by AJ cross posted from her blog I am Phoenix
The bravest thing I have done so far in my life has been allowing myself to feel.
I was able to make it as far as I did in life appearing on the outside to be normal and functional because I buried the past. Completely. I didn’t talk about it to anyone, and I didn’t acknowledge it to myself.
Being numb to it was the only way I could survive. I purposely hung around with people who didn’t talk about feelings or emotional things. I buried who I was, even if it meant I also had to bury my intuition, my creativity, my feelings, my empathy, and any form of introspection.
My preferred route on the path to numbing: moving far away from the geographical location and people who were abusive to me, burying myself in relationships with men, working out, and being so busy in my career that I didn’t have time to feel. It worked, LOL. But only for so long.
I thought I could go on that way forever. But then, my life got very stressful and I started having symptoms of C-PTSD. The stress weakened me, and then my whole mind and body fell apart one day out of the blue. Then I had to move back home to live near my family, and THAT is when things fell apart even more.
After decades of being away from the cult, my abusive family, and the religious ideas that had haunted me in my childhood, I was suddenly back in my hometown, interacting with people and ideas from my past. Things I had completely buried and had no memory of for most of my life started resurfacing. The family that I thought would support me with open arms turned their back on me. The religion that had been my support and supposed comfort my whole life suddenly seemed surreal and evil.
There is a part of me that wishes I had never moved back home to PA to be around my family. I know I wouldn’t have been as traumatized if I had stayed in NYC. I would not have had to face old memories if I hadn’t move back home. Why didn’t I stay in NYC where it was safe? I guess I didn’t know I’d be re-traumatized by returning home. I had blocked things out so well that I did actually think I would be safe in going back. I mean, I was an adult returning, not a child. I had really forgotten the past and wasn’t afraid to come back. I had repressed it so much that it wasn’t on my radar as something to be concerned about.
But there is that part of me that does wish I hadn’t had to get re-traumatized. And there’s that part of me that wants to run so fast and so far, even now. I’m still too close to the family and the homestead, and the pain is too fresh, too in my face. I want to fly away. I want to go cross country and live in sunny LA, or Florida. I want to lie on a beach for a few years and be numb, then wake up and live again.
I want to run, or I want to be numb. I can’t run right now. So I wish I could go back to the old days of being numb.
But once you open up the box of repressed memories and trauma, I don’t think you can just move away and close the box all neatly whenever you want. Once the process starts, I have a feeling that it will run it’s course until I’ve felt it all and come to terms with it.
Trust me, I did try to “run” from the trauma again, thinking that running was the answer. Karl and I moved to this new town 1.5 hours from my family. I made a rule that there was no talking about the past here in this house and this new neighborhood. Yet this hasn’t worked. My sister moved in with us, and she talks about the past often. It’s like the past is following me, still. Even if she didn’t talk about it, I have a feeling it would still be in my mind, though.
It cycles endlessly like a broken story as I fall asleep, as I wake up. I have flashbacks in varying degrees, I wake up in panic attacks in the middle of deep sleep at night. In the morning as I’m planning out what I want to do that day, broken bits of old traumatic memories crash into my thoughts. I lay there listening to these people threaten me, and I think up ways to challenge them and stand up for myself, but it takes so much effort and I feel so alone, that I wince and shake my head, and try to opt for numb, that old comfort, that now elusive comfort. I try to think about something neutral like the sun or lack of it slanting through my window shades, but this triggers another memory from the past.
I think about my younger sister, who blocks things out with anti-depressants and distancing herself from the family. My oldest sister and mother cope by living in a dream and pretending like everything is OK. My other sister lives with traumatic memories like I do, and neither of us blunt it with medication. I couldn’t take medication even if I wanted to because my body reacts to it.
Sometimes if I’m ‘lucky,’ I can still go numb every now and again. Blessed relief. But this is a rare state. It happens mostly when I’m asleep. Or when I sit for a long time out in the sun on my patio. But it doesn’t last long, and I can’t go there like I used to be able to.
I don’t see any way out, except through. I’m trying to just be with my feelings and allow them, without getting scared and without freaking out.
I used to say I wished I had a tiger or lion as a pet. One that was completely tame, of course. It would be my companion, and it would sleep beside me keeping me safe, keeping me warm. If I had to cry, I could cry into it’s fur and it wouldn’t say a word of judgment. It would be there beside me, and it would protect me from real people and the people from the past in my mind. I could lay beside it and absorb it’s strength, and internalize it.
AJ was raised in a spiritually abusive cult based on the teachings of ATI’s Bill Gothard. She has five siblings. After enough time AJ developed Chronic Fatigue, Adrenal Burnout and PTSD from the stress of her childhood. Her parents refused to help her in her ongoing health battle. She is married to a man that has recently emerged from spiritually abusive religion and together they are healing and moving towards daily joy! She blogs at I Am Phoenix