We Are Stars: Finding The Center and Basking In It

 

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I am centering. I have found this to be a difficult process where I often backtrack or retrace my steps. The center is where I long to be, basking in light and warmth, finally floating and free. Oh! How my soul fills with excitement when thinking of finally reaching this space. Perhaps, I will be able to dwell in it for long periods of time. I long to just feel ok: safe, relaxed, loved. I did not realize when I started this journey how much I would have to “let go” to feel weightless, free from the shackles that have kept me caged in despair and fear.

I’ve loathed myself over the past decades. Through broken and abusive relationships, I have suffered and felt lost, abandoned, and ashamed. I was rejected, abused, neglected, and left over and over. I became callous and defensive, perpetually caught in the web of other people’s assumptions and ideas. I spent hours oscillating between two realities, the one I defended as mine, and the one that was defined by the reactions of others when I angrily confronted their mindless and abusive behaviors. I became abusive, at times, as a result of staying engaged too long, unwilling to concede and let go. I stayed and fought alone and often with myself. I rarely stopped to think that these people I had invested so much time and energy in did not care about me. And in many cases, these people did not even care about themselves. This recent revelation ironically is freeing me.

I was hooked into their struggles and pain, trying to save them from their addictions. No one listened and the relationship became more and more strained. My assessment was “on point” and sadly their struggle continues to rage on and I am gagged and bound by the addiction and mental health issues that have trapped them.  I saw it coming, I sounded the alarms, and then stared wide-eyed in disillusionment and fear as the storm ripped apart my family, leaving it destroyed. The storm touched everyone involved and pushed me far away, watching helpless. Everything inside of me says the worst is yet to come, but I will hope for a miracle. I was so hurt that I too caused some of the destruction that has wound up lying in pieces, scattered on the ground. And yet, the storm was so brutal it has left the people I love disconnected from themselves, forgetting their past, unable to truly participate in the present moment. They are still stuck on survival mode with little room to reflect on much else.

I feel remorse for the angry words I said.  I have a way of cutting to the core when I am angry. Yet, I have every reason to be enraged, hurt, and disappointed. And quite frankly, two decades of trying in various ways to push for reform with no resolution has left me embittered and empty. I have learned during these times that I did not truly have a family that cared to know and love me. My mother remained supportive, yet even our relationship was nearly extinguished from the high flames and temperature burning it all down to ashes. It is smoldering, but it is ruined. Ugh.

There is a new voice inside of me. It’s telling me that it’s ok. I became too invested and too involved by trying to help and got dragged in by the undertow despite my valiant efforts. It has been traumatic for me. If I had the chemicals in my system blunting my reality and emotions, perhaps I would not be so raw and exposed. My voice tells me that they do care, but its buried deep beneath layers and layers of what trapped them in the first place. I wince in remorse for words shaming their behaviors because I don’t feel they are that insightful. Perhaps they too are scared and sad underneath the rubble that they are buried underneath, suffocating with no escape. I hate myself for beating them down when they already are so low. I’m angry at them for botching the rescue efforts.  Still yet, they would say they didn’t need rescued and deny the destruction. Everything is splintered, confusing and chaotic. There is nothing to be said or done as trust has been lost. They will carry on through the rubble and smoke, never fully leaving the scene in order to ensure their safety. If this sounds confusing and crazy, it is.

And you see how I so easily can get, “off center”. The voice inside tells me that although they are all still fighting alone and among themselves, they really don’t care to know me. It hurts, but it does not devastate me anymore. I think of the hurtful things I have said in anger and compare them to what has been said and done to me and no longer judge myself so harshly. This has been really hard. I don’t want to hate myself anymore and I don’t want to hate them either. I see clearly the benefits of forgiveness.

There is a beautiful, warm light in the center of it all where I can float freely and I must find this space. Everything inside of me tells me now that it exists and that it truly is ok that they do not care. I feel for once in my entire life that I might just stop fighting. I might truly float. All the noise that I absorbed that told me I was bad, unworthy, crazy, mean, etc. was misinterpreted by me. I was fighting so hard for people to love me because I had not yet learned to love myself. I was demanding that people respect me and value me, because I did not feel worthy. The light in the center of my soul wasn’t going to let go of this idea that I deserved people in my life that loved me.

And so, I stayed way too long demanding love from people who also did not love themselves. And now, more clearly than ever I understand the words: “hurt people, hurt people”. I truly cannot put into words the madness of screaming into the emptiness over and over again trying desperately to get my needs met and being unable to move. I did not see at the time that I was learning to love myself. I wanted love from my family and my abusive ex Narc and I was insistent upon getting it. I stood out in the pouring rain for months nearly dying to get it. You will love me, dammit, I ranted and raved. My world crashed around me and I became physically and mentally sick and was unable to work as a result. I was suicidal and enraged. Still the rain fell, steady as strong. The storm wasn’t going to pass until I decided to love myself.

I still have a lot of work to do on “this thing called love”. It’s really hard stuff. I am not sure why it isn’t easy. I feel all the years of crap being piled on higher and higher that tells you that you are unlovable and unworthy traps you. My self esteem needed an overhaul and my mind needed to be cleared from the loads of crap planted there. I guess I had no idea how much I hated myself and how much other people’s opinion of me influenced my self concept. I guess I needed to scream enough in conflicts to others to convince myself that I was worthy. I cringe at hurting people, however, but my nastiness and cruelty comes from a pure place of wanting to be visible, valued, and heard. Now that I know this and feel it, I think perhaps a lot of my anger will subside. I can let go of those people who do not care, because I care.  I care about myself.

Maybe this is simple for some people and even silly. But, some of us miss these basic things because we have troubled and traumatic beginnings and we didn’t learn it along the way.  Some of us are just sensitive and more affected by the constant chatter we receive in life from criticism. I’m happy to be on this little journey.  And, I do feel the light and warmth is coming. A place you can sit in for a time to be loved, rejuvenated, and protected. I was running anywhere, but there. It is inside of you…. this light. I’m so happy I finally found myself, a bright light light in the universe. We are all stars!!

Addiction is Confining: Hop in the Car and Take a New Journey

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When you love someone who has a serious addiction, you always lose.

In the beginning, you are confused and concerned. You have no way of knowing what the future will bring and the only exposure you have had of addiction is what you have seen and heard from others. It hasn’t personally pierced through your heart and dragged you through the mud yet, leaving you cold, exhausted, and alone. It will in time, but first you’ll be forced to stare into the face you love and be lied to, insulted for caring and confronting, and completely cut off. You will beg, plead, cuss, and rage as multiple dramas erupt that place your loved one in danger and strip them of their natural born potential. They will fight to keep you from saving them and throw punches at you as fight to keep them alive.

As the war rages on, you’ll be fighting for someone who is nearly gone who no longer recognizes themselves.  They will be sure to tell you how judgmental you are when you confront them about working, caring for their children, and taking care of their health.

When you love someone who has a serious addiction, they always lose. However, they forget who and what they have lost. They push you completely out of their lives and cannot be convinced that they are lost. You will feel like you are pleading with a drowning man to please take the raft to get safely to shore. He will be screaming at you while choking back water that he is fine and you need to “get lost”.

This illness has just begun to “warm up” as it will now spread throughout the family unit and to certain extended family members who care to be involved. The kids will often grow up confused, sick, and struggling. The sad part is that the kids will defend the addict and the lifestyle surrounding the addiction. Some will have their potential destroyed by drug use, incarceration, and lack of education. The kids of addicts often pay a very high price for their parent’s addiction and many times will not be able to recover from the neglect and abuse resulting from years of living a life where their lives were not invested in and their needs were not the priority. They will often feel uncared for and have poor boundaries as a result of not having an example set for them. Some children of addicts do recover and heal with support. Some do not and end up struggling the rest of their lives.

Family members also become “sick” when the addiction reaches the later stages. Some deny and enable, while others confront and even rage. Everyone loses in the end and the devastation caused can last a lifetime. Sometimes, it is necessary to walk away from the person who continues to use. When help has been continually offered to no avail and all options exhausted, it may be time to let go.

This is where I am currently with my sister and her family. I am still here if they truly want to get well, but their actions have communicated otherwise. They feel I need to trust them and their insistence of that tells me that something is up. It would be abnormal for anyone to trust a person that has lied to them in the past, even if I wanted to trust them. And I do want to believe their words, but I cannot deny myself the time to heal and have trust rebuilt on my time. I don’t feel they are telling me the complete truth anymore. I have been the scapegoat of the family for getting angry and confronting, yet  if we did not have this illness in our family, I would have nothing to confront.  Actions are so much more important at this stage and addiction often yields hot air and little else.

I pray for all those afflicted with this illness and the families it touches.  It is relentless and it erodes the family entirely. The person afflicted loses themselves and everyone around them is able to see them fading away while being blamed and pushed away.  Their illness consumes the family, taking up time and energy and years are lost focusing on a problem that seems unsolvable. This is addiction. It’s ugly, aggressive, and deadly.  It doesn’t come to play games, it comes to conquer and devour.

One day I hope to see more aggressive treatment early on and programs available after discharging from rehabilitation. I believe if you want to quit, you can. The tough part is convincing people that they want to quit. That is the key. You can do anything you “want” to do. They have to “want” it first. People have to fear losing something or themselves in order to want to stop an addiction that chemically distracts and numbs you. If that piece is found, it can be enough for a person to fight to maintain sobriety. Often, I feel people perhaps never felt alive prior to the addiction and they are willing to taste death to feel alive. It’s the perfect paradox and drives people to the edge of madness, always chasing a high that has the capability to put them 6 foot underground. A very low place, turning the lights forever out.

Addicts have to change their lifestyle and their friends who use alongside of them. They isolate themselves, forgetting that most of us long to feel alive and excited. I feel the difference is that in sobriety, one fears the heights needed to continue the ride that may kill us in the end. And the high is fabricated and false, lying to the addict the entire time. It is saying: “Let me erase you, and I will give you temporary pleasure and a lifetime of pain and misery if you give me your soul”.

An addict must divorce it’s “abusive lover”. No, it is not fun. Yes, it is hard. But, if you want it you will take the road to get your life back. At the end of the road of sobriety is you. The you that you left behind. You deserve to be along for the journey. Get in the car of sobriety. Let others drive at first. Lock the doors, keeping addiction out by not having people and situations in your life that will trigger you. Roll the windows up if needed. You will hurt, grieve, and be afraid. But, you will have yourself back in time. It is worth it. you are worth it. Many journeys await with an open road in which to travel.

Among Wolves: When Family is Your Enemy

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I really do not want to remain silent anymore. I’m exhausted from being scapegoated in my family. It’s nauseating to sit and watch the level of denial and complacency that takes place. And no one in my family wants to take accountability for their extremely abusive actions, instead continually laying blame on me for defending myself. I feel defeated by the wolves that encircle me, salivating, dripping of lies and deceit. It’s ridiculously dysfunctional and I was hopeful that someone would be able to see through the dense fog of devastation and despair. No one has thus far and it has left me isolated and alone.

And, still yet, I am brazenly strong and capable, aware enough to see the patterns and sound alarms, that ironically land on deaf ears. The destruction is inevitable as the pack of wolves hang together, making it impossible to eradicate the predatory mindset that enables their survival. It is better to retreat than fight. And, this has been my tactic as of late. Still, it is hard when I check in from time to time to learn that they are still up to their old games.

I have to remind myself to walk away from their addictions and their continual neglect. I have to remember how much I have given of myself in time, money, and advice only to have abusive insults hurled at me when I no longer stroked their voracious egos. I must remember that these individuals, even if family members, are incapable of being accountable and are not a bit remorseful for hurting me. It’s sad, but these people only care about themselves. Why would they care about a person who is confronting their lifestyle when they don’t even care enough about their children to ensure they graduate from high school? Why in heavens name would I feel they would care about me, when they have a young baby and are not immediately getting a GED to ensure that they can provide for their child? These are people who have committed crimes and have gone back to drugs repeatedly, even after experiencing a drug-related death of a three year old and one of them nearly dying of needle use. So, I’m not sure why I have even allowed myself to have any expectations of people who have zero standards for themselves. I do have standards and that is what troubles them. And I had standards for their lives, because I believed that they could do better. I still do. And I consider that a compliment, not an insult.

In any case, I will walk away instead of engaging with the wolves again. I have learned my lesson. I truly am exhausted from trying. I lost my family due to addiction and the dysfunction resulting from years of them using. I’m sad about that and would have rather had a family that actually cared more about maintaining a relationship with their sister and aunt than doing drugs and defending their lifestyle. But, the reality is the one sister I have and the only children I have in my life of blood relation are all extremely strained due to good ‘ole Meth, Pain Pills, and other drugs. They all have demonstrated over and over to me that drugs are so much more important than our relationship. This has gone on now for nearly two decades. So, I am letting go. And, I will heal.

I am so much stronger than this and my life will be joyful as a result of letting go. I’m just going to be me and I am going to spend my time and energy on people who actually can give back. I’m sorry that wasn’t my own family as I would have enjoyed spending sober, quality time with my family over the past few years. It wasn’t meant to be, I guess. I’m nearly 46 and I am ready to spend time with people who show up for the holidays and call me on my birthday and actually do not lie continually to me or play games. I admit I have been imperfect in dealing with the grief of losing them. I haven’t been nice at times and I have often lost my own dignity in the end.

It’s been heartbreaking and enraging at the same time, and still yet, it has gifted me the greatest life lesson of learning to love myself. I’ve had to let go of expectations and embrace “what is”, forgiving myself first and then forgiving them. This painful process playing out center stage in my life while being largely ignored and forgotten by the ones I love has left me devastated and in despair. Through years of trying, I have realized I am only a brief annoyance and an afterthought in their lives which are fraught with the daily dramas they perpetually entertain. It’s these trivial endeavors, often surrounded by drug use, that captivate and demand their time and attention, stunt their growth, and prevent them from connecting in the present moment with those who actually long to laugh and converse with their sober and authentic selves, wanting no more than their precious time and presence.

I’ve been guilty of being consumed and preoccupied with trying to awaken them to the prospect of getting help and healing. I’ve become enmeshed in their dramas, desperately trying to help free them from the addiction that consumes their time and has defined their lifestyle. I should have let go long ago as hanging on hurt everyone involved. And yet, I’m the one in the family who stands alone with too much distance, both physically and spiritually, to hang on and connect. I’m the one getting therapy, getting help, and healing. The only one. It’s difficult, but I feel it is worth it.

It hurts too much. I’m tired of trying only to end up alone, empty, without my family. I don’t feel they have been fair to me in this lifetime. The longer I held on, often through arguing, I realized anger was the only energy left that was fueling any attachment that had somehow survived the ruins. I knew it truly was over. I had fought a war and had lost, but at least it was finally over.

And so I say: Farewell to the wolves! I’m leaving the pack! Howl at the moon all you like, I prefer the sunshine sometimes too!

The Endless Pursuit of Preoccupation

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I’ve spent years fruitlessly searching for something more, often by engaging in tumultuous relationships, reckless endeavors, and high intensity jobs.  These spaces were fraught with tension, intrigue, drama, and suspense and would hold my attention for a time.

Looking back, one of my unhealthy preoccupations was my gross investment in loved ones who were “drowning”, often in abusive relationships and/or struggling with addiction.  Their struggle was severe, often involving episodes of incarceration, potential homelessness, and hospitalization.  I would throw my entire being into “saving another” and would rage and wound after being rejected after multiple attempts of confrontation.  I became more invested in their healing process than they were.   I wanted them well and “awake”, able and willing to connect, and eventually I realized my preoccupation was limiting my own growth and healing.  I learned that my quest to connect, over time, trapped me in a cycle of disillusionment and disconnection.  In my effort to reach people, I had cut myself off and my world closed in on me as I became more obsessed to reach those who had value to me. Depression and despair set in and I grew bitter, alone, and often suicidal.  My value was placed on a select few that I felt had abandoned me, if not, even abandoned themselves.

In this space: I sat, I slept, and I sulked.  Those struggling continued to struggle.  Those sleeping continued to sleep.  And, I, lamented and grieved.

It was during this painful time in my life, that I became aware of two conflicting spaces, one of endless preoccupation, and one of stillness.  I was familiar with preoccupation, busying my mind with anything but the deafening silence of solitude. Preoccupation lead me into places of intensity: tumultuous relationships, gambling, and chaos.  I refer to chaos as the endless opportunities in my life that existed to engage in gossip and drama regarding other people’s pain.  It was an addiction in and of itself, often latching on, attempting to bring about change in a complex and chaotic situation where those struggling were not entirely invested in healing.  I wore their pain like a corset and went on a mission to rattle them to the point of waking.  To this day, it has failed and left me rejected and devalued, struggling to pick up the pieces while the bombs keep dropping in the background.  There seemed to be no safe shelter from it.  I had to walk away from those that had already left me, complacent with the dissolve of our relationship and the perpetual destruction in their lives.  After years of exhaustion and loneliness, I knew it was time to visit the other side, stillness.  I wondered what I could gain from being still, no longer running endlessly, could I even stop and what would happen if I did?  This place of stillness is still somewhat foreign to me.

And so, this brings me to where I am at presently in my life. Exploring the space of stillness, checking in, recognizing the urge to move, but not doing so.  Often if I felt an urge, I acted on it in some way.  So, sitting here, still, is a new practice for me. Some may call it meditation or mindfulness and those are two ways to “tune in” instead of turning to mindless preoccupation where intent is often muted,  undiscovered.

In this space, I am learning that I have often ran from the pain of rejection and loneliness in my life.  Oddly enough, I would run right back into a situation where I didn’t have the opportunity to connect.  In fact, gambling and hopeless relationships served to further alienate me from myself and others.  It limited my ability to connect.  When I gambled, I was detached, sitting in front of a machine, with absolutely no opportunity for true connection.  I look around now and notice the level of disconnection that occurs when people are in pain. To be fair, some amount of preoccupation is needed as it would be impossible to be “on” and “connected” all the time.  And preoccupation can be achieved in healthy ways where people are connecting.  I am primarily concerned with the amount of unhealthy preoccupation that I have participated in to dull the pain in my life.

Sitting still has made me aware of why I am running so much in my life.  A few weeks ago, I was taking a bath.  I love a hot bath and it is a great place to “be still”.  I asked myself why is it I don’t feel loved?  Why am I jealous sometimes of others and long to feel special?  Why am I chasing after people and situations that never give back, where I am neglected and rejected?  Why?  Now, in the past, I would become immediately preoccupied.  I did not want to sit with my pain.  But, from this simple exchange, came a voice, an answer.  I was missing my “father”.  I never knew my biological father and I wasn’t close to my step-dad.  Growing up, I was jealous and sad of the other girls I saw who would run up, jumping into their Dad’s lap.  I was fortunate to have some time with my Grandfather who did bestow fatherly love on me, but my grandparents lived in another state and that love I experienced was limited to the times we were physically together.  So, all of these feelings of sadness & jealousy that I figured were character flaws actually came from a real place.  This opened up the door for compassion.  How could I be mad at a little girl who longed to be held by her father?  This helped to create softness in place of the “armor” I had created in self loathing and fear.  Had I not sat in the stillness and asked, I may have missed this discovery, this puzzle piece of my landscape.

We have a choice every day to “wake up” or remain sleeping.  If you find that you are endlessly running and are exhausted from endeavors that don’t provide any return, but drain you, it may be time to consider the stillness.  What greater endeavor than to connect to yourself and enrich your life while developing compassion towards yourself and others.  This has been a gift.  And I have a lot more “sitting” to do as I’m used to the endless pursuit of preoccupation.

Because We are All Alone, “You Are Not Alone”

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asatomā sadgamaya

tamasomā jyotir gamaya

mrityormāamritam gamaya

Oṁ śhānti śhānti śhāntiḥ

The above is a chant I learned from my Yoga Therapist that has helped me.  It is roughly translated as: 

From ignorance, lead me to truth;

From darkness, lead me to light;

From death, lead me to immortality

Om peace, peace, peace

Are there spaces in your life in which there is not a safe harbor?  A space perhaps you keep visiting despite the rocky shore, crashing waves, and dangerous undertow?  Your heart longs to connect there and after searching meticulously, overturning every single stone, shell, and pebble, you leave empty handed once again.  Surely, this space still exists. And so, you retract, often in disillusionment and despair, berating yourself for losing it in the first place and resolving to come back another time, for surely it will still be there.

Are you avoiding aloneness?

There are spaces in your life where it may appear that you have been abandoned, left alone.  In these spaces, you often are learning and growing through pain and even suffering.  You’ve been so determined in your intention to salvage and restore, that this overwhelming feeling of “being left” cuts through you like a knife piercing your gut.  It hurts.  There our times the pain is so insufferable and intolerable you will go at great lengths to lessen its intensity or avoid it at all costs.  There are so many places to hide that offer the illusion of safety that we are often pulled into these “oh so shiny” spaces that fill us briefly, placing our original search on hold.  This part of us that runs from being left and rejected isn’t bad or good, it’s simply our way of avoiding the pain we feel may kill us if we linger in it for too long.

And so, we rotate between the “oh so shiny” spaces and occupy our time with the things that we believe are easier to obtain: our next fix, the bonus on the slot machine, sex with a new partner, recently purchased material goods, a drunken night on the town, an obsessive exercise routine, or a decadent piece or two of chocolate cake.  We spend endless hours engaged in perpetual stimulation, avoiding the inevitable, the fact that we are all alone.  All of us are alone.  And we all to some degree have participated in the act of overstimulation to drown out the pain and fear to avoid being alone.  We go back to the spaces in our hearts and minds that have caused us the most pain, in effort to connect and to make sense of a time when we were left, rejected, and abandoned.  These are the times that have often paralyzed us.  The reality is that being alone is something we all experience, collectively.

You are not alone in that we all are alone and struggle, at times.

And so, since we are all alone, we are also all not alone.  Imagine that!  Separated by the barrier of our skin, we spend our days moving through time and space, alone.  The beauty in this is that being alone in this way is universal.  It is something we all experience every day of our lives.  We all experience the fear of being alone and this awareness can be grounding and calming.   Some of us are lucky to have our lives full of the people, pets, and things that we love.  We feel at peace in our aloneness and are satisfied with our connections.  Still yet, some feel over-connected and long for more time alone.  While others are still struggling in the pain of feeling alone and abandoned and are challenged connecting to others.  These feelings of abandonment often come from real places of struggle, perhaps resulting from neglect or abuse in childhood, or even a lengthy relationship with an abusive individual.  Living with a mental illness can make it difficult to connect due to symptoms that may limit one’s ability to engage in endeavors where connection occurs.  Those things take people away from healthy preoccupations that can make a person feel less lonely and fulfilled.  And still yet, we can all take comfort in knowing we all experience times when we feel alone and wonder: “Am I enough?”.

When struggling with pain and loneliness, sit with it and be inquisitive.

When you feel alone and fearful, and you have the urge to fill it with something not truly healthy, sit with that feeling.  Let it flow over you and do nothing to escape or contain it.  Perhaps, even address it and “check in” waiting to see what comes up.  There is often a lot we can learn in these spaces if we choose to sit with it instead of flee or mute it.  Often the urge will be too great, and you will choose to engage in some form of activity for relief.  Ultimately, if there is pain within you, longing to communicate a need, and you flee each time, you may miss out on a piece of the puzzle that may bring peace in your life.  You may be missing opportunities to connect with yourself and when you choose to “sit still” you may in time heal the places within you that are running back to empty vessels, unsafe harbors, and unhealthy endeavors.

Also, in these spaces where you are alone, you will find that it might be a good time to take inventory in your life.  If you have been struggling, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Why am I hurting?
  2. What things can I do realistically do to ease the struggle?
  3. Is there someone or something in my life that I continue to invest time in even when it is causing me pain to do so?
  4. Can I let go of certain things that are causing me pain?
  5. Are there things in my life that are “not mine”, that I cannot control, that I cling to?  Can I let them go?
  6. What are the things in my life that I do have control over that bring me joy?  Can I expand these in my life making them the priority over the things I cannot control that are not mine?

These questions might help those struggling to clear their plate of things that cause despair and depression that might elevate feelings of loneliness and isolation.  Clearing one’s plate from situations that are outside of one’s control and replacing it with things that allow a sense of agency can lighten the load that may in time lead to opportunities to connect.  Loneliness can be a product of too much overstimulation.  Sitting with oneself provides the space to reconnect which is needed to connect to others.  One of the most effective ways to deal with pain is to sit with it, address it, and learn from it.  It’s not a perfect process, healing is lengthy and will involve many detours.  But, always remember, you truly are never alone as you are part of the collective conscious that is healing itself in the past, present, and future.

The Metamorphosis Series #1: The Suffocating Cocoon!

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I won’t stay stuck here forever.  It’s a dark and suffocating place.

All of us have areas of our life that make us feel unworthy and unloved.  Some of those areas go back to a time when our esteem was first forming.  For some of us, we were stunted by abuse or neglect and now are left trying to pick up the pieces that were not given to us.  This is extremely hard work.  I wanted to write this piece because we collectively can benefit from hearing other people’s pain to learn that we truly are not alone.

There is no shame in acknowledging that certain tools were left, often unintentionally, out of our toolbox.  Many of us struggling, to no fault of our own, did not have a solid foundation in our formative years.  At times, our needs may have been overlooked resulting in poor coping mechanism and difficulty setting and maintaining boundaries.

As a result of a difficult past, I developed a host of ineffective coping strategies I utilized to try and to get my needs met.  I feel that those who have hurt me, often did so unintentionally, often without awareness of their own issues or mine.   Perhaps they would have been more empathetic, had I been coping more effectively at the time and communicated my needs in less abrasive ways. Those who harmed me with intention often had their own issues of self worth.  I feel sharing has the power to set us free from the patterns that have become deeply entrenched in our minds and thus reflected in our behavioral patterns.  Often these patterns of behavior mirror back to us what we believe about ourselves and further imprison us, committing us to an false identity that leads to the self-fulfilling prophesy of failure, resulting in low self esteem.

Clearing a path for your authentic self to emerge is difficult work that is cumbersome, requiring courage and persistence.  A lot of this work is not linear, and it can not be completed in a vacuum.  Meaning as you heal you often are still in the same environment and around the same people who will challenge the healing process, skeptical of the changes you are making.  This may even mean you have to distance yourself from certain people who are not willing to accept the person you are becoming.  Often, healing is brutally messy and even painful.  But, it is a process that I believe to be worth the endeavor, despite the chaos that can ensue for a few years while things adjust.

This has been an excruitiatingly painful year for me.  In this year, I have faced discrimination in the workplace and lost my job.  I also cut ties and went “No Contact” with my Narcissistic after having a very tumultuous and abusive relationship with him for a decade.  And, lastly, it is the year that I was scapegoated by my family and blamed for the turmoil and divisiveness that was stemming from my sister’s struggle with addiction.  All of these invalidating experiences, where I was gaslighted, devalued, and discarded, resulted in a very unstable time for me.  I relapsed with my Bipolar illness and became suicidal for the majority of the year.  I was very hurt and enraged and spent the year fighting with my Mom and sister trying to salvage the relationship, but also determined to defend my reality in the process.  This pain lead me to time spent questioning my reality, my motives, and my intentions.  This process lead me to links in my past, shedding light on places of hurt that had stunted my growth, causing self-doubt and despair.  Being so vulnerable and sharing openly, I feel, only will serve to diminish the power these myths have over me that claim: “I am not good or worthy”.  And it is possible that my reflections will resonate with someone along the path of healing, and together we will heal.

In my formative years, there were some remarkable events that caused me significant pain, influencing my world view and challenging my self esteem.  One of these events being when my biological father released his rights to me, not wanting to know me or have me as part of his life.  I won’t get into the rationale as to why this occurred.  I was too young to remember the event, but do recall the years in my life of wishing I had an affectionate father who made me feel safe, secure, and valued.  This one event had impact on my self esteem and worth that followed me throughout my life.

At age four, I was molested which left me feeling powerless, invisible, and ashamed.  I was not considered in that event, just a little girl whose only purpose was to provide pleasure for the perpetrator.  My voice was muted and I was devalued.  I absorbed the shame through this event and when I was much older, in my teen years, I felt very ashamed and guilty for having normal thoughts and feelings about boys.  I was heavy for many years in order to remain invisible to men and feel safe in my skin.  This event impacted me greatly and as a result later in life, I married a gay man to avoid feeling violated.  I did not know for certain he was gay prior to marrying him, I just knew that I did not feel threatened by him in any way.  When I lost my weight after being divorced, I became involved with a man who was a narcissist and the relationship seemed like a parallel to my molestation.  I felt used, devalued, and invisible in the relationship and it took years to finally reclaim my self worth and separate from him.

My family environment was also turbulent as well.  My step-father was intimidating and abusive at times, shaking  and pulling my hair and throwing things.  It wasn’t an every day occurrence and there were times he did try in his own way.  Our family has many good memories and my parent both have accounted and apologized for the past.  Still yet, I lived in fear and tried to be as perfect as possible.  My sister and step-father butted heads and it made for a very scary and not so pleasant upbringing.  My sister left me a lot alone with my step-dad as my mother worked, and I was terrified and often felt abandoned.  I wasn’t allowed to express anger or really have a voice.  This caused me to stuff lot of my anger and ultimately I never really learned how to express anger in healthy ways.  I still struggle with this today.

Throughout my life, I have been misunderstood and treated differently as a result of suffering with two disorders: ADHD and Bipolar I.  As a small child attending kindergarten, I often was berated by the teacher for having ADHD.  I was different from the other children and was asked often if I had “ants in my pants”?  I didn’t understand why I was getting into trouble all the time.  In my adult years, I loathed myself even more when I became sick with Bipolar illness.  I had friends who laughed in my face when I told them I had gone into a psychiatric hospital for care.  One friend told me she did not believe in mental health problems and that I needed to “buck up & get over myself”.  These sentiments were later expressed in subsequent years by employers when I attempted to get accommodations in place during an episode, so I could remain working.  I was discriminated against and let go or it became so uncomfortable that if I did stay, I eventually left on my own accord.  I’ve experienced years of frustration, often being misunderstood by friends, family, or coworkers who feel my illness is just an excuse I make up for bad behavior.  It is dehumanizing and extremely hard to not only have an illness and suffer greatly from it, but then have your credibility questioned as a result.

Lastly, My sister has struggled with addiction for years and it has caused immense strife in our family.  I confront while others often enable, defend, lie, and hide.  I would have let things go, but she had five children, all of which are young adults now, and I’ve had to watch them struggle along with their own stories of addiction.  Not one of them walked across the stage to graduate and two of them do not even hold GEDs.  Their potential was robbed without their awareness.  I longed for a better life for all of them, including my sister.  This situation has truly been difficult to navigate and I am often devalued in the process.  It has caused me to question my reality and whether or not I am a good person.  It has truly been trying, at times, and I have often lost my patience in rage and despair.

Even with all the strife in past and present relationships, I have always tried relentlessly to reconcile things.  I struggle with letting people go, even if they are not good for me.  I’ve lost a lot of trust in humanity and in others because of the way I have been treated by those close to me.  I admit all my wrongdoings and I still long for the day when I feel accepted and loved completely.

I often feel like a scared kid, just hoping someone picks me up, holds me, and helps me walk through this pain in my life.

I’ve decided that someone has to be me.  We all must manage our own pain, develop better boundaries, and love ourselves.  We must forgive ourselves.  Sadly, I can forgive everyone who has hurt me, but I have the most difficulty forgiving myself.  I often desperately continue to return to those individuals in my life that are not truly open to loving me, or even themselves.  I become angry when they devalue me and my reactions become the rationale for why they leave.  And so, I must go through the difficult task of starting over and rebuilding, learning to let people in slowly, with stronger boundaries in place.  I also have to disengage from those increasing the intensity in my life which often leads to relapses with my Bipolar illness.  This is a balancing act.  I hope sharing helps others out there who are also navigating several tough situations at one, they are not alone.  It’s messy, it’s hard, but it’s possible.

And this is my toughest lesson to learn and my greatest challenge in my lifetime: To love myself enough to develop boundaries and slowly let those people in that will enrich my life and foster my growth and maturity.  I believe they are out there.  I truly am in the middle of this metamorphosis and I hope to one day look back on my life and see that I did it, I changed.  I forgave myself, loved myself, and let go of those who are unwilling or unable to join me on this journey.  No one said love would be easy, but I do believe it is worth it.  And if you are struggling with self worth, I will say to you: WE ARE WORTH IT.  Every human being is worth the journey towards healing and wholeness.

I’m using this piece as a series and am going to follow up with posts of thoughts and progress regarding my healing process.  It helps me feel not so alone.  Happy healing!  Thanks for reading!

Steel Pieces: Drop the Armor, We are Not at War

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STEEL
Amy Taylor
I’m somewhere hidden behind the conflicting angles,
In the shadow of your heart.
Growing in the darkness, expanding
With the imposing light.
My truths dance around you,
Like words reverberating, trapped in the sewer
In steel pipes, a labyrinth
Under the hard, cement streets.
Often my words are suffocated,
Choked, leaving no room for discovery.
They are lost in the void,
The space you call your soul.
Something needs to be broken,
Your love is hardened steel.
I loathe those that tempered you,
Leaving you embedded within walls,
Unchanged, impenetrable.

 

Are we one in the same, stitched loosely from the same flowing fabric of life, love, and immortality?

Can we stand, then, out in the light, our true selves, battered and bruised and point like children, wide-eyed in curiosity and compassion, asking gently: “Where did you get that one?”  And then gently stating. “It’s ok,  I’ll kiss your boo boo and make it better”.

Somewhere along our road of pain, we’ve chosen to seal ourselves up in steel tombs, resembling, the dead, instead of floating on open channels of water, accepting we are all part of the same ocean.

Can we begin to tell our stories, out loud, like the true soldiers we are and peel off the hardened layers we thought protected us, but only lead to stagnation, alienation, and paralysis?

This is the place, my spirit longs to be.  Present day realities keep us imprisoned with our own fears and insecurities.

I recall the last Decade of my life, I refer to it as the “Decade of Darkness”.

I was desperately seeking connection in desolate places.  And in those spaces, I made my share of mistakes.  The longer I stayed in that space, the more intolerable it became.  I felt hopeless, suicidal, and ashamed.  I refused to leave a destructive relationship, I gambled often and lost a lot of money, and I became ineffective in helping my family with their addiction issues.  I became emotionally unstable, and easily enraged.  Self-loathing became a ritual and I was not always open to change.  This past year was a time of complete devastation, while at the same time the beginning of significant growth and love.  The juxtaposition of pain and growth has served as an endless backdrop of self exploration.  I’ve learned healing isn’t what I initially thought.  I see healing now as accepting what is and cultivating compassion, rather that trying to desperately “fix” people or situations that are not in my control to change.  

It’s easier said than done, but once aware a landscape of love opens up before you and opportunities abound in the domains of your life that are yours to mold and influence.  It has cleared my plate, and has provided the space to orchestrate my life without the constant distractions that are outside of my control.  

I wish you peace on this journey towards self love.  I feel that it is the access point to heal ourselves and each other.  Every broken piece must be picked up in love and forgiven.  And one’s ability to do so is exponentially increased when love is present within.  So, go ahead, love yourself.  If you can love and forgive someone who has hurt you, you can love and forgive yourself. May self compassion enfold you today and always.  It’s an imperfect journey and that we will continually expand and grow, loving ourselves and others more and more with the passing of time.  Let the light and love in!   

 

 

 

Addiction, I Hate You

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Dear Addiction,

I hate you.  I hate what you have done to those I love.  You’ve taken their lives and ruthlessly thrown them into the fire, watching them burn, with indifference.  You truly are a living embodiment of hell on earth.

Addiction, I hate you.  I loathe the day you waltzed in promising my sister that you would make things so much better for her.  Rolling out the red carpet, giving her the royal treatment, and romancing her so she would get hooked.  All the lies you fed her knowing that when it was said and done, you would have stolen another soul and left your victim scrambling, sweating, sick on the floor begging for more.  All the times you gave her and others the false impression that they could easily let go when and if they desired, knowing that your physical dependence would imprison & enslave them.

Addiction, I hate you.  I hate the power you hold and what people give up when you finally have secured your place in their soul.  They give up their identity and call themselves “addicts”, enslaving themselves to a lifetime of using and shame.  You don’t deserve the vast following of individuals victimized by you.  You are not only taking lives, you are robbing millions of their potential and peace.  Their waking hours are spent fixated on you and how to remain in your good graces.  Some will steal, lie, and destroy relationships to maintain your presence in their lives.

Addiction, I hate you.  I hate what you do to families, ripping them apart.  I hate that your destruction causes bewilderment and confusion, people don’t know wether to confront or enable.  Often, children affected by your disease will defend you and will even grow up somewhat complacent and numb to the chaos you create.  You sit back waiting, chomping at the bits to claim another victim.  Children who are raised in an environment where you reign, are particularly vulnerable.  But, you tell your victim lies and you discard the loved one that confronts the drug use to try and keep the family safe.  Those screaming in the distance are muted by the noise you cause, continually deafening and disorienting your victim.

Addiction, I hate you.  I hate you for destroying family bonds.  As the flames grow higher and the devastation reaches epic proportions, some scream louder, while other enable more and shrink back in denial. I’ve screamed so much that my voice becomes hoarse, hitting a brick wall, reverberating around this dark chamber that has become all too familiar.  I’m sent to the dungeon, cold and alone, by the loved one you have claimed as your victim.  Nothing penetrates you and you lie to the victim, keeping them in the cycle that defends you and your destructive path.  You’ll admit through the smoke your mistakes, but continue to stand close to the fire.  The fire is never entirely extinguished.  I become disillusioned and dance around the flames, sometimes raging and other times desperately trying to reach you.  And you discard me once again.  

Addiction, I hate you.  Through the years of my experience knowing you, I have doubted my own reality.  I look through the eyes of the victim and I no longer know if it is you or my sister I am staring at and this devastates me.  Her kids have been touched by your fire and one is particularly close to the flames as we speak.

Addiction, I hate you.  If one ever tries to cut ties with you, you hold on like a bitch with nails, clinging, taking the life out of them.  You torture them with beatings and lashings, as they hurl you from their body, clinging to the toilet and sinking on the floor, sweating.  “I’ll teach you never to leave me!”  You snarl and spit in their face, sometimes hijacking their minds with hallucinations and delusional thinking.  No, it’s hell to leave you.  You do not want to relinquish your control.

Addiction, I hate you.  And when the dust settles, and there is stillness, then there is dealing with the aftermath while the cravings for you are forever present, occupying a permanent space in the victim’s mind.    

Addiction, I hate you.  And as if all of this was not enough, your victims wear the label of “addict”, having to rebuild, often ashamed and remorseful.  There are some who have been sitting at your table for so long they have lost themselves.  Your presence can cause changes to the brain that may lower empathy and create cognitive issues.  I am perpetually oscillating between the extremes of trying to help and becoming angry and aggressively confronting .  I am seen as harsh and cruel, when really I am sad and scared.   I have become an indirect victim, my moods and perceptions often altered by this deadly, intoxicating dance. 

Addiction, I hate you.  Because of you, I am letting go of my family.  Not just my sister, but all of my nieces and nephews.  It’s getting too hard to keep trying, only to be devalued and discarded.  I then lose my dignity in anger and rage, saying things I know will only cause more shame.  I begin to wonder if some victims never reach full recovery from you.  And, then I hate on you some more.  

Your reign in my life is over addiction.  I have truly tried to save my sister and her kids from your very ugly, abusive ways, but it is up to them to ride this dangerous storm out.  I will remain hopeful that they one day eradicate you from every inch of their lives.  You have absolutely no place in mine.  I will be more effective letting go, healing, and remaining available when and if any are ready.

Goodbye addiction.  I’ve learned that if you are to leave from any person you have touched, it has to be the victim cutting ties.  No one can do it for them.  

I hate you.

I hope to one day stand on the other side of you, with my family, free from the pain and suffering you’ve created.

Our story is complete.  

Reframing & Rebuilding: 5 Lessons Learned While Healing

 

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Healing from childhood trauma has been the most significant endeavor of my life.  The last two years I have been raw and rapid cycling, while dealing with a lot of anger and pain from the past and present.  Below, I share some of the lessons and insights I’ve learned in this arduous process.  I’m hopeful as my life enfolds, I will have even more to celebrate and share.  I hope you are able to find something relatable here that will help you on your journey.

A few years back, I set my intention on the process of healing.  In the beginning, I was unknowingly halfway in, still dancing with the things and people that were leading to my eventual demise: gambling, an abusive ex, stressful jobs, and the addiction that had touched my sister and her family.  All of these preoccupations were causing relapses of my Bipolar I illness.  My moods and perceptions were hijacked every few weeks and I spent more time rapid cycling than I did in “clarity”.  I can remember times when I felt calm and clear headed, feeling that I had leveled out, only to be taken hostage again.  During these days, my mania took me to extreme rage and suicidal ideation.  There were very valid reasons for my anger and yet, I wasn’t able to be constructive with it.  I ended up being hospitalized, losing a great job, and unemployed.  After years of my manic motor running, and my eventual collapse, I was forced to take a harder look at myself.  It was in this state of desperation, I began to truly heal.  At this point ALL of me wanted it.  It has been a breaking of my will, so to speak, and a readiness on my behalf to not only seek help, but receive it.  I’m not perfect at this, but I keep trying and I keep reaching out.

  1. Lesson 1: Acceptance of what is & letting go.  This was and still is a difficult lesson for me.  I’m not only stubborn, I also consider myself somewhat of a justice warrior and often have a difficult time tolerating situations that do not feel “right” or “fair”.  The reason this lesson is so important is it allows you to leg go of what you cannot control.   My sister’s addiction, a broken healthcare system, and an abusive relationship were all examples of preoccupations I had little control over, but engaged in anyhow.   Doing so did not change the person or the situation, it instead alienated me and caused conflict leading to loss of relationships and jobs.  I still feel there are times to stand up and fight, but I see the value in accepting life, as is, and letting go of what is not in my control to change.
  2. Lesson 2: Be Still. Sitting still in the silence or practicing mindfulness gives yourself the space needed to process.  It helps me sort out what is mine and what is not mine.  I often discover emotions and the root cause of them in this space.  Sometimes, these discoveries are real gems.  They are what I have been avoiding and running from my whole life, a missing puzzle piece.  Sitting in the stillness and letting the emotions be with you has helped me find answers to my vulnerabilities and the reasons for much of my fear and sadness.  I used to run away from the uncomfortable emotions that arose in stillness, now I embrace it, giving it the time and attention it needs to heal.
  3. Lesson 3: Forgive Yourself and Others, Cultivate Compassion. Let go of the notion of perfection.  My life has been messy.  I have had good days where I ran non-stop serving seniors and the disabled.  I’ve had other days were I’ve been horribly cruel to my mother when in conflict over the addiction that hit our family.  I spent years being angry and then a couple more years being engulfed in rage, often hurting people I loved.  I gave a decade of my life to a tumultuous relationship fraught with desperation which led to shame.  I was disappointed in myself and lost, often suicidal. In relapse, my mania would cause many problems for myself and others.  At the end of the day, the self-loathing I did for years increased the likelihood for relapse.  I decided to cultivate compassion for myself and others.  Forgiving myself and others allows me to focus on understanding myself better so that I can cope and decrease the intensity in my life that has caused so many issues for me. It’s a work in progress and I feel it has the potential to open doors and soften who I am in times of stress and conflict.
  4. Lesson 4: Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries! I used to not have any boundaries.  I would let anyone into my life and onto my plate.  I became completely wrapped up in their life.  If someone had a tragedy, it was MY tragedy and I would put more energy and effort into resolving it than the person suffering.  I gave money, time, and tons of energy.  I realized that these people often left me once I tried to set a limit.  Now, I’m excited to finally have an empty plate.  I am working on rebuilding my life exactly how I like it, and will only let people in who are able to give as well as receive.  This is a SUPER exciting time for me.  I don’t have many people in my life yet, but I am excited to find people with similar interest and set healthy boundaries for myself.
  5. Lessons 5: Be Persistent: This alone has saved my life!  I’m persistent.  I might fail over and over again, but eventually I get up and try again.  I am persistent when I need help & I will seek until I find it, using any and all resources available to me.  If I get depressed and I “give up” from time to time, that’s ok, I just try and make the “giving up” temporary!  I also research and educate myself on issues that affect me.   Be persistent and know the resources out there to help you in your recovery process.  Never judge yourself by the times you quit, always look at the times you were persistent and pushed through.  Many things should be a lot easier to access, so don’t be too harsh on yourself!

I’m still learning so much in the healing process that has not settled yet.  I hope in the future to write more about humility and turning towards others.  I know I can be closed off, difficult, and stubborn.  I am doing my best to change a lifetime of poor coping due to trauma and living with a mental illness.  The 5 lessons above have been significant agents of change in the process of healing for me and I’m now 100% in this thing for the long haul!!  Happy healing!

Strolling About the Port

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I am accepting the reality that my family bonds have forever been compromised by my sister’s addiction and the aftermath that followed it.  My mother’s enabling and the lack of remorse and accountability my sister expresses, has left me painfully aware of the vast distance between us.  I accept the distance may not be able to be made up in this lifetime.

Because I am single with no family of my own, this loss has been more significant for me.  I have no children and very few friends.  I acknowledge that I should have spent more time in my life building a stronger social network of friends.  I spent a decade involved with a Narc and was isolated and consumed with the chaos emanating from an abusive relationship.  I finally got the courage to leave my Narc and moved home to have the support from my family, but was devastated when the environment turned hostile. My niece at the time was very sick with addiction, had committed several crimes, and recently used a needle.  I was desperate to get her into a rehab, but was dismayed when I was not joined by my mother and sister in aggressively intervening to attempt getting her into rehab.  I ended up moving back to the NW because my holiday was ruined as it has been so many times before, and I did not want to live so close to a family that devalued me.  At least living so far away, I could tell myself that the reason I did not see family was due to distance, not lack of love.

Since I have been back to the Northwest, I became aware that arguing was a way of holding on to them.  It was all I had left.  It is has been extremely hard to not connect to my nieces and nephews.  Yet, they do not value me, nor do they ever seek a connection with me.  This is even after 2 of them have visited and one we helped through a crisis, the other rode back with me across the country when I moved home.  Even so, with attempts to communicate, one of them hasn’t contacted me in nearly 2 years. How does one deal with that level of disregard from a family member?  It has hurt me, and yet I am beginning to reach peace with this loss through accepting the reality that they are unaware and struggling.

And so, I am gradually spending less time arguing and being angry and more time investing in my own endeavors and health.  It has been hard to “let go”, but I do see the light at the end of the tunnel.  So much of what we really need and long for can be found within ourselves.  I honestly feel there is a wealth of love and joy within us collectively and when I am unable to get what I need from someone, I need to be open to the possibilities of either meeting those needs myself or accepting it from someone willing and able to give.  The source of love is abundant, we often are just insistent on getting it from the person in which we desire it.  This keeps us caught in a web while the world continues rotating.

I’m stepping off the boat that was sinking and am strolling about the port in some foreign  seaside city.  There is a lot to discover here and what I see and do will be depend on my willingness to explore.  I’m hopeful and excited I have made this choice, because I could have remained in that turbulent sea, in a leaking boat, with hardly any supplies.  I’m going to stay here for a time, sit on the dock of the bay, and build anticipation towards the time, I again, set sail.  This is healing.