Sometimes – most times – it is so hard for me to express myself vocally at a counseling appointment, or anywhere actually, and then I get home and have all these thoughts swirling around, and no way to put them in order without writing them down, because heaven forbid, I should talk about them to someone else – ha! Seriously, it’s a terrifying thought that anyone in my world should find out my horrid secrets, even though my rational brain knows they really aren’t that bad, compared to what others have been through, most of them anyway. What makes them feel so frightful then? I don’t know. I only know that doing the comparison thing has not served me well. I also know that I don’t want my healing process to inflict new wounds onto others who already have plenty of their own to deal with.
I came home from my counseling appointment yesterday feeling crashed. As though I’d actually been in a wreck. Not in physical pain, but my body was in shock – as if I’d been hit by a car, but I had no bruises to show for it. I was trembling and had difficulty focusing. It was pretty-kinda awful, but a small voice in me held out hope, saying, “Look, it took decades of time and all your courage, but today you said those words you’ve never spoken to another living soul. The ones that little girl inside always felt would send her straight to hell, and you are still alive. This is a good thing.” I suppose that voice is right, to some extent. Those unspoken words have kept a part of me in a version of hell for most of my life. I know I haven’t even come close to voicing why that is, and part of me is still trapped there, but I am closer than I’ve ever been to breaking free. I know it will come. (And no, it’s not anything nearly as bad as you might be imagining right now, although I won’t say what it is here.)
When I am in distress, I write. If I’m not frozen, at least. It’s one way I fight against the outside force of evil that wants to kill me. Although that’s a metaphorical way of saying it, that’s what it feels like sometimes. And it seems the deeper the distress, the more likely I am to write poetry. Probably because I can plumb the depths of my unused vocabulary vault. And also because a paucity of words helps me both express and still hide the truths I’m afraid to say out loud. (See what I did there? vocabulary.) I don’t need as many words for poetry, but I need words with power, and the silent spaces between them, whether anyone else understands them or not. So yesterday, when I felt as though my body was barely hanging onto my mind, I sat down and wrote. I think the poem isn’t very good yet, but it has the kernel of becoming good in it. For now, that is good enough – for both the poem and for me.
For a second, I lost track of where I was going with this, but my overwhelming feeling right now is gratitude. Even though yesterday was hard, even though it seems like a long two weeks until my next counseling appointment, even though Christmas is smack in the middle of those two weeks, and even though I still don’t know how to manage the tension I feel (Will I ever? Will I ever forgive the hurt so it doesn’t hurt anymore? I believe that mostly people aren’t evil, only very overwhelmed by their own pain, and it leaks out onto people around them), having the hope of relief makes this all worth it. I feel like I’m waking up again. I’m writing every day. I wrote a book in November. I’m pulling out my old ideas that I’ve been stashing away over the last several years. I’m discovering that the words I wrote even while I was mentally frozen are good. Like, I am a dang-stinking good writer, although I’m not entirely sure how that happened. But best of all, I think about writing all the time now, and I’m actually doing it, where before I simply couldn’t think, couldn’t remember, to be able to carry one thought to the next, let alone a whole plot line. Everything was locked in a mental permafrost. But now, I think about what will happen next in the book I’m working on, and what problems my characters could have that would make them stronger, and I have new story ideas flooding in – the glacier is finally melting, releasing the thoughts I’ve needed all along and letting them flow into becoming something wonderful. The thing about writing fiction, is that, although the scenarios are made-up, the emotions are real, so it makes sense that I can’t write when I’m hiding from my own.
I thought it was a terrible thing in October, when I hurt my back and could barely walk, and therefore couldn’t exercise to chase away my stress. The closer I got to Christmas, the more intense my mental anxiety became, and the closer I felt I was to being sucked into a swirling abyss. How do I talk about my crap-history in therapy (it’s not all crap-history, but that’s been getting in the way of the good stuff), and then show up to gatherings (including church) where there are complicated emotions, and smile and be polite? I just dreaded it. I know I blame some people for things that weren’t even their fault, for sins of omission that they have no idea ever were a problem. That’s not fair of me. But the little girl who was hurt just shouts that someone should have been watching out for her better, and the adult in me has no idea how that could have happened at the time, and so the cycle of blame and shame continues. Exercise has always been one way I self-medicate, and I think that way is better for me than taking any pharmaceuticals, but I also think that it’s been hiding the real work I need to do to process some of these situations from my past. It’s like smearing some Novocain and sticking a bandage on an infected wound. If I can make myself feel better with an endorphin rush, then why bother identifying the specific underlying wounds that fester unattended? Except that those wounds have been making me sicker than I ever imagined. Healing them is miraculous, and I thank heaven for Jesus Christ’s gift of mercy and for my counselor’s help to face it all.
This Christmas I have been given, and continue to receive, a gift of Grace and hope that goes beyond my ability to give thanks. I know that many people suffer in silence, especially at this time of year. Please hold on. There is help and hope. Find a counselor who can help you find the wholeness that your fragmented heart needs.
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7, KJV
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17, NIV