Words are the threads

Shame: 1 a : a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety
b : the susceptibility to such emotion
2: a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute : IGNOMINY
3 a : something that brings censure or reproach; also :something to be regretted : PITY
b : a cause of feeling shame

Shame is a tricky emotion. There is healthy shame, like the shame I felt after a bout of road rage in the past week over the other driver not waiting her turn at the four-way stop. I needed to be ashamed of my reaction to it because it was over the top and ridiculous. But there is also unhealthy shame, shame I shouldn’t own because I was a 13 year old child in the memory I’m struggling to work through.

How we manage shame and the paths it lead us through is important. The path draped in light is always the best, if not the easiest choice. We think that putting things behind us is best…and it is as long as the issue has been dealt with and brought into the light for healing and truth to permeate its cracks and crevices. Instead, we tend to opt to put them behind us, hand hovering over the delete key, desperate to re-write the story, make the facts more palpable, change the ending to a happy one in which we look good. Those are all variations of the same mask, the one that’s comfortable to hide behind, draped in darkness…the same story dressed-up prettier, designed to divert attention and take us further away from the truth, and subsequently ourselves. Wouldn’t it be simpler, even if harder, to be brutally honest, ask for forgiveness, and then, after dealing with what happened in the light, move on?

Forgiveness is equally tricky in my mind these days. I’ve always viewed it as something that I, as a failure on all sides, should seek from others. Now I’m wondering if it’s also not something I need to give to myself. How do you know when you’ve really forgiven? How many times will it be a hard choice to make, with reminders of how desperately you need forgiven, and how graciously it has been extended? Forgive and forget are not natural companions, and anyone who tells you they are has never experienced deep, soul-wrenching hurt and loss. Forgiveness is not only possible but commanded and desirable, but it doesn’t mean the hurt magically disappears or that it never comes up again.

Words are the threads that tie it all together. Actions damage and create a patchwork quilt of our lives, but it’s the words that bind the pieces of the quilt together…words from others certainly, but also the words we say to ourselves in the quiet of the night when no one is listening. It’s the words from my childhood that I struggle with longest and hardest, because words also bind us to one another and ourselves, and those words have the power to heal, complete, excise, sever or maim.

When the protective, stone casing around the heart begins cracking and you allow the light and warmth to encircle it, words are inadequate to describe what happens. Or what happens when you finally really open your eyes, turn off all the devices and try to breathe through the most painful and difficult of spaces. When you stop and pay attention. Would I have dismissed the words from my friend trying to speak truth to my pain? Would I have ignored my body and continued to mistreat it? Would I have been satisfied to walk through my days brandishing self-reliance and independence confined in the castle, or is it prison, created to convince myself I was untouchable and safe?

The cliché “time heals all wounds” is wrong unless that time is spent in the light, allowing it to transform and bring warmth to a dead, stone heart. Stopping to breathe, and pay attention, no matter how painful it may be at times, is leaving its indelible mark, allowing new life into my heart and bringing beautiful and good people into my life. Attention is allowing me to see myself in a new light, and to meet a new version of myself…and it’s certainly not the person I once was.

There is, and should be shame, in my road rage response. But not in what was inflicted on me as a child and teenager…that shame belongs to someone else.

Hiding

I read people talking about how each person has a “story” that’s being written. Maybe we all have a story to tell, I’m not sure. I’m more inclined to believe we are all merely parts of God’s story. Perhaps it’s our individual stories that make the larger story of how He works in and through broken, messed up people.

When I talk about what happened, the abuse, and there’s no response…

It feels like rejection.

Or when I talk about what happened and I am then told what I should or should not do and how I should or should not feel, I feel like a failure. Because I already know I need to trust God more…

It makes me want to hide. I hide well.

Hiding is my default response to the memories, the abuse, to anything that feels threatening or scary.

It’s tempting to return to “normal” things—routine, predictability, busy-ness…anything to prove to myself and everyone else that I’ve moved on.

And, I can fool people. I can play the game. At least for short periods of time.

But inside, it’s a different story. Because inside, parts of me remain hidden, buried deep in the web of memories, feelings, insecurities, fears and disappointments. I feel tired and alone, and even worse, bereft without my twin.

I want to feel hopeful. I want to feel safe.

I want to be loved, accepted and valued despite the struggles…because I’m a person. I want to people to feel they can share their struggles with me instead of viewing me as this damaged, fragile person. Then, maybe then, I can begin to feel safe.

Maybe if people can love the everyday me, they might also be able to love the broken me.

I’ve spent a lifetime isolating myself in pain with unhealthy coping strategies and defense mechanisms. I no longer want to suffer alone. I’d rather risk hurting even more than I already am than living more years trapped by hurtful memories and distorted truths.

Even the past few weeks where the panic attacks, memories, and anxiety have been relentless, I know that I cannot allow myself to hide any longer…even if I get rejected again.

The conversation in my head with each panic attack and/or memory goes something like this:

Hide. You’re in danger. Hide. Protect yourself.

Do not hide.

It hurts too much. Why should you put yourself through this? Wasn’t living through the abuse the first time enough?

Do not hide.

Whatever you do,

Do not hide.

It’s a huge risk, frightening and anxiety-inducing. It’s a new paradigm for me…acknowledging community is necessary for healing…and seeking it.  God did not create us to live alone.

 

It’s been a difficult week so far

I don’t know what to do with the memories I’m experiencing. I don’t understand why I’m paused in the midst of them…

But I hear You bid me “rest here with Me.”

It’s a gentle voice urging me to remain still in that horrible place, a voice full of compassion and care…a voice full of promise.

“Rest here with me”

In the place I least want to be…

And now the place I most want to be…

Abound in Hope

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. (Psalm 56:3 ESV)

I whisper the above verse over and over again most nights. Especially nights with bad dreams and haunting memories that I fight in vain to make sense of knowing full well that there are some things that will never make sense in this life.

I hate being afraid.

I do not trust easily or well.

For a long time I beat myself up over them, trying to will myself into being better, into trusting more. It worked about as well as you’re imagining it did. Failure compounded upon failure.

Until the prevailing thought became a fervent desire for it all to be over and how that could happen.

I’m still there most days, and especially most nights.

It’s in the darkness that the monsters come out, whether it be in physical form when I was a child or in dreams and memories now.

So I whisper to myself, trying to turn my attention from the monster to the One who can help slay them.

But I have to be careful of it too, because when I get stuck there I begin to wonder what I’m doing wrong that it’s not getting better, and that thinking creates a whole other set of issues.

Sometimes staying in the midst of the memory is necessary. I don’t know why yet, but I’m choosing today to believe that instead of believing I’m doing something wrong and/or being “punished” for lack of trust.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV)

I whisper that in the bleak moments as well.

I wish I could say that it’s simply a matter of choosing to turn to Him instead of being anxious or afraid, but it’s a battle. I hear the old scripts (you’re stupid, you’re worthless, you’re a failure, and so on) playing over and over again in my mind and I feel the tug of other less-healthy-much-less-desirable methods for handling those moments.

It’s a fight to rest in that moment, in the midst of a memory and believe it’s ultimately what God wants in order for true healing to occur.

It’s a fight because it’s really ugly and painful. I remind myself that it will get better “one day” too.

Some days that’s easier to believe than other days.

Last night was long and difficult. Today has been hard.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13 ESV)

Sinking

Picking up pieces to memories is confusing especially since most of them I’d already put a full stop to, whether consciously or unconsciously over the years.  I remember how much I at one time prided myself on being practical, rational, and self-sufficient. It becomes harder and harder to balance and be rational when it feels like I’m being ripped apart inside.

Even more confusing is trying to figure out what’s happening now, because of what’s happened back then. It all swirls around in my head and there are times, especially at night, when it all jumbles together into an even larger mass of confusion and hurt.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night feeling as if I’m being suffocated. Sweaty, heart racing, nauseous, body trembling…the panic threatens at times to overwhelm me.

The darkness feels as if it’s going to swallow me.

It takes hours to get back to sleep. It’s not better when the alarm re-awakens me and hour or so later.

My body has betrayed me. Taut. Unwell. Unresolved. No matter how much anyone tries to reassure me I know that all this has to be taking its toll on my health. At the very least, it’s not helping it. At the very most, it’s a root cause.

I open my eyes each day hoping it will be the day my body will no longer deny me rest.

My pounding heart, loud and irregular and painful, answers no. The anxiety and fear that build as I prepare for the day no matter what I do to stave them off, answer no. The pain I feel with each breath, answers no, not today.

It all seems so endless, so unproductive. So contrary to the belief that every problem has a solution there doesn’t seem to be any indication that there’s any way to patch things up and move on. Because I’ve tried to find a patch over and over again and it has invariably been ripped off making the tear even harder to handle. All this is apparently not going to be a workbook or a program to be plowed through.

I wish I could go back to the way I once was: in need of nothing. Content with the way things were. Productive. Strong. Hiding. Living without the inconveniences of grief and anger and fear. Instead it feels as if all the old courage has disappeared, or was merely an illusion, part of a self-protective mechanism.

I feel like I’m sinking.

Yet, every night, I crawl under the covers to brave the darkness and nightmares again. I whisper, sometimes even chant, to God “I know You are with me. I believe You will protect me. I will trust You.”

Because I believe that’s what He wants and maybe if I say it enough and even believe it on some level all this will end. I fight to push down the waves of uncertainty and fear and anger that crash into me to no avail and I fail nine times out of ten.

I don’t understand why it has to be this way.