Unhealed issues are stored in the body until we can release them. They may manifest as illness and disease, or symptoms such as depression, anxiety, fatigue, chest pains.. even Fibromyalgia, the muscle condition I was diagnosed with in 2012.
The body is ready to release whenever you’re ready. I am NOT a healing therapist, I can only speak from personal experience, which I’ve decided to do today in this very personal blog post.
Firstly, karmic loops.
When you remember past traumas, you re-activate them and the sadness and hurt that comes with it.
Your thoughts, words and emotions then create a negative karmic energy that you unknowingly project out into your future. (Think ‘give and you will receive’)- this karmic energy manifests itself in even more painful experiences. Your life can become a karmic loop of negative patterns. E.g. having been bullied throughout school, you now find yourself still being bullied or body shamed by your partner/social media /in the work place, etc. Or say a parent walked out on you as a child, or you pretty much raised yourself, or were homeless for a period of time, re-activating these painful memories and living them as if they are the present moment could see you faced again and again with being walked out on, losing your home, etc.
From my own experiences, allowing myself to think about my past traumas as if they are the present moment undoes all of the self-love and progress I’ve made.
I don’t wallow in past memories, but now and then I find myself lost in day dreams, asking ‘why me?’, ‘who would I be if that hadn’t happened?’, ‘does my past trauma define who I am?’.
I actually feel the memories activating inside of me and changing the energy I radiate and then receive. I also have a lot of unsettlement because I was always told that I was making things up, and believed it wasn’t that bad- that maybe it was even normal?- and even Cinderella allowed me to think horrid step-parents were just what step-parents were, that there was no alternative. As a child I could even sympathise! Why should he love me? Who was I to him? He fell in a love with a woman and got lumped with her kids. Of course he’d resent us and why shouldn’t he? Of course we’d fight over my mum’s attention. Of course he would win.
It can be hard to de-construct past memories when you’re not sure which ones are normal parts of childhood, and if you did indeed ‘make it up’ or at least interpret it incorrectly. But if I allow myself to believe it wasn’t that bad or I did make it up, there’s no doubt in my mind another person or situation will fall into my life that ends up making the past my present reality.
Currently I couldn’t be further away from the life I had in my childhood home, or the years that followed.
I’ve let go of some fears which were clearly a result of trauma, such as a fear of men, particularly if they weren’t a blood relation. For example, when I moved in with my sister, I couldn’t stay in the same room as her boyfriend- I assumed, of course, that he resented me. Luckily for me, he was gentle and kind. A big part of the beginning of my healing was spending most weekends with my then boyfriend at his family’s house. At such a sweet young age of 16, he filled me up with love and flooded my life with joy and acceptance. He too had a step-father, and it took me a while to feel as calm around him as I was around his mum. I started to see, wow shit- both my sister’s boyfriend and my boyfriend’s step-dad like me. They don’t only like me, they enjoy having me around. They ask me questions, like, they’re actually interested in how I am.
I would say at this point I discovered the trauma my own parents must have faced as children. Hurt turned into distaste, or perhaps even hatred. ‘How could you?!?!’ was a constant feeling. How could you shun a child? How could you hate a child so much? How could you allow that child’s neglect? How could you let that child believe it was all their fault? That if they were different somehow, her parents would have loved her?
This wasn’t healthy. Perhaps it was good to go through the phase, but how can we ever move on if this becomes a constant feeling?
I remember a brief but meaningful encounter both with my step-father and separately with my mum where sorry’s and hugs were exchanged. In that moment, more so with my mum, I felt an intense amount of guilt for hating her. It’s strange to see your mother cry. Up until this point I considered her quite emotionless. My feelings of hate and disappointment, ‘why weren’t you the mother I needed?’ changed. She just wasn’t. Some parents just aren’t. And that’s okay.
I’d never tell someone they MUST forgive in order to heal, but I had to.
So 7 years on from escaping the family home, I’ve healed and grown a lot, but it’s still so sensitive.
It’s like a tiny scar that can erupt into a deathly infection just by eating something a bit spicy. There are triggers. It’s very easy to fall into a downwards spiral. One night you might feel a bit lonely, or lost, and all around you are girls with their mothers, pictures and poems and someone’s mother has come to stay with them, someone else has just become a mother, someone else is pregnant and you see the unconditional love they already have for the baby. You start to hurt. Or get angry. All the questions start to nag at you. Lashing out at this point is not ideal. It’s kind of like constantly bringing up an old argument with your partner. You need some resolutions- but if I’m really honest, I’d say one of the best things I do is to try to choose to feel resolved. I try to choose healing rather than hurting. I try to choose compassion instead of confusion. Painful past memories are allowed to desensitize a little.
Of course you’ll feel sad! Of course it can just hit you right out of nowhere- allow yourself to recognise the pain, but don’t give it so much value.
Don’t equate painful experiences with the core of who you are.
How then can you ever let them go? The very being of who I am (and the assumptions and stereotypes that come with labels) is not “English Teacher”, is not “traveller”, is not “woman”, is not “anxious”, is not “difficult”, is not “unloved child”. You do not have to subscribe to these identities- your gender, your past, your traits, your past.
One final thought on healing is to try and be whatever you lacked.
So rather than focusing on what I lacked (and continue to lack from my parents, apart from the odd text a few times a year): love, attention, permission to shine, permission to be present, involvement, acceptance of all parts of me, emotional support, unconditional love, someone to confide in, etc and continuously saying and REACTIVATING “I wasn’t loved”, “I was neglected”, “I wasn’t allowed to talk”, “I was terrified of him”, “I wasn’t allowed to form bonds with my siblings” etc – I focus on BEING those things. I am love. I allow myself to have attention. I am a shining light. I am present and my presence is welcome. I am involved. I am not excluded. I accept and embrace all parts of myself. I give myself emotional support and find emotional support in close friends. I love myself unconditionally. I confide in myself through thoughts and writing. I have loved ones I can confide in.
Guided meditations can prove very useful here. Again I’m no ‘expert’ but this is very powerful for me.
Bring your past to life by sitting somewhere you feel safe and comfortable, allowing yourself the time to be without distractions. What I like to do is see the child within me running through long grass. This is one of the happiest childhood memories I have. I then see her painting and papier-macheing and jumping and splashing and laughing and smiling. I see her whizzing down a huge hill on her bicycle, completely free, and I can feel the wind. While she’s climbing trees and playing with friends, she is bursting with light and love. I am watching her, I am giving her so much attention. She is enveloped in a warm glow. She falls now and then, like when she fell into a bush of stinging nettles that one time, but she brushes herself down. She’s strong. I focus on watching her every move. Every action, every smile, every word that comes out is precious. She’s so inquisitive. So very smart. I remember those big Alsation dogs that used to scare her, and watch patiently as she builds up the courage to run past them. The courage she has when she jumps down and over things, she’s such a tom boy. She’s fearless. I love her. I love her so much. She knows I love her. She feels so very loved. I place my right hand on my heart and focus on the sensation of simultaneously loving this beautiful little girl and allowing myself to be her and feel unconditionally loved.
After some time I slowly open my eyes and consider how I feel. I stretch my arms out in front and wrap one over the other, giving myself a hug. I whisper, or maybe I even proudly state: “I. Am. Loved.”
With practice, I slowly start to feed in some of the less happier memories. NOT ALL AT ONCE! Don’t overwhelm the picture. Perhaps I start to see her sitting at the table trying to eat as quickly as possible so she can escape his presence. I see her playing with her little brother and his new Scalextric in his room and being punished for doing so. I see her climbing through the bathroom window after he smashed her laptop across the room, reaching one leg and then the other, and placing herself on the roof that she can’t be seen. I pull up a chair around that table, and gently remind her to eat a little slower. I tuck some hair behind her beautiful little ear. I ask her about her day. She’s got so many funny stories to share, and I listen very intently. I look into her shining eyes.
She knows she is safe to talk at the table. She can breathe as quietly or as LOUDLY as she wants. She can laugh and joke and burp and have a drink if she’s thirsty.
I’m now sitting there while her and her brother are building the racetrack. I see how excited her little brother is, it’s one of his Christmas presents. He begged his dad to help him set it up but he was busy getting the turkey ready, so naturally, Sarah offered to help, because she’s such a sweet girl. They don’t get much time to bond, it’s a very moving moment. When they hear him coming up the steps, her brother suggests she quickly hide under the bed- which she would normally do. This time she doesn’t, feeling a little braver than usual. Then she sees him and the rage that follows. He wanted to play with his son. He bought the present for them, not for her. He tells her how bad she is. How she’s ruined their Christmas. ‘Go to your room’ he spits and she scurries off wiping her eyes, thankful he didn’t hit her. I leave the room with her at this point. I gently open the door as not to scare her. I sit beside her and hold her tightly. I place her head on my chest and stroke her hair and rock her. I rub her back. She knows I completely understand how she feels. She does not feel alone anymore. I let her talk about what happened and how she feels. I tell her how sweet she is for wanting to help and play with her brother. I remind her that that man is more like a little boy, actually. That he felt left out, excluded, much like he did when he was growing up. But, I tell her, this is never an excuse to treat someone the same way.
I tell her I’ll never exclude her, that she is always welcome. That her very presence brings joy into my life. She knows it. She knows she is special.
Finally, I climb through the bathroom window with her, but I give her some time to be alone. She’s a little bit older here. She’s had a horrid day at school. Friends leaving her out, stupid twat boys making fun of her. Something about her hair being too brown and frizzy. The girls said her eyebrows were too thin. Oh and of course the fact she didn’t have boobs yet, even at 14. She was called lesbian, ferret, weasel, was tormented on the walk home by slightly older boys. She was teased for wanting to learn. Teased for not rolling up her skirt. Teased for her freckles. When she got home she just wanted to chill. The living room has lovely comfortable sofas, she wanted to stick on a bit of Spongebob and check her MSN messenger on her laptop (this is before the time of mobile phones!). She’s always the first home, then her brothers, sister, step-dad and last in is mum. She’s constantly checking the time, she knows she shouldn’t be sat there. She knows he doesn’t want to see her when he gets home. She knows she’s being rebellious. But she feels quite good about it. She’s tired of stupid little boys. He comes home and stinks of gardening. He pops his head in from the kitchen, “move”, then carries on taking off his shoes, putting the kettle on, etc. The air is very tense, but she carries on typing away to a friend on MSN messenger. He’s pretty angry now, she can feel it. He comes in with a tremendous sigh, like “for gods sake”, and says, “Sarah, move.”, she swallows and whispers, “I’m not hurting anyone”. His face gets redder. “Well yes you are actually, Sarah. [He always spits out her name] When I come home the LAST thing I want to see is you. I want to sit down and relax with my family, in my home, on my sofa and not have to deal with you. Move.” She’s never felt so rebellious. Perhaps it’s teenage hormones. She looks over to Spongebob and then back to her laptop screen. He picks up the laptop and smashes it across the room, just as her brother and mum walk in. Her mum slaps him across the face, “What are you doing?!” she shouts at him, “That was 300 bloody pounds you idiot!”, while her brother is shaking and crying. Sarah places her arm around her brother and takes him upstairs. They can hear the two of them yelling at each other about money, and that it’ll be so expensive to repair. Her mum is so angry about the money.
After her brother calms down, she leaves him to go to her secret place. And here she is sitting on the roof, looking out past the pretty rows of gardens and out into the sky. She just needs to not feel alone. I am right there with her. She is hit with the realisation that this isn’t forever. She looks out into the sky and thinks about her future house, her own sofa, rooms she can occupy whenever she wants. That she will never, ever, live with someone she’s afraid of. She knows she won’t be afraid of him once she’s an adult. She’ll be bigger and stronger. She might even have a husband who will beat him up, she laughs. Oh how the tables will turn, she thinks, when everyone is invited to her home except for him. She smiles. She imagines her grownup home and him elderly and frail, and her placing all these rules on him like he has done to her. She’s angry. She wants revenge. She wants him to suffer like she has suffered. As the sky gets dark and the stars shine down on the two of us, I put my arm around her. “You don’t need to get revenge”, I tell her. “He’s had so much unhappiness in his life already. I’m so sorry he takes it out on you. Those disgusting boys at school, too, it’s exactly the same. And the girls are all insecure in themselves. Everyone sees you as a bit of a threat”, I explain, “and this is NOT your fault. You are NOT threatening, you are wonderful. It’s just other people choose to see your wonderfulness as threatening.” Why? “Well because they wish they could feel that wonderful. The girls wish they felt secure in their bodies like you do. The boys wish they could understand algebra and literature like you do, and pass their exams instead of inevitably retaking the year. And your step-dad? He knows your mum and siblings adore you. He knows this. He’s threatened because they might love you more than they love him. He chooses to believe there isn’t room for you both to be loved, and that he’ll be excluded. That his children will say, ‘no daddy, I want to play with Sarah not you’, that his wife will say, ‘Sorry, I’d rather spend time with Sarah’, and he’ll be alone, again, just like he was as a child. He chooses to view you as an inconvenience, as a threat, as an annoyance- but you are intrinsically convenient, wonderful and bursting with purpose, which he knows about you. His fears are not your problem. I kiss her forehead. She feels valued. She feels SEEN. Heard. She does feel convenient, wonderful and bursting with purpose. Again she is reminded that she will leave these confines very soon. She knows she will find her wings and spread them wide and far. She no longer feels angry or craves revenge. If anything, she feels pity. She feels sorry for the insecure girls at school, the spotty boys throwing rocks at her, sorry for her mum who only sees money, for her dad for being so absent and caught up in his own feelings, for her younger siblings for having to watch her be excluded from the family, for her elder sisters for their severe problems at home and school, and sorry for him.
“I’m sorry to all of you”, she says, “but you are all loved. I choose to love you.”.
I tell her how proud I am of her and again place my hand on my heart, slowly opening my eyes. I observe how I now feel.
I am loved. I am safe. I am free.
Do you see the energy shift? I’m not saying ‘bury all painful past experiences and ignore them’ – not at all.
But you have two choices; 1) wallow in past memories and stay stuck in them- forever identifying yourself as broken, lost and unloved, or 2) Choose healing and become whole, secure and loved.
*This is part of my 2017 project to recall the lessons life throws at me so that 23 won’t just be another year like the others, but one of contemplation and growth. What have you learnt so far this year? Do you allow past traumas to consume your identity? Could you be willing to approach the idea of healing? How would that look?
“the truth is
you were born for you.
you were wanted by you.
you came for you.
you are here for you.
your existence is yours.
Yes you will want them [your parents] but.
what you do not get.
does not make you less.
does not make you unwanted.
(trust that all you did not receive.
all you need.
will come to you.
the universe is infinite.’)
― Nayyirah Waheed, nejma
If you have any tips or articles you’ve read or videos you’ve watched that have helped you in healing, please share them with me! Here’s one that inspired me to write this post: Apologies to the battered child