Over the past week I have taken some huge leaps, which required a lot of courage to put myself out there and be seen in the world. I have to admit, this is my greatest fear, to be seen, and be vulnerable in the world. I’m terrified of getting hurt or rejected – this is part of my trauma and I’ve carried it my entire life.
I had the opportunity to be interviewed for a podcast and I decided to do a photo shoot for Story Bones, both of these things were completely terrifying to me, for the following reasons.
- Using my voice to speak my truth is not something that comes easy to me and it triggers a lot of trauma.
- Allowing myself to be vulnerable, to be seen in a photograph is also extremely confronting. To say “Hey world, this is me, just as I am.”
In this article, I’m also choosing to take a different approach, I’m choosing to step up and connect with my audience in a way that brings up some confronting truths for myself. This is important and necessary, because my soul purpose is to help people feel safe to speak up, to educate others on the immense healing power of telling your story to the world.
By holding back our stories, we hold onto shame and guilt. We keep ourselves small and limit our potential. We allow our traumas to define us, we reinforce the self-limiting beliefs and painful patterns in our lives. We stop ourselves from being who we truly are.
“Shame is the most powerful, master emotion.
It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.”Brene Brown
Discovering Underlying Shame
I attempted to avoid writing this article, I felt triggered and uncomfortable. But during a meditation this message came through loud and clear. “This isn’t your story, this is a story of many, of the collective.” I have just been asked to share my version of it, my life experience and my truth.
Whilst reading over some old journals I discovered a consistent theme. The underlying source of my pain and trauma which is, feeling invisible, not being seen or validated for who I truly am as a person. I experienced a tremendous amount of shame tied up in that.
This is a very deep wound that goes back to my childhood and beyond into past lives. I believe this shame was one of the main factors contributing to my mental health conditions – anxiety and depression. The constant painful voice in my head telling me, “I’m not good enough.” and “I’m not worthy.”
This was the story I carried for much of my life, the story telling me that nothing I had to say was important. And it didn’t matter if I tried to speak up because I would be repressed anyway, so what was the point?
I have spent many years challenging this story and although I have come a long way and I am now able to speak up in the world, there are days like today that I’m triggered and still experience a huge amount fear.
However, I now understand that the only want to push through this fear is to challenge it, to face it. By telling my story, my truth and showing up in the world.
An Insight into my Story
Up until a few years ago I didn’t remember much of my childhood and early adolescence. I always felt that is was slightly strange that most of it was a blur. I tried so hard to remember sometimes, but I only found random snippets and fragments that would surface from time to time. I felt a lot of unexplained shame around not remembering my childhood and I felt incomplete, I didn’t feel whole within myself.
I always felt like parts of me were missing, like they were floating around in another dimension, I felt very disconnected and for the most part I felt like a phoney, like an intruder in my own life. I never felt like I had a sense of identity, I had little understanding of how to create healthy relationship boundaries and I was very self sabotaging. My life was in a constant state of anxiety and turmoil.
I have always been extremely sensitive and pain affects me on a very deep, cellular level. Because of this I learned to dissociate (as a form of protection) from a very young age.
What is dissociation you might ask?
Dissociation is very common in people who have suffered trauma because it’s a means of protecting yourself from traumatic memories, our bodies natural ‘fight or flight’ response.
The problem is, when you dissociate from early childhood, much of your life becomes fragmented and you can completely lose your sense of self-identity. This is what happened to me and I can tell you it’s an extremely painful existence.
Up until three years ago, I didn’t even know what dissociation was, nor was I aware that I’d spent a huge chunk of my life doing it. It was a painfully confronting realisation to discover that this was my way of existing in the world. That I’d never truly been ‘present’ in my life.
Because of this I grew up extremely vulnerable and very fearful of the world. I felt like a shadow of a person, a frightened child who wasn’t able to protect herself.
I was raised in a close-knit family, where some of the women had very strong personalities and were overpowering. From as young as I can remember I became entirely dependent on my older cousin, who was more like a sister. I allowed her to completely rule my life, I felt controlled and manipulated.
I became enmeshed with her, I didn’t feel free to be my own person. If I tried to express myself I was put down and made to feel that I wasn’t good enough. When I tried to challenge this and fight back I was shut down with manipulation, it was always my fault. I became so fearful of speaking up, that eventually I felt it was best to keep my mouth shut and stay small.
This became my life mantra, “Keep your mouth shut, stay small and don’t rock the boat.’’ Life seemed more safe this way.
This caused me to feel deep sadness and isolation. I didn’t feel that I was truly valued and understood and I had this painful longing to have the freedom to express myself for who I truly was, but I didn’t feel safe to do so for a long time.
I didn’t have the skills to create healthy boundaries which affected every aspect of my life – relationships, sex, friendships, work and so on. I would lash out as a way to ‘protect’ myself by self sabotaging, particularly in intimate relationships. I was terrified of showing my vulnerabilities to anyone in fear of rejection, so I tried to push people away before they could hurt me first.
This was a really damaging pattern I created in my life and it caused a lot of pain to myself and others. In my late teens I turned to drinking, drugs and sex to numb out all the pain I was experiencing. On certain occasions I would have ‘black outs’ and go into states of psychosis.
In the morning I would wake up with no recollection of my behaviour from the previous night. When I was told about my actions it created tremendous shame and guilt and often sent me spiralling back into deep depression and anxiety, it also destroyed some of my past relationships.
By my mid to late twenties, I knew I couldn’t go on living life this way. I wanted to put an end to the pain I was causing myself and others, I wanted to stop living in shame.
The Journey towards Turning my Life Around
It has been a very long journey to becoming the person I am today, a person I feel proud of and comfortable in my own skin. Most importantly a person who feels complete in herself.
It all came down to facing myself and making a commitment to change, no matter how painful or difficult it was. To break free from the self-limiting beliefs and patterns that led me to feel that I was unworthy or that I needed to stay small. I needed to realise that I deserved to live a happy and empowered life.
So, I pushed through my fears and embarked on the path towards healing…
My healing journey has many facets, I knew I had to travel and move to new places. This was a way of meeting people who helped me to feel free to express myself for who I truly am, it helped me feel safe to start coming out of my shell.
I have been to many healers, counsellors, support groups such as women’s circle and spiritual retreats and workshops. I needed the support of anti-depressant medication for many years, (I am now six months medication free). I started learning to express myself through creativity – writing, art, dancing and being in nature. I learned to honour myself and my intuition for guidance, rather than being influenced by others.
I made some very big and difficult changes, cutting myself off from certain family members and friends, creating healthy boundaries and learning to respect myself and my body.
I am also very fortunate to have loving and supportive parents. Sometimes it isn’t possible to articulate the extend of your inner pain and suffering to those you love. I never understood my pain for the longest time, nor did I know how to express it in healthy ways. I spent many years of my life feeling deep shame and attempting to hide parts of myself from the world, my parents included. I believe that we are all doing our best with what we know at the time and healing comes down to forgiving yourself, not blaming others.
At age thirty, for the first time I began learning how to be truly present in my body. I had to create space to feel safe within this body, to learn to feel whole and complete. These days, It’s very rare that I dissociate for extended periods. When I feel myself being triggered, I have strategies in place, to bring myself back into my body.
Over the past few years I have worked with healers to release early childhood trauma and clear heavy ancestral and past life trauma. With this healing came the release of shame, guilt, fear and other blocks which were holding me back in life.
My Truth about Trauma
The truth is, to this day I still don’t remember much of my early trauma, and some of it is also influenced by ancestral and past life wounds. But even if you don’t consciously remember, your body and subconscious always do. This is because trauma is stored in the cells of your body, it’s remembered on a deep cellular level.
The evidence of my trauma shows up in many facets of my life, I have fragments of memories/flashbacks that don’t make sense, I can experience unexplained deep and painful emotions, I am triggered by certain people and situations (particularly intimate relationships), I experience confronting and very dark dreams/nightmares and I have suffered from deep chronic pain in my body, that I feel is on a cellular level.
I have to accept the fact that I may not ever consciously remember everything and I respect and love my body for its amazing ability to protect me. I don’t need to prove anything to myself or others, what’s important is that I always honour what I know in myself to be true. That’s all that truly matters.
I have worked very hard to become the person I am today, to build inner strength, resilience, create healthy boundaries in my life and establish a strong sense of self. This is something I have to work at every single day, I have to put in the effort to care for my mind, body and spirit.
My healing journey is far from over, in fact it’s a lifelong journey. It takes consistent work and dedication, but for me it’s worth it. I feel I’m in a space that I am able to share my story to help inspire others.
Does it scare me? Absolutely! I feel it takes courage to speak up and be who you truly are, it’s very confronting. But I feel that even if I can help make a small difference by educating people on the immense healing power of sharing your story, then we start to heal ourselves and we start to heal the world.
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