Saturday, October 29, 2011

Stand or Lean: taking your own crisis on.

Its been an interesting couple of weeks. I had surgery on my spine a few weeks ago, which was kind of tough enough. During that time, I had another unrelated traumatic event happen, which was really frightening. It put me on precarious footing while I was trying to heal. I wasn't really sure which way was up, and I found myself confused and isolated, longing for the reality of the situation to be different.

I didn't want to be in this situation, I feel like I've worked hard to get to a place where my life is relatively calm and drama free. I'm finally more financially stable, my kids are for the most part happy and comfortable, and their dad has settled into his new life well. We are all sort of trundling along, and I had found myself thinking, great! We did it!

And then the shit hit the fan. This isn't a post about the particulars of that situation, but what followed; how to wander back out of the wilderness of unexpected trauma or crisis without getting swamped. Or,  if you are swamped, (I did at one point say "I'm out of my depth. This is too much."), how to find the help you need to get back on your own two feet and start walking again.

The Oogie Boogie Man - he's BACK!

There is a fine line between being needy and asking for what you need, between being held captive and defined by the crisis and facing and processing it.

I think so often when something happens, we bury it down deep, knowing that we don't want to send other people into crisis, or upset those around us that we love. Sometimes we get concerned about how our story will impact others, and so we hide it.

There are other impetus for hiding or boxing up something that happens, sometimes we think if we ignore it, it will go away, its impact, its importance, and then we can just get back to normalcy.

But that's not really how it works.

I know that looking right at the thing that happens is terrifying. I also know that its the only way to push through and heal.

When I was younger, I had PTSD from some childhood trauma. As a result, I used to see bogeymen. I was afraid of the dark. Most kids are afraid of the dark, so even if you didn't have PTSD, you can probably relate. Every once in a while our imagination gets away from us, and our anxiety about what MIGHT be, even if its terribly impractical, gets the better of us.

That's called surrendering to the contingency. Fear of what might be takes over and paralysis ensues.

This is where you stare down the thing that scares you.

And sometimes, you have to do that with some help. Sometimes the thing that scares you is just too big to be tackled alone. And I guess the next question would be, can you look for support without dragging others down with you? Can you reach out for contact and connection but still look for your own feet?

Can you own your piece of this, knowing that ultimately, the responsibility for healing is yours alone?

Can you do that without alienating and martyring yourself?

Can you find the friend that can listen and allow yourself space to process what you need to trusting that they are holding space for you? Yes, I'm talking about crying, snotting into your hankie, and making some tea. Can you let a sympathetic ear be an ear and a hug, and move forward from there?

Crisis is like a whirlpool, it wants to drag you in to the bottom, and when you are there, the weight of it can be oppressive. We often want to lay in the bottom of it and have company down there.

I guess I've been working on accepting that its okay to be in the bottom of the whirlpool, sometimes things happen in life that create crisis like that. But can I be there without letting it define me?
Ask for help. Then, try it on your own.

Can I look around and say, well, its appropriate that I'm upset and in a hard place, because I just went through something that was scary, out of the norm, something that shook me. But I don't have to live here. I need to see, with open eyes, that which is real, look right at what happened, and at the same time, let go of my personal indignation, my fear, my pain. I can take this time as an opportunity to practice acceptance instead of another obstacle placed in front of me.

When the bogeymen of my past presented themselves, I had to learn that, in the end, it was my job to dispel the myth of them. They existed because of something real and frightening, but ultimately, I had to decide if I wanted to be stuck in the box of the fact of them, or let go and move on. If I'm not willing to own my own fears and try it on my own, I'm choosing to stay right where I am.

It took a while, but I decided that when I found a place that was full of fear, my job was not to hide, turn on the light, or have someone look behind the shower curtain for me. My job was to take a deep breath, breathe out slowly, look right at the thing that scared me, and walk toward it. Into it. Through it. Out of it.

I took to walking around the house in the pitch dark on purpose, finding the longest, scariest, most circuitous route I could to wherever I was headed in order to prove to myself that my fear, no matter how real it was, no matter how honestly it was come by, should not own me.

One day, I walked to the bathroom in the middle of the night and didn't realize until I was tucking back into bed that it hadn't occurred to me to be scared. Something had shifted.

I didn't do it all alone, I had to lean, but in order to conquer it, ultimately, I had to stand alone and face the demon all by myself. I had to want to heal enough to find courage.

One of the best parts of that adventure was realizing that people who care for us don't always know how to help us best. We often impose on them the idea that they should know what we need, isn't it obvious? Something terrible happened. You should feel and act this way automatically.

I think we often forget that everyone has their own triggers and fears, their own construct defined by the life that they lived. And whatever situation we find ourselves in may very well trigger the fears and concerns of those who care for us.

It takes time, but eventually, you can walk on your own.
And they can't give you what you need unless you ask for it clearly. This is asking for what you need rather than being needy. I think neediness comes when we need help, and impose on those around us some sort of fantastic idea of how people should give to us or support us. Now you are just compounding your issue, you've been through something tough, and you are now looking for your family and friends to come to your aid in the way you most need them, but you aren't asking for what you need. You are choosing to stay in the bottom of the whirlpool, hoping someone will lay down there with you.

What a wonderful opportunity this has been to learn once again to stand on my feet and walk through the dark. Thanks to those who stood on the other side, encouraging me.

There's a way to go, but I can see you, and I'm grateful.

PS Thanks to Russ for jump starting the writing again. 

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