The hardest thing I’ve ever done was stay.
In a world where we promote leaving, where coping tools are running, where girls are taught the conflict of prince charming and happily ever after and also taught to save themselves, be ready to run at a moment’s notice, to have your own accounts, never rely on anyone… the hardest thing I did was stay.
In a world where I learned to escape inside of myself, the hardest thing I did was stay.
In a world that hurts you when you’re naive, gullible, trusting, the hardest thing I ever did was stay.
I learned to leave a long time ago. I went inside myself. It’s “normal” for childhood trauma survivors. Trauma is different as you get older. There are drugs, alcohol, tv, sex, shopping to help you escape. As a child my only escape was inside of myself. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t take care of myself. I couldn’t leave.
But it’s all I ever dreamed of. Running. I wanted to run away constantly. I wanted out of there. Out of a place where I couldn’t breathe, where I had to sit politely through conversations of my abuser, where I had to sink inside of myself so I wouldn’t reach across the table to slap someone, to scream “shut the fuck up” as his name “poor old….” was mentioned far too many times for my liking.
But I was raised to be polite by my parents. I had also lied. Said it didn’t happen to me, didn’t go to court, didn’t have to face it. I ran back then, I ran every day since. Running was what I knew. Whether it was really happening by pushing people away or running inside of myself to feel better, to escape, to make it all nice.
I liked making things nice inside of myself. I loved my rose coloured glasses. I could paint the world the way I wanted it to be, I could avoid, deny, ignore. I lived inside of myself but not outside of myself.
So my wake up calls, my earth shattering, box emptying meltdown with bits and pieces flying everywhere was a painful demasking of the bullshit I was living. Of how I wasn’t living at all, how on the outside one thing was happening and I was completely ignoring it and going inside of myself.
Whatever you want to call it, the wake up was hard. It was all there. The truth of how I had been living, how I had been acting, the things I had been able to stuff down, the way I behaved and acted and the way others had treated me.
It was hard. It was painful. It felt like a scene from the exorcist. If I could imagine what that felt like, it felt like a million blades attached to a million denials and half truths and a life of escaping as the veil lifted at once.
Cracks and knocks on the doors had been coming for a long time. But I ignored those, too. Until one day the cracks had spread so far I couldn’t ignore them. The questions I shoved down. The pain I wouldn’t feel. The bullshit I wouldn’t address. The speaking up I wouldn’t do. The denying of who I was and what I had been through. The pretending. The masks. The not giving a fuck girl in charge. The armour, the disconnection, the reactionary living, the overwhelm, fear and doubt.
The victim in charge.
The more I worked through, the more pieces I sorted through as my life shattered into a million pieces, the more I processed and healed and let go, the more I found a new understanding, new appreciation of life, of my life, of what I had been through and how I had survived.
The more I understood that a broken, hurt, child was in charge of my life and if I wanted to live, really live, I had to help her grow up. That meant I had to stay, stay present in the pain, stay present in my life, stay present in the mess, stay in my life.
On the spiritual path, the journey home to ourselves, I see so many people leave. Leave for an ashram, leave their jobs, relationships, families. And I’m not against this if it’s the right thing for you. But for me staying was the right thing. Finding myself in the midst of the chaos, finding myself in spite of expectations of others, finding myself in the harshest of environments where the people in my life didn’t understand me and what was happening, who I was becoming.
See, I wasn’t becoming anything. I was unbecoming who I was not, who I had become, the sharp edges, the armour, the unfeeling, the closed, the numb, the dead inside… I was awakening and that awakening was painful, tearing down everything in it’s path that was built on a shitty foundation, a foundation of coping and trauma and finding a way when you didn’t know one and had no one to help you create one and even if I did have someone to help me I wouldn’t have dared admitted I needed the help.
The hardest thing I ever did was to stay… to stay in my relationship when I wanted to so desperately to run away and start over, where it would be easier, instead of working through showing someone that I was different, instead of showing up as myself when he thought I was someone different.
The hardest thing I ever did was stay when the pain of the truth sliced me open, when my heart was bleeding hurt, pain, rage and poison.
The hardest thing I ever did was stay when I wanted to die, when I saw no point to my life or my contribution.
The hardest thing I ever did was to stay in this world when I wanted desperately to escape inside of myself, to pick up the paint brush that felt like worn jeans that are too crappy to wear out of the house but feel like the perfect hug on a cold day.
I was sitting in group therapy when it happened, I could feel it, sneaking up on me, the cold icy fingers in my gut, the slipping away, the lump in my throat, the I don’t belong here thoughts and feelings, the shame that was always there when I was present, it began to wash over me, I could feel it happening, like a cocoon coming to protect me.
Someone said something and I felt it was about me. Because it must have been me that did something wrong. The moments like this had been happening my whole life, but this was the first time I watched it happening, like an out of body experience. Normally it was an instant trigger, there was no space between what happened and my escape. I had been working on myself for years but this was still there.
This numbness, this not living, this escaping, this cushioning, like cotton balls and cellophane that kept me safe where no one could hurt me, with their actions or their words, but I couldn’t live, because I was hiding.
As I felt myself slipping away I knew I had a choice. I could choose to stay or I could slip away. And if I slipped away, I could be gone for months. I could make another mess of my life, still not create the life I wanted.
Or I could come back, I could stay, I could sink down, bite down into it, speak up, stay, engage, say how I felt, just stay, just not make that mean anything else. Maybe it was about me, maybe it wasn’t. But I didn’t have to own it. I didn’t have to leave, get off my path, dull myself on an assumption.
I could sit up straight, stay, be a part of my life.
And that’s what I chose. In a battle inside of myself, I stayed. Part of me wanted desperately to float away and the other part wanted to live. The battle of 2 wolves happening inside of me and I chose to stay, I chose to feed the good one, I chose to sit up straight, to sit in my power and to stay in my life.
And it was hardest thing I’ve ever done. And it was the best thing I’ve ever done. To stay in my life was the hardest thing I’ve ever decided to do. And I think it’s been the bravest. I had to change myself, change patterns, habits, beliefs, behaviours.
I had to let people in. I had let people see me. I had be uncomfortable, I had to get in bed with my coping tools and create new ones, I had to have dinner with shame and uncover the deeper meaning behind it.
I had to heal. I had to choose to heal my wounds and accept that trauma changed me, changed my brain and created neuropathways that weren’t healthy. I had to create new ones. I had to put that work in. I had to learn what to do and then actually do it.
And it made staying easier when all I ever wanted to do was run.
Trauma still kicks in, and I find myself wanting desperately to run somedays, but now I have the tools and the capacity to hold on in the storm, to work through it as it passes and then, grounded in who I am, in my own wildness, sinking into the depths of my soul, I find myself, rooted a little deeper.
Staying was the hardest thing I ever did. But it was the thing that gave me back me, my life, my soul, my purpose, my passion.
I let something steal most of my life. But I decided to take back my power. And now I live fully in life and love, no longer a victim, not merely surviving, but living as an example of what can happen when we choose to heal.
PS… if you need help unpacking your stuff, finding yourself under the weight of life, unnumbing yourself from life’s conditions, let’s talk. I’m happy to be of service to help you take back your life!