice. I have talked about EMDR therapy before and the fact that I suck at it. I wish I could process that way, because it seems like a quicker solution to me. I always say I suck at EMDR, but the reality is that I don’t suck at it, I just don’t seem to process that way. I happen to be really good at psychodynamic therapy. Maybe I’m even the best at it. Because that’s important. 😉 Two weeks ago my therapist and I were talking about some things that were “heavy.” That’s the only way I can describe how it feels to process those events. It feels like heavy energy weighing down on me. It’s shame. I know that today. I still have a lot of shame associated with that abuse. Intellectually, I KNOW that it’s not mine to carry and that I didn’t do anything wrong, but emotionally, it’s still there. Sometimes more so than others. This was one of those days. I left her office feeling bad about myself. I didn’t share that with her at the time. I drove myself straight to the tattoo shop. I just knew I needed a new tattoo right then and there. I was so disappointed when the tattoo shop was closed. This ended up being a blessing in disguise. I didn’t see it at that moment. It gave me an opportunity to figure out exactly what that need was about. At first I thought it meant I felt the need to hurt myself. But, now I realize that I just wanted to feel something different than what I was feeling. I have spent a lifetime wanting to feel something different than I was feeling. I am in no way against getting more tattoos, but I do realize impulsivity is something I need to be aware of. I really thought I was past that need to escape and I was good to go with “sitting with my feelings.” That experience was an eye opener for me and a reminder of what recovery is all about. It’s about healing on every level. It’s about being with uncomfortable experiences and staying present. I am not sure when those feelings of shame go away. I have read every Brené Brown book. I have read John Bradshaw’s books. I have a full understanding of how shame works. I just haven’t quite figured out how to completely move past it. I do all the reading, writing, meditating, energy work, therapy and body work. It isn’t a feeling that’s constantly there. But, when it hits, it hits hard as feelings of unworthiness. That’s a feeling that’s hard to sit with. I’ve heard the phrase “feelings aren’t facts” and it rings true here. I am worthy, simply because I AM. My hope is that sharing my truth is a step toward letting go of shame and a step toward empowerment. Empowerment is where it’s at.

Heal the Child

The moment when you realize you named your business after your inner 16 year old rebel girl. Yeah. That moment happened for me a few months ago.  I have always been aware that there was a part of me that was eager to jump out in front and handle things for me. An angry girl that is reactive and maybe more than slightly pissed. A Rebel Soul. She needs love. Now I know WHY she is there. I am going to take this back a bit. In the last blog I mentioned how I don’t like to talk about the REAL things with my therapist. I prefer to share my joy and happiness. You can read it here.  After I wrote that, I knew I had things that I needed to share. I began having terrible dreams, all involving some kind of trauma to my throat. A clear indication that I needed to communicate, but either couldn’t or wouldn’t. I emailed that blog to my therapist. Wouldn’t you know that the next time I walked in she wasn’t so quick to let me breeze through. Which is great, because I needed that push. Almost as soon as our session started, she asked me to close my eyes and then focus on my breath as I entered a meditative state. She took me through a guided meditation where we invited my own inner children into a conference room. I invited them all to sit at a table with me. It seemed weird and I felt vulnerable, but I kept an open mind and went with it. A few little Shannons came into the room and just wanted to play. They didn’t want to talk and they were genuinely happy and playful little children. Then an older child came into the room. A 12 year old me. She stood near the wall, barely inside the room. She didn’t want to be there. She was fearful and didn’t want to come to the table. My therapist asked if there was someone I could invite in that would make the little girl more comfortable. This is where shit got real. I wasn’t prepared for any of this. Little 12 year old me asked an older version to come join us. She was about 16. A rebel girl who came right in and sat down at the table. She was pissed and didn’t want to be there. She didn’t want to talk to the 12 year old and she didn’t feel like she should even have to be there. If you have never done any inner child healing work, this is probably extremely weird for you. I get it. I am doing the work and it was weird for me too. In the space of that conference room, where I was supposed to be the adult talking to those children, I got pulled into the role of 12 year old me. It sucked so bad. She was in a lot of pain. A lot of things happened to her that should never happen to a child. Sitting on that couch that day EVERY BIT of it came back and my entire body hurt. Physically. Some memories came up and came pouring out of me. Things that I have never said out loud or written about. It was the most uncomfortable experience I have had on that couch.   But, we made it through. Over the next few days, I began to make sense of it all. My process is slow, but oh so thorough. That 12 year old me wanted the older child in the room because she is her voice and her protector. That rebel girl who will tell anyone to fuck right on off is the voice that the younger girl didn’t have. She can say no to anyone at anytime. The rebel girl is pissed that she even has to be there because she thinks none of this should have ever happened to the younger girl in the first place. She’s absolutely right, but here we are anyway. WOW. Mind Blown. Really. I was 12 years old when I started getting high. I smoked pot, huffed cleaning products and took any pill I could get my hands on. Escaping my reality. I completely ignored that little girl. I pushed her to the side and pushed through. My heart hurts for her. She needs love and compassion. She feels very broken and unlovable. She is terrified of everything, but my God is she tough. Every unhealthy coping mechanism she ever picked up was a survival tool and not only did she survive, she is thriving today. It took her a long time, but she grew up and she is figuring all of this out. She is not unlovable and she is not broken. She has a voice now. She is healing. My therapist and I talked about how I can work with these “inner children” and get to know their wants and needs. She believes that once I connect to them and learn how to nurture them and meet their needs, that feeling of “something is missing” will start to dissolve and I will feel whole. I spent a lot of time disconnecting from and ignoring these parts.  Reconnecting takes time. I’m getting there. It’s a process like everything else. I am loving myself through the process because that’s what ALL the parts of me need.

Strong Enough

“That thing you are most afraid to write. Write that.” ~ Nayyirah Weed

An interesting thing happened to me last week. And by interesting I mean fucking horrible. I am not necessarily ready to write about it yet, but here I am anyway. Last week I had a lot of ugly and completely repressed childhood memories present themselves to me rather suddenly. I say this was suddenly, but maybe it wasn’t so sudden at all. I have been back in therapy for the past four months working through a lot of things, including childhood trauma. I began to process these new memories with my therapist last week. So many of you have reached out to me to talk about EMDR and how helpful it has been for you or a loved one. I am thrilled to hear your success stories. That has not been my experience with it. I just don’t process that way. Fortunately, the therapist I have isn’t Hell bent on continuing with something that’s not working for me. We are talking through a lot of things and I take it to my journals and my meditation. Sometimes things come out on my yoga mat. I process slowly but I am thorough. It seems to be working. It’s always helpful for me to share here because there will always be someone who will send me a “me too” message to help me through and remind me that I am not alone in this. Whatever this is. I’ve had a hard time with theses images coming back to me and honestly, it made me feel a bit crazy. I have a wonderful and wise friend who pointed out that I know these things happen to other people, I just didn’t think it would happen to ME. She was so right and so helpful to me in that moment. When I opened up to my therapist about this she had the sweetest smile on her face and she looked genuinely happy. It is her opinion that it’s time. I am strong enough and I finally feel safe enough to deal with this. This was somewhat comforting, but I’m not quite there in sharing in her happiness. And, because I am who I am, I questioned if maybe she was the crazy one. I called a friend of mine who is also a psychologist and opened up to him. I value his friendship and his opinion. Imagine my surprise when he seemed genuinely happy about this too. I began to feel a bit better about it and the way I’m thinking of it is starting to shift. It actually is interesting to find more pieces of my puzzle. Maybe this didn’t happen to me as much as it happened FOR me. I am trying to get into the space of feeling empowered by this. It might take a minute, but I’ll get there. Last week’s full moon was so powerful that I can’t help but think she was shining the light of awareness on this for me. Clearly it’s time for me to know these things so I can begin to let go of them. I know that when I let go I create space for better things to flow into my life. I asked The Universe to help me be open and I think this is how the Universe has responded. I’m creating space. None of this feels good to me and it’s not particularly fun to deal with. But, I’m doing it. Never once did it cross my mind to numb myself with alcohol or any other substance for that matter. There’s beauty in learning how to stay. I am not sleeping well because along with this came nightmares. I know they can’t last forever. In the meantime, I’m napping when I need to. I’m participating in immersive experiences that nourish my soul. I’m eating the things that make my body feel good and I’m journaling my way through this. And it’s working. I am learning so much more about myself through this process. My word of the year is “Learn.” I even got it tattooed on my arm. Just WOW. I keep coming back to “be careful what you ask for or you just might get it” statement. I feel connected and I feel heard. I don’t feel crazy. I feel healthy. If my mind wanders to that weird place that tries to tell me otherwise, I have a family to remind me that I am so loved and I have a host of amazing people to remind me that I’m a bad ass warrior. I’ll get through this and I’ll help others as I do. THAT is everything to me.

Inner Child Healing

This week my therapist asked me if “I ever have anyone sitting in front of me in circles or what not who obviously don’t want to talk about something.” She asked what I do when that happens. She said she uses that time to take notes. And then she took notes. Can you believe that it was hours later before I had a clue that she was talking about ME? Of course I don’t want to talk about things with her because the things she wants to talk about don’t always feel good. My preference would be to go in, sit down and tell her all of the amazing things going on in my life. My life really is FULL of amazing things that I am grateful for every day. I especially feel good when I can present her with some work that I did on my own or some fascinating discovery I have made about myself. It’s a classic “Look at me, I am so good!” moment. And really, all that stuff is great. What’s not so great is the actual work I am doing. Inner child healing. First of all, I know I said I wasn’t going to “work” on myself anymore. Obviously, that’s not true. Second, It’s more like figuring things out than work. Third, I am my favorite project. Inner child healing is no joke. She mentioned this to me over a month ago. I bought the book she recommended and jumped right in. If there’s a book involved, I am usually all about it. But then it got weird. Unfamiliar. Uncomfortable. So I stopped. My favorite line is “that’s weird and I’m not doing it.” It was that way for me when I got to AA. It was that way when meditation was suggested to me. It was that way when I went to my first yoga class. Weird. Not for me. I ignored the idea for a month and eventually came back to the book. I skipped the first few chapters because they were weird and not for me. Then I hit on the inner 3 to 6 year old. And HOLY FUCKING SHIT. So that’s what happened? Mind blowing really. I won’t get into specifics, but I will tell you that there was some trauma I first experienced at this age that shaped the way I processed, dealt with and lived in the world. This little girl needs to be protected. She needs to feel safe. She needs lots of love and support. She is me. Her experience makes me sad because she is also the little girl who learned to numb herself with drugs and alcohol at a crazy young age. I haven’t even started on the 7 – 12 year old and wonder just how that works since that child was already using. And missing out on being a child. Guess I’ll figure that out soon enough. Or not. I still really struggle with staying open with my therapist. Some days I do great, and some days I feel the wall go up and I feel myself become numb. I don’t know how else to explain it. She tells me she experiences me as going in and out of being present. I think that is called disassociation. I’ve read the DSM too many times for someone who is not a psychologist. I am just going to call it throwing up the wall and closing my heart. And I hate it so much. I know that it is a way I protected myself in the past and that it served me well then. It’s time to let that go because it truly doesn’t serve me today. I just don’t know how. I can do yoga poses to open my heart. I can meditate and recite mantras. I can write about it, teach about it and talk about it. I have yet to figure out how to get there and how to stay there. On the days when I shut down like that, it feels like a giant step back. A friend told me it’s a stand still day and not a step back. I can live with that. I can be still and be ok. Meditation has given me that gift. I don’t have to hurry through this process. I don’t even have to love the process. I just have to love me. I am being extra gentle with myself through it all. Making sure to sleep enough and eat the right foods. Random daytime baths are a must. The main thing is to remind that little girl that it all turns out alright. She’s a little warrior. A survivor.