In around 2015 I began a journey to crawl into my wounds and begin the process of healing. Such a dumb word. Healing. It’s so overused now and like most words that once meant something it has been watered down to being almost pointless.
You’ll read a few words like that in this small piece of mine. Journey is one. Trauma is another. Trauma is now a word people use when they don’t get their way. But my trauma I think means something. Being psychologically tortured, neglected emotionally, beaten black and blue with belts, metal cooking utensils; watching my parents argue and physically fight. Seeing my sister and my brother slip into addiction, poverty and homelessness as a result of their own personal and separate abuse by the two people who failed on their promise to provide unconditional love.
Tori Amos said this once: “Some people are afraid of what they might find if they try to analyze themselves too much, but you have to crawl into your wounds to discover where your fears are. Once the bleeding starts, the cleansing can begin. Healing takes courage, and we all have courage, even if we have to dig a little to find it.”
Like many people I had a difficult upbringing. I have as an adult, chosen not to have any contact with my parents. I made that decision when I was 28. I don’t want to rehash all of it, I’ve alluded to some of it from time to time on various social media channels. For me, writing about it was cathartic. It helped me frame my expriences in a different light. What do I mean by that? Well, I stopped looking at myself as a victim, not even as a survivor, but as someone who got through it. From one side to the other.
When Tori says that healing takes courage she’s spot on. I see a lot of pain in people and I know that they want to talk about it, they want to address it, but they’re afraid, so they bury it all. I came to a realization that I didn’t want to be that man in his 60s who has a nervous breakdown due to all the repressed memories I forced on to myself.
The reason people repress these emotions, these experiences and memories, is partly to protect themselves. It’s difficult to analzye all that’s been done to you. For me, I had to accept that my parents were not good people. And that was challenging. It seems so silly to be a 42-year-old man still talking about my aged parents. But trauma informed my entire life. And they were the predators.
The other reason people repress these memories is because they are afraid of what other people think. When I started on this journey I recognized almost immediately what an isolating experience it is. Few can relate, and those that can, don’t want to talk about it. I was ostracized, told to stop talking about it, to think of what other people may think of me.
Canada, and I can only talk about the country in which I live, is a nation that shames people into conformity and uniformity. You know this more than ever when you attempt to talk about difficult and personal subject matters. Canadians love to say that they are kind, and open minded, especially compared to their neighbours to the south, but from my vantage point, that’s simply not true. Many believed that when I would write about this, say on Instagram, or Facebook, or this blog, that it was a shameful admission. That I should feel shame, and keep it all to myself.
I get that to a degree. We don’t really have a vocabulary for it. It’s not a fun subject matter. People log onto social media to escape from the drudgeory of their daily existences, to unwind from a hard day. Not to read such dark stories.
In short, I made people uncomfortable. They told me to see a therapist, to talk to a thrid party about my troubles, and I did, found that it wasn’t for me. I’m not against therapy, though I do not know a single person who has entered therapy who is any better. For example I had a friend of 30+ years who has been in therapy for almost two decades. She’s still as defensive, and reactive and vindictive as the first time I met her. She claims that everyone has to see a therapist, but I can’t see why, considering she’s not a great ambassador for its benefits.
When I started using social media platforms as a vehicle for my confessions, I was also met with crickets. People didn’t want to talk to me about it, or to deal with what I had to write. When I would see them in person they were visibly uncomfortable around me. There’s a stigma associated with not focusing primarily on ‘positive’ messages. I can’t relate to those people.
Instead what I focused on were those private messages. In the past six years, I’ve received a handful of messages from followers, friends, who’ve not only sympathized, but related.
It’s so sad to say this, but that made it all the more worthwhile. In the last few years I’ve learned a lot more about myself. Like everyone I’m flawed, not always an exemplary human being. I’m impatient and crass, but I’m also open and kind. Sometimes I allow people into my life whom I shouldn’t, because I see their pain, and I relate, and I don’t want to judge them based on a life they didn’t choose.
I didn’t want to be a victim. But I wanted to talk about being victimized, when I was too young to understand that it isn’t normal for your parents to treat you that way. I started to understand my motivations. I started to understand why I chose not the healthiest people to be friendly with. There was a lot of pain I was extracting, and it took half a decade to get it all out.
Everything that has happened to you, has happened for you. Truly. You have to know that. I chose not to wallow in self-pity. I saw all that had happened as a means to reach higher, to grow, to be better. To break the chains.
Tori was right, it takes a lot of courage. I was definitely isolated and I’m sure there are many who thought I was crazy or should be locked up. But I couldn’t care about them. I knew myeslf, I knew I wasn’t crazy, I knew I wasn’t bad. So I had to focus on those who wrote me and told me that they related, that I helped them, and then they helped me, by being there, by letting me know that I wasn’t crazy, that I wasn’t bad.
The biggest lesson I learned, and one so many of us need to learn, was to stop caring what other people think about me. I’m not an expert at it yet. Trust me, sometimes I let the shame creep up on me. They definitely have their way of doing that. But truly, the best way to find freedom is to stop allowing insecure people to shame you.It doesn’t serve anyone. It’s truly restrictive and limiting to one’s personal growth. And it’s provincial.
Madonna upon giving the commencement address at Harvard University said about her career that many people told her she couldn’t sing, or dance, or write music. “I simply didn’t listen to them.” That type of defiance takes courage.
My mantra is: You willl achieve freedom when you stop allowing people to shame you. When you stop comparing yourself to others. When you stop letting other people’s opinions guide your life. Guide your own life. Create your own path.
I keep cleaning up my life. I’m still in my wounds cleansing. I’ve confronted a lot of grief for that young boy, who my sister said always wanted to be alone, but was always smiling, always happy and always laughing.
I remember that boy.