Ever since I was told my mind was ready to start processing the pain from my life, I have been so confused. I am at a loss as to how to bring the memories out, let alone how to process them. My memories are surrounded and held captive by the many walls I have built around them or they are buried so deep that they don’t come to the forefront easily.
Building the Walls
I don’t recall when I started pushing things back and building walls. I believe I was young enough that it has always felt like it was a part of me. I remember adding on to those walls with deliberate choices not to do or say something again so I could avoid the negative consequences of being honest about the hurt. I can recall several times when some of the people would come to me and tell me they wanted to hear what I was thinking, promising that they wouldn’t get mad and that they wanted to be there for me. But they always ended up getting very angry and telling me I had no right to feel whatever way I was feeling or to believe something that didn’t coincide with what they believed. Those times were so traumatic for me that when I saw my counselor last week and, at one point, she asked me to imagine being someplace where I could freely feel and express my emotions without anyone getting angry with me, I felt like getting up and running out of the room as far away as I could get. The more she explained the scenario, the more my stomach hurt, my walls went up and I felt like I wanted to escape. Even though I knew better, my immediate response was that she was doing nothing more than setting me up to the same pain I had felt before in those situations. Those hurt so much because, if even for a short time, I thought the people cared and maybe they were on my side. In the end, though, it always led to only having those feelings abruptly pulled out from under me and having the truth thrown in my face.
I fell for this a few times when a different person tried it, but each time I regretted it. I have since figured out that this was mainly their attempts to manipulate. After the one I loved died, two people did this to me. One was just trying to see what I was thinking and feeling. The other one was trying to get me to change my mind about something I had decided to do after much prayer. With the second one, I felt very strongly that I was not to change my decision just because of what they were saying at that moment. God was definitely leading me, because when I didn’t answer in the way they wanted, every positive thing they had said was totally negated. Completely! It was the quickest turnaround I had ever seen and it hurt. I was so shocked! This only intensified my goal to hold back what I was feeling and thinking from most people until I knew for sure what I could trust them with and how much they really cared to know.
By holding these feelings back over time, I have been able to live a fairly full life as far as being able to laugh, spend time with others and grow closer to God. I remember when I consciously decided my motto in life was going to be “If I couldn’t be happy in life then I would do what I could to help others be happy”. By finally deciding this was the way I was going to live, my focus was now on others – doing things for them, having fun with them, helping them through rough times, etc. – and my feelings were no longer in the forefront of my mind. I became very good at keeping a conversation focused on the other person and what was happening in their lives as well as the lives of their families. I also perfected being able to divert the conversation away from me.
Some of my closest friends, however, have caught on to this ability and they call me on it when they know I’m having a tough time and they are trying to help. So, I have learned to be able to give information about times when I hurt and have even cried with my friends, but I have never allowed myself to let the emotions take over. When the emotions became too strong or went too deep, where I felt I was near the point of losing control, I would force the subject to be switched in some way, even if I allowed it to stay on me, to a point where I could push back what was getting too deep. So, by doing this and mastering these ways of pushing the focus off me or the subject at hand, I haven’t had to fully face the hard times. Even when I knew I was with someone safe, I responded like I was in danger. I just couldn’t allow myself to be vulnerable. This is still how I live my life.
The really sad part about this, though, is that to live everyday always on guard, to protect myself from people who are no longer a part of my life, is so taxing. There is no freedom. I don’t know what it’s like to walk into a situation or time with someone else just looking forward to the time and in anticipation of an enjoyable, relaxing time with my friends or family. Even when I’m alone, it takes me a long time to totally relax, if I ever get there. It is a thoroughly exhausting way to live. In the end, I really don’t enjoy life to the degree I should. By being on guard all the time, I’m living my entire life according to how I avoided the painful memories, even when there is no one who would hurt me.
To take that thought one step further, I have never learned how to live for myself. While I know in my heart that God has plans for me, I have never fully believed or accepted that God specially made me for a purpose and that being a female didn’t disqualify me as someone who could do great things. I never thought I could make much of a difference. I was treated as if there was nothing I could do that was of any value that someone else couldn’t do better. As I’ve said before, I started to refer to myself as “God’s example of mediocrity”. That isn’t anywhere close to the truth, but I’ve been told so many times that I could do nothing well, that it was the only conclusion I could get to where I still found at least some purpose in my life. In so many ways, my life has been a lot of wasted years. The fact that I had put my focus on helping others to be happy was my saving grace in giving some value to it.
What to Do?
As I write this, my stomach is in knots; I’m sad at what has been and concerned about what is to come. I have asked myself which is the lesser of the two evils – to keep doing life as I have or to face the pain and work through it no matter how hard it is? The answer – neither. They both are equally awful. One would be like coasting through life in what has become “comfortable” for me, but there is no freedom. The other is to step into the unknown and feel pain I have never fully felt. It would be excruciating and a lot of hard work, but it does hold a glimpse of hope.
So, where do I go from here to work through the memories? My counselor asked me to pray every morning, before I get out of bed, that I would be able to really feel the hard feelings. I see the importance in this being the first step. I have done it and I actually do feel my emotions a bit closer to the surface. The problem is, I don’t know what to do with them when they are there. When I’m home with my family and I’m not able to do anything with them, because I’m so involved with the ins and outs of everything, I get a bit on edge. I don’t like the feeling and I wish I knew what to do with the emotions now that they are a bit closer. I’ve been able to identify some of the painful events, like I did earlier in this piece, but what can I do to work through them and come out better for doing so?
I guess that’s something I need to add to my morning prayer.