Making Friends with Ghosts

I feel as if I have a thousand screams trapped inside of my chest.

Each one is from a time I was hurt, assaulted, abused, neglected…or from a moment when I needed help and felt I couldn’t ask for it. They are my prisoners – I have been unable or unwilling to release them – or I’ve forgotten their existence entirely. Some of these screams are decades old, faded from the dust of lies, tears or rationalizations. Every once in a while, they overwhelm me. I fall under their power and am thrown between the bars of their jails.

They have for so long been my enemies, threatening me with their unpredictable surges of resistance. I live in fear of a coup d’état. The screams take on human form in my nightmares. Occasionally, I see them moving inside crowds of strangers, hiding in the shadows of street corners in my day-to-day life. They’ve become my ghosts, haunting me with their memories.

What if, I’ve considered lately, I make friends with my ghosts? What if I shine a light inside their cells, lend an ear to their screams? What if I learned to know them and heard what they had to say? Would I still live in fear of their reign over me? Because what is my fear, but ignorance of the unknown?

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Still Standing

There’s a lot of merit to the Bob Marley quote: “You never know how strong you are until being strong if your only choice.”

Over the last year, I’ve continued my maladaptive behavior of overly leaning on others. And once again, I’ve been burned.

As a friend of mine says, we swing on a pendulum of opposites. Black and white. Hot and cold. Surrounded or alone. In my case, before I sought recovery, I leaned on no one and didn’t let anyone get close enough to really know me, to see the pain behind my eyes. I didn’t know what it was like to trust anyone, but myself (and even that relationship was far from honest). I wore an armor so thick that, at times, I could hardly find the “real” me beneath it. She very nearly disappeared before I gave her a chance to be known.

In recovery, we have no choice but to ask for help, to grow a network of those with whom we can confide in. We unleash years of secrets, bare our souls so long hidden in the dark. It’s the most vulnerable I’ve ever been and it was terrifying. But alas, I did learn to trust others – a feat I never imagined possible. The more comfortable and safe I felt in the company of others, however, the less I felt capable of standing on my own two feet. I leaned so hard on others (and typically on one particular “safe person”) that the weight was too much for them. They had to let me go before their own feet began to sink in the soil.

It’s a lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way, the painful way. But I think I’m finally beginning to understand. “Balance” has always been such an ambiguous and elusive word for me. It’s been a mythical state that to me, felt inaccessible. But I believe I’m getting closer.

In the sudden removal of the ability to lean on one person, I’ve been forced to lean on myself. It. Has. Been. Terrifying. But you know what? I’m still fucking standing. Somewhere in the last few years, I’ve grown some strength of my own. Like a little girl without her training wheels, I’ve finally found steadiness inside myself. That seemingly-illusory idea of balance may actually exist.

Sitting with a friend yesterday, verbally processing the painful detachment I’ve felt over the last couple of weeks, I came to the realization that I am, indeed, okay. I may even, dare I say, be strong. I’ve never felt such gratitude.

I’m strong. I’m strong, because I have to be – but that doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate the hell out it. And I certainly intend to.

Love and hope to all still struggling.

 

Roots

She wanted out.

Out of her skin, out of her mind, out of herself.

She wanted to fly so high she could no longer see her reality.

But her wings were tired. Her soul was drained.

It was time to land, to embrace and grow within the soil from which she came.

Maybe, one day, she would find that the earth could be as much her home as the sky.

And so, she exchanged her wings for roots. And began to breathe.

Girl Behind the Mask

I want to be true, honest, authentic in all that I do, all that I say, all that I am. Being something I’m not, pretending, role-playing…it’s exhausting. I sometimes wonder how actors who pursue acting full-time have any energy left to be themselves off the stage. Do they even remember who they are after spending so much of their lives playing someone else?

Since I was a kid, I’ve had this deep-rooted belief that I am inherently bad in some way. Perhaps it was my Catholic upbringing which I used from a young age as a whip to train myself to be obedient, unfeeling, “perfect.” I was afraid of being authentic, because I truly believed that given that freedom, I would be someone ugly, untamed, maybe even hurtful. I wish I knew the reason as to why I developed this self-loathing, this absolute rejection of self-trust. I remember very little about my childhood, but I often grow desperate wondering why my child-self decided that to be me was a sin.

My inner critic has been a constant companion for as far back as I can remember. I have a memory of myself when I was five years old, lying in bed and praying to a god that I believed hated me, pleading that I wouldn’t wake up the next morning. What kid wants that? When the kids at school looked at my scarred arms, called me “gross” and said I had a disease…I accepted it as fact, because it was what I already believed. When I was told off for crying, I remember trying to suck the tears back into their ducts, telling myself that to feel was weakness, to show emotion was shameful, to ask for help was burdensome.

It feels as if I have this hand-crafted mask of what I’ve believed to be acceptable that I’ve worn since my early years. Thankfully, I’ve grown and the mask no longer fits, nor do I want to wear it. I’m tired of hiding in my decorated prison, living in the torture chamber that has been my mind for many years. I’m sore from the whippings, I’m weary of the constant inner critique, I’m done with the act.

I’ve started building my true self, seeking out my passions in art, music, helping others…but the construction is far from complete. I am so far from complete. The twelve steps tell me to be honest, to live honestly…this is hard to do when you’ve spent your life refusing to trust yourself. I’m constantly questioning my every thought wondering, “what does this belief say about me” and “does this thought mean I’m a bad person?” My brain circuits all of the conversations I’ve had each day over and over, analyzing my comments, my jokes, my words, seeking out instances in which I was wrong, insensitive, awkward. Still, I find myself searching for proof, evidence that I’m the horrible person I’ve always believed myself to be. The rumination never stops.

It has to stop. I do believe that I’m trying. I’ve started to counter my internal arguments with the very reason that fuels my self-critique: lack of self-trust. If I don’t trust myself, who am I to believe my thoughts? What if I’m not horrible? What if I’m human and that’s okay? What if I really am doing the best I can? What if the people who say that they love me actually believe that I’m worth loving?

Maybe I don’t need to know the reason I was the way I was…to change the way I am, today.

Maybe being honest…starts with facing the fear of discovering my real self.

Beautiful Article about a Beautiful Person

lexiA friend of mine is using her tragedy to prevent more tragedies in the life of addicts and those affected by the disease of addiction. I’m inspired by her strength to be vulnerable in a world that so often hides, lies about or stigmatizes this real and very heartbreaking struggle. Thank you, my friend, for sharing your truth. Hopefully the world will start following suit.

Love to you, Lexi, and to all those whose lives have been damaged by this disease or the ignorance of its existence.

http://www.mprnews.org/story/2016/04/18/opioid-profiles-lexi-reed-holtum