I’m taking a break from therapy and want to share my reflections and hold myself to account by using the time to do that here. I haven’t written for ages, partly due to the belief that no one wants to read my depressing words, but I guess I’ll just share my processing and if you’re interested read on and if you’re not, no pressure.
Christmas always seems to bring up some very tricky themes for me and I feel like I’ve taken a step backwards, but I’m trying to keep in mind the concept of a healing spiral where I’m revisiting well known themes but from a different perspective and each time I spiral into and out of stuff I do so with new information and ideas. It feels more compassionate and less catastrophic than the linear idea of taking a step backwards. I did my usual thing of holding it together until Boxing Day and then when there’s nothing to constantly busy myself with, the feelings seep in and grief overwhelms me in quite a physical way and I can’t stop crying, not like sobbing, but tears streaming unstopably, triggered by everything and nothing. No particular thoughts like poor me or I wish this or that was different, it’s just like the bottom drops out and there I am hurtling through the eternal abyss of shock and grief again. It’s exhausting and adds to the feelings of being dysfunctional and freakish. I have learned to be more compassionate with myself though and just sit back and observe from afar instead of allowing my internal sergeant major to run riot on his judgmental rampage stamping on everything and leaving me feeling furious with myself and my “weakness” like he used to. Now I just notice “here I am crying again”, it feels like it will go on forever but I know it wont. And when the crying stops after a few days, I regain the capacity to think and do my detective work.
The theme this Christmas was pretty much the same as it is every year – belonging, or lack of, like I’m sure it is for many people around this time. There were various different triggers and also the reality of spending Christmas Day with just me and my two teenage boys and how that confronts me with guilt and regret for how I haven’t managed to create a wider pseudo family for them like I hoped I would. How I still totally lack the skills to do that and wish I were better at it. I also feel a bit embarrassed about having a difficult time at Christmas, when I know it’s all stuff in my own head. How glad and grateful I am to be materially secure with all that me and my family need, and how I don’t have to deal with any wider dysfunctional family stuff like others have to endure. I’m free of all that and I’m very grateful. And because of that I imagine people think I create a hard time for myself for the drama of it or something, like I have a choice and why can’t I just get on and have a nice Christmas and be grateful. But it isn’t a choice. I don’t sit there and think myself into a hard time. In fact I do the opposite and keep myself busy so I can avoid the thoughts and feelings but it all comes crashing down when the pace slows.
I feel like I’ve got a bit more to the roots of it this holiday and it’s been another reminder of what a deep impact my childhood experiences still have and how wide the fall out. I feel less resentful and more acknowledging, less judgmental and more compassionate I guess. For sure, I judgmentally wonder what am I doing here in my late 40s still struggling with themes I surely should have resolved by now, especially given that I’ve been actively trying to heal for more than half of those years. Why do I still feel like such a freak and an alien, such an outsider who doesn’t belong anywhere, so bereft of community and lacking in connection with significant others?
So wanting to be part of someone’s inner circle instead of being a constant satellite around the edges of everything and everyone. And I totally acknowledge my ambivalence too – I want it, but don’t want it; the thought of it makes me want to run in the opposite direction – people are a source of stress and fear, not comfort and safety. It’s easier to be lonely than make myself vulnerable with needs of others which aren’t met. Only it isn’t. And it’s not my adult experience, people haven’t been a source of stress or fear generally – my radar is set to lie low and avoid those people – so why does this sense of alienation persist? It runs so deep, this childhood brainwashing of being other, that I have wholeheartedly adopted and owned it as my version of myself without even realising. It was the job of my parents to show me how to belong, to give me a sense of fitting in to the family and a sense of how that fitted into the wider culture and they didn’t do that. They did the opposite and instilled the belief in me that the world would be a better place without me in it and that continues to manifest in such insidious ways which are just coming into focus.
I drew some of it out the other day:
I have had a bit of a revelation that this lack of belonging in my family is the source of my lifelong self alienation and that healing into a sense of belonging means noticing the brainwashing and separating myself from it. And that is the task ahead which feels tedious and massive, but at l have some ideas of where to start. The first one being to embrace the parts of myself I have abandoned and banished. Just like I continued the childhood abuse in the form of self harm for decades, I am realising I have done the same in terms of belonging and I need to find ways to welcome myself home before I can feel like I belong anywhere else. And only I can do that.
I’ve got a good grasp of many of my parts – the 3 year old hiding behind the arm chair, the furious painter, the infinite crevasse, the sergeant major, the lava lamp type blobs, the ashamed, self hating one who believes she is the source of all badness, the dirty toddler with her arms reaching pleading to be picked up, etc, etc. I’m gonna try holding compassionate welcoming space for them all and hopefully when we are all gathered and I have welcomed them in and I fully belong to myself, I will find ways to belong elsewhere.
It ain’t gonna be easy…
I’ve been listening to this great audiobook: Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home by Toko-pa Turner.