I finally feel like I am resurfacing after a period in the depths. I just got back from a week at Heal For Life http://www.healforlife.org.uk/index.html , a programme run by and for survivors of childhood trauma. I’ve been wanting to go for ages after a friend enthused about her experience of the programme, but fear and practicalities of work and parenting kept me away until now. I booked it about a year ago and in the couple of weeks leading up to it I felt in fear and dread and wondered why I was doing this to myself. A lot of my life is spent on that precarious knife edge of just coping, with wobbles feeling like they could descend into full on break down at any time and it almost felt inevitable that this would be the outcome of any in depth explorations of past trauma. I’ve done a fair bit of therapy over the years and spent long periods feeling stranded scared and stuck, and berated myself for not being able to let go and move on. Most recently I had some brilliant psychology support where I came to understand that the main thing I need to do to heal is forgive myself but that’s so much easier said than done. I feared that a week at HFL to focus on myself without the pressure and distraction of having to keep all the other life stuff of kids and work together would mean that I would fall apart.
I’ve not done much conscious processing since I’ve been back, it’s like I’ve slammed the lid back on that box for now in an attempt to re-orientate and adjust back into my home life, but the week, it spoke deeply to me. There is so much I could say, but I’ll try and stick to the headlines. Firstly (because it’s the most straight forward), the setting was idyllic in the grounds of a massive estate far from civilisation and other people. There were trees in the woods I’ve never seen before, magnolias in flower, cherry trees laden with blossom, the rich purple, green and white of bluebells and stitchwort, abundant cowslips and primroses, and hidden away, the biggest badger set I’ve ever come across with their amazing excavations out of the chalk and flint. I saw hares, deer and a fox. Wondering amongst that generous beauty was a great source of comfort and felt like a gift.
On the night we arrived, we were given an overview of the week where one of the team said it was basically about love, to which my automatic cynical response was “yeah right” and I had no concept of what that meant. But the love that was offered over the week was consistent, open hearted, boundless and profound. I have never known or experienced love like it – total unwavering acceptance from each member of the team throughout the week – they were really there for us without agenda other than to support. Love indeed was the key and it moved me deeply, was something I had never imagined possible, and I feel so so privileged to have experienced that. It questioned my fear of people and made me wonder about the possibilities if I could allow myself to be more open in my wider life.
The week was long and full and structured and held. I realised that I have been locked in a battle between my wounded child and punishing parent since my kids were born. I was able to tolerate listening to a bit of what the child part of me had experienced all those years ago and understand the importance of being open to listening more and experimenting with some compassion towards her and to allowing her to have a voice. I need to work a whole lot more with breaking down my resistance to that, but I have some great models from the love of the team to help me internalise. We learned about practical ways to de-trigger and were shown ways to become better parents to ourselves. We were given space and structure to explore our pains and remember our strengths – it was great to remember what a feisty rebellious girl and young woman I was because she has somehow been forgotten and to remember that fearless spirit surviving however she could gives me hope that there must still be some of that fight in me somewhere.
There’s lots more to say, but I’m going to leave it there for now. If you are still battling your demons though, I would say that going on a HFL week might be the greatest gift you ever give yourself. And we deserve it. We deserve to be deeply moved by love and acceptance, and support in finding ways to move forward…. Love love love. Love love love. Love is all you need.