There is nothing like a little upheaval to make things “get real” quickly. A little stirring of the pot brings up some of the muck lurking on the bottom, and suddenly, what you thought was calm and clear becomes dark and a little scary. When all is calm, you’re feeling like, “I’ve got this”, and you can float for a bit. But, then “the thing” happens. It could be any kind of disturbance in the force, and you soon realize easy sailing is over.
These things come as a wake-up call. A reminder that there is still work to be done. It’s easy to get comfortable when things are, well, comfortable. These stirrings can feel like a failure, or like you just took ten steps backward. I would argue, the truth is that these things come to ensure progress. Let’s face it, being comfortable is nice. Who wants to get out of a cozy warm bed and go out into a cold wet storm. Not me! I will choose a warm bed every time. I need something to compel me to get uncomfortable. It’s just human nature.
The truth will set you free.
I am a child abuse survivor. It took me many years to even be able to say that. It seems strange now that I couldn’t acknowledge that, but what you can’t acknowledge, you can’t heal. That’s the first step. I was floating along in life, thinking I had it all together. I had the husband, the kids, the house. It all looked pretty good, but something was not quite right. There was always something bubbling near the surface, anger, and distrust.
Things didn’t get real for me until after the birth of my fourth child. I have always been prone to depression, so postpartum depression was predictable. It got bad quick and I was at my lowest low, barely functioning–and then my parents decided to plan a visit. I had always gone along with the status quo. I never discussed the elephant in the room. This time I couldn’t. Long story short, they didn’t come and I have been “no contact” ever since. This was the beginning of my healing path.
Make space for grief.
Next came grief. I’m not going to lie, I actually thought I would die. After a lifetime of not feeling, breaking down those walls was like drowning under a flood of water. And yet, I had a sense that this was necessary and not forever. I always had hope that this was not my destination. I grieved. Man, did I grieve! I wept for things I didn’t even know I was carrying. I set up camp here for quite some time, I built a house, planted a garden. I knew I needed to move on, but I didn’t know how to do it.
While at a concert with my husband, feeling sad and miserable, suddenly it hit me! It’s not all about me. What? Yes, I had the power to be at a concert, and just be at a concert. I didn’t always have to bring all that other stuff with me. I could have a conversation, and really be actively engaged in the conversation. I could have grief, and it was valid, but I didn’t have to live there. This realization changed everything. I was ready to move ahead.
Don’t believe everything you think.
During this time, I became more aware of the things I was saying to myself. There is this voice in my head that I call the mean girl. She says things that I would never say. Terrible nasty things. One of the first things I became aware of was, “If I’m not perfect, I can’t be loved.” It really struck me. It was the first time I had acknowledged this repeating refrain. I was actually a little shocked that somebody (um, me) would say such a sad, hurtful thing. Inherently, I knew that it wasn’t true, but I was living as though it was. There were many other mean girl thoughts that I became aware of, and I began to dissect them looking of any grain of truth. If no truth was found, I consciously rejected them as “fake news”, and replaced the thought with the truth.
Sometimes authenticity doesn’t look pretty.
I knew, at this point, I had been living a bit of a lie. I had created this picture of my life that looked pretty good. Martha Stewart would have been proud! It wasn’t real though. Authenticity requires a new way of thinking and a fair bit of giving up control. I didn’t want anyone to know that I struggled. I had fought anorexia since age eleven, sometimes I looked in the mirror and cried. I didn’t feel good enough, pretty enough, smart enough…so had I kept this facade. Frankly, it was exhausting. Of course, I didn’t run out and tell everyone all of my secrets, but being able to make mistakes and own up to it, lose a game and not feel stupid, go out without makeup, make a cookie that wasn’t perfectly round–I’m not making this stuff up–these are the things I had to deal with.
The shame road is paved with secrecy.
Shame and me, we have a long history. At the time, I couldn’t have named that horrible sinking feeling that is “shame” (thank you, Brene Brown, for giving it a name for me), but I lived in it consistently. I learned that shame cannot tolerate being spoken. I knew I had to tell my story. So I did. I had coffee with a kind woman from church, I spilled my story out, and she responded with kindness. I have had many other opportunities to test this shame telling theory, and I can tell you, it works like a charm. Shame loves a good secret! Want to banish it? Find a trustworthy soul and spill.
This is not the end of my journey. I still have opportunities to grow that disguise themselves as setbacks.
Sometimes I still visit grief, but I don’t bring a suitcase. I have instances when I respond to situations in ways that I regret, I struggle with connection, and that mean girl adds her two cents on occasion. Regardless, I am always sure that this is not my destination and I’m striving to do better even while I’m proud of the progress that I have made.