I consider myself to be fairly self-aware and introspective. I’ve always been willing to look at my life and my life choices from every angle and make adjustments when necessary. And yet, there was this one area of my life that I felt, instinctively, was too big, too dark, too scary for me to face head on. I knew my parents weren’t “normal” and that my childhood was lacking certain things, like, say, love. I knew enough about the dysfunction to go no contact over ten years ago. There was quite a bit I had already figured out and gained perspective on. And yet, there was this compartmentalized part of me that lurked in the shadows. I found myself thinking, fearing, someday, I’ll have to deal with that.
Someday came. It came in the form of chronic illness, exhaustion, and collapse. It came in the form of feeling empty in spite of success. It came in the form of feeling responsible for burdens that weren’t mine. It came in the form of nightmares. It came in the form of anxiety and depression, in spite of everything I did to manage it. I realized that I had been living with these symptoms for so long, they felt like integrated parts of me. But they weren’t. They were the symptoms of complex trauma.
With the help of a therapist and EMDR, I started tackling whatever was in those shadows. I already had an idea, I just hadn’t voiced it out loud in plain, naked terms. I was abused. I was abused in every way a person can be abused. And it effected me in every way abuse effects a human body and soul. I let go of the notion that maybe what happened to me wasn’t that bad. It was. I sat with that realization and allowed myself to process, really for the first time, everything that I had lost or never had as a result of that abuse. The child who was never allowed to acknowledge what happened to her finally got to tell the truth and grieve.
It was horrible and all-consuming, but it was also beautiful, and life-giving. Truth has a way of being both, sometimes. It sounds so obvious now. Not only admitting what happened, but acknowledging that I wasn’t immune to the impact it had on me was the key that unlocked the trauma that had been stored for so long in my body. When I was young, my brain protected me by storing it away, but what once protected me in the moment became a stumbling block after I was safely away from harm.
Some people go through their entire lives never facing what lies in the shadows. Some people, by never acknowledging or grieving their trauma, never get free from it. Their wounded subconscious brain controls everything they do. They don’t know why they feel anxious or depressed, have a hard time communicating with others, or why they react to people the way they do. Some try to mask it with drugs or alcohol, others with people-pleasing, fake Pollyannaism, or walking on eggshells. Even though I spent many years avoiding, minimizing, and thinking someday, I am grateful that someday finally came. It came with great cost, but it came with even greater reward. With my broken parts integrated back into myself, I am finally getting to know who I really am.