Missing Ingredients Discovered

As I’ve been working my way through trauma recovery, it has been important to examine recurring patterns in my life. There is one particular pattern which I’ve long recognized, and simply haven’t been able to make a real breakthrough with. Claiming my space. My biggest passions have always been to write, learn, incorporate a lot of spirituality into daily life, and to sprinkle in spurts of making art. The one key ingredient to bring all of those passions to life is solitude, and I’ve not been able to figure out how to make it work for me. Plus, the more that I get to truly know myself, I have been able to discover that introversion is definitely a personality trait that I have, which is completely separate from my trauma. For a while, I wasn’t sure whether I truly were as introverted as I am, or if that introversion was the chicken to the egg of my trauma. 

The pattern which has been so destructive to my progress, and even my health, is to continue allowing others to disregard the importance of that quiet space required in the life of a creator. That quiet space is sacrosanct, and takes as long as it takes. My creative and spiritual life has been stalled for quite a while, and the longing to get back into it is causing a literal ache in me. I am coming out of a prolonged period of illness and heightened stress, which has taken a huge toll. Now though, I have been trying to resume my creative endeavors and keep hitting walls. 

Those walls aren’t anything new. They’re part of the trauma patterns which have been at the periphery of my awareness for decades. Until now though, I haven’t had the tools to truly break through them. I have been trying to assert boundaries for quite a while now, and apparently my attempts have been too gentle. I could easily blame this on the people who keep stepping over the line of those boundaries, but ultimately the responsibility for keeping those lines clear belongs to me. 

This too, is something I’ve been aware of for many years. My previous training of being responsible for the happiness of others was just a little too ingrained for me to gather both the courage and understanding required to change it. The most important thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that boundaries are something you just take. No amount of speaking them aloud, complaining about them, or explaining the need for them is going to work. They simply must be implemented. This means no more guilt trips, no more repeated explanations, and absolutely no more allowing temper tantrums to remove me from what I need and love.

This has gone on for far too long. I have allowed the relationships in my life to dictate my time and actions. There is no joy in that. It is exhausting. Going forward, if the people who are in my life do not feel as though they are getting what they want from their interactions with me, it can no longer be something that I take ownership of. Mutual respect and simple joy of interaction when it works for all involved has to be the new normal. With each passing year that I’ve denied these key elements of myself, I  increasingly fear that those parts of me will be lost, especially since becoming more self aware. I now deeply understand that I was not put on this earth to please others. No one is. We are here to grow, and discover who we really are. If we happen to please someone else through our presence in the in-between spaces, that is simply an added bonus. It’s a joyous thing when we are able to see, beyond the barriers of fear and guilt, into the truth of not only who we are, but our right to be so. 

This is a long post, to simply say that there are big changes ahead for me. Now that the blinders have been torn off, I can no longer keep circling around the same dilemmas. Doing so for so long, along with trauma work, and heavy health and stress issues over the past few years, left me in a deep, dark hole unlike any I’ve ever experienced, which I’ve begun digging my way out of. The solution to all of it is that I have to be myself, unapologetically. Time to start exercising my creative and spiritual muscles again. It’ll take a little time for me to get back into that joyful space, but I’m finally headed in that direction. I encourage anyone reading this post to seek out your hidden ingredients and live the delicious recipe which only you can give to the world.

As an ending, I want to thank someone who has always stood by my side, and helped me to learn to truly love and see the real me, underneath it all. Her support has been a real source of strength, and I cannot begin to sufficiently express my gratitude. Thank you!

Major Healing Breakthrough

Today, I finally finished reading “Letting Go Of Good”, and if I take nothing else from the book, it’ll be the statement that boundaries are not created to keep others out, but to keep ourselves in. This was a statement which I needed to go back and reread several times in order to allow the message to fully reach me. I’ve been working on boundaries for a handful of years, and while I had made some progress, my efforts kept falling glaringly flat. Over and over, I’d find myself reiterating what my boundaries were, only to allow them to be trampled repeatedly. 

This vicious cycle has been repeated so many times. Before I get too far, it needs to be said that I have complex-PTSD from repeated and sustained abuse and trauma. The damage was so profound that I didn’t have an identity of my own. My way of being, my very identity was to be “good enough” to hopefully “deserve” to be loved and to belong. So yeah, that’s a real clusterfuck of never going to happen. Love and belonging are not something that can be earned by tiptoeing around, trying to anticipate what might cause someone to reject, abuse, or abandon, because somehow I wasn’t rising to the challenge of maintaining their happiness for them. 

If you’re thinking that this is messed up, you’d be right. That broken part of me who accepted that responsibility for the happiness of others as the measure of my worthiness was destined to fail. Once upon a time, this way of being was absolutely necessary for my survival, quite literally. Any real identity I may have had was beaten out of me so long ago, that any attempts to let it rise to the surface were either squashed back down by others, and later by myself because this was the only way I knew, even though it felt like shit. 

Over the past few years, I’ve been slowly building my toolbox to discover my own identity, and to learn to reject the notion that I needed to be what others wanted of me in order to be safe, accepted, and loved. This last piece of the puzzle when it comes to boundaries being to keep ourselves in, as opposed to keeping others out is major! A handful of years ago, I once again got myself involved in some situations in which I stuffed the progress I had made back down again. It got so bad, was so devastating, that I tucked my tail and went into therapy for PTSD for the first time in my life. 

The missing step for me when it comes to boundaries, was the knowing that all I can do is state those boundaries and observe whether they are respected. Instead of giving the benefit of the doubt, and being patient to the point of losing myself, the right answer is to enforce the boundaries myself, instead of leaving it up to someone else to respect them. I knew this on some deeply buried, untouched level, but was so filled with guilt at the very notion of being “selfish” that I would dissociate in order to maintain my good enough-ness.

Now, I know that when someone shows us who they are, we had better believe them. Not only that, but we’d better take action to make sure that our own needs are met. One thing that a particular situation I found myself in taught me for the last time that I can accept, and survive, is that no amount of repetition, patience, or compromise is going to ensure that my needs are taken into consideration. I have to be the one who takes control of that. We all have to.

There’s so much more wrapped up into all of this. It’s like the world’s biggest, stickiest spider web. To put it succinctly, I’ve been attracted to more of the same self squashing situations I’ve always been in. The further I come along in therapy, the more I see my own power in doing things differently. At the risk of sounding sick, I’m going to say that I am thankful for the final straw event which crushed my spirit. Why? Because I was forced (by my inner yearning for peace) to go to therapy and get the help that I have needed to wade through all of this. I’ve been attempting to go it on my own for decades, and while there were a lot of realizations along the way, there was nothing of lasting consequence, because I simply didn’t have the tools to be attracted to healthier situations, nor follow through on those realizations.

I’ve essentially been limping through life like a jungle cat with a pebble caught between the pads on its paw. When this happens the pebble needs to be removed. Otherwise, it keeps limping, being injured repeatedly. It stops engaging in play, because it leads to pain. It stays isolated because it has met some mean jungle cats who leave it behind and do not take it into the group, due its wounds keeping the rest of them back (it isn’t meeting their expectations of it and never could anyway). After a while, it keeps being attracted to mean cats, because that’s what feels familiar, that’s what it feels it deserves on some level, until it gives up. While it’s true that the jungle cat may have received occasional sympathy, this wasn’t enough to keep it from lashing out or acting inappropriately at times due to the pain from the pebble. So, no matter whether it encounters mean jungle cats, or nice ones, this cat’s wound will not permit it to have normal interactions with others until that damned pebble is removed. 

The cat’s entire world view changes as a result of the wound. Eventually there are no remaining vestiges of its powerful, wonderful personality left, because it had to adapt. Even after the pebble is removed, the cat may need a while to remember who it was, depending on how long it has been stuck there. Okay, enough cat analogy! My pebble has been removed. The adaptation and the lens through which I’ve viewed and interacted with the world were my only way of being for so long, that it has required extreme measures to even reach the point I’m at now, which is definitely still limping but not as badly.

All of my past friendships, relationships, etc. had been formed from that wounded place, in which I had no clue who I was or how to navigate the landscape of life. So, I literally ended all of my relationships but two, because it was apparent to me that they were all so wrapped up in my wounded, non-identity that there would be no salvaging them. I’ve had a blank slate for around a year, and am now finally healing enough to get to know myself a tiny bit. I’m nowhere near ready to throw myself back out there, and that’s okay. Learning who I am, what I want/need, and having sufficient time to solidify that is priority one.

The space I’m currently in is exciting, scary, and at times lonely. Looking back to get some glimmers of the real me, I’ve seen a little bit of what that looks like now. I just have to be sure that my inner chameleon has been handled more fully before allowing others in. The last time my wounds were ripped back open, I felt like it would be the end of me, culminating in the most prolonged period of depression and confusion I’ve had since reaching adulthood. Guess rock bottom is sometimes needed in order to stop living in half measures. Here’s to becoming real!