Trigger Warning: This episode is not for little ears. In this episode I will walk you through Part One of my Mental Healthy journey. My story as an adoptee cannot be separated from my story with mental health. I touch on topics like somatic memories, the first signs of diagnosis, labels that I placed on myself… and that one time I convinced my elementary classmates I was pregnant.
I sometimes think we get so caught up with growth and falling off the wagon of life, that we just sometimes forget to be who we are. We work so hard on growing, moving forward, the next right thing… That we just forget to be who we are. We work so hard at avoiding triggers, and toxic relationships, and bad habits… That we just forget to be who we are.
Sometimes we focus so much on functioning out of a healthy space and avoiding the unhealthy that we forget to just sit in our own juices…
To just be.
For a second I thought this was just a enneagram four moment, but then I started thinking of my loved ones and my friends and my spouse and my kids and my best friend and my parents and myself…
How many times these last few weeks have we apologized for being who we are.
God spoke to Abraham and He said, “I am who I am.” We are created in God’s image and we are to emulate his son Jesus. So. Why can’t we just, “Be who we be?” God is whole and good because He is who He is. To declare, “I am who I am” to the world is not a sin, nor arrogance, nor egotistical.
It’s emulating our Lord.
“I am who I am.”
I am exactly who God created me to be. I like paint. I like to create. I swear. I am loud. I drink beer. I like loud music. I like to emote. I am a writer. I like to play. I like to scream. I like to be angry. I like color. I like anything made out of wood (especially pencils). I like to be in control and accomplish and check off tasks. I NEED to be able to create a home that feels like shimmying down into warm sheets at night. I like my husband rugged. I like him clean cut too. I need adventure.I REALLY like food. Especially cheese. I need to move constantly. I need one-on-one time with my kids. I love dogs, but can’t handle big dogs in my home right now. I HATE to watch other people’s children, but I will do an errand for you so fast Jimmy John’s will get whiplash. I NEED TO FIX THINGS. INCLUDING YOU.
Just stop. Stop trying so damn hard.
One time one of my best friends ever messaged me after I was all four-ish. I had emotionally vomited to her and my other BFF and she said, “Andrea. Stop trying so hard.” I swear to God himself I am getting that tattooed on me in her handwriting as soon as this COVID quarantine is over.
*Insert you name* Just stop trying so hard.
God didn’t create someone he wanted to change completely.
Mold? Yes. Guide? Yes. Disciple? Yes. Fish with? Yes. (God really has a thing for fishing… and water. And clay pots….)
Remeber that when God created you… He looked upon you and said,
“It is good.”
Come just as you are.
But preferably with some fishing tackle apparently… And/Or ready to get your hands all up in some clay Ghost style…
Today we experience death. I know not all of my readers or followers are Christians, but I ask you to sit with me this weekend. The story of the death, ascension, and resurrection of Christ may have some truth for you even if you don’t have faith in it. Today is the day we experience death. Staying home has caused many of us with trauma to lose a lot of our coping mechanisms, tools, resources, and distractions. What we are left with is the internal screaming of our trauma as it is surfacing, triggered, or just waving at us from across the room reminding us it’s there. Many of us are reliving abuse, abandonments, terror, shame, rejection, and some of us are experiencing walking through death itself.
This is where I find myself today. Sitting with the reminder that I am not as far in my healing journey as I would like. There are still many dark places in story. There are still so many caverns left unlit. There is still so much anger, rage, fear, and shame swelling up internally. Today I feel the death that Good Friday represents for me. I got this cross tattoo in college when I was searching for hope. When I was looking for Sunday. 13 years later it’s no longer a symbol of hope for me. It’s a daily reminder that death is art of the process.
I recognize that I am but human and I do not have the faith courage, grace, or mercy to cry out, “My God, My God! Forgive them! They know now what they do!”
Because earth side… I know they did know to some extent what they were doing to me. Not fully. But my anger wants to point the finger and scream, “YOU DID THIS TO ME.”
I feel the death of my biological family today. The concept that we were a family and then that family was put to death. Not once, but twice. Of what was and no longer.
I feel the death of my innocence as my sexual abuser took their misplaced anger out on my body. Of the before innocence and the after.
I feel the death of rejection as over and over I have been deemed unlovable, too much, too unpredictable, to unstable, and unworthy over and over and over again. Of the repeated blows we want to stop, but come to expect.
Cathy Loerzel of the Allender Center created a tool called the U Diagram. And it uses the imagery of this holy weekend, in conjunction with brain science, to walk each of us through our stories.
Today is the day we experience the death. We revisit the trauma. We acknowledge its occurrence. We feel the pain.
Today as many of us are forced to sit with our trauma, we are feeling the experience of death.
And this is the first step. Death. Who knew that healing could happen in such excruciating pain and death? We don’t have to think about the next step. We don’t have to think about tomorrow or the Sunday of resurrection, that seems so far away…
Today we just sit. And we hold onto the dirt at the bottom of the roughhewn wooden cross and we smear ourselves with it. We wear our pajamas as we shelter in place, and we cry out. Internally or out loud.
And we mourn.
And we grieve.
Today we cry out, “My God! My God! Why have though forsaken me!”
I’ve been walking around for days wondering what I can offer you. How can I help (there’s my unhealthy four showing up)? What advice can I give? How can I fix this? (There’s my Enneagram Healthy 4 coming out wanting to MAKE EVERYTHING RIGHT.)
Long before I jumped into the world of writing about adoption, I was writing about mental health. I am going to jump back there for a bit.
My honest thoughts are these: I am a fish out of water flopping around on the ground (sometimes literally) between hyperarousal (panic) and hypoarousal (shame). Those of us with Trauma do not like surprises. We don’t like the unexpected. This triggers our Mamillian brain and sends us into fight, flight, freeze, or fawn.
Let me make something clear. Many of us with trauma do not feel fear concerning the COVID-19 virus. Many of us feel no emotional response at all about the pandemic. In fact, many would use words like numb, nothing, or indifferent.
Fear. Panic. Uncertainty. These are all feelings we feel every day. This isn’t something new.
I will even go as far as to say that many of us with Trauma think the rest of you are silly.
Yes. That may seem harsh to you. But this is our normal. This is our COMFORTABLE PLACE. You all look like chickens running around with your heads cut off. We are over in the corner talking amongst ourselves: Why can’t they handle this? What’s the big deal? Why are they being so overdramatic about this?
(Yes. I know the irony of this last statement doesn’t fall upon deaf ears. I am well aware we trauma folk have a history of dramatic impulses… because of lack of impulse control.)
But here is what many of you who live with, work with, or love people who have Trauma NEED to understand:
We are not reacting to fear. Again, fear is our safe place. This is just any ol’ day in the life.
What we are reacting to is the unexpected. It’s the surprise. It’s the abrupt fall-out of normalcy. It’s the loss of our routines that keep us grounded. It’s having our senses bombarded with more than usual sensory engagements having our children home or not being able to go to or engage in our safe places.
We are feeling frustration.
It’s the loss of our coping skills and boundaries we’ve put in place (either purposefully or subconsciously) for our SURVIVAL.
Survival. (For some of us this is a matter of survival. Fighting for our sanity or our lives isn’t a joke. It’s a reality. )
I get it. It’s hard to understand from the other side. I grew up with neuro-typical parents who still struggle with even accepting Trauma and that I have it. I’ve heard all the phrases. I give all the grace. Most of us are aware your intentions are good.
While it may appear that we are feeling the same things as you are, it’s crucial to understand that we are not. It’s crucial in HOW you approach your loved one with trauma during this time.
Just like many other areas of trauma, the surface reactions and actions may appear to be the same as yours. However, it’s not. It’s the WHY that’s different and HOW you love, help, or regulate your loved one who has trauma during this time needs to be adjusted accordingly.
More on that later…