I feel I was not only denied my childhood, but also denied being present for the early years of my own children. I was trapped in survival mode, stuck in a perpetual state of fight/flight/freeze/fawn. The four Fs of torment that never stopped and no one seemed to notice how stuck I really was. My doctor knew my cortisol levels crashed way too early each day, but had no answer as to why. My heart regularly felt like it was trying to beat out of my chest, but this was so “normal” to me that it was pushed off to the side. I often would wake up drenched in sweat after having repetitive nightmares no understanding what the images meant and why my body was reacting the way it was.
I would learn much later in life that those nightmares were flashbacks, and my body was physically reacting to the memories it contained of all the trauma I have experienced in my life. I have Complex-PTSD stemming from childhood trauma and trauma experienced well into adulthood.
Yet, the ones who were there at the time of the trauma, the ones who were responsible for the trauma that I experienced, don’t see it as neglect or abuse or trauma. They don’t think they did anything wrong. They claim I am the problem, that I am the one that just won’t “let go” and “move on”, that I am the one who needs to just accept people for who they are.
What about me?
These same people don’t know who I am as a person. Not really. They only know of the how I presented myself while in survival mode. They saw this presentation and assumed that this guarded, stoic, stiff, quiet person was me. This is not who I am. My competence was also questioned many times. I am more capable than people realize, but for some reason, I am seen as someone that must be protected and contained.
Growing up and well into adulthood, all I wanted to do is run. I wanted to feel like I was flying! I wanted to spread my wings and escape everything, to be free and be able to breath, to feel comfortable in my own skin. I love to run. I have been an active runner for 28 ½ years. I have written about running before –> Why I Run.
I have often said the reason I run is to help me feel grounded, to reduce my stress, to help me self-regulate, but I started asking myself if there was another reason for why I push myself to run like I do. It is one thing to run, because you like it, and it helps you to stay in shape. It is another matter when you run to escape something. I started asking myself this, because running isn’t working like it used to. I am not feeling calmer. I push harder and run farther, yet I remain feeling panicky and stressed. My brain feels jumbled. I feel like I am having a harder time holding on to the present. I feel pulled in different directions.
I need to let go, but not in the way the others were telling me all these years. I need to let go of the idea of wanting to have the connection I craved as a child. There is still a part of me, a much younger part, seeking that connection. It doesn’t want to let go. It is desperate and so lonely and scared. It keeps saying “just keep trying”, “just give them more time, they will come around”, “just be more patient”. This is what trauma can do to a person, it traps you in hope from the past. It is a cruel game and there is no winner.
There is another part of me, a part that just wants to settle and give up. This part keeps saying “there is nothing that can be done”, “this is how it is”. This part feels older, maybe high school age. This part feels so disconnected, so discouraged. I began disassociating at a young age prior to this part of myself forming. Trauma can also do this to a person, when a person can not escape physically, they escape emotionally and mentally. Stoicism has been a survival mechanism for me for a long time.
A third part, my current self, is frustrated. I don’t want to live like this. Fighting with the pieces of myself. My much younger self doesn’t want to give up. It pushes me to keep going in whatever endeavor I am pursuing. My teenage self doesn’t want to disappear into nothingness. This part shuts off my emotional side. These parts drive me. It feels like a compulsion. I have to keep going or I will drown. I have to do well. I have to be better. I have to prove myself. I can’t disappoint.
I have a fear of disappointing people. This is attached to my trauma as a young child. I was so young and didn’t understand what happened. I was blamed for something that wasn’t my fault. The yelling and screaming – I still feel it today. I was told I was bad, that I was a disappointment, that it was my fault, but no explanation was given, no care to see if I was alright. I was just left alone in confusion and fear, separated from everyone. I was just left . . .
I felt so unseen growing up, invisible to others. Part of that was me trying to not be noticed. Being noticed would result in being yelled out or dumped on or hugged without consent. The other part was how those around me assumed I was rejecting them, so I was ignored. I wasn’t rejecting them. I needed connection that met my needs. My needs have always been different from theirs and they didn’t understand this. I grew up as an undiagnosed autistic. Thirty-six years would go by before I had an answer as to why I am how I am. Thirty-six years of confusion and spending much of that time in some sort of dissociative state trying to protect myself. Stuck trying to run from all that emotional pain, but I couldn’t escape it. More information about this can be found here –> Breathe.
Unprocessed trauma follows a person, and it finds a way to let a person know that it is still there. Unprocessed trauma can erupt out at the most inopportune moment when you least expect it.
I need to let myself grieve. This is not something that is easy for me to do. I wasn’t allowed to grieve as I needed to growing up, nor was I helped with my grief, so all that grief got stuck. A human vessel can’t contain grief indefinitely. Grief ended up fracturing me into different pieces and those pieces ended up controlling my decision making depending on which got triggered. So much fear and sadness in my younger self, so much emptiness and determination in the teenage self, so much frustration and exhaustion in my older self. All these parts are vying for control trying to protect the person I am.
As a developmentally delayed person, I didn’t reach my teenage angst years until my 30s. My guess is that I am on average about 10-15 years developmentally behind my peers and even farther behind emotionally in certain areas of my life. I still feel like I am a teenager with 47 years of experience on this planet, a very tried and sad teenager. I have two Master degrees yet feel so naïve and unexperienced in areas of life that are typically experienced at a much younger age.
For me to continue healing, I need to connect with my core self. I have yet to do that. Trauma work can take years. I have worked through years and years of layers of trauma that were distancing me from my core self. I was cutoff from who I am as a person due to living in survival mode for so long. I have written about this before –> What does it mean to be me?
I know that I will never get the years back that were taken from me. I need to grief that lost time. I need to find a way to give back what was emotionally dumped on me. My core self is there. I can feel it. A fledgling beacon of light waiting for me to find my way back home.
Psychotherapist Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, describes the core-self as “your true self, or most authentic self.” It is our “inner wisdom, inner nurturer, wise self, feeling self, inner voice…”. Your core self is not your thoughts, but rather what notices your thoughts. Your core self is described as your essence and intuition that we tend to basically silence or stifle as a way to protect it. We tend to use distraction, avoidance and surface communication (pretending to be happy) as well as dissociation to protect that core self. We do this, because our core self is a vulnerability.
I want to let my vulnerability out. I want it to spread its wings and fly. Oh, to be free!
I can make this happen by allowing myself to grieve. My grief weighs me down. I carry too much. I feel that the fractured parts of myself are ready for me to do this, to finally let go, but I can’t force it. I have complicated grief. Not due to the actual death of a loved one, but rather the loss of a life that never was. A life that had started, but was snuffed out by societal expectations, domestic abuse, and generational trauma.
I am the result of a square peg being pounded down to fit in a round hole. I never fit that round hole and was heavily damaged from years of pounding. It is a difficult journey coming to the realization that you were born into a mix match situation. I desperately wanted connection with people who couldn’t provide the connection that I needed. I couldn’t be how they wanted me to be either. It was a mix match.
I married into other mix match, like what I grew up in. I knew how to survive in that mix match. Unfortunately, that mix match continued to harm me in ways that I am still figuring out. I thought my role was to find a way to fit in that mix match, that it was my job to comply, because I had the internalize belief that the problem was me. It never was, though. I am not the problem. The problem was the mix match. The majority felt they were in the right, because they all felt the same about the things happening around us. I was different.
I didn’t fit the mold. I didn’t fit the core beliefs that the majority had. My core beliefs were different. I hid the person I am to survive. This only hurt me as a person. My core-self never changed no matter how much pounding I endured.
The person I am, my core-self, is still waking up from being locked away. I feel like I am experiencing life for the first time. Sensations feel different, more real. I feel more connected to my body now than I have ever been. This is a sign that my mind is healing.
The people in my life may never understand why I embarked on this journey and that is okay. They are not meant to understand. This is my journey. This is me learning to fly!