As a trauma survivor, I developed the ability to turn my feelings off. I started at an early age.It’s easier to live through your days when they aren’t riddled with anguish, confusion, disappointment and isolation. With the flip of a switch I could just feel nothing. How beautiful is that?
When asked if I was ok, I could simply say, “Yes.”
As life went on and things got harder, I honed my switch flipping skills. It was no longer something I had to invoke, but something that became automatic. Difficult situations would arise and the switch knew what to do.
This was a lovely feature. No fuss, no muss. But there was a problem. I couldn’t control it anymore. I couldn’t tell which feelings were genuine and which were missing. So much time, so much training, so much energy spent not feeling, that I couldn’t feel anything any more.
I’ve researched about PTSD. This is not an uncommon occurrence. But how does one turn it back? How do you start to let yourself feel when it becomes safe to do so? As is true about mostthings, every individual has their own way of processing. Pain, loss, grief, jealousy, gratitude, loneliness, happiness, failure, success… Your way to deal with those emotions is different than mine.
So here is where I am right now. I have recently been through many hard blows in a short amount of time. Not only that, but I feel like every major area of my life is in transition and/or upheaval. It’s all new. It all takes work. It all brings FEELINGS! I could choose to let the switch keep doing its thing, turning off and on as it sees fit. Or I can finally let myself feel.
I have chosen to do the thing that I think is the bravest for me right now. I dove into the sadness I felt. It was as terrible as it should be. I ate too many potato chips, burgers, and pieces of cake. I drank too much red wine. I stopped doing the things that I enjoyed before. I watched more TV and read less. I was out of focus and I knew it, but I assumed that it was all part of the process, so I let it happen. Before, when the switch was in full effect, sadness was just visited. I only ever stuck my toe in it. The water was cold, so I opted out. “No thank you. That doesn’t work for me.” Funny, right? I was afraid of sadness, I was afraid of happiness, I was afraid of fear! These automatic parts of the human experience were not genuinely mine.
Through this process I’m making sure to surround myself with supportive people. I make an extra effort to be kind to myself; read a book, watch a favorite show, listen to music, take a bath, go out to dinner, write in a beautiful place. I’m reconnecting with the things that I loved before and learning what new things I can add to that list. I’m going to the gym and hitting the bag again. I’m revisiting my healthy eating habits. I’m going to book stores & live music. I’m making sure to pay attention to my needs and not judge myself so harshly for being in a vulnerable place.
So, here I am. Feeling. It’s interesting. The world is a little bit brighter, a lot more real, and a little bit more beautiful than I had known before.