Truth Found Me in the Trauma

it is well

This past year began with a march on the nation’s capital. Thousands of female voices and bodies and hearts surged together in one pulsing, roaring, fire-breathing crusade.

It ended with a hashtag. The simplest and yet most disarming of words—Me Too—which affirmed the everywhere-ness and everyday-ness of sexual trauma for women.

In both cases, the message was loud, passionate and overdue: “We’ve had enough. We are not subdued. Our faces will be known. Our stories will be recognized. Our truth will be heard. Our moment for justice and equality is now.”

I cannot think of two more rabble-rousing events to bookend 2017. But crammed right in between these cultural touchstones, a subtler force of reckoning had taken shape within the breath and bones of my personal narrative. And that is the story I must tell.

It caught no media attention, but it disrupted the rigidity, normality and predictability I assumed would keep me sane. It did not contribute to the clamor on Facebook, but it jarred all the defenses I believed would keep me safe.

 It wasn’t named among the “silence breakers” in Time Magazine, but it forced me to break the silence anyway—to scream and grieve and rage and weep.

This was my own experience with trauma, lodged in the darkest crevice of my soul.

Something primal inside of me could sense it existed, but conscious memory had chosen to forget. The idea of being known too profoundly, seen too intently, felt too strongly­­—I couldn’t allow this to happen. I refused to give anyone else that access.

I became relentless in making sure they never learned the truth—that I was tainted, undesirable, too broken for love. And so I decided vulnerability was unsafe. Emotion was weakness. Authenticity was reckless. Human contact was out of the question.

Instead I clung to the trifecta of control, independence and badass-ery. My opiates of choice.

I was addicted to the notion that I could survive alone, that I could outrun the abuse and betrayal, that I could protect this heart from being hurt all over again. And for awhile, I succeeded. I was high on self-reliance, and I managed not to hurt. But I didn’t heal either.

So when the narcotizing ebbed and the white noise faded, all that remained was me.

Still bruised. Still afraid. Still jaded. Still detached. In a solitary confinement where I had locked myself. Warden and inmate. Judge and defendant. Clutching the keys but too familiar with the chains—resisting the freedom which meant rejoining the world.

But then a different truth found me.

It was quieter than isolation, louder than fear. It sighed within my spirit: “You are not tainted, you are redeemed. You are not undesirable, you are irreplaceable. You are not broken, you are under reconstruction.” And I caught myself aching to believe.

Truth doesn’t need my endorsement. Truth is real whether I accept it or not. But I could either ignore that same truth clanging on the prison bars—or allow it to shove me toward an audacious new realm of connection and compassion outside my own angst.

So I want the truth. I want the freefall. I want the pain and mess and discomfort and grit. All those reminders I am, in fact, alive.

I want the people who kept their word and stuck around. I want the relationships that yanked me from the shadows, tilting my face toward the sun.

I want to be transformed from lone drifter into rebel with a cause—from impassive and withdrawn to crackling with fire and ferocity.

Because the truth is a springboard for radical, extraordinary, astonishing redemption. I don’t always hear the truth. I don’t always seek it out. I don’t always soften to its message. There is always a “don’t” involved. But I am learning.

And no amount of trauma can diminish that lesson.

Let’s Cut the Crap with Some Updates & Real Talk…

Hi. *waves awkwardly* Yeah, that seems like a good place to start.

This morning it occurred to me that I’ve been radio silent on here for almost three months. That’s a new record. One I’m not thrilled about…but the break was necessary.

Here’s a thing you should know: I wasn’t being my authentic self in the posts I was writing. It happens. But that doesn’t make it okay. And it’s not the writer—or person—I want to be.

On this blog, I preach about self-discovery, self-care, self-acceptance, self-love. I get on my virtual soapbox and pound the keyboard with messages like, “You’re more than just a body. And don’t let our culture tell you otherwise. Be unique! Be diverse! Be weird! Society could use more free-spirits like you.”

And yeah…that’s cool and stuff. If you believe it. If you live it out. Which I can admit was not the case for me. After all, what benefit is a motivational speech if my own words never transcend the computer screen and saturate my heart?

They mean nothing. They ring hollow. They sound fake.

So it took awhile, but I realized this. I came face-to-face with the denial and deceit. And it just plain sucked. But I couldn’t maintain the facade anymore, so I made a choice. Until I could write the truth, I wasn’t going to write. Zilch. Nada. Period.

In case you’re wondering, here’s what is true…I am not healthy. I don’t have a balanced, sustainable grasp on fitness and nutrition. I restrict food and workout obsessively. During the past few months, I almost fainted three times. I punished a body I was supposed to be caring for, and it collapsed under the abuse. I was reckless and self-absorbed—with no concern for the ramifications.

But I have to tell you: that’s no way to live. It’s exhausting, isolating, confining, disengaging. There’s no spark of interest, excitement or spontaneity. The world has no color. Only shades of black-and-white. I figured this out…and something had to give.

So I’m trying a different approach. One I flirted with in the past but never surrendered to. I’m choosing to accept my human frailties. To affirm they exist. Not use them as justification to hurt myself. To change what needs changing, but extend grace in the process.

I’m doing hard things. Scary things. Painful things.

Last week, I ate a doughnut—my first since around age 12—and went into panic attack mode right afterward. But I survived the trauma. A few nights ago, I cried when faced with a slice of Domino’s pizza—and I’m talking ugly tears. But I ingested it. Every carb-loaded bite, and I’m still here.

This sounds melodramatic. Oh trust me, I’m aware. But it’s the journey I have to walk in this particular season, and if it seems theatrical, crazy or ridiculous…that’s fine with me. The goal is honesty which sometimes feels more like absurdity. But I’m through pretending and performing. Right now, I just want to be human.

Flawed. Broken. Erratic. Unsure.

But not beyond repair.

eating a doughnut

the infamous doughnut, you guys. smiling on the outside, convulsing on the inside. it’s how I do.

That’s Permissible.

permission

If your footprints are crooked like a gypsy soul, a wandering outcast shoved off the linear road

If your true north falters, and the destination obscures until it’s less an arrival, more a wrong turn

That’s permissible.

If your heart won’t contain all the wild inside, the fracas, the clutter, the imperfect divide

If your spirit is grounded, wings clipped in flight, but still dares to hope in the waning moonlight

That’s permissible.

If your pierced liquid eyes unmask a counterfeit smirk, and there’s no other defense to whitewash the dirt

If your tear tracks have withered, but the stains have adhered, a salty reminder, an obstinate smear

That’s permissible.

If your bone wearied legs are slogging through mire, so each tiptoe forward keeps stoking the fire

If your white-knuckled hands grope for an anchor to sustain through life’s eddies, its swells and its breakers

That’s permissible.

If your nights of stargazing, of groaning for impact, seem more like illusions that exist in abstract

If your mornings of stillness, remote from the world, are the last cords of sanity that haven’t unfurled

That’s permissible.

If your senses are stirring and coming alive to the flicker of daybreak, the passion revived

If your love can’t be tarnished, trampled or tamed, and you refuse to view kindness as just a cliche

Hey…

That’s permissible too.

So, listen. Receive. It’s time we all knew

To be real is permissible. And that is our truth.

 

To the Girl Who Didn’t Know then What I Do Know Now

Something I never imagined I would write. Here goes nothing…

This is an open letter to myself.

To the 21-year-old me who lost a piece of her spirit four years ago in a suburban hotel room where she didn’t belong.

It’s to all the women who relate, who’ve been there, who prefer not to remember but can never forget.

And to you. This is a letter to you.

The bedsheets were crisp, white and freshly cleaned—a stark irony considering the events that unfolded just 10 minutes later. That sense of instinctive dread, of violation, of wanting to be anywhere else—it was truer than she realized. I wish she had listened. But I would forgive her for staying. Even with the benefit of hindsight, who can guarantee that she’d react different now if given the chance?

So, I wouldn’t blame her. I wouldn’t demand she bear the weight of a consequence or expectation she was never meant to shoulder. I wouldn’t tattoo her scars with ink stains of guilt. I would expose them to light where she isn’t forced to hide the evidence.

I would grip her fragile hands in mine—strengthened from perspective, weathered from experience—until the trembling subsides. I would tilt her chin and urge those hollow, haunted eyes to meet my older gaze. Then I’d communicate our sameness, our solidarity—a message needing no words. I would silently perch beside her as time becomes irrelevant, and minutes fade to hours. However long it takes.

I would reach her in the stillness that’s often trampled in the chaos. We’d reclaim it together. And those emotions coursing through her—shock, anger, disbelief, regret—I’d whisper: Feel them all. There’s closure and cleansing on the other side.

I would remember she is young, impressionable, naive. She is prone to wander from her own best judgment. Her mistakes will cost us dearly. But we are still human, wired to endure. So, I would extend compassion to drown out the shame and connection to soothe the numbness, penetrate the solitude, nudge her onto higher ground.

And when the earth feels safe, secure, stable again, I would utter four words that she doesn’t want to hear, can’t seem to admit, but needs to understand: It’s not your fault. It never was. I hope she would believe me, that she can finally accept the truth. Because this girl—whether dazed, detached and desensitized in a hotel room, or here in this moment reliving the memories, undressing the wounds—she’s not just a survivor.

She is a warrior. We all are.

…I can promise you that.

 

love yourself

10 Lessons Recovery Is Teaching Me.

First, notice the choice of words. That was intentional. There’s a reason I said is teaching instead of has taught. Because recovering from addiction is a process.

It’s gradual, continuous, deliberate, repetitive. It’s step-by-step, moment-to-moment. It’s a daily decision not a final destination. But for those who endure the climb, there’s learning and growing and thriving to experience on the freefall.

Sometimes people question if I regret those stolen years marked by an eating disorder—if this life came with do-overs, would I make different choices or walk another path? The short answer is nope. Which might confuse whoever reads this.

Admitting that I wouldn’t change or erase the toughest circumstance I’ve encountered almost borders on masochistic, right?  Shouldn’t I jump at the chance to rewrite history, gloss over the past and sidestep the heartache? Also nope.

This eating disorder is not a stigma I can pretend doesn’t exist or a label I can never escape. It’s harrowing and frightening and dehumanizing and isolating. But this eating disorder is the story of where I’ve been, where I am, where I’m going. I wouldn’t revise a story like that for the greatest publishing deal on earth.

Choosing recovery hasn’t been straightforward. It goes against my instincts. It’s uncomfortable—painful even. Sometimes I despise recovery. But still I forge ahead. This crossroad leads to affirmation, acceptance, self-awareness. It’s worth the scrapes and scars.

How do I know? Because of all I’m learning…

10-lessons-from-recovery

Yep. It really truly is.

February 26–March 4 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and this year’s theme is “time to talk about it.” Don’t give into silence, shame or secrecy—join the conversation. And if you need support, call the NEDA helpline at      1-800-931-2237.