I am a compassionate person. If you ask anyone who knows me well, I think they would tell you that I am someone who is willing to listen with my heart and pour out love and compassion onto them. My sensitive heart easily identifies with the pain of others and my natural response is to lovingly embrace the darkness in the lives of anyone in my path without reserve and without judgment. I have this instant ability to radically connect to the pain of others and compassion naturally just flows out of me. I’m not bragging. This is just who I was made to be and honestly, it was my greatest weakness while in the hands of my traffickers. Unfortunately, there is one exception to this compassion I have….one person who I feel does not deserve such kindness. I have no sympathy for this person and virtually no tolerance whatsoever for their struggles, pain and dark places. That person is me.
If I was not me and I met myself on the street and heard my story, overwhelming compassion would flow out of me in an attempt to pour oil on my broken heart. My story would break my heart…. If it wasn’t my story. But something happened to my heart in the wake of unrelenting trauma that created this “protective” side of me that does not allow for weakness in me.
I’ve read tweets and Facebook statuses and book titles that talk about survivors learning to ‘be kind to themselves” and have always just reacted to that stuff with a hard-hearted response that goes something like this: “Whatever.”
Kind to myself? I don’t think I have a grid for that. And I always thought it was strange that Jesus tells us to love others as we love ourselves. I’m pretty sure that’s NOT at all how He wants me to love others.
I’ve been in bed for most of the past two plus months. I was heading for a crash and knew it. I was completely stressed and couldn’t get a grip on it and could feel myself falling, but couldn’t do anything to stop it. I wanted so badly for a safe little cave to crawl into to keep the overwhelming stress from completely obliterating me, but I couldn’t find one. I didn’t know at the time what kind of train was headed for me, but I knew it was coming. And then it blasted into my life and completely mowed me down with massive physical pain that has not left me. I’ve lived my whole life with ongoing chronic pain. But every few years the stress overwhelms me and my body just quits.
It sucks, to be completely honest. The pain comes with overwhelming fear and anxiety that are worse than the pain itself. It stirs echoes from the past about overwhelming, unending physical pain of all kinds and takes me into a space that doesn’t seem to have a connection to real time. In other words, I can’t get out of feeling like I felt when I was a child being tortured endlessly – the horrible, uncontrollable feeling that the pain will never stop.
For years, I have beat myself up mentally for “over-reacting” to pain. I couldn’t understand why I can’t just have a “normal” reaction to pain – to see, like other people do, that it’s just a thing that will pass. I’ve hated myself for being a baby and having a “low pain tolerance.” In other words, I can’t figure out why I can’t just get over it and rage towards myself grows daily in these seasons.
But while I’ve been laying here, I’ve had some time between panic attacks to contemplate how and why I get to this place. And I am starting to see some things in an all new light. The overall message I am getting is this: I have not been very kind to myself. (Insert sarcastic “Whatever” here).
I am starting to realize the toll I have taken on my own body in having – choosing – to hide. It’s all right that I don’t go blabbing to the whole world that I am a survivor of ritualistic abuse and sex trafficking. But because I never tell ANYONE about my abuse history in an perceived effort to protect myself, I continue to heap silence and fear and anxiety on myself on a daily basis, all while putting up a front that nothing is wrong. In order to do this, I have to be very un-kind to myself in the way that I perceive my own weaknesses. The amount of internal stress I endure for the sake of silence is immeasurable. And I keep ending up here.
In my everyday life, I can name several ways off the top of my head that I do this to myself. I force myself to take trips I am terrified to take, to sleep in people’s houses, to let people come and stay in my house, to go to the dentist or the doctor, to watch my husband use a particular knife in my kitchen that triggers one of my most horrible memories…..all without saying a word. Panic grips me inside and I just keep trying to stomp on it, like I’m trying to put out a fire before it rages out of control. And some days (like every single day lately), depending on what I’m dealing with in my head, much smaller things cause the same kind of panic. Driving on the freeway, going to the store, meeting new people, going to church, even talking on the phone to a friend…….I keep shoving the panic down, stomping on my own heart, stacking stress upon stress inside of me to keep up the appearance that I am fine. I angrily force myself to just “get over it” over and over again. Why? Because I think I am safer this way. I think I am protecting myself by hiding it all from everyone, when in reality, I am destroying myself from the inside out.
In my world inside my head, it’s never ok to ask for or accept help. Or ask for a break. Or quit something. Because to do that, I would have to admit that everything is not ok, and that would not be safe. That would expose me. But as I lay here, I am starting to see that ending up in this place – where I can’t even move without pain, and where months of shoving panic down has really had more the effect of adding lighter fluid to this fire inside of me.
So what is the answer? I think I have an idea. And I think it suspiciously seems to be similar to what I know God already told me earlier this year about not doing this alone anymore. It’s just that I didn’t really know He was going to give me such a clear object lesson to drive home the point. Abusing myself physically and mentally to protect myself is seeming like less of a viable option these days.
And so I am learning. But I suck at it so far. I can’t get past the mental self talk that no one wants to hear this crap -that no one wants the truth – that I am weak and ridiculous for needing help to get through everyday, stupid stuff that “normal” people can just do. I have a long way to go on learning to be a little nicer to myself (rolls eyes again) and on believing that anyone wants in, let alone, actually letting them in.
And worse, there is the real risk in allowing others in that I will put myself and those I love back in imminent danger by trusting the wrong people. In my defense, I have all kinds of real-life object lessons to fall back on that tell me that being honest doesn’t really pay (understatement). In fact, just yesterday, something happened to again completely shake my ever. wanting. to. trust. anyone. ever. I woke in the middle of the night in terrible fear and overwhelmed with anxiety that seems to far outweigh the anxiety of just keeping silent, and it is still raging inside of me. I don’t know how to stop it, and so I arrive at the conclusion all over again that it’s not worth it. I am fightingto keep trying when I want to just close myself into this cave alone so that I can be “safe.”
So at any rate, that’s where I’ve been. Maybe I’m learning something down here in this underground cave of mine. It’s hard to tell. I’m sure one of these days I will come back up from this dark, scary place and I might even have something coherent to say again…..who knows?