After reading The Perks of Being A Wallflower, I thought the day it came would be earth-shattering. I expected an exorcism that would come out of my post-traumatic shrunken hippocampus instead of the place near my heart I imagine Spirit lives. I didn't know what 'it' was. I was afraid to know, but also not afraid at all given that I'd imagined all the possibilities. But there was no exorcism. No shock, even. It came this morning at a quarter to nine in the morning, while I was on the bus to a baking class I'd signed up for at the SAIT Culinary Campus downtown. It was an ah-ha moment, like a light turning on. But not a light in a dark room that makes things easier to be seen. It was one lone streetlight on Deerfoot Trail, at 2 in the morning that was previously burnt out. It was a flower-shaped wall lamp in a child's bedroom that already had the light turned on, or fireflies rubbing their feet together next to a campfire. It was something I already knew. But not until this morning did everything make sense; not until this morning did the picture I already saw, appear to me in colour, for the first time.
I didn't have a tantrum, I didn't cry, I didn't scream. I didn't feel like I need to tell anyone either. Quietly, I continued to stare out the window, listening to the music pulsing through my headphones as I watched people cross streets, check their watches, and adjust hats and sunglasses. I resisted the urge to change the track playing because I was trying to be present. I wanted to observe people going on with their lives. Same shit, different day. I wanted to pay attention to strangers who lived in my city, who I may have met before and whom I may never meet, in the pursuance of ordinance, driven towards the mundane. Some things can never be fixed, they can only be carried. This was something that could not be undone. Given my circumstances at the time, it could not be prevented. And when it was discovered, I took the fall. I was the victim and also the one who was blamed, shamed, and reprimanded for the actions of someone who should have known better. I carried this, for fourteen years. As I got off the bus and crossed the street toward Stephen Avenue on this bright, cool morning, my mind began to do backflips, as it does all the time. I kept staring intently ahead, turning up my music. I don't remember what I was listening to and it doesn't matter. Everything is music against the noise in my head. I thought about the short-term: For the next five hours all I had to worry about was proofing dough for cinnamon buns, focaccia, and brioche. In the "immediate long-term" (this is a term that makes no sense but I use and refer to frequently) I would have the chance to tell my therapist of my new discovery, but not for another week and a half. In the even more immediate long-term, I would get to tell my case manager on Tuesday, who isn't a therapist but is someone I've been working with for four years. She doesn't know anything surrounding my 'it', and revealing its nature would be significant. But this is her job. And while tolerating heavy subject matter in face-to-face conversation is one part, the bigger part is helping me get through it. I have a team of professionals to get me through all of my mental storms. I've developed these relationships over time and lots of hard work, in fact the hardest work I've ever done in my life. This is what I did all that work for. This is what I was getting ready to be able to handle, to be able to tolerate and move on from, without knowing it - and quite honestly, I don't think I could have handled this coming to me at any point before today. Maybe it would have been an exorcism out of my brain. This happens with trauma survivors, as I'm currently learning. Memories disappear. Associations to lost memories that are intrinsically linked to one another disappear as a whole, which is how trauma survivors can end up drawing blanks with entire spaces of time, and why their stories don't make chronological sense. (On an unrelated note, this brings me back to my rage over the Jian Ghomeshi trial and how his victims were slaughtered on the stand. As if it isn't traumatic enough to have gone through what they did - shaming, victim blaming, it only serves to re-traumatize them and make them even less stable. Effective tactic for his lawyer, I guess. But evil. /end aside) My therapist has me reading a book called Trauma and Memory by Peter Levine, and I've just started it. I wanted to zero in on my trauma work after I found myself trying to recall memories and drawing blanks. And not just memories from my childhood, but memories from the last five years have me drawing blanks too, especially when there was ever alcohol involved. I have a very good memory otherwise, so I found this to be quite unusual.
One of the first questions I had for my therapist was about the mental exorcism phenomenon. She debunked this for me quickly. In the safety of therapy, you work through stuff safely. But the brain is also limited to processing only what it can handle. If a memory is too traumatic to recall, it will divert or shut down. She gave me the analogy of lifting weights. "You just can't lift a 50-pounder if you've never done it before. You work your way up from the 5, 10, 15 and so forth." So my brain has done enough heavy lifting, I see. The truth is, I'm glad. I'm relieved and I'm thankful. I knew I had to take this time, what will end up being about a year total of slowing down and focusing on myself to work through anything I needed. I've been feeling stuck lately. Mindless, too comfortable. Detached even. I started wondering what I'm doing and what I was thinking to drop everything and do this work - delve into the past, understand myself, work my body as hard as it ever has and keep doing it to ground and stay in-tune, and vow to take my writing seriously and write every day, about everything, and publish my work online and shoot myself before I even think about taking anything down - just because I could? I knew there was more to it than financial reasons. But I dropped everything to do this work as an investment in myself. I still have the rest of my life to go. It isn't like I'm giving up to go retire until I die. I need to be ready for the rest of my life, and carrying this along with everything else I already knew - but only that 'everything else' brought me pain, but little to no understanding - left me so ill-prepared for what I plan to accomplish during my adulthood. And those motivations make sense now, too. It came from being curious. It came from noticing my feelings, the strong ones for things that don't affect other people the same way. It came from sitting with intense emotions long enough to wonder, "why does this hurt so much?" It came from the way I've struggled to achieve and maintain balance in my life, which brought my awareness to what was missing that led to overcompensation in other areas. It came from noticing that I couldn't remember fights and conversations, but remembering certain places brought me back to specific dates and times. I had to live through my fragmentation. Not so intensely that it could hurt me, but instead, far enough away that I could watch it unfold. And I had to develop self-compassion. That was the better part of my lifetime. I needed just enough to understand my experiences but not so much that I couldn't own them. When I finally struck the balance, it came. And this time, I was ready for it.
I'm going to be okay. More than okay. I've developed a reliable, comprehensive team of professionals to get me through the dirty work. But I also have an incredible support network of friends from all over the country who have helped me carry this weight, without knowing or having to know what it was I was carrying, since 2011 when I began my journey out of hell. I would not have the strength I have today if it weren't for the people I loved who showed me the light and proved to me my own worth. I learned the beauty and complexity of the world through these people. I discovered that people are different and should be encouraged to be different, that there is so much goodness out there if we just look for it, and that there is nothing louder than a voice and no weapon more powerful than a pen. I found myself through love; if you're religious, you could say I found God through them too. So yes, I'll be fine. I know what I need to work towards now. And I know exactly why everything I'm now striving to do is so important, giving me yet another reason why life is worth living and why I should never, EVER give up on any of it. If you want to do anything to help, just hold me to it. Hold me to everything I say I do, and when I don't want to, remind me why this all matters.
Thank you. I love you all.