Something major happened with me a few weeks ago – a HUGE breakthrough. I’ve been waiting to write about it, because I wanted to make sure nothing would halt or undo the miracle I experienced. Healing is a lot like gardening. You don’t want too many people digging around in the soil of new growth, it’s just not a good idea. Better to let it get really good and rooted first. So I don’t generally talk or write about the big (good) stuff till I’ve had time to see if it’s really going to take root or not. God knows with SRA, if anything can disrupt it, it will, and it will with a vengeance.
So far, it’s been several weeks and it’s all still intact. So now…I write. In hopes that it will help anyone who reads.
I don’t know how else to do it except tell the story. I’m still confused as hell about what – exactly – was the point at which the light came on for me. So I’m afraid if I condense the story it will leave out a vital detail that I don’t know is vital.
So a few weeks ago I went to my church because someone that I don’t know very well had asked if I’d be there – they had a gift for me. I have a very strained relationship with the formal institution of Church. This doesn’t mean I don’t love God, and it doesn’t mean I don’t love people. I just have extreme struggles with the formal institution of Church wherein are administered the (mostly man-made) traditions known as Religion. But because I didn’t want to be rude or hurt the person’s feelings and just not show up for their gift, I went. That’s the only reason I went. (I’m just being honest.) I wasn’t there because I particularly wanted to be there or because I had any expectations or hopes invested in being there.
So after said person gave me the parcel, it was too late to leave without being noticed, so I stayed. And I hated it. I could barely keep from having a total meltdown. Nothing specific about this church, just a buildup of things. Backing up a little, I’d been in intense attachment pain, the week before. That’s not new but sometimes I notice it more than others. I’d been waking up at night, crying in my sleep, didn’t really know why, nothing specific on my mind. Couldn’t go back to sleep. Everything hurt and nothing helped.
At church I had been sitting there listening to the person talking, feeling as though faith was presented as so commercialized and gimmicky, I couldn’t stand it. It made me angry. To me spirituality and faith is not meant to be a quick-fix, a social club, or a popularity contest. It’s deep and hard and beautiful and liberating and sacrificial and brutal and restorative – all in turn. It’s everything. To cheapen it by turning it into a product being marketed just pisses me off.
There was also an additional tone of superiority that I may have just been imagining, when those who “minister” or have a “ministry” talk about those they minister to. It’s at least possible that it’s all in my head, but as a person who has been on both sides of this coin, I am sensitive to it. I don’t appreciate any type of separation implied between those who need and those who give. We all occupy both of those categories at various times if we’re being honest.
Now, listen, people. This is not meant to be a diatribe about these believers or this church, or any group of believers, or churches in general, despite or because of my not naming names. The filters are mine, and I know that. These people have sweet hearts and it’s nothing personal about or toward them. Know that I’m the one with the junk that makes me see things from a skewed perspective. I don’t expect them to try to accommodate me or my issues and I have every reason to think their hearts are in the right place. God will help me with my filters as I heal.
At any rate, I was listening for the customary amount of time to their religious commercials and thinking (very loudly) “I DO NOT KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO BE CHOSEN BY EVEN A HUMAN SO HOW THE F—SHOULD I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT WITH GOD.” I was still thinking I need a human example, someone to show me what it looks like to be chosen by a person – anyone, really – before I can comprehend God doing it. That made sense to me. It seemed logical.
But I was wrong.
That night I decided on the way home that I was done with church…at least, for a while. I came home. I was still broken hearted and thinking about my lack of comprehension of what it’s like to be chosen – for anything other than damage. In attempt to distract myself, I read 2 blog posts by 2 different writers that I follow (here and here) and SOMETHING snapped into place for me. It happened very suddenly.
In a fit of pure infantile temper, the thought flashed through my mind: SCREW ALL THE REST OF THE WORLD! **I** choose me!
I went inside, and said to nobody in particular, but talking to my inside people: **I** choose you (meaning, all of you). I choose you ALL. I DO.
Everything halted. Everyone, the entire world, went quiet. In a way that I’ve never felt. It wasn’t a death type of quiet. It was good, but kind of like “good” in a way that is still painful. Like what I think Brené Brown calls “dread of joy.” It was like everyone dropped everything to listen to those words. Like those words are the magic words.
I kept saying it. **I** choose you.
And for whatever reason, that attachment pain I’d had LEFT ME. I mean, it WAS GONE. For the first time in decades I did not feel like I was empty at my core. I felt whole. I mean, completely. It was like a healing avalanche was facilitated by those words – but even more so, by this decision. This declaration.
It hasn’t been back.
The realization burst upon me that night: I can choose myself.
And what’s more, I need to choose myself.
I have tried to understand what all of this means, since then. And as I stated, I’ve been waiting to see if it’s really for real.
So far, it is. My next “therapy” session was AMAZING. Whole groups of inside people either merged or rested completely. I got more pieces of my heart back – I’m talking about pieces of me that I possibly HAVE NEVER HAD BEFORE.
So here are some things I have been pondering, and some theories I’ve been tossing around since this landmark event. Because as we have all understood all along, everyone’s journey is their own. My T had been trying to tell me for at least a year before this happened: Jade, you need connection on the inside. Until you have that, it’s going to be slow going. I can connect with you and your people when we’re together but it’s not the same. You’ll still have that pain whenever you leave me and go home. If you can connect on the inside, your healing will snowball.
I heard it. And heard it and heard it and heard it.
But I didn’t understand it.
I didn’t know WTF it meant to be connected on the inside…until it happened.
I have a feeling those blog posts gave me the practical direction I had been missing, and my mind picked up the trail from there.
Here’s some theories that I have. They may not be perfect and you may have to take what applies to you and shelf the rest. I am writing them as true statements for the sake of fluidity but I’m not at all sure that they’re all true. I’m just making suggestions and trying to jolt your mind into whatever understanding it needs to heal.
Parental rejection – at least, such that I have experienced – becomes self-rejection. When you grow up in this state of self-rejection, it hardly seems novel. In fact, it’s barely noticeable. You don’t know that there’s any other way to be, because this is how you live and you’ve never experienced anything else. I feel like I have stolen this idea from someone/somewhere else, but I can’t source it (I have tried), so just know that this is not a genius concept on my part.
Growing up in a state of self-rejection, we literally do not know how to choose ourselves. Our parents sure as hell didn’t teach us. The kindness of others actually begins to feel wrong to us at some point, rather than teaching us the path to healing. It’s like trying to push the wrong side of 2 magnets together. Rather than teaching us how to choose ourselves, love can sometimes make us feel even more unworthy of good things and isolate us further. We feel misunderstood. We feel if others saw us the way we “really” are (which is actually just our false impression of ourselves handed down to us by the rejection of our parents), they would reject us too. Tragic and untrue. (But also somewhat why we might sometimes subconsciously choose to surround ourselves with people who reflect back to us what we already believe about ourselves.)
But at the same time (referring to previous point), when we have rejected ourselves, our brains are still constantly trying to heal themselves, so we compulsively seek someone outside ourselves to counterbalance this rejection. It may not even be a conscious process. Or it may be, but the compulsion is so powerful you can’t help it.
Even when others show acceptance and love and care toward us, it feels like it will never be enough. It feels like a drop in a bucket full of holes. We want to consume them; crawl inside their skin and wrap their hearts around us for an eternity. We think this is an external solution to what is actually an internal problem.
So here is what I do know: I thought for years that self-care was a task that you do, a chore to check off. I thought if I did these ridiculous things on the outside, it would fix the brokenness on the inside. This is categorically untrue, as evidenced by how many tasks I tried that did essentially nothing for my internal state. I was putting the cart before the horse. You don’t automatically accept yourself as a result of the fact that you try to take care of yourself. I wish it worked that way, but it doesn’t. You begin to genuinely take care of yourself, in the deep and healing ways, after you have decided to accept yourself. See how that works? (It’s okay if you don’t. I didn’t, for years.)
Here is something else I know: I honestly thought, for years, that abstaining from actively trying to commit suicide was equivalent to self-care. Or close enough.
Don’t laugh. I really thought that. Now I am finding out the very very obvious: there’s a WORLD of difference between not committing suicide and actually choosing to accept and care for yourself the way you need. Now, I was doing the best I could. I “let myself live” (sort of) for several years after I stopped actively pursuing suicide. It was the best I could manage at the time. I moved from a constant and vicious, active self-hatred to a sort of “cease fire,” and that’s where I lived for awhile. I still absolutely hated myself, but I got by, by refusing to engage with the topic at all. If you asked me for my opinion of myself at that time, I wouldn’t have been able to give you one because I flat-out refused to consider how I felt about myself at all. Avoidance of the topic was what enabled me to let myself live. But after several years of that, the pain I felt on the inside became too much. The self-hatred caught back up with me. That’s the thing…it always will…eventually.
And here is one final thing that I know: I really thought that self-hatred was helpful to me in some way. I thought it kept me from getting too prideful, too confident, too conceited. I thought that not liking myself protected me from any surprise attacks by others who didn’t like me, even though the reality is quite the opposite. If nothing else, I thought self-hatred helped “keep me in line,” or helped keep me in a state that wouldn’t invite more abuse into my life. I thought if I hated myself, I was beating others to it, and showing them that they didn’t need to express theirs because I had enough for both of us.
But the truth is that self-hatred actually keeps me in a state that is even more vulnerable to ongoing trauma.
Self-hatred is never going to heal you. Ever. It’s never, ever, ever going to bring anything good into your life.
Choose you. You don’t have to wait for anyone else to. You don’t have to wait for someone to show you how, or tell you that you’re worth it.
Go read those linked blog posts and choose yourself. I’m hoping and praying that it will click with you in some way, the way it did for me. It has impacted me and my healing journey in a HUGE WAY. And it doesn’t seem to be evaporating – it seems to be increasing. I have waited to write about it, in order to be sure of it. I’m still waiting but I wanted to write about it anyway, now that it’s been a few weeks.