Last year, around this time, I wrote in a blog post, “It’s no big deal, I just have to go away and dream me all up again.” Dreaming didn’t look like what I thought it would. First my mother had a stroke, and that was terrifying. Then, I didn’t get the position with an organization that I had my heart set on. That was painful. Next, I was laid off from the organization that I was working for. That was depressing. That covers September through December 2014. Then my romantic life went to shit, ah January. That’s around the time this photo was taken:
When I look at this photo I see myself suffering from anxiety and neglect. This is the face of a woman putting her own precious self last on her own list of priorities. Too much uncertainty. Too much struggle. Too much “just keep a roof over the kids’ heads and you’re ok” thinking. When life was hard, I was the last person I wanted to take care of. What I secretly wanted was for someone to come take care of me the way I took care of everyone else. And I say secret because never in a million years would I admit this to myself, or to anyone else. It was a shameful thing for a grown ass woman to want. And I did accept that I alone was responsible for getting my needs met, I just made sure I had as few needs as possible and I didn’t put much effort into meeting them. I was practicing self abandonment. I was doing to myself what my parents had done to me; something I would never do to anyone that I loved.
During this whole year I was in Interchange and getting a ton of weekly, sometimes daily, counseling. I was getting reparented by a dozen or so people regularly. My best friend and I were doing the training together and he took on a reparenting role in my life too. It wasn’t the healthiest thing for either of us, but it had a huge impact. He bought me socks for Christmas, because I didn’t own any. Ever. I made sure my kids had drawers full of socks, all different kinds, I just never thought to buy myself any. He made me eat warm, sweet gooey oatmeal when I was sad and didn’t want to eat anything.
This new me I was dreaming up could do that. Could accept the care being offered. Could say, I’m tired and scared and I need a cuddle and that’s ok. There’s this funny line my friends say when someone is flubbing up a moment, “Do you need an adult?” It’s ironic since we’re all super capable competent adults, and yet in certain moments we all suck at adulting. What struck me though, was how much I really did need an adult because I wasn’t being the adult my own self needed me to be.
Part of getting in touch with all the unmet needs I’ve carried with me from childhood was welcoming in the sad, unloved needy parts of me. After months of counseling support, the fears of being pathetic or unlovable that I had been suppressing burst through the stage door of my super ego and claimed the spotlight. My strategy of loving other people well as a way to prove I was worthy of love had to go. I needed to show up for my neglected self in a whole new way. So there I was, knowing I needed to do a thing, but not knowing how to do it.
And then something magic happened. In May, I went on a retreat. Me! I don’t do these things. For one, it’s been impossible to take time away from the kids, and two… I just don’t retreat. Ever. It was an offer to get away from it all for 10 days and do a whole body chemical detox all made possible by friends who loved me. I said yes because this was the thing! This was a way for me to prove to myself that I mattered to me. I stopped eating sugar and drinking caffeine, it’s been 6 months and I feel amazing. 5 months ago I started moving my body more, I hated it at first. The sadness of not taking care of myself for so long overwhelmed me. But the joy I’ve found in movement is astounding to me. Every day that I prioritize my health is a day I know I am loving me. The loving connections I’ve made throughout the past year have made all of this self love possible for me. From a pair of socks to a whole new way of eating, I’m adulting!
Each moment of change this year led to another step of even greater change for me. Like dominoes. And it has been so uncomfortable at times, so much stored up pain that needed to be metabolized. There have been moments of shattering, where all my unconscious desires to be cared for rushed to the surface and it felt like I was drowning in grief. Moments of confusion and anger and bitterness and envy. Impatience with my own process. Regret for not having done this for myself sooner. Embarrassment at how delusional I was. It’s all in there. And right next to it is acceptance, and kindness and understanding, and a gradually developing maturity. I’m so grateful to have an entire community supporting me in this process.
I did dream up a whole new me. I have a whole new profession, a whole new relationship to myself, a whole new vision of what’s possible for my family. And…now since I’m learning to care for myself, I’m all glowy!