This poem describes some of the relationships currently in my life. I have felt abandoned by some in my family as well as my ex fiancé who I believe may be a narcissist. It has been difficult to remain in relationships where I have felt not visible or valued, at times. And so, I am working on distancing myself from those in my life who treat me poorly and those that enable the poor treatment.
It is hard work to leave someone you love, but I feel it is my only path to healing. I hope one day to be truly loved, valued, and fought for. I hope one day to escape my “desolate and desperate” sea. It is my work to do so. It is my intention to one day be fully loved and valued. And so, I am learning to value and love myself so that I will not settle and I will be ready for an amazing, healthy love when it comes. I am currently not dating or searching for anyone as I realize I have a lot of healing to do first. I am working on loving myself. This will open me up to limitless possibilities and opportunities. My day will come in time. I’ve always said I would rather have quality over quantity any day. I’ll wait for the caviar and decadent dark chocolate truffles. It’s going to be so worth it in the end.
I was reminded of you last night. I was up late, looking through a decade of old photos on my computer. A picture of you in your military uniform captured me, I had a hard time looking away, so I stared at it for awhile, with intensity and interest. These were the eyes I would lose myself in, the same ones that could make time stand still and everything else fall into the background. They were the ones that penetrated my walls enough to peer inside and scan my internal landscape of intimate vulnerabilities, desires, and fears. Your eyes had a language of their own and I trusted them, inviting them to sit with me in my most sacred places, sharing a world with them that I had never travelled before. So many intoxicating and exciting places we visited. For me, it was something incredibly special, so beautiful and unique, that words could never paint the picture of us. The painting that only you and I shared. It was, at times, other worldly and blissful. And yet, it was too good to be true.
“I fell through a burning ring of fire” staring into your eyes.
You eyes were deceiving me the entire time. Full of lies, they studied my internal landscape to rape and pillage the fertile soil, determined to leave it dry and barren. Only then, would your ego be satisfied enough to leave me, discarded and devastated.
And so, late last night, I was surprised and delighted to remember that it was your birthday. It has been two years since we last slept side by side, stuck in an abusive cycle of your gaslighting and lies. It was difficult leaving you initially because you had convinced me that I was the problem in the relationship. Your erratic behavior of pulling me in and discarding me, kept me dizzy and in constant confusion and anxiety. You kept crashing into my life with such intensity, only to withdraw quickly and silently, stonewalling me for weeks, ignoring texts and refusing requests to talk. It was maddening and I eventually left.
I still longed for our connection, to look into your eyes, and escape into perfect bliss. In ways, I hoped you would agree to therapy as I implored you to do so. But, days and weeks and soon months went by and if you contacted me it was only to flirt or invite me down to sleep with you. And this was when you were dating someone else. I saw this behavior as distasteful and demeaning to the woman you were romancing at the time. Those brief interactions only served to distance me farther from you, eventually allowing complete freedom from the reign you had in my life for an entire decade!
And so, today, I wish you a “Happy Birthday”, but the gift, baby, is all mine. Two full years of self-discovery and forgiveness. Two years of regaining my dignity. I’m healing and changing while you stay caged in your crappy games, hurting those “you love”. And now, I see those eyes as distant, cold, hollow. I have always held out hope on some level that perhaps you did really love me. But, the larger part of my spirit knows now that you were not capable of loving me at the time, if ever. The many times I left messages or e-mails only for you to not respond. I now see your stare as icy cold, even menacing. There were times when we were together that I watched you turn stone cold, distant. I didn’t recognize you.
And so, today I celebrate two years free from our cycle of despair. And, as you have your cake and ice cream today, I’m three hours away celebrating my recovery of narcissistic abuse. It’s been a time of perpetual gifts, both big and small. I’ve learned to love myself and put me first, in the center of my plate. Our relationship helped to carve out my self-esteem, in a painstakingly, beautiful manner. So the ending of us, was really the beginning of something truly remarkable and beautiful for me. When I thought my world had fallen apart, in losing you, it actually was unraveling in order to be put together in the most exquisite and miraculous way. I rose from the flames, reborn, like the phoenix and am infinitely proud of rising after such a disastrous fall. So….. Happy Birthday to you and Happy “Rebirth”day to me. Looks like we both have something to celebrate!
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!
You were my ocean, I was often lost in you. Dragged in by the cruel and coveted undertow, Spit out on the shore, broken shells. I was always thirsty by your salty ways, Cresting and crashing in confusion. Searching your vastness, longing… Your beauty mesmerizing. Exhausted & swimming… Trying to stay stable, Among the shifting sands of your ocean floor. Too distant to reach, like the night sky. My grief lead me to refuge, My feet trod on the forest floor. An intricate system of strong and sturdy roots below. Holding me there. I knew the forest would take my salty tears, Standing among gentle giants with no judgment. And as I let go of the days at sea where I lost myself… A carpet of lush green ferns awaited me, A gentle breeze caressed me, Birds greeted me with song. I no longer needed to cry out For the forest had absorbed it. And so here, among the roots is where I will heal. An ocean cannot hold you.
Inspired by a decade of narcissistic abuse, from a man who wasn’t able to meet me with commitment or stability. Often, the forest is where I grieved, and subsequently healed. I’m forever grateful to the forest and the peace that held me and moved me through those intense periods of crisis in my life. When struggling, look to nature as it will offer you refuge and comfort during trying times.
There was something more powerful, pushing me there.
I was exhausted from a stressful week at work,
I honestly did not know if I had it in me.
I was pushed despite the pain, the anxiety, the fear, the exhaustion.
Still, I came.
Still, I showed up.
On the way down, I felt carried.
Carried by love.
I forgave you and was completely filled.
I surrendered, relinquishing control.
I saw that I owned nothing.
I saw that everything was a gift.
I rejoiced in this realization.
And then you met me, joyful.
We spend hours and collided, skimming the surface,
Never going in too deep.
Maybe I saw something in your face,
But I was too far away and I knew the reality of tomorrow.
At one point, I took a bath.
The sunlight came streaming in, warming my back.
There is nothing I love more that bathing in natural light.
I listened to the whistle on the train as it approached,
I faded into the hum of the steel on the tracks,
Wishing I were a passenger in the past traveling somewhere.
My thoughts drifted.
I came back, scrubbing my legs, my back, and listening to the water
Fall from the washcloth as I rinsed the soap from my skin.
Most of the day with you I spent in pain,
Tired and exhausted from the life I am living.
And then we parted. We said our goodbyes.
And, in the past, I would have completely crumbled.
In the past you would have been the only object of focus in my lens.
But this time, you weren’t.
God granted me a glimpse into love.
Love where nothing is owned or controlled.
Love where there is one source.
Every tiny delight, every source of pleasure & joy,
Comes from this one source.
My body, my possessions, my food, my thoughts, my ideas,
All emanate from this grounding force of love.
I can’t tell you why I made it through this or that when so many times I felt I could not.
I only now know now that it was because of love.
And as much physical pain as I was in on this journey, I finally surrendered.
And so, this is my focus.
To surrender and let love expand, washing over the broken pieces of my life.
And like shells, washed upon the shore, they are part of a majestic composition,
Possessing value and beauty.
All those small, insignificant moments, when I thought I was alone,
I was weaving a story of love and slowly surrendering
To the collective potential we possess.
I am learning from you.
You were learning from me.
The yearning we feel is ours to fill,
With the love inside us that drives us to keep going,
Searching for the agates and sea glass the is thrown upon the ocean shores.
And like the tides, having their lows and highs,
I’m accepting all of myself in compassion and care.
Love is embracing all of you, and still marveling at the ocean.
And so, I’ve learned that love isn’t a perfect story of bliss and passion. I left the “love of my life” because we were only hurting one another and it had become harder to “hold on” than it was to “let go”. I was losing my dignity in that I had accepted too much and I no longer liked the person I became in anger and rage. In the end, I realized the person I was most fighting with was myself. I was angry for not having left earlier. Looking back, I feel my lover was suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder and was incapable of truly connecting with me. I still love him, but I’ve learned to love myself enough to walk away and go “No Contact”. I’m spending my days rebuilding my life and I love myself enough to forgive the past where I was a student to my grief and pain. The last decade of my life where I experienced narcissistic abuse, has given me the greatest gift of all: self love. All of those arguments and times I was desperate to make Him mine, was actually my desperate attempts to connect to and love myself. I’m infinitely proud of myself for letting go and embracing myself. Sometimes, we don’t realize the person we most miss is ourselves. I’m romancing myself for the time being and experiencing the “Greatest Love of All”.
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,
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!
I’ve been wandering around, lost, in this desolate wasteland, devoid of growth, authenticity, and connection for years. I’ve been using my voice, often much too loudly, shouting to be heard, only to sit with invalidating reverberations in solitude, suffocating, choking on the stagnant air. There were many days I toiled on the land, planting seeds, with the hope of making this landscape fertile. My head bent down in the scorching sun, weary, I would lose myself in ambition, hopeful that one day I would be able to connect to those I loved. Over time, I realized the futility of my efforts, and I sat invisible, scanning the horizon, in a place where my voice had lost its significance.
In this space of desperation, where I had begged not only for love, but visibility, I was given a true gift, my voice.
The last two years, I desperately clung to relationships that had long ago expired. I wrote an embarrassing amount of letters, e-mails, and texts to keep the lines of communication open, while at the same time, putting my foot down and demanding reciprocation and respect. I would have much preferred connection in a healthy space with those I love, but I also was aware that I would not tolerate accepting so little when I had given so much.
Two years I spent at war, demanding respect while attempting to rebuild. I was imperfect in this process. I often was ignored and mischaracterized which only fueled the the fire. It wasn’t too long ago the I partially accepted the gaslighting as I was unaware of what was actually occuring. In the past, I would doubt my reality and become increasingly sick from the starved wasteland that had become my life. While I struggled alone, becoming more depressed and anxious, I was called “crazy” and encouraged to “commit suicide already”. There wasn’t any real concern about the state of my mental health from those wrapped up in their own ego and importance. I was berated for my voice and mere existence and told multiple times to “get lost”. Albeit I was confronting some very difficult realities of the past and present and knew that this would be a difficult relationship to mend. I wasn’t ready to completely give up and abandon a landscape that I knew needed to heal.
Often, I was muted as my words and concerns fell to the floor, overshadowed by someone who had been given more significance than me. It was a lifelong pattern and one that has not been questioned or even see by others. It has been easy to use my Bipolar diagnosis to dismiss the behavior I confronted and cause me to question myself. However, things escalated over the past two years and I felt more confident and confronted the destruction that had been caused. Ultimately, there was no real level of accountability and I received the double whammy of my credibility coming into question due to manipulation and lies. I was now the manipulator and liar. I’ve read enough about both narcissism and sociopathy to acknowledge that this was what I was up against. Often narcissist and sociopaths have the ability to manipulate and charm others to believe them, even if they are not credible individuals.
It was this awareness that has allowed me to let go. I could see that I was in a hopeless relationship and staying would only make me more miserable and in turn any work with them fruitless. I have learned that people have to actively search for the truth and desire it. Some individuals simple do not want to “do the work”. Instead it is easier in confrontation to believe the story that doesn’t cause them to question the reality they have been comfortable living with for years. I decided that I could not live wandering around that desolate wasteland of disconnection and derealization any longer.
The greatest thing I learned is when you are stuck screaming to be seen and heard in a situation for years, cut the ties. I could stay and lose my identity and voice in order to placate and enable the devastation I see created by this individuals actions, but that would only serve to erase me. I spent years silencing myself so that others could continue to have there, often time, dysfunctional reality supported. Why stand in the barren wasteland, alone, when there is fertility within you. I’ve taking my passion and love that is inside me and rebuilding my life in love with authenticity. I will surround myself with people who acknowledge my presence and where my voice has significance. It’s hard to believe I spent so many years wrapped up with people who did not even “see me” or know me. I take accountability for remaining involved and losing my dignity as I fought to hang on to those I loved. As the scapegoat, and the one who confronted, I was see as the problem and my personhood was denied in order to support their reality.
It’s ok to leave. I matter. I have a voice. I am visible. And I will rebuild.
I see you suffering and I acknowledge your struggle. You’re dragging around this heavy wrecking ball, fearful of both hanging on and letting go. There is a part of you that is becoming so exhausted, clinging to this shattered dream. You spend each day searching for any signs of love, security, or hope that may still exist in this desperate situation that consumes you. You want more for yourself, but you haven’t committed to the process that will bring you through to the other side. Self love seems to be this elusive, unattainable reality that is easy to post memes about, but more difficult to practice or embody.
There is a stillness inside of you that will guide you to your homeport where you can seek refuge and be safe.
I see you suffering and acknowledge your struggle. When stillness engulfs you, you flee making desperate efforts to find stimulation and solace. You are apprehensive and uncomfortable with being still. It is easier to remain engaged in chaos, it is what you are familiar with and what you know. And so, you’ll seek stimulation in substances, in partners, family drama, food, sex, gambling, etc. Those things become your way of coping and they distance you from yourself and what you think you don’t want to know. It is appealing to engage is endless distraction.
You spend your days dealing with the problems that arise out of your preoccupations rather than accepting accountability and listening in the stillness to what your voice wants to tell you. Often these preoccupations from abusive relationships to addiction, provide the daily drama that keeps you hooked into what you have mistakenly fabricated as “your life”. Everything from financial woes to strained relationships with loved ones who truly care for you, is emanating from the web of deception telling you daily that you are trapped. It took years to form the cage you feel safe in and you willingly discard the key that will set you free. Instead you have bonded with the lies that make up the fable of your life.
I see you suffering and acknowledge your struggle. Your voice has been desperately trying to break through to you. It longs to sit with you in the silence and hold you in that sacred space, communing with your authentic voice. It is ready to penetrate through the daily bullshit that keeps you hooked in the madness that you have began to identify as your life. There are days your voice trickles over, spilling from your eyelids, rolling down your cheeks. And still yet, with it shaking you, through violent sobbing, you get up, searching for something to soothe yourself, silencing yourself, becoming lost once again. When will you listen to your voice? It has so many beautiful stories to share with you.
I see your struggle and will rejoice when you finally let go in courage and create a pathway through action and intention to free yourself. Everything you created for your safety and survival long ago is crushing your spirit and holding you back today. There is no longer a reason to doubt your strength and ability to protect yourself.
I see you suffering and I know it’s getting harder to hang on than to let go. It’s almost time. You have this. You are enough. You always have been.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.