There has been a pattern emerging in my writing, particular in my writing here on the blog. And it’s more likely than not that it’s been around for a while and I am just now recognizing it. And unless you’re me, it might be hard to understand this pattern, but I am going to attempt to explain it anyway.
I do several different kinds of writing right now. I write here. And what I write here is usually some sort of summarization of different points of enlightenment I am coming to along my path towards recovery. To some, they are likely not new concepts but they are more a chronology of how Ihave found my way to some of the greater truths about recovery through my story and my experiences. I also do some general journaling of thoughts and feelings and things that need to be said that don’t necessarily need an audience. But one of the most powerful forms of writing I am doing now is from my inner parts. Sometimes it’s a conversation between, most often, my adult self and a younger inner child or defender. Sometimes it’s a letter or just one part speaking to another or to the whole of us. Sometimes it’s a part speaking to another person in my life entirely, so far, namely, my parents. This writing has been so incredibly healing for me. It is changing me. It is making me stronger, more confident and in a way I could never have imagined and though I am differentiating each part when I write and know it seems completely contradictory, it is making me more whole.
The last three or so weeks have held tremendous challenges for me. Tremendous events have occurred, tremendous changes in my world, tremendous progress on my part, but also tremendous and profoundly disruptive memory recovery work. Three members of my family have died in quick succession. And in response I have acted in ways I never have before to set boundaries and to keep myself emotionally safe from further harm by my family. I am beginning to release the sense of obligation to my family that they have never felt for me. what I find I am now regularly receiving as a reward for the hard work I am doing is that my parts then trust me more and release more and more memories and connections about the past into my conscious awareness. And while most days I am not sure how I feel about this newfound trust, I also know that it is a good thing.
These last weeks I have wrestled with the image of myself as the ungrateful, uncaring, detached, cold-hearted, cruel, crazy, lying daughter, niece, granddaughter, cousin… In reality, I am none of those things except detached. And I must be, for my own emotional safety. To save my life, I must be detached. In my estimation, any chance of attachment towards my family was hopelessly lost when they chose to continue the cycles of abuse, neglect and violence that have haunted our family tree for generations. And yet all of these years I have been seen as the defective one. The reality that I somehow fall on the spectrum of attachment disorders and difficulties for no reason other than I want to deliberately hurt them.
And so this pattern… This pattern I am noticing is that when I am beginning to face some particularly difficult new information coming from my inner parts, I also seem to make some pretty huge leaps in my understanding of myself, of recovery, of some of the greater truths about abusive families, people in general or the world. And it has occurred to me today that it is almost a bolstering that happens just before the hardest stuff hits. It is a kind of message from my higher self, just when I am doubting my own strength the most. Just when this one particularly loud, but small, traumatized part of me is repeating over and over again “I can’t handle this, I can’t handle this…” and just as the feeling of impending doom and darkness sets in so deeply that I am convinced i’ll never surface again, that I’ll never again draw a deep breath and the message is that I am, in fact, an adult now and no longer living in that past and that I CAN surrender and CAN handle whatever comes and that what lies on the other side is often clarity and self-compassion. It is a grounding I cannot explain. It keeps part of me, the strongest part, my adult self, here, in the present, while the parts of me who must do the work, who must delve into the past and excavate the truth in all of it’s terror and ugliness and pain, go deep into the darkness. And so I am able to keep watch, holding the light and the rope, promising I won’t ever let them go.
The memories I have recovered in the last two weeks and the ones that are still coming as we speak are, at once, devastating and validating. And it usually works that way. They explain a lot about why I have always been scapegoated and demonized by my family. They explain a lot about my mother’s inability to be in any sort of relationship with me as a child and to behave as though she could barely stand in the same room with me. They explain a lot about why coming to terms with my sexuality has been one of my biggest struggles. The memories coming up for me now are of a kind of betrayal that most likely can never be fully explained to someone who hasn’t experienced such a phenomenon. But in that same inability to explain also lies the kind of validation i have always needed and never been able to find.
I, literally, right now am standing on the precipice about to surrender to the excavation of new information from my parts. I have some vague idea of what is going on but have also been resisting and allowing those refrains of “ I can’t handle this,” to repeat themselves a few too many times. Those same parts are insisting that this time the darkness is too great, that if I go there, I will never make it out alive and I’ll be honest, it’s extremely tempting to believe them. But just as soon as I was tempted to relent and let them have their way, my higher self showed up with some wisdom, some new information of her own, some understanding that will be required if I am to be expected to hold the light and the rope this time.
And that understanding is this: that it is okay for me to let my family of origin go now, completely; to accept that what they have given me is all they have to give. But even more than that, that letting them go might be the most compassionate thing I can do for them and for myself. It is that it is okay for me to stop trying to convince them that the way they see me is wrong and to stop fighting that un winnable war once and for all. That what they believe about me has, truly, nothing to do with me. and is not a reflection of my worth nor my love-ability. It is that what they believe about me is a narrative they have needed to create in order to live with themselves and what they have done and that giving up that narrative now would cost them more than any of them will likely ever be willing to pay. The most painful part of that will always be that I am not worth that price to them and never have been. This is the nature of denial, that, at once, most protective and most destructive of forces. The truth is that no one can be forced to give up their own denial. It is something we must willingly choose. I have chosen it and I am paying the price and it is steep. I can certainly admit that given slight variations in my life or circumstance, it could very well be that I could still be in the same sort of denial, continuing the same abusive patterns.
But since I have given up denial in favor of active recovery, these new memories require that I hold no more illusions about who my family is and about what they’ve done. My inner parts need me to keep them safe now just as I would my own children. And cutting ties with my family for good is no longer something I see as requiring me to hate them or wish them ill will. It will never be that black and white for me. That is a very child like understanding of estrangement and boundaries and something that has never felt genuine for me. It is possible for me to understand them, to feel compassion for them, even, AND to also say “no more.” It is possible for me to wish them well and to hope that someday they will give up their denial AND not hang around any longer waiting for it. Accepting that they cannot be who I need and have always needed them to be does not preclude the possibility that someday they will see the light, it just means i will no longer put my life and my healing on hold or at risk waiting for them to do the highly unlikely. If someday they do see the error of their ways, that will be an unexpected gift, but it is time to move on now and to let go of a weight that has held me back for so long and has kept me from fully living and engaging in life. And along with them must go the negative beliefs I have had about my own worth, worthiness and love-ability based on who they believe me to be.
In so doing all of these things on my own behalf, I am giving myself the things I always needed and never got. And that is a powerful exercise in self parenting and trust. It is the bolstering, the shoring up, the fortification I need to weather this next round. It is a demonstration of strength and courage and the ability to put myself first that my inner parts need in order to trust me and allow me, my adult self with guidance from my higher self, to compassionately continue to direct us all towards healing, wholeness and integration.