“You are more than the bad things that happen to you. You are the grace that follows.” ~ Malaya, Code Black
I have spent my entire life hiding my experiences and emotions for fear of people’s inability to accept them or need to judge them. And like many, my deep desire to belong, to fit in, to have value, drove me to mold myself into what I thought would make me accepted and valuable. In my mid-20s, I decided that it shouldn’t matter and tried to be open about my ‘past’, resulting in exactly the kind of hurtful reactions, assumptions, and rejections that I had feared. So, I crawled back into my protective hole where I tried to project what seemed acceptable, shielding those close to me from what I began to feel were the ‘dark’ parts of me. In hindsight, I now know those negative reactions had everything to do with the people who reacted and very little to do with me, but those experiences formed my fundamental perception of myself and my relationships.
My coping mechanism – building an impenetrable privacy wall against even my closest relationships – left me feeling completely and utterly alone and unloved. I walked around feeling that if they knew my experiences, my emotions, they would no longer love and accept me as a person; yet these truths have everything to do with what made me the person I am, how I perceive things, and the decisions I make.
My experiences are that most people listen long enough to determine what to say next or what assumption to make, rather than listening with intent to understand. For example, when I told my physicians about the traumas I survived, I would see their expressions change and from that point on, they would assume anxiety or depression as soon as they could not find an easy explanation for symptoms I was experiencing. Twice in my life this resulted in emergency health situations that never needed to be an emergency had they listened to me in the first place. In many instances, sharing with friends or family resulted in awkwardness and sometimes rejection…but at the very least a definite change in the relationship (usually not for the better).
Here’s the amazing part: after YEARS of counseling and therapies to move past my traumas and calm the resulting autoimmune effects of routinely bottling up undeserved shame and subconsciously-remembered pain, years of thinking I have moved past all of it; something as seemingly simple as an unexpected, fairly routine surgical procedure can trigger me and make me realize I am still not completely OK.
A few weeks ago I went in for a post hysterectomy checkup appointment with no pain but some minor bleeding, and ended up having to have a cauterization procedure to stop an overgrowth of scar tissue. The nurse had no idea what I had been through, no way of understanding why I instantly looked like a scared deer in headlights, so she assumed it was just because I didn’t understand that the procedure was considered safe and necessary. With a confidence that I’m sure was in an effort to put me at ease, she expressed that there was no other valid option for me to correct this complication, and it needed to be done.
For the first time in a long time, I felt it: that wave of panic and fear that comes in knowing you are about to be forced into something that is invasive, painful and something you don’t want. I should have told her what I was feeling and why. I should have asked her to let me wait until I was able to feel ready. But I did not do either. I did what I always did when I was trapped and needed to survive. I packed my brain immediately into that safe little survival closet and resolved to muscle through.
The rest of the procedure was a bit of a blur. It hurt, but I dulled it out. The remaining silver nitrate burned, a lot to me, but I didn’t say anything because I just wanted to get out of there before I collapsed: and besides, she said burning could be normal. I forced myself to smile, laugh, and even joke with the checkout woman so that no one would know how weak I felt on the inside. Then, I walked to my car as quickly as I could without looking as crazy as I felt, closed the door, and sobbed that ugly kind of sobbing that makes me feel ridiculous and out of control…because, well, I think I was out of control.
The Failure of Familiar Coping Mechanisms
Then, I did what any perfectionistic survivor with unrealistic expectations of myself would do; I made it worse by starting to beat myself up. I told myself I was being ridiculous – logically speaking, it was merely a medical procedure that I needed and NOT an assault, but my feelings wouldn’t cooperate. I tried to push down my feelings, pull myself together, drive home, and walk through the door with a smile for my kids. I walked around in that fog, beating myself up, crying on and off and getting madder at myself every moment, for the next four days.
I thought that feeling like this again was a bad thing, but it ended up being a blessing. It led me to realize I still needed help, and deep down I do know that getting help shows how strong you are, not how weak, so I found the courage to look for something new that may help where I was in that moment.
Expanding My Toolkit – Cranial Therapy
I felt I had come as far as I was going to with talk therapy, and the last thing I wanted was to be asked to explain everything all over again. I knew I needed something different, so I did my research and decided I needed to try a massage professional who specializes in stored trauma.
Did you know that your body can store the emotion of traumas, and that if you don’t find a way to release them, they can come back when faced with even remotely similar situations? When a friend shared this with me a few years ago, it resonated with me, but I couldn’t find anyone local at the time who was certified in the technique. With my recent trigger experience, I felt it was what I needed to try. I called a local spa to ask if they knew of anyone. Not only did they know of someone, but they had recently hired someone, and she was willing to fit me in the next day.
How It’s Making a Difference
It amazes me how, in just a few sessions, I have been empowered to feel and release my emotions, but without them having to be tied to a specific bad memory and without me having to drudge it all up again. I am feeling more comfortable in owning who I am and what I have been through, regardless of how people may react to. Most importantly, I am feeling that it is not worth my health to continue to hide my own experiences just because it may make someone else uncomfortable…there are also those that my story may help.
Let me give you some specifics about what cranial therapy is doing for me.
I usually wake up with a sense of heaviness and some level of fear, and then use my oils and positive affirmations to push through and be the person I want to be with the feelings I know I should have. Lately, I am waking up feeling less heavy, and less fearful, without having to reach for my oils to just own my feelings. I have always thought I would spend the rest of my life pushing past that heaviness in order to be the person I wanted to be. For the first time, I feel like there is hope to BECOME the person I always thought I could be without it having to be a constant battle.
For me, the proof that it was working came yesterday, when I had to repeat the procedure that triggered me a few weeks ago. It was still very difficult for me, but I was able to confidently tell the doctor what happened to me in the past, how I reacted to the previous procedure, and what I needed from her in order to get through it in the best way possible. I felt strong in expressing that I would not tolerate my emotions being used to discredit my symptoms or feelings in the future, and was relieved to find her highly sympathetic and compassionate. It was still a difficult procedure for me, and I am still working through some emotions today, but I was able to handle it. And, I have been better able to communicate my feelings afterwards to those who are here supporting me, and I’ve been speaking up for my needs without feeling I should suppress them.
My privacy wall is starting to crumble away and I look forward to the day when my loved ones are gazing back at me with new understanding of who I am and how I feel.
I think that as I’m letting myself feel and release these emotions that have weighed on me for so long, I am freeing myself to believe with my heart AND mind that I am worthy of love and care regardless of what anyone else thinks: and THAT is priceless.
Why I’m Sharing this Experience
Only a few people know how big a step writing this blog post is for me. Though I have felt called to share aspects of my health journey, I have been too afraid of the judgements, rejections, my family’s privacy to delve this deeply into my own story in a public forum. I have never felt safe sharing this much.
But here’s the thing, holding it all in has its consequences too. I cannot continue to protect others at the expense of myself. I will never feel truly loved and accepted until I know the people who love me truly know me, even the thoughts and experiences I am afraid to share. The only way I will ever stop caring more about those who reject me than I care for myself is to truly accept myself and embrace what has made me who I am…without shame and without apologizing for how uncomfortable it may make others feel.
If you see any of yourself and your own feelings in what I’ve shared, then I recommend you try some holistic therapies like cranial therapy. You have nothing to lose and possibly everything to gain. This therapy was exactly what I needed to add to my toolkit at this point in my journey, and I am thankful to Truespa Skin Care Center in Palmerton for bringing Dana Massey to our area with these skills. She has a gift, and that gift has already changed my life. In only a month or so, I have made progress in ways that I wasn’t able to during years of conventional therapy.