So, if you’ve read this blog with any kind of regularity, there are a few things you likely know about me.
- I’m a redhead from Denver.
- I lost my Daddy when I was six to cirrhosis of the liver after he spent most of my childhood in a revolving door of rehabs. My Mama passed away when I was 26 following open heart surgery.
- I have very little family and am–for all intents and purposes–basically on my own in this life.
- I grew up in pretty terrible poverty and was raised by my Mama after my Daddy died. I basically took care of her even before she got sick.
- I was diagnosed with PTSD the year I started seeing my therapist.
So, now that we’re all on the same page here, we can deep dive into something that I’m starting to heal.
After my PTSD diagnosis, my therapist starting doing the gentle work of helping me acknowledge that I was severely neglected and abused as a child. Like a lot of children of people who battle addiction, I was often left to take care of my parents–even as a small child–even before my Daddy drank himself to death. Creating stability and safety for myself was on me. And often, I was charged with doing that for my parents, too.
Now, my therapist very clearly did not like my Mama. Even as I laundry-listed her virtues. And while she acknowledged all those things, and respected my need to protect both of my parents–or maybe myself–from who they actually were and the harm their actions had on my life…she was not letting them off the hook–no matter how many excuses I made for them. No matter how heartbreaking those truths were. The only way I was able to see it was to look at it as someone else. So, we did that work.
And eventually, I saw that my parents could be the people I loved as well as those people who inflicted trauma and chaos into my life. I’ve always felt, when talking about my father–especially–that not telling the whole truth about his life was a dishonoring of who he was. The way I started forgiving my father, years ago–on my own–was to speak the truth. To hold him as this man I adored who caused me decades of damage.
The big problem with a lot of the stuff I deal with is that I learned from a very young age–probably as a baby–to disassociate from feelings–the good, the bad, the ugly. It let me survive that childhood and love my parents. I learned to hate other people’s suffering, but to embrace my own. To minimize my own. To disconnect completely from it. I’ve gotten very good at feeling–which is such a strange thing for me because–for a good 20+ years of my life–I didn’t…not, really.
I mimicked. Looked around to see who I should be and contorted to fit that reality of the perfect whatever.
And every so often, the dam would burst–and I’d break open for “no reason”–finally feeling all the grief–but having no idea why.
That’s fucking scary. And it still happens. It’s like I stockpile it–no matter how vulnerable or honest I am with myself. My instinct is to get through. To minimize. To shut it down.
I resumed therapy because this move was rough. I knew it would be, but it was so much more than I could have ever guessed. I found myself in the wring cycle of my childhood. Overachiever mode. Hustling. Minimizing wailing levels of grief and pain.
Therapy has helped, but a lot of my own work has helped more. I’ve been on this path of seeking. But some shit—like shame and worth–are this endless hamster wheel…and that’s what I was grappling with.
It just so happens that my job is very much part of that script. It’s the ultimate job for a people pleasing, perfectionist, control freak who can expertly disconnect from emotions. There’s a reason this job found me. And the reason was my trauma. It set me up for war.
I’ve reframed it–sure–for years now. Made it meaningful in my ways because I can make meaning out of sand. Fucking anything. I can overthink a sunset and see ketchup as an insight into my life’s calling. I’m a seeker, but more than that, I am someone who wants to believe that there is more. I am someone constantly wanting to redeem where I’ve been.
And when you’re on these difficult journeys, you learn quickly that there aren’t any accidents and so much of your shit is a blindspot. So, these paths you get stuck on–they teach you the soul lessons you need to be free. I really believe that.
A couple months ago, work–which had basically been my everything since moving out here–the one thing I could control–the one thing I excelled at even as I questioned EVERYTHING–started pushing my buttons. What kind of karmic BS was this? Suddenly, I was in this unstable stable place where no one was telling me anything about my own fate. No one was asking me. Everyone just assumed I would. Lies were told to ensure I would. And I just started hating it all again–like I used to–thinking I needed out. So, I went through a lot of shit this winter and spring. Lots of self-worth nonsense related to these things. And then, one day, it was all acknowledged and forgiveness was requested. And of course, I forgave. It’s what I do. I am not a grudge-holder–especially when I’m being maimed. And I believed them–because I wanted to believe–because I needed to. And so, I stayed and did as I was asked–with the passion I do everything.
But the damage was done. The little cracks. The questions about meaning and purpose. And I started dismantling what I thought I knew–as I do–as is my way. This is how I heal. I noticed that my life raft was the same as the hamster wheel. And I made some choices that felt less unhealthy. But then questioned them. And then landed on some kind of compromise that gave this an expiration date–but didn’t really solve any problems. But I wasn’t in a hurry.
That whole thing kind of released this pressure I’ve put on myself to be some person I’m not quite ready to be. So, I was able to really be myself here and to start recommitting to this path.
And then tonight happened. So innocently as all cracks do.
I just happened to check email, and a coworker said something innocently–in passing–unaware that she knew something I didn’t. And honestly–it wasn’t the thing that I was unaware of that upset me. It was not being important enough to be told first–or at all. It was the utter dishonor of it. This same thing had happened before, and they had promised to never do it again. And yet, here we were. And maybe it was misinformation. But the reality was–someone else knew before I did what I’d be doing on Monday.
I was angry. I was fed up. Apathetic. All the things I’d spent weeks feeling since 2017 started.
And that’s when I realized I was stuck behind the moat again. This wall of mud and bullshit was rising and I was stuck in some place where I couldn’t breathe–where what I needed and wanted didn’t matter. Where I was forced to accept my own death.
I felt that familiar wail of a sob–the fucking ugly sob–rise up in my chest…though my eyes remained dry. I breathed deep into my belly…trying so hard to stay with the feeling–knowing my brain was trying to stifle it–trying to stop me from feeling the pain.
I remembered the exercise that my therapist taught me in our last session when I rescued the child I was from that fucking moat. We had started that exercise because I kept describing myself as feeling like a cornered animal surrounded by a moat. Able to see what I needed, but unable to get there–unless I fought like Hell and did the impossible. We traced that feeling back to a particular year of my life, and we took care of the little girl that I was–rescuing her, finally, and vowing to keep her safe.
Was it the same little girl this time? Did I somehow fuck that up, too?
So, I started thinking about it. Where does that feeling of not mattering to anyone come from? Where no one acknowledges I exist, and that I’m important–and that someone needs to take care of me for once.
Fuck. I was a baby. So I did the damn exercise, sobbing with heartbreak for the fucking baby I was, surrounded by these selfish fucks who were so obsessed with their own bullshit that it didn’t even occur to them that I existed. Who just took for granted that Alma will not fuss. She will be a good fucking girl and won’t cause any goddamn trouble by needing anything or just being a goddamn fucking BABY.
But there was more. Fuck.
I have always struggled with my work. It’s been this comedy of errors of one shitty employer after another. One compromise to my happiness after another. Constant settling. Constantly not knowing what to do to get my needs met. Falling on my face all the time. Loving it and hating it. Until I got here.
For once, I could be myself. For once, these people cared about me. For once. And I could just breathe.
Tonight, I realized that my work has stood in for my family all my life as the only way I could really be worth anything–the only way I could actually be loved. And I was doing what I did as a child–accepting the neglect and abuse and being the perfect, non-hassle that they could just forget to consider. This illusion of real love and real respect, but empty underneath–which is why I always felt the need to contort to be less of a burden instead of being the woman that I am with my clients and candidates.
Now I can start healing it and gain the clarity I need to find the purpose I know exists for me…just not here.