Poverty. Rape. Abuse. Adultery. Divorce. Miscarriage. Abortion. Cancer. I come from a long line of women who handled huge caseloads of trauma gracefully and I feel obligated to follow in their footsteps. My mother struggled with addiction and chronic depression. Even though we were close and I considered her my best friend, I learned from a young age how to read her mood, tread lightly, and anticipate her needs better than my own.
At 34, I’d like to come out of the closet and admit that I am a recovering people pleaser and feel a sense of duty to put on a happy face when Life gets hard. I dance with my own depression and feel ashamed of the regularity in which I experience negative thoughts and sadness. I will go out of my way to not cause anyone stress, discomfort, or unhappiness by my choices and I censor myself in interactions with others, being careful to catch and fix any mistakes. Wait, that sounds an awful lot like perfectionism.
I only feel comfortable expressing my true feelings when directly asked about them. And no, I’m not talking about unloading on the sweet cashier who’s helping me bag my groceries and asks how I’m doing to make small talk. I’m talking about speaking vulnerability out loud in the safe container that is at my grandmother’s grave, in my best friend’s living room, or driving in the car with my aunt. My most precious confidants hold space for me, all of me, especially when shit gets R E A L.
This past year has been rough. I’m talking life-shattering, soul-awakening rough. The kind of rough that when you look back on your life for longer than a hot minute with your special 20/20 hindsight lenses, you realize this “growth opportunity” looks a lot like a tsunami and has been building speed for years. Why did it take so Goddamn long for you to stand up for yourself and call bullshit?
When you are served up relentless dishes of shit on a regular basis, before you know it you’re deaf to the whimpers of unhappiness, reacting only to the earthquake-like events that bring you to your knees. Chronic stress becomes acceptable. After long enough, the body and mind make room for it; it slowly seeps into your every being and manifests first in weight gain and functional depression, but with time progresses into high blood pressure, anxiety, and sleepless nights. You start to wonder if you’re making things up and then you question your privilege and think maybe you’ve just had it really good for a long time and now you’re actually experiencing normal levels of stress. You tell yourself that no one graduates high school with a manual on how to survive in this big, bad world but can’t help but wonder if everyone else you share this planet with goes through times like these. Just remember, you are strong; you can handle it. After all, we all wear our pain and suffering silently like a badge of honor… don’t we?
This time last year (almost to the day), I finally hit my threshold. Like, I’m the Indian goddess Kali and starved for some radical overhaul kind of shit. I was exhausted from just barely keeping my shit together and scared of the rage quaking in my gut. I waved the white flag in surrender and sent out an SOS to my precious confidants. Each of them held me in their own way, but they all responded like they had been practicing their part in my rescue mission for a very long time. A dear friend asked me if I wanted to hear the hard truth and in that moment time stopped for me. I was at a crossroads, mere seconds away from embarking on “another fucking growth opportunity.” I accepted her offer and wept as she got R E A L with me and held space for me to get R E A L with myself. My essence was hemorrhaging.
Her words were a Divine mirror into my soul. They reverberated deep down in my bones and exposed my best kept secrets. There is no going back from there. Ever. For the first time since my mother’s death I was able to give voice to my deepest, darkest fears. Why hadn’t I been warned? By simply saying Yes in a moment like this, I was actually laying out a welcome mat for a dark night of the soul.
To be continued…